Movie Review: Mary, Queen of Scots

When it was announced that there would be a film about Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I was over the moon. My hope was that it would do both women the justice they deserve. If you have not seen the trailer, here it is:

How exciting does that look, right!? Since I am not sure how long it will be before I am able to see the film myself I had two wonderful friends who offered to write reviews for the blog. A special thanks to Sari Graham and Karen L. Largent for taking the time to write their reviews to share with all of you.

So…without further ado……

Movie Review #1:

Review by Sari Graham

This was a film that I was eagerly anticipating this year. Despite having some reservations after seeing the official trailer-Mary being portrayed as having a natural Scots accent, as well as an apparent face-to-face meeting between Elizabeth and Mary-I was excited to see if this film would bring more truth to the story of Mary and her turbulent rule (read: life) in Scotland.

I recently read Alison Weir’s Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, which cleared up a lot of the misconceptions that I personally (and regrettably,) had believed about Mary. The book was a refreshing and human insight into the woman, and much that we think we know about her is grossly misrepresented or untrue. Similar to Anne Boleyn, Mary Stuart’s reputation across history was purposely tainted and manipulated on the basis of making her appear far worse than she actually was. Both women had their faults and were by no means perfect, but also, both women were victims of the machinations of the men around them, and they both ultimately paid for it with their heads.

The accent notwithstanding, Saoirse Ronan portrayed Mary Stuart very well. Her representation of the young queen lined up very much with what I read about and was expecting from Weir’s book; the Tudor stubbornness, the headstrong attitude, the self confidence that bordered and crossed into arrogance, as well as the emotional decision making process that often lead to disastrous results. You begin to feel frustrated for Mary, because it’s clear she’s fighting a losing fight for that which she believes is rightfully hers, but also frustrated at her for how she behaves when things don’t work out in her favour, and her inability to own up to the messes she frequently contributes to. Her desperation turned her into acrimonious brat; crying and lashing out with threats that she couldn’t possibly follow through on.

Margot Robbie stepped into the role of Queen Elizabeth I. Though they often referred to each other as “sister” in the film, Elizabeth was Mary’s paternal first cousin once removed (Elizabeth’s paternal aunt, Margaret Tudor, was Mary’s paternal grandmother.) Margot brought more emotion but less intensity to the role of Elizabeth that I’m used to seeing, but perhaps that is because this was a version of Elizabeth that her court and people wouldn’t have seen; it was a “behind the scenes” look at the queen, and how she really felt and responded to the events happening north of her border. This was very much a view of Elizabeth the woman, and not the powerful Tudor queen exterior. You see her emotional struggles, her high highs and her low lows, and her heartbreak and grief for the things she does not and will not have.

The costumes and cinematography were amazing. There were beautiful landscapes captured for the setting, and the outfits were regal and charming. Director Josie Rourke’s decision to blindly cast supporting characters-such as the English Ambassador to Scotland, Thomas Randolph, as well as Elizabeth’s lady, the later formidable Bess of Hardwick-added depth and diversity to the film which was refreshing.

All in all, it was an enjoyable film. No historical film will ever be perfect, but aside from a few aforementioned reservations I had plus a few details I was hoping to see but didn’t, I left the theatre with little to criticize. I would recommend this film to any Tudor history lover, though my recommendation does comes with a suggestion; familiarize yourself with some of the major events in Mary’s rule, and some of the main players. Many people in the theatre were confused, as the events do sometimes jump around a bit, and time skips forward on occasion. Going in with a general sense of the times will help keep things clear for you.

Movie Review #2:

Review by Karen L. Largent

With much anticipation I recently saw the latest film about Tudor England, Queen Elizabeth I and her rival for the throne Mary, Queen of Scots.
Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie were perfect in the respective roles and both were portrayed a bit differently than other films.

Mary, the Scottish Queen, raised in France, has a slight Scottish lilt to her voice which would not have been true as she was more French than Scottish. She did speak French in the film with subtitles for those of us who are not bilingual.

