Interesting Facts

Mary, Queen of Scots Home Page

  1. When Mary fled to England in 1568, Elizabeth refused to help her against the Scottish Lords using the murder of Darnley as an excuse. There was to be a trial which revolved around the casket letters. These letters, written by Mary to Bothwell, allegedly proved their involvement in the murder of Darnley. However, the original letters went missing mysteriously and the copies were evidently tampered with by the Earl of Morton who had much to gain from Mary never returning to Scotland.

  2. Mary Stuart was very fond of white and insisted on wearing that colour for her first wedding to Francis II even though white was regarded as the colour of mourning in 16th century France.

  3. After the death of Francis II, Mary customarily wore black to symbolise the loss of her husband and the loss of her French crown.

  4. Although Mary landed at Leith (Scotland) in the middle of August, she was greeted with very dense haar (sea mist). John Knox did not fail to point out that this was a bad omen. Others believe that there may have been an eclipse of the sun on that day.

  5. Mary was very tall (almost 6ft) and beautiful, unlike the contemporary portraits depict her. While captive in Lochleven, two attempts were made to rescue her but only the second succeeded. The first attempt, during which Mary disguised herself as the washer woman who came to the island to deliver the laundry, failed because the boatman taking her back to the other shore recognised her hands which were renowned for their elegance and whiteness.

  6. While at Lochleven Mary fell very ill and had a miscarriage. She lost twins who were subsequently hastily buried on the island. It is unclear when exactly she fell pregnant but the father is undoubtedly the Earl of Bothwell.

  7. Mary led a very active life and loved horse riding and dancing. She would dress up as a stable boy and escape at night into the streets of Edinburgh incognito.

  8. Mary, characterised by her Sagittarian nature, had a fiery personality. She was generous, forgiving and a sociable being. She loved the open air and animals. However, she was also criticised for acting on impulse and being tactless. She was prone to bouts of illness, thought to be ulcers and to violent fits of depression.

  9. Mary’s last words before the axe fell over her head were: "Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit".

  10. The four Maries, Mary's ladies-in-waiting were Mary Fleming, considered chief among them by reason of her mother's royal blood, Lady Fleming; Mary Seton daughter of a French woman, Marie Pieris, who herself had been maid-of-honour to Marie of Guise, and of George, 6th Lord of Seton; Mary Beaton, daughter of Robert Beaton of Creich and grand-daughter of Sir John Beaton, the hereditary keeper of Falkland Palace, and finally Mary Livingston, daughter of Mary Stuart's guardian, Lord Livingston. It was Mary Seton who never married and remained faithful to her Queen almost until the very end when Mary sent her away to retire. The name Mary derives from the Icelandic word "maer" meaning virgin or maid.

  11. Mary’s last night was spent drafting an elaborate will in which all her servants were remembered. On the day of her execution, she appeared in her customary black cloak and with a white veil over her head. She then dropped the cloak to reveal a crimson red dress.

  12. All through her life, Mary sought to meet face to face with her cousin Elizabeth I. They never met. Elizabeth attended her son James's christening by sending a representative with a baptismal font. She promised on numerous occasions to visit her while she was in prison in England but never did. She even attended her funeral by sending the Countess of Bedford as proxy. And ironically, Mary's and Elizabeth's tombs are today side by side in Westminster Abbey...separated by the nave of the chapel, held apart by the walls and carved stalls, out of each other's sight.

  13. It took three strokes of the axe to sever Mary's head from her body. To the horror of all those present, her body then started to move. It was revealed that her little terrier, Geddon, who was Mary's companion during her last years in prison, had hidden under her voluminous gown all through the execution.

  14. The crucifix, writing book, bloodstained clothes which Mary had taken with her to her execution and even the block on which she lay her head were burned in Fotheringhay Castle's courtyard. There were to be no relics.

  15. When the executioner held up Mary's severed head wrapped in a kerchief, the head that rolled away from his hand was almost bald. Mary's years in prison had seriously damaged her health and beauty. A lock of her hair can still be seen at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. The hair, probably discoloured by the passing of years, is now strawberry blonde although she had red hair during her lifetime.

  16. Mary was the first woman to practice golf in Scotland. She even caused a scandal when she was seen playing the game at St Andrews within days of her husband Darnley's murder.

  17. As Mary was waiting for her ship to depart for Scotland in 1561, a fishing boat sank before her eyes with all its crew. She exclaimed: "What a sad augury for a journey!". As the ship sailed away she kept her eyes on the French coast until it was totally out of sight repeating over and over: "Adieu France, adieu donc ma chère pense ne vous revoir jamais plus" (Farewell dear France, I believe never to see you again). Mary's sorrow was justified; she never did return to France, neither alive nor dead.

  18. The Earl of Bothwell, Mary's third husband, was tragically imprisoned in the Danish fortress of Dragsholm . Chained to a pillar half his height so that he could not stand upright, he remained there crouching in the dark and filth for ten years until he died insane and his body overgrown with hair. His mummified body was put on display in the crypt of Faarevejle church, near Dragsholm.

  19. The skull of Darnley (Mary's second husband) is now in the Royal College of Surgeons in London and bears the telltale pitted marks of Syphilis. Darnley's notorious promiscuity would have finally had the better of him had he not in fact died a little earlier during the Kirk o' Field incident.

  20. On the night of 29 January 1587, Mary's room in Fotheringhay Castle was illuminated by a great big flame three times. Mary who still had not been informed of what was to become of her, took this as an omen of her imminent death. There exists a theory that this was in fact a comet, which were in those days associated with the deaths of famous people.

  21. The path which led down to Fotheringhay was named Perryho Lane and Mary who had not been told where she was being moved to is reported to have exclaimed: "Perio, I perish!".

  22. Purple thistles still grow on the site of Mary's execution and are nicknamed Queen Mary's tears.

  23. While in Chastworth, Mary was allowed a few supervised rides in the countryside, and she was fascinated by the local caves. One group of stalactites is called Queen Mary's Pillar allegedly so named by Mary Seton.

  24. Mary was a real linguist. Apart from her native Old Scot which she learned from childhood and French in which she was educated, she also understood Latin and Greek, Spanish and Italian. Later on in life she learned English which was a different language in those days.

  25. Adultery first became a capital offence in the reign of Mary Queen of Scots although its introduction was more to do with her High Kirk Minister, John Knox than herself. For this was the time of the Protestant Reformation. The laws against adulterers were extended by her son James VI.

  26. Mary's son James VI was born with the lucky caul (a piece of amniotic sac) which, according to the superstition, guaranteed him of not meeting his death by drowning.