A DOCUMENT signed by Mary Queen of Scots proves that the Scottish monarch paved the way for the Geneva Convention – 300 years before it came into force.
The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) released a document showing how the queen protected and preserved the status of surgeons – making it law that they should not have to bear arms in battle.
The Letter of Exemption states that surgeons should focus on caring for and remedying the wounded instead of fighting.
However, the perception of medical staff as non-combatants in warfare is usually ascribed to the first Geneva Convention from 1864 .
However, this document shows that three centuries earlier, Mary Queen of Scots clearly set down the right of surgeons to be exempt from bearing arms.
Signed ‘Mary by the Grace of God, Queen of Scots’, the letter is thought to be from the Queen for the whole population.
It puts a responsibility upon surgeons, writing that they must always be ‘present with our armies ready to do their cure and duty to all sick persons.’
The document is dated May 1567, meaning that Mary Queen of Scots signed the documents during a time of turmoil in her life – just after her son was born and her husband tried to steal the throne.
Chris Henry, Director of Heritage at RCSEd, said: “This unique artefact is one of the College’s treasured possessions.
“It gives us a fantastic insight into the ethics and civilization of 16th Century Scotland as well as the standing of surgeons in the capital back then.”
The Queen’s letter is available to be viewed online in the college’s new archive.
The college also recently released real accounts of Burke and Hare, the notorious Edinburgh serial killer who sold the corpses to Robert Knox for dissection at his anatomy lectures.
The new movie, Mary Queen of Scots starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, charts the power politics of Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I as young rival Queens.