Mary I of Scotland

Portrait by François Clouet (c. 1558–1560). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Johanna Strong

Mary Queen of Scots was born on December 8, 1542, at Linlithgow Palace to James V of Scotland and Marie de Guise. Less than a week later, James V died and Mary became queen regnant of Scotland.

Portrait miniature of Mary Queen of Scots, Nicholas Hilliard (1578-79). Image Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

After the ‘Rough Wooing’ and failed marriage negotiations with England, Mary was betrothed to the French Dauphin François – the future François II – and spent her childhood in France, learning Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, and some Greek, as well as hunting and dancing. Mary and François married on April 24, 1558, and Mary was queen consort of France from 1559 until François’ death in 1560, at which point she returned to Scotland.

Portrait of Mary, queen of Scots (c. 1580). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

In July 1565, she married Henry, Lord Darnley, and in June 1566 they celebrated the birth of their son James VI/I. This unstable marriage ended with Darnley’s death in mysterious circumstances on February 10, 1567. Mary then married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, to the disapproval of her Lords, who imprisoned her. She was deposed on July 24, 1567, in favour of her son.

Portrait of Mary, queen of Scots. Image Credit:

In May 1568, Mary escaped confinement and gathered an army to regain her throne, but she was defeated. After fleeing to England, the Protestant Elizabeth imprisoned the Catholic Mary, largely due to Mary’s political and religious threat to England. During her imprisonment, Mary embroidered now-famous pieces full of political symbolism.

She became embroiled in a variety of plots against Elizabeth and, caught in traps set by Elizabeth’s councillors, was found guilty of treason. After 20 years of imprisonment, Mary was executed on February 8, 1587, at the age of 44. She was originally buried at Peterborough Cathedral, but was later reburied in the Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey.

Recommended Reading

John Guy, My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (London: HarperPerennial, 2004)

“Mary Queen of Scots”, Westminster Abbey.  (photos of Mary’s tomb and effigy are copyright to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster)

“Mary Queen of Scots at Carlisle Castle”, English Heritage.

“The Prison Embroideries of Mary, Queen of Scots”, The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Kate Williams, Rival Queens: The Betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots (London: Hutchinson, 2018).

%d bloggers like this: