Mary Queen of Scots
Mary Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), was queen of France and Scotland and claimant to the throne of England. As the rival of Elizabeth I, she was perhaps the last real hope of a restored Catholicism in England.
The relations of England, Scotland, and France in the mid-16th century were dictated more by considerations of religion than they were by any emergent nationalism. Both France and Scotland were rocked by internal struggles over religion, but in international relations France emerged as the champion of the Scottish Catholics. King James V of Scotland had cemented this relationship by marrying Mary of Guise, the daughter of one of the most powerful Catholics in France. The Scottish-French alliance posed a considerable threat to England in its own struggles with France, but the English were able to silence the threat momentarily by defeating the Scots at Solway Moss (November 1542).
Mary Stuart was the third child and only daughter of James V and Mary of Guise. Both of her brothers had died before she was born at Linlithgow Palace on Dec. 7/8, 1542. Her father, already dejected by the disgrace of Solway Moss, thought the birth of a female heir a portent of disaster. A week after her birth he died, and the infant princess became queen of Scots. The period following the death of James V was an unhappy one for Scotland. In 1547 an English invasion led to the military occupation of the country. One of the chief results of this action was to drive Scotland more firmly than ever into alliance with France. On July 7, 1548, the Estates of Scotland ratified an agreement for the marriage of Queen Mary to the Dauphin of France, the future Francis II, and ordered that she go to France immediately.
For the following decade Scotland was under heavy French influence; the queen mother, Mary of Guise, was appointed regent, and many high offices went to Frenchmen. As a result, a feeling of reaction against the French began to be noticeable in Scotland, and it was fanned for religious purposes by the Protestant party in the country.
Queen of France
Mary meanwhile was educated with the French royal children. She appears to have been a quick and able student whose charming personality had a great impact on all around her. In April 1558 her marriage to the Dauphin was celebrated. In November of the same year, Mary Tudor, Queen of England, died. Mary Stuart laid a claim to the English throne as great-granddaughter of Henry VII on the grounds that Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate. Elizabeth I ascended the throne without opposition in England, but Mary and the Dauphin assumed the royal titles of England and Ireland. They continued to use them when they ascended to the French throne in July 1559, and though the Treaty of Edinburgh of July 1560 required them to abandon their claims to the English throne, they refused to ratify it.
Mary's husband, Francis II, ruled in France only a little more than a year, dying on Dec. 5, 1560. His death meant an end to Guise dominance in France, and as Catherine de Médicis asserted power there, the cause of Mary Stuart ceased to be a major concern of French politics. After a year of semiretirement in France, Mary resolved, on the advice of her friends, to return to Scotland to see whether she could reassert her power there. On April 19, 1561, the young queen landed at Leith, arriving in a dense fog which John Knox, the Protestant leader, saw as an omen of the "sorrow, dolour, darkness, and all impiety" which her coming was to bring. Her arrival was conceived of as a threat by Queen Elizabeth. In Mary's absence the Protestant party had gained power in Scotland, and this was to England's advantage; her return raised the possibility of a reassertion of Catholic influence, since few doubted that Mary, a devout Catholic herself, meant to reestablish the old religion and realign Scotland with the Continental Catholic powers.
Rule in Scotland
Elizabeth's policy toward Mary was confusing. She recognized the threat, but she was emotionally and perhaps politically unwilling to question the authority of another legitimate sovereign. Her policy thus vacillated between attacking Mary when she was strong and aiding her when she was weak. For some 7 years Mary precariously held her position as sovereign of Scotland. There was little likelihood of permanent success, for Mary was clearly out of sympathy with important elements in Scotland.
