Mary, Queen of Scotland (December 7/8, 1542 – February 8, 1587), also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, was Queen of Scotland from December 14, 1542 to July 24, 1567 and Queen consort of France from July 10, 1559 to December 5, 1560.
The infant Queen Edit
Mary was born on December 7 or 8, 1542 at Linlithgow, Scotland, to James V, King of Scots, and his French second wife, Mary of Guise. She was said to have been born prematurely and was the only legitimate child of James to survive him. She was the great-niece of King Henry VIII of England, as her paternal grandmother, Margaret Tudor, was Henry VIII's sister. On December 14, six days after her birth, she became Queen of Scotland when her father died, perhaps from the effects of a nervous collapse following the Battle of Solway Moss, or from drinking contaminated water while on campaign.
A popular legend, first recorded by John Knox, states that James, hearing on his deathbed that his wife had given birth to a daughter, ruefully exclaimed, "It came with a lass, it will pass with a lass!" His House of Stewart had gained the throne of Scotland by the marriage of Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert the Bruce, to Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland. The crown had come to his family through a woman, and would be lost from his family through a woman. This legendary statement came true much later—not through Mary, but through her descendant Queen Anne.
Mary was baptized at the nearby Church of St Michael shortly after she was born. Rumors spread that she was weak and frail, but an English diplomat, Ralph Sadler, saw the infant at Linlithgow Palace in March 1543, unwrapped by her nurse, and wrote, "it is as goodly a child as I have seen of her age, and as like to live."
As Mary was an infant when she inherited the throne, Scotland was ruled by regents until she became an adult. From the outset, there were two different claims to the Regency: one from Catholic Cardinal Beaton, and the other from the Protestant Earl of Arran, who was next in line to the throne. Beaton's claim was based on a version of the late king's will that his opponents dismissed as a forgery. Arran, with the support of his friends and relations, became the regent until 1554 when Mary's mother managed to remove and succeed him.
Treaty of Greenwich Edit
King Henry VIII of England took the opportunity of the regency to propose marriage between Mary and his own son, Prince Edward, hoping for a union of Scotland and England. On July 1, 1543, when Mary was six months old, the Treaty of Greenwich was signed, which promised that at the age of ten Mary would marry Edward and move to England, where Henry could oversee her upbringing. The treaty provided that the two countries would remain legally separate and that if the couple should fail to have children the temporary union would dissolve. However, Cardinal Beaton rose to power again and began to push a pro-Catholic pro-French agenda, which angered Henry, who wanted to break the Scottish alliance with France. Beaton wanted to move Mary away from the coast to the safety of Stirling Castle. Regent Arran resisted the move, but backed down when Beaton's armed supporters gathered at Linlithgow. The Earl of Lennox escorted Mary and her mother to Stirling on July 27, 1543 with 3,500 armed men. Mary was crowned in the castle chapel on September 9, 1543, with "such solemnity as they do use in this country, which is not very costly" according to the report of Ralph Sadler and Henry Ray.
Shortly before Mary's coronation, Scottish merchants headed for France were arrested by Henry, and their goods impounded. The arrests caused anger in Scotland, and Arran joined Beaton and became a Catholic.The Treaty of Greenwich was rejected by the Parliament of Scotland in December. The rejection of the marriage treaty and the renewal of the Auld Alliance between France and Scotland prompted Henry's "Rough Wooing", a military campaign designed to impose the marriage of Mary to his son. English forces mounted a series of raids on Scottish and French territory. In May 1544, the English Earl of Hertford (later Duke of Somerset) raided Edinburgh, and the Scots took Mary to Dunkeld for safety.
In May 1546, Beaton was murdered by Protestant lairds, and on September 10, 1547, nine months after the death of Henry VIII, the Scots suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Mary's guardians, fearful for her safety, sent her to Inchmahome Priory for no more than three weeks, and turned to the French for help.
Life in France Edit
The French king, Henry II, proposed to unite France and Scotland by marrying the young queen to his three-year-old son, the Dauphin Francis. On the promise of French military help, and a French dukedom for himself, Arran agreed to the marriage. In February 1548, Mary was moved, again for her safety, to Dumbarton Castle. The English left a trail of devastation behind once more and seized the strategic town of Haddington. In June, the much awaited French help arrived at Leith to besiege and ultimately take Haddington. On July 7, 1548, a Scottish Parliament held at a nunnery near the town agreed to a French marriage treaty.
