Matrimony, Murder & Mary, Queen of Scots - celticgoods

Matrimony, Murder & Mary, Queen of Scots

Our story begins in France, in 1558. Watch the video here!

Mary, Queen of Scots' first husband was Francis, Dauphin of France. Mary was 15 years old and Francis was 14 when they were married on April 24, 1558 at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Their marriage occurred for several reasons; for one, it strengthened the Auld Alliance, “Auld” meaning “old” in Scots.

“Scots”, in this context, is a language that has its roots in the early medieval Old English, spoken in what is now southern Scotland. Over time, Scots developed as a distinct language, influenced by Gaelic, Norse, French, and other languages.

The Auld Alliance dates back to 1295 and it was important because it was strengthened through a series of royal marriages, including this one. It also affirmed military support would be given from each country if England attacked either France or Scotland as well as benefits between trade, commerce and diplomacy between the two countries.

Outside of the Auld Alliance, the fact that Mary and Francis were both devout Catholics, helped to strengthen the Catholic cause in Europe during a time of religious upheaval with the Protestant Reformation. This eventually led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, removing King James II of Scotland who was ultimately replaced by William of Orange, and his wife Mary, both Protestants.

Frances became King Francis II of France when his father, Henry II, died in 1559. However, Francis II's reign was short-lived. He died on December 5, 1560, at the age of 16 of a suspected ear infection, leaving Mary a young widow. She returned to Scotland the following year.

Mary’s mother, Mary of Guise, had served as regent of Scotland in her daughter´s name between 1554 and 1560. During a time of religious upheaval in Scotland, Mary’s mother faced an increasing amount of hostility from the Presbyterians, and she sent James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell to France to gain reinforcements.

On his way, Bothwell first reached Denmark, where he met Anna Throndssen, and after a brief time, had gone through a hand-fasting ceremony with. While there, he learned of the passing of Mary of Guise, and decided to extend his stay. Bothwell eventually made it to France, and he and Anna returned to Scotland in November 1560, where he decided to leave her, despite her being pregnant.

Bothwell traveled between Scotland and France in the service of Mary, Queen of Scots. Between 1560 and 1564, Bothwell was imprisoned by both the Scottish and the English at various times for various reasons, including trumped up treason charges. Although he was disliked by so many, he seemed to have Mary’s favor, and she negotiated his release, but he was forced to be sent to France. You’ll soon find out why Bothwell is an important figure in this story…

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The next few years proved challenging for Mary to rule Scotland. The country had gone through religious upheavals while she was in France, and it became increasingly difficult to maintain religious harmony in Scotland. Meanwhile, Mary's advisors were actively engaged in negotiations for her next marriage. Various suitors were proposed, including Archduke Charles of Austria and Don Carlos of Spain, but no formal marriage agreement was reached during this period.

In 1564, a man named David Rizzio became the private secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots. He was an Italian musician and diplomat who came to Scotland in the service of the French ambassador. Due to his skills and abilities, he quickly gained favor with Mary and eventually became one of her closest and most trusted advisors. His influential position in Mary's court contributed to the political tensions and conspiracies that surrounded her reign.

Enter Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

Darnley was the son of Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox, and he had a claim to the English throne through his grandmother Margaret Tudor, who was the sister of King Henry VIII of England.

In February 1565, Darnley arrived in Scotland from England, where he had been raised, with the intention of pursuing a marriage alliance with Mary. They met at Wemyss Castle in Fife, Scotland, and it’s said that they were mutually attracted to each other. Darnley was tall (Mary was 5’11 – the average height of a woman at that time was about 5 ft); he was handsome, charming and intelligent. He was also Catholic, which was important to Mary, as she was a devout Catholic herself. Their initial meeting was followed by a relatively short courtship. 

That same month, Bothwell petitioned Mary to be allowed to return to Scotland from France and she granted his request, so long as he supported her marriage to Darnley. Bothwell agreed.

Mary and Lord Darnley were married on July 29, 1565, at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. Their union was meant to strengthen Mary's claim to the English throne and create an alliance between Scotland and England, but their marriage ultimately became fraught with political and personal tensions.

