England - Periods - Tudor 1485-1603

Mary Queen of Scots

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Mary Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart, was born on December 8, 1542, in Linlithgow Palace, Scotland. She was the only surviving child of King James V of Scotland and his French wife, Mary of Guise. Her father died when she was just six days old, and she became queen of Scotland at the tender age of six.

Mary's childhood was spent in Scotland, where she was raised by her mother and other members of the royal court. She was educated in a variety of subjects, including languages, music, and history. Mary was also raised as a devout Catholic, which would later play a significant role in her life.

In 1548, when Mary was just six years old, she was sent to France to be raised at the French court. She was betrothed to the dauphin, Francis, the future king of France, and was educated alongside him. Mary spent much of her adolescence in France, where she developed a love of French culture and language.

In 1558, Mary married Francis, and the couple became king and queen of France in 1559, following the death of Francis's father. However, Francis died just a year later, leaving Mary a widow at the age of 18.

After Francis's death, Mary returned to Scotland, where she assumed the throne as queen. However, her reign was tumultuous, marked by political and religious conflict, as well as personal scandal. Mary's Catholic faith and her claim to the English throne made her a target for Protestant factions in Scotland and England, and her marriages and romantic liaisons were a source of controversy and scandal.

Mary's reign in Scotland ended in 1567, when she was forced to abdicate the throne and flee to England, where she sought refuge with her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. However, her presence in England would ultimately lead to her downfall and execution.

Mary, Queen of Scots returned to Scotland in 1561, after the death of her first husband, King Francis II of France. Upon her return, Mary faced a divided and unstable political situation in Scotland. The country was split between Protestant and Catholic factions, and Mary herself was a Catholic queen ruling over a predominantly Protestant country.

Mary's first priority upon her return was to establish her authority and reunite the country. She made a number of attempts to reconcile the Protestant and Catholic factions, but these efforts were largely unsuccessful. Mary also faced political opposition from Protestant nobles, who saw her as a threat to their power and sought to undermine her rule.

In 1565, Mary married her cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, in a bid to strengthen her political position. However, the marriage was a disaster. Darnley was an unreliable and unstable husband, and the couple's relationship quickly deteriorated. Darnley was also implicated in the murder of Mary's private secretary, David Rizzio, which further damaged his reputation and strained his relationship with Mary.

Mary and Darnley had one child together, a son named James, who would later become King James VI of Scotland and King James I of England. However, the marriage was short-lived, and Mary eventually divorced Darnley in 1567, following his involvement in a plot to murder her friend and advisor, the Earl of Bothwell.

Mary's subsequent marriage to Bothwell, who was widely believed to be responsible for Darnley's murder, further damaged her reputation and undermined her political position. She was forced to abdicate the throne in favor of her infant son, James, and was imprisoned for 19 years before being executed in 1587.

Elizabeth II & Mary

The relationship between Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I of England was complex and fraught with tension. Mary and Elizabeth were cousins and both had claims to the English throne. Mary's claim was based on her Catholic faith and her descent from the Tudor dynasty, while Elizabeth's claim was based on her Protestant faith and her father's role in establishing the Tudor dynasty.

Mary's troubles with Elizabeth began in 1568, when she fled to England seeking Elizabeth's protection following her forced abdication as queen of Scotland. Mary's presence in England was seen as a threat by Elizabeth and her advisors, as they feared that Mary would use her claim to the English throne to incite rebellion and undermine Elizabeth's rule.

Mary was initially kept under house arrest in various castles and manors throughout England, but her presence continued to be a source of political tension. In 1586, Mary was implicated in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth, known as the Babington Plot. The plot involved a group of English Catholics who sought to overthrow Elizabeth and put Mary on the English throne.

The plot was uncovered by Elizabeth's intelligence agents, and Mary was arrested and put on trial for treason. Despite her protests of innocence, Mary was found guilty and sentenced to death. She was executed by beheading on February 8, 1587, at Fotheringhay Castle.

Mary's execution was a controversial and divisive event. It was seen by many Catholics as a martyrdom, and by many Protestants as a necessary measure to protect the English throne. The execution also had significant political consequences, as it marked a turning point in the relationship between England and Scotland, and contributed to the tensions between the Catholic and Protestant factions in England.

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Reference: Article by Greg Scott (Staff Historian), 2023

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