Tag Archive | Scotland

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.

Walking in Queen Mary’s Footsteps: Palaces and Castles

Welcome to “Summer in Scotland,” our month-long celebration of Scotland and in particular the Scotland known and loved by its most famous queen, Mary Stuart, better known simply as “Mary Queen of Scots.”

Across Queen Mary’s forty-four years she lived in France, reigned in Scotland, and died in England. Though not all of the places she guested at, lived at, and/or worked from still exist (notably Fotheringhay Castle where she was executed in 1587), these six palaces and castles are not only still standing, but they are open to the public for you to visit this summer.

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace (West Lothian, Scotland)

Built as a retreat from court life at Edinburgh Castle by the Stewarts, the peace and quiet of Linlithgow makes it the perfect getaway for royals and modern visitors alike. Overlooking Loch Linlithgow, there is scenic beauty and waterfowl aplenty to melt away whatever stress comes your way. No wonder it was the Stewarts preferred place to give birth and is Queen Mary Stuart’s birth place.

Open year round except on 25 December, 26 December, 1 January, and 2 January. Tickets start at £7.20 and are available at https://tickets.historic-scotland.gov.uk/webstore/shop/viewItems.aspx?cg=TKTS&c=WSLOTHIANS.

Chateau Blois 1

Château Blois (Loire Valley, France)

Located in the Loire Valley about halfway between Orléans and Tours, Chateau Blois was 15th and 16th century France’s preferred royal residence.  Here Queen Mary and Prince François spent countless weeks in the year at court.  Later, in 1617, it became home to Marie de Medici’s court in exile. Along with her came her very loyal chief advisor, Armand-Jean du Plessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu (see “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu”).

Open year-round, tickets start at €12. Go to http://en.chateaudeblois.fr/EvenementChateauVisite/2040-prepare-your-visit.htm for details and tourism package options.

Chateau Chambord

Château de Chambord (Loire Valley, France)

Favoured by Queen Mary’s father-in-law Henri II and designed in part by Leonardo da Vinci, Chambord is an architectural masterpiece that takes you into the mind of its creator.  Features a unique double-helix staircase designed by da Vinci so that no one going up can meet anyone going down on it.

Open year-round except on 25 December and 1 January, you can stroll the outside grounds for free. Tickets to visit the castle and private gardens start at €14,50.  Go to https://www.chambord.org/en/plan-your-visit/opening-hours/ for more information.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle (Edinburgh, Scotland)

At the heart of Queen Mary’s reign stands Edinburgh Castle which, appropriately, dominates the Edinburgh skyline.  Situated on a cliff high above the rest of the city, it is easy to see why King David I (son of Margaret of Wessex and brother to Empress Matilda of England) chose the site for his castle. Queen Mary and her parliament ruled from here and on 19 June 1566 she gave birth to King James VI in the same bedroom you can visit today. Queen Mary herself made several improvements to the castle which intially she found dark and cold compared to the airy grandeur of the French court, adding wall-coverings and art to warm both body and soul, especially in winter.

Open year-round except on 25th and 26th December. Tickets start at £17.50 if you purchase your tickets online or £19.50 if you purchase at the gate.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle (Stirling, Scotland)

Built in 1107, Stirling Castle is one of the historically most significant landmarks in Scotland’s long pursuit of freedom and independence from English conquest. William Wallace and Andrew Moray famously fought the Battle of Stirling Bridge near here in 1297 to retake the castle from England. Robert the Bruce’s 1314 victory at Bannockburn likewise returned it to Scotland. In 1503, King James IV built its Great Hall. Queen Mary held her baptism service for her son James (VI) here in 1566. When it was James VI’s turn to baptise his son Henry in 1594, he also held the baptism and its celebrations at Stirling Castle.

Open year-round except on 25th and 26th December.  Tickets start at £15 if you purchase online or £16 at the gate.

Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle (Kinross, Scotland)

Built in the 14th Century, Queen Mary guested at Lochleven before its tower turned into her prison in 1567.  This is where she miscarried or aborted James Hepburn’s baby, and where she abdicated her throne in favour of her son James.

Open 1 April to 31 October. Closed from 1 November to 31 March. Access by boat only. Tickets start at £9.00 which includes boat fare. Go to https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/lochleven-castle/prices-and-opening-times/ to purchase advance tickets (strongly recommended).

 

Wherever your summer takes you, I hope you will spend part of it with Queen Mary Stuart and will make “Mary Queen of the Scots: the Forgotten Reign” your first and best introduction to Scotland’s most tragic and famous queen. Available at your favourite bookstore world-wide in English, Chinese, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Italian. See http//www.laurelarockefeller.com for complete links to all editions.

Lyrics to “The Streets of Edinburgh”

Of late a beautiful song by The Proclaimers is really capturing my imagination.  The song is called “The Streets of Edinburgh.”

Please watch the official video from youtube and read its lyrics here below:

“Streets Of Edinburgh”

Along these broken pavements
I let my mind run free
The past and the present
Seem just the same to me
The people I have loved most
Among these stones did dwell
And in the plainest language
Their stories they did tell
They pass, they pass
They pass, they pass
The streets of Edinburgh
Hold half the world for me
In scores, in droves
The living and the ghosts
The streets of Edinburgh
Mean most to me
Depending on your viewpoint
This place is blessed or cursed
And in the years I’ve lived here
I’ve seen the best and worst
An air of sordid passion
A look of dirty grace
But not right in your face
It’s not that kind of place 

They pass, they pass
They pass, they pass
The streets of Edinburgh
Hold half the world for me
In scores, in droves
The living and the ghosts
The streets of Edinburgh
Mean most to me

 

Down greasy potholed roadways
I watch the traffic crawl
But for the cars and buses
I give no thought at all
I think about the future
I wonder at her health
How with this human wealth
She does renew herself

 

They pass, they pass
They pass, they pass
The streets of Edinburgh
Hold half the world for me
In scores, in droves
The living and the ghosts
The streets of Edinburgh
Mean most to me

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.

Promo: As Scotland Decides Its Fate Today

Boudicca audio cover

Richard Mann narrates Boudicca:  Britain's Queen of the Iceni for the upcoming audio edition.

Richard Mann narrates Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Scotland decides its fate today, I invite you to journey back in time to discover how the Caledonii, Brigantes, and Votadini tribes of Scotland and their dealing with the Roman invasions of Britannia two thousand years ago also helped decide the fate of the British islands ever since.

It’s all part of Boudicca: Britain’s Queen of the Iceni, the must-have creative non-fiction history book and audio book of the year!

In the USA in audio edition at http://tinyurl.com/AudibleBoudicca-USA and in the UK at http://tinyurl.com/UKBoudiccaAudible or on iTunes at http://tinyurl.com/itunesBoudicca-RM. Second grade reading level; audio edition suitable for ages 5+. Download the kindle edition http://viewBook.at/Boudiccakindle and get BOTH the audio and kindle edition for less than $7/£5.

Educators: get a FREE audio copy for your class in exchange for your review. Email peersofbeinan@gmail.com to request your free audio copy from audible narrated by Richard Mann.