Mary I of Scotland

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: British History 1500-1750; Monarchs of Great Britain

Mary I
Queen of Scots
Reign December 14, 1542 – July 24, 1567
Coronation September 9, 1543
Born December 8, 1542 1:12pm LMT
Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian
Died February 8, 1587 (aged 44)
Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire
Buried Peterborough Cathedral
Westminster Abbey
Predecessor James V
Successor James VI/James I of England
Consort François II of France
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell
Royal House Stuart
Father James V
Mother Marie of Guise
Scottish Royalty-
House of Stewart

Robert II
    John, Earl of Carrick (later King Robert III)
    Robert, Duke of Albany
    Alexander, Earl of Buchan
    David, Earl of Strathearn
    Walter, Earl of Atholl
Robert III
    Prince David
    Prince James
James I
    Margaret Stewart
    Prince James
James II
    Prince James
    Alexander, Duke of Albany
    John, Earl of Mar
James III
    Prince James
    James, Duke of Ross
    John, Earl of Mar
James IV
    Prince James
    James, Earl of Moray
James V
   Princess Mary
    James, Earl of Moray
Mary I
   Prince James
James VI
    Prince Henry
   Prince Charles
Charles I
   Prince Charles
   Prince James
    Prince Henry
    Princess Mary
    Princess Henrietta
Charles II
James VII
   Princess Mary
   Princess Anne
    Prince James
Mary II
William II

Mary I (Mary Stuart, popularly known as Mary, Queen of Scots); ( December 8, 1542 – February 8, 1587) was Queen of Scots (the monarch of the Kingdom of Scotland) from December 14, 1542, to July 24, 1567. She also sat as Queen Consort of France from July 10, 1559 to December 5, 1560. Because of her tragic life, she is one of the best-known Scottish monarchs.

Heritage, birth, and coronation

During the 14th century reign of Robert II of Scotland, it had been confirmed that the Scottish Crown would only be inherited by males in the line of Robert's children—all sons—who were listed in that parliamentary act. Females and female lines could inherit only after extinction of male lines.

Mary ascended to the throne because, with the death of James V, there were no remaining direct male descendants of Robert II of unquestionably legitimate origins ( John Stewart, Duke of Albany, a direct descendant of Robert II, would probably have succeeded James V had he not died in 1536).

Mary Stuart was the first member of the royal House of Stuart to use the Gallicised spelling Stuart, rather than the earlier Stewart. (Mary adopted the French spelling Stuart during her time in France, and she and her descendants continued to use it.)

Princess Mary Stuart was born at Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland, on December 7 or December 8, 1542 to King James V of Scotland and his French wife, Marie de Guise. In Falkland Palace, Fife, her father heard of the birth and prophesied, "The devil go with it! It came with a lass, it will pass with a lass!" James truly believed that Mary's birth marked the end of the Stuarts' reign over Scotland. Instead, through Mary's son, it was the beginning of their reign over both the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England.

The six-day-old Mary became Queen of Scotland when her father died at the age of thirty, probably from cholera, although his contemporaries believed his death to have been caused by grief over the Scots' loss to the English at the Battle of Solway Moss. James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran was the next in line for the throne after Mary; he acted as regent for Mary until 1554, when he was succeeded by the Queen's mother, who continued as regent until her death in 1560.

In July 1543, when Mary was six months old, the Treaties of Greenwich promised Mary to be married to Edward, son of King Henry VIII of England in 1552, and for their heirs to inherit the Kingdoms of Scotland and England. Mary's mother was strongly opposed to the proposition, and she hid with Mary two months later in Stirling Castle, where preparations were made for Mary's coronation.

When Mary was only nine months old she was crowned Queen of Scotland in the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle on September 9, 1543. Because the Queen was an infant and the ceremony unique, Mary's coronation was the talk of Europe. Mary was dressed in heavy regal robes in miniature. A crimson velvet mantle, with a train furred with ermine, was fastened around her tiny neck. A jeweled satin gown, with long hanging sleeves, enveloped the infant, who could sit up but not walk. She was carried by Lord Livingston in solemn procession to the Chapel Royal. Inside, Lord Livingston brought Mary forward to the altar, put her gently in the throne set up there, and stood by holding her to keep her from rolling off.

