Mary Queen of Scots, 1542-1587

Francois II & Mary Stewart,
Queen of Scotland, his wife
after Clouet, circa 1558

Queen of Scotland at six days old, grandaughter of Henry VIII’s elder sister, and betrothed to the Dauphin of France at three, Mary’s life would have seemed destined for fortune. Alas, having been brought up in France, married to the Dauphin at fourteen, Queen of France at sixteen, Francis, the king, would die shortly after of an ear infection, leaving her to return to her waring and embittered country of Scotland. Mary, a staunch catholic, was bewildered to find her home country tight in the grip of protestant fervor, and thus no friend to her. An extremely passionate and politically stupid person, she made one disastrous marriage after another, and was even accused of abetting the murder of her second husband to make room for the third.
In a revolution led by her bastard brother, she was imprisoned by her father’s old concubine in an old tower in the middle of a large lake known as Loch Leven.

With the aid of a sympathizer, she escaped and ran for the English border, hoping to enlist the aid and sympathy of her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth feinted succor and sanctuary but in reality she was only too glad to finally have this viper tucked away where she could keep an eye on her. Mary was furious to find herself imprisoned where she had sought refuge, and despite numerous attempts to speak personally with Elizabeth she was never granted an audience with the queen. For the next sixteen years she was moved from one musty old mansion to another, always under close guard and never allowed any freedom of movement.
Elizabeth had been urged by her councilors from day one to be done with the pretentious Scottish queen and send her to the block. But she was loath to set such a precident as to send to the scaffold an anointed queen. For both her own mother Anne Boleyn and her cousin Catherine Howard had been merely queen consort, while Mary, like herself, was queen in her own right. The Queen’s hand must be forced, Mary must hang herself.
Elizabeth’s spymaster, Walsingham, lured Mary through planting spies amid true enemies of the crown and let herself become involved in a coup to assasinate Elizabeth and set herself up as queen. Mary took the bait and in a matter of months Elizabeth was forced to acknowledge that her own life depended on taking the life of the other. Elizabeth finally signed the warrant for her execution.
There was no visible tremor in her countenance as the Scottish Queen knelt on a cushion and quoted a psalm in Latin before laying her head on the block. The executinoer was perhaps overcome with awe at the occasion as the first blow of the axe only succeeded in knocking her senseless and it took three more swings to completely sever her head. Afterwards he hoisted up the head and cried: “God save the Queen”. Spectators saw her lips move for some fifteen minutes after the impact of the axe.
O my lord and my God, I have trusted in Thee.
O my dear Jesus, now liberate me.
In shackle and chain, in torture and pain, I long for Thee
In weakness and sighing, in kneeling an crying,
I adore and implore Thee to liberate me.

— Marie Rex, the morning of her death

The Death of Mary Queen of Scots

One thought on “Mary Queen of Scots, 1542-1587”

  1. Although an interesting potted history of the career of Queen Mary of Scotland, there are a few points which, if included here, would add more balance:
    1. Mary repeatedly affirmed her support – both political and monetarily – of the reformed Church of Scotland, which is why so many of her supporters were Protestant.
    2. The period of Mary’s personal rule in Scotland commenced at a time when, in the wake of the death of Marie de Guise (the widow of James V and Regent of Scotland), all resemblance of law and order had broken down. Reliant on the available counsellors and constantly turning to people like Maitland and her brother, Moray, Mary embarked on a marriage with Darnley believing that Elizabeth I had given approved of it.
    3. The death of Darnley was neither caused nor countenanced by Mary, despite her growing hatred and fear of him. The murder was carried out by Bothwell and other lords, including Maitland and Kircaldy.
    4. Although a staunch supporter of Mary and an excellent administrator, Bothwell nevertheless resorted to rape in order to marry Mary, who was left with no choice in the matter if her personal honour was remain intact.
    5. The inquiry held in England following the flight of Mary returned a verdict of not proven in the cause of Darnley’s death. The Casket Letters produced by Moray to incriminate her have since been proven to be misinterpreted as to addressees, date and place, while the Long Letter (amongst others) is an interpolation of letters written by a mistress of Bothwell, and not by Mary.
    6. Elizabeth I broke internationally accepted standards of law by imprisoning Mary, who had constantly referred to her as “her dearest sister and cousin”.
    7. Mary’s involvement in the Babington Plot, instigated partially by Walsingham, was never truly proven – the Queen herself declared that her secretary, Nau, may have tampered with her letters, thus embroiling her in the plot that cost her her head.
    8. James I fully redeemed the reputation of his mother, probably as a result of the inquiries conducted by Francis Bacon, which, although the report has vanished, probably revealed the full extent of Walsingham’s efforts to destroy Mary.
    And finally, please remember that the correct spelling is Mary Queen of Scots with only one “t”.
    Best regards,
    Louis Richard de la Pau
    PS. I am a direct descendant of Queen Mary of Scotland and France.

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