The Tudors may not have reigned for as long as other dynasties but they are arguably the best remembered family in British royal history.
Welcome Màiri Stiùbhairt (Scots Gaelic)
On the 8th December 1542 Mary Stewart, the surname was not yet spelled Stuart, was born prematurely at the Scottish royal residence of Linlithgow Palace less than twenty miles west of Edinburgh. Her mother, Marie of Guise (1515-1560) was French. Her father was James V of Scotland (1512-1542) and he had been king since he was an infant and had ruled in his own right from the age of twelve. When Mary was born, he was fighting the English. Again. The two countries, led by James and King Henry VIII (1491-1547) rarely laid down their weapons in the contest for dominance.
The French-Scottish Alliance Strengthened
James V and Marie of Guise had each been married and bereaved once prior to their union. Marie diplomatically rejected a marriage proposal from the Protestant Church of England’s creator King Henry VIII on the instructions of King Francois I of France (1494-1547) before she accepted James V of Scotland, or rather Francois accepted on her behalf. James and Marie were married first by proxy in May 1538 and in person at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Fife on the 12th June 1538. Francois’s goal was achieved. Through the marriage the French-Scottish Catholic alliance against England was reinforced. The position of Protestants in Scotland was weakened. The king of France awarded a substantial dowry as a reward.
Royal Heirs for Scotland
Heirs? Yes. Although many people only know of Mary, Queen of Scots, she had two elder brothers who died. Marie of Guise gave birth to a son James, Duke of Rothesay on 22nd May 1540 at St. Andrews near Edinburgh. A second son Arthur, Duke of Albany was born on 12th April 1541 at Falkland Palace in Fife. James died on 21st April 1541 at St. Andrew’s and Arthur died eight days after his birth at Fife. Both princes died within hours of each other at separate locations. There was talk that they had been poisoned. They were buried at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh.
Marie of Guise had one surviving son from her first brief marriage to Louis d’Orleans, Duc de Longueville (1510-1537.) Francois was born in 1535 and Louis in 1537. Baby Louis died within a few months and Francois inherited the dukedom but had no rights to the Scottish throne. Sadly, he fell ill and died in 1551. James V had numerous illegitimate Stewart sired offspring but they were not permitted in the line of succession to the Scottish throne.
After the deaths of his sons James V fell in to a deep depression. He expected that he would be assassinated because he had no legitimate heirs. Marie of Guise became pregnant again in 1642, hope for the dynasty was reignited. As Marie’s due date grew closer, so too did the English armies. James V was called upon to lead his army and after a demoralising defeat on the 24th November at the Battle of Solway Moss the king of Scotland suffered a nervous breakdown and was also left physically ill after drinking some contaminated water. When news of his child’s arrival reached him in December 1542 he was not thrilled that Mary obviously wasn’t the longed for male heir and his comment about the Stewart reign over Scotland has survived, “It cam wi’ a lass and it will gang with a lass.” This was a reference to ruler Robert the Bruce’s daughter Marjorie (1296-1316) who married Walter Stewart, the 6th High Steward of Scotland (1296-1327.) Their only child Robert II (1316-1390) was the first Stewart king. James V was aware that his newborn daughter would inevitably be married dynastically and so the Stewarts’ would fade in to obscurity as a ruling house. The king consumed by his mental illness couldn’t imagine that he and Marie would have more children or that the royal house would continue.
Queen In A Cradle
James V died at Falkland Palace on 14th December 1542 aged thirty. Mary was just six days old and the queen of Scotland. She was cared for by her nurse Janet Sinclair. The queen was not exempt from slights and gossip. She was said to be frail and her survival was questioned. The claims were unfounded. In spring 1543 the English diplomat Ralph Sadler commented to his king that Mary was “as goodly a child as I have seen of her age, and as like to live.” A regency was established with James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran (1519-1575) ruling in Mary’s name. He was a popular Protestant courtier and Mary’s nearest blood relative after her mother.
Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox (1516-1571) was another cousin of Mary’s and he argued that he should have been made regent instead of Arran. Lennox would go on to be Mary, Queen of Scots father in law when she married Henry, Lord Darnley (1545-1567) but was not successful in his claim for the regency. The Earl of Lennox finally became regent in 1570, but to Mary, Queen of Scots son James VI (1566-1625.) Lennox died in 1571.
As Arran’s influence waned, Marie of Guise took over as regent. Mary was oblivious to the constant intriguing at court and the peaceful stalemate between England and Scotland that turned once more to war in the Rough Wooing as Henry VIII tried in vain to contract a marriage between his son Edward, born in October 1537 and Mary.
Queen of Scots and Queen of France
Marie arranged an excellent marriage for Mary with Francois, the Dauphin of France (1544-1560) who ruled as King Francois II from 10th July 1559 to 5th December 1560. The young and pretty Mary was sent to France aged five, as Marie remained in Scotland. It was at this time that the Stewart name was altered to Stuart, the French version.
In August 1561 Mary returned to Scotland, a nineteen year old widow. Within six years she lost her throne, the faith of her people, married twice more and bore a son and heir James VI.
Scourge of Henry VIII: The Life of Marie de Guise by Melanie Clegg. Pen and Sword History 2016.
Mary Queen of Scots Makers of History by Jacob Abbott. Public Domain 1904.
Mary Queen of Scotland - Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mary-queen-of-Scotland
Mary of Guise, Queen of Scots - Unofficial Royalty: http://www.unofficialroyalty.com/marie-of-guise-queen-of-scots/
James V, King of Scots - Unofficial Royalty: http://www.unofficialroyalty.com/james-v-king-of-scots/
Mary, Queen of Scots - Unofficial Royalty: http://www.unofficialroyalty.com/mary-queen-of-scots/
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Joanne Hayle