Mary Stuart

(Mary I of Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots)


Mary Queen of Scots is one of the most tragic figures of history. From the moment of her birth, she was surrounded by treacherous nobles who fought to control her future. Protestants fought Catholics, Englishmen fought Scots, and partisans of all persuasions fought each other for control of her dominions and affections. Before she was five years old, England and Scotland had gone to war over the question of who she should marry. Before she was seventeen she was a childless widow who was expelled from France where had formerly reigned as queen. At home in Scotland she was torn between rival factions and locked into a difficult marriage before becoming involved in two murders, running off with an adventurer, and losing her crown. Finally, she was imprisoned for eighteen years by her archrival, Queen Elizabeth of England, and condemned to die by beheading. There is scarcely a sadder story in English history, other than that of Lady Jane Grey, who suffered as similar fate, but in briefer circumstances.

Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary was the daughter of James V of Scotland, and the great-granddaughter of Henry VII. Her mother was Mary of Guise, a French princess. She was born a time that Scotland was torn by partisan strife between Catholics and Protestants. Her father died soon after she was born, and Henry VIII who like all English kings, sought to bring Scotland under his control, tried to arrange a marriage between her and his son Edward VI, before she was even a year old. The protestant faction in Scotland favored the Union, but the Catholics opposed it. Several years of warfare ensued over her Betrothal, but eventually the Catholics prevailed, by arranging a marriage to the dauphin of France, and sending Mary to the French court, when she was only five years old.

The marriage to the French prince took place when Mary was only fifteen, but her husband died after only two years, and she was forced to return to Scotland. She tried as far as possible to cooperate with the Protestant parliament, led by John Knox, but was herself a resolute Catholic. She arranged a marriage between herself and an English cousin, Lord Darnley, but it proved to be a disaster. Darnley was attractive but very cruel and immature, and the marriage broke down after only a year. During this time Mary gave birth to a son, and Darnley arranged for the brutal murder of her secretary Rizzio, with served to completely alienate Mary's already tenuous affection for him.

Shortly thereafter, Darnley himself was murdered, and Bothwell, a Baron who had attached himself to Mary, was suspected of involvement in his death. What happened thereafter is controversial. Mary claims she was kidnapped, but others say she ran away with Bothwell. In any case, there were several battles between Mary's supporters and those who opposed her, and she ended up being forced to abdicate in favor of her son. She tried to escape to France but was detained in England by her rival, Queen Elizabeth who kept her under arrest for the next nineteen years. During this time there were several rebellions aimed at deposing Elizabeth and placing Mary, who had a strong claim to the crown of England, on the throne. Whether or not Mary had anything to do with these schemes, Elizabeth considered her a threat and had her tried for treason an executed. After eighteen years of imprisonment, she claimed to welcome death as a release from her sufferings.

Key events during the life of Mary Queen of Scots:

Princess Mary born, only child of James V of Scotland
Mary crowned at 9 months. Marriage arranged between Mary, and Edward VI of England.
Scots and English war for 7 years over Mary's unpopular betrothal.
Mary engaged to a French Prince, and taken to France for safe-keeping.
Marries the king of France, Francis II.
Queen Elizabeth I, ascends to the throne in England.
Francis II dies without producing and heir. Mary returns to Scotland.
Mary marries Lord Darnley but the marriage is not happy.
Birth of James I to Mary and Darnley.
Darnley arranges to have Mary's secretary Rizzio murdered in her presence.
Darnley is murdered by Bothwell, an adventurer who runs away with Mary.
Mary forced to abdicate Scottish throne in favor of her infant son.
Mary imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth while trying to escape to France.
Mary executed by Elizabeth's order after 19 years imprisonment.

Book Links
Mary Queen of Scots  by  Jacob Abbott

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
War in Scotland  in  Queen Elizabeth  by  Jacob Abbott
Mary, Queen of Scots  in  Cambridge Historical Reader—Primary  by  Cambridge Press
The Queen of the Scots  in  The Story of Liberty  by  Charles C. Coffin
Elizabeth—The Story of a Most Unhappy Queen  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Mary Queen of Scots—France  in  Scotland's Story  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Elizabeth Queen of England and Mary Queen of Scots  in  The Tudors and the Stuarts  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Mary Queen of Scots : Painted from the original by John Watson Gordon R.I.A
 in Mary Queen of Scots

Mary's Embarkation at Calais
 in Mary Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots
 in Cambridge Historical Reader—Primary

Mary Stuart
 in  The Story of the English

Mary Stuart and Rizzio
 in  The Story of the English
Elizabeth defied by Mary Stuart
Elizabeth defied by Mary Stuart
 in Back Matter

For nineteen years this poor queen was kept in prison.
 in Our Island Story

In some sunny palace garden the days passed happily for the Queen and her Maries
 in Scotland's Story

Queen Mary and Knox had many talks together
 in Scotland's Story

Rizzio and Mary Queen of Scots
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

Mary Stuart receiving her death sentence.
 in In the Days of Queen Elizabeth

Mary, Queen of Scots
 in In the Days of Queen Elizabeth

Last Moment of Mary, Queen of Scots
 in In the Days of Queen Elizabeth

Short Biography
Catherine de Medici Queen of France who is generally held responsible for the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
James I First Stuart king of England. Intelligent and competent, but unable to work effectively with Parliament.
John Knox Religious leader in Scotland who embraced Calvinism, founder of Presbyterian Church.
Rizzio French secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, who inspired her husband jealousy. Murdered by Darnley.
Darnley Cruel and immature husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. Murdered by Bothwell.
Bothwell Scottish Baron who arranged the murder of Darnley and ran away with Mary, Queen of Scots.
Mary of Guise Mother of Mary Queen of Scots, and regent during her minority.