Coronation of Mary, Queen of Scots
- September 9th 1543 -
We often think that today’s politics is a shady and underhand business, with self-interest at its heart. Tudor/Stuart England was far worse. The story of Mary starts as far back as Henry VII. To build up alliances Henry Tudor (VII) used marriages very successfully. He united his eldest son, Arthur, with Catherine of Aragon and after Arthur died young, swiftly signed up his other son, Henry, to take his place rather than slur the Spanish Royal Family. As well as this he married his daughter, Margaret, to the King of Scotland, James IV. And thus our story begins!
James IV was defeated by Henry VIII in 1513 at the Battle of Flodden and died in the process. The son of Margaret and James IV, became King James V with Margaret acting as regent. James V later married the daughter of the Duke of Guise, also called Mary and had a daughter, born on December 8th 1542 – and they called her … Mary – later to be known as Mary, Queen of Scots.
James V’s army was then defeated by the English at Solway Moss in December 1542 and although he was not present at the battle, retreated to Falkland Castle, where he became ill with fever. News of his daughter’s birth depressed him further – he had been hoping for a son to succeed him – and he died six days later on December 14th. Thus Mary became Queen of Scotland at the age of just six days.
Mary of Guise ruled for her at this stage and Henry VIII saw a chance of gaining control of Scotland. On July 1st 1543 the Treaty of Greenwich was proposed stating that Henry VIII’s young son, Edward, who was just six months old, should marry Mary. The Scottish Parliament rejected this. As a result, Henry started a military campaign to force the issue. This has become known as the ‘Rough Wooing’ – a most romantic term!
Mary was crowned Queen on September 9th at Stirling Castle. For the next five years she is toured around Scotland for her own safety. Henry VIII died in January 1547 and was replaced by his son, Edward VI. Edward was just nine years old and the Kingdom was looked after by the Duke of Somerset who continued the attacks on Scotland. At the Battle of Pinkie in September 1547 10,000 Scots were killed and Mary was moved to Inchmahome Priory, near Stirling, for safety. When the English started to get close again, burning Dunbar Castle, near Edinburgh, she was moved again to Dumbarton Castle. The English, getting closer, sieged Haddington.
The French saw their chance and Henry II, The French King, proposed a marriage between his heir, the Dauphin, Francis, and Mary in exchange for help against the English. This would unite the two countries as well as provide protection for Scotland. The Scottish Parliament agreed, the French helped the Scots regain Haddington and the Scottish Parliament agreed to the union of their Queen with the Dauphin, Francis.
By August 13th 1548 Mary had reached Roscoff and for the next ten years grew up in the Catholic Court. Within two years Mary of Guise was back as regent in Scotland. Mary then married Francis in 1558 and in 1559 became King and Queen of France. Mary had been brought up as a Catholic but Scotland had largely been converted to Protestantism by John Knox. A year later, 1560, Mary’s husband, Francis, died as did her mother and she returned to Scotland where she ruled with the help of her half-brother, the Earl of Moray. She ruled efficiently and married her English born, first cousin, Lord Darnley, Henry Stuart, in 1565.
Although handsome he wasn’t wholly suited to the role of a Queen’s husband. Darnley grew increasingly keen to take on more and more of the role of a ‘King’ and grew jealous of the relationship of Mary and her secretary, David Rizzio, who, it was rumoured, was the father of their child. Darnley had Rizzio murdered in front of a pregnant Mary at Holyrood Palace.
The marriage of Mary and Darnley had caused a breakdown in her relationship with the Earl of Moray. The murder of Rizzio now put the marriage of Mary and Darnley under too much pressure. Mary gave birth to James on June 19th 1566 and visited the powerful Earl of Bothwell in the borders. No doubt a discussion took place about what to do with Darnley, who was developing a power base of his own. It was felt that divorce was out of the question.
It seemed that a reconciliation might take place and in January 1567 both Mary and Darnley attended the wedding of a member of the royal household at Kirk O’ Fields. After Mary had left a large explosion took place but Darnley escaped. He was then found the next morning dead in the garden, apparently smothered. Many fell under suspicion – as did the Earl of Bothwell. The latter is generally felt to have orchestrated the plot.
In April 1567, after visiting her son at Stirling, Mary was captured and imprisoned by Lord Bothwell. Whether she was taken willingly or not is open to interpretation but she was taken to Dunbar Castle. What is stranger is that on May 6th both Mary and Bothwell returned to Edinburgh and a week later married at Holyrood in a Protestant ceremony.
By June events had turned against the pair and the Scottish nobles rebelled. The Earl of Moray defeated the pair at Carberry Hill. Bothwell was allowed to go but Mary was taken as prisoner to Loch Leven. Here she was forced to abdicate in favour of her son, James. Moray acted as regent. Bothwell was exiled and went to Denmark where he died, supposedly after going mad.
Mary managed to escape from the castle with the help of the owner and escaped to England where she hoped that Elizabeth would help her regain the throne. Although they never met Elizabeth was very wary of this new royal visitor as Mary was still heir to the English throne. Many Catholics welcomed the opportunity to put her there. Although under house arrest from 1568 a number of plots against Elizabeth, with Mary’s accession at their heart, were uncovered and put down – The Revolt of the Northern Earls (1569), the Ridolfi Plot (1572), the Throckmorton Plot (1583) and the final straw - the Babington Plot in 1586 where a trap was laid for her by Thomas Walsingham, Elizabeth’s secretary. A letter, supposedly from Mary, agreed to the murder of Elizabeth. This was proof that treachery had taken place and pressure was put on Elizabeth to order the execution of Mary. She was very reluctant to do so as this would be executing a Queen, her cousin, the heir to the English throne and the Catholic figurehead for the Spanish who are still determined to launch a Catholic crusade on England and rid the country of the ‘scourge’ of Protestantism.
However, on February 1st Elizabeth signed the death warrant and a week later Mary was executed at Fotheringay Castle between 9 and 10am. A few months later the Spanish sent an Armada to England but were defeated. Elizabeth would live until 1603, but die childless. The next monarch – the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, James VI of Scotland or James I of England as he now was, the first Stuart King of England.