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Mary Queen of Scots - 1542-1587

Key Facts about Mary Queen of Scots

Mary was a victim of her own impulsive and self-willed character, and of her upbringing in the French court, but she has always attracted much sympathy from English and Scots alike. Betrothed to the Dauphin of France when she was six years old, Mary spent the next twelve years of her life in France, which at that time was torn by religious dissension. At the age of sixteen, in 1558, she married Francis, the French Dauphin, and became Queen of France when the Dauphin became Francis II.

On his death in 1560, she returned to Scotland which was being turned away from Catholicism by the Calvinist priest John Knox.

Mary then married Henry, Lord Darnley who was descended from Margaret Tudor and therefore was in line for the English throne. Elizabeth I of England, who had not been consulted about the Darnley marriage, was not pleased and was suspicious of Mary's motives. Particularly as Mary dismissed her trusted adviser, the Earl of Moray, and began to fill her court with foreigners.

Among these was David Rizzio, who, when Darnley began to suspect that he was Mary's lover, was murdered in her presence. Mary now became pregnant with the son of Darnley. The child was destined to become James VI of Scotland and subsequently James I of England.

Mary hesitated to divorce Darnley as she was afraid that her child might be said to be illegitimate. She did not need to worry, however, for Darnley died in a mysterious explosion in a house where he lay ill in Edinburgh.

One of the suspects of Darnley's murder was the Earl of Bothwell who, according to Mary, now kidnapped and raped her, in an effort to force her to marry him. Whatever the truth of the matter, it did not go down well with the Scottish lords or John Knox, who now named her the Scottish whore.

In 1567, her subjects turned against her and she was compelled to abdicate her position as Queen and was imprisoned at Loch Leven castle. She still had loyal supporters, among them Lord Douglas, who managed to rescue her and opened for her the escape route to England. This was where Mary hoped to find protection from her enemies with her cousin Elizabeth, whose legitimate heir she was. This was another of Mary's fatal miscalculations for, to Elizabeth, the Catholic Mary and her supporters were a threat to the throne of Protestant England.

Mary was to remain a prisoner in England for nineteen years before one catholic plot too many persuaded Elizabeth that her cousin should be executed.

Key Events during the Reign of Mary Queen of Scots

1542 - James invades England but is defeated at the Battle of Solway Moss and dies a few weeks later. His daughter, the one-week old Mary, succeeds.

1554 - Mary of Guise takes over as Regent.

1558 - Mary marries the French Dauphin in Paris.

1559 - Mary becomes Queen of France.

1560 - Francois II dies and Mary returns to Scotland in 1561.

1565 - Mary marries her cousin, Henry, Lord Darnley.

1567 - Darnley is murdered in an explosion in a house in an Edinburgh suburn. Mary is implicated, but nothing is proved. The Scottish lords rebel and defeat Mary, who abdicates and flees to England, where she is imprisoned. Mary's son becomes king as James VI and the Earl of Moray, her half-brother, ecomes Regent.

1570 - Moray is assassinated at Linlithgow.

1587 - After being implicated in the Babington Conspiracy, Mary is tried and executed at Fotheringhay Castle.

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