- Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587)
The daughter of King James V> and his second wife, Mary of Guise, was born at Linlithgow Palace> on 8 December 1542. James had been wounded at the defeat of the Scots army at the Battle of Solway Moss on November 24 1542 and he died six days after the birth of his daughter.
Mary was crowned at Stirling Castle> on 9 September 1543. Under the guardianship of the 2nd Earl of Arran, the infant Mary was betrothed to the son of King Henry VIII> of England. However, a pro-Fench and Catholic faction led by Mary's mother, Mary of Guise, gained the ascendancy and the agreement was overturned. King Henry VIII sent an army into Scotland to enforce the marriage in what became known as the "Rough Wooing".
Mary was sent for safety to France (with her mother, Mary of Guise and her four childhood friends - the "Four Marys">) where she married the Dauphin, the heir to the French crown, in 1558. She became Queen of France and Scotland in 1559 but her husband, King Francis II, died in 1560.
Mary returned to Scotland despite the Protestant faith gaining the ascendancy. Mary was by now the heir presumptive of England, following the death of Henry VIII and the accession of Queen Elizabeth I>. During Mary's reign she was attacked for her Catholic beliefs by the Protestant religious reformer John Knox>.
Despite other potential marriages (including the Roman Catholic heir to the Spanish throne) she married her first cousin, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, after a whirlwind courtship, in July 1565. Darnley was a worthless, arrogant man who alienated many of the Scottish nobles. He was also a member of the group which murdered David Rizzio, Mary's secretary, in Holyrood Palace in 1566, in the presence of Mary. The future James VI> was born a few months later.
Darnley was murdered in 1567 and the Earl of Bothwell was accused - but acquitted - of the crime. A few months later Mary and Bothwell were married. Scandalised nobles imprisoned Mary in Loch Leven Castle> and she was forced to abdicate in favour of her son, James VI. Mary escaped from Loch Leven in May 1568 but was defeated at the Battle of Langside on 13 May.
She escaped to England but was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I who saw her as a threat to her throne. A focus for Catholic plots, some of which were aimed at making Mary the Queen of England, she was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle on 18 February 1587.
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