With her marriage agreement in place, five-year-old Mary was sent to France to spend the next thirteen years at the French court. The French fleet sent by Henry II, commanded by Nicolas de Villegagnon, sailed with Mary from Dumbarton on August 7, 1548 and arrived a week or more later at Roscoff or Saint-Pol-de-Léon in Brittany. Mary was accompanied by her own court including two illegitimate half-brothers, and the "four Marys", four girls her own age, all named Mary, who were the daughters of some of the noblest families in Scotland: Beaton, Seton, Fleming, and Livingston. Janet, Lady Fleming, who was Mary Fleming's mother and James V's half-sister, was appointed governess.
Beautiful, talented Queen Edit
Vivacious, beautiful, and clever Mary had a promising childhood. At the French court, she was a favorite with everyone, except Henry II's wife Catherine de' Medici. Mary learned to play lute and virginals, was competent in prose, poetry, horsemanship, falconry and needlework, and was taught French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and Greek, in addition to speaking her native Scots. Her future sister-in-law, Elisabeth of Valois, became a close friend of whom Mary "retained nostalgic memories in later life". Her maternal grandmother, Antoinette de Bourbon, was another strong influence on her childhood, and acted as one of her principal advisers. Portraits of Mary show that she had a small, oval-shaped head, a long, graceful neck, bright auburn hair, hazel-brown eyes, under heavy lowered eyelids and finely arched brows, smooth pale skin, a high forehead, and regular, firm features. She was considered a pretty child and later, as a woman, strikingly attractive. At some point in her infancy or childhood, she caught smallpox, but it did not mark her features.
Mary was eloquent and especially tall by sixteenth-century standards (she attained an adult height of 5 feet 11 inches), while Henry II's son and heir, Francis, stuttered and was abnormally short. Henry commented that "from the very first day they met, my son and she got on as well together as if they had known each other for a long time".
The Queen's Wedding Edit
On April 4, 1558, Mary signed a secret agreement bequeathing Scotland and her claim to England to the French crown if she died without children. Twenty days later, she married the Dauphin at Notre Dame de Paris, and Francis became King Consort of Scotland.
Claiming the English throne Edit
In November 1558, Henry VIII's elder daughter, Queen Mary I of England, was succeeded by her only surviving sibling, Elizabeth I. Under the Third Succession Act, passed in 1543 by the Parliament of England, Elizabeth was recognized as her sister's heir, and Henry VIII's last will and testament had excluded the Stuarts from succeeding to the English throne. Yet, in the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, and Mary Stuart, as the senior descendant of Henry VIII's elder sister, was the rightful queen of England. Henry II of France proclaimed his eldest son and daughter-in-law king and queen of England, and in France the royal arms of England were quartered with those of Francis and Mary. Mary's claim to the English throne was a perennial sticking point between her and Elizabeth I.
Queen of France Edit
When Henry II died on July 10, 1559 from injuries sustained in a jousting accident, fifteen-year-old Francis became King of France, with Mary, aged sixteen, as his Queen Consort. Two of Mary's uncles, the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine, were now dominant in French politics, enjoying an ascendancy called by some historians la tyrannie Guisienne.
In Scotland, the power of the Protestant Lords of the Congregation was rising at the expense of Mary's mother, Mary of Guise, who maintained effective control only through the use of French troops. The Protestant Lords invited English troops into Scotland in an attempt to secure Protestantism, and a Huguenot rising in France, called the Tumult of Amboise, in March 1560 made it impossible for the French to send further support. Instead, the Guise brothers sent ambassadors to negotiate a settlement. On June 11, 1560, their sister Mary of Guise died, and so the question of future Franco-Scots relations was a pressing one. Under the terms of the Treaty of Edinburgh, signed by Mary's representatives on July 6, 1560, France and England undertook to withdraw troops from Scotland and France recognized Elizabeth's right to rule England. However, the seventeen-year-old Mary, still in France and grieving for her mother, refused to ratify the treaty.
Widowed Queen Edit
King Francis II died on December 5, 1560, of a middle ear infection which led to an abscess in his brain. Mary was grief-stricken. Her mother-in-law, Catherine de' Medici, became regent for the late king's ten-year-old brother Charles IX, who inherited the French throne.
Mary returns to Scotland Edit
Mary returned to Scotland nine months after her husband's death, arriving in Leith on August 19, 1561. Having lived in France since the age of five, Mary had little direct experience of the dangerous and complex political situation in Scotland. As a devout Catholic, she was regarded with suspicion by many of her subjects, as well as by Elizabeth, her father's cousin. Scotland was torn between Catholic and Protestant factions, and Mary's illegitimate half-brother the Earl of Moray, was a leader of the Protestants.