Elizabeth was portrayed as an emotional, frightened woman who was at the mercy of the men of her Privy Council, her advisors and her people.
Mary was portrayed as stubborn, strong and a threat to the Scots rather than their Queen.

Men wanted to rule and did not want to be led by mere women.

The meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, which probably never happened, was the most compelling scene in the film, showing the true selves of both Elizabeth and Mary.
As for the history, it was spot on for the most part, following their lives and the events that unfolded during their reigns.
The costuming and cinematography were outstanding in their beauty.

For any Tudor lover who is not a stickler for perfection, this is a grand film portraying the lives of two Queens whose lives were hard, sad, and amazing in what they achieved.

I heartily recommend this film.

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Quiz: How Well Do You Know Mary, Queen of Scots?

With the upcoming release of the movie about Mary, Queen of Scots, I thought it fitting that we should test our knowledge on the most well-known Scottish queen – Mary, Queen of Scots.
[WpProQuiz 10]

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La Reine Margot – Part One (Guest Post)

Guest post by Heather R. Darsie

Born on 14 May 1553, Marguerite, affectionately known by her nickname of Margot, was the seventh child and third daughter of Henri II of France and Catherine de’ Medici. Margot spent her early life being raised alongside her sisters Claude and Elisabeth. Margot was particularly good with languages, excelling at the international language of Latin, along with the Italian of her mother and her country’s French. Margot learned Spanish and Italian, too. Margot’s education was rounded out by studying history, Holy Scripture, and grammar. Margot’s formative years increased her faith and belief in the Catholic religion.

Particularly notable and of great value to historians are Margot’s memoirs. As the first woman known to have written her own memoirs, Margot’s work provides an invaluable look at French court life and the French Wars of Religion during the late 16th century. Just why Margot wrote her memoirs will be explored later.

When Margot was six, her eldest brother became Francis II of France. Francis II and his bride Mary, Queen of Scots, were king and queen of France and Scotland from only September 1559 until December 1560. Francis II died from an unidentified illness, and Margot’s ten-year-old brother Charles IX became king. At the same time, Catherine de’ Medici took control of the throne by declaring herself regent. Margot would grow into adulthood under the reign of her infantile, powerless brother Charles. The religious struggle brewing between the Catholics and Protestants, known as Huguenots, would come to a head during Charles’ reign and continue to affect Margot for most of the rest of her life.

Catherine de’ Medici went to great pains to show the power and splendor of her son Charles. The royal family disembarked on the Grand Tour of France in January 1564, when Margot was not yet eleven. The first bought of the French Wars of Religion took place in Spring 1562, when various Protestant factions effectively seized control of French cities, including Orléans and Lyon. Erupting off and on for the next year, the First War saw legions of Protestant Huguenots die, the death of Antoine of Navarre, and the assassination of Francis, Duke of Guise. Catherine de’ Medici negotiated the Edict of Amboise on 19 March 1563, less than two months before Margot’s tenth birthday. The Grand Tour of France was a way for Margot’s brother Charles IX and Catherine de’ Medici to show the wealth and grandeur of the French court to the outlying areas. It was also an attempt at soothing tensions over the religious divide.

The Grand Tour lasted over two years. Margot, her brothers, mother, and the young Henri of Navarre. Henri of Navarre was a distant cousin of the Valois-Medici family, and the crown would fall to him if Margot’s brothers died without male issue. Henri’s father died in 1562 during the first War of Religion. Henry’s mother, Jeanne d’Albret, was a Huguenot; Henri was effectively a hostage of Catherine de’ Medici’s to ensure Jeanne’s good behavior. Either way, it can reasonably be assumed that Margot had an opportunity to learn about Henri during the lengthy Grand Tour.

Margot’s sisters, Elisabeth and Claude, married at the respective ages of fourteen and eleven. Margot had to wait until she was nineteen years old. Even worse, Margot, a devout Catholic, married Henri of Navarre, the leader of the Huguenots. Henri’s mother Jeanne passed away in June 1572, and Catherine de’ Medici wasted no time in wedding Margot to Henri that August. A mere six days after Margot’s marriage, St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre occurred.