Quickly, Cardinal David Beaton put the Coronation Oath to her, which Lord Livingston answered for her. The Cardinal immediately unfastened Mary's heavy robes and began anointing her with the holy oil on her back, breast, and the palms of her hands. When the chill air struck her, she began to cry. The Earl of Lennox (whose son Henry, Lord Darnley, later became Mary's 2nd husband) brought forward the Sceptre and placed it in her baby hand, and she grasped the heavy shaft. Then the Sword of State was presented by the Earl of Argyll, and the Cardinal performed the ceremony of girding the three-foot sword to the tiny body.

Then, the Earl of Arran carried the Crown. Holding it gently, Cardinal Beaton lowered it onto the child's head, where it rested on a circlet of velvet. The Cardinal steadied the crown and Lord Livingston held her body straight as the Earls of Lennox and Arran kissed her cheek in fealty, followed by the rest of the prelates and peers who knelt before her and, placing their hands on her crown, swore allegiance to her.

The "rough wooing"

The Treaties of Greenwich fell apart soon after Mary's coronation. The betrothal did not sit well with the Scots, especially since Henry VIII suspiciously tried to change the agreement so that he could possess Mary years before the marriage was to take place. He also wanted them to break their traditional alliance with France. Fearing an uprising among the people, the Scottish Parliament broke off the treaty and the engagement at the end of the year.

Henry VIII then began his "rough wooing" designed to impose the marriage to his son on Mary. This consisted of a series of raids on Scottish territory and other military actions. It lasted until June 1551, costing over half a million pounds and many lives. In May of 1544, the English Earl of Hertford (later created Duke of Somerset by Edward VI) arrived in the Firth of Forth hoping to capture the city of Edinburgh and kidnap Mary, but Marie de Guise hid her in the secret chambers of Stirling Castle.

On September 10, 1547, known as "Black Saturday", the Scots suffered a bitter defeat at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Marie de Guise, fearful for her daughter, sent her temporarily to Inchmahome Priory, and turned to the French ambassador Monsieur D'Oysel.

The French, remaining true to the Auld Alliance, came to the aid of the Scots. The new French King, Henri II, was now proposing to unite France and Scotland by marrying the little Queen to his newborn son, the Dauphin François. This seemed to Marie to be the only sensible solution to her troubles. In February 1548, hearing that the English were on their way back, Marie moved Mary to Dumbarton Castle. The English left a trail of devastation behind once more and seized the strategically located town of Haddington. By June, the much awaited French help had arrived. On July 7, the French Marriage Treaty was signed at a nunnery near Haddington.

Childhood in France

With her marriage agreement in place, five-year-old Mary was sent to France in 1548 to spend the next ten years at the French court. Henri II had offered to guard her and raise her. On August 7, 1548, the French fleet sent by Henri II sailed back to France from Dumbarton carrying the five-year-old Queen of Scotland on board. She was accompanied by her own little court consisting of two lords, two half brothers, and the "four Marys", four little girls her own age, all named Mary, and the daughters of some of the noblest families in Scotland: Beaton, Seton, Fleming, and Livingston.

Vivacious, pretty, and clever (according to contemporary accounts), Mary had a promising childhood. While in the French court, she was a favourite. She received the best available education, and at the end of her studies, she had mastered French, Latin, Greek, Spanish, and Italian in addition to her native Scots. She also learned how to play two instruments and learned prose, poetry, horsemanship, falconry, and needlework.

On April 24, 1558 she married the Dauphin François at Notre Dame de Paris. When Henri II died on July 10, 1559, Mary became Queen Consort of France; her husband became François II of France.

Claim to the English throne

Under the ordinary laws of succession, Mary was also next in line to the English throne after her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, who was childless. In the eyes of many Catholics Elizabeth was illegitimate, making Mary the true heir.

The anti-Catholic Act of Settlement was not passed until 1701, but the last will and testament of Henry VIII had excluded the Stuarts from succeeding to the English throne. Mary's troubles were still further increased by the Huguenot rising in France, called le tumulte d'Amboise ( March 6– March 17, 1560), making it impossible for the French to succour Mary's side in Scotland. The question of the succession was therefore a real one.

François died on December 5, 1560. Mary's mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici, became regent for the late king's brother Charles IX, who inherited the French throne. Under the terms of the Treaty of Edinburgh, signed by Mary's representatives on July 6, 1560 following the death of Marie of Guise, France undertook to withdraw troops from Scotland and recognise Elizabeth's right to rule England. The seventeen-year-old Mary, still in France, refused to ratify the treaty.


