The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

HomeEuropean HistoryThe History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

On December 8, 1542, a girl by the name of Mary Stuart was born, but history remembers her as Mary, Queen of Scots. Her parents were Mary of Guise from France and King James V. Soon after she was born, her father died and she inherited the crown at only six days old. Mary is most remembered for supposedly trying to steal the throne from Queen Elizabeth I, which ultimately led to her execution in 1587. However, Mary’s life was full of great tragedies and interesting facts. This woman accomplished a lot in the 44 years she lived, so read on to find out what made Mary, the Queen of Scots such an interesting historical figure.

Mary and all of her Marys

Just like any other person born with blue blood, Mary had her ladies in waiting. However, what was interesting abut Mary’s ladies was that they all shared the same name – Mary. The lady of waiting who had the most seniority since her mother had royal blood was Mary Fleming.

After her, came the daughter of Mary of Guise’s maid of honor, Mary Seton. The last two ladies in waiting were both daughters of nobles, Mary Beaton and Mary Livingston.

The queen’s tears

Anyone who’s visited the site of Mary’s execution, they probably saw a small clump of purple thistles.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

These flowers have a nickname – Queen Mary’s tears, in honor of the executed queen.

Wrong place at the wrong time

One of Mary’s hobbies was golfing, and she was even the first women who ever played golf in Scotland.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

In fact, just a few days after her husband Lord Darnley was murdered, she was spotted playing the sport at St. Andrews, which was something she really shouldn’t have been doing.

The cousin who was a threat

Mary was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor and the great niece of the infamous Henry VIII, which also met that she was Elizabeth I first cousin, once removed. However, because Mary was a Catholic and the Catholic church considered Elizabeth to be illegitimate, this meant she was a serious threat to Mary’s throne.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

No matter if they were cousins or not, it’s hard to be friendly with someone who could strip you of your crown.

Deadly water

It’s not entirely sure how Mary’s father king James V died, but it’s believed that he drank some tainted water during the Battle of Solway Moss where he just collapsed.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

It was either that or he collapsed due to exhaustion, but we’ll probably never know.

WWII Propaganda

During World War II, the Germans made a movie about Queen Mary’s life called Das Herz der Konigin, which translates to Heart of the Queen.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

In the movie, they bashed Mary’s cousin, Queen Elizabeth, and they emphasized her wish to expand the British Empire and they also built up her calculatedness.

A white wedding

During the 16th century, French people wore white when they were mourning.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

However, Mary disregarded this and decided to wear the color for her wedding.

The Auld Alliance

The Auld Alliance, which was formed by Scotland and France in 1295, prevented England from taking over Europe.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

Even though this alliance had primarily diplomatic and military purposes, it was also the opportunity for some Scotts to sample exported French delicacies. This alliance would play a huge role during Mary’s time as queen.

A reinforced union

King Henry VIII had an idea in 1543 to marry the hair to his throne, Edward to Mary. However, Scotland believed England only had power-hungry expansion plans so the proposal was refused. This didn’t really sit well with King Henry VIII who decided he needed to take drastic measures.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

He started attacking Scotland hoping to persuade the Scotts do admit to the marriage, and this later became known as “rough wooing”. That’s why Mary’s mother decided to send her daughter off to France to be educated and primed for marriage to the French Dauphin. With this one move, the French and Scottish relationship was reinforced, and Scotland was given further military support from the French, protecting them from the English.

Tricked into treaties

The union between Mary and Francis was very strategic. The idea was that the two countries, Scotland and France would be able to unite thanks to the marriage.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

When Mary was 15 and Francis was 14 the two were wed and Mary was taken advantage by the French King Henry II who made her sign disadvantageous treaties. These meant that Scotland should subordinate to France.

Dying too young

In 1559, King Henry II was in a jousting accident which tragically ended his life, which meant that Francis and Mary became King and Queen of France. However, this didn’t last for long since Francis was a very sickly young man.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

Less than two years after he became king, he suffered from a temporary stoppage of oxygen to the brain. Just a few weeks later, Francis passed away.

Returning home

1560 wasn’t the best year for Mary. First, she lost her husband and then her mother as well. However, this was very beneficial for the French who sent Mary back to Scotland, wanting to use her as a pawn in their invasion of the English throne.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

 

Unfortunately, Mary’s move to Scotland brought nothing good.

He seemed so perfect

When Mary got married for the second time, she had the right to choose her own husband. She decided to marry her cousin Henry Stuart, the handsome Lord Darnley who had the background which gave him a genuine claim to the Scottish and English thrones.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

However, these were his only positive traits, since he turned out to be an arrogant drunk who might have even had syphilis. Still, his bad traits didn’t stop Mary from finding him attractive, she even once said he was the “lustiest and best-proportioned man” she had ever met.

An expensive ritual

Mary was known for her flawless porcelain complexion, which she got in a very strange way. To keep her skin young, soft and wrinkle-free she would wash her face in white wine.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

This wasn’t popular with the English keepers, who had to pay for this habit out of pocket.

No place for a treaty

Before Mary was sent to France, King Henry VIII and Mary’s regent signed a treaty which should have ended all fighting between England and Scotland called the Treaty of Greenwich.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

Had this treaty been accepted by the Parliament, Mary would have had to marry Henry’s son Edward but this never happened.

