Collection of papers relating to Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Ireland (1533-1603)

Scope and Content

The collection consists of: copies in French of a letter to James VI of Scotland telling him of the discovery of the Babington Plot, and correspondence with M. de St. Cyr, both 1586; The offers mad by her Majesties Embassador of England in her Majesties name and her Counsell to James VI, 1588; letter with autograph of Elizabeth, to Anne of Denmark, wife of James, 1595; and, Ad serenissimam principem Elizabetham, Anglorum reginam epistola.

Administrative / Biographical History

Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was born at Greenwich on 7 September 1533. She was the half-sister of the elder Mary (1516-1558) and the younger Edward (1537-1553). In her early years she acquired knowledge of Latin, French, and Italian, and showed proficiency in music. Her governesses and tutors tended to adhere to Reformation principles. Identification with Protestantism aroused the suspicions of Mary, a Catholic, on her succession after the death of Edward, even though she had sided with her against Lady Jane Grey who had also been announced as successor. Implicated in the Wyatt rebellion of 1554, Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London and at Woodstock for around six months. In November 1558, Mary died and Elizabeth succeeded her at the age of twenty-five. Almost immediately, she restored England to Protestantism and away from the Catholic party. The Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament and approved in 1559, revived the antipapal statutes of Henry VIII and declared the monarch supreme governor of the Anglican Church, while the Act of Uniformity established the Book of Common Prayer. Although Elizabeth's rule was directed towards peace and economy, she did try to strengthen her throne by giving secret help to Protestants in Scotland, France and the Low Countries, and she attempted to weaken any power that threatened her authority. An instrument in this policy was Sir Francis Walsingham (1530-1590) and his corrupt system of espionage both at home and abroad. It was Walsingham who revealed the 1586 Babington Plot against Elizabeth, and which implicated Mary, Queen of Scots, who was then under house arrest at Chartley in Staffordshire. With the consent of Elizabeth, Mary was executed at Fotheringay Castle on 8 February 1587. The participation of the Catholic party in the Plot was met with persecution, and this together with the execution of a Catholic Queen enraged Philip II of Spain already angry about English incitement of rebellion in the Spanish Netherlands. In 1588, the Spanish Armada sailed against England but was repelled by the considerably smaller English force and its captains Howard, Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher. Elizabeth died at Richmond on 24 March 1603. She was succeeded by James VI of Scotland, son of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Thorne, J. O. and Collocott, T. C. (eds.). Chambers biographical dictionary. Revised ed. with supp. Edinburgh: W. and R. Chambers, 1982. (2) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.6. Drant-Finan. London: Smith, Elder and co., 1908. (3) The new encyclopaedia Britannica. Micropedia, 15th ed. Chicago and London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1991.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show references to other material relating to Elizabeth I in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): correspondence with James VI, King of Scotland, and Henry IV, King of France, 1583-1602, transcribed from the papers of S. Haynes, rector of Hatfield, 1753, at La.III.371; letters to James VI, 1587-1593 and some undated, transcripts by William Drummond of Hawthornden, at La.III.365; and, mention of original letters in correspondence, 1852, at La.IV.17 (J.Miller, Q.C.). In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes the following material relating to Elizabeth I in Scotland: letters to Dukes of Hamilton, National Archives of Scotland, see Accessions to repositories 1983; and, correspondence relating to Mary Queen of Scots, 1561-1575, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MS 3657