Mary, Queen of Scots: the six-day-old queen

Engraving of Mary, Queen of Scots
Engraving from 1885 featuring Mary Queen Of Scots, who lived from 1542 until 1587. Credit: iStock

Executed for treason by Queen Elizabeth I, we uncover the key life events of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned for 19 years.

Engraving of Mary Queen of Scots
Engraving from 1885 featuring Mary, Queen Of Scots, who lived from 1542 until 1587. Credit: iStock
  1. Queen at six days old

    Mary Stewart, known as Mary, Queen of Scots was born in 1542, became Queen of the Scots at just six days old after her father King James V of Scotland died.

  2. The French Court

    The young queen was first betrothed to King Henry VIII‘s son, Edward, however her Catholic guardians disapproved and at the age of six years old she sailed to France and the French court of King Henry II and her future husband, the Dauphin Francis.

  3. Queen of France

    Mary briefly became Queen of France in 1559, uniting the French and Scottish crowns, however she was soon to be widowed at 18 when Francis died of an ear infection.

  4. Mary, Queen of Scots returns to Scotland

    Catholic Mary’s return to rule over officially Protestant Scotland was regarded with suspicion. To further secure the Scottish throne, Mary married her cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley and quickly fell pregnant.

  5. Murder, intrigue and betrayal

    Mary’s marriage to Darnley was a disaster, ending with him plotting with Protestant conspirators to assassinate her secretary, David Rizzio. It is said that a loaded pistol was held to her stomach as Rizzio was murdered in front of her. Mary and Lord Darnley escaped and soon afterwards her son James was born.

    As the marriage disintegrated further, Mary met and befriended James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. The following year, Darnley was killed in an explosion and suspicion fell on Mary and Bothwell, who she would marry soon after.

  6. Imprisonment

    Outraged at the suspected murder, the Scottish nobility forced her abdication in favour of her son, James, and Mary fled Scotland to England, believing her cousin Queen Elizabeth I would help protect her. It was a miscalculation, as her strong claim to the English throne made her too great a threat. Reluctant to kill Mary, Elizabeth instead had her held captive for 19 years.

  7. Execution

    When correspondence linked Mary to a plot to assassinate Elizabeth, she was tried for treason and condemned to death. Mary was executed at Fotheringhay Castle, on 8 February 1587 at the age of 44. Her remains are interred today in Westminster Abbey.

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