This article is an attempt at context. Often, in our popular culture, we are fed a view of history that is intended for one singular purpose. Money. The producers of the historical product are attempting to reap financial rewards for producing a work that is usually historical fiction. Therefore, as the film Mary, Queen of Scots is about to go into general release, we felt we would give some context to the known events of Mary Stuart’s life.
Mary was born on 8 December 1542. That was four hundred and seventy-six years ago for those without a calculator handy. This woman existed, and she lived to age of forty-four. Mary was the only child of King James V of Scotland and his wife Mary of Guise. She was also James’ only surviving legitimate heir. On 14 December that same year, at the age of 6 days old her father and king died, making her the Queen of the Scotland.
Mary’s Heritage and the Rough Wooing
It cam wi’ a lass and it will gang wi’ a lass!
In order to truly understand the complicated circumstances of Mary’s life, we need to know her heritage. Yes, she was the Queen of Scotland as an infant, but her familial lines are drenched in power. Mary’s paternal grandmother was Margaret Tudor, the older sister of Henry VIII of England. At the time of her birth, she became forth in line to the English throne behind her grand-uncle the King, his heir, and only legitimate son Edward, his oldest daughter Mary, and Elizabeth, who was born from Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Should all of those people die before having children, Mary would be Queen of England. This was a very powerful position for her to be in, and everyone at the time recognized it and did what they could to use it to their own advantage.
To reiterate, we are looking to give context here. When Mary was born, Henry VIII was fifty-one years old, Edward was 5 years old, Mary Tudor (AKA Mary I, AKA Bloody Mary) was twenty-six, and Elizabeth was 9. At this time, there were political tensions including battles between England and Scotland. There was a peace agreed to that was struck and sealed in the Treaty of Greenwich on 1 July 1543 which included a betrothal between the heir to England, Edward, and six-month old Mary, Queen of Scots.