Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Stuart is often referred to in historical texts as Mary Queen of Scots and she is remembered as perhaps the most famous female historical figure in Scotland’s history. Born at Linlithgrow on the 7th of December 1542 she was the daughter of James the V and became the Queen of Scotland 6 days after her birth with the death of her father.

She was brought up in France where she was educated and met her first husband Francis. She was married to Francis in 1558 and with the death of his father a year later he became king of France and so Mary was Queen of both Scotland and France at the age of 17. One year later Francis died and Mary returned to Scotland, to take her place as Queen.

This was not good news for the Queen of England, Elisabeth I Mary’s cousin, had been made queen, but it was thought that Mary had a better claim to the throne due to Elisabeth’s mothers believed illegal marriage to King Henry. However Mary’s belief in Catholicism worked against her as England and indeed Scotland were newly formed to Protestantism. Mary’s reign at the beginning was reasonably successful and once settled she set her sights on marriage. 

She made negotiations to try and gain a match to Catholic Philip II of Spain, but this never happened and she ended up marrying with her heart instead of her head. She married her first cousin, Lord Darnley in 1565. This marriage turned out to be one of Mary’s biggest mistakes.

Scottish Protestants were unhappy with this marriage as they saw it as Mary attempting to force Catholicism back into Scotland and subsequently Moray, her brother, raised a rebellion against her but Mary defeated him but this was a sign of things to come. 

Then things got worse for Mary when In 1566, Riccio her Italian secretary was murdered by a group of Protestant lords with Darnley being amongst them. This uprising occurred within Mary’s home at Hollyrood where she was held prisoner as Moray marched through Edinburgh triumphant. 

Mary however managed to convince Darnley to come back to her side and then together with another couple of aids they escaped the palace and rode to the safety of Dunbar Castle.

She then raised an army of around 8,000 men marched into Edinburgh to meet the conspirators who promptly fled for England.

Darnley and Mary’s relationship was never the same after this and she only held of divorcing him due to her pregnancy because she feared her son would be an illegitimate ruler other wise (the son she gave birth to was price James IV who would later unite the crowns of Scotland and England).

Then controversy struck on 9th February 1567, when Bothwell(whom it was rumoured Mary was having an affair with) set off the gunpowder and effectively reduced Darnley’s residence to rubble. 

Although everything did not go to plan as the Kings body was not found inside the house but outside in the garden and he was not killed by the explosion but was strangled along with one of his servants.

Mary was implicated in this murder and it her guilt or innocence has been the subject of much debate and has never been proven either way. There is evidence to support either assumption.

She made negotiations to try and gain a match to Catholic Philip II of Spain, but this never happened and she ended up marrying with her heart instead of her head. She married her first cousin, Lord Darnley in 1565. This marriage turned out to be one of Mary’s biggest mistakes.

Scottish Protestants were unhappy with this marriage as they saw it as Mary attempting to force Catholicism back into Scotland and subsequently Moray, her brother, raised a rebellion against her but Mary defeated him but this was a sign of things to come.

Then things got worse for Mary when In 1566, Riccio her Italian secretary was murdered by a group of Protestant lords with Darnley being amongst them. This uprising occurred within Mary’s home at Hollyrood where she was held prisoner as Moray marched through Edinburgh triumphant.

Mary however managed to convince Darnley to come back to her side and then together with another couple of aids they escaped the palace and rode to the safety of Dunbar Castle.

As soon as she crossed the border she was imprisoned and she remained imprisoned for the rest of her life, which was not to be that long.

She was put on trial for the murder of her husband, even although as a foreign sovereign the English courts had no authority over her. The trial lasted a couple of months with it being a pretty much one sided affair as Mary was not allowed to defend herself. Then it concluded with both Mary and Moray being found not guilty but Mary was still kept in captivity.

Eventually Mary made one last attempt to free herself in 1568 in what was know as the Babington Plot but it was a failed attempt and once Elisabeth found out about it she ordered Mary to be executed after another trial. There was a delay in the execution as Elisabeth pondered the ramifications of her decision but eventually on the 8th of February 1567 she was executed and her tragic life came to an end. The only solace was that her son would end up doing what she has always sought to do, rule both England and Scotland.