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Mary, Queen of Scots


Mary grew up in the court of France, her mother having removed her there to prevent Henry VIII from securing an English-Scottish alliance by forcibly marrying his son to Mary. While in her late teens, Mary instead was married to the Dauphin Francis, and reigned briefly as his consort. Upon his death, Mary returned to Scotland, where she speedily made herself unpopular with many on a number of counts.*

In Scotland, Mary met Henry, Lord Darnley, with whom she fell violently in love. The two married. Almost immediately after, Lord Darnley began to demand of his wife the Crown Matrimonial, whereby the powers of the (female) sovereign are transferred to her husband. Mary at first acquiesced, but pointed out that Parliament had the final say. Darnley continued to nag, causing Mary to wonder if giving her consent had been such a good idea after all.

Darnley's discontent soon found an outlet—in murder. Various members at court were peeved with David Rizzio, Mary's secretary and one-time tennis partner to Darnley. Rizzio's fellows, considering him entirely too well dressed and generally uppity, decided to kill him. Darnley entered into the scheme. The traditional explanation for Darnley’s involvement, of course, is that Rizzio was cuckolding him. None of Mary's friends or enemies at the time accused her of having an affair with Rizzio, though, which, while it is not a proof, is a strong indication of her innocence on that head.

The murder itself is one of history's most famous scenes. Mary, Rizzio, and two ladies-in-waiting are in Mary's chambers, playing cards. From the back staircase that connected Mary’s and Darnley's rooms, Darnley enters, refuses to join the game, and generally hangs about, looking sullen. Next moment various courtiers burst into the room and try to grab Rizzio, who tries to hide behind Mary and is painstakingly dragged from the room. While this is being accomplished, Darnley seizes Mary's arms and pins them behind her back, and another courtier effectively silences her by pointing a gun at her stomach. (Mary was six months pregnant.) Outside Rizzio shrieks as he is stabbed over fifty times; Darnley's knife is left in the body as a statement that he was as involved in Rizzio’s death as those who did the actual stabbing.

Mary pretends that she is about to have a miscarriage (there is some speculation that the method of the murder was meant to cause one) and is allowed to withdraw privately with her ladies-in-waiting. She later talks Darnley over to her side and the two escape out a window onto horses placed there by her servant Bothwell. (Mary sent word to him via one the ladies-in-waiting, on an ostensible obstetric errand.) Whatever feeling for Darnley Mary still possessed died completely on this ride, when Darnley persisted in urging her to go faster. Mary replied that she couldn't go any faster without danger to her child, whereupon Darnley snapped that they could always have another. Fittingly, Mary suspended conjugal relations from that point on, which did not add to marital harmony, surprisingly enough.

The child was born and christened James; his father was not present. Little else changed until Kirk o’ Field.

Kirk o’ Field

The Casket Letters

Bothwell and Elizabeth


* For instance, her love of dancing and her choice of music, both of which were labeled licentious by John Knox, author of The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. (He later modified his remarks in a private audience with Mary.) For those interested, some of the music which Mary brought from France can be heard, played on period instruments, on the CD Chansons et Danceries, performed by Piffaro, The Renaissance Band.

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