Mary, Queen of Scots
Queen Mary Stuart
Mary Stuart was born at Linlithge Palace on Dec 8th, 1542; 6 days later she became the infant Queen of Scotland. For security reasons her French mother sent her to France in 1548, at the age of 6. Henry VIII wished to have baby Mary as a future bride for his infant son, Edward, and in 1544, his forces invaded Scotland in an attempt to force this matter, but he failed. In April of 1558 Mary was married to Francis II of France. In 1559 with the death of King Henry the II of France, Francis and Mary were crowned to succeed him at the throne. At only seventeen years of age, Mary would lose her husband Francis to an accident. In the year 1561 Mary would return to Scotland because she was not longer welcomed in France.
Desire for England
Mary tried to lay claim to English throne. Her claim was based on that she was the granddaughter of Margret Tudor. Margaret Tudor was the elder sister of Henry VIII. In 1503, she married James IV of Scotland, thus becoming the mother of James V and grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots. As well as Mary wanting to claim the English throne, so did her cousin Elizabeth Tudor. To the Roman Catholic Church, Mary's claim appeared stronger than Elizabeth. Mary who was about to become 18 years of age was left in a difficult position. Elizabeth was concerned that with Mary’s position as Queen of France and Scotland that a threat on her throne would come from her cousin. At the time Elizabeth had been crowned Queen but there was unrest due to the fact that she was not Catholic. Catholics did not recognize the marriage between Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII. No illegitimate child should ascend to the throne.
Marriage to Lord Darnley
With Mary as a widow those around her thought she should marry again. In England, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, an English Catholic cousin to Mary also had a claim to the English crown. With permission by Elizabeth he was able to travel with his father to Scotland. This is how Mary came to know him. Mary liked the match and soon wed Lord Darnley in the year of 1565. Elizabeth at the time probably regretted letting Lord Darnley to travel too Scotland because now Mary was married to another cousin that could lay claim to the throne of England. The only consolation Elizabeth may have had was that it was not a marriage to a powerful prince.
From the beginning this marriage was doomed and the only good thing to have come from it was the birth of Mary's only son, James, in 1566. Darnley is said to have been possessive and a drunkard. He did not make life for Mary easy; instead he made it more miserable both personally and politically. There was a plot to do away with Darnley by Mary’s Private Secretary, David Rizzio. Mary relied heavily on Rizzo for support and Darnley grew jealous. One March night, 1566, while Rizzio was playing for Mary and her ladies, Darnley and his men forced their way into the room. Rizzio was dragged away, and murdered outside the door. Mary never forgave Darnley for this and the plot thickens within the confines of this marriage.
The eventual murder of Darnley may have been conspired by one of Mary’s noble men, James Hepburn, Fourth Earl of Bothwell. Lord Darnley had smallpox and was resting at The House at Kirk O'Field. An explosion at the house was thought to have killed Darnley, but upon examining his body it was ruled that he had been strangled. The explosion was to cover this fact but backfired on those that wanted Darnley out of the Queen’s life. Maybe she herself was privy to the demise of her husband. To take the focus off of her, Mary declared that the explosion was meant to kill her, but very few people believed her. Mary would then turn around and marry Bothwell. This did not go over well with the public. This would be her ultimate undoing and was the beginning of the end of her reign in Scotland. Her people were outraged that she had married the man suspected of murdering her husband. This all led her to being taken as a prisoner to Loch Leven Castle and there she was coerced to sign the abdication papers. Her son was now King James VI of Scotland and her half-brother James Stewart, Earl of Murray, became regent. He would later be assassinated in 1570 by one of Mary's supporters.
Exile and Execution
Elizabeth took Mary under her protection, but in reality she was little more than a prisoner. For the rest of her life, this is what she became. Mary was kept in various Castles in England for nineteen years, including Sheffield for fourteen years. During this time Mary resented how her life was going and longed to be back in Scotland as Queen. With the desire to be the monarch of Scotland again she also had set her sights on the English crown. At this time Elizabeth kept an eye on her cousin for this very reason thinking that the Catholics were still plotting to put Mary in her place as the Queen of England. These suspicions were not unfounded. For over twenty years there were attempts to release Mary from her prison and make her Queen of England. Elizabeth advisors counseled her to have Mary executed but Elizabeth resisted. For those that may not understand this, think of it as she saw herself possibly being in the same position. It was not until the Babington plot of 1586 that she finally knew that the time had come for her cousin Mary to be tried.
Elizabeth was hurt and angry by the actions of Mary. This was put down in a letter she sent to Mary asking her why this? After what she had done for Mary, why had it come to this? Mary was put on trial were she was found guilty of treason, and condemned to death. Even after the trial where Mary was found guilty Elizabeth could not bring herself to sign her cousin's death warrant. The very thought of executing a crowned sovereign did not sit well with her. It is said that the whole matter affected her health. In the end Elizabeth did sign the warrant. Know that this upset her, her ministers secretly went through execution, and Elizabeth was not told until it was over. Mary Stuart was executed at Fotheringay Castle in the February of 1587.
In an ironic way after the death of Elizabeth in 1603, Mary’s son was proclaimed King James I of England, and the reign of the Stuarts began.
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