Category Archives: Mary Queen of Scots

On this day in 1586 – The trial of Mary Queen of Scots began

The trial of Mary Queen of Scots began at Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire on 14th October 1586. Despite being kept essentially under house arrest for the duration of her time in England she was finally officially arrested on 11th August 1586 after being implicated in the Babington Plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and place Mary on the throne of England in her place. Mary had letters smuggled out of Chartley thinking that they were safe however; they were delivered straight to Sir Francis Walsingham who deciphered and copied them before allowing them to continue to the intended recipients. It was clear in these letters that Mary endorsed the killing of her cousin. Following her arrest she was transferred to Fotheringhay Castle and placed on trial charged with treason under the Act for the Queen’s Safety.

Mary stood trial in front of 36 noblemen that included Cecil, Shrewsbury and Walsingham himself. Mary denied the charges that were put before her and initially refused to even attend the trial but was told by Cecil that it would go ahead with or without her presence. Mary eventually appeared in front of the jury at 9am dressed in a black velvet gown and a white cambric cap and veil. She began to argue that the court was not legitimate and that she had not been allowed to seek legal representation or arrange for any witnesses to appear on her behalf.

Trial of Mary QoSThe counsel seated for the trial

The trial began with the intricate details of the Babington Plot being retold to the jurors and accused Mary of giving her blessing to the plot. A brief exchange occurred between Mary and the jurors;

Mary: I knew not Babington. I never received any letters from him, nor wrote any to him. I never plotted the destruction of the Queen. If you want to prove it, then produce my letters signed with my own hand.
Counsel: But we have evidence of letters between you and Babington.
Mary: If so, why do you not produce them? I have the right to demand to see the originals and copies side by side. It is quite possible that my ciphers have been tampered with by my enemies. I cannot reply to this accusation without full knowledge. Until then, I must content myself with affirming solemnly that I am not guilty of the crimes imputed to me…”

Unknown to Mary, Sir Francis Walsingham had amassed a large collection of evidence against the former Scottish queen that included:-

  • Sir Anthony Babington’s confession
  • A deciphered transcript in English of Mary’s response to Babington
  • A reciphered copy of the original letter sent by Mary to Babington that is an exact replica
  • Confessions from Mary’s personal secretaries.

The court produced this evidence to Mary who broke down in tears but continued to deny any involvement claiming that the evidence presented was fraudulent and that Walsingham was attempting to frame her.

Following a break in the proceedings for lunch the counsel read out the secretaries confessions and although surprised at what was being read out Mary was claiming that the letters must have been intercepted and changed. The proceedings then broke for the day with them to resume the next morning.

trial-of-mary-queen-of-scots-in-fotheringay-castleMary Queen of Scots on trial at Fotheringhay Castle

The next morning saw the counsel go straight into reiterating the accusation that Mary had consented to the plot, the trial would go back and forth between the accusers and Mary with the trial eventually closing with Mary demanding that the case should be heard in front of Parliament and the Queen. Elizabeth delayed the verdict for as long as she could, wrestling with her conscience over whether she could condemn an anointed monarch but eventually on 4th December Elizabeth declared that Mary was indeed guilty but she was unwilling to sign the warrant for her death until 1st February 1587 when Elizabeth asked for William Davison, her secretary, to bring the warrant to her and she signed it but also requested that instead of a public execution she wished that Walsingham wrote to Sir Amyas Paulet, Mary’s jailer, to ask him to perform the task in secret therefore meaning Elizabeth could deny any involvement in it.

However, Paulet was appalled at what was being asked of him and said ‘God forbid that I should make so foul a shipwreck of my conscience or leave so great a blot on my poor posterity’. At the same time Cecil had arranged a secret meeting of the Privy Council where it was agreed that the warrant would be sent to Fotheringhay Castle and appointed the Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury to oversee the execution, they would keep this from Elizabeth until the task was done.

On 8th February 1587 Mary Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringhay Castle.

execution warantMary Queen of Scots execution warant signed by Queen Elizabeth

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On this day in 1567 – Mary Queen of Scots is forced to abdicate the Scottish throne

Mary, Queen of Scots inherited the throne of Scotland when she was just six days old. As an infant Regents ruled in place of Mary until she come of age and was able to rule on her own. Mary spent most of her childhood in France where she was betrothed and later married to the Dauphin of France. Mary returned to Scotland in 1561 despite warnings that the country was now Protestant following the Scottish Reformation led by John Knox.

Mary’s return was successful and in 1565 she married her second cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Mary was soon with child but the relationship between Mary and Darnley broke down and Darnley became the figurehead for Mary’s enemies who on 9th March 1566 burst into her chamber and threatened the heavily pregnant Queen and also murdered her secretary, David Riccio.

