Mary Queen of Scots abdicates
Mary Queen of Scots was a victim of circumstance. With a royal birthright comes royal responsibilities, and when you were the inspiration for war between Scotland and England - King Henry VIII marching north to begin his Rough Wooing after the collapse of the Treaty Of Greenwich - your life won’t be easy.
She was a tragic monarch. Crowned Queen at Stirling Castle when she was still a baby, her fate was effectively sealed by those in the Scottish Parliament. The Treaty Of Greenwich betrothed Mary’s hand to Henry VIII’s son Edward . With its collapse, so too went Mary. When the English King’s wrath meted death at Pinkie Cleugh and spread threat and menace throughout the country, Mary was sent to Roscoff, France.
Exiled before reaching adulthood, things would get worse. In 1560, her mother Mary of Guise, and her husband Francois both died. And after spending her formative years in France it was understandable that she would have a French outlook somewhat out of step with her people. When Mary returned to her birthplace Linlithgow there was uproar and suspicion. Sadly for Mary, she did not have the political cunning to manage the situation.
Scotland had changed. Returning to a country that was in the grip of religious turmoil, a country where men like the firebrand John Knox were demonising the Catholic faith, saw the ink dry on the final chapter on Mary’s short and tempestuous life. She was openly derided. And as a Catholic she would have few allies. This was a time when Protestants and Catholics were becoming fierce rivals, not only in the practice of their religion, but within Scottish society and politics too.
There were a number of discomfiting influences surrounding Mary. Her half-brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray was a leading Protestant. And despite Mary’s faith, she relied on his political support during a time when nobility was shunning her. On hearing the news that Mary was to wed her first cousin Lord Darnley – bad enough that he was a blood relation, more damning at the time was his religion. A Catholic marriage between Mary and Henry Stuart Darnley was greeted with anger. Moray rebelled. Mary was running out of allies. South of the border, Elizabeth I looked on with keen interest. Any children that Mary and Darnley produced would have a birthright to the English throne.
Darnley was no help either. Arrogant and sullen in marriage; he desired all the power of his wife. It was a violent, unhappy marriage. Darnley was murdered in an explosion at his home near Edinburgh . Immediately cast into suspicion, Mary was now besieged. Her husband was draining in marriage, and debilitating in his death.
Darnley’s murder was blamed on a dubious individual, James Hepburn 4th Earl of Bothwell. He was acquitted of the murder but suspicion never left him. He later married Mary, a move which led to her abdication from the throne. Although it was a Protestant ceremony, more in tune with the nation’s sensibilities, the notion of the Queen marrying the man accused of (and in all likelihood, guilty of) killing her husband caused uproar. Knox, one of her leading detractors, would have some weight behind his assertions that this Queen with a French accent was morally bankrupt.
Rebellion brought the Queen down. Scotland’s Lords took her prisoner at Carberry Hill, taking her into custody at Loch Leven. Pregnant with twins, she miscarried while under guard. And on July 24th 1567, she was removed from the throne. In King James VI , once again Scotland had an infant monarch, and Mary’s future lay in English hands. Her enemy, Elizabeth I was waiting.
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