Mary, Queen of Scots was born a Catholic in Scotland on the 8th February 1542; she was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scots; she was 6 days old when her father died and she was crowned nine months later; as Mary was still an infant when she inherited the throne, Scotland was ruled by regents until she became an adult.
The Treaty of Greenwich:
King Henry VIII of England took the opportunity of this regency to propose England and Scotland be united through the marriage of Queen Mary and his own son, Prince Edward and on the 1st July 1543, when Mary was only six months old, the Treaty of Greenwich was signed, which among other points, promised Mary would be married to Edward.
It was Henry's wish that Mary should also move to England where he could oversee her upbringing; however, feelings among the Scottish people towards the English changed when Cardinal Beaton rose to power again and began to push a pro-Catholic and French agenda, which angered Henry who wanted to break the alliance with France and the Papacy.
Queen Mary of Guise, with the support of Cardinal Beaton, wanted to move Mary away from the coast to the safety of Stirling Castle; regent Arran resisted the move, but backed down when Beaton's armed supporters gathered at Linlithgow; the Earl of Lennox escorted Mary to Stirling on the 27th July 1543 with 3,500 armed men and on the 9th September 1543 Mary was crowned Queen of Scots in the chapel at Stirling castle.
Shortly before Mary's coronation, the occupants of some Scottish ships headed for France were arrested by Henry, who claimed they were not allowed to trade with France even though that was never part of the agreement; these arrests caused anger among people in Scotland; following this, Arran decided to join Beaton and became a Catholic; the Treaty was eventually rejected by Parliament in December.
This new alliance and the rejection of the treaty caused Henry to begin his rough wooing, designed to impose the marriage to his son on Mary; this consisted of a series of raids on Scottish and French territory and other military actions; it lasted until June 1551, costing over half a million pounds and many lives; in May 1544, the English Earl of Hertford, later created Duke of Somerset by Edward VI, arrived in the Firth of Forth hoping to capture the city of Edinburgh and kidnap Mary, but Mary of Guise hid her in the secret chambers of Stirling Castle.
On the 10th September 1547, known as "Black Saturday", the Scots suffered a bitter defeat at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh; Mary of Guise, fearful for her daughter, sent her temporarily to Inchmahome Priory for a period of three weeks and turned to the French ambassador Monsieur D'Oysel for help; the French, remaining true to the Auld Alliance, came to the aid of the Scots; the new French king, Henry II, was now proposing to unite France and Scotland by marrying the little queen to his 3 year old son 'François, Dauphin of France'; this seemed to Mary of Guise to be the only sensible solution to her troubles.
In February 1548, hearing that the English were on their way back, Mary of Guise moved Mary to Dumbarton Castle; the English left a trail of devastation behind once more and seized the strategically located town of Haddington; by June, the much awaited French help had arrived and on the 7th July 1548 a Scottish Parliament held at a nunnery near Haddington agreed to a French Marriage Treaty between Mary and François.
Mary was moved to France and in 1558 when she was 15 she married the future king of France 'François, Dauphin of France' he was 14 at the time; her father-in-law, Henry II, the current king of France, said of her "the little Queen of Scots is the most perfect child I have ever seen."; in 1560 Francis, who had always been a sickly youth, died at age 16; in 1561 Mary returned to Scotland at age 18.
In 1565, she married her cousin, Lord Darnley, when she was 22 and in June 1566, she gave birth to a baby boy called James, who later became James I, when Elizabeth I died in 1603.
After the death of Queen Mary I of England, Henry II of France proclaimed his eldest son and his daughter-in-law to be king and queen of England; from this time on, Mary always insisted on bearing the royal arms of England and her claim to the English throne was a perennial sticking point between Elizabeth I and her, as would become obvious in Mary's continuous refusal to ratify the Treaty of Edinburgh.
Under the ordinary laws of succession, Mary was next in line to the English throne after her father's cousin, Elizabeth I, who was childless; yet, in the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, thus making Mary the rightful queen of England; the Third Succession Act, passed in 1543 by Parliament, provided that Elizabeth would succeed Mary I of England on the throne.
François ascended the French throne as King Francis II in 1559 and Mary became queen consort of France; the anti-Catholic Act of Settlement was not passed in England until 1701, but the last will and testament of Henry VIII, given legal force by the Third Succession Act, had excluded the Stuarts from succeeding to the English throne; Mary's troubles were still further increased by the Huguenot rising in France, called le tumulte d'Amboise from the 6th to the 17th March 1560, making it impossible for the French to help Mary's supporters in Scotland.
The question of the succession was therefore a pressing one and under the terms of the Treaty of Edinburgh, signed by Mary's representatives on the 6th July 1560 following the death of her mother, France undertook to withdraw troops from Scotland and recognise Elizabeth's right to rule England; however, the 17-year-old Mary, still in France, refused to ratify the treaty.
Mary was widowed on the 5th December 1560 and soon afterwards returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on the 19th August 1561; four years later, she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley; their union was unhappy and in February 1567, there was a huge explosion at their house and Darnley was found dead, apparently strangled, in the garden.
She soon married the 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was generally believed to be Darnley's murderer; following an uprising against the couple, Queen Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle on the 15th June 1567 and forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son, King James VI.
Why was Mary imprisoned:
Queen Elizabeth I of England had changed England from being a Catholic country, back to being a Protestant one again, and as a result she had many enemies, so when Mary abdicated the Scottish throne and fled to England in 1568 seeking the protection of her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England, she was perceived as a threat and Queen Elizabeth had her arrested.
Mary had previously claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics, including participants in the Rising of the North, so she was kept imprisoned; the Scottish Queen wasn't thrown into a gloomy cell though, she lived in a number of castles and manor houses in England; one such was the Manor Lodge, Sheffield under the care of George Talbot, sixth Earl of Shrewsbury; but after 18 years and 9 months of being in custody, she was tried and executed in 1587, for treason and her alleged involvement in three plots to assassinate Elizabeth.
In the 1500s, Sheffield Castle and Manor Lodge were the two grandest buildings in Sheffield; both were owned by the successive Earls of Shrewsbury; the stone built castle was a large defensive structure that dominated the town and the Manor Lodge was built in 1510 originally as a hunting lodge in the Earl's deer park, but by the 1570s it had been rebuilt into a large and impressive manor house.
At Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, on the 7th February 1587, Queen Mary was told that she was to be executed the next day; she spent the last hours of her life in prayer and also writing letters and her will; she asked that her servants be released and that she be buried in France.
The scaffold that was erected in the Great Hall was draped in black; it was reached by five steps and the only things on it were a disrobing stool, the block, a cushion for her to kneel on and a bloody butcher's axe that had been previously used on animals.
At her execution, on the 8th February 1587, the executioners knelt before her and asked forgiveness; according to an account by Robert Wingfield, she replied, "I forgive you with all my heart"; her servants, Jane Kennedy and Elizabeth Curle and the executioners helped to strip Mary to her red petticoat with red satin bodice trimmed with lace and a pair of red sleeves; red is the colour of martyrdom in the Catholic Church, the profession of which constantly endangered her life in the face of the rise of Protestantism.
As she disrobed she smiled faintly to the
executioner and said, "Never have I had such assistants to disrobe
me and never have I put off my clothes before such a company.";
she was then blindfolded and knelt down on the cushion in front of the
block; she positioned her head on the block and stretched her arms out
behind her; before she died, Fr. John Laux relates in his Church History
that her last words were, "My faith is the ancient Catholic faith.
It is for this faith that I give up my life. In Thee I trust, O Lord;
into Thy hands I commend my spirit."