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Mary I
Queen of Scots
Reign 14 December 1542 – 24 July 1567
Coronation 9 September 1543
Predecessor James V
Successor James VI
Regent James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran (1542–1554)
Mary of Guise (1554–1560)
Queen consort of France
Tenure 10 July 1559 – 5 December 1560
Spouse Francis II of France
m. 1558; dec. 1560
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
m. 1565; dec. 1567
James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell
m. 1567; dec. 1578
Issue
James VI of Scotland & I of England
House House of Stuart
Father James V of Scotland
Mother Mary of Guise
Born 8 December 1542
Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow
Died 8 February 1587 (aged 44)
Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire
Burial Peterborough Cathedral; Westminster Abbey
Signature

Mary I (popularly known in the English-speaking world as Mary, Queen of Scots and, in France, as Marie Stuart) (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587) was Queen of Scots from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567. She was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V. She was six days old when her father died, which event made her Queen of Scots, and she was crowned nine months later.

In 1558, she married Francis, Dauphin of France, who ascended the French throne as Francis II in 1559. However, Mary was not Queen of France for long; she was widowed on 5 December 1560. After her husband's death, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561. Four years later, she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Their union was unhappy and in February 1567, Darnley was found dead in the garden at Kirk o'Field, after a huge explosion in the house.

She soon married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was generally believed to be Darnley's murderer. Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle on 15 June and forced to abdicate the throne in favour of her one-year-old son, James VI. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, Mary fled to England seeking protection from her first cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, whose kingdom she hoped to inherit. Elizabeth, however, ordered her arrest, because of the threat presented by Mary, who had previously claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics (including participants in the Rising of the North). After a long period of custody in England, she was tried and executed for treason following her involvement in three plots to assassinate Elizabeth.

Contents

Heritage

During the 15th century reign of Robert III of Scotland, it had been confirmed that the Scottish Crown would only be inherited by males in the line of Robert's children—all sons—who were listed in that parliamentary Act. Females and female lines could inherit only after extinction of male lines. Mary ascended to the throne because, with the demise of her father, James V, Robert II had no remaining direct male descendants of unquestionably legitimate origins. John Stewart, Duke of Albany, grandson of James II of Scotland and at one time regent for the young James V, was the last direct male heir of Robert II (other than the king himself) when he died in 1536. Mary was the first member of the royal House of Stuart to use the Gallicised spelling Stuart, rather than the earlier Stewart. Mary adopted the French spelling Stuart during her time in France, and her descendants continued to use it.[1]

Childhood and early reign

Mary at the age of thirteen.

Mary was born on 8 December 1542 at Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow, Scotland to King James V of Scotland and his French wife, Mary of Guise. She was the only child of James to survive, and she was said to have been born prematurely.[2] A popular legend, written by John Knox, states that James, hearing on his deathbed that his wife had given birth to a daughter, ruefully exclaimed, "It came with a lass, it will pass with a lass!"[3]

The House of Stewart, which originated in Brittany, had gained the throne of Scotland by the marriage of Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert the Bruce, to Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland. James thus felt that since the crown came with a woman, a woman would be responsible for the loss of the crown from their family. This legendary statement came true much later, but not through Mary, whose son in fact became King of England. Eventually Sophia of Hanover, daughter of Elizabeth Stuart, became the heir to Anne of Great Britain and with her son George Louis of Hanover becoming King of Great Britain, replacing the House of Stuart in England.

Mary was baptised at the Church of St. Michael, situated close to the palace, shortly after she was born. Rumours were spread suggesting Mary was weak and frail; on 14 December, six days after her birth, her father died following a nervous collapse from suffering a defeat at the Battle of Solway Moss, meaning she was now queen.[2] As Mary was still an infant when she became queen, Scotland was ruled by regents until she became an adult. From the outset, there were two different claims to the throne: her heir James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran claimed based on his hereditary right, but another claim from the Archbishop of St Andrews, Cardinal Beaton also came about. However, the latter was based on an allegedly forged version of the late king's will,[4] so Arran became the regent,[5] and continued to be until 1554 when Mary's mother succeeded him.[6]

The Treaty of Greenwich

Henry VIII took the opportunity of this regency to propose England and Scotland be united through the marriage of Mary and his own son, Prince Edward. On 1 July 1543, when Mary was six months old, the Treaty of Greenwich was signed, which among other points, promised Mary to be married to Edward. It was Henry's wish that Mary should also move to England where he could oversee her upbringing.[7] However, feelings among the Scottish people towards the English changed somewhat when Cardinal Beaton rose to power again, and began to push a pro-Catholic and French agenda, which angered Henry who wanted to break the alliance with France and the papacy. When French ships were spotted on the Scottish coast in July, it was felt they were a threat to Mary, and she moved with her mother to Stirling Castle which was considered safer.[8] On 9 September 1543 Mary was crowned Queen of Scots in the chapel at this castle.[9]

