Mary Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542-1587

The best known of Scotland’s royals, Mary was Queen from the time she was six days old, when her father, King James V, died. She was known for her beauty and grace, and her imposing figure (she stood almost six-feet tall) with red-gold hair and amber eyes—the ideal Renaissance princess. She was a romantic and tragic figure who was widowed at just 18 years old. Her arch rival, Queen Elizabeth, deemed her “the daughter of debate.” Although she was eventually beheaded for treason, deemed a Catholic threat to the British throne, she reigned with a policy of religious tolerance. Many historians feel she was a victim of circumstance, and doomed from the beginning, while others feel it was her unwise romantic choices and dangerous liaisons that led to her downfall, claiming she ruled from the heart and not from the head. 

Mary was an only child and her mother was French. She was sent to France at age five to be raised in a life of luxury, hunting and dancing (both of which she excelled at) in the court of King Henry II and Catherine de Medici. French became her first language, but she also knew Latin, Italian, Spanish and Greek. 16-year-old Mary ascended to the French throne, earning the title “la plus parfaite,” or the most perfect. The glittering Queen consort of France, she married the young Dauphin, Francis, in a strategic Catholic alliance against Protestant England. Upon his premature death, she returned to Scotland, a beautiful young widow. 

From here, her life becomes Shakespearean, with unhappy marriages, seduction and adultery, and perhaps even murder as her second husband was killed when his Edinburgh lodging exploded. But the marriage had produced an heir, James, which is what Mary wanted. She would then take up with the man accused of the crime, raising suspicions further. Next up was a marriage to the Earl of Boswell. The Lords of Congregation did not approve of the union and she was imprisoned in Leven Castle where she gave birth to still-born twins.

When her husband disappeared to Denmark, Mary, unwisely, sought refuge in England with her cousin Queen Elizabeth. An assassination plot to bring about a Catholic uprising was uncovered, and Mary became the scapegoat. Elizabeth would have her imprisoned for the next 18 years, where her health declined and her beauty faded. She passed the time doing embroidery, at which she excelled.

Accused of treason, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed in 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle, near Peterborough; she was 44 years old. Her motto was prescient, predicting her lasting legacy, as she was known to say “In my end, shall be my beginning.”



No items found.