The Daily Telegraph

Codebreake­rs crack Mary, Queen of Scots’ secret letters

- By Sarah Knapton SCIENCE EDITOR

SECRET letters written by Mary, Queen of Scots while she was imprisoned by Elizabeth I have been decoded for the first time.

Cryptograp­hers stumbled upon the correspond­ence while hunting for documents in the online archives of the National Library of France.

Most of the 57 letters were exchanged between Mary and Michel de Castelnau de Mauvissièr­e, the French ambassador to England, and written while she was under house arrest at the Earl of Shrewsbury’s home in Sheffield.

The correspond­ence, which dates from 1578 to 1584, shows her attempts to regain the Scottish throne while attempting to negotiate her release and intervene in politics on the continent.

Dr Jon Guy of Cambridge University said: “These discoverie­s will be a literary and historical sensation. They mark the most important new find on Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, for 100 years.

“These new documents show Mary to have been a shrewd and attentive analyst of internatio­nal affairs. They will occupy historians of Britain and Europe and students of the French language and early modern ciphering techniques for many years to come.”

The documents written in a cipher of 219 symbols were uncovered by a trio of experts including George Lasry.

He said “This is a truly exciting discovery. Together, the letters constitute a voluminous body of new primary material on Mary Stuart – about 50,000 words in total – shedding new light on some of her years of captivity in England.”

Mary was imprisoned for 19 years and put to death in 1587, aged 44, for her part in an alleged plot to kill Elizabeth I.

The research was published in a special issue of the journal Cryptologi­a.

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