Third Marriage Edit
Between April 21, & 23, 1567, Mary visited her son at Stirling for the last time. On her way back to Edinburgh on April 24, Mary was abducted, willingly or not, by Lord Bothwell and his men and taken to Dunbar Castle, where he may have raped her. On May 6, Mary and Bothwell returned to Edinburgh and on May 15, at either Holyrood Palace or Holyrood Abbey, they were married according to Protestant rites. Bothwell and his first wife, Jean Gordon, who was the sister of Lord Huntly, had divorced twelve days previously.
Originally Mary believed that many nobles supported her marriage, but things soon turned sour between the newly elevated Bothwell (created Duke of Orkney and consort of the Queen) and his former peers, and the marriage proved to be deeply unpopular. Catholics considered the marriage unlawful, since they did not recognize Bothwell's divorce or the validity of the Protestant service. Both Protestants and Catholics were shocked that Mary should marry the man accused of murdering her husband. The marriage was tempestuous, and Mary became despondent.
Twenty-six Scottish peers, known as the confederate lords, turned against Mary and Bothwell, raising an army against them. Mary and Bothwell confronted the lords at Carberry Hill on June 15, but there was no battle as Mary's forces dwindled away through desertion during negotiations. Bothwell was given safe passage from the field, and the lords took Mary to Edinburgh, where crowds of spectators denounced her as an adulteress and murderer. The following night, she was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle, on an island in the middle of Loch Leven. Between July 20-23, Mary miscarried a set of twins. On July 24, she was forced to abdicate in favor of her one-year-old son James. Moray was made regent, while Bothwell was driven into exile. He was imprisoned in Denmark, became insane and died in 1578.
Mary flees Scotland Edit
On May 15, 1568, Mary escaped from Loch Leven with the aid of George Douglas, brother of Sir William Douglas, the castle's owner. Managing to raise an army of 6,000 men, she met Moray's smaller forces at the Battle of Langside on May 13. Defeated, she fled south; after spending the night at Dundrennan Abbey, she crossed the Solway Firth into England by fishing boat on May 16. She landed at Workington in Cumberland in the north of England and stayed overnight at Workington Hall. On 18 May, local officials took her into protective custody at Carlisle Castle. Mary apparently expected Elizabeth to help her regain her throne. Elizabeth was cautious, ordering an inquiry into the conduct of the confederate lords and the question of whether Mary was guilty of Darnley's murder.
Prisoner in England Edit
In mid-July 1568, English authorities moved Mary to Bolton Castle, because it was further from the Scottish border but not too close to London. A commission of inquiry, or conference as it was known, was held in York and later Westminster between October 1568 and January 1569. In Scotland, her supporters fought a civil war against Regent Moray and his successors.
Mary's half-brother and regent after her abdication in 1567, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, by Hans Eworth, 1561 As an anointed queen, Mary refused to acknowledge the power of any court to try her and refused to attend the inquiry at York personally (she sent representatives), but Elizabeth forbade her attendance anyway. As evidence against Mary, Moray presented the so-called casket letters eight unsigned letters purportedly from Mary to Bothwell, two marriage contracts, and a love sonnet or sonnets said to have been found in a silver-gilt casket just less than one foot long, decorated with the monogram of King Francis II. Mary denied writing them, arguing that her handwriting was not difficult to imitate, and insisted they were forgeries. They are widely believed to be crucial as to whether Mary shares the guilt for Darnley's murder. The chair of the commission of inquiry, the Duke of Norfolk, described them as horrible letters and diverse fond ballads, and sent copies to Elizabeth, saying that if they were genuine they might prove Mary's guilt.
Queen Mary's Trial Edit
On August 11, 1586, after being implicated in the Babington Plot, Mary was arrested while out riding and taken to Tixall. In a successful attempt to entrap her, Walsingham had deliberately arranged for Mary's letters to be smuggled out of Chartley. Mary was misled into thinking her letters were secure, while in reality they were deciphered and read by Walsingham. From these letters it was clear that Mary had sanctioned the attempted assassination of Elizabeth. She was moved to Fotheringay Castle in a four-day journey ending on September 25, and in October was put on trial for treason under the Act for the Queen's Safety before a court of 36 noblemen, including Cecil, Shrewsbury, and Walsingham. Spirited in her defense, Mary denied the charges. She told her triers, "Look to your consciences and remember that the theatre of the whole world is wider than the kingdom of England". She drew attention to the facts that she was denied the opportunity to review the evidence, that her papers had been removed from her, that she was denied access to legal counsel and that as a foreign anointed queen she had never been an English subject and thus could not be convicted of treason.
