The Unholy Alliance: Mary, Queen of Scots & Henry, Lord Darnley

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I’ve been putting off writing this post because it’s a big one, but I have a feeling November and December are going to be busy months so if not now then when? Even so, we might return to Darnley’s murder and get more into the weeds of various theories later on. Today we’re going to take a look at the marriage of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland and her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Mary, rather famously, spent the middle of the 16th century engaged in a venomous rivalry with her cousin, Elizabeth I, which ended in her execution in 1587. Before that, however, her second marriage resulted in Darnley’s suspicious death and her forced abdication in favor of their son, James. And James, of course, would eventually succeed Elizabeth on the English throne, uniting England and Scotland under one rule.

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Mary, Queen of Scots at the French Court

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So much of Mary, Queen of Scots’ later life was operatic that it’s easy to gloss over her formative years. Her violent death, her rivalry with Elizabeth I, her disastrous second and third marriages, the possibility she was involved in a murder – all of this tends to drown out the rest. But much like Eleanor of Aquitaine, the “less” dramatic early years actually involved being the queen of France and Mary’s long-term residency at the French court uniquely positioned her as both a Stuart and Scottish monarch.

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Half-Tudor: Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox

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A possible portrait of Margaret (Image: the Douglas archives)

We’re a bit overdue for some Tudor history, I think. Today marks the anniversary of the death of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox in 1578 at the ripe old age of 62. For those that know their Tudors well, Margaret is likely well-known, but for those that don’t, or perhaps have focused in on more key figures like Henry VIII’s wives or children, Margaret’s story may be more unfamiliar. It’s an interesting one, though, and just as dramatic, if not more so, than those of her more famous aunts and cousins.

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The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

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The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots on February 8, 1587 was a landmark moment in the reign of Elizabeth I and history  has often given the English queen a bit of a side eye for her handling of it.  Likely there would be more sympathy for Elizabeth’s position if Mary hadn’t, at face value, appeared so sympathetic – a beautiful woman, a mother, a widow, a deposed queen, a Catholic punished for her faith.

But Mary certainly isn’t without detractors. Though she ascended the Scottish throne as an infant after the premature death of her father, James V, she would only directly rule Scotland from within its confines for less than seven years. Raised in France as a Catholic, Scotland and its increasingly Protestant people were wholly foreign to her when she returned to it as an adult in 1561. Her rule was clumsy, her government fractured, her personal life scandalous and she continued to make herself a thorn in the side of England and her cousin, Elizabeth. What helped to solidify Mary’s legacy as a martyr-like figure is, in fact, her behavior during her execution.

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