Mary Queen of Scots.jpeg

Mary Queen of Scots
Paternal 4th cousin, 14x removed

No story about the Tudor dynasty and my royal cousins would be complete without Mary Stuart (or Stewart), my paternal 4th cousin, 14x removed. I am related to Mary through my paternal grandfather's side of the family, but there may be a connection through my paternal grandmother's family as well (I just haven't confirmed/discovered it yet).

Mary was born on December 8, 1542 at Linlithgow Palace in Scotland. Mary was the daughter of King James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. King James was the son of Margaret Tudor, elder sister of King Henry VIII of England.

Six days after Mary's birth, her father King James died. As James' only legitimate heir, Mary became Queen of Scotland. Mary was obviously too young to rule Scotland so her reign was ruled by regents until she reached adulthood. Mary's great-uncle, King Henry VIII, hoped to take advantage of the regency and proposed that Mary marry his son, Edward, in hopes of uniting Scotland and England under his power. This arrangement was signed into contract when Mary was only 6 months old, and stated that when she was 10 she would marry Prince Edward. Henry would then move Mary to England so that he could oversee her upbringing.

This arrangement was not met with the same enthusiasm in Scotland as Mary's supporters who were Catholic wanted a pro-French alliance (another Catholic nation) which angered Henry VIII. Fearing retaliation, Mary's regents moved her and her mother to Stirling Castle which was farther away from the coast than Linlinthgow Castle and easier to defend from possible attack. At Stirling Castle Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland on September 9, 1543 when she was less than a year old.

Tensions between the English and Scots continued and support grew in Scotland for a stronger Scottish-French alliance, further straining relations with the English. Scotland's Parliament rejected King Henry VIII's marriage treaty and looked to France. King Henry I of France proposed that Mary marry his young 3 year old son, Francis. In return for agreement to the proposed French marriage contract, Mary's regent, the Duke of Arran requested French help against the British, as well as a French dukedom for himself. These terms were agreed to and Arran agreed to the marriage contract.

With Mary's marriage contract signed by the Scottish Parliament, 5 year old Mary was sent to France, sailing there with the French Fleet on August 7, 1548. She would spend the next 13 years at the French court. 

Accounts from the time describe Mary as clever and beautiful, and a favorite with everyone in the French court, with the exception being Catherine de Medici, Henry I's wife. Mary and the Dauphin (Francis) however, got along exceptionally well.

Mary's upbringing in the French court including learning French, Latin, Italian, Spanish and Greek, along with her native Scots languages. Mary was competent in prose, poetry, horsemanship, falconry and needlework. 

On April 4, 1558, Mary signed an agreement bequeathing Scotland and her claim to the British and French crowns should she die without producing an heir. On the 24th of April, 1558, Mary and the dauphin Francis married at Notre Dame de Paris. Upon their marriage, Francis became the King Consort of Scotland.

Although King Henry VIII had died the year before, his daughter, Queen Mary I was now on the English throne. Like her English cousin, Mary was a Catholic, and if there's one thing that I have learned in researching my complex royal lineage, Queen Mary I was a devout Catholic (unlike her half-sister, Elizabeth who was a Protestant). I can find no information regarding the relationship between Queen Mary I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots, so I can only assume that there was no significant animosity between the two, or if they ever communicated with one another.

On November 17, 1558, Queen Mary I of England died and her sister, the Protestant Elizabeth I, was proclaimed Queen of England. In the eyes of many Catholics in England, Elizabeth was a heretic, and Mary Stuart was the rightful heir to the English throne as she was a direct descendant of King Henry VII through her grandmother, Margaret Tudor. Elizabeth had previously been declared illegitimate by King Henry VIII, and although he set aside that declaration later in his life, Catholics continued to consider Elizabeth the bastard child of one of Henry's concubines (Anne Boleyn).