Shortly before Mary's coronation, the occupants of some Scottish ships headed for France were arrested by Henry, who claimed they were not allowed to trade with France even though that was never part of the agreement. These arrests caused anger among people in Scotland. Arran decided to join Beaton following this,[8] and he became a Catholic. The Treaty was eventually rejected by Parliament in December.[9]

This new alliance and the rejection of the treaty caused Henry to begin his rough wooing, designed to impose the marriage to his son on Mary. This consisted of a series of raids on Scottish and French territory and other military actions. It lasted until June 1551, costing over half a million pounds and many lives. In May 1544, the English Earl of Hertford (later created Duke of Somerset by Edward VI) arrived in the Firth of Forth hoping to capture the city of Edinburgh and kidnap Mary, but Mary of Guise hid her in the secret chambers of Stirling Castle.

On 10 September 1547, known as "Black Saturday", the Scots suffered a bitter defeat at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Mary of Guise, fearful for her daughter, sent her temporarily to Inchmahome Priory, and turned to the French ambassador Monsieur D'Oysel for help.

The French, remaining true to the Auld Alliance, came to the aid of the Scots. The new French King, Henry II, was now proposing to unite France and Scotland by marrying the little Queen to his three-year old son, the Dauphin François. This seemed to Mary of Guise to be the only sensible solution to her troubles. In February 1548, hearing that the English were on their way back, Mary of Guise moved Mary to Dumbarton Castle. The English left a trail of devastation behind once more and seized the strategically located town of Haddington. By June, the much awaited French help had arrived. On 7 July with it the French Marriage Treaty was signed at a nunnery near Haddington.

Life in France

Mary (age 17) and Francis (age 15) shortly after Francis became king in 1559.

With her marriage agreement in place, five-year-old Mary was sent to France in 1548 to spend the next thirteen years at the French court, mainly at Amboise, near Tours. Henry II had offered to guard and raise her. On 7 August 1548, the French fleet sent by Henry II sailed back to France from Dumbarton carrying the five-year-old Queen of Scots on board. She was accompanied by her own little court consisting of two lords, two half-brothers, and the "four Marys", four girls her own age, all named Mary, and the daughters of some of the noblest families in Scotland: Beaton, Seton, Fleming, and Livingston.

Vivacious, beautiful, and clever (according to contemporary accounts), Mary had a promising childhood. While in the French court, she was a favourite. She received the best available education, and at the end of her studies, she had mastered French, Latin, Greek, Spanish, and Italian in addition to her native Scots. She also learned how to play two instruments and learned prose, poetry, horsemanship, falconry, and needlework. She formed a close friendship with her future sister-in-law, Elisabeth of Valois, of whom Mary retained the most nostalgic memories in later life.[10] Her grandmother Antoinette de Bourbon exerted one of the strongest influences on her childhood,[11] and acted as one of her principal advisors.

Coin of Francis II and Mary Stuart, 1558.

Portraits of Mary show that she had a small, well-shaped head, a long, graceful neck, bright auburn hair, hazel-brown eyes, under heavy lowered eyelids and finely arched brows, smooth lustrous skin, a high forehead, and regular, firm features. While not a beauty in the classical sense, she was an extremely pretty child who would become a strikingly attractive woman. In fact, her effect on the men with whom she later came into contact was certainly that of a beautiful woman.[12]

Despite the fact that Mary was tall for her age (she attained an adult height of 5 feet 11 inches, which would have made her almost a giant in the sixteenth century)[13] and fluent in speech, while Henry II's son and heir Francis was abnormally short and stuttered, Henry commented that "from the very first day they met, my son and she got on as well together as if they had known each other for a long time"[14] On 24 April 1558 Mary married the Dauphin Francis at Notre Dame de Paris, Francis assuming the title King consort of Scots. When Henry II died on 10 July 1559, Mary, Queen of Scots, became Queen consort of France; her husband becoming Francis II of France.

Claim to the English throne

Mary's Arms as Queen of Scots and Queen consort of France

After the death of Mary I of England, Henry II of France caused his eldest son and his daughter-in-law to be proclaimed king and queen of England.[15] From this time on, Mary always insisted on bearing the royal arms of England, and her claim to the English throne was a perennial sticking point between Elizabeth I and her, as would become obvious in Mary's continuous refusal to ratify the Treaty of Edinburgh. Under the ordinary laws of succession, Mary was next in line to the English throne after her father's cousin, Elizabeth I, who was childless. Yet, in the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, thus making Mary the true heir as Mary II of England. However the Third Succession Act of 1543 provided that Elizabeth would succeed Mary I of England on the throne.

