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Mary, Queen of Scots

Tragic Figure in the History of Scotland and England


Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots

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Mary, Queen of Scots, with her second husband, Lord Darnley

Mary, Queen of Scots, with her second husband, Lord Darnley

From a public domain image
Mary Queen of Scots - about 1565

Mary Queen of Scots - about 1565

Stock Montage / Getty Images

Mary, Queen of Scots, Facts

Known for: tragic ruler of Scotland whose marriages were disasters and who was imprisoned and eventually executed as a threat by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England
Dates: December 8, 1542 - February 8, 1587
Also known as: Mary Stuart, Mary Stewart
See also: Mary, Queen of Scots, Picture Gallery

Mary, Queen of Scots, Biography

The mother of Mary, Queen of Scots, was Mary of Guise (Mary of Lorraine) and her father was James V of Scotland, each in their second marriage. Mary was born on December 8, 1542, and her father James died on December 14, so the infant Mary became Queen of Scotland when she was just a week old.

James Hamilton, duke of Arran, was made regent for Mary, Queen of Scots, and he arranged a betrothal with prince Edward, the son of Henry VIII of England. But Mary's mother, Mary of Guise, was in favor of an alliance with France instead of England, and she worked to overturn this betrothal and instead arranged for Mary to be promised in marriage to France's dauphin, Francis.

Queen of France and Claimant to the English Throne

The young Mary, Queen of Scots, only five years old, was sent to France in 1548 to be raised as the future queen of France. She married Francis in 1558, and in July 1559, when his father Henry II died, Francis II became king and Mary became queen consort of France.

Mary, Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart (she took the French spelling rather than the Scottish Stewart), was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor; Margaret was the older sister of Henry VIII of England. In the view of many Catholics, the divorce of Henry VIII from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and his marriage to Anne Boleyn were invalid, and the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth, was therefore illegitimate. Mary, Queen of Scots, in their eyes, was the rightful heir of Mary I of England, Henry VIII's daughter by his first wife.

When Mary I died in 1558, Mary, Queen of Scots, and her husband Francis asserted their right to the English crown, but the English recognized Elizabeth as the heir. Elizabeth, a Protestant, supported the Protestant reformation in Scotland as well as in England.

Mary Stuart's time as queen of France was very short. When Francis died, his mother Catherine de Medici assumed the role of regent for his brother, Charles IX. Mary's mother's family, the Guise relatives, had lost their power and influence, and so Mary Stuart returned to Scotland, where she could rule in her own right as queen.

Mary in Scotland

In 1560, Mary's mother died, in the middle of a civil war she stirred up by attempting to suppress the Protestants, including John Knox. After the death of Mary of Guise, the Catholic and Protestant nobles of Scotland signed a treaty recognizing Elizabeth's right to rule in England. But Mary Stuart, returning to Scotland, managed to avoid signing or endorsing either the treaty or recognition of her cousin Elizabeth.

Mary, Queen of Scots, was herself a Catholic, and insisted on her freedom to practice her religion. But she did not interfere with Protestantism's role in Scottish life. John Knox, a powerful Presbyterian during Mary's rule, nevertheless denounced her power and influence.

Marriage to Darnley

Mary, Queen of Scots, held on to hopes of claiming the English throne which she considered hers by right. She turned down Elizabeth's suggestion that she marry Lord Robert Dudley, Elizabeth's favorite, and be recognized as Elizabeth's heir. Instead, in 1565 she married her first cousin, Lord Darnley, in a Roman Catholic ceremony.

Darnley, another grandson of Margaret Tudor and heir of another family with a claim to the Scottish throne, was in the Catholic perspective the next in line to Elizabeth's throne after Mary Stuart herself.

Many believed that Mary's match with Darnley was impetuous and unwise. Lord James Stuart, the earl of Moray, who was Mary's half brother (his mother was King James' mistress), opposed Mary's marriage to Darnley. Mary personally led troops in the "chase-about raid," chasing Moray and his supporters to England, outlawing them and seizing their estates.

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