Mary I of Scotland's ancestors in three generations
Mary I of Scotland Father:
James V of Scotland
Paternal Grandfather:
James IV of Scotland
Paternal Great-grandfather:
James III of Scotland
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Margaret of Denmark
Paternal Grandmother:
Margaret Tudor
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Henry VII of England
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Elizabeth of York
Marie de Guise
Maternal Grandfather:
Claude, Duke of Guise
Maternal Great-grandfather:
René II, Duke of Lorraine
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Phillipa of Guelders
Maternal Grandmother:
Antoinette de Bourbon
Maternal Great-grandfather:
François, Count of Vendôme
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Marie de Luxembourg

Religious divide

Mary Stuart
Mary Stuart

Mary returned to Scotland soon after her husband's death and arrived in Leith on August 19, 1561. Despite her talents, Mary's upbringing had not given her the judgment to cope with the dangerous and complex political situation in the Scotland of the time.

Mary, being a devout Roman Catholic, was regarded with suspicion by many of her subjects as well as by Elizabeth, who was her father's cousin and the monarch of the neighbouring Protestant country. Scotland was torn between Catholic and Protestant factions, and Mary's illegitimate half-brother, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, was a leader of the Protestant faction. The Protestant reformer John Knox also preached against Mary, condemning her for hearing Mass, dancing, dressing too elaborately, and many other things, real and imagined

To the disappointment of the Catholic party, however, Mary did not hasten to take up the Catholic cause. She tolerated the newly-established Protestant ascendancy, and kept James Stewart as her chief advisor. In this, she may have had to acknowledge her lack of effective military power in the face of the Protestant Lords. She joined with James in the destruction of Scotland's leading Catholic magnate, Lord Huntly, in 1562.

Mary was also having second thoughts about the wisdom of having crossed Elizabeth, and she attempted to make up the breach by inviting Elizabeth to visit Scotland. Elizabeth refused, and the bad blood remained between them. Mary then sent William Maitland of Lethington as an ambassador to the English court to put the case for Mary as a potential heir to the throne. Elizabeth's response is said to have included the words "As for the title of my crown, for my time I think she will not attain it." However, Mary, in her own letter to her maternal uncle Francis, Duke of Guise, reports other things that Maitland told her, including Elizabeth's supposed statement that, "I for my part know none better, nor that my self would prefer to her." Elizabeth was mindful of the role Parliament would have to play in the matter.

In December 1561 arrangements were made for the two queens to meet, this time in England. The meeting had been fixed for York "or another town" in August or September 1562, but Elizabeth sent Sir Henry Sidney to cancel in July because of the Civil War in France. In 1563, Elizabeth made another attempt to neutralise Mary by suggesting she marry Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (Henry Sidney's brother-in-law), whom Elizabeth trusted and thought she could control. Dudley, being a Protestant, would have solved a double problem for Elizabeth. She sent an ambassador to tell Mary that, if she would marry someone (as yet unnamed) of Elizabeth's choosing, Elizabeth would "proceed to the inquisition of her right and title to be our next cousin and heir". This proposal was rejected.

Marriage to Darnley

At Holyrood Palace on July 29, 1565, Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, her first cousin. The union infuriated Elizabeth, who felt she should have been asked permission for the marriage to even take place, as Darnley was an English subject. Elizabeth also felt threatened by the marriage, because both Mary and Darnley were claimants to the English throne, as Darnley and Mary were descendants of Margaret Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII. Their children would inherit both parents' claims, and thus, be next in line to the English throne.

This marriage, to a leading Catholic, precipitated Mary's half-brother, the Earl of Moray, to join with other Protestant Lords in open rebellion. Mary set out for Stirling on August 26, 1565 to confront them, and returned to Edinburgh the following month to raise more troops. Moray and the rebellious lords were routed and fled into exile, the decisive military action becoming known as the Chaseabout Raid.

Before long, Mary became pregnant. Darnley became arrogant and demanded power commensurate with his courtesy title of "King", and on one occasion Darnley attacked Mary and unsuccessfully attempted to cause her to miscarry their unborn child. Darnley was jealous of Mary's friendship with her private secretary, David Rizzio, and, in March 1566 Darnley entered into a secret conspiracy with the nobles who had rebelled against Mary in the Chaseabout Raid. On March 9 a group of the lords, accompanied by Darnley, murdered Rizzio in front of Mary while the two were in conference at Holyrood Palace. Darnley changed sides again and betrayed the lords, but the murder was the catalyst for the breakdown of their marriage.

