(Beginning of Speech)
Once upon a time there was a girl who became queen at just one week old. She grew up determined to rule as queen and unfortunately became involved in a life of conspiracy, murder, and war. These events eventually led her to imprisonment, by her own kinsmen for 19 years. She was eventually executed. She had been convicted of having played a role in a plot of assassination.
I'd like to tell you that this is just a fairy-tale with an unhappy ending. However this was reality for Mary Queen of Scots. In this speech today I would like to examine the life of Mary and why she was a significant woman in Scotland as well as England's history.
Transition: Now to examine her life a little more closely.
Mary Stuart was born to James V, King of Scotland, and his second wife Mary of Guise. She was born in Linlithgow in December 1542. Mary's father died six days after her birth, and she became queen of Scotland at just a week old. In turn, Mary's mother became her regent and sent her to France in 1548. Scotland's pro-English and pro-French plotted to gain control of little Mary so at the time this was a wise move to send her away. Mary was educated and raised with a Catholic religion in France. In 1558 she was married to the Dauphin, who succeeded the French throne as Francis II. In 1560 he died and Mary ruled France for one year. In 1561, at age 18, it was time for Mary to return to Scotland to rule.
Transition: Mary was now educated and old enough to make decisions on her own. She decided to return to her country and live as queen.
Mary was considered a foreigner in her own country having been brought up in the French court since the age of five. Scotland had just recently converted to Protestantism. When Mary returned she found a Protestant government waiting for her. She allowed the Reformed (Presbyterian) church endowment, but not full establishment. The Protestants were scared because of Mary's lack of devotion to their cause. Mary was a Catholic, which of course caused differed between her people and herself. She never imposed her religion on her people. Her policy was to live in harmony with her people, their religion, and their Lords. Many different warring factions represented by the Lords divided Scotland. To make matters worse Mary was negotiating a Catholic marriage with Phillip II of Scotland. Protestants saw the marriage as unacceptable, and raised a rebellion. Mary quickly suppressed it. Mary felt betrayed by this and withdrew some support from the Reformed Church. Things were no doubt rough for Mary.
Transition: These times for Mary were very trying and without some help she wouldn't have emerged a sane woman.
Soon Mary married Lord Darnley. Eventually their marriage went sour, and she refused him the right to succeed the throne should she not produce heirs. Mary found friendship in David Rizzio her Italian secretary. She often looked to him for comfort and advice. With this the Lords suspected Rizzio of being in connection with the Pope. On March 9, 1566 a group of Protestant Lords, with the support of Darnley, murdered Rizzio in the presence of the Queen. She was six months pregnant at the time and in a highly emotional state. She gave birth to son James on June 19, 1566. In Mary's time of woe she became a good friend with the Earl of Bothwell (James Hepburn). During this time Darnley fell sick. The sick house where Darnley resided went up in flames. However Darnley was found strangled not too far from the house. Bothwell was accused of having played part in the murder of Darnley but was later acquitted. In April, Mary went off with Bothwell. Early in May he obtained a divorce from his wife and on May 1567 the two were wed according to Protestant rite. These actions of Mary aggravated some of Mary's closest supporters. The nobles who disliked Bothwell banded together to face Mary and Bothwell at Carberry Hill. She was able to lead and army against them, and though it was equal in number to the confederate army, it was visibly inferior in discipline. On June 15, 1567, Mary's forces were defeated and she was forced to surrender herself to the confederate lords. Bothwell fled. Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven Castle. On July 24, 1567 she was forced to abdicate her son, who became King James VI of Scotland. At Lochleven Mary fell ill and had a miscarriage. She lost twins whom were Bothwell's children. Brave friends helped Mary escape and Mary rallied a large army behind her. Once again Mary and Confederate Lords engaged in battle at Langside on May 13, 1568. Confederate Lords defeated Mary and her army.
Transition: Mary's own country was no longer safe, so she looked for sanctuary in England, among her kinsmen and ancestors.
Mary fled her defeat and went to her cousin Queen Elizabeth for support in 1568. Mary was the great granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII Queen Elizabeth's father. Mary and Elizabeth had never met before, but their exchanges had always been pleasant. Mary saw Elizabeth as a kinswoman, a queen and a woman. However England and its court was cautious in accepting Mary seeing her as a potential threat to overtake the throne. Mary only made claims that her son James VI should take the throne should Elizabeth die without heir. Mary wrote Elizabeth from Carlisle Castle, requesting that she could help her in regaining the throne of Scotland.
Elizabeth responded that she could not receive Mary in London until she had cleared her name of the accusations against her in the Darnley murder. On July 15, Mary was moved to Bolton Castle in Yorkshire. An inquiry was held at York, and Mary's treacherous half brother the Earl of Moray, produced evidence of falsified casket letters between Bothwell and Mary. Mary's half brother wanted to take the Scottish throne for himself.
