Codebreakers find and decode lost letters of Mary, Queen of Scots

A trio of codebreakers have found a treasure trove of lost letters written by Mary, Queen of Scots.

Between 1578 and 1584, 57 secret letters from Mary Stuart to the French ambassador in England were written in an elaborate code. These findings came 436 years after Mary’s death Execution on 8 February 1587

Most of the letters were housed in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, in a particularly large collection of unmarked documents that were also written in special pictorial symbols. The documents were listed as dating. From the first half of the 16th century and believed to belong to Italy.

Then, a trio with a penchant for breaking historical ciphers stumble upon the documents.

George Lasry, a computer scientist and cryptographer from France; Norbert Biermann, a pianist and music professor from Germany; and Satoshi Tomokyo, a physicist and patent expert from Japan, all worked together to discover the authenticity of the documents.

A multidisciplinary team has worked together for 10 years to uncover the historic ciphers. Lasry is also a member of the DECRYPT project, which digitizes, transcribes and deciphers the meaning of historical ciphers.

Once the researchers began working through the unique ciphers, they soon realized that the correspondence was written using French, and contained nothing Italian.

The team spied verbs and verbs that used the feminine form, mentions of imprisonment – and one key word: Walsingham. Sir Francis Walsingham was Queen Elizabeth I’s secretary and spy. Together, all the signs pointed to the fact that the team had found Mary Stuart’s letters that had been lost for centuries.

The results were published Tuesday in the journal Cryptologica.

“Mary, Queen of Scots has left a vast collection of letters in various archives,” Lassery said in a statement. “However, there was earlier evidence that Mary Stuart’s other letters were missing from these collections, such as those cited in other sources but not found elsewhere. The letters we considered were most likely the missing secret letter. They are part of literature.

The newly annotated material, which totals 50,000 words, sheds new light on Mary’s time spent in captivity in England.

Mary Stuart, a Catholic, was first in line to the English throne after her Protestant cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Catholics regarded Mary as the rightful, legitimate sovereign. Considering Mary Stuart a threat, Elizabeth I imprisoned her cousin for 19 years, most of that time in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury in England. He was executed at the age of 44 for allegedly participating in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth I.

But Mary was not idle in captivity. He maintained regular correspondence with the Allies and tried to recruit messengers to hide his letters from the enemy.

The new letters reveal new details about his correspondence with Michel de Castelnau, the Sieur de la Mauvissière, French Ambassador to England. The correspondence may have begun as early as 1578. The ambassador sent Mary’s letters to his agents in France.

In Mary's letters, the words emerge from a broad script.

The English government knew of his secret activities and as a result Walsingham spied on Mary during her imprisonment. He was able to intercept some of his letters through a spy inside the French embassy – which is why some of the 57 letters Deciphered by the team can also be found in the British archive.

In the letters, Mary complained about the conditions of her captivity and her poor health. He lamented that his negotiations with Elizabeth I for release were not conducted in good faith. Mary detailed her dislike of Walsingham as well as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester – her cousin’s favourite. Mary He also tried to bribe the Queen’s officials.

The letters also show the anguish Mary felt when her son James – the man who would eventually become King James I of England two decades later – was kidnapped in August 1582.

Dr. John Guy, fellow of history at Clare College in Cambridge, England, and author of “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart,” was able to read the study before its release.

“This is a wonderful piece of research, and these discoveries will be a literary and historical sensation,” Guy said. “They mark the most important new research on Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots for 100 years.”

Guy said the letters show that even in prison, Mary was “a shrewd and attentive analyst of international affairs” who was involved in political affairs in Scotland, England and France.

The research team used sophisticated methods combining computer algorithms, linguistic analysis and manual code-breaking techniques to decipher the characters.

“Breaking the code was not eureka. moment — it took a long time, peeling back another layer of the ‘onion’ each time,” Lasry said.

The research team had to replicate the ciphers for their computer algorithm.

Initially, researchers could only read about 30 percent of the text using computer algorithms. Then, they analyzed the symbols manually and tested their meanings through trial and error using contextual analysis.

“It’s like solving a huge crossword puzzle,” Lasry said. “Most of the effort was spent on copying and interpreting the Sephardic letters (150,000 symbols in total) – 50,000 words, enough to fill a book.”

According to the researchers, the ciphers were homophonic, meaning that each letter of the alphabet could be encoded using several cipher symbols. This practice ensured that certain symbols were not used too often. The text also contained special symbols to indicate common places, words and names.

The team was also able to compare the letters with some of the documents in the Walsingham Papers at the British Library. London and trace similar ciphers.

Some ciphers correspond to common names, such as the months of the year in French.

“We’ve cracked more difficult codes, and we’ve occasionally deciphered a letter from a king or queen, but nothing compared to 50 new letters from a famous historical figure,” Lasry said.

It is likely that Mary’s other coded letters are still missing. In the meantime, the letters provide a wealth of information for researchers to dig into.

“In our paper, we only provide preliminary interpretations and summaries of the letters,” Lasry said. “A deeper analysis by historians may result in a better understanding of Mary’s years in captivity. It would also be great, perhaps, to work with historians to produce an edited book of her letters, which has been annotated, interpreted and translated.”

Read full article here

Related Articles

Latest Posts