The Massacre was preceded by a botched assassination attempt of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a friend of Charles IX and powerful Huguenot military leader. Coligny tried to convince Charles to attack the Spanish-held Netherlands, which would have somewhat wrested Charles from the control of his and Margot’s mother Catherine de’ Medici. Though it is not known who arranged for Coligny’s assassination, one theory is that Catherine herself arranged it. Ultimately, Coligny survived the assassination-by-firearm with a shattered left elbow and missing finger from his right hand. The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was a preemptive strike by the Catholics to prevent any sort of retaliation by the Huguenots. The carnage spilled into Margot’s room that night, but she was able to protect her new Huguenot husband and a couple of his servants. Margot even chose to stay married to her new Huguenot husband despite their religious differences, as she and Henri had already consummated their marriage.

The next twenty-five years of Margot’s life were rife with conflict.

Continue with Part Two…

You Might Also Like

  1. “Marguerite of Navarre: Queen of the Renaissance.”
  2. “Who were the Huguenots? A Brief History Concerning the 1500’s.”

Sources & Suggested Reading

  1. Goldstone, Nancy. The Rival Queens: Catherine de’ Medici, her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal that Ignited a Kingdom. New York: Back Bay Books (2015).
  2. Baumgartner, Frederic J. France in the Sixteenth Century. London: Macmillan (1995).
  3. De Valois, Marguerite. Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois, Written by Herself. New York: Merrill & Baker (1800).

Author Bio:

Heather R. Darsie

Heather R. Darsie lives in the United States with her family and three parrots. Heather is writing a new biography called Anna, Duchess of Cleves, which she hopes to submit to the publisher in late 2018. Heather is an apprentice bowyer, who also enjoys knitting. She holds a BA in German languages and literature, as well as Juris Doctorate.


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Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part Six) – Two Queens, One Island

They were both female, both royal by birth and both queens in their own right, but being cousins is what caused the most havoc in the lives of these two women. I am of course speaking of Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Stuart.

It wasn’t only the fact that the cousins practiced different religions but that one was declared illegitimate in 1536 after the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Had Henry VIII legitimized both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor when he added them to the line of succession things may have turned out very different for Mary Stuart.

In this post I will not go into full detail on the cousins lives but will try to understand their relationship a bit better and show the differences in the two women.

On Facebook I asked the following questions: 

Do you believe that Elizabeth truly saw Mary as a threat to her throne?  Or was it her advisors who made her believe it?

Here are a few of the responses:

Lisa Pennington: ”Mary was a clear threat because Mary wanted to depose and kill her! Elizabeth knew this too, but hesitated to execute a regnant Queen.”

Nora C Conley: ”I think Mary may very well have been a threat but Elizabeth was also a tad bit paranoid. I think the backers of both women were the real problem. If Mary didn’t have a few powerful backers she would have hardly mattered at all.”

Gail Trusty: ”I think it was complicated enough to be a female ruler. Two of them competing, unheard of in memory. The men wanted them gone. They got one to kill the other, and rendered the other infertile by making every one she chose to marry, not qualified. And they got the job done.”

Bethany Morris: ”Elizabeth was not stupid. She knew she was a threat and learned information through her Advisors who of course knew that she had to make a choice over her life or risk her always being a threat. But that does not mean that she liked the choice in front of her. It weighed heavy on her conscience.”

Age When They Became Queen

Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland at only six days old, after the death of her father, King James V.

Elizabeth Tudor became Queen of England at twenty-five years old after the death of her sister, Queen Mary.

Elizabeth, nine years older than her cousin was Protestant, while the younger Mary was a staunch Catholic. Religion became the force between the two queens that would ultimately lead to the execution of Mary Stuart.

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland & France

Mary Stuart had been of queen of two countries, by birth Scotland, and by marriage France. Mary wed Francis, the dauphin of France on the 24th of April 1558 at the cathedral of Notre Dame. Something not many people know is that Francis was given the crown matrimonial upon his marriage to the Scottish queen. This made him the King of Scotland. Upon hearing this the very powerful Hamilton family in Scotland joined the Protestants to oppose the decision to make Francis the King of Scots. The Hamiltons were heir apparent to the Scottish throne should Mary die without issue – they had a vested interest in the matter. In the two years the young couple were married the Scottish crown never arrived in France.

