There is much to tell, but I'll just begin with her ill-fated choice of husband, when she was Queen of Scotland, with ambitions to succeed Elizabeth I and re-instate Catholic rule in England. The choice had been made to marry Henry, Lord Darnley. Like her, he was a great-grandchild of Henry VII with a Scottish father, the Earl of Lennox, and an English mother who was also a leading Catholic. By marrying Darnley, Mary hoped to strengthen the Catholic cause and enhance her claim to the English throne. The only fly in the ointment of this equation was Darnley himself. He spent little time with the Queen and even less on the affairs of state, preferring 'to hunt, hawk, drink and keep low company' (ie. drinking and whoring resulting in picking up syphilis). He also wanted to be recognised as having rights of succession. Over the course of less than a year the Queen fell out of love. But Darnley had done one thing right: Mary was pregnant.
The remaining Protestant lords saw Darnley as the weak link. They told him that Mary's Italian secretary, a former musician named David Rizzio, had too much influence at court. And why? Because he was Mary's lover. The reality was that Rizzio was a small, gay man of unprepossessing looks, definitely not Mary's type. Even more sinister is the fact that Darnley was bi-sexual (he had a 'lady face' as the phrase was used) and had forced himself on Rizzio. None-the-less, the jealous and gullible Darnley believed them, and agreed to take part in Rizzio's murder. Rizzio was stabbed 56 times in front of Mary, who could never forgive her husband this treachery. However, soon after, Darnley switched sides back to his wife, leading Mary to exile the Protestant Lords involved.
We will also look at the second protagonist in her life :- her close confidant and supporter the Earl of Bothwell. He was a tough, handsome border lord, who was five years her senior and a nominal Protestant, because you had to be to get on. However, he had been loyal to the Catholic dowager Queen Mary (widow of James V). They actually first met in the French Court, when Mary was still Queen Consort of France (till she was widowed just before turning 18). Now back to the main story. On 19 June 1566 (when she was aged 23), Mary gave birth to Prince James (later King James VI of Scotland, and I of England). Darnley was now expendable and everyone wanted to see the back of him: Mary hated him, the Protestant lords had been betrayed by him and Bothwell wanted to replace him as king. To further his ends, Bothwell persuaded Mary to bring back Moray and the exiled Protestants.
In November 1566, Bothwell met with nobles from all factions at Craigmillar Castle to discuss the Darnley problem. They came up with two options: divorce or assassination. But when Mary was consulted she ruled out divorce, because it would make her son illegitimate. As for 'other means', she said that she wanted 'nothing against her honour'. The nobles saw this as carte blanche and, having left Mary's room, signed a bond to murder Darnley. I hope you've got all this, it's like summarising slabs of history.
Now we begin the melting pot that is her age 24 'Year of Revolution' (8 Dec. 1566 to 8 Dec. 1567). They planned to kill Darnley by blowing up the house he was staying in. It is highly likely that Mary (who was in close contact with Bothwell) knew the details. On 1 February 1567, she brought Darnley from the safety of Glasgow to the dangers of Edinburgh. He was taken to Kirk o'Field, a house near the city wall, because he was sick (with syphilis) and, Mary said, needed somewhere quiet to convalesce. Mary promised to stay and look after him however on the night of the murder, 9 February, she was at Holyrood attending the wedding masque of a loyal servant. He survived the explosion, but was strangled and stabbed outside and hastily buried in an unmarked grave.
Virtually everyone was involved in the plot to murder Darnley, but only Bothwell and Mary got the blame. Within days, scurrilous placards appeared in Edinburgh, depicting Mary as a whore and accusing her and Bothwell of the crime. They had been set up by Moray and the Protestant lords. She did not help by showing no grief whatsoever and it was said she played a game of golf the next day (she was credited as the first recognised female golfer).
What happens next is almost surreal. In desperation, Bothwell abducts Mary and takes her captive to Dunbar Castle where, apparently, he raped her before forcing her to agree to marry him. But could she have been complicit in the whole thing? Possibly. Even her defenders find it hard to believe she knew nothing of the plan to abduct her. It was said she suffered a nervous collapse and became suicidal. To make matters worse, she is again pregnant, this time with Bothwell's twins. Bothwell, it should be noted, was already married for just a year at this time. His wife divorced him on 7 May 1567, citing adultery with her servant. Does this begin to play the same tune as the scandalous Burton/Taylor relationship?
On 15 May 1567, Mary and Bothwell were married at Holyrood according to the Protestant rites. Mary was either so desperate - or so madly in love with Bothwell - that she now appeared to give up even her Catholicism for him. This marriage was very unpopular and divided the country. Exactly a month later, the final showdown between Mary and the Protestant lords took place at Carberry Hill near Edinburgh. But no actual fighting took place because Mary's outnumbered troops gradually melted away.
Mary agreed to give herself up on condition that Bothwell was given safe passage into exile. In a final act of defiance they kissed in full view of both sides. Then Bothwell galloped off and spent the next month trying, in vain, to raise more troops but it was to no avail. He was to die in captivity in Denmark and she was never to see him again, just as she was never to see her infant son James again. Two days after Carberry, Mary was imprisoned on the isle of Lochleven, where in the next month she miscarried Bothwell's twins. Her life was indeed now effectively over and she spent, between this time and her execution at 44, in various places of captivity in England, whilst trying to instigate an unsuccessful Catholic uprising.
Just what was Mary's character? Was she the unwitting and tragic figure, who was a pawn in the game of the Scottish Protestant Lords? Was she indeed "raped" and held prisoner by Bothwell? Or was she a complicit figure in her own demise? Was she an outstanding example of "The Darkest Revolution"? Was she in this "up to her elbows"? You know how history gets written don't you? You need to go digging for the truth. Come and join me on this dig.
There is a fascinating report from Times online, about research by a team of gynecologists. They assert :- "Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was an “adulteress and liar”, who plotted to kill her husband in order to marry her lover. Intriguing new medical analysis claims that Mary, the cousin of Elizabeth I, concocted a story of kidnap and alleged rape to justify her marriage to her third husband – potentially shedding light on a 400-year-old royal murder mystery.
Far from being the saintly and wronged Roman Catholic monarch portrayed in portraits and films, Mary was actually a “moral loose cannon”, whose striking beauty (she was a 6 foot tall, highly-sexed redhead, who was said to be a 'fool for men'), gave Elizabeth other reasons to imprison and execute her, the researchers suggest. Lesley Smith, a medical historian, claims that it would also have been an “astonishing coincidence” if conception occurred at the time of the “rape”, and even then the twins would have been just 12 weeks old and hard to identify upon miscarriage.
Instead, it is more likely that “the widowed Mary had an affair with Bothwell, became pregnant and had used the abduction story as a cover for her condition and justification for marriage,” Ms Smith says. Mary later claimed that her pregnancy began after her marriage but experts now say this is impossible :-
"In a study published today in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare, Lesley Smith, a medical historian, claims that it would have required modern microscopes and knowledge about foetal development to identify that the miscarriage was of twins after the seven weeks of pregnancy that Mary claimed."
So, Mary made a series of disastrous choices beginning in her fateful, age 24, 'Year of Revolution'. She failed to see the plotting by both the Protestant Lords (who wanted her gone) and her beloved Bothwell (who wanted the crown at all costs). She most probably willingly conspired in this whole ugly mess. Have a good look at the Mary you see in the book cover above. This is not the high starched collar, severe-looking Queen Mary, we are used to. This is the 'real Mary'; wanton, passionate, and underneath it all, quite evil. I think she's a fitting climax for the 'Dark Side' Lesson and series of posts. Remember the upheavals in your life, good and bad, that I have correlated with 'Years of Revolution' have to be dealt with in a dedicated and respectful way. It's your life, try not to stuff it up. Get ready for your next lesson soon, it will be bigger and bolder than any before it. Some very big names will get analysed by the one and only 'Life Cycles'. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."