Who is Mary Queen of Scots? Everything you need to know about his short reign and his death

She is Scotland’s most famous queen and has appeared in everything from theater to movies to Ru Paul’s Drag Race, but what do you really know about Mary Queen of Scots?

Known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, she left a lasting impression on the country she ruled, even though her short reign was filled with wars, turmoil and ultimately tragedy.

Today, December 8th, marks her birthday and what better way to celebrate than to learn more about Scotland’s most interesting queen.

The only surviving child of King James V, she spent much of her youth in France and was imprisoned later in her life by her cousin Queen Elizabeth I who considered her a rival to her crown.

From becoming Queen of Scots at the age of six days to her untimely death at the hands of Elizabeth, here’s everything you need to know about Mary Queen of Scots.

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Early life

Born December 8, 1542, in Linlithgow Palace, Mary was only six days old when her father James V died.

Too young to rule, she instead spent much of her childhood in France, arriving there in 1548, with others taking over Scotland in her place.

This was due to the lingering rivalry between Scotland and England, with Mary originally intended to be married to the son of English King Henry VIII, Prince Edward, but after the Scottish court ruled that was not would not happen, it led to a series of aggressive measures on the part of England. , which would become known as “Rough Wooing”.

After the Scots were defeated at the Battle of Pinkie, it was decided that she should instead marry the Dauphin, the young French prince, to cement an alliance between France and Scotland against England.

However, after the death of the teenage Dauphin, the newly widowed Mary returned to Scotland and arrived at Leith in Edinburgh in 1561.


Due to the fact that she was a woman seeking to return to rule in Scotland, the Royal Court quickly sought to marry her.

After falling for their half-cousin Henry, Lord Darnley, the couple soon married at Holyrood Palace.

However, due to both being Catholic and a growing religious division with Protestants at the time, the marriage did not go well with many Scottish lords.

Following a notable uprising known as the Chaseabout Raid, in which several members of the Protestant nobility led by the Earl of Moray failed in an attempt to overthrow Mary, things between Mary and Lord Darnley became tense .

Not content with his position as consort king, he pushed to become Mary’s equal in a standing position, but was refused by Mary.

In a fit of rage and jealousy, he plotted to assassinate Mary’s secretary and close confidant David Rizzio in front of his pregnant wife soon after at Holyrood House.

The strength of her reign was further strained after she baptized her son, the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England, a Catholic at Stirling Castle.

A portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots

Darnley’s death

After Rizzio’s murder their marriage began to fall apart, Lord Darnley was finally killed under mysterious circumstances with his home in Edinburgh destroyed by an explosion and Darnley’s body was later discovered in the garden.

Strangely, it seemed like he had succumbed to the suffocation rather than the explosion itself.

Second marriage

Incredibly, one of the people accused of her murder later became the next to marry Mary. James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, was due to stand trial for Darnley’s murder before the trial failed.

Already having a close relationship with the Queen, Bothwell conspired to marry her.

The marriage itself was deeply troubled by Protestant Bothwell angering Catholic nobility and many others were shocked as Mary married the man accused of murdering her first husband.

This led to her being imprisoned in Leven Castle by those who were angry with her marriage, it was here that she miscarried the twins she had conceived with Bothwell.

Bothwell instead fled and later died in Denmark.

Escape and Battle of Langside

After the owner of the castle took pity on the queen, she managed to escape and gathered a small army of followers to her side.

From there, she marched south to Glasgow, where she clashed with the Earl of Moray, suffering defeat at the hands of the much smaller Protestant force.


Seeking refuge with her cousin, the English Queen Elizabeth I, Mary fled to England while her supporters continued to fight on her behalf in Scotland.

Hoping that Elizabeth would help her restore her to the throne, Mary pleaded for her help.

Instead, Mary was moved from the English Castle to the English Castle, owned by Elizabeth for 19 years.

A number of plots involving the Scottish Queen ultimately led Elizabeth to believe that her cousin intended to assassinate her and replace her.

In 1587 she was taken to Fotheringhay Castle where she was executed by beheading. In a macabre spectacle, the executioner took two swings to remove his head.

After lifting it by the hair, the executioner then found himself holding only a wig as the head fell to the ground.

After death

The tomb and the white marble effigy of Mary, Queen of Scots
The tomb and the white marble effigy of Mary, Queen of Scots

Initially buried in Peterborough Cathedral, when his son James united the crowns of England and Scotland in 1603, he began making efforts to move her to a more honorable resting place.

In 1612 he ordered his body to be exhumed and reburied at Westminster Abbey.

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