Here is why Charter Day is celebrated on February 8 each year.
On Sunday, February 8, 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded on the order of Queen Elizabeth I.
Mary Queen of Scots was named Mary Stuart.
When Mary Stuart who became Queen Mary II was young, she was told that she was named after her great-great-grandmother, Mary, Queen of Scots.
Queen Mary II took the throne in 1689. She counted among her family members her grandfather, King Charles I, who was beheaded by Oliver Cromwell on January 30, 1649, and her great-great-grandmother, Mary Stuart, who was Queen of France (via marriage to Francis I) and Scotland.
When James Blair showed up in London to pitch the College of William & Mary, Queen Mary immediately had Christopher Wren summoned to Kensington Palace for the discussion.
The deal was done by the end of November 1691.
The College would have been chartered on February 8, 1692, had it not been for threats to monarchical power out of Scotland that Mary had to deal with.
Everyone in Virginia knew: that the College of William & Mary was the a memorial of sorts to King Charles I. When Charles I was executed, Cromwell forbid anyone from referring to Charles II as anything but "Charles Stuart."
Virginians were outraged at the execution. Governor Berkeley sent a ship to London with a note that said (approximately):
"F-- YOU. Charles II."
The new Commonwealth of England, under Oliver Cromwell, then declared war on the Commonwealth of Virginia. English forces gained political control in 1653.
However, Berkeley was able to organize an uprising that threw out Cromwell's forces in 1657.
Cromwell died the next year.
When Charles II became King of England--in the episode called The Restoration--there was a lot of payback against the enemies of Charles I.
And no colony looked better to the Stuart dynasty than Virginia.
Thomas Jefferson always pointed to the period immediately after 1760 as one that Virginians needed to examine.
Jefferson would have known. In the same year that Charles II became King of England, a 17-year-old Thomas Jefferson arrived at the College for two years of study.
Other colonies shifted allegiances whenever a new power came the throne in England.
Virginia stuck with the Stuarts.
Mary gave the College this name "for all times coming:"
The College of William & Mary in Virginia
The words "in Virginia" meant as much to Mary as did her and William's name.
Mary wanted to memorialize both of the executed monarchs from whom she was a descendant.
She identified particularly closely with Mary Queen of Scots.
STRONG EVIDENCE THAT QUEEEN MARY II PICKED FEBRUARY 8 FOR CHARTER DAY BEECAUSE ON FEBRUARY 8, 1587, HER GREAT-GREAT-GRANDMOTHER, A QUEEN, AFTER WHOM SHE WAS NAMED, WAS EXECUTED:
Look at the James Blair's trip. The deal for the College was nailed down in November 1691.
The ONLY reason the College was not chartered on February 8, 1692, was that Mary was busy dealing with Jacobin resistance in Scotland that month.
ON FEBRUARY 8, 2027
The five-year Vision 2026 will be concluding.
That Charter Day will be the 334th "birthday" of the College.
And that day will mark 440 years since the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots, on the orders of Elizabeth I.