Search this site:
Mary Queen of Scots in Scotland - back home, so his is the second part of Mary's story. Go back on this link for the early life of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland at the age of 18, already widowed, following the death of the King of France. Contemporary accounts speak of her beauty: she was tall, dark-eyed and graceful. She had particular support in the staunchly Catholic Highlands. Although the new Protestant religion had by no means claimed all of the influential people in Scotland, by the time of Mary's return, the Reformer John Knox, among others, was already preaching armed resistance to any attempt by the monarch to interfere with their style of worship.
Mary fell in love with Henry, Lord Darnley, whom she described as 'the lustiest and best-proportioned lang man' that she had ever met (At over 6ft tall he was one of the few eligible men taller than her!) They were married in 1564 in the Chapel Royal at Holyrood. It didn’t work out. He soon proved to be fond of taverns and thoroughly unreliable. If he had been born today it would have been nightclubs and fast cars. Mary excluded him from court business.
He also became jealous of her secretary and close friend, an Italian musician David Riccio. As part of a wider power-plot, Riccio was murdered by Darnley and his supporting conspirators before the queen's eyes in the Palace of Holyroodhouse. A plaque markes the spot to this day.
Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to the future King James VI (I of England) at Edinburgh Castle in 1566. You can still see the date painted on the wall of Queen Mary's Apartments.
Shortly after, she gave birth to a son. (He was destined to be King James VI of Scotland, later I of England, - succeeding the childless English Queen Elizabeth. But all that came later.) Meanwhile, factions and plots among Scotland's noble families were rife at this time, in a complex political situation involving church and state. It was rumoured that Mary was to be removed from the throne and Darnley set up as regent over her child. By 1567, the year after the birth of her child, Mary had pardoned the murderers of Riccio, failed in her attempt to reconcile Darnley and had become attracted to one of her staunch supporters, the Earl of Bothwell. Then Darnley was found murdered after a mysterious explosion at the Kirk o Field, south of Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Bothwell was implicated but soon had himself acquitted of the accusations.
The Earl of Bothwell abducted Mary and took her - perhaps willingly - to Dunbar Castle. They were married shortly afterwards. Scotland was shocked and rebellion loomed. Besieged in Borthwick Castle (on honeymoon!) in Midlothian, both Bothwell and Mary escaped, the standard histories recounting that Mary disguised herself as a boy. (Maybe it’s just me, but I always imagine a Monty Pythonesque moment with the chief gunner of the besieging forces yelling out ‘Hold your fire, men, it’s a boy. Gosh, isn’t he tall for a boy?’)
They raised their supporters and their forces were eventually challenged by the opposition, an army of confederate lords, at Carberry Hill, south-east of Edinburgh. She was forced to abdicate on her imprisonment in Loch Leven Castle. (below)
Loch Leven Castle is in the centre of the picture, on an island. The little ferry-boat (right), operated by Historic Scotland, operates frequently right through the summer season.
With the help of some still-loyal supporters she escaped in disguise from her island prison after a year. (Didn’t they just love disguises?) Next, she was defeated by the Protestant forces (‘the Lords of the Congregation’) at Langside near Glasgow. She fled southwards and her last night in Scotland was spent at Dundrennan Abbey in Galloway.
She went into England, hoping for an audience with Queen Elizabeth of England. She was held captive south of the border, a pawn in the political game played around her. She was finally executed at Fotheringay 19 years later. Follow this link to find out about the early part of her life: Mary Queen of Scots in Scotland and in France.
Search this site: