On 9th September 1543, a child that was barely a year old was crowned Queen of Scotland in the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle. Mary, Queen of Scots, would go on to be one of the more embattled Queen’s in history. Nobody would be surprised, considering the burden that she was shouldering as Monarch of a very turbulent Scotland.
For a female to be crowned in Scotland, it was evident that the country was experiencing a severe succession crisis. Being at such a young age, the Scottish Lords found it very difficult to respect her and so Mary was sent to France for her safety.
Mary lived and grew up in France where she married the future King of France, Francis II. Mary didn’t return to her native homeland of Scotland, where she was still Queen until she was eighteen years of age in 1561 after Francis’ premature death. After marrying Lord Darnley in 1565, Mary gave birth to a son, James, who would eventually become the first Stuart King of England upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I.
Following an uprising against Mary and her third husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, Mary was arrested and held prisoner at Lochlevan Castle. Mary was also forced into abdicating her throne and hand it over to her young son James, who hence became King of Scots.
Mary escaped prison and fled to England in the hope that her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, would come to her aid. Mary assumed that their family ties would work in her favour, though she was far from the truth. At the age of 25, Mary, a former anointed Queen, began a lengthy stay in some of England’s manor houses and castles that were to be her prisons.
For the next nineteen years, Mary was kept prisoner, in which time she never came face to face with Queen Elizabeth. Mary did not do herself any favours though; to anybody that would listen, she would tell them that she was the rightful Queen of England, and in 1570 she even received the backing of the Pope. Mary was becoming an increasing problem for Elizabeth and the fear that a Catholic uprising and Mary’s proclamation of Queen would happen was high.
For years, Elizabeth’s government were building a case against Mary, although some argue that there was to no case to build. In 1586, Anthony Babington devised a plot to kill Elizabeth and sent a coded letter to Mary to inform her of what he had planned. Mary replied that she agreed with his plot, illustrating her involvement in this treasonous plot. Sir Francis Walsingham and his spy network intercepted the letters and consequently executed Babington, whilst Mary was put on trial.
Mary was found guilty of plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth I and was sentenced to death. Elizabeth hesitated to sign Mary’s death warrant. Elizabeth was a God anointed Queen, and so how could she effectively murder another anointed Queen? Elizabeth eventually did sign the warrant and Mary, Queen of Scots was executed at Fortheringhay Castle on 8th February 1587.
The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots at the hands of Elizabeth I is argued to be the final provocation for King Philip of Spain to launch his Spanish Armada on England, an attack that ultimately failed.