The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, 1587
Mary’s troubles began six days after her birth in 1542. It was on that day that her father, King James V of Scotland, died and the infant was declared Queen of the Scots. She was immediately thrust into a caldron of political turmoil containing a broiling mix of the long-standing enmity between Scotland and England, the fragility of the Tudor succession to the English throne, England’s rivalry with France, and the religious violence between Catholics and heretic Protestants.
As the great-granddaughter of England’s Henry VII, Mary was next in line to the crown of England after the apostate Henry VIII’s children – Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. The Scots attempted to remove the threat posed to Henry’s succession by pledging the new-born Mary to marriage with his son Edward. This plan soon self-destructed, however, and the Scots turned to their old ally (and England’s old enemy) France. Mary was sent there at age six for her upbringing and education.
The 18-year-old Mary a confirmed Catholic returned to Scotland in 1561 to reign as Queen of her subjects who had now become Protestant heretics. Contrary to all expectations, Queen and subjects initially achieved an uncomfortable accommodation. However, this situation quickly deteriorated.
In 1565 Mary married her first cousin Henry, Lord Darnley and gave birth to a son – James – the following year. In 1567, her husband was murdered and Mary quickly married the Scottish Earl of Bothwell an action that outraged the Scottish nobility who promptly imprisoned Mary and forced her to abdicate her throne to her one-year-old son, James.