Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 17:34 UK

Queen's letter marks new chapter

Virginia Barnes holds a replica of the last letter by Mary Queen of Scots, with the genuine letter in a display cabinet
The letter on display was penned hours before Mary's execution

The last letter written by Mary Queen of Scots is to make a rare public appearance to mark the opening of a new library visitor centre.

She penned the letter at 0200 GMT on Wednesday February 8 1587, only six hours before she was executed.

The letter, addressed to Henri III of France, brother of her first husband, is very rarely on public display for preservation reasons.

The National Library of Scotland will show it from Tuesday for seven days.

It will be on show in a glass case until 21 September and will then be replaced by a copy for the duration of the Treasures exhibition, which ends on 8 November.

Martyn Wade, head of the National Library of Scotland, said: "This priceless document is one of Scotland's most prized historical possessions which is normally kept under lock and key.

"For reasons of preservation, viewings must be restricted therefore I am delighted to be able to bring it into the public domain for a short time only to help celebrate what is a tremendously important occasion for the library."

The 422-year-old manuscript is one of 11 literary gems going on show to celebrate the official launch of the library's new visitor centre following a £2.24m investment programme.

Among the other items on display will be a first edition of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, the medieval manuscript of the Murthly Hours and David Hume's autobiography.

The improved visitor facilities include expanded exhibition and events spaces, while the library's public areas have been redesigned to create a more welcoming environment.

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