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Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots

an incredibly brief account

She is Mary Stuart (originally Stewart), daughter of James V of Scotland and Marie de Guise, daughter of the duke of Lorraine. She was Queen of Scots from the time she was six days old. She was a staunch Catholic until she died.

She is not "Bloody Mary." That charming title belongs to Elizabeth's sister, Mary Tudor, who created a lot of protestant martyrs.

Mary Stuart's grandmother was Henry VIII's sister Margaret. Henry's will and the Act of Succession excluded this branch from the English succession, but since Elizabeth is officially a bastard and heretic (according to the Pope) Mary feels she is the rightful Queen of England. A lot of people (mainly foreigners and English Catholics) agree with her.

She became Queen of France and Scotland by marrying the French prince who became Francis II, who died in 1560. Widowed at the age of 18 she returned to Scotland the following year.

In 1565 she married Henry Stuart Lord Darnley, son of the countess of Lennox, a granddaughter of Henry VII. Their son James was born in July 1566. Her husband, who had all the morals of an ape, was a jerk who conspired against her.

While Darnley was convalescing in '68 (of a "shameful illness"), he was killed when the basement of the house he was staying in exploded. However, he was not killed in the explosion. His body was found in the garden, stabbed and strangled. Many people accused Mary of arranging it.

In May of 1568, after a variety of military actions and her third marriage (to the earl of Bothwell, possibly by force) she left Scotland to throw herself on England's mercy. Various Stuart, Tudor, and deGuise ancestors proceeded to roll over in their graves.

She spent 19 years in England, with various jailers at various houses. Elizabeth wouldn't agree to see her until Mary had been cleared of the accusation of murdering her husband, but Mary claimed (rightfully) that a foreign court had no right to try her, a sovereign queen. Several investigations produced a number of damning letters (probably forged) but nothing was ever resolved.

In captivity, she eventually signed papers officially abdicating in favor of her son. During this time, her special emissaries to Elizabeth were Sir James Melville and John Leslie, Bishop of Ross.

A number of serious plots revolved around her, the main ones being the Ridolfi Plot (to marry her to Norfolk and place them both on the English throne, with Spanish help) and the Babington Plot (to kill Elizabeth, rescue Mary, and put her on the throne, possibly with French help). The latter plot is covered nicely in part 5 of the BBC's Elizabeth R.

In 1586, Mary was tried in England by a panel of peers and justices, and condemned. Elizabeth put off signing the death warrant as long as she could, but Mary was executed at last on 7 February 1587, at Fotheringhay Castle.

The Tudor Sucession, A Family Tree


Dunn: Elizabeth and Mary--Cousins, Rivals, Queens
Fraser: Mary Queen of Scots
Gristwood: Elizabeth & Leicester

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24 May 2008 mps