Mary Queen of Scots.

 The First Reformation – the establishment of a Protestant religion,  was accomplished in 1560 but there were tensions to come with the return of the mqos.jpg (156823 bytes) Catholic Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots on 20 August 1561. Having lived in France surrounded by the Guise family, the staunchest of all the Catholic families of France, Mary was also the widow of Francis II, the Catholic King of France, and heiress to the English throne. She had been educated in France under the auspices of her uncle, the Cardinal of Lorraine, and brought up in an atmosphere of blind commitment to the Church of Rome. It is highly likely that every effort was made to prejudice her against the Reformation before she returned to Scotland, and that she had been convinced that it would be the glory of her reign if she brought back Scotland to the obedience of Rome. From the Catholic point of view there was a double bonus if Mary were to succeed to the throne of England and, in any event, a Catholic Scotland could impose itself on England in pursuit of the greater plan of the Catholic League.  Behind this lay the machinations of the House of Guise, Catherine de Medici, and the Duke of Alva, which sought to extirpate heresy in Europe. It can be read into this that Mary was probably prepared to sign the death warrant for very many of her subjects as a result of her own religious intolerance.  

Mary might have survived in Scotland had she not so blatantly exposed her Catholicism to the people and wilfully disregarded good advice. She had been counselled by the Earl of Moray not to press religion as an issue and to contain her own practice within the bounds of her home. But the people of Edinburgh were aware of the furnishing of the chapel at Holyrood House and the saying of a Mass on 24 August 1561 that prompted rioting. The next day Mary obtained the Privy Council’s  agreement to an Edict of Toleration proclaimed at the Mercat Cross that allowed her choice of worship for herself and her Court on pain of death for interfering. 

The Edict had two strands to it.  Firstly, the state of religion as at the time of Mary’s return to Scotland:

 …that they and everie one of them content themselves in quietness, keep silence and civill societie among themselves, and in the meantime, whill the estats of the realme may be assembled , and that her Majestie have takin a finall order by their advice , and publick consent, which her Majestie hopeth sall be to the contentment of the whole: That none of them tak upon hand, privatlie or publicklie, to make anie alteratioun or innovatioun of the estate of religioun , or attempt anie thing against the same, which her Majestie found publicklie and universallie standing at her Majestie’s arrival in this her realme under paine of death…

 And secondly, as it impacted herself and her household:  

 …Attour, her Majestie, with advice of her Lords of Secreit Counsell, commands and charges all her lieges, that none of them take upon hand to molest or trouble anie of her domesticall servants, or persons whatsomever, come furth of France in her Grace’s companie at this time, in word, deed or countenance, for anie caus whatsomever, either within the palace or without, or make anie derisioun or invasioun upon anie of them, under whatsomever colour or pretence, under the said paine of death  

 The tenor of the Edict applied double standards, and the announcement that Parliament and the Queen would consider the state of religion raised the hackles of Knox and the faithful brethren who rightly suspected a Papal plot to restore Catholicism. Under the wing of the Jesuit and papal nuncio Nicolaus Floris of Gouda, the plot was for Mary to marry a powerful Catholic able to coerce the Protestants; appoint Catholic advisers and clergy; establish a Catholic college, given guidance by papal legates and have the support of Philip of Spain to overthrow the Protestant church. This master plan devised by Floris of Gouda, was ccompanied with sneers at the ministers of the kirk and preachers, claiming them to be illiterate tradesmen without influence and “comfortable in the arms of England.”  How wrong he was on all counts.

McCrie in Life of Knox  (1855) provides evidence, that Mary was intent on restoring Catholicism in Scotland,  which he obtained from the letters of the Cardinal de St. Croix in the Vatican library. This was a report from the Grand Prior of France, Danville, (Mary’s uncle), in December 1561, of her doings (including action against a burgh for expelling priests).

 "By these means she has acquired greater authority and power, for enabling her to restore the ancient religion."

 Intrigue and suspicion  at the time caused the Congregation to demand that the government take action under the royal proclamation which forbade interference with the state of religion existing at the time of the arrival of the Queen. They submitted a list of forty-eight Catholics for prosecution. Significant among these was George Gordon, Fourth Earl of Huntly, who had enormous estates in Aberdeen and Inverness which included the lands of the Earl of Moray. Mary was convinced by her courtiers that she ought to intervene to quell a dispute between the Gordons and the Ogilvies against which Huntly rebelled and was killed in the battle of Corrichie, 28 October 1562. A son was also executed and another imprisoned while all the lands were forfeit to the Crown. It is quite probable that Mary was tricked to intervene against the staunch Catholic Huntly and realised this soon after the event, as evidenced in her subsequent strong defiance of the Protestant lords. The Protestants, however, remained suspicious and entered into another Band (the Fifth Covenant) at Ayr on 4 September 1562.

