Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587)
Mary, Queen of Scots was born a Catholic at Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian, Scotland on 8 December 1542. She was the daughter of King James V of Scotland and his French wife Mary of Guise so was the rightful heir to the Scottish throne. When her father died shortly after her birth she became queen of Scotland even though she was just a small baby. At five years of age Mary was sent to be brought up in France with her mother's family and betrothed to the heir to the throne of France, the Dauphin. Mary spent the next thirteen years at the French court. In 1558 Mary married the Dauphin who became King Francis II a year later.
Mary returned to Scotland following the death of her husband in 1560 and married her English-born first cousin Lord Darnley who was the next heir to the throne of England after Mary as Elizabeth I was unmarried with no children. Mary's claim to the English throne was that she was the grand-daughter of Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, who married James IV of Scotland.
When Mary arrived back in Scotland she found that many Scots had become Protestants while she was in France and this made her unpopular as she was Catholic. The people of Scotland also disliked her for various other reasons such as her liking for David Rizzio while she was married. Soon after her return her son James was born and her relationship with her husband, Lord Darnley, started to deteriorate. In 1567 Darnley was suddenly murdered and suspicion fell upon the Earl of Bothwell. The fact that Mary married the Earl immediately after Darnley's death did nothing to improve her popularity with the Scots. In fact, she was suspected to have been involved with planning Darnley's killing.
The prominent Scottish nobles rebelled and Mary was imprisoned on Castle Island in Loch Leven and forced to give up the throne to her son who became James VI. In May 1568 Mary managed to escape to England hoping for protection from her cousin the English queen. This was not to be as Elizabeth I regarded Mary as a potential threat and for many years had her confined to various castles throughout England.
Queen Elizabeth I was reluctant to have Mary executed without proof that she was plotting against her. However, this changed in 1585 when Mary was suspected of plotting with Anthony Babbington to murder the English queen so Mary could take her throne. Mary was subsequently arrested and found guilty and Elizabeth finally signed the death warrant after much hesitation.
Mary, Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire on 8 February 1587. She was buried in Peterborough Cathedral but was moved to Westminster Abbey in 1612.
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