Another image of Mary, dressed in mourning white following the then recent death of her first husband.
Another image of Mary, dressed in mourning white following the then recent death of her first husband.

Following the birth of their son, James, in 1566, a plot was hatched to remove Darnley, who was already ill (possibly suffering from syphilis). He was recuperating in a house in Edinburgh where Mary visited him frequently, so that it appeared a reconciliation was in prospect. In February 1567, an explosion occurred in the house, and Darnley was found dead in the garden, apparently of strangulation. This event, which should have been Mary's salvation, only harmed her reputation. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, an adventurer who would become her third husband, was generally believed to be guilty of the assassination, and was brought before a mock trial but acquitted. Mary attempted to regain support among her Lords while Bothwell got some of them to sign the Ainslie Tavern Bond, in which they agreed to support his claims to marry Mary.

Abdication and imprisonment

On April 24 Mary visited her son at Stirling for the last time. On her way back to Edinburgh Mary was abducted, willingly or not, by Bothwell and his men and taken to Dunbar Castle where she was raped by Bothwell and became pregnant with twins, which she later miscarried while imprisoned. On May 6 they returned to Edinburgh and on May 15, at Holyrood Palace, Mary and Bothwell were married according to Protestant rites.

The Scottish nobility turned against Mary and Bothwell and raised an army against them. Mary and Bothwell confronted the Lords at Carberry Hill on June 15, but there was no battle as Mary agreed to follow the Lords on condition that they let Bothwell go. However, the Lords broke their promise, and took Mary to Edinburgh and imprisoned her in Loch Leven Castle, situated on an island in the middle of Loch Leven. Between July 18 and July 24, 1567, Mary miscarried twins. On July 24, 1567, she was also forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in favour of her one-year-old son James.

Mary in captivity, c.1578
Mary in captivity, c.1578

On May 2, 1568, Mary escaped from Loch Leven and once again managed to raise a small army. After her army's defeat at the Battle of Langside on May 13, she fled to England. When Mary entered England on May 19, she was imprisoned by Elizabeth's officers at Carlisle. During her imprisonment, she famously had the phrase En ma Fin gît mon Commencement ("In my end is my beginning") embroidered on her cloth of estate.

After some wrangling over the question of whether Mary should be tried for the murder of Darnley, Elizabeth ordered an inquiry instead of a trial, which was held in York between October 1568 and January 1569. The inquiry was politically influenced, but Elizabeth did not wish to convict Mary of murder.

Mary refused to acknowledge the power of any court to try her since she was an anointed Queen, and the man ultimately in charge of the prosecution, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, was ruling Scotland in Mary's absence. His chief motive was to keep Mary out of Scotland and her supporters under control. Mary was not permitted to see them or to speak in her own defence at the tribunal. She refused to offer a written defence unless Elizabeth would guarantee a verdict of not guilty, which Elizabeth would not do.

The inquiry hinged on the "The Casket Letters"—eight letters purportedly from Mary to Bothwell, reported by James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton to have been found in Edinburgh in a silver box engraved with an F (supposedly for Francis II), along with a number of other documents, including the Mary/Bothwell marriage certificate. The authenticity of the Casket Letters has been the source of much controversy among historians. The originals have since been lost, and the copies available in various collections do not form a complete set. Mary argued that her handwriting was not difficult to imitate, and it has frequently been suggested either that the letters are complete forgeries, that incriminating passages were inserted before the inquiry, or that the letters were written to Bothwell by some other person. Comparisons of writing style have often concluded that they were not Mary's work.

Elizabeth considered Mary's designs on the English throne to be a serious threat, and so eighteen years of confinement followed, much of it in Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor in the custody of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and his redoubtable wife Bess of Hardwick. Bothwell was imprisoned in Denmark, became insane, and died in 1578, still in prison. In 1580 Mary's confinement was transferred to Sir Amias Paulet, and she was under his care for the rest of her life.

However, in 1570, Elizabeth was persuaded by representatives of Charles IX of France to promise to help Mary regain her throne. As a pre-condition, she demanded the ratification of the Treaty of Edinburgh, something Mary would still not agree to. Nevertheless, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, continued negotiations with Mary on Elizabeth's behalf.

