Mary, Queen of Scots

Beheaded by Queen Elizabeth

1542 – 1587 A.D.

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, celebrated for her beauty, her wit, her learning, and her misfortunes, was born December 8, 1542. She was the daughter of James V of Scotland by Marie of Lorraine, a French princess of the family of Guise. Her father died a few days after her birth, and on September 9, 1543, she was crowned queen of Scotland, the Earl of Arran conducting the government.

In 1548 she was affianced to Francis, Dauphin of France, son of Henry II and Catharine de’Medici, and in the same year she was brought to France to be educated at the French court. When she grew up she added to a striking and fascination personal beauty all of the accomplishments and charms which a perfect education can give.

Her marriage with the dauphin was celebrated April 24, 1558, in the Church of Notre Dame, and when Mary I of England died in the same year she had her arms quartered with those of England, and threatened to rouse the Catholics against Elizabeth’s title.

On July 10, 1559, Henry II died, and was succeeded by Francis II. Mary thus became the Queen of France, but Francis died December 5, 1560; she was childless and had little power at court, where the influence of Catharine de’Medici was now paramount. In the same year her mother died, and she then returned to Scotland.

Brought up a Roman Catholic and used to the gay life of the French court, she found the dominant Protestantism of Scotland and the austere manners of her subjects almost intolerable. Nevertheless, the first period of her reign was fairly successful; and she strove to conciliate the Protestants. The latter, however, were soon estranged by her unfortunate marriage with her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, a Catholic, who, on February 9, 1567, was blown up by gunpowder as the result of a treacherous plot he inspired. Three months after the death of her husband Mary married the Earl of Bothwell, whom public opinion accused of the Murder of Darnley.

From this time a series of misfortunes attended the queen, and a general revolutionary uprising took place. In the battle of Carberry Hill (June 15) Bothwell was defeated and fled, and Mary was confined in Lochleven Castle and compelled to abdicate. She escaped, however, and rallied a new force, but was defeated at Langside, May 13, and fled to England. Here she was immediately imprisoned – first at Carlisle, afterwards in various other places, and at last in Fotheringay Castle.

After eighteen years’ imprisonment, during which she was the center of Catholic plots, she was tried on a charge of complicity in the conspiracy of Antony Babington against the life on Elizabeth, and on October 25, 1586, a sentence of death was pronounced against her. On February 1, 1587, Elizabeth signed the warrant of execution, and on February 8, Mary, Queen of Scots, was beheaded. She insisted to the last that she was innocent of Babington’s plot.

She was buried at Perterborough, whence, in 1612, her body was removed to the chapel of Henry VII at Westminister.

At teh intimation, in her death verdict rendered by the queen’s council, that her life was an impediment to the security of the revealed religion, Mary “seemed with a certain unwonted alacrity to triumph, giving God thanks, and rejoicing in her heart that she was held to be an instrument” for the restoration of her own faith. This note of exultation as in martyrdom was maintained with unflinching courage to the last. She wrote to Elizabeth and the Duke of Guise two letters of almost matchless eloquence and pathos, admirable especially for their loyal and grateful remembrance of all her faithful servants.

That the life of Mary Stuart was not one of unmingled innocence and virtue is abundantly evident, but the exact measure of her guilt, or the exact degree of her complicity in the crimes committed for her sake and in her name, has not been made out. And still more obscure and entangled seem those ideas and passions from which such guilt sprang. There are two brilliant dramatical delineations of her character – one by Schiller and the other by Björnson – and a number of prose works relating to her history that give us varying estimates of this romantic and unhappy personage.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World published by the King-Richardson Co. in 1903.