• Thea Musgrave
  • Monologues of Mary, Queen of Scots (1986)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • 2322/3210/timp.2perc/hp.ch org/str
  • soprano
  • 22 min
  • the composer, based on a work by Amalia Elguera
  • English

Programme Note


This work is a suite taken from the Opera of the same name. There are four different scenes or monologues where Mary recollects the four turning points in her life during the eight years when she was Queen of Scotland.

I. It is 1561 and Mary, the widowed Queen of France, returns to Scotland. She is 18 years old.She wonders what her fate will be. Will be able to trust her brother James, the Earl of Moray, or should she turn for help to the Earl of Bothwell, a famous soldier?

A short overture introduces a well-known Scottish melody "The Bonnie Earl of Moray." Mary lands at the port of Leith, near Edinburgh, and the music depicts the thick mist that shrouded the harbour, preventing her people from being there to greet her.

II. A year later, despite much opposition Mary has married her English cousin Lord Darnley and she is expecting their child. She confronts her brother James and at last she fully comes to understand the depth of his ambition for power. She refuses to accede to any of his requests and he leaves in anger.

III. Weak and ill after the birth of her son, Mary's determination to stand alone dissolves. She realizes she must keep Darnley at her side to protect her honour and safeguard the succession. She ponders the future of her son.

IV. Despite urgent warnings, Mary has summoned the Earl of Bothwell to protect her from James who has raised an army against her. But as the price for his protection Bothwell seduces her. Later, when the news is brought that Darnley has been found murdered and Bothwell is at her side, she is fatally compromised. She is forced to abdicate. She flees to England alone, and her infant son is proclaimed King of Scotland.