Page last updated at 16:29 GMT, Sunday, 6 September 2009 17:29 UK

Queen's last letter to go on show

Mary Queen of Scots (pic: Hulton Archive)
Mary asked the King to ensure her servants' wages were paid

The last letter ever written by Mary Queen of Scots is to go on display for the first time in 30 years.

The 422-year-old manuscript - written six hours before her execution - will go on show at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh on 15 September.

The letter, which will be displayed for seven days, was written on 8 February, 1587 to the King of France, Henri III.

The Catholic Queen told her brother-in-law she would die a religious martyr and not for purely political reasons.

King Henri III was the brother of her late husband, Francois II.

The letter revealed that, just hours from death, Mary asked Henri to ensure her servants' wages were paid.

The document will be one of the key exhibits unveiled by the National Library to mark the official launch of its new visitor centre.

Conservation reasons

Its bosses said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a "fascinating piece" of history.

Since the letter was last seen in public 30 years ago, the library's visitors have only been able to view a digitally-enhanced reproduction as it is stored under tightly-controlled conditions to prevent damage from heat, light and humidity.

It will only be on display for seven days within a glass case for conservation reasons.

It is not known when, or if, the original will go on display again.

The precious manuscript will join 10 other exhibits, which will remain on show until 8 November.

The library's new visitor facilities are the result of a £2.24m investment programme, undertaken over the last three years to make it more accessible.

Its chief executive, Martyn Wade, said: "The completion of the visitor centre marks an exciting new chapter for the National Library of Scotland."

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