“Scandals of Mary Stuart”

  During the Elizabethan period murder and deceit was common.  Over a thousand years of war left a tragic mark on the people Mary Stuart would someday rule.  From Mary Stuart’s life, to her scandalous husbands, and her dignified death, she never gave up the taste of freedom. 

            Mary Stuart’s depressing life began on December 8, 1542.  Her father, King James V, died six days after Mary’s birth.  That tragic incident granted Mary the honor of being named successor.  Her mother, Mary of Lorraine, was chosen as the French Regent in 1554.  When the “hot tempered and arrogant” little girl turned five her mother cast her away to a French court to be raised (Fry, Plantagenet S.  The Kings and Queens of England and Scotland, p.125).  For ten years Mary lived in the French court and was also proposed to there by Dauphin Francois, later known as King Francois II.  While she was married to Dauphin, Mary gave birth to a son who would later become King James VI.  When Dauphin died she returned to Scotland to find that rebel lords had beaten her in battle and would soon make her abdicate.  After Mary’s abdication she fled to England in search of help from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

At the French court where Mary’s mother sent her, she grew into a young woman.  At the age of sixteen, Mary was courted and wedded to the later King Francois II on April 24, 1558.  Later on that next year, Mary and Francois II became the Queen and King of France.  Mary’s powerful Guise relatives plotted against Francois II.  They tried to kidnap him and arrest his mentors.  But before anything was done the rebellion was discovered and crushed.  Mary’s reign over France lasted less than eighteen months due to the death of her husband in 1560.  After his death, she returned to Scotland to be married to Lord Darnley under Roman Catholic rites on July 29, 1565.  Henry Stewart, or Lord Darnley, was Mary’s cousin.  During her harsh marriage she fell in love with her Italian secretary, David Rizzio.  Lord Darnley found out about her secret love and brutally murdered him in front of her.  “The famous scene of Rizzio’s murder…” was at Holyrood Palace (Read, Conyers.  “Mary Stuart,” p.995).  Lord Darnley’s act against Rizzio brought on his own death in February of 1567.  He was killed in an explosion in the Kirk O’ Field household at Edinburgh Suburb.  However, his body was found stripped of clothing, stabbed to death in the back garden.  Mary was accused of the death of Darnley but nothing could be proved.  Her last husband James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell IV, was thought to have put the death warrant on Darnley’s life.  The wedding was on May 15 by Protestant rites.  The Catholic Church and Protestant nobles confronted them at Carberry Hill outside of Edinburgh.  Needless to say, James fled the confrontation.  He died on April the 14, 1578 in Denmark.  Each marriage had it’s own little conspiracy that revolved around Mary.  Even though she was accused of being involved in the conspiracies she had nothing to do with any of them.

When Mary abdicated, she fled to England in hopes of Queen Elizabeth I’s support.  However, all she found was her servants and herself imprisoned at Workington Hall.  While Mary was imprisoned she wrote a letter to Elizabeth requesting her assistance in three areas:  to help her return to Scotland, defeat her rebellious lords, and reinstate her as queen of Scotland.  Other letters she wrote to her close relatives explaining to them what happened.  “…I came to England on my cousin’s promise of assistance against my enemies and rebel subjects and was at once imprisoned…” (Jooste, Pascale.  “Cokies Free-Online.”).  Queen Elizabeth I wrote Mary back stating that she would not help her unless all charges of Darnley’s murder were cleared with an inquiry.  Against Mary’s better judgment she accepted the inquiry.  During the procedure her stepbrother, Earl of Moray, presented the court with falsified evidence to prove Mary’s involvement with Lord Darnley’s death.  This evidence is regarded as the Casket Letters.  Queen Elizabeth I dismissed the inquiry due to the fact that the only evidence brought against Mary was falsified.  However, Mary and her servants still remained in prison.  Throughout Mary’s imprisonment she was transferred to eight different castles and homesteads.  At the age of twenty-six she was confined to Tutbury Castle.  It was at this point in which her health diminished and hopes were forgotten.  Scotland was involved in many different plots against the English crown in Mary’s name.  But none of the plots were granted with her approval.  On October 15, 1586, Mary and her servants were transported to the Great Hall of Fotheringhay where she was put on trial without representation.  After ten days of prosecution the verdict was announced, guilty of plotting against the English crown.  Her death warrant was placed on Queen Elizabeth I’s desk and signed February 1, 1587.  Mary was unfairly treated because she was tried under common law although she was a queen.  Her last evening was spent with her servants writing her will.  Mary ate an early dinner and passed out to relatives and her servants whatever belongings she had.  At 2:00 A.M. Mary lay awake fully dressed for the next day’s event.  Between 8:00 and 9:00 A.M. Mary and her servants were led into the Great Hall of Fotheringhay where she faced her executioner. Her head was laced with a veil that touched the ground.  She wore a black satin dress embroidered with black velvet, her silver stockings were hidden by the black Spanish leather shoes.  Mary and her servants walked up the three steps to the stage where the execution block lay.  The commission of execution was read aloud as her servants took her overcoat and then left the stage.  Mary placed her own head on the execution block and said, “Into thy hands O Lord I commend my spirit” (Jooste, Pascale.  “Cokies Free-Online.”).  The first axe blow missed and hit the back of her head, and she whispered “Sweet Jesus” because of the pain (Jooste, Pascale.  “Cokies Free-Online.”).  Then, the second blow of the axe almost severed her head.  Next, the third blow came crashing down through the cartilage and bone.  Blood flowing freely from the fallen head.  When the executioner picked up Mary’s head the wig fell off and her head stumbled to the ground.  Her Terrier dog died beside her decapitated body.  All her relics were burned and her blood washed away.  As a cruel joke her heart and organs were buried somewhere in the castle.  Mary’s body was embalmed and incarcerated in a heavy lead coffin.  Her last resting-place was Westminster Abbey.  Some say that Queen Elisabeth I imprisoned Mary because she was a threat to the English crown, and others say it was jealously.  “Jealousy is as cruel at the grave…” (Criss, Mildred.  Mary Stuart Young Queen of Scots, p.166).

Mary Stuart was a very “woeful queen” (Fraser, Antonia.  Mary Queen of Scots, p.342).  Her life was depressing, her husbands traitors, and her death gruesome.  Through it all Mary managed to make it over the hurdles of her life and kept her faith in God.