Marcus Stone was a painter of historical genre scenes appealing to the Victorian taste for the sentimental and the dramatic. The public liked their paintings to tell stories, and Stone's ability to translate historical events into paintings with great subtlety was very popular in his day and his works were widely circulated as prints.
A highlight at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1869, Princess Elizabeth persuaded to attend mass with her sister, Queen Mary was described by the Art Journal as, "a work which will be accepted as the masterpiece of Mr Marcus Stone" when it was exhibited. The scene depicted is of the sort that Stone particularly enjoyed to paint and shows Princess Elizabeth, a Protestant, attending mass with her sister Queen Mary, a fervent Catholic. During her reign, Mary did her utmost to restore England to what she considered to be the true faith and all citizens were compelled by law to attend the Catholic Mass. In fear of their lives, many prominent Protestants such as William Cecil, later Lord Burghley, and Princess Elizabeth complied with this, though in private still reading from the English bible, praying in English and supporting the Protestant cause. To the right of the picture, the French and Spanish ambassadors can be seen, observing the conduct of the Princess for some sign of resistance to the proceeding she has been forced to participate in.