There was a conference at Westminster and Mary wasn't allowed to even attend in her defense or to examine the letters. The whole thing was dismissed but Mary wasn't released- Mary was a foreign queen and shouldn't have been tried under the laws of England, but of course this was all ignored. Mary was anxious to continue with Elizabeth to seek help in returning to Scotland. Mary thought it would please Elizabeth if she were to marry one of Elizabeth's subjects. Her first candidate was the Duke of Norfolk. Although they never met courtship took place by correspondence and gifts. Elizabeth was enraged and condemned the marriage. She saw the marriage as plotting against her and locked Mary up in the Tower of London. From there Mary was sent to Tutbury. In November there was a Catholic uprising, Mary was transferred to Coventry away from the rebels. This was the beginning of several plots against the English Protestant crown carried out in Mary's name, but without her permission or approval. In May 1570, Elizabeth had started the process of restoring Mary to the Scottish throne but was dragging her feet as much as possible. Mary had suggested to her son that she and her son should rule jointly, however he ignored her plea. He preferred an alliance with Elizabeth, which would leave him sole ruler of Scotland. Out
of fear of other plots to assassinate Elizabeth, the English Parliament passed an Act making it punishable by death to plot against the queen. At this point Mary was constantly being switched from prison to prison. Soon the English court didn't allow Mary any contact with the outside world. In 1586, with the connivance of a brewer, he devised a method by which Mary could resume her secret correspondence with the French ambassador, Babington, by means of coded messages hidden inside a barrel. Mary had been Queen of France and her Guise uncles were still powerful and wanting nothing more than to overthrow the influence of her mother-in-law, Catherine of Medici. Unfortunately, one of Babington's letters mentioned the ambiguous removal of Queen Elizabeth. Prompted by bitter disappointment of those long years of illegal imprisonment and her son's betrayal, she replied to Babington approving his plans. With enjoyment, Babington drew the sign of the gallows on this last letter. Babington was arrested and executed. Mary's secretaries Nau and Curle who had been in charge of the coding of the messages were also arrested and confessed. Mary was arrested and sent to Tixall. On September 25, 1586 Mary and her servants were moved to the Great Hall of Fotheringhay. On October 15, 1586, she was tried without
representation. Many at the trial were stunned that Mary was so calm and dignified at her trial. Mary gave a speech and spoke about why she considered the trial to be illegal. On October 25, a verdict of guilty was reached, thus far Elizabeth had managed to escape some embarrassment and danger of sentencing death to her equal, but now had to face the Act. Queen Elizabeth signed Mary's death warrant on February 1 1587.
Transition: There was no hope left and Mary was going to be executed, however she kept faith in her final hour.
A poem Mary wrote best describes her state of mind at this point:
"O Lord and my God, I have trusted in Thee. O my dear Jesus, now liberate
me. In shackle and chain, in torture and pain, I long for Thee. In weakness
and sighing, in keeping and crying, I adore and implore Thee to liberate
me." Mary Queen of Scots, Wednesday, February 8th 1587.
Mary knew her end was near, and looked to God to free her of her worries and troubles.
Mary was refused the services of a Catholic priest and was offered a Protestant Dean, she declined. She was then left alone to spend her last
evening with her depleted group of servants. Mary demanded an early supper and appeared serene amidst her servants' tears. The next day Mary entered
the Great Hall in a black satin dress, embroidered with black velvet, set with black buttons of jet trimmed with purple. On her head she wore a white
lace edged veil flowing down her back to the ground. She had on stockings that were edged with silver in her Spanish leather shoes. Her garters were
green silk and her petticoat of crimson was velvet. She held a crucifix and prayer book in her hand and two rosaries hung down form her waist; around
her neck was her pomander chain and Angus Dei. Mary was now stripped to her red petticoat with a red satin bodice trimmed with a lace and a red pair of
sleeves. Red, the color of martyrdom, which symbolizes one who suffers and dies for his beliefs, in the Catholic Church. The executioners as
customary, asked for her pardon to which she replied: " I forgive you with all my heart, for now I hope you shall make
an on end all of my troubles." Mary's last words before the first stroke of the axe were " Into thy hands O
Lord I commend my spirit." The first blow missed the neck and cut into the head, Mary was heard to whisper "Sweet Jesus." The second blow almost
severed the head. The third blow completely cut through the remaining sinew. As the executioner held up Mary's head the wig fell off and the head
fell to the floor. Revealing Mary's hair was entirely gray from her imprisonment. To the witnesses' horror the body of Mary started to move, it
turns out Mary's sky terrier had managed to hide under his mistresses' skirts and would not leave her side. He was eventually washed but refused to eat
thereafter. Purple thistles still grow on the site of Mary's execution and are nicknamed Queen Mary's Tears.
Transition: So this was Mary's life full of beauty, war, imprisonment and her ability to forgive, that's why her life was so significant, but what did her life represent?
Mary was a symbol. She stood up for what she believed in and had led a life of grace, war, deceit, and in with all the paranoia around her she still held together, even with everyone falling around her. Mary was also different as far as Royalty goes, her personality was much
more innocent and happy than that of the other dignitaries in which she was constantly surrounded. Mary was renowned for her elegance. She led an active life and loved horse riding and dancing. She had a fiery personality; she loved animals and the open air. She was one of the only women to take up golf. So for Mary to be imprisoned for that length of time it took a toll on her appearance but never her spirit. She was criticized for acting on impulse and being tactless. So she was different and didn't fit in and unfortunately that wasn't acceptable in those times. I leave you with two final quotations one from Anon and Robert Southwell.
This first quote wraps up why Mary was so misunderstood:
"Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You
may have a heart of gold -- but so does a hard-boiled egg." Anon
And finally I found this last quote is a poem on a web-site for Mary and it shows the meaning in Mary Queen of Scots' life.
"Rue not in my death, rejoice in my repose It was no death to me but to my
woe; The bud was opened to let out the rose, The chain was loosed to let
the captive go." Robert Southwell