Various negotiations for Mary's marriage took place; it appears that Mary herself had the highest hopes of an alliance with Spain through marriage to Don Carlos, the son of Philip II. In July 1565, she married Henry, Lord Darnley. It was a political, not a love, match, for through this marriage Mary strengthened her claims to be heir presumptive to the throne of England, Darnley being the next lineal heir after herself to the English throne. The marriage had somewhat different political results from those Mary hoped for; the Protestant lords, led by the Earl of Moray with support from Queen Elizabeth, rebelled. Mary was able to counter this threat by military force, but she could not compensate for the arrogance and stupidity of Darnley himself. She refused the grant to him of the crown matrimonial and increasingly turned for comfort to her Italian secretary, David Riccio. Darnley in turn, wounded by the widespread rumors that Riccio was her lover, closed with the Protestant lords, who promised to make him king consort if he would destroy Riccio and restore them to power. On March 9, 1566, Darnley and the nobles dragged Riccio from Mary's room and murdered him. Within a short period, Moray and the other exiled rebel leaders had returned.
Murder of Darnley
Though Mary gave birth to a son (the later James VI of Scotland and James I of England) in June 1566, she was never reconciled to Darnley. Hiding her true feelings well, she made an outward show of reconciliation to Darnley while she actually drew close to one of the Protestant lords, the Earl of Bothwell. In February 1567 Darnley was murdered under curious circumstances; the house in which he was convalescing, Kirk o'Field, was destroyed by a violent explosion, and he was found dead in the grounds. Evidence, including the controversial Casket Letters, suggested that Mary had plotted with Bothwell the death of her second husband. The suspicions were strengthened when Mary did little to investigate the murder, allowed herself to be abducted by Bothwell, and in May 1567 she married him. The result was an almost total loss of public support for Mary. Civil war in Scotland ensued; Mary was captured and forced to abdicate in favor of her son, James (July 24, 1567). After somewhat less than a year of confinement, she escaped and once again raised a party on her behalf with the aid of the house of Hamilton. Her new-found supporters were routed at the battle of Langside (May 13, 1568), and after a futile effort to sail for France, Mary crossed the border into England on May 16, 1568, a refugee from the Scotland she had tried to rule.
Exile in England
It was a daring move and placed Elizabeth of England in an awkward position. Elizabeth was not in favor of having the Catholic claimant to the throne so close, where she could and did become the focus of Spanish intrigue. On the other hand, she did not want to use English force against the Scottish Protestants to restore Mary, nor did she wish Mary to take refuge in some Catholic court. Moreover, Elizabeth was troubled by her own conception of the divine nature of a monarch and upset by the implications of a forcible removal of a legitimate ruler. To resolve the dilemma, Elizabeth decided, in effect, to sit in judgment on the case. A commission met at York in the summer of 1568 and terminated its proceedings at Hampton Court early the following year. Elizabeth did not allow the commission to make a definite judgment on the issue of Mary's complicity in the murder of Darnley, but two results emerged from the hearing: the rebel government of Moray in Scotland was for the present to remain undisturbed, and Mary was to remain in England.
Mary had arrived in England as a refugee seeking aid; she was to remain there the rest of her life as a virtual prisoner. Early in 1569 she was moved to Tutbury in Staffordshire to begin her captivity. Quickly she became the center of Catholic plots. Complicated plotting involving the proposed marriage of Mary to the Duke of Norfolk established her connection with the discontented English Catholics. The northern earls rebelled in 1569 but were quickly put down, Mary being moved south out of harm's way. In March 1571 Mary was involved in the Ridolphi plot, by which the Catholics were to rise in revolt and place Mary on the throne at the same time as a Spanish expeditionary force landed. The details of the plot were discovered by the government; Norfolk was arrested, tried, and executed. The implication of Mary in the plot was undoubted; she and her agent, the bishop of Ross, had been at the center of it. There were petitions from both houses of Parliament that action be taken against her, but Elizabeth opposed such measures. Such was the pattern of the remaining 14 years of her life.
Mary was closely watched by the authorities, but she continued to conspire with her Catholic friends to escape and take the English throne. Plot after plot followed in the main the course of the Ridolphi scheme. In some Mary played a direct part; in others she was simply the cause for which the rebels gathered. In 1586 Secretary Walsingham uncovered the details of the Babington plot; in July he secured a letter from Mary, giving her assent to the assassination of Elizabeth. Elizabeth could not reject this evidence, and orders were given for Mary's trial. She was formally condemned on October 14-15.