Mary was convicted on October 20 and sentenced to death with only one commissioner, Lord Zouche, expressing any form of dissent. Despite this, Elizabeth hesitated to order her execution, even in the face of pressure from the English Parliament to carry out the sentence. She was concerned that the killing of a queen set a discreditable precedent, and was fearful of the consequences, especially if, in retaliation, Mary's son James formed an alliance with the Catholic powers and invaded England. Elizabeth asked Paulet, Mary's final custodian, if he would contrive a clandestine way to "shorten the life" of Mary, which he refused to do on the grounds that he would not make "a shipwreck of my conscience, or leave so great a blot on my poor posterity". On February 1, 1587, Elizabeth signed the death warrant, and entrusted it to William Davison, a privy Councillor. On the 3rd, ten members of the Privy Council of England, having been summoned by Cecil without Elizabeth's knowledge, decided to carry out the sentence at once.
Mary is executed Edit
At Fotheringhay on the evening of February 7, 1587, Mary was told that she was to be executed the next morning. She spent the last hours of her life in prayer, distributing her belongings to her household, and writing her will and a letter to the King of France. The scaffold that was erected in the Great Hall was two feet high and draped in black. It was reached by two or three steps and furnished with the block, a cushion for her to kneel on and three stools, for her and the earls of Shrewsbury and Kent, who were there to witness the execution. The executioners (one named Bull and his assistant) knelt before her and asked forgiveness. She replied, "I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles." Her servants, Jane Kennedy and Elizabeth Curle, and the executioners helped Mary to remove her outer garments, revealing a velvet petticoat and a pair of sleeves in crimson-brown, the liturgical color of martyrdom in the Catholic Church, with a black satin bodice and black trimmings. As she disrobed she smiled and said that she "never had such grooms before ... nor ever put off her clothes before such a company". She was blindfolded by Kennedy with a white veil embroidered in gold, knelt down on the cushion in front of the block, on which she positioned her head, and stretched out her arms. Her last words in Latin were: "Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit".
Mary was not beheaded with a single strike. The first blow missed her neck and struck the back of her head. The second blow severed the neck, except for a small bit of sinew, which the executioner cut through using the axe. Afterward, he held her head aloft and declared, "God save the Queen." At that moment, the auburn tresses in his hand turned out to be a wig and the head fell to the ground, revealing that Mary had very short, grey hair. Items supposedly worn or carried by Mary at her execution are of doubtful provenance; contemporary accounts state that all her clothing, the block, and everything touched by her blood was burnt in the fireplace of the Great Hall to obstruct relic-hunters.
Mary's Legacy & Burial Edit
When the news of the execution reached Elizabeth, she became indignant and asserted that Davison had disobeyed her instructions not to part with the warrant and that the Privy Council had acted without her authority. Elizabeth's vacillation and deliberately vague instructions gave her plausible deniability, to attempt to avoid the direct stain of Mary's blood. Davison was arrested, thrown into the Tower of London, and found guilty of misprision. He was released 19 months later after Cecil and Walsingham interceded on his behalf.
Mary's request to be buried in France was refused by Elizabeth. Her body was embalmed and left unburied in a secure lead coffin until her burial, in a Protestant service, at Peterborough Cathedral in late July 1587. Her entrails, removed as part of the embalming process, were buried secretly within Fotheringay Castle Her body was exhumed in 1612 when her son, King James VI and I, ordered she be reinterred in Westminster Abbey, in a chapel opposite the tomb of Elizabeth I. In 1867, her tomb was opened to try to ascertain the resting place of James I; he was ultimately found with Henry VII, but many of her other descendants, including Elizabeth of Bohemia, Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the children of Anne, Queen of Great Britain, were interred in her vault.
Marriages & Children Edit
Mary, Queen of Scotland was married 3 times:
- Francis II of France
m. April 24, 1558 - December 5, 1560 (His death)
- Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
m. July 29, 1565 - February 10, 1567 (He was murdered)
- James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell
m. May 15, 1567 - April 14, 1578 (His death)
Mary had 1 surviving child by Lord Darnley: James, was born on June 19, 1566 in Edinburgh Castle. (He became King James VI of Scotland & James I of England. He last saw his mother when he was 10 months old.)
Between July 20 & 23, 1567 Mary miscarried a set of twins with her 3rd husband.