The old monarchy in Europe has never been shy to controversy. With rulers like Henry VIII, Richard III, and George III in a long line of scandal, it is not hard to believe the chaotic standing of their reputation. One monarch in particular, Mary Stuart, followed her predecessors’ tradition of causing gossip and disgrace. In a family extending from the British Tudor line of Henry VIII and the French House of Guise, this queen contained a fire ready to be ignited.
Mary, Queen of Scots, was an incredible figure of the monarchy in the 1500’s, whose story is one of power and political gain shown through her early years, eign and claim to English throne, scandal, and her captivity and downfall. The childhood of a royal was never a simple one, but the early life of Mary Stuart was one of immense hardship and responsibility even when compared to other noble children. Mary was born in the December of 1542, in West Lothian, Scotland (“Mary, Queen of Scots”). Even when she was a baby, she was considered very significant to the world of sovereigns.
She was especially vital when her father, King James V of Scotland, died. At six days old, Mary was already Queen of Scots. Thus, the struggle for the control over her began. There were any who sought to have the infant Mary under their control. One who specifically wanted her was King Henry VII of England, Mary’s great uncle by her father’s side (“Mary, Queen of Scots”). Henry offered for the young queen to marry his son, but his request was never granted. Instead, Mary’s mother ultimately gained control. Since Mary’s mother was French, she looked to France for a new arrangement of some sort.
Her wish was accepted, and Mary became betrothed to the French heir Francis. When Mary was five, she was sent to the French court to live with her four-year-old fiance. Mary had an abundant mount of positive characteristics as a child. In the French court, she was well-received by King Henry II, Francis’ father, who thought she was delightful (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). She was seen as beautiful and elegant, and she was educated the way a typical French princess was (Malpass). Mary used her intelligence to learn several languages, including French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and Greek.
Musically talented, she could sing, play the lute, and dance. She was also well-equipped for religious matters, as she had a Scottish priest for a tutor. Mary’s relationship with Francis, her husband-to-be, as very proper. Even though their marriage was arranged by force, they were fond of each other (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). As kids, the two of them were warm and affectionate (Malpass). They traveled to various palaces and kingdoms, enjoying one another’s company. Everywhere they went, servants went with them, tending to their every need.
From her childhood, Mary blossomed into a well-spoken young woman, but that would never prepare her for the burden that would fall upon her shoulders. In 1558, at fifteen-years-old, she married Francis (Cavendish, “Mary, Queen of Scots leaves France for Scotland”). Also, in 1558, the Queen of England died, and Henry II saw this as an opportunity (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). He wanted Mary to be the next heir to the English throne, as did so many other Catholics. Mary was a legitimate descendent from the Tudor family, being connected to Henry VIII (“Mary, Queen of Scots”).
According to Catholics, Elizabeth I, Henry VIII’s daughter and the new Queen of England, was deemed illegitimate and unfit to rule. Catholics never acknowledged Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother. Therefore, Mary had a firm right to the English throne and her cousin Elizabeth idn’t. The belief that Mary should be Queen of England would come with consequences she would regret for the rest of her life. Elizabeth was not about to lose her throne when she just ascended it (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). As long as Mary lived, she posed a threat to Elizabeth.
This was only the first act of their longstanding feud, and Elizabeth never forgot this first insult to her name. The dispute with Elizabeth was only the beginning of Mary’s misfortune. A year after marrying Francis, Henry II died (Malpass). It would seem like a joyous occasion to be crowned Queen and King of France, but for Mary and Francis, it was one disaster after another. Mary’s mother passed away shortly after Mary and Francis became king and queen (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). Only six months after that, Francis died from an ear infection.
He had been a fragile and sickly child, and his death combined with Mary’s mother shattered Mary. After losing her husband and mother, Mary had to decide what course of action to take. Ultimately, she chose to return to her homeland of Scotland with the desire of creating a better future (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). When she arrived in her country, it was divided by religion. Scotland’s religion had shifted from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism. Mary was still a Catholic, but she would not tolerate religious persecution (Cavendish, “Mary, Queen of Scots leaves France for Scotland”).
She wanted her subjects to worship God freely with no restrictions, which was a similar tactic of Elizabeth’s (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). In Scotland, Mary lived successfully with the support of the common folk. She was welcomed back as queen with open arms (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). With he assistance of her half-brother, she reigned with tolerance (Malpass). Mary tried to help the Scots in any way she could. She even helped the Protestant pastors out of poverty (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”).
She called for more harmony within her kingdom and less power to fall in the hands of the nobles. Because of this, Mary was accepted more by her citizens than the nobles (Cavendish, “Mary, Queen of Scots leaves France for Scotland”). When she wasn’t dealing with nobles, Mary played golf, croquet, and hunted (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). She also danced and ang like she did when she was younger. As a ruler, Mary’s main goal was peace. She made allies with the Protestants and befriended them (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”).
She preserved nonviolent relationships with Spain, France, and England, though her relationship with Elizabeth was still unpredictable and could teeter. Mary did well defending Scotland and keeping its interests at large. Her greatest flaw in uniting the country was seizing authority from the nobles, which made them develop hatred toward her. Despite all Mary did to anger the nobles, she had something more critical to worry about. In her time as queen, she had yet to give birth to a child (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). Being queen meant she had to provide an heir to the throne, more favorably a son over a daughter.
It was a royal woman’s chief responsibility, so Mary was rushed to find a spouse. In the end, she settled for her cousin named Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. She was captivated and entranced by Darnley and thought she had fallen in love with him (Cavendish, “Mary, Queen of Scots Marries in Edinburgh”). In July of 1565, the two were wed. Mary’s alliance with Darnley was controversial and scandalous or numerous reasons. The main reason was not that they were cousins, but that Darnley was also a descendent from the Tudor family like Mary (“Mary, Queen of Scots”).
Elizabeth detested the idea of two Tudors forming a liaison against her. It strengthened Mary’s claim and caused a deeper incision between the two queens. Mary’s marriage also ruptured her connection with her half-brother, making him turn against her. However, what first began as a relationship of fascination and obsession soon became one of horror once Mary realized the true nature of her husband. Beneath Darnley’s superficial harms, he was unstable and conceited (Cavendish, “Mary, Queen of Scots Marries in Edinburgh”).
Mary saw past him and refused to bestow him the right to co-rule Scotland equally with her (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). When Mary was six months pregnant with his child, Darnley, with an assembly of nobles, breached her chambers at the palace and stabbed her secretary to death. Darnley schemed for Mary to witness the murder with the hope that she would miscarry the baby from shock and die herself. Darnley’s intentions were to have them dead so he could be king, but he was not successful. This controversy regarding Darnley cast a ripple effect on to Marry.
Instead of Darnley being punished for his crime, the nobles punished Mary by holding her captive in her own palace (“Mary, Queen of Scots: Biography, Facts & Information”). She spent a few months of her pregnancy as a prisoner there, but she soon grew eager to escape when it was approaching the month her baby would be born. Pleading, Mary somehow managed to persuade Darnley to aid her with her escape. Three months later, Mary gave birth to a healthy baby boy named James. At age twenty-three, she was a mother. It was said to be the happiest moment of her reign.