Parliament petitioned for Mary's execution; after much delay and uncertainty, Elizabeth signed the death warrant. The Council, acting on its own initiative because the Queen still hesitated, sent the warrant to Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, where Mary was executed on Feb. 8, 1587. Elizabeth displayed great public displeasure at the action and even sent the bearer of the warrant, William Davison, to the Tower. But realistically she knew that the action was necessary; by the death of Mary, the center of dangerous Catholic plotting was removed, and since the new Catholic claimant was the Infanta of Spain, fears of a popular rising on behalf of the Catholic cause were sharply diminished.
The bibliography on Mary, Queen of Scots, is vast. A recent major study is Antonia Fraser, Mary Queen of Scots (1969), which has an excellent bibliography. Other biographies are David Hay Fleming, Mary Queen of Scots (2d ed. 1898); Thomas F. Henderson, Mary Queen of Scots (2 vols., 1905; repr. 1969); Stefan Zweig, The Queen of Scots (trans. 1935), less scholarly but a good interpretive study; and Eric Linklater, Mary, Queen of Scots (1952).
Mortimer Levine, The Early Elizabethan Succession Question (1966), is a useful discussion of the claims to the English throne. Leo Hicks, An Elizabeth Problem (1964), sheds much light on Catholic plotting, as does Francis Edwards, The Dangerous Queen (1966). George M. Thomson, The Crime of Mary Stuart (1967), explores in detail the murder of Darnley; and Gordon Donaldson, The First Trial of Mary, Queen of Scots (1970), is a scholarly account of that trial.
Recommended for historical background are John Bennett Black, The Reign of Elizabeth, 1558-1603 (1936; 2d ed. 1959); Agnes Mure MacKenzie, The Scotland of Queen Mary (1936); Stanley Thomas Bindoff, Tudor England (1950); Geoffrey Rudolf Elton, England under the Tudors (1955); William Croft Dickinson and George S. Pryde, A New History of Scotland, vol. 1 (1961); and Gordon Donaldson, Scotland: James V-James VII (1965). □
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots was queen of France and Scotland. She was also a claimant (someone who has a legal claim to be the lawful ruler) to the throne of England. She represented a great hope to Catholics in England who wanted a Catholic ruler on the throne. This hope failed when Mary was unable to unseat her cousin and rival, Elizabeth I (1533–1603), the Protestant English queen.
An infant queen
The relations of England, Scotland, and France in the mid-sixteenth century were strongly based on religious loyalties and conflicts. Protestant rulers prevailed in England, while the Catholic powers of France and Scotland became allies.
Mary Stuart (the future Mary, Queen of Scots) was the third child of King James V (1512–1542) and Mary of Guise, the rulers of Scotland. Both of her brothers had died before she was born at Linlithgow Palace in Linlithgow, Scotland, in December of 1542. Her father died only a week after her birth, and the infant princess became Mary, Queen of Scots. The period following the death of James V was an unhappy one for Scotland. In 1547 an English invasion led to the military occupation of the country. One of the chief results of this action was Scotland's tighter alliance with France. As a result, when Mary was five, the Scottish court arranged for her marriage to the four-yearold dauphin (heir to the throne) of France, the future King Francis II. She was sent to France immediately.
In France, Mary grew up with her future husband. The two children became close friends, though she was the more outgoing and energetic of the two. Mary was educated with the dauphin and the other French royal children. She appears to have been a quick and able student whose charming personality had a great impact on all around her.
Meanwhile, Mary's home country of Scotland was under heavy French influence. Mary's mother, Mary of Guise, was appointed regent (the title given to someone who rules when the legal king or queen is absent, too young, or too ill to take the throne). Her government placed many Frenchmen in positions of power. Encouraged by Protestants in that country, a feeling of resentment against the French grew in Scotland.
Queen of France
In April 1558, at age fifteen, Mary married Francis. In November of the same year the Queen of England, Mary Tudor, died. Mary Stuart made a claim to the English throne, basing the claim on the fact that she was the great-granddaughter of the English king Henry VII and on the grounds that Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate (the child of an unmarried couple).
