Promoting the life and times of Mary, Queen of Scots

Return to Scotland

Mary, conscious of the requirement to produce an heir, did seek alternative diplomatic marriages but was persuaded by her half brother Lord James Stewart to return to Scotland which she did arriving at Leith on 19th. August 1561.

Mary arrived earlier than expected and there was no welcoming party. Moreover an east coast haar enveloped the harbour as she landed, leading John Knox later to write “that all the heavens mourned”

During her absence in France a Protestant Reformation had been effected in Scotland. Mary had been brought up and reared as a Catholic (and perhaps sought to die as a Catholic martyr) leading at the very least to a somewhat fraught stand-off.

Mary however immediately declared that she would not seek in any way to try to effect a reversion to Catholicism provided she and her Court were able to worship in accordance with their own beliefs. Even such a toleration was not initially acceptable to many of her subjects and the arrangement was effected after the intervention of her half brother Lord James Stewart.

Initially Mary worked with her half brother and the early years of her reign can perhaps generally be viewed as successful.

She embarked on a number of ‘Progresses’ or journeys throughout the realm basically to make herself known to the people and to impress Royal authority.

One of these progresses though was to the North East of Scotland to suppress the power of the Earl of Huntly. Battle was engaged at Corrachie in Aberdeenshire resulting in the death of Huntly (falling from his horse with apoplexy) and the triumph of her half-brother, James Stewart whom she created Earl of Moray. The reasons for this campaign have been much debated as Huntly was the natural leader of the Catholic faction in the country and should perhaps have been her strongest ally.

The matter of dynastic succession loomed large. Various potential partners were suggested; Queen Elizabeth of England even suggesting the Earl of Dudley whom Mary contemptuously dismissed as “her stable boy”

Mary eventually decided to marry Henry, Lord Darnley who was the grandson of Margaret Tudor (sister of Henry VIII of England) by her second marriage. Margaret Tudor, wife of James IV was also Mary’s grandmother. The marriage accordingly greatly increased Mary’s claim to the English throne in the event of Elizabeth’s death and for this reason was much opposed by Elizabeth – although initially it appears she may have been in favour. The two were married in Mary’s private chapel in Holyrood on 29th. July 1565.

The marriage was also opposed by many of the Protestant Lords particularly her half brother the Earl of Moray who rose in rebellion. Mary, with Darnley at her side, took to arms and there developed what became known as “The Chaseabout Raid” – the rebels however avoided battle and eventually fled to England.

The marriage to Darnley however very soon ran into difficulties, probably largely over Darnley’s claim to be granted the Crown Matrimonial i.e. to be joint ruler with Mary.

Darnley then seems to have been persuaded that his wife was preferring the company of one, David Riccio, an Italian whom Mary had appointed as her personal Secretary and on 9th. March 1566 when Mary was in an advanced state of pregnancy Darnley and a number of other conspirators burst into her chamber at Holyrood House as she was holding a supper party and murdered Riccio in her presence.

In the whole circumstances Mary kept a very level head, managed to effect some sort of reconciliation with Darnley and with the help of the Earl of Bothwell escape from Holyrood to Dunbar. She was then able to return to Edinburgh and the conspirators fled.

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Conflicts and Abdication>>

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