Who was Mary, Queen of Scots? (Life and deathline of Mary)
Mary Stewart, arguably the most famous and controversial figure in Scottish history, has become something of an enigma. The hard facts of her life and reign have frequently been obscured by intrigue and romance.
Mary, the only daughter of the ruling Stewart dynasty’s late James V, became Queen of Scots at the age of six days. She ruled from 1542 to 1567, when she was forced to abdicate. Mary was executed on February 8, 1587, after spending 19 years as a prisoner of her cousin, Elizabeth I of England.
Mary, unlike Elizabeth, was always expected to be a queen. Mary, who was born in the middle of the momentous 16th century, was to play a significant role in this dramatic era. Her burning ambition to be named as Elizabeth’s heir to the throne of England reflected the expectation that she was born to rule. This desire came to dominate Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth, and it would eventually prove to be a dangerous obsession that would lead to her death.
My beginning is at the end of my journey.
Towards the end of her life, during her time in captivity as Elizabeth’s prisoner, Mary embroidered the following epitaph-like motto: “In my end is my beginning”. This turned out to be somewhat prophetic. Even more than 400 years after her death, Mary’s legacy continues to elicit passionate and heated debate: was she a willing agent or a victim of injustice in some of her most contentious episodes?
New Alliances and Auld
Large dynastic monarchies sought alliances with one another to consolidate their power in early-modern Europe. Marriage played an important role in cementing these alliances, and Mary was no exception. Despite the fact that Scotland was the poorer cousin of the major European powers, Mary was dynastically significant. She was used as a pawn in marriage negotiations, first with England and then, more successfully, with France.
Reformation and Renaissance
Mary’s Europe was undergoing the great ferment of two profound social changes: the Renaissance and the Reformation. The former had a significant impact on art, architecture, literature, philosophy, and science, primarily on Europe’s literate elite, whereas the Reformation was a dramatic religious revolution. These movements had an impact not only on everyday life, but also on European geopolitics. The continent was now split into two antagonistic camps: Catholic and Protestant.
Mary lived alongside some of the most influential Renaissance figures in Scotland, France, and England. Mary, along with Catherine de Medici, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I, was part of a small group of Renaissance queens who wielded considerable power in an era still dominated by men.
Jewelry and costume
Mary was a striking woman who knew how to present a regal and eye-catching appearance. Tall, beautiful, and graceful, with auburn hair and a fine, pale complexion, her features were described as “pleasing” by one of her adversaries, the Protestant Reformer John Knox.
She had access to the most recent Renaissance fashions because she was raised in one of Europe’s most sophisticated and glittering courts. She adored fine clothing and accumulated an opulent wardrobe of elegant and fashionable gowns as well as a spectacular collection of jewelry.
Jewels were essential currency for a 16th-century monarch: they displayed monarchy’s majesty and could be sold to pay armies or debts. The Penicuik jewels, a gold necklace, locket, and pendant, are exquisite examples of some of the finest pieces of jewelry associated with Mary.
The main suspect
An enormous explosion destroyed the lodgings at Kirk o’ Field where Darnley, Mary’s husband and King Consort, was staying in the early hours of 10 February 1567. The bodies of Darnley and his servant were discovered in the building’s rubble. Darnley had been murdered under mysterious circumstances, and Mary had been implicated in the conspiracy.
The prime suspect was to be Mary’s third husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. Mary’s reaction to the incident sealed her fate.
Do not weep, but rejoice
Mary spoke these words of comfort to one of her servants as she faced execution.
In a sense, Mary prevailed in the end; after Elizabeth’s death in 1603, her son James VI of Scots became James I of England. As a result, every reigning British monarch since then has descended from Mary, rather than Elizabeth, who died childless. So perhaps we can indeed agree with Mary’s prophetic epitaph: “In my end is my beginning”.
The life of Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots’ (1542-87) life would rival any modern epic.
