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Mary Queen of Scots

1542-1587. Daughter of James V and Marie de Guise-Lorraine, she became queen when six days old. During her minority the pro-English and Protestant interests gained at the expense of the pro-French Catholic group, and in 1560 the Estates of Parliament abolished the authority of the pope in Scotland, forbade the celebration of Mass, and adopted a Reformed Confession of Faith (the Scots Confession*). Mary's upbringing was French and Catholic, and she was consort of Francis II of France, 1559-60. She returned to Scotland in 1561 after thirteen years in France. Regarded by Catholics as the rightful queen of England because of her descent from Henry VII and Elizabeth's alleged illegitimacy, Mary was for the rest of her life the focus of international intrigue. Her personal rule in Scotland was remarkably successful at its beginning. While she incurred the opposition of John Knox* over Mass in her private chapel, she conciliated moderate opinion by acquiescing in the division of church revenues whereby a third was shared by the Protestant ministers and the Crown, and in legislation implying the recognition of the Reformed Church.

Her downfall was caused by the English succession question and her marriages to Henry (Lord Darnley) in 1565 and James Hepburn, earl of Bothwell, in 1567. Darnley's claim to the English throne was almost as good as her own, but the marriage was disastrous personally and politically. Her marriage to Darnley's supposed murderer, Bothwell, completed her ruin. In 1567 she was deposed by a coalition of nobles who proclaimed her son by Darnley as James VI. After an unsuccessful bid to regain power, she fled to England where she was imprisoned as an alleged accomplice to Darnley's murder. A series of Catholic plots to place her on the English throne resulted in her execution at Fotheringay.

See A. Fraser, Mary, Queen of Scots (1969), and I.B. Cowan (ed.), The Enigma of Mary Stuart (1971).