French King Henry II went so far as to declare Mary and Francis Queen and King of England, and incorporated the royal arms of England into Mary and Francis' coat of arms. This was a clear sign that France did not support Queen Elizabeth I as the English queen. Mary's claim to the English throne would forever divide her and her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, and would ultimately play a significant role in Mary's fate.

On June 10, 1559, King Henry II died from injuries he received during a joust. The 15 year old Francis and 16 year old Mary were now proclaimed the King and Queen of France. 

Back in Scotland, Protestant support for Queen Elizabeth grew, and this put pressure on Mary's mother (who remained in Scotland) and her Catholic supporters.The Protestant Lords invited English troops into Scotland in an attempt to firmly establish an accepted Protestant church in Scotland. In France, uprisings by the Huguenots occupied French forces so that no more were available to send to Scotland in support of Queen Mary. At this time both French and English troops were occupying Scotland, each with very different objectives. On June 11th, 1560, Mary's mother died in Scotland. 

The Treaty of Edinburgh, was signed by Mary's representatives in Scotland on July 6, 1560. This treaty stated that both the English and French military forces would leave Scotland, Mary and Francis would remove the English arms and signs from their heraldry, and that a new alliance between Scotland and England would be put in place, replacing the old alliance between Scotland and France while maintaining the peace between England and France. The treaty was never ratified by Mary, Queen of Scots even though she was pressed to ratify the treaty repeatedly. Mary's reasons for not wanting to ratify the treaty may have been her claim to the English throne (the treaty clearly stated that Elizabeth was the undisputed Queen of England), her view that the Protestants in Scotlands were rebels, or that she, as Queen of France, had a strong allegiance to the French. While Mary did not ratify the treaty, the French troops withdrew from Scotland.

Mary's young husband, King Francis I, died on December 5, 1560, leaving her a widow with no issue. Mary was grief stricken at the loss of her husband. Her mother in-law, Catherine de Medici, immediately became regent for Francis' younger brother, Charles IX, who was 10 years old. Mary was now no longer the Queen of France although she was still the Queen of Scotland.

Nine months after her husband's death, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving there on August 19, 1561. Scotland was a foreign land to Mary, having lived in France since she was five years old. She had no direct experience navigating the complex and dangerous political world in Scotland. She was also a devout Catholic and was regarded with suspicion by her Protestant subjects. More importantly, Mary was also regarding with great suspicion by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

Mary accepted her Protestant subjects, much to the surprise of her fellow Catholics. Her privy council consisted mainly of Protestants, with only 4 of the councillors being Catholic. The reasons for the make up of Mary's privy council may have been due to her sights on the English throne; she would have to have the support of the Protestants in order to successful be crowned Queen of England.

In her attempt to take the English throne, Mary sent her representative, William Maitland, as an ambassador to the English court to petition Queen Elizabeth to proclaim her "heir presumptive". This mission failed, Elizabeth refusing to name an heir for fear that it would incite attempts to displace her from the throne. Queen Elizabeth did tell Maitland that Mary was the person with the best claim to the English throne. In late 1561, early 1562, arrangements were made for the two queens to meet, but the meeting was cancelled by Elizabeth and the two queens would never meet in person.

After her attempt to be proclaimed Elizabeth's heir presumptive failed, Mary set her sights on finding a new husband. She turned her attention to finding a husband from European royalty. Mary's uncle, the Cardinal of Lorraine, attempted to arrange a marriage with Archduke Charles of Austria, without Mary's consent. When Mary found out what her uncle had done, she became furious and rejected the idea and the negotiations floundered. Mary herself attempted to arrange a marriage with Don Carlos, the mentally unstable heir apparent of King Phillip II of Spain. The King himself put an end to this idea and Mary was back where she started.