The string of events that followed was Mary’s undoing.  Voices were raised against her with criticism of her headlong dash into marriage with her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, on Sunday, 29 July 1565.  Lord Darnley was the eldest son of the Fourth Earl of Lennox and, like Mary, a great-grandchild of Henry VII. As such, he had an equal claim to the succession of the English throne as well as a claim to the Scottish throne. Mary’s marriage to Darnley was not approved of by Queen Elizabeth I or her advisers who had worked hard on the alliance with Scotland. Neither did it help that the Lennox family had many enemies in Scotland. Knox was a loud voice and critic of Mary, undoubtedly having some influence on the outcome, but she continued to press Catholicism while her marriage was a personal and political disaster

Also, at the General Assembly that met on 25 December 1565, Mary emphatically stated that she would not ratify the establishment of the Protestant Church nor abjure her own Catholicism. This prompted great fear among the Congregation and a fast was declared. And, finally, a string of almost perverse events fell Mary’s way as a result of Darnley’s erratic behaviour.  Although “King,” he failed to turn up at Privy Councils and was seldom available to sign Acts. In respect of the latter, the Queen`s Secretary David Riccio was given a copy of Darnley`s seal which he used to endorse documents. Given to spending his time carousing and whoring among the low life of Edinburgh, Darnley also intrigued with the Lords of the Congregation. He signed a Band at Newcastle on 2 March 1566 which convinced many of them to return from exile in the expectation that Darnley would replace Mary on the throne.  There followed what appeared to be a connected incident with the murder of David Rizzio  and the death (murder) of Darnley.

In a subsequent and bizarre event Bothwell carried off Queen Mary to Dunbar Castle on 24 April 1567 where she remained, apparently a not unwilling prisoner. At the General Assembly on 30 December 1567 John Craig responded to an admonishment for declaring the marriage banns of the Queen and Bothwell that

 …the Justice Clerk brought me ane writing subscryved with her hand, bearing in effect that she was neither ravished nor yet retained in captivitie and, therefore, charged me to proclaime 

 Mary and Bothwell were strongly suspected of complicity in the murder of Darnley. Indeed such was the demand that Bothwell was summoned to an Assize charged with the murder, but the carefully selected jury found him not guilty. His elevation to Duke of Orkney and Zetland, and the subsequent marriage with Mary on 15 May 1567, confirmed all the suspicions in the eyes of the people.  There quickly followed a change of government and the Protestant noblemen who had taken refuge in England were restored. After a bloodless encounter at Carberry Hill on 15 June 1567, Bothwell fled to Norway and eventual imprisonment in Denmark for the rest of his days. Mary became another Scottish sovereign whose Crown passed to a child, in her case she was forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son, James VI. Mary subsequently made a dash for freedom from her prison at Lochleven and, with a dwindling group of faithful supporters, made a final stand at Langside on 13 May 1568. Here she was again deserted by fortune and forced to make an overnight dash for the Solway Firth and escape into England (and exile).

 The General Assembly must have been conversant with the pending forced abdication. On the previous day, 23 July 1567, they specifically called for the nobility, barons, and others to maintain and defend the Prince. They also notably declared about the commitment of kings and princes to Presbyterianism:

That all kings, princes and magistrates, whilk hereafter in any tyme to come shall happen to reigne and bear rule over this realme, their first intres before they be crowned and inaugarat, shall make their faithfull league and promise to the trew Kirk of God that they shall maintaine and defend, and be all lawfull means sett forward the trew religion of Jesus Christ, presently professed and established within this realme…

 In the aftermath of Mary’s machinations, the Scottish Parliament met and passed an Act on 15 December 1567 that confirmed the so-called national “Establishment” of the Protestant religion in Scotland. This recognised Presbyterianism as the official Church in Scotland, but did not create it nor commit the state to supporting it financially.  There was, however, a downside as the Parliament altered the provisions of the Book of Discipline by reserving the appointments of ministers through a patron to the “ancient patrons”—the nobles who were jealously guarding their ancient rights and control over church lands. This vexed issue of patronage was one that would rear its head again and again.

Throughout her nineteen years in exile, Mary Queen of Scots was a shadow in the background for James who was soon alienated from his mother. She disowned him and he only made a political gesture when it became apparent that she might be executed. The hardest decision was that of Queen Elizabeth I who was petitioned by Parliament 22 November 1586 calling for a “just and speedy execution  of the said Queen.”  Elizabeth replied on November 24 asking the Parliament to try to find a different solution but they again insisted on execution. Elizabeth then wrote what must be the classic sitting on the fence reply : 

"If I should say unto you that I mean not to grant your petition, by my faith I should say unto you more than perhaps I mean. And if I say unto you I mean to grant your petition, I should then tell you more than is fit for you to know. And thus I must deliver you an answer, answerless. "

 The exiled Mary, Queen of Scots, gained a few more months of life before it was ended on the executioner`s block on 8 February 1568 at Fotheringay.

  Next: James VI, King of Scotland 1567-1603


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