Mary Stuart, Queen of England

During the last illness of Queen Mary I of England in November 1558, the Valois family in France, or King Henry II to be more specific, saw Mary Stuart and his son Francis as the Catholic heirs to the throne of England. As stated earlier, Queen Mary was Catholic while her cousin Elizabeth was a well-known Protestant. As the great grand-daughter of King Henry VII, King Henry II of France had convinced the young Queen that it was her right to inherit the English throne should Queen Mary die.

It seems that the 15 year old Mary did not fully understand how her claims to the English throne offended her cousin Elizabeth. By allowing those around her to claim the title of Queen of England she would start a battle with England that would end with her execution.

Scotland 1560 & Treaty of Edinburgh

In 1560, while Mary was still in France, a Protestant and anti-France uprising threatened Mary’s Scottish throne. English intervention on the side of the insurgents and the death of Mary’s mother, Mary of Guise, led to the Treaty of Edinburgh. With this treaty the French agreed to withdraw their troops that had been stationed in Scotland and agreed to recognize Elizabeth’s right to rule England. This left Scotland in the hands of a coalition that supported Protestantism.

Mary refused to ratify the treaty which marked the end of the first stand-off between the two young queens: Elizabeth came out of it triumphant, while Mary was humiliated and incensed.

Mary’s Return to Scotland

Then in December 1560, Mary’s husband, a young man who had only been King of France for seventeen months died. The death of King Francis II left Mary a childless dowager queen of France. Catherine de Medici, a woman who practically raised Mary, made it clear that her home was in Scotland and not France. This must have been a scary time for Mary, she was just a child when she arrived in France and Scotland would seem foreign to her – her only choice was to return to her homeland. 

Elizabeth, who had only been Queen of England for two years, was concerned about her Catholic cousin’s return. This was solidified by Mary’s refusal to ratify the Treaty of Edinburgh. Because of this Elizabeth was furious and in turn refused Mary a warrant of safe passage through English waters upon her return from France.

In a conversation with the English Ambassador Mary is quoted as saying:

“If my preparations were not so far advanced as they are, replied Mary, peradventure the queen, your mistress’s unkindness might stay my voyage; but now I am I am determined to adventure the matter, whatsoever come of it. I trust the wind will be so favorable that I shall not  come upon the coast of England; but if I do, then, Monsieur l’Ambassadeur, the queen, your mistress, will have me in her hands to do her will of me; and if she be so hard-hearted as to desire my end, peradventure she may then do her pleasure and make sacrifice of me. That casualty might be better for me than to live; in this matter God’s will be done!”¹

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley

In the summer of 1565 things became more heated between the two cousins when Mary took as her second husband, her cousin (and Elizabeth’s), Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. This new marriage did not please Elizabeth because he was also considered a possible heir to the English throne…which as she saw it (and her advisors) was a threat to her rule and her life.

For those not familiar with Darnley’s heritage: He was the son of Margaret Douglas who was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, dowager queen of Scotland and sister to Henry VIII. Henry Stuart was Elizabeth’s first cousin as well as first cousin of Mary Stuart. Henry VIII had excluded his eldest sister’s family in the line of succession for an unknown reasons, but it could easily be because of the rocky relations between the two countries or Henry’s fear that both countries, England and Scotland could be ruled by a Scot, or worse yet, a ruler from Europe.

By the following summer, the Scottish Queen became pregnant with who would later be King James VI of Scotland/James I of England. By this time Mary saw her husband for who he was: a drunk, womanizer and complete douchebag.

Mary, in her ever dramatic fashion, had never hid her misery about her second marriage to the enemies of her husband. She was even quoted as saying by Scottish historian David Calderwood that, “unless she were quit of the king [Darnley] by one means or another, she could never have a good day in her life, and rather than that to be the instrument of her own death.”² — I love how dramatic all of Mary’s statements were.