Queen Elizabeth attempted to intervene in Mary's marriage, suggesting a pairing between Mary and an English Protestant, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. Dudley was the brother in-law of Sir Henry Sidney, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth and who was trusted and could be controlled by Elizabeth. Elizabeth went so far as to instruct her ambassador, Thomas Randolph, to tell Mary that if she married an English nobleman, Elizabeth would proceed with the inquisition of her right and title to be the next heir. Despite the carrot that Elizabeth had carefully dangled, nothing came of the suggestion (apparently Dudley was also less than enthusiastic about the pairing). In rejecting Elizabeth's proposal, Mary took one step closer to her ultimate fate.

Mary did find a husband, but he was not a choice that was well liked either by her subjects or by Queen Elizabeth I, Mary's English born half-cousin, Henry Stuart, known as Lord Darnley. He was the son of Scottish aristocrats, the Earl and Countess of Lennox. Darnley shared a Stuart lineage to Mary Stewart (yes, the name is spelled both ways off and on!), the daughter of King James I of Scotland. Mary and Henry had met once before when he had traveled to France to express his sympathies at the loss of Francis, under instructions from his parents.

Mary and Henry met again on February 17, 1565 at Wemyss Castle in Scotland. The meeting had been arranged by Queen Elizabeth's advisors. Mary instantly fell for Henry and they married later that year on July 29 at Hollyrood Palace. Although they were both Catholics, they did not receive Papal dispensation for the marriage, a requirement since they were both cousins. 

Even though Queen Elizabeth knew about the meeting between Mary and Lord Darnley, once the couple were married the situation caused her concern as, both being descendants of Elizabeth's aunt, this solidified their claim to the English throne and put Elizabeth in jeopardy. Should Mary and Henry have children, the children would have an even greater claim on the English throne.

Elizabeth was furious with the marriage between Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley. She felt that the marriage should have received her approval first, which it had not. The Earl of Moray, Mary's Protestant half-brother, was also enraged by the coupling. The Earl, along with other Protestant Scottish Lords, joined forces in open rebellion against the marriage. Queen Mary set out to confront her half-brother and his fellow rebels. Thus began a long pursuit throughout Scotland that ultimately ended with Moray fleeing Scotland and seeking asylum in England, leaving before his rebels and Mary's troops ever met in face-to-face combat.

By the time Mary had quelled the rebellion, Lord Darnley, now the king consort, had grown arrogant and wanted more power and authority. He demanded that he be able to keep the Scottish throne for himself, should his wife predecease him. Mary refused Darnley's demands and this put a great strain on the couple's relationship. In October of 1565, Mary was pregnant with the future King James VI of Scotland. Mary's pregnancy did not quell Darnley's ambitions, and by March, 1566, he had entered into a conspiracy against Mary with a group of Protestant lords. On March 9, 1566, Darnley murdered David Rizzo, Mary's private secretary and close friend, in front of the pregnant Mary during a dinner party at Hollyrood Palace. Darnley had been jealous of Mary's relationship with Rizzo.

James VI was born on June 19, 1566 at Edinburgh Castle. He was to be the only child of Mary and Darnley, their relationship completely breaking down after the murder of David Rizzo. In October, 1566, Mary made a ride by horse taking 4 hours each way to visit the Earl of Bothwell, who had fallen ill after receiving wounds during battle. Bothwell would later be accused of murdering Lord Darnley, and this trip made by Queen Mary was later used as evidence against her.

At the end of November, 1566, Mary met with leading Scottish nobles to discuss how to deal with the "problem of Darnley". The meeting took place at Craigmiller Castle, near Edinburgh. The discussion of divorce came up, but there was no doubt that "other means" were suggested to rid the Queen of her troublesome mate. 

Darnley feared for his life, and just before Christmas, 1566, after the baptism of his son at Stirling Castle, Darnley left for his father's estates in Glasgow. It was only in late January, 1567, after prompting from his wife that Darnley returned to Edinburgh where he stayed at a house owned by a brother of Sir James Balfour, just inside the city walls. Darnley was ill and Mary visited him daily. A reconciliation seemed on the horizon for the couple. On the evening of February 9, 1567, Mary visited her husband before heading to a wedding celebration for one of her household staff. Early in the morning of February 19th, an explosion tore apart the house that Darnley was staying in, and his body was found in the garden (yard).

