Claimed to be queen of Scotland, Ireland,
England, and France
by Rit Nosotro
First Published:: 2003
“In my end is my beginning,”- Queen Mary’s motto
Laying her head on the block, Mary waited for the axe. In France, the beautiful Scot had been known as queen, as well as in her homeland. After the death of Queen Mary Tudor of England, she had claimed the British throne and Ireland, and her Catholic views made her feared by Protestants. Even though Mary Stuart had a kind heart and beautiful features, she lacked the governmental skills to rule successfully while Europe was in religious and political struggles. When Mary escaped from her Scottish enemies, she had no choice but to place her trust in her cousin, Elizabeth I, who imprisoned her for nineteen years and in the end signed Mary’s death warrant.
Born at Linlithgow Palace on December 8, 1542, Mary Stewart became queen at the tender age of six. Although an engagement was created between the son of Henry VIII of England and the Scottish queen, the Catholics opposed the plan since the English were Protestants. Deciding to risk the anger of Henry Tudor, the Scottish betrothed Mary to the Dauphin of France. Before sending her off, it is said that the government changed the princess’s surname to go well with French spelling, for it became Stuart.
In 1558, Mary Stuart married the Dauphin of France in a glorious ceremony. Mary I of England passed away, and King Henry II of France encouraged his daughter-in-law to assume the English throne. Since her cousin, Elizabeth Tudor, was the next heir and a Protestant, many Catholics believed Mary had the truer right to obtain the crown of England. The king of France died the same year, and Mary and her husband became the rulers of the French, but her husband sadly died from an ear infection several months afterwards.
Catherine de Medici, the Queen Widow, did not appreciate Mary in France, so the young widow returned to her homeland. When she was joyfully welcomed in her homeland in 1561, the Queen knew well of the tug-a-war between the Protestants and the Catholics. Having heard of the bloody and religious reign of Elizabeth’s sister, the Scottish queen believed that her subjects had the right to believe God the way they pleased, and this idea made her popular with the commoners. Although she held no treaty with France or Spain, Mary kept great friendship with them.
Being still a threat in taking over the English throne, the Scottish
queen, and Elizabeth I were always at odds, even though they never met.
Surprisingly, Mary’s first major problem came not from this cousin,
but from another. Knowing full well she needed to produce an heir, the
queen of Scots married her cousin: The deceptive Lord Henry Stuart. Although
he showed himself as a courteous and pleasant man whilst he courted the
Queen, he turned out to be vain, arrogant, and even had a hot temper.
Stuart made several mistakes during their marriage, but his major one was the murder of the Queen’s secretary, David Rizzio. During supper, the second husband and several lords hurled accusations at the man. Even though Mary defended him, the secretary was dragged out and stabbed numerous times. Some believe that these men tried to commit two murders at the same time, because the Queen was pregnant and the unborn child could have died from the shock the mother received from the attack.
Queen Mary’s husband became more and more irresponsible and selfish. Sadly, the birth of Prince James, who would become King James I and VI, did not heal their marriage. Even though Mary had thought of a divorce, she did not risk it, because of complications it could bring for her son’s right to the throne. When Lord Henry became sick in Glasgow, the Scottish monarch travelled to his bedside with their only child. He resided in Kirk O’ Field while she lived in Holyrood House, which was across the city.
What happened to plan the murder that took place at 2 am on February
9, 1563, no one seems to know. After Mary left Kirk O’ Field, the
residence was blown up with gunpowder, and the next morning Lord Henry
Stuart’s body was found beside a pear tree. Weirdly enough, it is
stated that his corpse had evidence of strangulation. Mary’s third
husband, Bothwell, and Mary herself have been accused of the murder.
Bothwell was a close friend of the Queen, and four years after the murderous explosion, he abducted her with 800 men, claiming there was danger where she was heading. Having agreed to accompany him, the monarch, and her escorts, journeyed to his castle of Dunbar. They arrived at midnight. On May 15 1567 she married him at Holyrood after having created him a duke. Although this marriage seemed forced, a lord wrote to England that it was believed otherwise.
Unsurprisingly, this marriage divided the country in two different opinions, and in the end the opposing sides met in battle at Canberry Hill, barely a month after the wedding. Mary abandoned her husband and surrendered herself to the warring lords to avoid bloodshed. While Bothwell fled to Denmark (where he was captured and used for political gain), the bastard half-brother of Mary became regent and stole her son from her, and even made her abdicate. Feeling as trouble always fell upon her in Scotland; Mary set sail for England in 1568. This mistake would cost her life.
Undeterred by the thought that Elizabeth I would think of her as an enemy, the ex-Queen of France and Scotland soon arrived in Workington, Cumbria. Having not yet decided on what to do with her Catholic cousin, the English queen kept Mary heavily guarded in Northern England. Nearly nineteen years of freedom were taken from the beautiful Scot, and she spent them in one prison after another. During that time, Elizabeth had men making sure her cousin was not plotting against her.
Francis Walsingham, who was a Principal Secretary to Queen Elizabeth, became determined to find evidence against the royal cousin. Letters from France or Spain came frequently to the imprisoned Scot, and Francis captured Gilbert Gifford, who was a spy and took the mail to Mary. Secretly, Gifford gave the letters to Walsingham, who copied them down to figure out any encryption within the letters. In this way a devious plan that Mary and fourteen other conspirators created was found out, and even evidence of a Spanish Armada coming to attack England came to light.
Throughout the two-day trial, Mary defended herself courageously and admirably. When accused of her plots she admitted wanting to escape, but also said, ‘I have not procured or encouraged any hurt against Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.’ Who could blame her if she had? These two queens had never met, yet her cousin had detested her for her Catholic views, even though she had behaved exactly like Elizabeth Tudor by allowing her subjects to worship God as they pleased.
A number of documents argue that Elizabeth did not want to sign the death-sentence, but rather she did or not, Mary was beheaded on the morning of February 8, 1587. Dressed in black satin and velvet, the Scot sent a message to her son that claimed she had done nothing to compromise their proud country. Before the executioner chopped off her head, she prayed aloud for the Church, her son, and most surprisingly for the Queen, her cousin. She prayed that Elizabeth would serve God in the years to follow, and then she laid her head on the block. It took two ax swings.
‘In my end is my beginning,’ is true for so many people have
become fascinated with Mary Stuart’s depressing life, and her legacy
lives on today. Movies, plays, and novels have been made about her life
and execution. While she lived, Mary did her best to produce peace instead
of religious wars, even though the female had not many political skills.
Philip of Spain did send an Armada against the English, but his enemies
defeated his ships. When Elizabeth I died, Mary’s son became King
James I of England and King James VI of Scotland.
1. Mary first married:
a. Charles of Dunbar
b. King Henry VIII’s son
c. King Henry II’s son
2. Mary’s husbands died from:
a. Poison, an explosion, an infection
b. A heart attack, a beheading, the black death
c. An infection, strangulation, a normal death
d. His ear, his heart, his lungs
3. Lord Henry Stuart was found dead beside…
a. A pear tree
b. A farm house
c. A litter of kittens
d. A cottage
4. Mary’s son became King…
a. James VII of England
b. James IV of Scotland
c. James VI of Ireland
d. James III of Austria
1. Good Queen Bess: The Story of Elizabeth I of England, by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema