Mary Queen of Scots, Mary Stuart, became Queen of Scotland in 1542 at just 6 days old, after her father James V died of depression. Her French mother was chosen as regent, and she sent Mary to France in 1548 where Mary lived as part of the French royal family.
In April 1558 she married the Dauphin Francis, and was briefly Queen of France as well as Scotland. Mary's husband Francis II died in December 1560 after a reign of 17 months. Mary, who was about to turn 18, was left in a difficult position. Unwilling to stay in France and live under the domination of her mother-in-law Catherine De Medicis she decided to return to Scotland and take her chances with the Protestant reformers.
Mary married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, (Lord Darnley) for love after marriage negociations with the Spanish monarchy failed in 1565, but eventually that love turned sour and she made sure that he could not succeed to the throne if she died without children.
Just under six feet tall, as a young woman, Mary Queen of Scots, liked to dress up as a stable lad and go out dancing incognito in Edinburgh.
She had four ladies-in-waiting who were all also called Mary, Mary Fleming, Mary Seton, Mary Beaton and Mary Livingston. She bathed in wine, spoke seven languages, Scots, English, latin, Greek, French, Spanish and Italian, and was the first woman to play golf.
No more tears now; I will think upon revenge.
In my end is my beginning.
Imprisoned for her claim to the English thone for 19 years by Queen Elizabeth I, Mary attempted to escape from Loch Leven castle disguised as the local washerwoman, but was caught when the boatman recognised her beautiful white hands. During her escape, the castle keys were thrown into the loch, where they found 300 years later.
At Mary's execution, it took three strokes to decapitate her. The first stroke missed her neck completely and caught her on the back of her head. The Queen was heard to whisper 'Sweet Jesus!'. When the head was finally severed, to the horror of everyone watching, her body started to move. Then, from out of her voluminous dress scampered her little terrier, Geddon, who had been under there all the time.
The executioner held up the Queen's head and her wig fell off revealing that she was almost completely bald, and that what was left of her lovely red hair had turned quite grey. Her heart and organs were removed and buried at a secret location at Fotheringay, and her headless body was wrapped in the cloth from her billiard table.
Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband Henry Darnley was murdered in 1567, when his house was blown up. One of the presumed architects of the explosion, Archibald Douglas (a pair of his shoes were found at the scene of the crime) later gave an account of Mary’s reaction:
‘She sent for a number of ‘light ladies and women’ to come to Holyrood House and participate, stark naked, in a ball; then they had cut off their pubic hair and had put it in puddings to be eaten by the male guests, who were sick’.
It’s hard to know quite what to make of this improbable statement, but that’s all the detail we have.
The man who actually took the rap for the murder was one William Blackadder, who was hanged, drawn and quartered on the basis that he was unlucky enough to have been the first person to happen upon the scene.
Mary was originally buried in Peterborough after her execution and was reinterred in Westminster Abbey in 1612 side by side with Queen Elizabeth I, whom in life she never met, by her son James after he succeeded to the English throne.
Mary’s last words before the axe fell: ‘Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit’.
The name Mary derives from the Icelandic word ‘maer’ meaning virgin or maid.
Mary caused a scandal when she was seen playing golf at St Andrews within days of her husband Darnley's murder.
Purple thistles still grow on the site of Mary's execution and are nicknamed Queen Mary's tears.
The skull of Mary’s husband, Darnley, bears the telltale pitted marks of Syphilis.