Mary, Queen of Scots

In another exciting breakthrough, a team of code breakers have cracked secret coded messages in letters written by Mary, Queen of Scots. Afraid of her cousin’s popularity, Queen Elizabeth I held Mary in prison for 19 years.

Experts say this is the most significant discovery about Mary in decades.  Dr John Guy, a fellow in history The University of Cambridge, said the findings are a “literary and historical sensation” and mark the most important new find on Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots for more than 100 years.

Fifty-seven letters dating from 1578 to 1584  are located in the French National Library. The catalogue had listed the letters as Italian texts from the first half of the 16th century.  Fifty letters revealed scripts that unknown to historians.

The team that broke the code was: George Lasry, a computer scientist and cryptographer; Norbert Biermann, a pianist and music professor; and Satoshi Tomokiyo, who is a physicist and patents expert.  They discovered that Mary, Queen of Scots had written the letters after solving her cipher system using computer and manual techniques. Lasry is the lead author of the study. He is a member of the Decrypt Project. The Decrypt Project aims to decipher and transcribe historical codes, described the discovery as “truly exciting”. For the entire study by Lasry, Biermann and Tomokiyo see: Cyrptologia .

In the letters, sent to the French ambassador to England, Michel de Castelnau de Mauvissiere, Mary complained about her poor health, the conditions of her captivity, and spoke about her efforts to negotiate with Elizabeth for her release. The letters document her attempts to win over some of Elizabeth’s officials with presents. For the article on the Mary, Queen of Scot’s letters

Charles V

Other letter besides those of Mary Stuart  are highlighted. In December 2022, a secret letter from Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to his French ambassador was deciphered as well.

Certainly the recent recovery and decoding of messages between monarchs, royalty and their representatives highlights the constant concern for privacy and secrecy over the centuries. It also highlights just how good they were at creating codes!

Image: By Nicholas Hilliard –, Public Domain,