Mary's claim had no effect, and Elizabeth became queen (taking the title Elizabeth I) without opposition in England. However, Mary and Francis assumed the royal titles of England and Ireland, calling themselves the rightful rulers of those countries. They continued to use these titles when they became the rulers of France in July 1559. After taking the throne, Mary's husband, Francis II, ruled in France for only a little over a year, dying in December 1560. In 1561, Mary returned to Scotland, attempting to reassert her power there. Protestants had gained power in Scotland while Mary was absent, but she intended to renew Catholic influence in her county.
Rule in Scotland
Elizabeth I's policy toward Mary was confusing. She saw that Mary was a threat, but she was unwilling to question the authority of another legitimate ruler (a king or queen who has a clear legal claim to the throne). Her policy shifted between attacking Mary when she was strong and aiding her when she was weak. For some seven years Mary held her position as queen of Scotland, but her permanent success in this position was unlikely, since Mary was clearly in conflict with important elements in Scotland.
In July 1565 Mary married for political purposes, rather than love. Mary became the wife of Henry, Lord Darnley, a move which strengthened her claims as heir to the throne of England, since Darnley was related to the English royal line. However, the marriage had somewhat different political results from those Mary hoped for. The Protestant lords of Scotland rebelled, led by the Earl of Moray and with support from Queen Elizabeth.
Mary was able to halt this threat by military force, but she could not prevent the harm done by the unpleasant personality of Darnley himself. She turned for comfort to her Italian secretary, David Riccio. Darnley, in turn, formed an alliance with the Protestant lords. On March 9, 1566, Darnley and the nobles dragged Riccio from Mary's room and murdered him. Within a short period, Moray and the other exiled rebel leaders had returned.
Though Mary gave birth to a son (the later James VI of Scotland and James I of England) in June 1566, she was never close to Darnley again. Instead, she secretly became close to one of the Protestant lords, the Earl of Bothwell. In February 1567 Darnley was murdered when the house in which he had been staying was destroyed by a violent explosion, and evidence suggested that Mary and Bothwell had plotted Darnley's death.
Suspicions against Mary were strengthened when she did little to investigate the murder, allowed herself to be kidnapped by Bothwell, and then married him in May 1567. The events led to a Scottish civil war, during which Mary was captured and forced to abdicate (give up the throne). After close to a year of confinement, she escaped and once again raised a group of supporters. After these supporters were defeated at the Battle of Langside (May 13, 1568), Mary crossed the border into England on May 16, 1568. She was now a refugee from the Scotland she had tried to rule.
Elizabeth and Mary
Mary's move had placed Elizabeth in an awkward position. Elizabeth was not in favor of having the Catholic claimant to the English throne so close. But she also did not want to use English military force against the Scottish Protestants on Mary's behalf, and she did not wish Mary to take refuge in some Catholic court in another country. Elizabeth was also troubled by her own feelings about the divine nature of a monarch (the belief that a legitimate king or queen's power was a "divine right" to rule given by God). If Mary could be robbed of her divine right to rule, that seemed to suggest that Elizabeth could be removed from the throne by force as well.
Elizabeth decided, in a sense, to sit in judgment on Mary's case. A English commission met and ruled that the rebel government of Moray in Scotland was to remain in place for the time being, and that Mary was to remain in England.
Mary lived in England for the rest of her life and was virtually a prisoner there. Soon after her arrival, she became the center of Catholic plots to unseat Elizabeth. Although she was closely watched by the authorities, she continued to plan with her Catholic allies to escape and take the English throne. In some cases Mary played a direct part in these plans; in others she was simply the cause for which the rebels gathered. However, in 1586 the English government uncovered the details of yet another plot, with evidence that included a letter from Mary that consented to the assassination (murder) of Elizabeth. Orders were given for Mary's trial, and she was found guilty in October 1586.
Parliament (the English houses of government) demanded Mary's execution, and she was put to death on February 8, 1587. Although Elizabeth seemed greatly displeased by this event in public, realistically she knew that the action was necessary. With Mary's death, the center of Catholic plotting against Elizabeth was removed.
