I discovered this letter while researching, The Evolution of an Anglo-Saxon Place-name . It was found by chance while searching for the spelling, 'WURKINGTON' as an alternative to the WORKINGTON.
I believe this is the first time the letter has been acknowledged with regard to Workington's local history and as having possible implications on the Life of Mary Queen of Scots and her imprisonment in 1568. If this is so, we need to do more work on background and subsequent reaction of all key players.
This document led to an enthusiastic search of material connected with mining activities in the Lake District. Primarily, I was concerned with how far the events in the letter influenced the welcome Mary received when she fled Scotland landing in Workington in 1568.
Andy V Byers 16th July, 2009 ............................................................From: La Reine Elisabeth (Queen Elizabeth I of England)
To: Right high, right excellent, and mightie Princess, our dearest suster and cousin in our hartiest maner we commend us unto yow. Date: April 1566.
'...Doing yow tunderstande how that great and very lamentable complaint hath bene exhibited unto us on behalf of our loving subjects...of our cities of Bristoll, whereby it is declared unto us howe that they having buylt a barke called Samuel of Bristol of the burden of fiftie tonnes or thereabouts, whereof one Edward Stone was master and partie owner, and put the same to the sea, fraighted with their goodes and merchandizes the 20th September last past to traffique with the same to a place called Wurkington in the North parties of our realm, near unto our citie of Carlisle, the said ship being in her way towardes the said place was dryven by force of weather and tempest to the coast of Scotland to a place called the Keyles', and there ryding at an ancre was boorded by certaine Scottishmen, who fayning themselfes to be merchants and cum onely to see what merchandizes was in the ship, most cruellu did murdre the said Master with all his companie except two that kept themselfes in secret places of their ship until the furye of thies murderers was asswaged, and so toke both ship and goods as their owne... (more text to come)'
Points to ponder
Here are a few points that you might like to consider:
1) One of the chief share-holders in the Company of Mines Royal in the Lake District, was Sir William Cecil.
2) The letter from Queen Elizabeth I to Mary I, Queen of the Scots, about the taking of the ship was minuted and dispatched by Sir William Cecil (see page 93 ).
3) Queen Elizabeth received a percentage of all metal ores mined.
4) Bristol was the major port on the English west coast, Liverpool was yet to establish itself and expand to significant size.
5) Although the 'Samuel' was a new ship, was it part of regular round trips between Bristol to Wurkington. If it was, were there mariners from Wurkington and its surroundings, recruited and working on ships on this route? Were West Cumbrian mariners murdered by the pirates? How did the people of Wurkington take the news of the act of piracy?
6) Did this act of piracy influence the reception Mary Queen of Scots received when ahe arrived in Workington two years later? Is this one reason why she disguised herself before stepping ashore?
7) If Wurkington was a key port involved in the mining industry, then it was neither an insignificant backwater nor a completely safe haven for her.
8) If Mary wanted safety, she could have made her way to France, the land of her birth. Why cross into England, the country that had worked so hard to remove her from the Scottish throne?
9) During Elizabeth I's early reign the 'northern landowners were a force unto themselves' and she feared their personal armies and the possible uprising to re-establish Roman Catholicism. What would you do, if you had lost the Scottish throne, and your greatest ground base of support was now in the northern counties of England, which bordered Scotland?
10)The Earl of Northumberland was a key player in regard to plots to remove Elizabeth. In 1570 he led a uprising of the north against Elizabeth. It was put down and resulted in over 700 official executions. Was Mary's arrival in a northern port somehow connected with plans for an uprising to bring her to power?
11) Accounts of her arrival in Workington vary greatly. Some are so clinically short that you wonder if the writers have dismissed, or just overlooked the significance of the both the mines and the northern magnates at this time in Elizabeth's reign.
12) Or was the boat Mary travelled in so small that it could make it across the Solway Firth but no further?