Rumors immediately started to circulate that Mary, along with suspected conspirators the Earl of Bothwell, the Earl of Moray, the Earl of Morton and Secretary Maitland had killed Lord Darnley. Even Queen Elizabeth wrote to Mary telling her of the rumors circulating of her involvement in the conspiracy to kill her husband. Elizabeth assured Mary that she did not believe that Mary had murdered her husband.

The Earl of Bothwell was, by the end of February, believed to be responsible for the murder of the King Consort, Lord Darnley. Darnley's father demanded that Bothwell be tried for the murder of his son, and Mary agreed. However, Mary refused his request for a delay in bringing Bothwell to trial in order to gather evidence against Bothwell. With Darnley's father not present, and lacking any evidence, Bothwell was acquitted of all charges after a 7 hour trial on April 12, 1567. A week after his acquittal, Bothwell managed to gather more than two dozen signatures of lords and bishops on a bond for him to marry Queen Mary.

Mary was to see her son, James, for the last time between April 21st and 23rd, at Stirling Castle. As she was returning to Edinburgh on April 24th, she was abducted, willingly or not, but Bothwell and his men and was taken to Dunbar Castle. On May 5th, Mary and Lord Bothwell returned to Edinburgh and the two were married on May 15th at Hollyrood during a Protestant ceremony. Bothwell had divorced his first wife, Jean Gordon (another relative of yours truly), 12 days earlier.

May originally believed that her marriage to Bothwell would be supported, but that was not the case. The relationship between Bothwell and the other nobles quickly deteriorated and the marriage between the Queen and Bothwell proved very unpopular. Catholics did not consider the marriage, or Bothwell's divorce, to be valid, and they disapproved of the Protestant ceremony. Both Catholics and Protestants alike disproved of Mary marrying the accused killer of her first husband, Lord Darnley. Mary soon became despondent about the situation. 

Queen Elizabeth, when hearing about the marriage between Mary and Bothwell, was incredulous. Elizabeth wrote a scathing letter to her cousin Mary asking how she could do such a thing as to marry the man who was suspected of killing Mary's first husband.

26 of the Scottish peers turned against Mary and Bothwell and raised an army. Mary and Bothwell, with their army, confronted the peers on Carberry Hill on June 15, 1567. There was non battle, Mary's troops having dwindled in numbers due to desertion. Bothwell was allowed to safely leave the field but Mary was taken by the peers to Edinburgh. When she arrived in Edinburgh, crowds gathered to cal her an adulteress and a murder. The following night Mary was imprisoned at Loch Levin Castle.

Mary had been pregnant at the time of her capture, and between July 20th and 23rd, she miscarried twins. On July 24, 1567, Mary was forced to abdicate her throne in favor of her son, James. Moray was then made regent to James. Bothwell was exiled from Scotland. Bothwell was eventually imprisoned in Denmark where he went insane and died. 

On May 2, 1568, with the help of George Douglas (brother of the castle's owner, Sir William Douglas), Mary managed to escape. Mary managed to raise a force of 6,000 men before meeting Moray's smaller troops on May 13th at the Battle of Langside. Mary's troops were soundly defeated by Moray's, and Mary fled south to England where she had hoped to receive protection from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I and also to receive her help in regaining her throne in Scotland.

Mary was incorrect in her assumption - or possibly her hopes - that Elizabeth would assist her. On May 18th, Mary was taken into protective custody at Carlisle Castle in England. Elizabeth, rather than immediately siding with her cousin, ordered an inquiry into the actions of the Scottish peers and into any possible involvement by Mary into Lord Darnley's murder. 

Mary was moved from Carlisle Castle to Bolton Castle, which was farther away from the Scottish border, but not too close to London, the seat of Elizabeth's power. The inquiry was held between October, 1568 and January, 1569. The inquiries took place in York, and then at Westminster (London). Back in Scotland, Mary's supporters waged civil war against Moray and his supporters.