The anti-Catholic Act of Settlement was not passed until 1701, but the last will and testament of Henry VIII, (given legal force by the Third Succession Act), had excluded the Stuarts from succeeding to the English throne. Mary's troubles were still further increased by the Huguenot rising in France, called le tumulte d'Amboise (6 March-17 March 1560), making it impossible for the French to help Mary's supporters in Scotland. The question of the succession was therefore a real one.

Francis died on 5 December 1560, of an ear infection which led to an abscess in his brain. Mary's mother-in-law, Catherine de' Medici, became regent for the late king's brother Charles IX, who inherited the French throne. Under the terms of the Treaty of Edinburgh, signed by Mary's representatives on 6 July 1560 following the death of her mother, France undertook to withdraw troops from Scotland and recognise Elizabeth's right to rule England. The 17-year-old Mary, still in France, refused to ratify the treaty.

Religious divide

Mary in mourning for Francis

Mary returned to Scotland soon after her husband's death and arrived in Leith on 19 August 1561. Despite her talents, Mary's upbringing had not given her the judgment to cope with the dangerous and complex political situation in Scotland at the time.

Mary, being a devout Catholic, was regarded with suspicion by many of her subjects as well as by Elizabeth, who was her father's cousin and the monarch of the neighbouring Protestant country. Scotland was torn between Catholic and Protestant factions, and Mary's illegitimate half-brother, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, was a leader of the Protestant faction. The Protestant reformer John Knox also preached against Mary, condemning her for hearing Mass, dancing, dressing too elaborately, and many other real and imagined offences.

To the disappointment of the Catholic party, however, Mary tolerated the newly established Protestant ascendancy, and kept James Stewart as her chief advisor. In this, she was acknowledging her lack of effective military power in the face of the Protestant Lords. She joined with James in the destruction of Scotland's leading Catholic magnate, Lord Huntly, in 1562 after he led a rebellion in the Highlands against her.[16]

Mary was also having second thoughts about the wisdom of having crossed Elizabeth, and attempted to make up the breach by inviting Elizabeth to visit Scotland (however, still she would not ratify the Treaty of Edinburgh). Elizabeth refused, and the bad blood remained between them. Mary then sent William Maitland of Lethington as an ambassador to the English court to put the case for Mary as a potential heir to the throne. Elizabeth's response is said to have included the words "As for the title of my crown, for my time I think she will not attain it." However, Mary, in her own letter to her maternal uncle Francis, Duke of Guise, reports other things that Maitland told her, including Elizabeth's supposed statement that, "I for my part know none better, nor that my self would prefer to her." Elizabeth was mindful of the role Parliament would have to play in the matter.

In December 1561 arrangements were made for the two queens to meet, this time in England. The meeting had been fixed for York "or another town" in August or September 1562, but Elizabeth sent Sir Henry Sidney to cancel in July because of the Civil War in France. In 1563, Elizabeth made another attempt to neutralize Mary by suggesting she marry Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (Sidney's brother-in-law and the English queen's own favorite), whom Elizabeth trusted and thought she could control. Dudley, being as well an Englishman as a Protestant, would have solved a double problem for Elizabeth. She sent an ambassador to tell Mary that, if she would marry "some person - yea perchance such as she would hardly think we could agree unto"[17] of Elizabeth's choosing, Elizabeth would "proceed to the inquisition of her right and title to be our next cousin and heir". This proposal came to nothing, not least because the intended bridegroom was unwilling.[18]

Marriage to Darnley

Mary with her second husband, Darnley

At Holyrood Palace on 29 July 1565, Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, her half first cousin. Henry was a member of the House of Stewart (or Stuart) like Mary was, but he was not an agnatic descendant of Stewart Kings, but rather of their immediate ancestors, the High Stewarts of Scotland.

Mary had fallen head over heels in love with the "long lad" (Queen Elizabeth's words) after he had come to Scotland from England earlier in the year (with the permission of the English Privy Council). On the other hand, Elizabeth felt threatened by the prospect of such a marriage, because both Mary and Darnley were claimants to the English throne, being direct descendants of Margaret Tudor, the elder sister of Henry VIII. Their children would inherit both parents' claims, and thus, be next in line for the English throne. Yet, the English ambassador Nicholas Throckmorton could only state: "the saying is that surely she [Queen Mary] is bewitched",[19] and that the marriage could only be averted "by violence".[20] The union infuriated Elizabeth, who felt she should have been asked permission, as Darnley was an English subject.

