Elizabeth Tudor was born to King Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn. Two years later, Anne Boleyn was declared guilty of infidelity and executed, and Elizabeth deemed illegitimate. After Henry's death, the English throne passed briefly to Edward VI and Lady Jane Grey before reaching Mary Tudor, Elizabeth's half-sister. Mary Tudor, a staunch Catholic, became renowned as “Bloody Mary” for her violent persecution of Protestants. She imprisoned Elizabeth in the Tower of London on the suspicion that she was supporting Protestant rebels, and Elizabeth remained there until her half sister's death.
Elizabeth assumed the throne, outlawed Catholicism, and declared herself supreme head of the Church of England. Under the guidance of William Cecil, Baron Burleigh, she used diplomacy, intrigue, and spectacle to secure her reign and defend herself from the ever-growing threat of Catholic rebellion.
Mary Stuart was six days old when she became Queen of Scotland. She spent her childhood in France, and married King Francis II, becoming Queen of France until his death in 1560. Widowed, Mary returned to Scotland and married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley – but the marriage was unhappy and Darnley was found murdered in his garden.
A month later, Mary married the Earl of Bothwell, who was believed to be her husband's murderer. This unpopular decision prompted a public uprising, and Mary was forced to abdicate the Scottish throne. She fled south to ask protection from her cousin Queen Elizabeth – but because many English Catholics considered Mary to be the legitimate sovereign of England, Elizabeth had her arrested.
But since Mary Stuart had done nothing illegal on English soil, Elizabeth couldn’t charge her with any crime. Now, after more than a decade of Mary's confinement, England has finally found the means to rid itself of this troublesome Queen...
1533 Elizabeth Tudor born, becomes Queen of Scotland
1542 Mary Stuart born
1558 Elizabeth Tudor becomes Queen of England
1568 Mary Stuart flees from Scotland to England and is imprisoned
1587 the events of this play occur
1800 Friedrich Schiller, a German Romantic playwright, writes Maria Stuart
2005 Peter Oswald creates this adaptation of Schiller’s play