Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots

It was during the time of the Reformation. Great Britain was Protestant, France was Catholic, and Scotland was torn between the two of them. Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots was born into a time full of religious turmoil. Early in her life she was a pawn in the battle between Protestantism and Catholicism. As time past she struggled for her independence and self-determination. Nearing the end of her life she was once again at the mercy of relatives and ultimately put to death by one of them. She is one of Scotland's most intriguing and controversial women in history.

Mary Stuart, queen of Scots was born on 8 December 1542 at Linlithgow Palace in Scotland. Her mother was Mary of Guise, a member of the powerful French family Guise. Her father was James V of Scotland, the son Margaret Tudor and the nephew of England's King Henry VIII. James V died shortly after hearing his wife had given birth to a bony daughter, rather than a son that could continue the dynasty. This made Mary the Queen of Scotland at the age of six days old.

Mary was sent to France when she was only six years old to marry Francis II, the Dauphin, in return for Frances's aid in helping the Scottish rid themselves of the English. Mary stayed in France for the next twelve years. During this time she developed into a very beautiful and sexy woman who loved to dance, ride horses, and gossip. She was tall and had thick re hair. Mary was happy in the French court where she was King Henry II and his mistress's favorite. This however made her an enemy of Catherine de'Medici, the King's wife.

Francis II loved Mary so much he allowed her to rule him as well as France after he became King in 1558. However, Mary was not destined to rule France. In 1560, Francis II died and Mary was sent back to Scotland by her mother-in-law, Catherine de'Medici.

Mary returned to Scotland to find it under the influence of the Protestant, John Knox. Though she was the Queen of Scotland, her position as the dominant figure there was not as obvious being that she was Catholic. In Scotland Mary met, fell in love with, and married Henry, Lord Darnley. She described him as "the lustiest and best-proportioned lang man" that she had ever met. They married in 1564 and soon afterwards Henry proved that his beauty was the limit of his positive characteristics. He was arrogant, politically incompetent, and fond of frequenting the taverns. Mary excluded him from all court life and their relationship was one of only marriage.

Mary soon began to grow fond of the companionship of her secretary, close friend, and Italian musician David Rizzio. Lord Darnley became jealous of him and had him assassinated right before Mary's eyes. Shortly after this horrific act in 1566, Mary gave birth to a son, James VI of Scotland, later the I of England. Mary would never forgive Lord Darnley for having Rizzio assassinated.

In 1567, Mary after a failed attempt to reconcile with Lord Darnley became attracted to one of her firm supporters, the Earl of Bothwell. The Earl of Bothwell, with the help of others, carried out a plan that caused an explosion at the Kirk of Field, south of Edinburgh's Royal Mile that killed Lord Darnley. He was discovered as the assassin, but with the help of his political connections was acquitted soon after. Mary's actual participation in the planning of the assassination is controversial. It is not known to what degree she was involved or if she even was involved. Soon after the acquittal of the accusations, the Earl of Bothwell and Mary got married. Scotland was shocked and outraged. Mary and the Earl were besieged in Borthwick Castle while on honeymoon. The marriage between Mary and the Earl of Bothwell is also controversial. There are some scholars that believe that Mary was forced into the marriage and repeatedly raped, not a willing and wanting member of the marriage.

Both Mary and the Earl of Bothwell escaped Borthwick Castle safely and raised an army of supporters. They fought a battle against the opposition at Carberry Hill. Mary was defeated and forced to abdicate on her imprisonment in Loch Leven Castle. Mary escaped prison one year later with help from her Catholic supporters. She was defeated again by the Protestant forces, this time at Langside near Glasgow. She tried to flee to France, but was blown ashore in England. There she tried to gain the protection of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

Mary was imprisoned until she could clear herself of the accusations of Lord Darnley's murder. She remained in prison for some time. After trying to escape she was put under close guard and constant watch. During her years in prison, Mary continually planned her liberation. In early 1587, Catholic supporters of Mary attempted to assassinate Elizabeth I so Mary could take her rightful seat at the throne and institute Catholicism was again. Mary's association with the plot was the last straw, Elizabeth I signed Mary's warrant for execution. Mary had been in prison for nineteen years before she was executed on the morning of 8 February 1587. She was beheaded at Fotheringay and later buried at Westminster Abbey by her son, James VI of Scotland and the I of England.