This marriage, to a leading Catholic, precipitated Mary's half-brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, to join with other Protestant Lords in open rebellion. Mary set out for Stirling on 26 August 1565 to confront them, and returned to Edinburgh the following month to raise more troops. Moray and the rebellious lords were routed and fled into exile, the decisive military action becoming known as the Chaseabout Raid.

Before long, Darnley became arrogant and demanded power commensurate with his courtesy title of "King". Darnley was jealous of Mary's friendship with her private secretary, David Rizzio, and, in March 1566 Darnley entered into a secret conspiracy with the nobles who had rebelled against Mary in the Chaseabout Raid. On 9 March a group of the lords, accompanied by Darnley, murdered Rizzio in front of the pregnant Mary while the two were in conference at Holyrood Palace. Darnley changed sides again and betrayed the lords, but the murder had made the breakdown of their marriage inevitable.

James Hepburn 4th Earl of Bothwell

Their son, James, was born on 19 June 1566. It became increasingly clear, that some solution had to be found to "the problem of Darnley".[21] At Craigmillar there was held a meeting (November 1566) among leading Scottish nobles and Queen Mary. Divorce was discussed, but then a bond was sworn to get rid of Darnley by other means:[22] "It was thought expedient and most profitable for the common wealth,..., that such a young fool and proud tyrant should not reign or bear rule over them;...that he should be put off by one way or another; and whosoever should take the deed in hand or do it, they should defend" (Book of Articles).[23] Darnley was fearing for his safety and went to Glasgow to see his father. There he became ill (possibly of smallpox or syphilis[24]).

In the new year, Mary prompted her husband to come back to Edinburgh. He was recuperating in a house at the former abbey of Kirk o' Field within the city wall of Edinburgh, where Mary visited him frequently, so that it appeared a reconciliation was in prospect. One night in February 1567, after Mary had left to go to the wedding of one of her maids of honour, an explosion occurred in the house, and Darnley was found dead in the garden, apparently of strangulation; historian Alison Weir, however, concludes he died of post-explosion suffocation. It turned out that James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell had supplied the gunpowder for the explosion, and he was generally believed to be guilty of Darnley's assassination. Mary arranged for a mock trial before parliament, and Bothwell was duly acquitted on 12 April.[25] Furthermore, some land titles were restored officially to Bothwell as a result of Darnley's death.[26] He also managed to get some of the Lords to sign the Ainslie Tavern Bond, in which they agreed to support his claims to marry the queen. All these proceedings did little to dissipate suspicions against Mary among the populace.

Abdication and imprisonment in Scotland

Mary with her son, James VI

On 24 April 1567, Mary visited her son at Stirling for the last time. On her way back to Edinburgh Mary was abducted, willingly or not, by Bothwell and his men and taken to Dunbar Castle, where she was allegedly raped by Bothwell. However, already in October 1566, she had been very interested in Bothwell when she made a four-hour journey on horseback to visit him at Hermitage Castle where he lay ill.[27] On 6 May Mary and Bothwell returned to Edinburgh and on 15 May, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, they were married according to Protestant rites. Bothwell had divorced his first wife, Jean Gordon twelve days previously.[28]

The Scottish nobility turned against Mary and Bothwell and raised an army against them. Mary and Bothwell confronted the Lords at Carberry Hill on 15 June, but there was no battle as Mary agreed to follow the Lords on condition that they let Bothwell go.[29] However, the Lords broke their promise, and took Mary to Edinburgh and imprisoned her in Loch Leven Castle, situated on an island in the middle of Loch Leven. Between 18 July and 24 July 1567, Mary miscarried twins. On 24 July 1567, she was also forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in favour of her one-year-old son James.

On 2 May 1568, Mary escaped from Loch Leven and once again managed to raise a small army. After her army's defeat at the Battle of Langside on 13 May, she fled by boat across the Solway Firth to England.

Escape and imprisonment in England

Mary landed at Workington in England on 19 May and stayed at Workington Hall. She was swiftly imprisoned by Elizabeth's officers at Carlisle Castle. During her imprisonment, she famously had the phrase En ma Fin gît mon Commencement ("In my end is my beginning") embroidered on her cloth of estate.

Mary was moved to Bolton Castle on 16 July 1568 and remained there under the care of Henry the 9th Lord Scrope, until 26 January 1569, when she was moved to Tutbury Castle.

After her flight into England, Mary Stuart expected Elizabeth I to help her regain her throne. Elizabeth was cautious, and ordered an inquiry into the question of whether Mary should be tried for the murder of Darnley first. A conference was held in York and later Westminster between October 1568 and January 1569. The accusers were the Scottish Lords who had deposed Mary. For overriding political reasons, Elizabeth neither wished to convict Mary of murder nor acquit her of the same; the conference was intended as a political exercise.

