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Early documents relating to events of the past make essential - and fascinating - reading for anyone interested in Scottish history. But these primary sources are often not readily accessible.

Fortunately, many of these rare documents have been published by historical clubs and societies, and are available at the National Library of Scotland.

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At 2am on Wednesday 8 February 1587, Mary Queen of Scots picked up her pen for the last time. Her execution on the block at Fotheringhay Castle was a mere six hours away when she wrote this letter. It is addressed to Henri III of France, brother of her first husband.

As well as the English translation, Mary's last written words are available here in a French transcription. You can also read the historical background to this letter.

The letter is part of the National Library of Scotland's manuscript collections. (NLS reference: Adv.MS.54.1.1)

Shown here is an image of Mary shortly after her marriage in 1558. With her is her husband, Francois. As eldest son of the French King, he took the title of Dauphin (or 'Dolphin') of France. He became king in 1559.

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In 1603, two very different nations were brought together by the curious fact that they only had one monarch between them.

On the death of England's Queen Elizabeth I without children, the next in line to the throne was the reigning king of Scotland, King James VI. James won the backing of the English establishment as he was a Protestant, he had sons who could be king after him, and his 36-year rule in Scotland had largely been a success.

However, he was also a Scot, who spoke a different language and had a different cultural background. How would he be able to bring the two countries together?

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Portraits in Oxford * An integrated digital catalogue of portraits in the University of Oxford and its constitutent colleges. Portrait collections include: The collections: Welcome to Portraits in Oxford The Portraits in Oxford project aims to publish an integrated digital catalogue of portraits in the University of Oxford and its constituent Colleges. The pilot study, (June 2005-May 2006), catalogued portraits in the Examination Schools of the University, and at Pembroke College. The catalogue of the University portrait collection is on Open Access and can be searched using the search facilities at the top of this page. The integrated catalogue of University and College portraits is available to registered users.

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