Mary, Queen of Scots is perhaps the best known figure
in Scotland's history. Her life provided tragedy and romance, more dramatic
than any legend.
She was born in 1542 a week before her father, King James V of Scotland, died. Mary was
sent to France in 1548 to be the bride of the Dauphin, the young French prince,
in order to secure a Catholic alliance against England. In 1561, after the
Dauphin, still in his teens, died, Mary returned to Scotland, a young and
Scotland at this time was in the throes of the
Reformation and a widening Protestant - Catholic split. A Protestant husband
for Mary seemed the best chance for stability. Mary fell passionately in love
with Henry, Lord Darnley, but it was not a success. Darnley was a weak man and
soon became a drunkard as Mary ruled entirely alone and gave him no real
authority in the country.
Darnley became jealous of Mary's secretary and
favourite, David Riccio. He, together with others, murdered Riccio in front of
Mary in Holyrood House. She was six months pregnant at the time.
Her son, the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England, was baptised in the Catholic faith in Stirling Castle. This caused alarm
amongst the Protestants.
Lord Darnley, Mary's husband, later died in mysterious
circumstances in Edinburgh, when the house he was lodging in was blown up one
night in February 1567. His body was found in the garden of the house after the
explosion, but he had been strangled!
Mary Stuart and
Mary had now become attracted to James Hepburn, Earl
of Bothwell, and rumours abounded at Court that she was pregnant by him.
Bothwell was accused of Darnley's murder but was found not guilty. Shortly
after he was acquitted, Mary and Bothwell were married. The Lords of
Congregation did not approve of Mary's liaison with Bothwell and she was
imprisoned in Leven Castle where she gave birth to still-born twins.
Bothwell meanwhile had bid Mary goodbye and fled to
Dunbar. She never saw him again. He died in Denmark, insane, in 1578.
In May 1568 Mary escaped from Leven Castle. She
gathered together a small army but was defeated at Langside by the Protestant
faction. Mary then fled to England.
of Mary Queen of Scots in 1568
In England she became a political pawn in the hands of
Queen Elizabeth I and was
imprisoned for 19 years in various castles in England. Mary was found to be
plotting against Elizabeth; letters in code, from her to others, were found and
she was deemed guilty of treason.
She was taken to Fotheringhay Castle and executed in
1587. It is said that after her execution, when the executioner raised the head
for the crowd to see, it fell and he was left holding only Mary's wig.
Mary's son became James I of England and VI of
Scotland after Elizabeth's death in 1603.
Mary Queen of Scots abdicates after defeat by the Protestants at Carberry Hill
Mary with her
son, later James I