The Ridolfi Plot, which attempted to unite Mary and the Duke of Norfolk in marriage, caused Elizabeth to reconsider. With the queen's encouragement, Parliament introduced a bill in 1572 barring Mary from the throne. Elizabeth unexpectedly refused to give it the royal assent. The furthest she ever went was in 1584, when she introduced a document (the "Bond of Association") aimed at preventing any would-be successor from profiting from her murder. It was not legally binding, but was signed by thousands, including Mary herself.

Mary eventually became a liability that Elizabeth could no longer tolerate. Elizabeth did ask Mary's final custodian, Amias Paulet, if he would contrive some accident to remove Mary. He refused on the grounds that he would not allow such "a stain on his posterity." Mary was implicated in several plots to assassinate Elizabeth, raise the Catholic North of England, and put herself on the throne, possibly with French or Spanish help. The major plot for the political takeover was the Babington Plot, but some of Mary's supporters believed it and other plots to be either fictitious or undertaken without Mary's knowledge.

One of The London Dungeon's exhibitions is about Mary, Queen of Scots
One of The London Dungeon's exhibitions is about Mary, Queen of Scots

Trial and execution

Mary was put on trial for treason by a court of about 40 noblemen, including Catholics, after being implicated in the Babington Plot and after having allegedly sanctioned the attempted assassination of Elizabeth. Mary denied the accusation and was spirited in her defence. One of her more memorable comments from her trial was "Remember Gentlemen the Theatre of history is wider than the Realm of England". She drew attention to the fact that she was denied the opportunity of reviewing the evidence or her papers that had been removed from her, that she had been denied access to legal counsel and that she had never been an English subject and thus could not be convicted of treason. The extent to which the plot was created by Sir Francis Walsingham and the English Secret Services will always remain open to conjecture.

In a trial presided over by England's Attorney General Sir John Popham, (later Lord Chief Justice), Mary was ultimately convicted of treason, and was sentenced to beheading at Fotheringay Castle, Northamptonshire on February 8, 1587. She had spent the last hours of her life in prayer and also writing letters and her will. She expressed a request that her servants should be released. She also requested that she should be buried in France. The scaffold that was erected in the great hall was three feet tall and draped in black. It was reached by five steps and the only things on it were a disrobing stool, the block, a cushion for her to kneel on, and a bloody butcher's axe that had been previously used on animals. At her execution the executioners knelt before her and asked forgiveness. According to a contemporary account by Robert Wynkfielde, she replied that she forgave them, for "you are about to end my troubles!" . The executioners and her two servants helped removed a black outer gown, two petticoats, and her corset to reveal a deep red chemise—the liturgical colour of martyrdom in the Catholic Church. As she disrobed she smiled faintly to the executioner and said "never have I had such assistants to disrobe me, and never have I put off my clothes before such a company". She was then blindfolded and and knelt down on the cushion in front of the block. She positioned her head on the block and stretched her arms out behind her.

The execution was poorly carried out. It is said to have taken three blows to hack off her head. The first blow struck the back of her head, the next struck her shoulder and severed her subclavian artery, spewing blood in all directions. She is said to have been alive and conscious after the first two blows. The next blow took off her head, save some gristle, which was cut using the axe as a saw . Since Mary was executed with the same number of axe strikes as Essex, it has been postulated that the number was part of a ritual devised to protract the suffering of the victim.

There are several (possibly apocryphal) stories told about the execution. One which is thought to be true is that, when the executioner picked up the severed head to show it to those present, it was discovered that Mary was wearing a wig. The headsman was left holding the wig, while the late queen's head rolled on the floor . It was thought that she had tried to disguise the greying of her hair by wearing a auburn wig, the natural colour of her hair before her years of imprisonment began. She was 24 when first imprisoned by Protestants in Scotland, and she was only 44 years of age at the time of her execution. Another well-known execution story concerns a small dog owned by the queen, which is said to have been hiding among her skirts, unseen by the spectators. Because her dress and layers of clothing was so immensely regal, it would have been easy for the tiny pet to have hidden there as she slowly made her way to the scaffold. Following the beheading, the dog rushed out, terrified and covered in blood. It was taken away by her ladies-in-waiting and washed, but it did not survive the shock.

The execution of Mary Stuart drawn by a Dutch artist
The execution of Mary Stuart drawn by a Dutch artist

The government was eager to quash any attempts to obtain relics. The executioners were denied their customary right to select personal items belonging to the condemned and were paid off instead. The executioner's block and many of the items Mary had touched were burned. Her rosary beads and Prayer Book were the few items carried to her execution that can be considered to have survived.