The Aftermath of Darnley’s Death

Then in February 1567, Henry Stuart was found murdered after an explosion at Kirk o’ Field. He had previously fallen ill with either smallpox or syphilis, depending on who you talk to, and was suggested by Mary to recuperate at Kirk o’ Field before returning to court.

The night of Darnley’s death, Mary was attending a wedding of a member of her household. When Darnley’s body and that of his valet were found outside they were surrounded by a cloak, a dagger, a chair and a coat. Darnley was dressed in his nightshirt which had suggested that they fled his bedchamber in haste.

Suspicion soon feel on James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell and Mary herself. Mary had been rumored to have a romantic relationship with Bothwell and Darnley’s death seemed far too convenient for many.

In pop culture we often see Bothwell and Mary as a love story, but according to author, John Guy, the Earl of Bothwell never loved the Queen of Scots, he only loved the power she brought him. The fact that he dominated the couple’s relationship did not seem to bother Mary – she appeared okay with allowing him with all her cares, something her cousin Elizabeth would never allow.

After the death of Henry Stuart, Queen Elizabeth wrote her cousin a letter (from Westminster) that contained a warning:

Madame, my ears have been so deafened and my understanding so grieved any my heart so affrighted to hear the dreadful news of the abominable murder of your mad husband and my killed cousin that I scarcely have the wits to write about it. And inasmuch as my nature compels me to take his death in the extreme, he being so close in blood, so it is that I will boldly tell you what I think of it.  I cannot dissemble that I am more sorrowful for you than him. O madame, I would not do the office of faithful cousin or affectionate friend if I studied rather to please your ears than employed myself in preserving your honor. However, I will not at all dissemble what most people are talking about: which is that you will look through your fingers at the revenging of this deed, and that you do not take measure that touch those who have done as you wished, as if the thing had been entrusted in a way that the murderers felt assurance in doing it. Among the thoughts in my heart I beseech you to want no such thought to stick at this point. Through all dealings of the world I never was in such miserable haste to lodge and have in my heart such a miserable opinion of any prince as this would cause me do. Much less will I have such of her to whom I wish as much good as my heart is able to imagine or as you were able a short while ago to wish. However, I exhort you, I counsel you, and I beseech you to take this thing so much to heart that you will not fear to touch even him [Bothwell] whom you have nearest to you if the thing touches him, and that no persuasion will prevent you from making an example out of this to the world: that you are both a noble princess and loyal wife. I do not write so vehemently out of doubt that I have, but out of the affection that I bear you in particular. For I am not ignorant that you have no wiser counselors than myself. Thus it is that, when I remember that our Lord had one Judas out of twelve, and I assure myself that there could be no one more loyal than myself, I offer my affection in place of this prudence.”³

When Queen Elizabeth discovered that her cousin had not heeded her advice and went and married Bothwell, she was horrified. She had warned Mary that her new marriage was a threat to her Scottish throne. Mary’s response to her cousin was that she, Mary, could not rule Scotland alone (like her cousin) because she did not have the same authority that Elizabeth held in England. Mary must have believed she needed a man to be an effective Scottish queen.

However, it wasn’t long before (it is believed) Mary Stuart saw the man before her for who he truly was, a man grasping for power. On the 24th of April 1567, Queen Mary was on her way to Holyrood after seeing her young son James, it was after that that she was forcibly taken by Bothwell to Dunbar where was “ravished”. Whether or not Mary was actually abducted and/or raped is still hotly debated. Everything about her relationship with Bothwell was unliked by her counselors and so if she wanted to make herself look better she very well could have made up the entire story.


Only a few months later, in June of 1567, Mary was forced to abdicate her throne. After twenty-five years as Queen of Scotland she gave it all up. Her son was now King James VI of Scotland. After being threatened and forced to sign she was quoted as saying, “When God shall set me at liberty again, I shall not abide these, for it is done against my will.Mary did not know before signing that her cousin Elizabeth had been planning a war to defend her.

Mary was locked up at Lochleven Castle and was accused of adultery and murder and was said to be unfit to rule.

