Tudors & Stuarts

Contents | Citing | About | Sponsor | Contact




James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Buy Print

If Mary had married Darnley to spite Elizabeth, it was an ironic twist of fate that it was her own life that Darnley made more miserable. Their marriage was certainly not a happy one. Perhaps the only benefit of it, was the birth of Mary's only son, James, in 1564. Darnley was possessive, jealous, and a drunkard. He did not aid in the government of the country at all, or make Mary's political life easier - he only made it worse. Mary began to rely heavily on her Italian Private Secretary, David Rizzio, who she liked and admired, and Darnley grew jealous and angry. With a group of friends he planned to murder him. One March night, 1566, while Rizzio, who was a talented musician, was playing for Mary and her ladies, Darnley and his men forced their way into the room. Rizzio clung to Mary, but was dragged away, and murdered outside the door. Mary, understandably, never forgave Darnley for this.

Mary now turned more and more to one of her noble men, James Hepburn, Fourth Earl of Bothwell. It was probably Bothwell who was largely responsible for the eventual murder of Darnley. Darnley had been ill with the small pox and was resting at The House at Kirk O'Field. This house was blown to pieces, and Darnley's dead body was soon found. But he did not die from the explosion, it was found that he had actually been strangled. Mary was not staying at the House at the time, although she was meant to have been there, but decided to stay somewhere else. Mary declared that the explosion was meant to kill her, but very few people believed her. It was widely thought that she had connived with Bothwell to murder her husband. Bothwell and Mary had been close for some time, and despite the public outcry against him following Darnley's death, Mary married him very soon after.

The Queen's marriage to Bothwell was the beginning of the end of her reign in Scotland. Her people were outraged that she had married the man suspected of murdering her husband. In the streets they called her all sorts of names, and soon people were calling for her abdication as monarch. Mary's army met that of her enemies at Carberry Hill, but when she saw the magnitude of the opposition, she surrendered without even putting up a fight. She was taken as a prisoner to Loch Leven Castle. Against her will she was coerced to sign the abdication papers. From that moment onwards, her infant son was King James VI of Scotland. Her half-brother James Stewart, Earl of Murray, became regent. He did not long survive, however, as he was assassinated in 1570 by one of Mary's supporters.

After a few months, a careful plan was made to free Mary from captivity. She was guided out of the castle by a sixteen year old page, Willie Douglas, and they secretly made their way to the lake. She was rowed across the lake, and on the other side, friends waited to meet her. Mary was provided with a horse, and rode for her life and freedom. She then rose another army, but was defeated at the Battle of Langside. Mary helplessly fled to England. She had few friends and many enemies, and even her European supporters had turned against her. She beseeched Elizabeth to help her.

This was a very difficult time for Elizabeth. She had always feared Mary's power and influence, but the deposition and disgrace of a fellow monarch frightened her more. If they could treat one Queen like this, then they could so easily treat another one that way too. Elizabeth took Mary under her protection, but in reality she was little more than a prisoner. For the rest of her life, this is what she became. Mary was kept in various Castles in England for nineteen years - including Sheffield for fourteen years, Bolton, Wakefield, and Tutbury. In 1570, she obtained a divorce from Bothwell, and he died insane in a prison in the Netherlands in 1578.

Many people wanted Mary dead, but Elizabeth would not hear of executing her cousin and fellow monarch, and refused all requests of releasing her so that her enemies could kill her. Mary owed her life to Elizabeth, but still the relationship between the two Queens was difficult, perhaps more than it had ever been. Mary soon resented being kept a captive in England, and longed to be restored to the Scottish throne, and gain the English. She was placed in the care of George Herbert, Earl of Shrewsbury, and was watched carefully by the Elizabethan government who feared that she would become the focus of Catholic plots. Their fears were not unfounded. For the next twenty years there were attempts to release Mary from her prison and make her Queen of England. Elizabeth's councillors continued to urge her to have the Scottish Queen executed, but Elizabeth resisted them.

Previous Page | Next Page

Rose & Thistle