About Mary, Queen of Scots

Who was Mary, Queen of Scots?


Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland

Mary Stuart was born December 1542 to James V, King of Scotland and Marie de Guise of France, just days after the fateful Battle of Solway Moss.  On December 14, approximately six days after her birth, James V died, making the wee infant Queen of Scotland.  Her coronation was held September 9, 1543, in the chapel of Sterling Castle.

On July 1, 1543, representatives from both England and Scotland signed the Treaty of Greenwich, which was an attempt by Henry VIII, King of England, to wed the young Scots queen to his son Edward and unify the two countries.  Mary’s mother, however, not wishing her Catholic daughter to be wed to a Protestant prince, had other plans.  She, and a council of her trusted Scottish Lords, were brokering an alliance with her home country, France, to wed her daughter to the Dauphin (crown prince) of France, Francis II.  England was not well pleased, and Henry VIII declared a war upon the nation of Scotland, a time that would later come to be known as the “Rough Wooing.”

Although Henry VIII died in January 1547, his son Edward and the young King’s advisers continued the war against Scotland.  By September 1547, England had made great advances in its invasion, culminating in the battle of Pinkey Cleugh.  The battle was a disaster for Scotland, and marked the beginning of the power shift of the Regent of Scotland from James Hamilton to Marie de Guise.  When Mary was but five years old, it became evident that her life was in danger.  Scottish Parliament, persuaded by Marie de Guise and other supporters of the Auld Alliance with France, passed a resolution in August 1547 and young Mary Stuart was soon on her way to France to begin what would be the happiest chapter of her life.  Accompanying her on her journey were four other young girls, all of an age with their queen, and all named Mary.  These “four Marie’s” would become favored companions for Mary throughout her time in France and for the rest of her life.  Mary was educated and groomed from this young age to rule an empire, but to do so from the sheltered shores of France, and under the watchful gaze of her de Guise uncles.

After a decade in France, Mary was wed to Francis on April 24, 1558, at the age of 15. Her reign as a French princess was quickly altered to that of a French queen consort, when her father-in-law, King Henri II, died in a jousting accident and Francis became King on July 10, 1559, a mere year later.  Mary’s young husband Francis was never well, suffering from headaches and fevers.  On December 5, 1560, Francis followed his father into death, less than 18 months after assuming the throne.  This sad combination of events left Mary a widow at the age of 18.  Upon her husband’s death, Mary decided to return to Scotland.  France was no longer a safe or promising home for the young queen, as the balance of power in France had shifted, and a return to the misty shores of Scotland seemed the best course to follow.  She left France nine months later, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561.

Due to spending the majority of her life being groomed to be a queen of France, Mary knew little of Scottish ways. She decided in early 1562 to embark upon several Progresses throughout Scotland to bond with her people. Due to the bloody legacy of Mary’s cousin, Mary Tudor of England, many Scottish subjects were somewhat distrusting of their young, French-raised, Catholic female monarch. Mary sought to win them over to her, both with her caring ways and her forward thinking politics. The Scottish queen took with her all aspects of her court: foreign ambassadors, noble Scottish men and women, her ladies in waiting, emissaries, infantry, and all manner of domestic help.

The year 1562 was a year in her life that, while she traveled, she was happy, before the well-known scheming nature of ambitious Scottish Lords and her future husband, Lord Darnley, served to make her life a challenge. Contrary to her Cousin Elizabeth’s politically slippery childhood, Mary never knew such intrigues and statecrafts; her legacy is that she ruled with her heart, not necessarily her head, which makes her one of the most romantic figures in history.

Now, after all that, you may be wondering – how does Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, fit into the Tudor dynasty and all those English politics? Read more here.