On 8 February 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringhay Castle. There her body stayed, embalmed and sealed in a lead coffin, until this day when it was moved, in the dead of night, to Peterborough. On the instructions of Queen Elizabeth I, the burial was a formal affair fit for a queen. The coffin, followed by the royal standard of Scotland, was moved in procession from the Bishop's Palace to the cathedral. As well as the nobility, the Bishop and Dean of Peterborough and the Bishop of Lincoln, 100 poor widows dressed in black walked in procession following the coffin. Following a sermon preached by the Bishop of Lincoln, the dean oversaw Mary's interment. A magnificent funeral banquet, paid for by Queen Elizabeth, followed in the Bishop's Palace. The cost of the whole burial is said to be over £300 - a vast sum. In 1612 Mary's body was exhumed when her son, King James I of England, ordered she be re-interred in Westminster Abbey, in a chapel opposite the tomb of Elizabeth I. (Carnell, Geoffrey, The Bishops of Peterborough, RJL Smith & Associates, 1993; Gunton, Symon, The History of the Church of Peterborough, ed. Symon Patrick, 1990; People of Peterborough, Peterborough Museum Publications, 2009)
Taken from The Peterborough Book of Days by Brian Jones, The History Press, 2014.