Mary refused to acknowledge the power of any court to try her since she was an anointed Queen, and the man ultimately in charge of the prosecution, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, was ruling Scotland as regent for Mary's son King James. His chief motive was to prevent a restoration of Mary to the Scottish throne. Mary refused to offer a written defence unless Elizabeth would guarantee a verdict of not guilty, which Elizabeth would not do.

Mary in captivity, c. 1580

As evidence, Mary's Scottish accusers presented the "Casket letters"— eight letters purportedly from Mary to Bothwell, reported by James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton to have been found in Edinburgh in a silver box engraved with an F (supposedly for Francis II), along with a number of other documents, including the Mary/Bothwell marriage certificate. The outcome of the conference was that the Casket Letters were accepted by the conference as genuine after a study of the handwriting, and of the information contained therein. Yet, as Elizabeth had wished, the inquiry reached the conclusion that nothing was proven. In hindsight it seems that none of the major parties involved considered the truth to be a priority. James MacKay comments that one of the strangest 'trials' in legal history ended with no finding of guilt with the result that the accusers went home to Scotland and the accused remained detained in 'protective custody'."

In 1570, Elizabeth was persuaded by representatives of Charles IX of France to promise to help Mary regain her throne. As a pre-condition, she demanded the ratification of the Treaty of Edinburgh, something Mary would even now not agree to. Nevertheless, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, continued negotiations with Mary on Elizabeth's behalf.

In 1569, Cecil had unofficially appointed Sir Francis Walsingham to organize a secret service for the protection of the realm, particularly the Queen's person. Henceforth, Cecil as well as Walsingham would have many opportunities (and reasons) to watch Mary carefully.

The Ridolfi Plot, which was a plan to depose Elizabeth with the help of foreign troops, and to place Mary on the English throne, caused Elizabeth to reconsider. With the queen's encouragement, Parliament introduced a bill in 1571 barring Mary from the throne. Elizabeth unexpectedly refused to give it the royal assent. The furthest she ever went was in 1584, when she introduced a document (the Bond of Association) aimed at preventing any would-be successor from profiting from her murder. It was not legally binding, but was signed by thousands, including Mary herself.

Elizabeth considered Mary's designs on the English throne to be a serious threat, and so eighteen years of confinement followed, much of it in Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor in the custody of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and his redoubtable wife Bess of Hardwick. Bothwell was imprisoned in Denmark, became insane, and died in 1578, still in prison.

Contemporary sketch of the execution

Trial and execution

Mary eventually became a liability that Elizabeth could no longer tolerate. Mary was put on trial for treason by a court of about 40 noblemen, including Catholics, after being implicated in the Babington Plot by her own letters, which Sir Francis Walsingham had arranged to come straight to his hands. From these letters it was clear that Mary had sanctioned the attempted assassination of Elizabeth. Mary denied this and was spirited in her defence. One of her more memorable comments from her trial was "Remember Gentlemen the Theatre of history is wider than the Realm of England." She drew attention to the fact that she was denied the opportunity to review the evidence or her papers that had been removed from her, that she had been denied access to legal counsel, and that she had never been an English subject and thus could not be convicted of treason. The extent to which the plot was created by Sir Francis Walsingham and the English Secret Services will always remain open to conjecture.

In a trial presided over by England's Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Bromley[30] and Attorney General Sir John Popham, (later Lord Chief Justice), Mary was ultimately convicted of treason, and was sentenced to beheading.

Although Mary had been found guilty and sentenced to death, Elizabeth hesitated to actually order her execution. She was fearful of the consequences, especially if, in revenge, Mary's son James of Scotland formed an alliance with the Catholic powers, France and Spain, and invaded England. She was also concerned about how this would affect the Divine Right of Kings. Elizabeth did ask Mary's final custodian, Amias Paulet, if he would contrive some accident to remove Mary.[31] He refused on the grounds that he would not allow such "a stain on his posterity."

She did eventually sign the death warrant and entrusted it to William Davison, a privy councillor. Later, the privy council, having been summoned by Lord Burghley without Elizabeth's knowledge, decided to carry out the sentence at once before she could change her mind.[32]

At Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, on 7 February 1587, Mary was told that she was to be executed the next day. She spent the last hours of her life in prayer and also writing letters and her will. She expressed a request that her servants should be released. She also requested that she should be buried in France. The scaffold that was erected in the great hall was three feet tall and draped in black. It was reached by five steps and the only things on it were a disrobing stool, the block, a cushion for her to kneel on, and a bloody butcher's axe that had been previously used on animals. At her execution the executioners (one of whom was named Bull) knelt before her and asked forgiveness. According to a contemporary account by Robert Wynkfield, she replied "I forgive you with all my heart"[33] The executioners and her two servants helped remove a black outer gown, two petticoats, and her corset to reveal a deep red chemise—the liturgical colour of martyrdom in the Catholic Church. As she disrobed she smiled faintly to the executioner and said, "Never have I had such assistants to disrobe me, and never have I put off my clothes before such a company."[33] She was then blindfolded and knelt down on the cushion in front of the block. She positioned her head on the block and stretched her arms out behind her.