Meanwhile, in September 1565, the Earl of Bothwell returned to Scotland and Mary appointed him to the Privvy Council, which was comprised of a group of advisors to Scottish monarch. The following February, Bothwell married Lady Jean Gordon but the marriage was quickly unhappy and they separated. Bothwell was also accused of having an affair Bessie Crawford, Jean’s maid and seamstress.   

Initially, Darnley and Bothwell were not openly hostile to each other and were both prominent members of the Scottish nobility and political landscape surrounding Mary. Over time, their relationship became increasingly adversarial. Darnley viewed Bothwell as a rival for influence over Mary, and Bothwell was wary of Darnley's ambitions and behavior.

As for Mary and Darnley, they were deeply infatuated with each other, but their relationship began to quickly sour for a variety of reasons. Darnley was ambitious and expected to wield a significant amount of power as Mary's consort. He sought the Crown Matrimonial, which would have made him co-sovereign of Scotland, but Mary was hesitant to grant him such authority.

Darnley's behavior became erratic. He was often arrogant, leading to frequent arguments between the couple, often aggravated by his drinking. Darnley is also said to have had a jealous side, which was primarily directed towards individuals whom he perceived as having undue influence over Mary or as potential rivals to his own power.

On the evening of March 9, 1566, this jealous side took a tragic turn - a group of conspirators, led by Lord Darnley, burst into Mary's chambers at Holyrood Palace. Rizzio was dragged from Mary's side and stabbed to death in her presence. The exact number of assailants and the details of the murder may vary in historical accounts, but it is generally agreed that Rizzio was brutally slain.

While it’s said that Darnley did not physically attack Rizzio, supposedly it was Darnley’s dagger which dealt the final blow.

The murder of David Rizzio created significant political turmoil in the Scottish court and contributed to the further deterioration of Mary's relationship with Darnley with open hostility and estrangement between them.

Their marriage, which had once held promise, was now marked by mutual suspicion and resentment.

Despite the strained state of their marriage, Mary and Darnley had a son, James VI of Scotland (who was later James I of England), in June 1566. However, the birth of their child did not significantly improve their relationship.

Darnley's involvement in political intrigues further alienated him from Mary and other influential figures at court. He attempted to form alliances with various Protestant lords in Scotland, often with the aim of increasing his own political influence and undermining Mary's authority.

There were also suspicions that Darnley was involved in a plot to capture and potentially depose Mary. Some sources suggest that he may have considered aligning himself with rebel factions to further his own interests.

Darnley also corresponded with Queen Elizabeth I of England, Mary's cousin, seeking her support and assistance. He hoped to gain the favor of Elizabeth, who held significant power in the region.

Darnley attempted to exert influence over various aspects of Scottish governance, including matters of state, finances, and foreign policy. His efforts often clashed with the established powers in the Scottish court and created tensions among the nobility.

Having enough of Darnley, the Scottish Lords decided to act. When they realized that a divorce would render Mary’s son James illegitimate, they discussed their next best course of action.

With the help of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, the next course of action for them was murder.

In the fall of 1566, Darnley traveled to Glasgow to see his father, the Earl of Lennox. After Christmas, Mary, along with a group of nobles including Bothwell, went to Glasgow to persuade Darnley, who was supposedly battling a bout of smallpox, to return to Edinburgh. Darnley agreed to return, and to stay at the Kirk o’ Field house in Edinburgh until he was better. By February 9th, Darnley was back in Edinburgh.

In the early hours of February 10th, the Kirk o’ Field house was destroyed in a powerful explosion. Darnley's body was found in a nearby garden, indicating that he had likely been strangled before the explosion.

Bothwell, who was at Holyrood Palace, was awakened by the blast and ultimately confessed to his role in what had happened. The nobles sought to take advantage of this, although many were involved with the murder plot, to get Bothwell and Mary out of the picture. The plan was to spread rumors about a long-standing affair between Mary and Bothwell, and have James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray and Mary’s half- brother, be installed as ruler.

