More on James' mother, Mary Queen of Scots


More on James' mother, Mary Queen of Scots:

Mary's background

  • Henry VIII's sister Margaret had married King James IV of Scotland (which was a separate kingdom from England at that time); their son was James V of Scotland

  • James V married a Frenchwoman, Marie of Guise; there had long been a close political alliance between Scotland and France

  • In 1542, as James lay dying, his wife gave birth to James' daughter and heir, Mary, who therefore became Queen of Scotland when she was a tiny infant. (She is usually known as Mary Queen of Scots, and should not be confused with Mary Tudor - daughter of Henry VIII - who was her second cousin.)

  • In 1548, as a child of six, Mary was sent over to the court of France where she was betrothed to Francis, the heir of the King of France. They were married in 1558 when she was sixteen, and soon afterwards Francis' father died; Mary was Queen of both France and Scotland

  • By the time she was eighteen, Mary's French husband had died, and she returned to Scotland as an eighteen-year-old widow.

Mary Queen of ScotsThe French court was firmly Catholic but, during the years Mary had been in France, Protestant Reformers had gained power in Scotland, and they broke off the ‘old alliance' with France.

Mary came back to a land she had left as a small child. She now spoke with a French accent and had a different religious faith from that of most of her court. However, she acted prudently, accepting the advice of her ministers that, while she herself would attend mass, the Reformed or Protestant religion should be officially recognised.

Mary and Darnley

  • In 1565, Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, a young man who had a claim to both the English and Scottish thrones. He was also a Catholic

  • In 1566, Mary gave birth to their son James (later to be James VI of Scotland)

  • However, by this time Mary was clearly disgusted by her husband, who had been responsible for the murder of a musician, Riccio, a favourite of Mary's. Shortly after this Darnley was killed in an explosion at his house

  • Five months later Mary married James Bothwell, a man widely suspected of being implicated in Darnley's murder

  • Opponents of Mary used this action to condemn her and to rise up against her. She was arrested and forced to abdicate in favour of her baby son, who now became James VI of Scotland and was brought up as a Protestant.

Mary in England

Mary rallied supporters and fled across the border to England, where she hoped her cousin Queen Elizabeth would help her. But Elizabeth was a Protestant monarch while Mary was Catholic, and Elizabeth was only too well aware that Catholics in England could see Mary as a preferable monarch; so Elizabeth had Mary held under house arrest for the next nineteen years.

Events proved that Elizabeth was right to suspect that Mary would be implicated in Catholic plots against her. Eventually, in 1587, Elizabeth signed the order for Mary's execution. Her son James now became a clear candidate to be heir to the throne of England when Elizabeth died – which is exactly what happened in 1603, when James VI of Scotland became James I of England as well.

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