Greetings, everyone! Today, my blog topic is by special request from my friend and faithful reader, Paige. About to embark on a honeymoon trip to Scotland (fab decision), she asked if I would mind writing an article on the fascinating and controversial Mary Queen of Scots. My friend has a similar interest in history, so I am thrilled to oblige. Paige, dear, this one’s for you.
If there is one takeaway from my research on Mary Queen of Scots, it is that the relationship between Scotland and England is a complicated one. Always has been. May always be.
The story of Mary is also complicated. As with any events that took place half a millennia ago, sometimes that which separates fact from fiction is not crystal clear. I imagine there will always be scholarly debate and political and religious bias that informs individual opinions. Still, I think most people would agree upon the major points of Mary’s life. As for the finer, cloudier points, well, they are fodder for the imagination. With that said, let’s dig in.
Known also as Mary I or Mary Stuart, Mary Queen of Scots was born in 1542 at Linlithgow Palace, near Edinburgh, Scotland. She was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland. Mary’s mother was the influential Mary of Guise, and she was the great-niece of King Henry VIII of England – the king we all learned about in school who beheaded his wife, Ann Boleyn.
Mary was just six days old when she became Queen of Scotland. Because of the unique situation, the country was governed by regents until she was of age to assume her responsibilities.
With a passionate desire for Scotland and the powerful Catholic nation of France to form an alliance against England, Mary’s mother sent her young five-year-old daughter to be educated in the French court and to eventually marry the French Dauphin – Francis (the son of the French king, Henry II). Mary Queen of Scots spent thirteen years in France, learning all the things that a young woman of noble birth should know: several languages, horsemanship, falconry, needlework, poetry and prose, and music. She was educated, talented, and beautiful- and in 1558, became the bride of the young French prince (just so we’re clear, I didn’t say the Fresh Prince – ha).
Meanwhile in England………
In 1558, Elizabeth I (a Protestant and cousin to Mary Queen of Scots) ascended to the English throne after the death of her sister. Yet in the eyes of many Catholics, it was felt that Elizabeth was an illegitimate ruler and that Mary Stuart, as the senior descendent of Henry VIII’s elder sister, was the rightful queen of England. This issue of who the true and sovereign English ruler should be would mar Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship for the rest of Mary’s days.
A happily ever after was not meant for Francis and Mary. About a year after they wed, following the accidental and untimely death of his father, Francis was crowned King of France (Mary as Queen). Sadly, another year and a half after that in 1560, the young King Francis himself also passed away – from an ear infection that developed into a much more serious problem. According to an account by Francis’ father, Mary and his young son had seemed to click from the very beginning. Soul mates, perhaps.
The loss of Mary’s young husband left her grief-stricken, and the eighteen-year-old went home to Scotland to reign alone. Her return came at a time of political and religious uncertainty, with Scotland caught in the throes of the Reformation and an ever-widening Protestant-Catholic split.
I try to imagine what Mary Queen of Scots would have been like at this point in her life. Eighteen, widowed and grieving, thrust into the responsibilities and pressures of a noble position. Possibly lonely. The tender heart of a teenager caught somewhere between the child she was and the woman she was quickly becoming. One thing is for sure, though. Mary’s fascinating journey had only begun.
We’ll continue with more on the life of Mary Queen of Scots next time. See you again soon, Friends.