Mary Queen of Scots
The Life and Times of Mary Queen of Scots
Mary Queen of Scots is one of the romantic and tragic figures in the rich history of Scotland. Her life and deeds have inspired works by many writers, poets, musicians and playwright around the world. At best her reign was beset by insecurity and danger and ended in disaster. From the very moment of her birth Mary involved in controversy that would have a profound effect upon those close to her and the population of 3 nations, Scotland, England and France.
Mary has been described in many ways over the centuries her profound devotion to the Roman Catholic church is well documented and her beauty referred to constantly however many writers claim her to have been incredibly high-spirited, impulsive and, maybe due to her numerous relationships during her short life, many say she was highly sexed. The portrait, shown left (click to enlarge), Mary Queen of Scots by Francois Clouet (though not conclusively proven to be a work of Clouet's) shows her placing a wedding ring upon her finger. By deduction it is reasonable to assume that the painting was made around or just before the time of her marriage in April 1558 but before her return to Scotland in1561.
The House of Stewart
The House of Stewart began with the marriage of Margerie, daughter of Robert the Bruce, to Walter Fitalan, Known as "Walter the Steward" or, more commonly as , "Walter Steward" (his family were the Hereditary Stewards to the Kings of Scotland). The surname Steward became Stewart and then the French form, Stuart, was used. For centuries the Scottish crown was heavily contested and the subject of fierce rivalry amongst Scotland's nobles. Many kings succeeded to the throne as minors, during these times, the country was administered by Regents or Governors who wielded great power. The situation was further complicated by the continual threat of the English and later, with the growth of the Protestant movement, religion became a factor.
James V refused to oppose the Protestant Reformers but Henry VIII of neighboring England broke from Rome and seized all of the Church lands and redistributed them among his nobles. Henry openly voiced his ambitions to gain sovereignty over Scotland, there had been early attempts at uniting the English House of Tudor with the Scottish House of Stewart and Henry decided that marriage between his daughter Mary Tudor and James would be beneficial. However James married the French King's daughter, Madeleine, instead. Sadly Madeliene died not long after she had arrived in Scotland and a short time later James married Mary of Guise. The Guise Family was one of the most powerful and influential in France and Henry VIII must have been furious when he heard of the marriage between Mary and James as he had already proposed to her and been refused. Furthermore Scotland remained a Catholic nation (and even supported the French against the English).
The Birth of Mary I (Mary Queen of Scots)
In 1542 Henry, having failed to gain control of Scotland via marriage, invaded Scotland and in November the Protestant England fought Catholic Scotland fought at the Battle of Solway Moss. The Scottish forces suffered with very heavy losses with many of the Scots nobility captured. James was devastated and visited his wife at Linlithgow Palace where she was preparing for the birth of her child and the heir to the throne. James was deeply depressed and held little faith in the production of a healthy heir as Mary had already borne a son who had died young in a previous marriage and she had borne James two sons who also died in infancy. James retreated to Falkland Palace, his favourite hunting lodge, were it is said that he collapsed with a broken heart. The news that Mary, his wife, had given birth to a small girl, Mary, failed to change him and he responded to the news by saying;
"Adieu, farewell, it came with a lass, it will pass with a lass." or "It cam' wi' a lass, it'll gang wi' a lass".
James V was, of course referring to the start of the House of Stewart with Margerie and his belief that the dynasty was needed as his crown was to pass not only to a woman but a very weak baby that had little chance of survival. Even if the child survived James knew that many of the Scottish Nobles were ready to claim a right to the throne of Scotland. A week later James died.
Mary Queen of Scots Early Reign
Born into a complex world of argument and conflict a very frail Mary spent her first few months at Linlithgow Palace where she was baptised at St Michael's Church. Immediately there was much to discuss and arrange. Not only was she the Scottish Queen but, as the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, she was next in line to the throne after Henry VII's children. Whoever was appointed Regent would hold much power and have great influence however the 2nd Earl of Arran appeared to have an hereditary right to the post and was duly appointed. Many considered him weak and indecisive which would have exacerbated the young queens situation still further. Almost immediately Henry VIII had made it very clear that he believed that the infant Queen should be betrothed to his son, Edward, Prince of Wales. He gained much support in Scotland by bribing those Scottish nobles he had taken at Solway with their freedom accompanied with an English pension.
Maybe due to the weaknesses of the Regent, and the power of the supporting Scottish Nobles, Henry was able to push forward with his plans. In July 1543 the Greenwich Treaties were drawn up which related to the planned marriage and uniting of the two kingdoms. Henry insisted that Mary should be moved to England immediately, to be brought up, under his supervision, in the English Court. However the Scots insisted that Mary remain in Scotland until she was 10 years old. There was much argument and by December the agreement had been repudiated by the Scots and Henry had launched a brutal campaign against Scotland with a series of devastating attacks which led to villages and towns being razed, harvests destroyed, burial grounds desecrated and the destruction of the Border Abbeys, a period Sir Walter Scott called the "Rough Wooing".
Mary was only nine months old and was already facing the terrible danger that she was about to be carried off to England. Some believed that this would be the best option for Scotland, mainly Protestants and those bribed by Henry, whereas others, Catholics and those opposed to Henry, believed that they should call upon the "Auld Alliance" with France. The Catholics won the day by taking her to Stirling Castle where she was crowned Queen and then, after a period of movement across Scotland, she was sent to France and the French Court.
We will continue the story as soon as possible.