Mary, Queen of Scots
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For other uses, see Mary, Queen of Scots (disambiguation).
Mary, Queen of Scots (born as Mary Stewart and known in French as Marie Stuart; 8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587), was Scottish queen regnant from 14
December 1542 to 24 July 1567. In the lists of Scottish sovereigns, she is recognized as Mary I. (Not to be confused with Mary I of England.) Her
great-great-granddaughter was Mary II of England.
She was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V. She was six days old when her father died and she was crowned nine months later. In 1558, she married Francis, Dauphin of France, who ascended the French throne as Francis II in 1559.
Mary was not Queen of France for long; she was widowed on 5 December 1560. After
her husband's death, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561. Four years later, she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Their union was unhappy and in February 1567, there was a huge explosion at their house, and
Darnley was found dead, apparently strangled, in the garden.
She soon married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was generally believed to be Darnley's murderer. Following an uprising against the couple, Mary
was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle on 15 June and forced to abdicate in favour of
her one-year-old son, James VI. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne,
Mary fled to England seeking protection from her first cousin once removed, Queen
Elizabeth I, whose kingdom she hoped to inherit. Elizabeth ordered her arrest because of the threat presented by Mary, who had previously claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English
Catholics, including participants in the Rising of the North. After 19 years in custody in a number of castles and manor houses in England, she was tried and executed for
treason for her involvement in three plots to assassinate Elizabeth.
During the 15th-century reign of Robert III of Scotland, it had been confirmed that the Scottish Crown would only be inherited by males in the line of Robert's
children—all sons—who were listed in that parliamentary Act. Females and female
lines could inherit only after extinction of male lines. Mary ascended to the throne
because, with the demise of her father, James V, Robert III had no remaining direct
male descendants of unquestionably legitimate origins. John Stewart, Duke of Albany,
grandson of James II of Scotland and at one time regent for the young James V, was
the last direct male heir of Robert III (other than the king himself) when he died in
1536. Mary was the first member of the royal House of Stuart to use the Gallicised
spelling Stuart, rather than the earlier Stewart. Mary adopted the French spelling
Stuart during her time in France, and her descendants continued to use it.
Childhood and early reign
Mary was born on December 8, 1542 at Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow, Scotland to King James V of Scotland and his French wife, Mary of Guise. She was the only
child of James to survive, and she was said to have been born prematurely.
A popular legend, written 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!"
The House of Stewart, which originated in Brittany, 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. James thus felt that since the crown came with
a woman, a woman would be responsible for the loss of the crown from their family.
This legendary statement came true much later, but not through Mary, whose son in
fact became King of England. Eventually Sophia of Hanover, daughter of Elizabeth
Stuart, became the heir to Anne of Great Britain and with her son George Louis of
Hanover becoming King of Great Britain, replacing the House of Stuart in England.
Mary was baptised at the Church of St. Michael, situated close to the palace, shortly after she was born. Rumours were spread suggesting Mary was weak and frail;
on 14 December, six days after her birth, her father died following a nervous collapse
from suffering a defeat at the Battle of Solway Moss, meaning she was now queen. As
Mary was still an infant when she became queen, Scotland was ruled by regents until she became an adult. From the outset, there were two different claims to the throne: her heir James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran claimed based on his hereditary right, but another claim from the Archbishop of St Andrews, Cardinal Beaton also came about. However, the latter was based on an allegedly forged version of the late king's will,so Arran became the regent,and continued to be until 1554 when Mary's mother succeeded him.
The Treaty of Greenwich
Henry VIII took the opportunity of this regency to propose England and Scotland
be united through the marriage of Mary and his own son, Prince Edward. On 1 July 1543, when Mary was six months old, the Treaty of Greenwich was signed, which among other points, promised Mary to be married to Edward. It was Henry's wish that Mary should also move to England where he could oversee her upbringing. However, feelings among the Scottish people towards the English changed somewhat when Cardinal Beaton rose to power again, and began to push a pro-Catholic and French agenda, which angered Henry who wanted to break the alliance with France and the papacy. When French ships were spotted on the Scottish coast in July, it was felt they were a threat to Mary, and she moved with her mother to Stirling Castle which was considered safer.On 9 September 1543 Mary was crowned Queen of Scots in the chapel at this castle.
Shortly before Mary's coronation, the occupants of some Scottish ships headed
for France were arrested by Henry, who claimed they were not allowed to trade with France even though that was never part of the agreement. These arrests caused anger among people in Scotland. Arran decided to join Beaton following this,and he became a Catholic. The Treaty was eventually rejected by Parliament in December.
This new alliance and the rejection of the treaty caused Henry to begin his rough
wooing, designed to impose the marriage to his son on Mary. This consisted of a series of raids on Scottish and French territory and other military actions. It lasted until June 1551, costing over half a million pounds and many lives. In May 1544, the English Earl of Hertford (later created Duke of Somerset by Edward VI) arrived in the
Firth of Forth hoping to capture the city of Edinburgh and kidnap Mary, but Mary of Guise hid her in the secret chambers of Stirling Castle.
On 10 September 1547, known as "Black Saturday", the Scots suffered a bitter
defeat at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Mary of Guise, fearful for her daughter, sent her temporarily to Inchmahome Priory, and turned to the French ambassador Monsieur D'Oysel for help.
The French, remaining true to the Auld Alliance, came to the aid of the Scots.