In response to Mary's death, the Spanish Armada sailed to England to depose Elizabeth, but it lost a considerable number of ships in the Battle of Gravelines and ultimately retreated without touching English soil.

Mary's body was embalmed and left unburied at her place of execution for a year after her death. Her remains were placed in a secure lead coffin (thought to be further signs of fear of relic hunting). She was initially buried at Peterborough Cathedral in 1588, but her body was exhumed in 1612 when her son, King James I of England, ordered she be reinterred in Westminster Abbey. It remains there, along with at least 40 other descendants, in a chapel on the other side of the Abbey from the grave of her cousin Elizabeth. In the 1800s her tomb and that of Elizabeth I were opened to try to ascertain where James I was buried; he was ultimately found buried with Henry VII.

Historical legacy

Although the Casket Letters were accepted by the inquiry as genuine after a study of the handwriting, and of the information contained therein, and were generally held to be certain proof of guilt if authentic, the inquiry reached the conclusion that nothing was proven. From the start, this could have been predicted as the only conclusion that would satisfy Elizabeth. James MacKay comments that one of the stranger 'trials' in legal history ended with no finding of guilt with the result that the accusers went home to Scotland and the accused remained detained in 'protective custody'.

It is impossible now to prove the case either way. Without the Casket Letters, there would have been no case against Mary, and with hindsight it is difficult to say that any of the major parties involved considered the truth to be a priority. However, it is notable that Lady Antonia Fraser, James MacKay, and John Guy who have written well-respected biographies of Mary come to the same conclusion that they were forged. Guy has actually examined the Elizabethan transcripts of the letters rather than relying upon later printed copies. He points out that the letters are disjointed. He also draws attention to the fact that the French version of one of the letters is bad in its use of language and grammar. Mary was an educated woman who could read, write, and speak French fluently. The construction of one of the letters in French has mistakes that a woman with her understanding would not make.

Another point made by these commentators is that the Casket Letters did not appear until the Conference of York. Mary had been forced to abdicate in 1567 and held captive for the best part of a year in Scotland. No reference can be found to the letters being used as evidence against Mary during this period. There was every reason for these letters to be made public to support her imprisonment and forced abdication. The originals disappeared after the Conference of York, thus adding to the sense that the letters were probably forged.

Replica of the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots on display at the Museum of Scotland.
Replica of the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots on display at the Museum of Scotland.

Though Mary Stuart has not been canonised by the Catholic Church, many consider her a martyr, and there are relics of her. Her prayer book was long shown in France. Her apologist published, in an English journal, a sonnet which Mary was said to have composed, written with her own hand in this book. A celebrated German actress, Mrs. Hendel-Schutz, who excited admiration by her attitudes, and performed Friedrich Schiller's "Maria" with great applause in several German cities, affirmed that a cross which she wore on her neck was the very same that once belonged to the unfortunate queen.

Relics of this description have never yet been subjected to the proof of their authenticity. If there is anything which may be reasonably believed to have once been the property of the queen, it is the veil with which she covered her head on the scaffold, after the executioner had wounded the unfortunate victim in the shoulder by a false blow (whether from awkwardness or confusion is uncertain). This veil came into the possession of Sir J.C. Hippisley, who claimed to be descended from the House of Stuart on his mother's side. In 1818, he had an engraving made from it by Matteo Diottavi in Rome and gave copies to his friends. However, the eagerness with which the executioners burned her clothing and the executioners' block may mean that it will never be possible to be certain.

The veil is embroidered with gold spangles by (as is said) the queen's own hand, in regular rows crossing each other, so as to form small squares, and edged with a gold border, to which another border has been subsequently joined, in which the following words are embroidered in letters of gold:

"Velum Serenissimæ Mariæ, Scotiæ et Galliæ Reginæ Martyris, quo induebatur dum ab Heretica ad mortem iniustissimam condemnata fuit. Anno Sal. MDLXXXVI. a nobilissima matrona Anglicana diu conservatum et tandem, donationis ergo Deo, Societati Jesu consecratum."
Mary's personal breviary, which she took with her to the scaffold, is preserved in the Russian National Library of St. Petersburg.
Mary's personal breviary, which she took with her to the scaffold, is preserved in the Russian National Library of St. Petersburg.