An accomplished girl

Mary was a very talented child. She was a skilled linguist and writer, she wrote both poetry and prose and she also excelled in falconry and horsemanship.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

 

There’s no denying these are the perfect skills for a future Queen.

Not so Saint Mary

Ever since she died, many Catholics have attempted to make Mary a saint, but even four centuries later, there’s one thing that’s standing in the way of this.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

There are suspicions that Mary killed her second husband, Lord Darnley. Even though this was never proven, the Church refuses to make a women who could be a possible murderess a saint.

The mourning process

After Mary’s second husband Francis died, she went into morning. Even though they never really got along, she still felt sad about losing him.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

However, some think she might have been upset over losing the French crown.

Attempted assassination

There was a plot hatched in 1586 to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and replace her with Mary Stuart. One of the people who was involved in hatching the plot was Anthony Babington and so the Babington plot was named after him.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

Mary almost managed to convince Elizabeth of her innocence, but a letter she sent while she was imprisoned showed that she was in fact the one who authorized the assassination.

A gruesome death

Even though Mary was beheaded, this fate was nothing compare to how her third husband met his end. James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell was one of the suspects in the murder of Mary’s second husband. According to some sources, Bothwell imprisoned Mary and forced her to marry him.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

Some sources on the other hand claim that the marriage wasn’t what it looked like and that it was entirely consensual, the story is still very disturbing. The marriage put nobles up in arms since they disapproved of the union. Eventually, Bothwell tried to flee the country but he was captured and imprisoned in the Danish fortress of Dragsholm. He was imprisoned for ten years and during that time, he was chained to a shot pillar which prevented him from standing up straight, and he spent all of his time in the dark surrounded by his own dirt and grime. History tells us that he died insane, covered in hair. Allegedly, his alleged remains were displayed in a museum nearby.

A very mismatched couple

Mary and her first husband were very different when it came to their looks. Mary was a very attractive girl, but she was quite tall, standing at 5’11.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

On the other hand, Francis was a fragile and short young man. He also had a stutter so all in all, the only good thing he had going for him was his crown.

Getting the crown very young

Mary was an infant Queen but that was actually sort of a tradition in her family. Her dad, James V was only 17 months old when he became The King of Scotland after his own father was killed in battle.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

As we’ve already said, Mary was six days old when she became queen and finally, her son James was one year old when Mary abdicated the throne.

Religious complications

Mary had a very different attitude toward the Catholic religion in public and in private. In private, she was a very devoted Catholic and continued to practice the faith, but things were much more complicated in public.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

In order to avoid a rebellion, Mary would have to support both the Protestant and the Catholic nobles, so she couldn’t do anything to show she favored one over the other. So, in 1560 when a Reformation Act declared Scotland a Protestant country, she didn’t do or say anything. This was a diplomatic move, and it ensured peace.

A big bang

The people of Scotland were shocked when they heard a loud explosion in the early morning hours on February 10, 1567.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

Kirk o’ Field which was near the Scottish Royal estates crumpled to dust. People gathered to see what had happened, and it was a truly gruesome sight.

Who was the killer?

After an investigation of the sight, two barrels filled with gunpowder had been found hidden beneath Lord Darnley’s bedroom, which was more than suspicions, but his body wasn’t discovered in the rubble. It was found on the ground, but he wasn’t blown up, he had obviously been strangled to death and the body of his valet was found right next to him.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

Darnley was wearing his nightshirt, to suggest he had fled from his room. Even though it was never established who killed Darnley, it’s known that many people wanted him dead, and on the long list were Queen Mary herself and her next husband, the Earl of Bothwell.

A face to face meeting

Even though they were cousins and then enemies later in life, Elizabeth and Mary never even met in person. When Mary was christening her son, Elizabeth only sent a representative.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

Elizabeth didn’t even visit Mary in prison, even though she promised she would. She didn’t even attend Mary’s funeral.

A misleading movie

There have been many false and misleading historical “facts” about what kind of relationship Mary and Elizabeth I had in the movie “Mary, Queen of Scots”.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

The film showed them as friends at first but rivals after, and it even showed a meeting between the two which never even happened.

Preventing the marriage

After Francis died, Mary began searching for a new husband. She even negotiated with Phillip II of Spain to marry his son, Don Carlos in a Catholic marriage.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

However, when Queen Elizabeth heard about this, she made it clear that she disapproved of this union, so it never happened.

Forced into abdication

After Mary’s husband Bothwell was forced to flee due to their unpopular and perhaps even forced marriage, it also backfired on Mary.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

To the public, it didn’t matter if the marriage was forced or not, their Queen was still married to the man who was a suspect in the murder of her previous husband. Some people even suspected the two had been having an affair. So, in just a few weeks, Mary was forced to abdicate.

An imprisoned ex-Queen

Not only was she forced to abdicate, Mary was also locked up at Lochlevan Castle, which was true to its name and it was in the middle of a loch.

The History and Legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

However, Mary wasn’t going to surrender so easily. Eleven months after her imprisonment, she managed to get her guards drunk and escaped thanks to a disguise during May Day celebrations.

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