When Elizabeth was informed of what had happened she was furious. If one queen could be forced to abdicate, why couldn’t she be forced to do the same? Elizabeth immediately sent for Cecil and lectured him for not being able to help Mary. Elizabeth threatened to declare war on Scotland again because Mary was an anointed queen, accountable to God alone. She wanted to demonstrate that a similar action in England would not be tolerated. Cecil warned her that a war with Scotland may cause the those against Mary to assassinate Her- he also knew that Elizabeth’s anger over the matter would eventually subside.

When Mary eventually settled into her new way of life her ultimate plan was to get back all that she had lost. She spent her days at Lochleven Castle sewing, embroidering, playing cards, dancing and plotting.


After eleven months of captivity at Lochleven, Mary finally found her freedom with the help of some of those employed by her captors.

Mary raised an army that was larger than her brother, the Earl of Moray’s army, and she expected to defeat him and punish him for his greed. Unfortunately for Mary, it was her army that would be defeated. After riding for thirty miles at night she hid at the abbey in Dundrennan – it was there that she wrote an urgent appeal for aid from her cousin Elizabeth. With the letter she sent a diamond ring that Elizabeth had given her in 1563 as a token of love and friendship. Little did she know that Elizabeth had just purchased a bunch of Mary’s jewels from the Earl of Moray.

Mary grew impatient and couldn’t wait for her cousin’s reply, she hopped on a fishing boat to cross the Solway Firth, landing at seven in the evening, near Carlisle, England.

The following morning, Mary wrote a second letter to Elizabeth asking for her assistance in reclaiming her Scottish throne. Elizabeth was still sympathetic to her cousin’s cause but she also understood how dangerous it was to have Mary, a Catholic, in northern England.

A Guest of the Queen

Cecil understood all too well the danger of Mary being in England and as soon as he heard he placed her under strict guard at Carlisle Castle. Cecil was determined to see Mary not regain her throne and show that she was indeed responsible of adultery and the murder of Henry Stuart.

Within two weeks of her arrival in England, Mary understood that her future was in the hands of William Cecil, not her more sympathetic cousin, Elizabeth.

For nearly twenty years Mary would remain Elizabeth’s prisoner, under the supervision of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. She was moved from one castle to another. Mary had consistently requested a face to face meeting with her cousin but that day never come – the two women would never meet.

Mary’s downfall was the fact that she had become a figurehead for the Catholics in England. Unlike Lady Jane Grey with Queen Mary, it is believed that Mary had indeed involved in the conspiracies to remove the Protestant Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham had created a network of spies to intercept Mary’s letters. It was within those letters that Mary was caught plotting to kill Elizabeth.

Mary was found guilty at her trial on the 25th of October 1586 and it wasn’t until the 1st of February that she finally signed the death warrant of her cousin. The decision could not have been an easy one for Elizabeth, she always appeared sympathetic to her cousin but ultimately understood that she must protect her own throne from a usurper.

Conclusion of My Series on Elizabeth

On my journey to discover who Elizabeth truly was I can honestly say that the only thing that changed my mind a bit was that she appeared sympathetic to her cousin Mary and the situations she found herself in.

Do I now feel that Elizabeth was the best Tudor monarch? No. I still reserve that spot for Henry VIII. But I do understand a little better why so many of you do.


¹Strickland, Agnes. The Queens of Scotland: Abridged and Adapted from Strickland’s “Queens of Scotland. (1887)

²Hume, Martin. the love affairs of mary queen of scots. (1903)

³Elizabeth I. Elizabeth I: Collected Works

4Matusiak, John. James I: Scotland’s King of England (2015)


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Execution of a Queen

Shared from our sister site – Stuarts Weekly (8 February 2016)

On 8 February 1587, Marie Stuart (Queen of Scots) was executed at Fotheringhay Castle for her supposed treasonous acts against Elizabeth I, Queen of England.

From the moment Mary was informed of her impending execution (the following morning) she felt the world lifted from her shoulders. This prison that she had been kept in for nearly two decades would soon close and she would be free at last.