Whether Mary Stuart was the champion of women's rights in the 16th Century as her admirers claim, or the conspiring and murderous woman that her critics claim, she was one of the most interesting women of her time. Her life possessed all the qualities of a tragic hero. She was beautiful and had the world in the palm of her hand, yet it was not meant to be. She would fall from her glorious status due to circumstances that may or may not have been out of her control.

Annotated Bibliography

Abbott, Jacob. History of Mary, Queen of Scots. New York: F.M. Lupton Publishing Co., no date.
This book provides information on Mary Stuart's life from childhood to death. The information given is repetitive with most of the other sources. This is a very basic and dry account of a very interesting woman's life. The source provided the framework for this biography.

Baring, Maurice. In My End Is My Beginning. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1931.
This book is divided into four sections: 1) Mary Flemming's Narrative; 2) Mary Beton's Narrative; 3) Mary Livingstone's Narrative; and 4) Mary Seton's Narrative. The author has four fictitious characters that each tells a narrative of how they have witnessed Mary Stuart's actions. Two are for Mary Stuart and two are against her. The author openly admits in the Preface that the book is fictitious, but as close to fact as he knows. None of the characters' dialogue is based on anything besides the author's imagination. This source was useless for this biography, however it did help me form my own opinion of Mary Stuart.

Briley, Jaella. "Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. " No publishing date (21 March 1998).
This site gives a general biography of Mary Stuart. The information is repetitive of most of the other sites and sources. The site was not written by a scholar, the style and wording resembles that of a high school history student. The information given though is sound and was useable for the biography.

Brown, Keith M. "Much Ado About Nothing?" History Today 37, February 1987: 6-8.
This source gives an accurate and detailed list of the great writings about Mary Stuart that were written around the time of her death. The article describes each book and explains its impact, all of which were surprisingly small. The article was written, it seems, to explain why there was so much literature appearing on Mary, Queen of Scots in 1987. The reason it gives for this is that it was the 400th Anniversary of Mary's execution. This source was not directly beneficial to the research of this biography because it gave little historical data on Mary Stuart's life, but it did provide a vast locations of where to find that information.

Gorman, Herbert Sherman. The Scottish Queen. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1932.
This book was written in a narrative form, not the usual third person form associated with historical writing. The book told the life story of Mary Stuart from birth to death. It included many historical facts that when compared to other sources were found to be true. However, due to the style of the writing, it was hard to decide if the book was fact, fiction, or a mix of both. This makes it hard for the reader to see the historical facts for what they are. It is difficult for the reader to decide what is fact and what is the author's imagination. The information is comparable to that of the other sources.

Healey, Robert M. "John Knox's "History": A "Compleat" Sermon on Christian Duty." Church History 61, no. 3 (September 1992): 319-33.
The article's primary topic is not Mary Stuart, however it does provide a great deal of information about her. In particular, the article discusses Mary Stuart's actions against John Knox and her religious attitudes. It gives the reader a good sense of how Mary was trying to gain the people's support which, at the time of her return to Scotland, was firmly behind John Knox. This source is excellent if the reader is searching for a more in-depth look at Mary Stuart's religious and political struggles to be the dominant figure in Scotland.

Koren-Deutsch, Ilona S. "Feminist Nationalism in Scotland: Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off." Modern Drama 35 (September 1992): 424-32.
This article explains how the playwright Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off caused feminist Nationalism in Scotland to be revived. The article explains how the play came to be and how it was produced. Very few historical facts are presented in the source. Do not use this source if looking for historically based biographical data on Mary Stuart.

Lee, Sidney, ed. "Mary Stuart." Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 36, London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1893.
This source provides an in-depth examination of Mary Stuart. It covers even the smallest details of Mary Stuart's life. This source is extremely complete. This book is a good source for historical data on Mary Stuart because it was written by scholars that have published sound historical findings for many years. This is an invaluable source for any biography on Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.

MacNalty, Arthur Salusbury, Sir. Mary, Queen of Scots, Daughter of Debate. London: Christopher Johnson, 1960.
This book provides a more sympathetic view of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. Its author attempts to explain Mary Stuart's actions as negative side effects of her many debilitating ailments. The author's belief is that Mary Stuart was not a cruel, conspiring, and murderous woman, but was merely a victim of bad circumstances. The opinion of the author allows the reader to have another option to choose from on Mary Stuart's character. This source allows the researcher to realize that there is another argument for Mary's behavior.