Beheadingofmaryqueenofscots recreation.ogg
A 1895 reproduction of the historic scene, produced by Edison Manufacturing Co.
One of The London Dungeon's exhibitions is about Mary, Queen of Scots

In Lady Antonia Fraser's biography, Mary Queen of Scots, the author writes that it took two strikes to decapitate Mary: The first blow missed her neck and struck the back of her head, at which point the Queen's lips moved. (Her servants reported they thought she had whispered the words "Sweet Jesus.") The second blow severed the neck, except for a small bit of sinew that the executioner severed by using the axe as a saw. Robert Wynkfield recorded a detailed account of the moments leading up to Mary's execution, also describing that it took two strikes to behead the Queen. Afterward, the executioner held her head aloft and declared, "God save the Queen." At that moment, the auburn tresses in his hand came apart and the head fell to the ground, revealing that Mary had had very short, grey hair.[33] The chemise that Mary wore at her execution is displayed at Coughton Court near Alcester in Warwickshire, which was a Catholic household at that time.

It has been suggested that it took three strikes to decapitate Mary instead of two. If so, then Mary would have been executed with the same number of axe strikes as Essex. It has been postulated that said number was part of a ritual devised to protract the suffering of the victim.[34]

There are several (possibly apocryphal) stories told about the execution. One already mentioned and thought to be true is that, when the executioner picked up the severed head to show it to those present, it was discovered that Mary was wearing a wig. The headsman was left holding the wig, while the late queen's head rolled on the floor.[33] It was thought that she had tried to disguise the greying of her hair by wearing an auburn wig, the natural colour of her hair before her years of imprisonment began. She was 24 when first imprisoned by Protestants in Scotland, and she was only 44 years of age at the time of her execution. Another well-known execution story related in Robert Wynkfield's first-hand account concerns a small dog owned by the queen, which is said to have been hiding among her skirts, unseen by the spectators. Her dress and layers of clothing were so immensely regal, it would have been easy for the tiny pet to have hidden there as she slowly made her way to the scaffold. Following the beheading, the dog refused to be parted from its owner and was covered in blood. It was finally taken away by her ladies-in-waiting and washed.[33]

Aftermath

When the news of the execution reached Elizabeth she was extremely indignant, and her wrath was chiefly directed against Davison, who, she asserted, had disobeyed her instructions not to part with the warrant. The secretary was arrested and thrown into the Tower. He was later released, after paying a heavy fine, but his career was ruined.[35]

The Casket Letters

James Stewart, Earl of Moray by Hans Eworth, 1561. Mary's halfbrother and regent after her abdication in 1567, he presented the Casket Letters at the York Conference in 1568.

The so-called Casket Letters are widely believed to be crucial to the issue of whether Mary Queen of Scots shares the guilt for her husband Lord Darnley's murder. The letters are, however, only one detail of the whole problem, and even if they are accepted as fake, this fact in it itself does not constitute an "acquittal" of Mary, as long as other aspects of the case are not taken into account.

The authenticity of the Casket Letters has been the source of much controversy among historians. It is impossible now to prove the case of the letters' authenticity either way. The originals of the Casket Letters were probably destroyed in 1584 by King James.[36] The copies available in various collections do not form a complete set. The originals were in French; only one French copy is extant, the others are contemporary translations into Scots and English.

Mary argued that her handwriting was not difficult to imitate, and it has frequently been suggested either that the letters are complete forgeries, that incriminating passages were inserted before the inquiry of York in 1568, or that the letters were written to Bothwell by some other person. Well-respected biographers of Mary such as Lady Antonia Fraser, James MacKay, and John Guy have all come to the conclusion that they were forged. Guy has actually examined the Elizabethan transcripts of the letters rather than relying upon later printed copies.[37] He points out that the letters are disjointed. He also draws attention to the fact that the French version of one of the letters is bad in its use of language and grammar. Guy implies that a woman with Mary's education would not write in this way. However, it has also been maintained, that certain phrases of the letters (including verses in the style of Ronsard) and certain stylistical characteristics would be compatible with known writings of Mary.[38]

Another point made by commentators is that the Casket Letters did not appear until the Conference of York in 1568. Mary had been forced to abdicate in 1567 and held captive for the best part of a year in Scotland. There was every reason for these letters to be made public to support her imprisonment and forced abdication.