Mary gave birth on 19th June 1566 to the future King James VI of Scotland, but just eight months later two explosions ripped through Kirk o’Field in Edinburgh where Lord Darnley had been staying, somehow Darnley escaped with his valet but was found dead in the grounds not from injuries from the explosion but most likely strangulation.

Suspicion fell on the Earl of Bothwell as well as Mary herself, as it was believed they were having an intimate affair especially as Mary and Bothwell were married just three months after Darnley’s suspicious death.

The marriage between Mary and Bothwell caused the Protestant Lords to rise against Mary and on 15th June 1567 the rebel army and the Queen’s army clashed at Carberry Hill, Edinburgh. Mary was taken from Carberry Hill and imprisoned at Lochleven Castle and had fallen ill after miscarrying twins that she had conceived with Bothwell.

It was at Lochleven that Lord Lyndsay and Ruthven brought Mary the deeds of abdication and informed her that she would be put to death if she did not abdicate and pass the throne to her infant son. There were three terms to the deed of abdication; the first was that Mary handed the throne to the infant, Prince James, the second, which the Earl of Murray was appointed as Regent and the third, that a council was appointed to administer the Government until Murray could take up his post.

Without reading the details Mary signed the deed and with that Mary had hoped that the document would be dismissed as she had signed it under duress, however, this was not the case and it was accepted. The one year old Prince James was crowned King James VI of Scotland just five days later at the Church of Holy Rude, Stirling.

Gavin Hamilton painting of Mary signing deed of abdicationA painting of Mary Queen of Scots signing the Deed of Abdication

by Gavin Hamilton

On this day in 1543 – Mary of Guise and Mary Queen of Scots fled Linlithgow Palace

Mary, Queen of Scots was just six days old when she inherited the Scottish throne after the death of her father, King James V.

Upon the King’s death Cardinal Beaton claimed custody of the infant Queen, claiming that the King had written in his will thatMary of Guise the Cardinal becomes Regent, however the Cardinal’s opponents dismissed this claim as a forgery and even accused Mary of Guise and the Cardinal of having undue intimacy. The Cardinal was arrested and the Regency passed to the Earl of Arran.

The Earl of Arran kept the new Queen and her mother at Linlithgow Palace where they were being kept under a watchful eye and the Earl of Arran even negotiated the Treaty of Greenwich with King Henry VIII and agreed that Mary, Queen of Scots would marry the future King Edward VI . On the 23rd July 1543 with the aid of Cardinal Beaton, Mary of Guise fled the castle with her daughter to Stirling Castle. The Earl of Arran initially resisted allowing the move but was overruled when the Cardinal’s supporters gathered around Linlithgow and the Earl of Lennox eventually escorted the pair from the Palace with the help of 3500 men.

It was at Stirling Castle where Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland on 9th September 1543.

Infant Mary Queen of ScotAbove – Mary of Guise

Left – An infant Mary Queen of Scots

On this day in 1543 – The treaty of Greenwich was signed

The Treaty of Greenwich was signed on 1st July 1543 between England and Scotland, the treaty was put forward after the Scottish defeat at Solway Moss the November before. Two sub treaties’s made up the full treaty in a plan developed by King Henry VIII to unite both kingdoms. The Scottish commissioners that were acting on behalf of Mary and her regent were Earl of Glencairn, James Learmonth of Dairsie and Henry Balnaves. Acting as commissioners for Henry were Baron Audley of Walden, Thomas Howard 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner Bishop of Winchester, Thomas Thirlby Bishop of Westminster and Barons St John and Gage.

The first sub treaty was to establish peace between England and Scotland in the hope of ending the years of war between the two nations. The second was a marriage proposal between Henry’s son, the future King Edward VI and Mary, Queen of Scots. The marriage proposition put forward that Mary would be appointed a nobleman and his wife who would remain with Mary until she reached the age of ten. At this time Mary would be sent to England to live until her marriage to Edward; this was so she could be taught the English ways.

The treaty was initially signed by the Earl of Arran, Mary’s regent and it was ratified on 25th August 1543 however, when it was put in front of the Scottish Parliament on 11th December 1543 it was rejected. This rejection would lead to eight years of fighting between the two countries in a conflict that would be known as Rough Wooing. The conflict was sanctioned by Henry in an attempt to force Scotland into agreeing to the terms of the treaty.

Instead of Mary marrying Edward she would go on to be betrothed to the French dauphin, F

rancis, son of Henry II.

Edward_VIMary-Queen-of-ScotsLeft – Prince Edward

Below – Mary, Queen of Scots

On this day in 1568 – Mary Queen of Scots landed at Workington

Mary Queen of Scots was forced to flee Scotland following her forced abdication in favour for her one year old son, James. Although Mary had attempted to regain the throne it was unsuccessful and show had no choice but to seek help in England.

