Thank you Leslie for paying a visit to Historically Obsessed. I am ecstatic that you have chosen to highlight one of my favorite well know vixens the infamous Mary Queen of Scots. With out further adieu Leslie please take center stage.
The Three Weddings of Mary, Queen of Scots
On April 24, 1558, at the age of fifteen, Mary, Queen of Scots married François the fourteen-year-old dauphin of France at Notre Dame. François was given the “crown matrimonial” of Scotland by the Scottish Parliament, so the teens were henceforth known as the Queen-Dauphine and the King-Dauphin. They made an odd couple at the altar. The fourteen-year-old dauphin, puffy-faced, pale, and sickly, was significantly shorter than his statuesque, redheaded bride. Nearly six feet tall, Mary was clearly the main attraction, dazzling spectators in her shimmering gown, “white unto a lily, fashioned so richly and beautifully that none could imagine it,” according to the French court chronicler Pierre de Brantôme. “The train thereof six ells in length was borne by two maids. About her neck hung a circlet of untold value.” Mary’s white wedding gown was a daring choice, as it was the traditional color of mourning for French queens. Adorned by a golden crown studded with pearls and precious gemstones, her auburn hair cascaded down her back. That morning Mary had written to her mother, declaring “all I can tell you is that I account myself one of the happiest women in the world.”
No expense was spared at the lavish wedding banquet and the intriguing entertainments that followed. Twelve man-made horses covered in gold and silver carried the young princes and the Guise children—Mary’s cousins from her mother’s side of the family. Later in the day they pulled carriages transporting the singers for the banquet, which rivaled any Long Island bar mitzvah. Six silver ships glided onto the dance floor. On board each of them was a man who selected a lady to join him. Henri chose the bride, while the groom extended his invitation to his mother.
A little more than a year later, the forty-year-old French monarch, Henri II, died after a freak jousting accident on July 10, 1559, and Mary and her young husband became the King and Queen of France. François II was crowned at Rheims on September 18, although the royal family and the court were still in mourning. Because Mary was already the crowned Queen of Scotland, she could not be crowned twice.
But her family’s hopes for a healthy baby were doubtful in the extreme, given the problems with François’s “secret parts.” It appears that no one had given Mary that little talk about the birds and the bees before her wedding night. She couldn’t have become pregnant because their marriage had never been consummated. Even if it had, they might never have conceived a child, as François had an undescended testicle that probably rendered him infertile.
In November of 1560 the fifteen-year-old king developed an agonizing abscess in his left ear, which oozed with a foul-smelling pus. He also began experiencing seizures accompanied by a stabbing pain in his head, and soon he became incapable of speech. The doctors bled the young king, administered enemas, and considered drilling a hole into his skull to release the fluid. Regardless of (or perhaps hastened by) these ministrations, on December 5, 1560, he died. Although he and Mary had been wed for a little more than two years, they had been companions for a full decade before their nuptials took place—almost the entirety of their youth.
Almost as soon as her forty-day formal mourning period had ended, the eighteen-year-old Mary was urged by the royal family to remarry. But as the uncrowned widow of the king, she was merely an extraneous cipher in France, so she sailed back to Scotland in 1561.
To her horror, Mary discovered that just about every crowned head in Europe—and some who were uncrowned—including Scotland’s fiery Protestant theologian John Knox, wanted to control Mary’s marital destiny. Her former mother-in-law Catherine de Medici expected her to marry another Frenchman. Her cousin Elizabeth I of England insisted that Mary could not wed anyone from a foreign power that was an enemy of England. In fact, Mary should wed an Englishmen, except that he had to be one of Elizabeth’s choosing. She tried to foist the love of her life, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, on Mary, but Dudley was damaged goods, as his wife Amy Robsart had died under suspicious circumstances in 1560.
So Mary flouted Elizabeth’s wishes and chose to wed one of their cousins, the nineteen year old foppish Lord Darnley.
The sun was not yet up on the morning of July 29, 1565, when Mary was led down the aisle of the Chapel Royal at Holyrood by Darnley’s father, Lord Lennox, and the Earl of Argyll. Over her wedding gown she wore her deuil blanc, a white gauze sack that covered her from head to toe—the traditional mourning garment for French queens—emblematic of her status as a widow, and by extension, the Dowager Queen of France.
