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Sunday, December 14, 2014

BIRTH | Dec. 8–Mary ("Queen of Scots") Stuart

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587)
On this day in 1542 was born Mary Queen of Scots in Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian, Scotland. She was the daughter of James V of Scotland and his second wife, Mary of Guise. The Catholic Guise family, from Lorraine, was influential at court in Paris. Mary's father died when she was only 6 days old, at which point she was crowned Mary, Queen of Scots.

Henry VIII of England, her great-uncle, saw an opportunity to try to bring Scotland and England closer together. He formally suggested betrothal of Mary to his son Edward and followed up with a six-year campaign.

As a preemptive strike against the suggestion, Mary's mother negotiated a deal with her family in France, Scotland's old ally. From the age of five, Mary Stuart grew up in France, in the court of Henry II, a Catholic.

Mary received a good education in France - in music, dancing, and horsemanship, and in classical and modern languages. At 16 she married Henry's eldest son, Francis, who was 14 and entitled to rule. His father died in an accident and Francis became king in 1559. Six months later, Mary's Protestant cousin once removed, Elizabeth, became Queen. Mary was second in line.

Francis II, never healthy, died, widowing Mary at 18. She returned to Scotland to rule in 1561, but it was now a different country, largely converted to Protestantism. Although Mary showed great religious tolerance and was beautiful and talented, she was viewed as a foreigner in Scotland. Elizabeth meanwhile feared Mary had designs on the English crown.

In 1565 Mary married her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and they had a son, James. However, Henry drank too much and was unpopular, so he was murdered in 1567. Mary married the chief suspect, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, after being abducted. Bothwell was exiled by Scottish nobles, and Mary was deposed in favor of James.

In 1568, Mary foolishly left Scotland to seek the help of Elizabeth I, who saw her opportunity and promptly put Mary in prison for the murder of Darnley. In 1587, Elizabeth was informed of a  Catholic plot to assassinate her. She decided that Mary's existence was unhealthy for her, and had her tried for treason and executed on February 8, 1587.

Mary's son James did not object to the beheading of his mother and was rewarded for his filial indifference in due course by becoming James VI of Scotland (1567) and then succeeding Elizabeth in 1603 as James I of England, the first of the Stuart kings, uniting the the thrones of England and Scotland and becoming the first king of the United Kingdom.

However, his son Charles did not fare so well. He became king in 1625 when his father James I of England died. He fought for the divine right of kings to rule in the face of Oliver Cromwell's Roundhead Parliament. Charles I became the first English king ever executed by Parliament, in 1649; also the last (apparently the message was received at Buckingham Palace). But that's another story.