Tag Archive | Lord Darnley

Frenemies: Queen Mary’s Most Dangerous Companions

Mary Queen of Scots“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” goes conventional wisdom. We’ve all heard the phrase of course. It’s the sentiment behind the new word “frenemy” – the fusion of friend and enemy. That is, someone who is both your friend and your enemy. Frenemies are common in royal courts of course where back room deals and palace intrigues characterize the reigns of even the most virtuous monarchs, female and male.

As common as these complex relationships have been, few monarchs have faced such extremes in their frenemies as Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland where her most constant male companions were also those most bent on destroying her.  Let’s take a look at her three deadliest.

 

James Stewart, the Earl of Moray

James Stewart 1st Earl of Moray 1531-1570One of Mary’s half-brothers through James V’s many mistresses, James Stewart was a leading member of the “Lords of the Congregation” in the Scottish Parliament and therefore a key figure in the Protestant Reformation in Scotland.

As a member of Parliament, self-serving nobleman, and Protestant, he tirelessly worked to contain Queen Mary and undermine her ability to govern even while operating as her de facto chief of staff.

As her brother, he helped Mary transition from her role as queen-consort of France to queen sovereign of Scotland and genuinely seemed to care for her well-being as much as any in her court could.

 

Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley

Henry_Stuart,_Lord_DarnleyQueen Mary’s second husband, Henry Stewart was Mary’s cousin through her grandmother Margaret Tudor’s remarriage to Archibald Douglas. Tall, handsome, and sharing Queen Mary’s love of riding, falconry, and hunting, he seemed a suitable match for the lonely and widowed queen.

But Darnley had a dark side.  He was vain (even by standards of the time), arrogant, and prone to drunkenness, traits that made the Scottish people hate him as fiercely as they loved Queen Mary’s generous, kind, and amiable temperament. A particularly violent drunk, Darnley readily beat and terrorized Queen Mary.

In March, 1566, Darnley’s vanity and jealousy towards Queen Mary’s secretary David Riccio led to murder in Holyrood palace as Darnley stormed the queen’s apartment, seized her person, and forced her to watch Darnley’s men stab Riccio 56 times. Darnley put a pistol to Mary’s pregnant belly, hoping to force her to miscarry their son, while he demanded the crown matrimonial –the right to become king if she died childless.  Mary refused.  Eleven months later Darnley himself was found dead at Kirk o’ Field house in Edinburgh.

 

John Knox

John KnoxThe fire-brand whose May 1559 sermon set off a bloody rebellion against Queen Mary’s throne while she was still in France, John Knox was the ultimate frenemy for Queen Mary. A staunch misogynist who did not believe women possessed the capacity to rule over men in any capacity and who openly preached against women leaders on all levels of society, Knox was nonetheless one of Queen Mary’s preferred social companions, especially when indulging in hunting, archery, falconry, and other outdoor pursuits. Like the Earl of Moray, his politics and religion clashed with his social sensibilities, perhaps in part because Queen Mary was one of the most charismatic and charming of all royals in Europe.

Mary’s charm could not banish Knox’s paranoia towards both Catholics and women nor persuade him of her benevolent intentions. In the end, he, like the Lords of the Congregation who supported him, rejoiced in Mary’s final downfall and eventual death at English hands.

 

Court intrigue, murder, and violent revolution swept through Queen Mary’s Scotland during her largely forgotten reign. Yet despite the pressures around her, Mary remained gentle, kind, and a true people’s princess, loved by all – even by some of her most dangerous enemies. Where her cousin Elizabeth Tudor hardened her heart and kept her thoughts to herself, Queen Mary remained open, trusting, and charismatic, untainted by the terrors and sorrows of her life. A grieving widow, a battered wife, a persecuted Catholic, Queen Mary Stuart was so much more than her final years as Queen Elizabeth’s political prisoner.  It is a life worth remembering and worth exploring.  I hope you will take time this summer and learn her story.

Mary Queen of the Scots

“Mary Queen of the Scots, the Forgotten Reign” and its follow-up, “Queen Elizabeth Tudor: Journey to Gloriana” are available in multiple languages at a bookstore near you. See https://bit.ly/2IWJeOB for a complete list of available languages for each volume.

Five Facts about Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland You Probably Did Not Know

Mary Queen of ScotsMerry Christmas and Happy New Year!  As the holidays begin to wind down a bit (Yule was Monday Night/Tuesday) I thought I would share five things about Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland (1542 -1587) you probably did not know which I learned researching and writing “Mary Queen of the Scots” for the Legendary Women of World History Series.

  1. Queen Mary was born in December. The 8th of December to be exact.  Upon learning of his daughter’s birth, King James V predicted the ruin of his dynasty because she was a girl instead of a boy.
  2. Queen Mary’s love of her life (as evidenced in the poetry she wrote in French), King Francis II of France was incapable of having children.  As much as Mary loved him, too many generations of close marriage resulted in birth defects making children impossible for the happy couple.  As dangerous as the political situation turned out for Mary after Francis’ death in 1560, had he lived longer the situation would have likely become far worse for Mary and for Scotland as a whole.
  3. Lord Darnley was the healthiest suitor to Queen Mary–but not her first choice.  Understanding her duty to remarry following Francis’ death, Mary actually considered many possible suitors from across Europe.  The 16th century royals however were especially plagued with health issues (including King Edward VI of England whom Henry VIII tried to force Mary to marry).  Unwilling to marry beneath her class, Henry Stewart (also descended of Queen Consort Margaret Tudor) was Mary’s best chance at producing an heir.
  4. Protestant reformer John Knox was both her dangerous enemy and her friend.  True to the complexities of Mary’s court and her life as a whole, Queen Mary found John Knox to be an amiable companion when hunting or shooting her bow despite his efforts to impose radical Protestantism onto Scotland and depose Mary as queen.
  5. Queen Mary’s return from France transformed Edinburgh Castle into the bright and beautiful place it is today. Prior to Queen Mary’s reign Edinburgh Castle was a cold, dark, and dreary place.  This was in sharp contrast with the glittering palaces of Paris where she grew up and eventually reigned (briefly) as queen.  Partially to make Edinburgh Castle a proper and comfortable home for herself, Mary commissioned numerous improvements, adding beauty and glamour that was previously absent in Scottish courts.

 

Mary Queen of the Scots

Learn more about Queen Mary Stuart in “Mary Queen of the Scots, the Forgotten Reign,” book three of the Legendary Women of World History Series.  Available for kindle, Nook, iBookstore, and in paperback on Amazon, and at a retailer near you.

Biography includes comprehensive bibliography, extensive timeline, and translations of Roman Catholic prayers from Latin to English.  Also available in French, German, Italian, Chinese, and Spanish. See https://bit.ly/2IWJeOB for links to non-English editions.