Morrison, Nancy Brysson. Mary, Queen of Scots. New York: Vanguard Press, 1960.
The book is written by a Scots woman who tries to stay as objective as possible. This objectivity is expressed throughout the book and leaves the reader knowing that Mary Stuart was like all other humans. She was neither entirely a saint as half of Scotland preaches her to have been, nor was she entirely a conspiring and murderous woman as the other half of Scotland preaches her to have been.
The book is divided into four parts. 1) The Spring - which discusses Mary's childhood. 2) The Summer - which discusses Mary's life after returning to Scotland from France. 3) The Autumn - which discusses Mary's life after she had her son in June 1566. 4) The Winter - which discusses Mary's life from the time she escaped Loch Leven in May 1568 until her death.
The author uses a very easy to read style that welcomes the reader to continue on. The objectivity though, is this source's greatest asset. The author refuses to condemn Mary Stuart as entirely evil or to place her on a podium to be revered. He describes her as the way that she was, human.

Parry, Edward Abbott, Sir. The Persecution of Mary Stuart; the Queen's Cause. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1931.
The author's attempt to give an accurate historical analysis of Mary Stuart's life leaves the reader with serious doubts about his interpretation of the situation. The book unsuccessful attempts to convince the reader that all of contemporary historical accounts of Mary Stuart's life have been tarnished and should be read with great caution and scrutiny due to their authors' personal biases against either Mary Stuart herself, or her religious views. The book provides the reader with a detailed account of the life of Mary Stuart as what the author perceives as the truth. This source is useful for providing the reader with information so they can have a more objective view of Mary Stuart than is usually given by historical authors. This source allowed for a more objective biography, rather than the negative perception of Mary Stuart that is usually given.

Pollen, J. H. "Mary Queen of Scots: The Catholic Encylcopedia." Encyclopedia Press, Inc., 1996. (21 March 1998).
This source was more than just a general biography; it was an in-depth look at Mary Stuart's plot to take the throne of England from her cousin, Elizabeth I, and the letters she wrote prior to her execution. The information provided at this web site was somewhat repetitive on some aspects of Mary's life, but much more detailed in other areas. In particular, those mentioned above. The source's most intriguing information was not the historical data that was needed for this biography, so the source was only valuable as a verification of other sources' information.

Thomson, George Malcom. The Crime of Mary Stuart. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1967.
This book provides the reader with extremely detailed information about Mary Stuart's "crime". This book does not allow the reader to decide if Mary Stuart had anything to do with Lord Darnley's murder, its author is too busy providing evidence to convict her. A very interesting and useful source on the aspect of Mary Stuart's participation in the murder of her husband, but not too useful in attaining information about her whole life.

Unsigned Internet site. "F.A.Q." No publishing date. (16 March 1998).
This web site was quite informative. It had several misspellings that caused me to doubt the validity of its factual information, but when cross-checked with other sources it was accurate. This site is actually for tourists that are travelling to Scotland and want to see some sites that are associated with Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. However, it did contain a brief biographical history to provide some meaning to go along with the sites. It also contained a long list of sites to see while in Scotland and what each site's relation to Mary Stuart is. If you are travelling to Scotland this is a good source, but for a biography it was less than desirable.

Unsigned Internet site. "Mary Queen of Scots Born - 1542: History." No publishing date. (16 March 1998).
This web site provides a biography of Mary Stuart. It focuses most of its efforts on her childhood and marriage/murder of Lord Darnley. Its information is somewhat repetitive of the other web sites. One exception is the information given on Mary's intimate friend David Rizzio. This source was helpful to this biography in that it aided the process of narrowing down a vast amount of information into a small space.

Whyte, Ellen Maria. "Mary Queen of Scots." No publishing date. (16 March 1998).
The site provides a brief, but complete biography of Mary Stuart. It also provides a small quiz at the end of the biography so the reader can test his knowledge after reading. This source was extremely helpful in developing the biography because it narrowed down all the information given in the books to two pages of only the most important events of Mary Stuart's life.

Zweig, Stefan. Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles. New York: Garden City, 1937.
The book provides a general biography of Mary, Queen of Scots. It argues that Mary Stuart was the rightful heiress to the throne of England. The book contained a vast amount of discussions on lineage and family trees. It also goes into depth about how heirs are chosen and why Mary Stuart should have be the Queen of England as well as Scotland.



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Written by Kevin Lesoine, 1998
Last Revision: 27 March 2007
Copyright © MMVII Prof. Pavlac's Women's History Site
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