The death of her father, which occurred just days after her birth, put Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne in 1542. She briefly became queen consort in France before returning to Scotland. Forced to abdicate by Scottish nobles in 1567, Mary sought the protection of England's Queen Elizabeth I, who instead had her arrested. Mary spent the remainder of her life in captivity until her 1587 execution.
The Queen’s Youth
Mary Stuart was born on December 8, 1542, in Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian, Scotland. She was the daughter of King James V of Scotland and his second wife, Mary of Guise. Her father died when Mary was only 6 days old, making her Mary, Queen of Scots.
Given Mary's age, her great uncle, Henry VIII, made a bid for control, but her mother ended up acting as regent on Mary's behalf. Mary was initially betrothed to Henry VIII's son, Prince Edward of England, but Scottish Catholics objected to this plan, as England had separated from the Catholic Church. When the match was annulled, England attacked Scotland in raids that became known as "The Rough Wooing."
Mary's mother was French, and the Scots had a longstanding alliance with France, so Mary was betrothed to the 4-year-old French heir. At the age of 5, Mary was sent to France, where she grew up in the luxurious French court. In 1558, she married Francis, the eldest son of French King Henry II and Catherine de Medicis.
Claim to the English Throne
In November 1558, Henry VIII's daughter, Elizabeth Tudor, became Queen Elizabeth I of England. However, many Roman Catholics considered Elizabeth's rule to be i...
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...aptivity would last for the next 18 years.
Given Mary's lineage and religion, she became the focus of Catholic plots to assassinate Elizabeth so that Mary could take the throne. Mary corresponded with Anthony Babington, one such plotter. When Elizabeth's spymaster uncovered the letters in 1586, Mary was brought to trial and found guilty of treason.
After Elizabeth signed her cousin's death warrant, Mary was executed in Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, on February 7, 1587. She was 44 years old. Elizabeth had Mary buried in Peterborough Cathedral. After Mary's son became king of England, he moved his mother's body to Westminster Abbey in 1612.
Centuries after her death, Mary continues to be an object of cultural fascination. Her life inspired the 1971 film Mary, Queen of Scots, the television show Reign and a popular 2013 exhibition at National Museums Scotland.
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