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Queen Mary I of Scotland (December 8, 1542 – February 8, 1587), reigned over Scotland from December 14, 1542 to July 24, 1567.

Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, was six days old when her father died and she acceded to the throne. She spent most of her childhood in France while Scotland was ruled by regents, and in 1558, she married the Dauphin of France, François. Mary was queen consort of France from the accession of her husband as King François II of France in 1559 until his death in December 1560. Widowed, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on August 19, 1561. Four years later, she married her half-cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and in June 1566 they had a son, James.

Mary I, Queen of Scotland

In February 1567, Darnley’s residence was destroyed by an explosion, and he was found murdered in the garden. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was generally believed to have orchestrated Darnley’s death, but he was acquitted of the charge in April 1567.

Between April 21 and 23, 1567, Mary visited her son at Stirling for the last time. On her way back to Edinburgh on April 24, Mary was abducted, willingly or not, by Lord Bothwell and his men and taken to Dunbar Castle, where Bothwell may have raped her. On May 6, Mary and Bothwell returned to Edinburgh. On May 15, at either Holyrood Palace or Holyrood Abbey, they were married according to Protestant rites. Bothwell and his first wife, Jean Gordon, who was the sister of Lord Huntly, had divorced twelve days previously.

Queen Mary I and her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

Originally, Mary believed that many nobles supported her marriage, but relations quickly soured between the newly elevated Bothwell (created Duke of Orkney) and his former peers and the marriage proved to be deeply unpopular.

Catholics considered the marriage unlawful, since they did not recognise Bothwell’s divorce or the validity of the Protestant marriage service. Both Protestants and Catholics were shocked that Mary should marry the man accused of murdering her husband. The marriage was tempestuous, and Mary became despondent.

Twenty-six Scottish peers, known as the confederate lords, turned against Mary and Bothwell and raised their own army. Mary and Bothwell confronted the lords at Carberry Hill on June 15, but there was no battle, as Mary’s forces dwindled away through desertion during negotiations. Bothwell was given safe passage from the field. The lords took Mary to Edinburgh, where crowds of spectators denounced her as an adulteress and murderer.

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell

The following night, she was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle on an island in the middle of Loch Leven. Between July, 20 and 23 Mary miscarried twins. On July 24, she was forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son James, who became King James VI of Scotland. Mary’s half-brother, James Stewart, The 1st Earl of Moray was made regent, while Bothwell was driven into exile. He was imprisoned in Denmark, became insane and died in 1578.

After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled southward seeking the protection of her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Mary had once claimed Elizabeth’s throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics, including participants in a rebellion known as the Rising of the North. Perceiving Mary as a threat, Elizabeth had her confined in various castles and manor houses in the interior of England. After eighteen and a half years in custody, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth in 1586, and was beheaded the following year at Fotheringhay Castle.