At Linlithgow Palace , on the 7th day in December 1542, James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise became the proud parents of a baby girl. The child was to be called Mary Stuart. Six days after she was born, her father died and she became Queen of Scotland. Mary then became a very important figure in Scotland and Europe . From just shortly after her birth she was to be the subject of many plots by Scotland 's rival pro-English and pro-French factions to gain control of her life. Her French mother became her regent, and in 1548, she sent Mary to France , where she lived as part of the French royal family. Mary was to marry the French Dauphin Francis In April 1558. She secretly agreed to bequeath Scotland to France if she should die without a son.
Linlithgow Palace

Francis succeeded his father in the month of July 1559 becoming King Francis II and Mary became Queen of France as well as of Scotland .  When Mary I died, many Roman Catholics also recognised Mary Stuart as Queen of England. However, the Protestant Elizabeth I succeeded her to the throne in November 1558. Mary Stuart's claim to the English throne was because she was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII-- Elizabeth 's father. To the Roman Catholics, Mary's claim appeared stronger than Elizabeth 's did because they viewed Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn as illegal.  Mary's young husband Francis II died in December 1560 after a reign of 17 months. Mary, who was about to become 18 years of age, was left in a difficult position. Unwilling to stay in France , live under the domination of her mother-in-law Catherine De Medicis she decided to return to Scotland , and take her chances with the Protestant reformers.

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary landed at Leith dock on the 19th day of August 1561, and immediately took the advice of the moderates James Stuart who was her half-brother, and would later go on to become the earl of Moray. She was also influenced by the advice from William Maitland of Lethington. She recognised the Reformed (Presbyterian) church and allowed it small privileges, but not full establishment.

John Knox and many of the other Protestant reformers were horrified because she had Mass in her own chapel, and the Roman Catholics were worried about her lack of zeal for their cause. For the next few years, Mary tried to keep the Protestants and Knox quiet while attempting to befriend Elizabeth I. With all this going on, she was also trying to negotiating a Catholic marriage with Don Carlos, who was son to Philip II of Spain . Refusals dashed her plans on both the English succession and the Spanish marriage; Mary decided on a marriage of love rather than a purely political arrangement. She married her first cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley on the 29th day of July 1565.

The Protestants were very unhappy at this occurrence, and refused to accept this marriage. Moray, with the aid of other nobles, raised a rebellion, which Mary quickly suppressed. Mary felt betrayed by her Protestant advisors and withdrew some of her support from the Reformed church. Her marriage with Darnley soured and she refused him the right to succeed if she died without issue. David Rizzio, who was her secretary, was always available to comfort the distraught and lonely Queen. She began to depend on Rizzio, for all her needs.

The Protestant lords disliked Rizzio's influence because they suspected him of being a papal agent, and Darnley openly stated that the Italian was too intimate with the Queen. A group of Protestant lords got together on 9th day of March 1566, and acting with the support of Darnley, murdered Rizzio in Mary's presence at Holyrood Palace . Mary, who was six months pregnant, survived the horrible ordeal. In Edinburgh Castle and on 19th June 1566 , estranged from her husband and his allies, she gave birth to a son James, who would become James VI of Scotland and James I of England .

By the end of 1566, Mary had become friends with the Earl of Bothwell, James Hepburn, and was seeking a way to dissolve her marriage with Darnley. Various schemes were planned and plotted; however, it seems unlikely, Mary was aware of the actual plot to eliminate her estranged husband. On the 10th day of February 1567, Darnley was murdered at Kirk o' Field; the circumstances of his death to this day remain a mystery. At the time, the Earl of Bothwell was believed to be the chief instigator. After a very brief and rudimentary trial, Bothwell was found not guilty of any charges and set free. In April, Mary went off with Bothwell, and it was suggested at the time that she might well have been abducted. The Earl of Bothwell went on to divorce his wife, and on 15th day in May 1567, he and Mary were wed according to the Protestant rite.  These events alienated even some of Mary's closest supporters. The nobles, many of whom disliked Bothwell, banded together to face Mary and her new husband at Carberry. The Queen was forced to surrender, and Bothwell fled.  Mary was held captive at Lochleven Castle and on the 24th July 1567 , she was forced to abdicate in favour of her son who became King James VI of Scotland . With the help of a few brave friends, Mary escaped from the castle and immediately rallied a large force behind her. Mary's army were engaged in battle at Langside, and on the 13th day in May 1568, were soundly beaten by the forces of the Protestant lords. At this point Mary decided to leave Scotland and go to England to beg support from her cousin Elizabeth I.
Mary Queen of Scots
Mary Queen of Scots

Mary never returned to Scotland and suffered nearly 19 years of captivity, at the hands of her cousin Elizabeth I. Mary Queen of Scots was incarcerated in England , English Roman Catholics plotted to free her but these elaborate plans were always thwarted by English agents. Serious alarm was raised concerning the safety of Elizabeth I. The Babington plot, which called for the assassination of Elizabeth , was formed deliberately to trap Mary. She was found guilty of complicity and sentenced to be beheaded. Although reluctant to execute her cousin, Elizabeth gave the order that was carried out at Fotheringhay Castle on the 8th day in February 1587. Mary was buried first at Peterborough ; in 1612, after he had ascended the English throne, her son James had her interred in Westminster Abbey.

That was how life ended, for one of Scotland 's most famous Queens . She was an enigma right to the end. Who knows what the country would be like today if Mary Queen of Scots had taken her rightful place in history.



Back to Top

© Crann Tara 2006