Darnley entered the chapel and the bridal couple exchanged vows. Since they were first cousins, a papal dispensation was necessary in order for them to marry. It had not arrived in Edinburgh by July 29, but Mary blithely assumed the document was en route, and therefore, she married Darnley without it. Although the dispensation finally made it to Scotland, the July 29 marriage was technically not legal because it had been performed while the bride and groom remained within a proscribed degree of affinity.
After the rings were exchanged, despite the fact that he, too, was a Catholic, Darnley quit the chapel to avoid being charged with “idolatry,” leaving his bride at the altar to continue the mass. As soon as the ceremony was over, Mary invited her guests to help her cast aside her mourning garments by each removing one of the pins that affixed the deuil blanc to her wedding gown.
Thomas Randolph noted that the newlyweds headed for the ballroom, rather than the bedroom; they “went not to bed, to signify unto the world that it was no lust [that] moved them to marry, but only the necessity of her country, not long to leave it destitute of an heir.” Little did the ambassador know that the reason the royal couple didn’t dash off to the boudoir to have their first sexual encounter with each other was that they had secretly consummated their nuptials twenty days earlier.
Fast-forward to the night of February 9, 1567. By this time Darnley had been involved in the plot to murder Mary’s secretary David Rizzio and had conspired to see Mary assassinated as well. He had sneaked out of Holyrood House at all hours of the night to cat about with lowlifes of both genders. He hadn’t bothered to attend the christening of their son and heir (the future James VI of Scotland/James I of England). And he was suffering from tertiary syphilis.
In the wee small hours of February 10, Kirk o’Field, the Edinburgh house in which Darnley had been staying for a few days was blown to bits. The bodies of Darnley and one of his servants were found in a little garden beyond the house, naked beneath their nightshirts. They had been strangled to death.
It was soon surmised that James Hepburn, the 4th Earl of Bothwell, had spearheaded the plan to remove Darnley from the planet. Seven years Mary’s senior and brimming with bravado, Bothwell was already Lord High Admiral, and one of Mary’s key advisers on matters relating to the border territories; now he began to act as her policy director as well. Mary even gave him her late husband’s best horses. Such favoritism caused tongues to wag. Word on the Edinburgh High Street—probably encouraged by Bothwell himself, as Mary was not so inclined—was that they would soon marry.
Her increasingly close relationship to Bothwell cost the queen any good PR she had won after Darnley’s demise. At first, people had been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt when it came to any connivance in her husband’s murder. But her preferential treatment of the earl, who was largely surmised to be the ringleader of the regicides (particularly when his trial for complicity in Darnley’s death was impending), caused suspicion to fall on the queen herself. Continental monarchs, Queen Elizabeth, Mary’s subjects, and even her own family in France grew quick to presume her guilt.
On April 21, the twenty-four-year-old queen went to visit her son at Stirling Castle, unaware that on April 23 she would be kissing the ten-month-old boy good-bye for the last time. The following day, as Mary was en route from her birthplace of Linlithgow to Edinburgh, her party was intercepted by Bothwell and eight hundred of his men. He told Mary that her safety was in jeopardy, urging her to place her trust in him by permitting him to escort her, and several of her key attendants, including some of her male advisers, to Dunbar Castle. In order to avoid bloodshed, Mary assented. The incident was so odd and Mary’s conciliation so easily won that many people surmised (and still do) that she had been complicit in the “abduction.”
At Dunbar, Mary may have been raped by Bothwell. Several historians believe so, yet others have a hard time accepting that a woman of Mary’s substantial mettle would ever agree to wed her rapist, an opinion that overlooks the mores of the era. If Mary had indeed been violated by Bothwell, it placed her in an untenable position. According to Sir James Melville, “the Queen could not but marry him, seeing he had ravished [seized] her and lain with her against her will.” It had been a cultural axiom for centuries that when a man raped a woman, he had ruined her; and whether or not she became pregnant, he was honor-bound to make her reputation whole again by wedding her—which is exactly what Bothwell intended.
