Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, reigned over Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567.
Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, was six days old when her father died and she acceded to the throne. She spent most of her childhood in France while Scotland was ruled by regents, and in 1558, she married the Dauphin of France, Francis. Mary was queen consort of France from his accession in 1559 until his death in December 1560. Widowed, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561. Four years later, she married her half-cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and in June 1566 they had a son, James.
In February 1567, Darnley's residence was destroyed by an explosion, and he was found murdered in the garden. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was generally believed to have orchestrated Darnley's death, but he was acquitted of the charge in April 1567, and the following month he married Mary. Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. On 24 July 1567, she was forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled southward seeking the protection of her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England.
Mary had once claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics, including participants in a rebellion known as the Rising of the North. Perceiving Mary as a threat, Elizabeth had her confined in various castles and manor houses in the interior of England. After eighteen and a half years in custody, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth in 1586, and was beheaded the following year at Fotheringhay Castle.
Childhood and early reignMary was born on 8 December 1542 at Linlithgow Palace, Scotland, to King James V 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 14 December, 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 tale, first recorded by John Knox, states that James, upon hearing on his deathbed that his wife had given birth to a daughter, ruefully exclaimed, "It cam wi' a lass and it will gang wi' a lass!" His House of Stuart had gained the throne of Scotland in the 14th century via 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 Anne, Queen of Great Britain.
Mary was christened at the nearby Church of St Michael shortly after she was born. Rumours 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 claims to the regency: one from the 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 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 GreenwichKing Henry VIII of England took the opportunity of the regency to propose marriage between Mary and his own son and heir, Edward, hoping for a union of Scotland and England. On 1 July 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, if the couple should fail to have children, the temporary union would dissolve. Cardinal Beaton rose to power again and began to push a pro-Catholic pro-French agenda, angering 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 27 July 1543 with 3,500 armed men. Mary was crowned in the castle chapel on 9 September 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, Henry arrested Scottish merchants headed for France and impounded their goods. 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 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 raided Edinburgh, and the Scots took Mary to Dunkeld for safety.
In May 1546, Beaton was murdered by Protestant lairds, and on 10 September 1547, nine months after the death of Henry VIII, the Scots suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Pinkie. 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.
King Henry II of France 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 them 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 7 July 1548, a Scottish Parliament held at a nunnery near the town agreed to the French marriage treaty.
Life in FranceWith 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 7 August 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", 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. When Lady Fleming left France in 1551, she was succeeded by a French governess, Françoise de Paroy.
's book of hours, 1558. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.
Vivacious, beautiful, and clever, Mary had a promising childhood. At the French court, she was a favourite 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". Mary's maternal grandmother, Antoinette de Bourbon, was another strong influence on her childhood and acted as one of her principal advisors.
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 ; while Henry II's son and heir, Francis, stuttered and was unusually short. Henry commented: "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". On 4 April 1558, Mary signed a secret agreement bequeathing Scotland and her claim to England to the French crown if she died without issue. Twenty days later, she married the Dauphin at Notre Dame de Paris, and he became king consort of Scotland.
Claim to the English throne, 1560
In November 1558, Henry VIII's elder daughter, 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 recognised 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 was the rightful queen of England, as the senior surviving legitimate descendant of Henry VII through her grandmother, Margaret Tudor. Henry II of France proclaimed his eldest son and daughter-in-law king and queen of England. 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 herself and Elizabeth.
When Henry II died on 10 July 1559, from injuries sustained in a joust, fifteen-year-old Francis and sixteen-year-old Mary became king and queen of France. Two of the Queen'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, who maintained effective control only through the use of French troops. In early 1560, the Protestant Lords invited English troops into Scotland in an attempt to secure Protestantism. A Huguenot uprising in France, the Tumult of Amboise, made it impossible for the French to send further support. Instead, the Guise brothers sent ambassadors to negotiate a settlement. On 11 June 1560, their sister, Mary's mother, 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 6 July 1560, France and England undertook to withdraw troops from Scotland. France recognised Elizabeth's right to rule England, but the seventeen-year-old Mary, still in France and grieving for her mother, refused to ratify the treaty.