Friday, 24 January 2014

Mary Mary Quiet Contrary....

"By day, by night, I think of him 

In wood or mead, or where I be

My heart keeps watch for one who's gone

                                                          And yet I feel he's aye to me"
                                 ~Mary Queen of Scots, written after the death of Francis II

The fascination with Mary Queen of Scots is quite lengthily. Recently, she has been featured on the CW’s “Reign” and Swiss film maker Thomas Imbach, “Mary Queen of Scots” 2013.  What makes Mary such a fascinating topic, one of legend, one of children’s rhymes?  Her life was something that was a bit of a whirlwind romance with three husbands, all ending up dead, then later her death.

Currently Mary is gracing the screen every week on Thursday nights, in Reign. Adelaide Kane portrays her grace.  The show is supposed to be a loose adaptation of Mary’s life in France and leading up to when she returns to Scotland. But where the winter finale left off, we don’t know where Mary was running off too. All we know I she ran away. The Mary on the show is a bit head strong, willful, and not exactly virtuous, as she tumbles in the hay with Francis, before being wed.  I don’t think the real Mary would have done this, or would she have been allowed to.

Mary was the only child of James V of Scotland and Mary Guise of France. She was born in 1542 at Linlithgow Palace in Scotland. Her father James V soon died, conflicting sources say in battle and one states due to nervous collapse, and or drinking contaminated water.  Dates are also unclear. Wiki states 6 days after birth and another states one year.  The Scottish lords attempted to make peace with England.  A marriage was arranged between Mary and Henry VIII’s son Edward VI. The ink was barely dry on the treaty, when religious war broke out and the Catholic opposition took Mary to Sterling Castle.   The match was broken and Scotland went back to being France’s ally.  As a very young child, Mary was moved from castle to castle partly due to safety concerns. Part of the alliance, and the blood shed in Scotland, and due to Mary being such a young age, it questioned that the Scottish lords would not respect her authority, so she was sent to France at age 5 for her safety and well being.  Interestingly, it was while in France that her name of “Stewart” changed to “Stuart” for suit the French court. (Source:

Her arrival to France did not come with out cost. She was already betrothed to Francis II the son of King Henry II, of France’s son. Surprisingly, the depiction of Queen Catherine in “Reign” is actually pretty accurate, as she and Mary did not get along and were at odds many of the time. Mary and Francis II were married at Sunday, April 24th 1558 in the Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris.  Mary was 16 and Francis was 14 and Mary was 15. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last long, as Francis died two years later from an inner ear infection that had abscessed into his brain in 1560.  Months earlier in 1559, Henry II died from injuries obtained in a jousting tournament.  Her mother, died in Scotland also in 1560.  In the short amount of time, Mary lost her father-in-law, her mother, and her husband.  It is believed that she never truly emotionally recovered.  Loosing three people very close to her in such a short amount of time was devastating, yet it’s devastating to any person.

She returned to Scotland as Queen of the Scots aged eighteen in 1561.  When she left, Scotland was still predominantly Catholic, upon her arrival home; it was now a Protestant country, as a result of the teachings from John Knox.  It was in Scotland, she met the infamous Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley
--> (Mary and Darnley were first cousins). In the upcoming film “Mary Queen of Scots” Darnley is portrayed by Aneurin Barnard (The White Queen). I am eager to see this adaptation for many reasons.  Unfortunately, Darnley’s quick rise to fame brought a short ending to his life. He became arrogant, a drunkard and quiet overbearing according to sources. It is noted that he went into a rage because he believed that Mary’s secretary, David Rizzio were having an affair, and Darnley organized a gang and during one of Mary’s private parties stabbed him over 50 times. In June 1566 her son, James was born. Her marriage with Darnley continued to tumble in to ashes. The disastrous marriage ended on February 9th 1567 when Darnley was found by Mary and one of her servants murdered, by suffocation in the garden of Kirk O'Field. 
Mary quickly married after Darnley’s death. Her last husband was James Hepburn, Earl of Boswell.  Whether the marriage was consensual or forced, as it is rumored that Boswell raped her while they were in Durham, as they were married just three months after Darnley’s death in .  They were on their way back from visiting her son, that April of 1567.   They were married in a protestant ceremony in Edinburgh in May of the same year.  It is thought that she turned to Boswell when she was having marital problems with Darnley, and suggested that he helped orchestrate his murder, and the possible explosion at Kirk O’Field. This was perhaps one of the biggest mistakes she made and eventually caused her demise.  The word got out and this angered her subjects and fellow Scottish nobles. The lords rose up against her and she surrendered to their opposition in June of 1567 at Carberry Hill, which was near Edinburgh. She was taken to Loch Leven Castle where she was imprisoned but escaped in 1568.  During her imprisonment at Loch Leven, it is believed she miscarried twins, that July of  1567.  She fled to England, asking for Elizabeth I, her cousin for help but instead was arrested. Elizabeth's distaste for Mary’s decision to marry Boswell in the first place, was quite evident in one of her letters:

“How could a worse choice be made for your honour than in such haste to marry such a subject, who besides other and notorious lacks, public fame has charged with the murder of your late husband, besides the touching of yourself also in some part, though we trust in that behalf falsely.” (Letter to Mary, Queen of Scots, 23 June 1567." Quoted by Loades, 69–70.)

Mary was imprisoned for 19 years. What happened to Boswell? I guess you could say he took off. How noble and loyal… not. Apparently, he fled via ship and sailed to Demark. He was met with a surprise and surprisingly Anna Throndsen, a Norwegian noblewoman and a former wife of Boswells, with the backing of her family, assisted in arresting him. Had King Frederick not heard that the English were looking for him as a suspect in Lord Darnley’s murder, he might have gotten away. Boswell ended up in Dragsholm Castle, which was infamous for its horrid conditions. He went mad and died April 14, 1578.

Back in England, Sir Francis Walsingham helped build the case against Mary for Elizabeth I, as she was a direct threat to the throne.  Mary being Roman Catholic didn’t help Mary.  Religious uprisings broke out around the country as many rebellions.  The focus of the rebellions where attempts to free Mary and put her on the throne. The rebellion in 1569 was a loss that over 750 rebels were executed. The tension between Catholic and Protestant England only mounted while Mary was imprisoned.

It took many years for them to have enough evidence to convict her of treason, but more than enough plots were uncovered by Walsingham The fact that Mary was Catholic and to have the assumption or risk of a possible “Catholic” queen was not a popular subject by many.  It was noted, that Elizabeth was at first hesitant to sign Mary’s death warrant.  Mary dressed as a martyr, was executed at Fotheringhay Castle, north of London, on February 8, 1587.  Sad to note, Mary was not allowed to have her a Catholic priest present at her execution.  She brought her dog with her to her execution, as the dog came out and refused to leave its mistress. She was given 24-hour notice that she would die that day.  After Mary’s beheading, it was discovered that she was wearing a wig, a surprise to many. Her clothes, the wooden block, everything that was touched by her blood, and any personal effects were later burned to prevent people from taking pieces for religious or symbolic purposes. (Source:,_Queen_of_Scots, Fraser 1994, p. 540; Guy 2004, p. 9)

Suspicions even after her death continued and do so today. It is questioned that Elizabeth didn’t really sign the death warrant, or ordered it, yet her secretary at the time Davidson, was even told not to carry out it’s orders. This is still being questioned today.

As a result of Mary’s turbulent life and the challenges and defeats she bore; she has always been quite a popular enigma to many, both in film, novel, and scholar.  She is perhaps one of the most heroic women of Tudor Scotland and England.


1 comment:

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