Following her troops defeat in battle just outside of Glasgow, Mary wrote to Lord Scrofe of Carlisle declaring her intentions to cross the border into England. Mary set sail from Drundrennan Abbey and landed at Siddick near Workington on the afternoon of the 16th May 1568. One of Mary’s men, Lord Herries, sent word ahead to Workington Hall that Mary had landed. The Curwens received the former Scottish Queen and provided for her.

It was at Workington Hall that Mary wrote a letter in French to Queen Elizabeth I asking for help and protection from her cousin and England.

Mary only stayed at Workington Hall for three days before she was escorted to Cockermouth by Henry Curwen and Sheriff Richard Lowther who delievered Mary to Lord Scrofe who took Mary to Carlisle Castle where she would begin 19 years of imprisonment.

Workington hall                                                             Workington Hall

On this day in 1568 – Mary Queen of Scots escaped Lochleven Castle

Mary Queen of Scots has always had a controversial reign, she ruled Scotland from when she was six days old after the death of King James V of Scotland. She spent most of her childhood in France in preparation for her marriage to Francis II of France. Scotland was ruled through a regency until Mary returned to the country in 1561.

Mary remarried four years after her return to her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley with whom she had a son, the future King James VI of Scotland. Her husband was found murdered and suspicion fell on James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. Bothwell was acquitted of the charge and the following month married Mary.

The nobles of the country were unhappy with this alliance and they soon rose up. On 15th June 1556 Mary was escorted from Carberry Hill to the Palace of Holyroodhouse where she was allowed to gather her belongings before being taken to Lochleven Castle and placed under house arrest.

Lochleven was a castle that was situated on a small island, which was only reachable by boat. Mary was housed on the third floor in the Glassin Tower and placed under the custody of Sir William Douglas. However, despite being under arrest Mary was free to walk in the courtyard, pray in her room and have her servants with her.

On 24th July 1567 Lord Ruthven and Lord Lindsey arrived at the castle and approached Mary with an ultimatum to abdicate her throne or die. By abdicating she would place her son on the throne, despite the fact he was only just over a year old. Mary signed the Deed of Abdication and James was crowned King just five days later at Stirling.

Meanwhile Parliament declared that Mary’s second husband, Bothwell, had murdered her first husband, Lord Darnley, and that she was an accomplice to the murder.

There were still many Scots that were loyal to Mary who would see her back on the throne. Many plots were rumoured to free the former Queen. However, on 2nd May 1568 a rescue attempt was made and was successful. Willie Douglas, a young relative of her custodian, had arranged a May Day masque at the Castle for the Queen and had managed to steal the keys to the part of the castle that held the Queen. During the celebrations Mary was smuggled out of the castle, dressed as a servant. She was placed in a boat and rowed away from the castle where she was greeted by George Douglas and Lord Seton.

Mary escaping Lochleven

On this day in 1558 – Mary Queen of Scots was betrothed to Francis future King of France.

On 19th April 1558 Mary, daughter of King James V of Scotland was betrothed to Francis the Dauphin of France. Mary was queen of Scotland since she was six days old.

On 27th January 1548 in the Châtillon treaty the marriage of Mary and Francis was put forward and aged six Mary was sent to France to be bought up in the French court until she was old enough to marry. Mary left Scotland in the hands of regents.

Formally betrothed on 19th April 1558 the agreement allowed Scotland to maintained their traditional rights but when Francis ascends the throne Scotland would unite with France. However, if Mary died without the couple having any children the Scottish throne would go to the Earl of Arran. The wedding was set for 24th April where Mary and Francis were married at Notre Dame Cathedral by Cardinal of Rouen. Mary wore a long trained white dress accompanied with a Diamond necklace and a golden coronet adorned with jewels.

Francis ascended the throne in 1559 to become King Francis II and Mary became his queen consort. As Francis was only 15 when he ascended the throne and already in ill health he created a regency to reign on his behalf, he appointed his wife’s uncles the Duke of Guise and Cardinal of Lorraine along with his mother Catherine de’Medici. However, with his mother still in mourning for her husband all orders were given by Mary’s uncles. At the time of the wedding Mary signed a secret agreement that contradicted the betrothal agreement. Mary agreed that if she died childless then Scotland would stay in control of the French.

King Francis II died in December 1560 and once it was established that Mary was not carrying the heir to the French throne she returned to Scotland landing in Leith on 19th August 1561. Mary went on to remarry and give birth to a son who would unite the thrones of Scotland and England.

Francis and Mary