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Today in 1587: Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

  February 8, 2016 at 5:03 pm by

Today it is 429 years ago that the unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringhay Castle. Mary was the only daughter of King James V of Scotland and Marie de Guise. When her father learnt of her birth, he exclaimed, “The devil go with it! It came with a lass, it will pass with a lass!” He believed the birth of a girl marked the end of the Stuart dynasty.

Mary’s mother arranged her engagement with Dauphin François, the heir of King Henri II and 5 years old girl moved to the French court. When Henri died, her husband became King. At the age of 16 Mary was Queen of Scotland, Queen Consort of France and heir to the English Throne. But her fortunes quickly changed: her husband François II died and Mary sailed back to Scotland. For a girl, raised in French court, Scotland seemed uncivilized and wild. Moreover, she was a Catholic Queen in a Protestant country. Several rebellions took place against her, but she managed to overcome them.

Mary soon married Henry, Lord Darnley. The marriage was not a great succes; Darnley was jealous of the Queen’s friendship with her secretary Riccio. While Mary was pregnant with their first child, Darnley killed Riccio in front of Mary. Darnley’s consecutive murder is believed to be Mary’s doing, although it was never proven. Amidst these scandals Mary was forced to abdicate and was imprisoned. She managed to escape to England.

In England, her cousing Queen Elizabeth I considered Mary’s claims to the English throne a serious threat to her own reign. So 18 years of confinement followed. Mary led a comfortable life, mostly at Sheffield Castle. Elizabeth I was in a difficult situation since Mary allegedly took part in many of the plots against her cousin. The last blow came when Mary took part in the Babington Plot. Mary denied the accusations and was spirited in her defense. Nevertheless she was ultimately convicted of treason and was sentenced to beheading. Mary was not destined to become Queen of England; however her son James succeeded Elizabeth on the English Throne and thus united the English and Scottish Crowns.

Text from a 2007 TRF newsletter, here.

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