In Margaret George’s novel, Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, she speaks of how Mary looked forward to death as an end to her misery. When she was informed of her sentence she was inspired to write (originally in latin):

O Lord God,

I have hoped in Thee.

Beloved Jesus,

Now set me free.

In cruel chain,

In bitter pains,

I have longed for Thee.

Now languishing

In sorrow sore,

Upon my knees,

I Thee implore

That Thou wilt

Grant me liberty.

Mary had requested access to her chaplain, but she was denied. The English feared Mary becoming a martyr. Even going so far as to say that her life would be the end of their religion, and her death it’s preservation. Words such as those gave Mary the strength she needed to go on, for they proved she was to be martyred by her execution – that she was one of God’s chosen servants. This gave Mary great strength and comfort to carry on in her last hours.

A scaffold was being erected in the Great Hall (of the castle) in preparation of her execution. Mary would hear the faint banging of it being build. The sound of her impending freedom.

Imagine knowing that your end was near – that there is nothing you could do to stop it. Would you be as brave as the Queen of Scots? Would you embrace your last few hours by savoring every piece of what it is to be human? To breath. To smile. To laugh.

After giving a speech to those who had served her in her prison she said prayers. We can imagine: Strengthen me. Thank you for this life.

When the Sheriff came for Mary, at just past eight in the morning, they left her room and made their way down the great oak staircase of the castle. When they reached the foot of the stairs the Earl of Kent refused to allow Mary’s servants to proceed any further. She was to die alone by the request of the Queen of England.


After many words exchanged, the Queen was granted six persons to follow her into the Great Hall. Jane, Elizabeth, Melville, her master of household, physician, apothecary and surgeons. Yet again she was denied her priest.

With all the confidence she could muster (for a person about to die) she walked into the Great Hall with her head held high. She refused to have anyone say that she was afraid at the end.

The scaffold was only two feet high and was draped in black.

The Earls of Shrewsbury and Kent were there to witness her execution and to report back to Queen Elizabeth.

The executioners asked the Queen of Scots for her forgiveness (which is customary) and she replied with, “I forgive you with all my heart, for now I hope you shall make an end of all my troubles.”

Once she was disrobed of her outer garments it was revealed that she was dressed in red – the color a catholic martyr would wear.¹ This fact would be one that Kent and Shrewbury would hate to report back to the Queen of England.

Her servant, Jane (Kennedy) blindfolded Mary. The Queen of Scots was assisted to the block where she proceeded to kneel on a cushion that was placed there for her. She positioned her head on the block and stretched out her arms. Her last words were, “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum” (“Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit”).²


The executioner’s first swing missed Mary’s neck and struck her in the side of the head. Mary groaned and said in a whisper, “Sweet Jesus.” The spectators in the Great Hall gasped and screamed.

The second swing severed her neck, except for a small piece of ligament. The executioner, embarrassed at his botched execution cut through it with his axe.

After he removed her head he grabbed her head by the hair and declared, “God save Queen Elizabeth!” Upon saying those words Mary’s head fell from the wig she had been wearing and Mary’s head fell to the ground.

This was the end to a life lived the way Mary wanted to live it. From the age of six days old she was Queen. Her life had been laid out for her, but she would inevitably live it the way she wanted.

Mary, Queen of Scots would love much in her short life. She was chastised for making the choices she did, but she did not care. She may not have had the best of luck when it came to men but she always did things her way.

In the end, the “fight” between Elizabeth and Mary was won by Mary. We remember her as a victim and a martyr.

Rest in peace Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots.  (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587)


¹Fraser, A. Mary Queen of Scots, 1969.

²Guy, John (2004). “My Heart is my Own”: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots. London: Fourth Estate. pg 7-8


George, Margaret (1992). Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles

Fraser, A. Mary Queen of Scots, 1969.

Guy, John (2004). “My Heart is my Own”: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots. London: Fourth Estate. pg 7-8

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Elizabeth Throckmorton: The Queen’s Permission


Elizabeth Throckmorton

Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton was born the 16th of April 1565, to  Sir Nicholas Throckmorton and Anne Carew. Nicholas Throckmorton was a diplomat and politician during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and was instrumental in the relationship between Elizabeth and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. He had befriended both queens, which must have put him in several awkward situations. One of those situations happened in 1565, when Queen Elizabeth sent Throckmorton to Scotland (as an ambassador) to stop the marriage of the Scottish Queen to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnely. As many of you know – he failed at his cause.