At least some of the contemporaries who saw the letters at the York Conference had no doubt that the letters were genuine. Among them was Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk,[39] a later suitor and co-conspirator of Mary. When Queen Elizabeth alluded to his marriage plans with Mary, Norfolk remarked that "he meant never to marry with a person, where he could not be sure of his pillow".[40]

Legacy

Tomb of Mary at Westminster Abbey

Though Mary Stuart has not been canonised by the Catholic Church, many consider her a martyr, and there are relics of her. Her prayer book was long shown in France. Her apologist published, in an English journal, a sonnet which Mary was said to have composed, written with her own hand in this book. A celebrated German actress, Frau Hendel-Schutz, who excited admiration by her attitudes, and performed Friedrich Schiller's "Maria Stuart" with great applause in several German cities, affirmed that a cross which she wore on her neck was the very same that once belonged to the unfortunate queen.

Relics of this description have never yet been subjected to the proof of their authenticity. If there is anything which may be reasonably believed to have once been the property of the queen, it is the veil with which she covered her head on the scaffold, after the executioner had wounded the unfortunate victim in the shoulder by a false blow (whether from awkwardness or confusion is uncertain). This veil came into the possession of Sir John Coxe Hippisley, who claimed to be descended from the House of Stuart on his mother's side. In 1818, he had an engraving made from it by Matteo Diottavi in Rome and gave copies to his friends. However, the eagerness with which the executioners burned her clothing and the executioners' block may mean that it will never be possible to be certain.

The veil is embroidered with gold spangles by (as is said) the queen's own hand, in regular rows crossing each other, so as to form small squares, and edged with a gold border, to which another border has been subsequently joined, in which the following words are embroidered in letters of gold:

"Velum Serenissimæ Mariæ, Scotiæ et Galliæ Reginæ Martyris, quo induebatur dum ab Heretica ad mortem iniustissimam condemnata fuit. Anno Sal. MDLXXXVI. a nobilissima matrona Anglicana diu conservatum et tandem, donationis ergo Deo, Societati Jesu consecratum."
Mary's personal breviary, which she took with her to the scaffold, is preserved in the National Library of Russia of St. Petersburg.

On the plate there is an inscription, with a double certificate of its authenticity, which states, that this veil, a family treasure of the expelled house of Stuart, was finally in possession of the last branch of that family, Henry Benedict Stuart, the Cardinal of York, who preserved it for many years in his private chapel, among the most precious relics, and at his death bequeathed it to Sir John Coxe Hippisley, together with a valuable Plutarch, a Codex with painted (illuminated) letters, and a gold coin struck in Scotland during Mary's reign.

The plate was specially consecrated by Pope Pius VII in his palace on the Quirinal, 29 April 1818. Hippisley, during a former residence at Rome, had been very intimate with the cardinal of York, and was instrumental in obtaining for him, when he with the other cardinals emigrated to Venice in 1798, a pension of £4,000 a year from King George IV of the United Kingdom, then Prince of Wales. But for the pension, the fugitive cardinal, whose revenues were all seized by the forces of the French Revolution, would have been exposed to the greatest distress.

The cardinal desired to requite this service by the bequest of what he considered so valuable. According to a note on the plate, the veil is eighty-nine English inches long and forty-three broad, so that it seems to have been rather a kind of shawl or scarf than a veil. Melville in his Memoirs, which Schiller had read, speaks of a handkerchief belonging to the queen, which she gave away before her death, and Schiller founds upon this anecdote the well-known words of the farewell scene, addressed to Hannah Kennedy.

"Accept this handkerchief! with my own hand
For thee I've work'd it in my hours of sadness
And interwoven with my scalding tears:
With this thou'lt bind my eyes."

Privy Council of Mary, 1561

(appointed 6 September 1561 following Mary's return to Scotland from France)

Ancestry

Issue

By Henry Stuart

By James Hepburn

  • Twins which were miscarried.

