Mary Stuart was born December 8, 1542, the daughter of King James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise from France. She was six days old when her father died making her Queen of Scotland; she was crowned at the age of nine months.
Although Henry VIII tried to arrange a marriage between Mary and his son Edward, it did not happen. At the age of five, Mary was married to the son of Henry II of France and spent the next thirteen years in France.
She was raised Catholic at a time when Protestants were coming into power.
Mary became a widow three days short of her eighteenth birthday and returned to Scotland nine months later. As a Catholic, she was regarded with suspicion by the Protestant leaders and also Queen Elizabeth of England. The two queens were cousins, Mary’s grandmother, Margaret Tudor, being the sister of Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII.
Her second marriage to her first cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley occurred July 29, 1565 when Mary was twenty-two. Lord Darnley was also Catholic. This angered Queen Elizabeth because the marriage occurred without her consent. Because Darnley was an English subject and her cousin, her approval was considered by her to be necessary.
Mary’s only child, James Stuart, was born June 19, 1566. The marriage was a rocky one from the start. Darnley thought he should be named as king if he outlived Mary. She denied this request.
A doubt was cast as to the father of James. Some, including Darnley, thought the father was Mary’s private secretary, David Rizzio. On March 9, 1566, Darnley and a group of conspirators murdered Rizzio at a dinner party at Holyrood Palace in front of Mary who was at that time six months pregnant.
In January 1567, Mary and Darnley were staying at Kirk o’ Field abbey in Edinburgh. The evening of February 9, Mary attended a wedding at Bastian Pagez. Sometime during the night an explosion destroyed Kirk o’ Field. Darnley’s body was discovered in the garden. He had been smothered.
The person behind Darnley’s death was believed to be James Hepburn, the fourth earl of Bothwell.
In April, 1567, Mary visited James at Stirling Castle. This was the last time she visited her son. On the way back to Edinburgh, she was abducted by Bothwell and taken to Dunbar Castle where he raped her. May 16, 1567 Mary married Bothwell in a Protestant ceremony. After a confrontation with Scottish peers at Carberry Hill on June 15, Mary was imprisoned at Loch Leven Castle. There between July 20-23, she miscarried twins. She was forced to abdicate in favor of James July 24. Bothwell was exiled to Denmark where he eventually became insane and died in 1578.
Mary escaped Loch Leven and raised a small army which engaged in combat with the forces of the Earl of Moray. Mary was defeated and escaped to England where she expected Elizabeth to shelter her. Instead, Elizabeth ordered an inquiry into whether Mary was guilty of the murder of Darnley.
Several plots to gain the English throne have been attributed to Mary. In October 1586, Mary was tried for treason accused of being an accomplice in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth. She was found guilty and sentenced to death.
She was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle February 8, 1587. She was forty-five years old.
She was buried at Peterborough Cathedral in July, 1587. In 1612, her son, James, ordered her body exhumed and interred at Westminster Abbey where she rests in a chapel opposite the tomb of Elizabeth I.
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