The birth of Mary in 1542
Mary was the daughter of King James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. They had two sons, but both died in infancy in 1541, just hours before Mary was born.
Following his defeat at the Battle of Solway Moss in November 1542, James returned to Falkland Palace in Fife and collapsed in bed with a high fever. Linlithgow Palace informed him on December 8 that his wife had given birth to a daughter rather than the hoped-for son. James believed that the Stuart dynasty was coming to an end and that a woman could not rule his country.
Six days later, King James V died, and baby Mary became Queen of Scotland.
The ‘Rough Wooing’ of 1543
Both Protestant England and Catholic France desired that Mary marry a royal from their respective countries in order to gain control of Scotland. Henry VIII, Mary’s great-uncle, arranged for Mary to marry his son Edward in the hope of uniting Scotland and England. However, many Scots were opposed to the treaty and broke it. Henry was enraged and dispatched his army to attack Scotland. The ‘courtship’ was dubbed the ‘Rough Wooing’.
French troops aided the Scots in their fight against the English, and Mary agreed to marry the Dauphin (the eldest son of the French king). When Mary was six years old, she left for France.
Mary’s life in France, 1548
Mary was raised in magnificent royal palaces with the children of King Henri II of France, and she became very close to Princess Elisabeth. Mary studied French, Italian, Spanish, and Latin. She learned to sew, write poetry, and play musical instruments. In the French countryside, Mary enjoyed horseback riding and hunting.
Mary married the 14-year-old Dauphin Francis in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in April 1558, at the age of 15. After King Henri died a year later, Mary became Queen of Scotland and France. Her reign in France, however, was brief, as Francis became ill and died in 1560. His younger brother inherited the throne.
Because Mary’s mother (who had ruled Scotland as regent) died in 1560, she returned to Scotland in 1561. She arrived in Leith on August 18. Mary was dressed in mourning and led in a grand procession to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which was lined with a cheering crowd.
Marriage to Lord Darnley in 1565
Mary ruled Scotland for the next four years. The royal court was required to travel throughout the country, meeting with lairds and other officials. Mary enjoyed horseback riding, dancing, and hunting. She also liked sports and used to play real tennis at Falkland Palace.
Mary had to remarry in order to have a child who would inherit the Scottish throne. Many princes, lords, and nobles wanted to marry her, but then she met Lord Darnley, her cousin. Mary fell in love with him right away because he was tall, ambitious, and attractive. They married at Holyroodhouse on July 29, 1565.
Few people agreed with her decision. Because Darnley had English royal connections, Elizabeth I of England saw this marriage as Mary’s attempt to strengthen her claim to the English throne. Darnley had clearly married Mary in order to gain the throne. Mary bestowed the title of king on him but retained all real power; he resented this.
Riccio’s murder in 1566 (Rizzio)
Lord Darnley envied Mary’s friend and advisor, David Riccio, because they spent so much time together. In March 1566, Mary had just begun supper with Riccio and some friends in Holyroodhouse when Darnley and Lord Ruthven and other plotters entered her room. Lord Ruthven was wearing armour. Riccio tried to hide behind Mary, but they drew him out and stabbed him. He was dragged screaming from the room and stabbed 56 times outside.
James, Mary and Darnley’s son, was born three months later on June 19, 1566.
Lord Darnley is murdered in 1567.
Darnley was recovering from an illness at a house near Edinburgh just a few months after his son was born. Mary nursed him for a few days before leaving one evening in February 1567. The house was blown up soon after she left. Darnley and his servant were discovered dead in the garden by the Earl of Bothwell’s messengers. Witnesses reported hearing Darnley pleading for mercy. He looked like he’d been strangled.
Some people thought Mary was involved at the time. Others suspected the Earl of Bothwell and others of plotting to blow up the house. Bothwell was grilled by the Scottish Parliament, but he was never charged with the murders. The identity of Darnley’s killer(s) is unknown.