Peake, Robert; Portrait of a Lady; Maldon Town Council;
Peake, Robert; Portrait of a Lady; Maldon Town Council;

In February 1571, when Bess was nearly six years old her father passed away.

Throckmorton’s end was recorded by Robert Dudley;

We have lost on Monday our good friend Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, who died in my house, being there taken suddenly in great extremity on Tuesday before; his lungs were perished, but a sudden cold he had taken was the cause of his sudden death. God hath his soul, and we his friends great loss of his body.

In 1584, at the age of 19, Bess went to court and became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Eventually she became Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. She was responsible for dressing the Queen. A very intimate job, indeed.

Bess and her younger brother, Arthur were both courtiers during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Bess was described by her contemporaries as ” intelligent, forthright, passionate, and courageous”.

After six years at court (roughly 25 years old) the still single Bess met Walter Raleigh who was quickly becoming one of the Queen Elizabeth’s favorites. As a lady to the Queen it was necessary to get permission to be courted. The Queen must give her approval of any man wishing to court one of her ladies as they were supposed to be seen as extremely virtuous women. Bess Throckmorton and Walter Raleigh had a secret and intimate relationship without the permission of the Queen.

Sir Walter Raleigh

By July 1591, Bess Throckmorton was pregnant – she secretly wed the father of her child, Sir Walter Raleigh. Bess understood the seriousness of getting married without permission from Elizabeth, but what was she supposed to do? She was pregnant with the child of the man she loved. She most certainly would have been aware of Elizabeth’s reaction to her secretly marrying one of her court favorites. As we’ve learned in the past (ex. Lettice Knollys and Robert Dudley) Elizabeth did not handle these situation well. Bess must have been aware of this. She left court to stay at her brother Arthur’s home in London and gave birth to a son there in March 1592 – he was named, Damerei.

Sir Walter Raleigh with son Walter - 1602
Sir Walter Raleigh with son Walter – 1602

Damerei Raleigh was baptized on 10th April 1592, with Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, Bess’ brother Arthur Throckmorton, and his wife, Anna Lucas as godparents. Damerei was then sent to Enfield to a Throckmorton relative while Elizabeth returned to court on the 12th April. (Source: Family Search – Elizabeth Throckmorton)

Not long after her return to court Bess’ marriage to Sir Walter Raleigh and the birth of their child was discovered by Queen Elizabeth. They were both thrown into the Tower of London. In October 1592, young Damerei died from the plague. After the death of their son the Queen chose to release the couple. Queen Elizabeth never forgave Bess for her betrayal and Raleigh was ordered not to be seen at court for one year. Bess never returned to favor. This is a similar tale to the one we heard about Lettice Knollys. She also never returned into the favor of her dear cousin, the Queen. It appears that a woman who was closest to the Queen must not fall for anyone the Queen dearly loved, or she would lose the love of her Queen.

The couple remained devoted to each other, although, according to Weir, Bess proved to be a domineering wife. Anna Beer, Lady Raleigh’s biographer, offers a different perspective, pointing out that due to Raleigh’s frequent absences, whether on expeditions, diplomatic duties, or in prison, Bess had to shoulder an unusual level of responsibility for a woman of her time. (Wikipedia: Elizabeth Raleigh)

In 1593, Throckmorton and Raleigh had another son, this one they named Walter. In 1605, Bess gave birth to another son named, Carew – after her mother’s side of the family. At the time when Bess gave birth to their son Walter Raleigh was in the Tower of London. After the ascension of King James I of England/James VI of Scotland, Raleigh’s enemies had found a way to convince the King that he was a threat and that is the reason he was imprisoned.

After many appeals by Bess, her husband was executed on the 29th of October 1618. Bess is said to have kept her husband’s embalmed head with her until the day she died. At which point it was reunited with its body.


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