The political instability within England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I can be seen as a contributing factor to the execution of the Queen of Scots. Elizabeth had been at odds with her Parliament since 1558 when she refused to marry in order to produce an heir. This created conflict between Parliament and Elizabeth as it meant there was instability in the succession of the English throne. This opened Elizabeth up to numerous murder/succession plots. Historian John Warren believes that “Mary’s threat to Elizabeth would have been ‘largely neutralised’ had Elizabeth ‘married and borne children’.” Mary’s threat to Elizabeth rested on her hereditary decent from Margaret Tudor. If Elizabeth failed to produce an heir, Mary would have a legitimate claim to the English throne. The political instability brought about by Elizabeth’s decision not to have children allowed Mary to be brought into plots such as the Babington Plot in 1586 which ultimately led to her demise.
Mary’s execution can also be linked to the religious instability within Europe at the time. When Elizabeth’s father, King Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church so that he could divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, he essentially divided Europe in two. European powers such as Spain and France opposed Protestantism tremendously. This can be seen in the Saint Bartholomew’s day massacre in France which was the epitome of the religious civil was where over 100,000 Protestants were killed in less than a week. In addition to this, Phillip II of Spain, had promised to “destroy every living Protestant.” This threat was becoming a reality for Elizabeth after the assassination of William of Orange, a fellow Protestant leader in the Dutch provinces, his assassination, along with the persecution of Protestants, proved to her that she was extremely vulnerable, especially with a legitimate Catholic heir to the throne in the country. This can be seen as a cause of the execution of the Queen of Scots because if not for the religious instability in Europe, Elizabeth wold not have been forced by her Parliament to nullify not only the Catholic threat but the threat to Elizabeth’s own life.
Within England there was religious turmoil after England split with the Catholic Church under King Henry VIII in 1534. Scarisbrick writes that Henry VIII’s reign “saw the nation acquire a religious discord of a kind which it had not known before and which would soon become bitter and complex, sending fissures down English society to its lowest strata and setting neighbour against neighbour, father against son in a disunity from which that society has not yet fully recovered… this disunity first took root in Henry’s reign.” Since a great number of English people still affiliated with the Catholic, Mary’s claim to the English throne was not only legitimate, but also supported by the vast majority of English. Many English Catholics believed the Elizabeth was an illegitimate heir as her mother, Anne Boleyn was Henry’s second wife and therefore was not the rightful heir to the English throne, and the fact that Mary was also Catholic further supported their cause. Anthony Babington, a radicalised English Catholic had come in contact