For More Information
Lasky, Kathryn. Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen without a Country. New York: Scholastic, 2002.
Marshall, Rosalind K. The Queen of Scots. Lanham, MD: Bernan-Unipub, 1987.
The maintenance of French catholic interests in Scotland was the prime aim of the queen mother, Mary of Guise, whose increasing importance was recognized in 1554 when she replaced Arran as regent. Her daughter's marriage to Francis in April 1558 bound Scotland to a French monarchy heavily influenced by the militant catholicism and dynastic ambition of the young queen's Guise relatives. In catholic eyes Elizabeth Tudor was illegitimate and her accession to the English throne in November 1558 a usurpation of Mary Stuart's lawful right to succeed. When Henri II died on 10 July 1559, the new French monarchs, Francis II and Mary, united a dynastic inheritance encompassing potentially not just France and Scotland but also England and Ireland.
The potential was never realized, however, for the death of Francis on 5 December 1560 left Mary a childless widow. Her decision to return to Scotland in August 1561, where in 1559–60 a protestant revolution had seen the defeat and death of Mary of Guise and the establishment of an English-backed administration led by Mary's half-brother Lord James Stewart, was driven by the desire to pursue her dynastic ambitions within Britain. Spurning the opportunity to lead a catholic counter-revolution, Mary chose instead to deal with her half-brother, whose close links with Elizabeth held out the hope of official recognition in the English succession. While maintaining her own catholic household—thus leaving open communications with France and the papacy—Mary made no move against the newly reformed Scottish kirk.
Yet the stability of Mary's rule depended on a delicate balancing act which the explosive issue of her marriage was always likely to upset. Neither the threat of a foreign catholic match nor the tireless efforts of Lord James—now earl of Moray—persuaded Elizabeth to recognize Mary as her heir. If Mary's catholic marriage to Darnley on 29 July 1565 was a love-match, the rehabilitation of the Lennox Stewarts, whose claim to the English throne was second only to that of Mary, was also a calculated diplomatic snub. Mary easily rode out the ensuing storm—an abortive rebellion by Moray which Elizabeth was impotent to support—but the problems posed by the rapid breakdown of relations with Darnley proved insoluble. Embittered by the now pregnant queen's refusal to grant him the crown matrimonial, Darnley joined the Rizzio conspiracy of March 1566, a protestant demonstration against the possibility of a catholic succession which proved futile. Mary gave birth to a son on 19 June 1566 and the future James VI was baptized a catholic on 17 December.
Mary's complicity in Darnley's murder on 10 February 1567 cannot now be established with certainty. However, her marriage on 15 May to the leading suspect, the earl of Bothwell, jeopardized her claim to innocence and handed her opponents the chance to destroy her. Moves to ‘liberate’ her from Bothwell led in July 1567 to her enforced abdication and the appointment of Moray as regent. Moray's regime was far from secure, however, and Mary mustered extensive support on her escape from confinement in May 1568. Although defeated at Langside, it was her ill-considered flight to England which sealed her fate. Characteristically, Elizabeth prevaricated endlessly over signing her dynastic rival's death-warrant. But Mary's incessant plotting and involvement in a series of catholic intrigues led finally to her execution at Fotheringhay on 8 February 1587.
Roger A. Mason
Fraser, A. , Mary, Queen of Scots (1969).
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots ★★½1971 (PG-13)
Redgrave does a spirited job in the title role as the headstrong and romantic queen who came to an unfortunate end. Mary is raised in France by her mother's Catholic family, from whom she inherits the Scottish title after her mother's death. She claims the throne much to the dismay of her Protestant half-brother James Stuart (McGoohan) and England's equally Protestant Queen Elizabeth (Jackson), who does not want her own Catholic subjects to get any ideas. Mary makes two unfortunate marriages and winds up being betrayed, eventually forcing Elizabeth to eliminate her dangerous cousin. 128m/C VHS . Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, Patrick McGoohan, Timothy Dalton, Nigel Davenport, Trevor Howard, Daniel Massey, Ian Holm; D: Charles Jarrott; W: John Hale; C: Christopher Challis; M: John Barry.