The Murder of Lord Darnley
The Fascination Lives On
How is it that Mary, a queen all of her forty-five years but who actually ruled for only a scant five of them, is such a fascinating figure in history? She is equally as famous as her cousin, the great Elizabeth I who reigned over England for over fifty years. The literature devoted to Mary for over four hundred years is almost as vast as that devoted to Elizabeth — indeed, there are a number of joint biographies of the two that link them together throughout all of time. History's fascination for her seems strange.
Examining her life demonstrates that this fascination is not ill placed. She was the daughter of James V, King of Scotland, and Mary of Guise, a member of a powerful French family. Mary's father died when she was six days old, whereupon she was crowned Mary Queen of Scots, with her mother as regent. Five years later, in the midst of continual power struggles in Scotland, she was sent to live in the court of Henry II, King of France, and shortly thereafter identified as the future bride of the Dauphin, Francis, the heir to the French throne.
Not an uneventful beginning. Henry's goal was to position his son as king of both France and Scotland, and the union of Mary and Francis would achieve not only that but perhaps England as well, since Mary had, in the eyes of European Roman Catholics, a legitimate claim to the English throne. Both Mary and Elizabeth could claim descent from Henry VII. Mary could claim it through Henry VII's sister and Elizabeth could make the claim from Henry VII's son, the larger-than-life Henry VIII.
But a crowning as an infant, a betrothal and subsequent marriage as a teenager to the heir to the French throne, and a return to Scotland to rule — all before the age of nineteen, were just overtures to a life resplendent with plots and counter-plots. There were two more marriages after her early widowhood. The second was ended by murder, the third begun by a rape. All these intrigues were to end with her beheading by Elizabeth's orders after nineteen years of imprisonment.
It is little wonder that history has considered Mary Queen of Scots a most noteworthy person.