Mary allowed Bothwell to win her over in a matter of a couple of days, even as she admitted, “Albeit we found his doings rude, yet were his answer and words both gentle.” On April 26, Bothwell galloped for Edinburgh, where he achieved a hasty divorce from his wife, Lady Jean Gordon, on the grounds of consanguinity as well as adultery, seeing as he had publicly fornicated in Haddinton Abbey with Lady Jean’s maid, the “bonny little black-haired” Bessie Crawford. The judges delivered their decree on May 3, effective immediately. As an example of Mary’s participation in the scheme to wed Bothwell, on April 27, while his divorce decree was pending, she was busy requesting the Archbishop of St. Andrews to grant the earl an annulment of his marriage to Lady Jean.
The poor, vulnerable queen had three reasons (two of which were political) for resigning herself to marrying Bothwell: he had convinced her that he was the skilled and masterful consort she needed to rule Scotland; he showed her a document, known as the Ainslie Tavern Bond, signed by several powerful nobles pledging their support to him as their overlord; and the rape (if there was one) had “consummated” their union, so that Mary could not go back on her word to marry him once they reached Edinburgh. Ironically, it served Mary better if Bothwell had raped her, because if the consummation had been consensual, then Mary had knowingly slept with a married man at Dunbar and was therefore an adulteress.
In addition, Mary’s domestic policy had always been the pursuit of peace. She had angered the nobles by marrying Darnley, against their advice. If they supported Bothwell, and her marriage to him, perhaps the civil strife would cease.
On May 6, Mary and Bothwell entered Edinburgh. He was leading her horse by the bridle as though she were his captive or a spoil of war. However, John Knox’s assistant John Craig refused to proclaim the banns without a royal writ signed by Mary, stating she had not been raped by Bothwell.
Craig received his writ and read the banns, but only after publicly proclaiming that he deplored the impending royal marriage. On May 9, Bothwell called Craig to account for his remarks, but the cleric stood firm: “I laid to his charge the law of adultery, the ordinance of the Kirk, the law of ravishing, the suspicion of collusion between him and his wife, the sudden divorcement, and proclaiming within the space of four days, and last, the suspicion of the king’s death, which her marriage would confirm.”
Two days later, Craig repeated his misgivings from the pulpit; Bothwell threatened to hang him. The following day, Mary pardoned Bothwell for abducting her, then elevated him to the peerage so that he would be a fitting king consort, creating him Duke of Orkney and Lord of Shetland.
The marriage contract was signed on May 14, justifying the queen’s nuptials on the grounds that she was a young widow “apt and able to procreate and to bring forth more children.” On Thursday, May 15, 1567, in a Protestant ceremony conducted by one of his relatives, the Bishop of Orkney, Mary and Bothwell were married in the Great Hall at Holyrood Palace. Mary’s wedding gown, though covered by the white gauze mourning deuil, was cut from a sumptuous black-patterned velvet, lavishly embroidered with gold and silver thread. After the ceremony she changed into a gown of yellow silk, but few people saw her in it, as there was no wedding banquet, no dancing, and no masque to mark her third marriage. Instead of being in a celebratory mood, she remarked to the French ambassador that she “wanted only death.”
In the ensuing days, when others were present, Bothwell treated Mary with deference and respect, but privately, “not one day passed” that the new bride was not in tears. Bothwell prohibited her from participating in the leisurely pursuits she had once enjoyed—hawking, hunting, and music—accusing her in the crudest language of frivolity and wantonness. He allowed her no contact with other males and replaced her female servants with his own retainers. He issued proclamations as though he were the king, while Mary meekly acquiesced. And he continued to regularly visit Jean Gordon, who still resided at his seat, Crichton Castle.
According to Sir William Drury, an English statesman and an eyewitness to events, “There hath been already some jars [quarrels] between the queen and the duke and more looked for. He is jealous and suspicious and thinks to be obeyed. . . . The opinion of many is that the queen is the most changed woman of face that in so little time without extremity of sickness they have seen.” Only twenty-four years old, Mary seemed to have aged overnight.
Mary’s personal tragedy is that she was every inch a queen—noble, glamorous, charismatic, fair-minded—with a traditional mind-set when it came to the roles of the sexes. She wanted a consort to rule beside her, but none of her three husbands were worthy of her, not even François, who was born to rule. She also wanted to love and be loved, and in marriage those aims eluded her as well. For personal as well as political reasons she desired to be mated. As she told the English ambassador Sir Thomas Randolph at St. Andrews, shortly before she wed Lord Darnley, “Not to marry—you know it cannot be for me.”
Thank you Leslie for stopping by and if you would like to hear Leslie as Mary Queen of Scots check out this!