On the plate there is an inscription, with a double certificate of its authenticity, which states, that this veil, a family treasure of the expelled house of Stuart, was finally in possession of the last branch of that family, Henry Benedict Stuart, the Cardinal of York, who preserved it for many years in his private chapel, among the most precious relics, and at his death bequeathed it to Sir John Hippisley, together with a valuable Plutarch, a Codex with painted (illuminated) letters, and a gold coin struck in Scotland during Mary's reign.

The plate was specially consecrated by Pope Pius VII in his palace on the Quirinal, April 29, 1818. Hippisley, during a former residence at Rome, had been very intimate with the cardinal of York, and was instrumental in obtaining for him, when he with the other cardinals emigrated to Venice in 1798, a pension of £4,000 a year from King George IV of the United Kingdom, then Prince of Wales. But for the pension, the fugitive cardinal, whose revenues were all seized by the forces of the French Revolution, would have been exposed to the greatest distress.

The cardinal desired to requite this service by the bequest of what he considered so valuable. According to a note on the plate, the veil is eighty-nine English inches long, and forty-three broad, so that it seems to have been rather a kind of shawl or scarf than a veil. Melville in his Memoirs, which Schiller had read, speaks of a handkerchief belonging to the queen, which she gave away before her death, and Schiller founds upon this anecdote the well-known words of the farewell scene, addressed to Hannah Kennedy.

"Accept this handkerchief! with my own hand
For thee I've work'd it in my hours of sadness
And interwoven with my scalding tears:
With this thou'lt bind my eyes."

Privy Council of Mary, Queen of Scots, 1561

(appointed September 6, 1561 following Mary's return to Scotland from France)

  • Lord James Stewart, (later Earl of Moray)
  • William Maitland of Lethington - Secretary of State
  • James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell
  • George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly
  • James Hamilton, Duc de Châtellerault, 2nd Earl of Arran
  • Archibald Campbell, 5th Earl of Argyll
  • James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton
  • John Stewart, 4th Earl of Atholl
  • Alexander Cunningham, 4th Earl of Glencairn
  • George Hay, 7th Earl of Erroll
  • William Graham, 2nd Earl of Montrose
  • William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal
  • John Erskine, 6th Lord Erskine, (later Earl of Mar)
  • Robert Richardson - Lord High Treasurer
  • James MacGill of Nether Rankeillour - Lord Clerk Register
  • Sir John Bellenden of Auchinoul - Lord Justice Clerk

In popular culture


  • The two classic film biographies of Mary (neither of them so faithful to history as to get in the way of the story) are the 1936 Mary of Scotland starring Katharine Hepburn and Fredric March and the 1971 Mary, Queen of Scots starring Vanessa Redgrave and Nigel Davenport.


  • In the BBC TV production Elizabeth R, Mary was played by Vivian Pickles. This is considered by some to be the most historically accurate portrayal of Mary during her captivity in England.
  • In the ITV miniseries, Elizabeth I, the first two-hour segment partly centers around the conflict between Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Mary is portrayed by actress Barbara Flynn.
  • In the 2004 BBC mini-series Gunpowder, Treason & Plot , Mary was played by Clémence Poésy.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus episode 22 featured a skit involving a "BBC radio drama series" titled "Death of Mary, Queen of Scots". The radio program consists of a knock on the door, Mary opening it and being asked (by a man with a thick Scottish accent) "You are Mary, Queen of Scots?"; she replies "I am", followed immediately by the sounds of her being violently killed (featuring anachronistic sounds such as gunshots). The series as presented in the skit consisted of two episodes; at the start of episode 2, after the usual violent noise, everything goes silent, prompting one of the assassins to say, "Ah think she's died", to which Mary counters "No, I'm not", followed immediately again by yet more sounds of violence.
  • In a 1976 episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show entitled "The Seminar", the character Mary Richards receives a phone call from then- First Lady Betty Ford. Believing the call to be a prank, Mary sarcastically greets Mrs. Ford with, "Hi, Betty. This is Mary... Queen of Scots".


  • Mary also inspired the opera Maria Stuarda by Donizetti and the play Maria Stuart by Friedrich Schiller (a production of which opened in London's West End in 2005). The film Mary of Scotland is based on the hit Broadway play by Maxwell Anderson.
  • Sarah Miles portrayed Mary Queen of Scots on Broadway and the West End in the play Vivat! Vivat! Regina! (1971) written by her husband Robert Bolt
  • Martha Graham choreographed and directed the modern dance titled "Episodes" (1985) that premiered at Lincoln Centre, New York, the dance featured Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I resolving their dynastic issues over a game of tennis.
  • Janet McTeer starred in the revival of the Schiller play Mary Stuart at the Apollo Theatre, London in 2005.


In Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky's 20 sonnets to Mary Stuart (in Russian) the poet addresses her as an interlocutor.


  • Mary's story has been the subject of a number of novels, including: Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles: A Novel by Margaret George; Royal Road to Fotheringhay: The Story of Mary, Queen of Scots by Jean Plaidy; Fatal Majesty (2000) by Reay Tannahill. Mary features importantly in The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, and in La Princesse de Clèves, set during her younger years in France.
  • In children's literature, novels on Mary, Queen of Scots include: Queen's Own Fool: A Novel of Mary Queen of Scots by Jane Yolen, The Lady of Fire and Tears by Terry Deary, and from the Royal Diaries series from Scholastic, Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country, France, 1553 by Kathryn Lasky.


  • American progressive metal band Dream Theatre uses a variation of the mark of Mary, Queen of Scots, as their trademark "Majesty" symbol.
  • The song " Sad Song" by Lou Reed, featured in the 1973 album Berlin, references Mary in its initial verses.
Staring at my picture book
She looks like Mary, Queen of Scots
She seemed very regal to me
Just goes to show how wrong you can be
  • The song " To France" by Mike Oldfield, featured in the 1984 album Discovery, references Mary in its chorus.
Never going to get to France.
Mary, Queen of Chance, will they find you?
Never going to get to France.
Could a new romance ever bind you?
  • The song "Fotheringay" by The Fairport Convention, featured in the 1969 album What We Did on Our Holidays, is the story of Mary's last days in the prison of Fotheringhay Castle.
Her days of precious freedom, forfeited long before
To live such fruitless years behind a guarded door
But those days will last no more
Tomorrow, at this hour, she will be far away
Much farther than these islands, for the lonely Fotheringay
  • The song " The Ballad of Mary" (Queen of Scots) by Grave Digger is about her time in prison.


  • Singer Tori Amos portrayed Mary Queen of Scots for a photo shoot in late makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin's book Face Forward ( ISBN 0-316-28705-9).

Historical biography and analysis

  • Mary Queen of Scots(2006) by Retha Warnicke, ISBN 0-415-29183-6
  • Queen of Scots by Rosalind K. Marshall, ISBN 1-873644-95-7
  • Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser, ISBN 0-385-31129-X
  • "Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Babington conspiracy", by David Alan Johnson, Military Heritage, August 2005, no. 1, Volume 7, ISSN 1524-8666
  • "Mary Queen of Scots and the French Connection", History Today, 54, 7 (July 2004), pp. 37-43, by Alexander Wilkinson
  • Elizabeth and Mary by Jane Dunn
  • Queen of Scots : the true life of Mary Stuart (London, 2004) by John Guy, ISBN 0618254110
  • Mary Queen of Scots and French Public Opinion, 1542-1600 (Palgrave, 2005) by Alexander Wilkinson, ISBN 1-4039-2039-7 (hdbk)
  • Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure (London, 1988) by Jenny Wormald, ISBN 0-540-01131-2
  • Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Darnley by Alison Weir
  • The "Rough Wooings": Mary, Queen of Scots 1542-1551 (East Linton 2000) Marcus Merriman, ISBN 1-86232-090-X

Popular fiction and drama

  • Mary, Queen of Scots by Sally Stepanek (young adult fiction)
  • Mary Stuart, a play by Friedrich Schiller
  • Wallenstein and Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller
  • Mary of Scotland, a play by Maxwell Anderson
  • The Queen's Own Fool by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris
  • Immortal Queen by Elizabeth Byrd
  • Shadow Queen, a supernatural novel by Tony Gibbs
  • The Marchman; Warden of the Queen's March; The Queen's Grace by Nigel Tranter
  • Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George
  • Court of Shadows by Cynthia Morgan, a suspense novel
  • Fatal Majesty by Reay Tannahill
  • Mary, Queen of Scots: A Queen without a country by Kathryn Lasky
  • Many plays and films on Elizabeth I (eg Elizabeth I) also feature Mary
  • Gunpowder, Treason & Plot Television Mini series (2004) depicting the turbulent reigns of Scottish monarchs Mary, Queen of Scots and her son King James VI of Scotland who became King James I of England and foiled the Gunpowder Plot. Directed by Gillies MacKinnon.

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