I feature Mary in my new book, so have been doing some reading on her life story.
My over powering image of her has been a young girl who was pushed and pulled by powerful people around her. I feel she was given bad advice in many situations, and was used by most of the people around her, not always for her good, but for their own.
She became Queen at a very young age, a little over a week old, so never knew anything other than being in that position. She was equally young when she was betrothed to the French Dauphin and sent to France, away from her home and family, to live at the French royal court, which was very different from the Scottish court of the day.
Once married to the Dauphin, the French King used her to claim the right to the English throne, when Mary Tudor died. He also demanded a clause in her marriage contract giving France a claim to the Scottish throne, should Mary die, though this was not initially disclosed to the Scottish parliament. As it happened the King died first, followed by his son, her husband, soon after.
As the French Queen did not like her, Mary ended up being sent back to Scotland, a place she hardly knew, having not been there since she was five years old. Scotland of the day was a rough place, clan wars were commonplace and few nobles accepted her as any kind of leader, her brother being seen as more of a head of state (which got him killed a few years later, but thats another story).
Lord Darnley came along and swept her off her feet, not showing his drunkenness and bad temper until after their marriage, when it was too late for her to change her mind. She had a child by him, the boy King that most of the nobles wanted.
I am not fully convinced that she knew all about Darnley’s murder, perhaps she knew something was afoot, though I do not think she planned it. If you look at other decisions that she made in life, she was pushed by people around her, so maybe she was just told what to do and where to be at certain times. I do not want to make it sound like I think she was unable to make decisions for herself, though that is one way to read her actions, I feel mostly that she trusted the wrong people.
I do think that Bothwell had something to do with his murder though, it is debateable how much intimacy between him and the Queen had happened before Darnley’s death, he was known to have disliked Darnley for a long time prior to his death. Whether the Queen was consequently abducted by Bothwell or with him voluntarily is also to be questioned. There are many women who fall easily for the bad boys, maybe his reputation as a bad boy attracted her? Maybe she saw someone who would stand up for her and defend her? Sadly she was disappointed on that fact as he left her to her fate and fled when they were beaten in battle, leaving her alledgedly pregnant with his twins.
After a time imprisoned by the Scottish parliament and after being forced to abdicate in her son’s favour, she took the chance to flee Scotland and landed in England. Most reports say that this was her choice, eager to seek the care of her cousin Elizabeth. You have to think that this idea was quite deluded of her, especially a few years earlier, when Elizabeth came to the English throne, Mary’s father-in-law had claimed that she was a bastard so Mary herself was the true English Queen. Elizabeth must have been unnerved at the least, pissed off at the most !!
Her imprisonment in England was not always uncomfortable, she was living in castles with many servants at her disposal most of the time. When ill, she was allowed to travel to a spa to help with her health, with guards of course.
You can see Elizabeth’s worries at having Mary around, but you can also see how Mary was getting frustrated at being held in this way, you can understand why she would want to escape. Mary seems like a woman who needed a man for company and when the idea of marrying came along, you could imagine how she would have jumped at the chance. Perhaps she thought he already had Elizabeth’s permission, in her prison, she had no way of finding out any different.
The plot to bring down Elizabeth and place Mary on the throne in her place, was very stupid of her to get involved in. She did not, at this time, have any people around to give her advice, good or bad, so this must have been her own choice. Elizabeth was left with little choice of punishment, as long as Mary was around, Catholics would see her a figurehead and possible replacement for their protestant Queen. Whether the plot was organised by Elizabeth’s people in order to get rid of Mary is a strong possibility, I think. Women of the day were often planned around, rather than planned for, men thought they knew better than the women, no matter what.
Elizabeth was also left with little choice of her heir when she came close to death, Mary’s son James was the only real choice available.
In my book, Mary will have a happier story, though I have not yet written it !! Anyone who has read my first book, will know that she will have many of the same experiences as in real life, just possibly involving different people and places. I can promise she will not end up decapitated though !!