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Mary was born on December 8, 1542 at Linlithgow Palace, Scotland, to King James V of Scots and his French second wife, Marie de Guise. Mary was said to have been born prematurely and was the only legitimate child of James V to survive him She was the great-niece of King Henry VIII of England, as her paternal grandmother, Margaret Tudor, was Henry VIII’s sister. On December 14, 1542 six days after her birth, she became Queen of Scotland when her father died from drinking contaminated water while on campaign following the Battle of Solway Moss.

Mary I, Queen of Scots

Since Mary was an infant when she inherited the throne, Scotland was ruled by regents until she became an adult. From the outset, there were two claims to the regency: one from Catholic Cardinal Beaton, and the other from the Protestant Earl of Arran, who was next in line to the Scottish throne. Beaton’s claim to the regency was based on a version of the King Jame V’s will that his opponents dismissed as a forgery. Arran, with the support of his friends and relations, became the regent until 1554 when Mary’s mother managed to remove and succeed him.

Henry VIII, King of England and King of Ireland.

King Henry VIII of England took the opportunity of the regency to propose marriage between Mary and his own son and heir, Edward (future Edward VI of England) seeking to unite Scotland and England. On July 1, 1543, when Mary was six months old, the Treaty of Greenwichwas signed, which promised that, at the age of ten, Mary would marry Edward and move to England, where Henry could oversee her upbringing. The treaty provided that the two countries would remain legally separate and that if the couple should fail to have children, the temporary union would dissolve. Cardinal Beaton rose to power again and began to push a pro-Catholic pro-French agenda, angering Henry, who wanted to break the Scottish alliance with France.

The French king, Henri II, desired to unite France and Scotland and proposed marrying the young queen to his three-year-old son, the Dauphin Francis. On the promise of French military help, and a French dukedom for himself, the regent Earl of Arran agreed to the marriage. In February 1548, Mary was moved, for her safety, to Dumbarton Castle. The English left a trail of devastation behind once more and seized the strategic town of Haddington. In June, the much awaited French help arrived at Leith to besiege and ultimately take Haddington. On July 7, 1548, a Scottish Parliament held at a nunnery near the town agreed to a French marriage treaty.

Mary I, Queen of Scots

With the promise of her marriage agreement in place, five-year-old Mary was sent to France to spend the next thirteen years at the French court. The French fleet sent by Henri II, commanded by Nicolas de Villegagnon, sailed with Mary from Dumbarton on August 7, 1548 and arrived a week or more later at Roscoff or Saint-Pol-de-Léon in Brittany.

At the French court, she was a favourite with everyone, except Henri II’s wife Catherine de’ Medici. Mary learned to play lute and virginals, was competent in prose, poetry, horsemanship, falconry and needlework, and was taught French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and Greek, in addition to speaking her native Scots. Her future sister-in-law, Elisabeth of Valois, became a close friend of whom Mary “retained nostalgic memories in later life”.Her maternal grandmother, Antoinette de Bourbon, was another strong influence on her childhood, and acted as one of her principal advisors.

King Francis II and Queen Mary I of France and Scotland

Mary was eloquent and especially tall by sixteenth-century standards (she attained an adult height of 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m), while Henri II’s son and heir, Francis, stuttered and was abnormally short. Henri commented that “from the very first day they met, my son and she got on as well together. On April 4, 1558, Mary signed a secret agreement bequeathing Scotland and her claim to England to the French crown if she died without issue. Twenty days later, April 24,1558 she married the Dauphin at Notre Dame de Paris, and he became king consort of Scotland. When Henri II died on July 10, 1559 from injuries sustained in a joust, the fifteen-year-old Dauphin became King Francis II of France and sixteen-year-old Mary I, Queen of Scots became Queen of France.