The prime suspect in the murder, shockingly, was James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. He was brought to trial but with no evidence against him, he was found innocent in April 1567. After the trial, Bothwell worked with some of the nobles to support a marriage proposal between himself and Mary, and they agreed.

Mary, who was visiting her son James in Stirling, was kidnapped by Bothwell at which point he persuaded her to marry him to protect the throne. There was, however, the small problem that he was still married to Lady Jean Gordon. Jean agreed to divorce him, and their marriage was annulled in May 1567.  

Later that month, Bothwell and Mary, Queen of Scots, were married. Upon their marriage, Bothwell was created Duke of Orkney.

However, tensions grew in opposition to the marriage; a group of nobles, known as the Confederate Lords, were a large part of that opposition. The Confederate Lords were a group of Protestant Scottish nobles who favored a reformation of the Catholic church.

This wasn’t their first opposition to Mary’s actions. Back in 1557, when a young Mary was married to the Dauphin of France, concerns grew over France’s influence over Scottish affairs as well as furthering the Catholic cause, given the Lords were Protestants.

On June 11, 1567, Bothwell’s enemies assembled in Edinburgh. This group consisted of the Confederate Lords, William Maitland of Lethington, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, and James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton. This gathering was known as the "Raid of Edinburgh."

The Confederate Lords and their supporters encamped near Edinburgh at Carberry Hill.

With them was a written proclamation. The proclamation denounced James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, as the chief instigator and perpetrator of the murder of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Mary's second husband. It accused Bothwell of having "treacherously murdered the King's Majesty, our sovereign lord's dearest father."

The document emphasized that the intent of the Confederate Lords was to rescue Mary from Bothwell's influence and to protect her from any coercion or undue influence. It also stated that the Confederate Lords sought to restore peace, order, and justice to the realm of Scotland, which they believed had been disrupted by Bothwell's actions.

The Lords urged Mary to recognize Bothwell's alleged guilt and to separate herself from him, implying that doing so would be in the best interest of the kingdom and the proclamation extended an offer of amnesty and safety to Mary's supporters who were not directly involved in Darnley's murder.

Lastly, the Lords explicitly condemned Mary's marriage to Bothwell and asserted that it was not in accordance with her dignity and the interests of the realm.

On June 15th, the Queen, Bothwell and a small army, went to face the opposition and they were significantly outnumbered.

Prior to the actual battle, there were attempts at negotiation to avoid bloodshed. The Confederate Lords, led by figures like James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, presented Mary with a proclamation denouncing Bothwell and urging her to separate from him.

A standoff between sides lasted most of the day and what is called the Battle of Carberry Hill wasn’t really much of a battle at all. 

In a chivalrous act, Bothwell fled. What’s unknown is why he fled and there’s two general theories about it. One is that he may have fled seeing the opposing forces, or the other, that Mary may have sent him away to try to save him. In either case, he did indeed flee, leaving Mary, Queen of Scots effectively without a leader. As such, she surrendered to the Confederate Lords.

She was arrested and first held in Edinburgh, but soon moved to Lochleven Castle in Kinross. There, Mary was forced to abdicate the throne in favor of her infant son, James VI of Scotland (who would later also become James I of England). On July 24, 1567, Mary formally abdicated in a ceremony at the castle.

This was the start of a long imprisonment (and a few escapes) which ultimately led to her execution on February 8, 1587.

As for Bothwell, he was pursued by William Kirkaldy – Bothwell even battled at sea trying escape capture. Bothwell’s ship had it’s mast blown clear off and a storm eventually forced him to sail towards Norway.

Bothwell arrived in Norway and was captured due to lacking the proper papers to enter Norway. From there, he was transported to Bergen, Norway. Unfortunately, Bergen just so happened to be the home of Anna Throndsen.

Back in Norway in 1570, Anna used her political connections to keep Bothwell imprisoned and demanded restitution as one of his three living wives. Bothwell settled out of court but he never regained his freedom. Queen Elizabeth I wanted Bothwell extradited back to Scotland to stand trial for Lord Darnley, who was Elizabeth I’s cousin, but it was never granted.

Bothwell was sent to Dragsholm Castle and remained imprisoned there until his death on April 14, 1578.

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