The English minister plotted Mary’s downfall for decades
Elizabeth’s chief minister, William Cecil (1520–98), always hated Mary and wanted her off the throne. Mary was simply too Catholic for his tastes, and anyway he had no time for any other female ruler than Elizabeth. Mary was Elizabeth’s heir, unless the English queen had a child – and so she was, to Cecil, a constant threat. Most of the lords in Scotland were in Cecil’s pocket, notably Moray, paid to undermine Mary and hopefully remove her. Whether Cecil knew about their coup attempts or not, his funds assisted them.
Elizabeth’s sympathy for Mary angered Cecil and he repeatedly discouraged the English queen from helping her cousin. When Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle and forced to abdicate, Elizabeth was furious and wanted to intervene, but Cecil dissuaded her. And when Mary fled into England, hoping that Elizabeth would assist her, Cecil pushed hard for Mary to be submitted to an inquiry for involvement in the death of Darnley. The aim was not to find her guilty or innocent, but to create a non-verdict (which would ensure that she continued to languish in prison).
So Mary was kept locked up, under a watch that grew so tight that, in the words of her keeper, not even a flea could escape her rooms. But what Cecil – and other ministers such as Francis Walsingham – really wanted was an excuse to get rid of his royal captive. And so a double agent was hired, who volunteered to take her letters to France. Every one was opened and decoded. When, finally, after nearly 20 years of imprisonment, Mary agreed to conspire in a plot against her cousin, Cecil had the evidence he needed to execute her.
William Cecil saw Mary as a danger to Elizabeth I because she was potentially a rallying cause for Catholics