Mary and the Earl of Bothwell in 1567
Mary was now extremely unpopular. It didn’t help that she didn’t act like a bereaved widow – she was seen playing golf in St Andrews just days after Darnley died.
The Earl of Bothwell divorced his wife, and Mary married Bothwell on May 15, 1567, just three months after Darnley’s murder. Many Scots were shocked, and some believed Mary was coerced into marrying him.
Protestant nobles banded together to fight Mary and Bothwell’s army at the Battle of Carberry Hill on June 15, 1567. Bothwell fled after Mary surrendered and her troops deserted her. Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven Castle.
Bothwell was apprehended and imprisoned in Denmark’s fortress of Drasholm. He was chained to a pillar half his height, unable to stand upright, and left for ten years before dying.
Mary was imprisoned in a claustrophobic tower at Lochleven Castle, which is located on an island in Loch Leven. Mary was forced to abdicate, and her son, King James VI of Scotland, was crowned. The Earl of Mar, who had also served as Mary’s guardian, was in charge of James. Mary miscarried the Earl of Bothwell’s twins while at Lochleven.
Her second attempt at escape was successful, thanks to the assistance of a castle servant. She escaped in disguise to a waiting boat and arrived safely on the shore, where an ally, George Douglas, was waiting. Mary raised an army but was defeated by her Scottish adversaries at the Battle of Langside on May 13, 1568. In desperation, she fled to England and sought assistance from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England.
Mary and Elizabeth in 1568
Elizabeth was Henry VIII of England’s and Anne Boleyn’s daughter. She was Henry VII’s granddaughter.
Mary, the great-granddaughter of Henry VII and the daughter of James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise, was also related to the English royal family.
Mary was a Catholic, while Elizabeth was a Protestant. Some Catholics objected to Elizabeth’s parents’ marriage because it was a Protestant wedding. Instead, they thought Mary should be queen.
Queen Elizabeth I of England imprisoned Mary as a result of an investigation into Darnley’s murder (later thought to be based on forged letters). For nearly 19 years, she was imprisoned in a variety of castles and grand houses. Elizabeth treated Mary well, but she always kept a close eye on her. They were never introduced.
Mary had her own servants, including a physician and a secretary, during her years in prison. She liked to embroider, play cards, have visitors, and have pets. Mary, on the other hand, yearned for freedom and to be reunited with her son.
Mary was not permitted to communicate by letter as a result of numerous plots to free her. Mary discovered a way to smuggle letters in a beer barrel in 1585. Sir Anthony Babington wrote to Mary, proposing that Elizabeth be assassinated, the Catholic religion be restored in England, and Mary be crowned Queen of England. Mary agreed with a coded response. It was, however, a ruse devised by Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham.
Mary is tried and executed in 1586.
Mary was tried for high treason and found guilty on October 15, 1586.
Mary was beheaded in the Great Hall of Fotheringhay Castle on February 8, 1587. She wore a black gown with a white veil and carried a crucifix and a writing book. Prayers were read as Mary was led to the scaffold. Mary unbuttoned her gown to reveal a red petticoat, the color of martyrdom.
Mary was dead after three axe blows. The executioner raised her head to face the audience in the hall. Mary’s real hair was thin and grey, so the head fell to the ground, leaving him holding a wig. Some say her dog was discovered hiding beneath her skirts, covered in Mary’s blood. Mary’s clothes, crucifix, and writing book, as well as the executioner’s block, were all burned in the courtyard, leaving no relics. Her body was embalmed and imprisoned in a heavy lead coffin at Fotheringhay Castle until July 30, 1587, when it was buried. It was then taken to nearby Peterborough Cathedral at night to avoid public protest.
Crowns unite in 1603.
In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I of England died. She didn’t have any children. As a result, Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland, also became James I of England, uniting the Scottish and English crowns. The two legislatures remained separate. In 1612, James had Mary’s body moved to Westminster Abbey, the traditional royal burial place.
Topic: Who was Mary, Queen of Scots? (Life and deathline of Mary)
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