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Mary, Queen of Scots

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Last updated 12 Apr 2017

Mary Queen of Scots was Elizabeth's cousin and the Queen of Scotland, the Queen Consort of France and was the only child of James V of Scotland. She posed a threat to Elizabeth's reign and spent 18 years in the custody of Elizabeth before she was executed in 1586 after being found guilty of trying to assassinate Elizabeth.

Mary was born on 8th December 1542 in Scotland. She became Queen of Scotland on 14th December 1542, when she was just six days old. As she was too young to be Queen, her mother Mary of Guise acted has regent for some of her reign. A regent is someone who acts as monarch until the rightful monarch turns 18, or in some cases 25.

She grew up in France, where she spent most of her childhood. She had moved to France when she just 5 years old after it was agreed that she should marry Dauphin Francis. She grew up here and learnt all the customs of ruling. In 1558 when she was 16 she eventually married Dauphin and became Queen Consort of France.

Mary's husband died in 1560 just two years into his reign, and Mary then returned to Scotland. It was here that she began to face problems. As she was a Catholic she was not trusted by those in Scotland who were Protestants, and she certainly wasn't trusted by Elizabeth I.

In 1567 due to her most recent marriage, she was forced to abdicate (give up) the throne and go into exile. She managed to escape and sought to get Elizabeth to help her take her throne back. Elizabeth took Mary into custody and moved her around many castles and manors with the justification that she was being protected.

In 1571,  the Ridolfi plot was uncovered in which Elizabeth was to be replaced as Queen by Mary. Further plots were uncovered including the Throckmorton Plot and the Babington Plot. Through Walsingham's use of spies, it became clear that Mary was involved in the plots and she was sentenced to death.

On February 1 1587 Elizabeth signed Mary's death warrant and on February 8th  she was executed. The execution was a mess. The first axe blow hit the back of her head, the second hit her neck but did not cut all the way through. When her head was held up to the crowd, it turned out that Mary had been wearing a wig and her head fell from the wig and hit the ground.

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