The result of the inquiry found no guilt on either the part of Queen Mary or the Scottish Peers. During the inquiry, numerous letters purportedly written by Mary, were presented as damning evidence against her. Mary denied writing the letters and called them forgeries, and many agreed with that claim, but an equal number thought the letters were authentic. At the end of the inquiry, the Earl of Moray was allowed to return to Scotland while Mary remained captive in England. 

Elizabeth by this time considered Mary a serious threat to the English crown. She had Mary held at various castles in the interior of England, far away from Scotland, London and the coastline. Although Mary was under house arrest, she was by no means locked away in a cell in a dungeon. Mary had a staff of no fewer than 18, and each time she moved residences, it took 30 carts to move her belongings. She had a choice of meals prepared especially for her, and her rooms were comfortably and elaborately furnished. She was allowed to be outside of the residence under strict supervision, and even spent 7 summers at the spa town of Buxton. 

In the years that followed, there were numerous plots to have Mary reinstated as Queen of Scotland, as well as plots for Mary to replace Elizabeth as the Queen of England. The plots involved various countries (Spain, France, etc.) and even Pope Gregory XII. In the end, each plot was suppressed, and many were executed for their part in the plots to oust Queen Elizabeth. Things were getting so bad that the Bond of Association and the Act for the Queen's Safety were passed. These laws stated that anyone who sanctioned the killing of, or plotted against Queen Elizabeth prevented them from profiting from her murder and removed anyone from succeeding to the throne if they were involved in such a plot.

William Parry, a Welsh courtier and spy, was convicted of plotting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth in 1585. Mary did not know about this plot, but her confidant and spy, Thomas Morgan, was also implicated. 

On August 11, 1586, Mary, Queen of Scots, was arrested for her alleged involvement in the Babington Plot. The Babington Plot was a plan to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and put Mary on the throne of England. It also included a plan for Spain and France to invade and conquer England. Letters implicating Mary in the plot to kill Elizabeth were smuggled out of the manor house at Charley were she was being detained. Thinking her letters were safely encrypted, Mary clearly sanctioned Elizabeth's execution.

Mary was moved to Fotherghay Castle on September 25th, 1586. The journey took 4 days to complete. In October, 1586, Mary was put on trial for treason under the Queen's Safety Act. Mary passionately denied the charges and claimed that, as a foreigner and not an English subject, she could never be charged with treason. 

Mary was convicted of the charges on October 25th and was sentenced to death by execution. Queen Elizabeth, however, hesitated to sanction the execution of another monarch, fearing this would set a poor precedent, and that it could have severe consequences for Elizabeth herself if King James VI of Scotland decided to avenge his mother's death. 

While Elizabeth looked for a better way to handle the crisis with Mary (she has asked if it were possible that Mary's life could be "shortened"), ten members of the Privy Council decided to carry out Mary's death sentence immediately, without Elizabeth's knowledge. 

Mary was told on the evening of February 7, 1587, that she would be executed the following morning. It took 3 swings of the executioner's axe to behead Mary (the first swing missed and hit her in the back of the head; the second almost severed her head, and the third did the trick). The executioner held the Queen's head high and said "God save the Queen!" to the crowd. As he said this, the hair he was holding the head by came loose - it was a wig - and the queen's head fell to the ground.

When Queen Elizabeth received the news that Mary had been executed, she became indignant and that her orders not to part with Mary's death warrant had not been followed and that the Privy Council had acted without her authorization. She had Davison (a Privy Council member entrusted with the warrant) imprisoned in the Tower of London where he was found guilty of misprision. He was released after spending 19 months in the Tower.

So that is the abbreviated story of my cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. One can, of course, draw their own conclusion as to whether Mary was the author of her own destiny, or whether she was a pawn in other's attempts at power, glory and riches.