The new French King, Henry II, was now proposing to unite France and Scotland by marrying the little Queen to his three-year old son, the Dauphin François. This seemed to Mary of Guise to be the only sensible solution to her troubles. In February 1548, hearing that the English were on their way back, Mary of Guise moved Mary to Dumbarton Castle. The English left a trail of devastation behind once more and seized the strategically located town of Haddington. By June, the much awaited French help had arrived. On 7 July with it the French Marriage Treaty was signed at a nunnery near Haddington.
Marriage to Lord Darnley
At Holyrood Palace on 29 July 1565, Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley,
her half first cousin. Henry was a member of the House of Stewart (or Stuart) like Mary was, but he was not an agnatic descendant of Stewart Kings, but rather of their immediate ancestors, the High Stewarts of Scotland.
Mary had fallen head over heels in love with the "long lad" (Queen Elizabeth's
words) after he had come to Scotland from England earlier in the year (with the permission of the English Privy Council). On the other hand, Elizabeth felt threatened by the prospect of such a marriage, because both Mary and Darnley were claimants to the English throne, being direct descendants of Margaret Tudor, the elder sister of Henry VIII. Their children would inherit both parents' claims, and thus, be next in line for the English throne. Yet, the English ambassador Nicholas Throckmorton could only state: "the saying is that surely she [Queen Mary] is bewitched", and that the marriage could only be averted "by violence".The union infuriated Elizabeth, who felt she should have been asked
permission, as Darnley was an English subject.
This marriage, to a leading Catholic, precipitated Mary's half-brother, James
Stewart, Earl of Moray, to join with other Protestant Lords in open rebellion. Mary set out for Stirling on 26 August 1565 to confront them, and returned to Edinburgh the following month to raise more troops. Moray and the rebellious lords were routed and fled into exile, the decisive military action becoming known as the Chaseabout Raid.
Before long, Darnley became arrogant and demanded power commensurate with
his courtesy title of "King". Darnley was jealous of Mary's friendship with her private secretary, David Rizzio, and, in March 1566 Darnley entered into a secret conspiracy with the nobles who had rebelled against Mary in the Chaseabout Raid. On 9 March a group of the lords, accompanied by Darnley, murdered Rizzio in front of the pregnant Mary while the two were in conference at Holyrood Palace. Darnley changed sides again and betrayed the lords, but the murder had made the breakdown of their marriage inevitable.
Their son, James, was born on 19 June 1566. It became increasingly clear, that
some solution had to be found to "the problem of Darnley".At Craigmillar there was held a meeting (November 1566) among leading Scottish nobles and Queen Mary. Divorce was discussed, but then a bond was sworn to get rid of Darnley by other means: "It was thought expedient and most profitable for the common wealth,..., that such a young fool and proud tyrant should not reign or bear rule over them;...that he should be put off by one way or another; and whosoever should take the deed in hand or do it, they should defend" (Book of Articles). Darnley was fearing for his safety and went to Glasgow to see his father. There he became ill (possibly of smallpox or syphilis).
In the new year, Mary prompted her husband to come back to Edinburgh. He was
recuperating in a house at the former abbey of Kirk o' Field within the city wall of Edinburgh, where Mary visited him frequently, so that it appeared a reconciliation was in prospect. One night in February 1567, after Mary had left to go to the wedding of one of her maids of honour, an explosion occurred in the house, and Darnley was found dead in the garden, apparently of strangulation; historian Alison Weir, however,
concludes he died of post-explosion suffocation. It turned out that James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell had supplied the gunpowder for the explosion, and he was generally believed to be guilty of Darnley's assassination. Mary arranged for a mock trial before parliament, and Bothwell was duly acquitted on 12 April. Furthermore, some land titles were restored officially to Bothwell as a result of Darnley's death. He also managed to get some of the Lords to sign the Ainslie Tavern Bond, in which they agreed to support his claims to marry the queen. All these proceedings did little to dissipate suspicions against Mary among the populace.
Mary eventually became a liability that Elizabeth could no longer
tolerate. Mary was put on trial for treason by a court of about 40 noblemen, including Catholics, after being implicated in the Babington Plot by her own letters, which Sir Francis Walsingham had arranged to come straight to his hands. From these letters it was clear that Mary had sanctioned the attempted assassination of Elizabeth. Mary denied this and was spirited in her defence.One of her more memorable comments from her trial was "Remember Gentlemen the Theatre of history is wider than the Realm of England." She drew attention to the fact that she was denied the opportunity to review the evidence or her papers that had been removed from her, that she had been denied access to legal counsel, and that she had never been an English subject and thus could not be convicted of treason. The extent to which the plot was created by Sir Francis Walsingham and the English Secret Services will always remain open to conjecture.
In a trial presided over by England's Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Bromley and
Attorney General Sir John Popham, (later Lord Chief Justice), Mary was ultimately convicted of treason, and was sentenced to beheading.
Although Mary had been found guilty and sentenced to death, Elizabeth hesitated
to actually order her execution. She was fearful of the consequences, especially if, in revenge, Mary's son James of Scotland formed an alliance with the Catholic powers, France and Spain, and invaded England. She was also concerned about how this would affect the Divine Right of Kings. Elizabeth did ask Mary's final custodian,
Amias Paulet, if he would contrive some accident to remove Mary. He refused on the grounds that he would not allow such "a stain on his posterity."
She did eventually sign the death warrant and entrusted it to William Davison, a privy councillor. Later, the privy council, having been summoned by Lord Burghley
without Elizabeth's knowledge, decided to carry out the sentence at once before she could change her mind.