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Mary Stewart in France and Scotland

Retha Warnicke examines the tumultuous career of Mary, Queen of Scots, before her long incarceration by her cousin Elizabeth I of England.

Portrait of Mary after François Clouet, c. 1559Many events in the life of Mary Stewart are controversial, from her birth in 1542 to her death in 1587. The two most well-known modern studies of her are by Antonia Fraser and Jenny Wormald. Fraser views her as a romantic figure, interpreting her union with Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, as one of passion and her alliance with James Hepburn, fourth earl of Bothwell, as a response to his rape of her. Generally agreeing with Fraser about the nature of these two marriages, Wormald concentrates on condemning Mary’s effectiveness as a ruler. This essay will argue not only that she sought to be an effective ruler but also that she did not enter into a marriage of passion with Darnley. It will, however, validate the charge of Bothwell’s sexual violence.

Queen Regnant in Scotland

Scholars have debated whether Mary was born on 7 or 8 December 1542, even though she celebrated her birthday on the 8th. As her contemporaries were sometimes vague about dating events that occurred shortly after midnight, it is likely that she was born in the early hours of the 8th at Linlithgow Palace to Mary of Guise, the second wife of James V of Scotland, whose parents were James IV and Margaret Tudor, a sister of Henry VIII. As Mary’s father died a few days after her birth in despair because of the recent English victory at Solway Moss, she could not remember a time when she was not queen regnant.

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