Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Elizabeth I v. Mary Queen of Scotts

I’m really sorry I once again missed a week. Last week was finals week, and I feel that does grant me some leeway for neglecting my blog. However, we’ll tack it on as something I should make up, and make it up I will… I’m plotting readers, and it’s going to be well worth the wait.

Enough of that, on to my blog for this week.

Elizabeth I is one of my favorite monarchs, probably because she was the first strong Queen of England, and was able to make England one of the world powers without a man reigning over or with her. Through all of this, one of the things most known about her was her feud with her cousin Queen Mary of Scotland, and the next in line for the thrown of England. For this reason, the two were rivals for years.

For Christmas my friend got me the coolest book ever, and it definitely comes in handy for this post. It is called “Great Rivals in History: When Politics gets Personal.” This book is very valuable for this topic, and actually lays out the complexities of the issue.

The feud was laid by King Henry VIII. After King James V of Scotland died, Henry sought to bring the country under English control, something tired previously by England for hundreds of years. However, there were a couple of problems with this. First, Mary, James’ daughter, was related to Henry. Her grandmother was Henry VII sister, Margaret, thus making her a Tudor. Mary’s mother (also a Mary) was a Guise, one of Frances noble families. Complicating the situation further was the fact that Scotland was a Catholic country, and England at this point was no longer Catholic (Henry brake with the church to marry his second wife Anne).

Henry demanded that Scotland accept him as King and discard all French ties, something Mary Guise refused to do. Mary was crowned Queen of the Scotts when she was nine months old, and moved to France with her mother at the age of five for her safety.

After Mary’s husband (The Dauphin of France) died Queen Catherine de Medici of France wanted to limit the powers of the Guise family and pushed for Mary to return back to Scotland. In the summer of 1561 Mary prepared to return home. She was 19 years old, and almost six feet tall, something unheard of at that age. Before Mary left she sought Elizabeth’s promise of a safe passage through English waters, but Elizabeth would only agree if Mary ratified the Treaty of Edinburgh in which Mary would renounce her claim to the thrown of England. Mary refused to sign the treaty, and sailed anyway.

Elizabeth did not want to name Mary as next heir in case there would be an uprising in England winning her the thrown. When Elizabeth contracted Small Pox she had a change of heart; if Mary would agree to marry Robert Dudley she would agree to name Mary as her heir. Mary dismissed the offer, and instead married Henry Stuart her first cousin and a pretender to the English throne. Henry was a terrible husband; he demanded more power than Mary was able to give him and attacked her when she was pregnant hoping she would miscarry. He also killed one of Mary’s trusted aids in front of her. Henry later died after an explosion in his home went off, although he did not die from that but from suffocation.

Blame for Henry’s death fell on Mary, and she later married her third husband James Hepburn the Earl of Bothwell. This was the final straw for the Scottish people and they rose against her and Bothwell. They captured Mary in June 1567 and forced her to abdicate the thrown to her ten-month old son James. She was held prisoner in Edinburgh and then Lock Leven.

This was not the end for Mary; she escaped and raised an army against the Scottish lords who had imprisoned her. She was defeated and fled to England. Mary was hoping to get help from Elizabeth, but Elizabeth did not want to aid her. The Protestant Lords in Scotland did not want Mary returned and Elizabeth wanted these men on her side if conflict with France escalated.

Elizabeth did not see Mary, and instead imprisoned her in Sheffield Castle, and although Mary was tried for her husband’s death she was never convicted. Mary’s imprisonment stretched on for 19 years, during which Mary was sending letters to King Phillip II of Spain with the intensions of becoming Queen of England and returning the country to a Catholic country.

Ultimately Mary was out of touch with reality; Elizabeth was immensely popular in the country. However Mary did become focus of plots against Elizabeth’s life. As the attempts became more serious, Mary lost the little freedom she had. When Anthony Babington, a Catholic gentlemen, wrote of his plot to kill Elizabeth, and when Mary returned his letter Mary was put on trial for treason. In October 1586 Mary was found guilty, and the punishment was death. On February 8, 1587 Mary was killed. The first stroke missed her neck and struck her skull instead. The second swing severed her neck.

When Elizabeth died at the age of seventy in 1603 she named James Stuart, Mary’s son as her heir.

Why is all this significant? Ultimately it is what happened after Mary’s death which shaped the future: King Phillip II of Spain sending his infamous Spanish Armada to England to teach them a lesson and to overthrow Elizabeth and restore England as a Catholic country. Elizabeth and England defeated his Armada, and Spain’s international prominence began to decline as England’s power increased.

I figure everyone is familiar with Elizabeth I, but I couldn't think of a good painting I had seen of Mary. So I'm including both to be unbiased. Happy history all!

Mary Queen of Scotts

Queen Elizabeth I

1 comment:

  1. I actually just bought a book on the Tudors and there was a little blurb on Mary Queen of Scots. I'm also glad that your Christmas present was helpful!!