Mary, Queen of Scots

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“It cam wi a lass and it will gang wi a lass!”

So King James V of Scotland declared on his deathbed. He was referring to the fact that the crown of Scotland had come to his family, the House of Stuart, through the marriage of one of its women to the son of the famed warrior king, Robert the Bruce. James V feared that his daughter and sole heir, Mary, could not rule Scotland. Thus the throne would ”gang”, or go, slipping from his dynasty to be seized by his rivals.

Mary became the Queen of Scotland as a baby. Powerless, her life was at the mercy of ruthless rival forces: the English wanted her to marry the Prince of Wales, the French wanted her to marry the Dauphin, and Scottish factions wanted to use her to win power and wealth for themselves. Added to all this, Mary was a pawn in the great religious conflicts of the Reformation.

King Henry VIII of England failed to force the Scots to betroth their Queen to Henry’s son, Edward.

Instead, Mary’s mother, a French noblewoman from the powerful House of Guise, sent her daughter to France while she ruled Scotland as regent.

Mary married the Dauphin, Francis, in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, cementing the “Auld Alliance” between Scotland and France. Mary also had a claim to the English throne (her grandmother was the daughter of Henry VII of England). This made Mary even more valuable, for it opened up the possibility that she - and therefore the French who controlled her - could seize England.

But Mary proved that she could also scheme and take bloody retribution against those who crossed her. She too coveted the English crown and - in all probability - conspired to murder her second husband, Henry, Lord Darnley.

Ultimately, Mary defied the prediction of her father, James V. She did not bring calamity upon the royal House of Stuart. For although Mary’s reign was beset by troubles and she was forced to abdicate, her son, James VI, would inherit the throne of Scotland and preserve the rule of the Stuarts. Indeed, it was thanks to Mary that the House of Stuart won its greatest dynastic triumph when James VI inherited the crown of England from the childless Elizabeth, to rule as James I.

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