In culture

See also

Notes

  1. ^ History of the Monarchy > The Stewarts > Mary, Queen of Scots
  2. ^ a b Fraser, p.11
  3. ^ "The Kings and Queens of Scotland (Stroud, 2004) by Richard Oram, ISBN 0-7524-2971-X
  4. ^ Fraser, p.12
  5. ^ Fraser, p.14
  6. ^ Fraser, p.25
  7. ^ Fraser, p.15
  8. ^ a b Fraser, p.16
  9. ^ a b Fraser, p.17
  10. ^ Antonia Fraser, Mary, Queen of Scots, pps. 49-50
  11. ^ Antonia Fraser, Mary, Queen of Scots,p.42
  12. ^ Antonia Fraser "Mary, Queen of Scots",pages 88-90
  13. ^ Lady Antonia Fraser "Mary,Queen of Scots"
  14. ^ Guy, John, My Heart is my Own, London, Fourth Estate, 2004, ISBN 0-00-71930-8:47
  15. ^ Antonia Fraser: Mary Queen of Scots Panther Books 1970 pp.113-115
  16. ^ Fraser, pp.220-231
  17. ^ Frederick Chamberlin Elizabeth and Leycester Dodd, Mead & Co. 1939 p.137
  18. ^ Frederick Chamberlin Elizabeth and Leycester Dodd, Mead & Co. 1939 pp.136-164,445-447; Alison Plowden: Marriage with my Kingdom: The Courtships of Queen Elizabeth I BCA 1977 p.137
  19. ^ Caroline Bingham: Darnley: A Life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Consort of Mary Queen of Scots Constable 1995 p.101
  20. ^ Caroline Bingham: Darnley: A Life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Consort of Mary Queen of Scots Constable 1995 p.100
  21. ^ Caroline Bingham: Darnley: A Life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Consort of Mary Queen of Scots Constable 1995 p.160
  22. ^ Caroline Bingham: Darnley: A Life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Consort of Mary Queen of Scots Constable 1995 p.160-163
  23. ^ Antonia Fraser: Mary Queen of Scots Panther Books 1970 pp.335-336
  24. ^ The Medieval Society
  25. ^ Antonia Fraser: Mary Queen of Scots Panther Books 1970 pp.373-375
  26. ^ Antonia Fraser: Mary Queen of Scots Panther Books 1970 p.375
  27. ^ Caroline Bingham: Darnley: A Life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Consort of Mary Queen of Scots Constable 1995 pp.158-159
  28. ^ Fraser, p.370
  29. ^ "About Scotland". Aboutscotland.com. http://www.aboutscotland.com/mqs/carberry.html. Retrieved 2009-02-08.  
  30. ^ "Thomas Bromley". Westminster Abbey. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/search/12144.  
  31. ^ Curtis, Thomas (1829). The London Encyclopaedia. XIX. p. 548. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=CXRMAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA548&lpg=PA548.  
  32. ^ Elizabeth's Spy Master: Francis Walsingham and the secret war that saved England by Robert Hutchinson
  33. ^ a b c d e "The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots". tudorhistory.org. http://tudorhistory.org/primary/exmary.html.  
  34. ^ For a modern discussion of this see the essay in, "Death, the Scaffold and the Stage…" in "Christopher Marlowe and English Renaissance Culture", by Darryll Grantley, Ashgate Publishing ( 25 May 1999).
  35. ^ "stv News report, February 2008: Purchase of Mary Queen of Scots' Death Warrant". Scotlandontv.tv. 2006-10-24. http://www.scotlandontv.tv/scotland_on_tv/video.html?vxSiteId=60fdd544-9c52-4e17-be7e-57a2a2d76992&vxChannel=History%20Key%20Events&vxClipId=1380_SMG1833&vxBitrate=300. Retrieved 2009-02-08.  
  36. ^ Caroline Bingham: Darnley: A Life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Consort of Mary Queen of Scots Constable 1995 p.193
  37. ^ Guy, John. My Heart is My Own, 2005.
  38. ^ George Malcolm Thomson: The Crime of Mary Stuart Hutchinson 1967 pp.148-153;159-165
  39. ^ Neville Williams: Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk Barrie & Rockliff 1964 pp.137-139
  40. ^ Neville Williams: Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk Barrie & Rockliff 1964 p.141

References

External links

Mary I of Scotland
Born: 8 December 1542 Died: 8 February 1587
Regnal titles
Preceded by
James V
Queen of Scots
14 December 1542 – 24 July 1567
Succeeded by
James VI
French royalty
Preceded by
Catherine de' Medici
Dauphine of France
24 April 1558 – 10 July 1559
Succeeded by
Maria Anna of Bavaria
Queen consort of France
10 July 1559 – 5 December 1560
Vacant
Title next held by
Elisabeth of Austria
Scottish royalty
Preceded by
James Hamilton,
2nd Earl of Arran
Heir to the Scottish throne
as heiress presumptive

8 December - 14 December, 1542
Succeeded by
James Hamilton,
2nd Earl of Arran
English royalty
Preceded by
Lady Elizabeth Tudor
(never designated an heir)
Potential Heir to the English and Irish Thrones
by cognatic primogeniture
17 November 1558 – 8 February 1587
Succeeded by
James VI of Scotland
Titles in pretence
Mary I of England
dies
— TITULAR —
 Queen of England
17 November 1558 – 24 July 1587
Reason for succession failure:
English throne passed to Elizabeth I. In the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, thus making Mary the true heir.
Mary's heir becomes
James I of England


Redirecting to Mary I of Scotland








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