MARY STUART, QUEEN OF SCOTS, was the daughter of King James V of SCotland, by his second wife, Mary, of Lorraine. She was born at Linlithgow, on the 8th of December, 1542. By the death of her father she became a queen before she was a week old. Before she was a year old, the Regent, Arran, had promised herin marriage to Prince Edward of England, and the Scottish parliament had repudiated the promise. War with England followed, and at Pinkie Cleuch the Scots met a disastrous defeat. She was soon after betrothed to the eldest son of Henry II of France, and in 1548 she was taken to the French court, where she remained for ten years, and was carefully educated along with the king's family. On the 24th of April, 1558, her marriage with the Dauphin was celebrated at Paris. On the death of Henry, in 1556, her husband became king of France, with the title of Francis II. He died the next year, and the reins of power were grasped by the queen mother, Catharine of Medicis, as regent for her son, Charles IX. Mary was now called to Scotland, which the death of her mother had left without a government, at a moment when it was convulsed with the throes of the Reformation. Her government began auspiciously. She is said to have rejected the violent counsels of the Roman Catholics; it is certain that she surrounded herself with Protestant advisers, her chief minister being her illegitimate brother, James Stuart, whom she afterwards created Earl of Murray. In 1565 she married her cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. A revolt followed, headed by Murray and the Hamiltons, but it was soon quelled by the queen, who took the field in person.
On the 9th of March, 1566, the queen's chief minister, an Italian named Rizzio, was murdered at the instigation of the king, who suspected that it was through the influence of Rizzio that he had been excluded from a share in the government. This affair justly incensed the queen against the king, and divorce was openly discussed in her presence. In February, 1567, the house in which the king slept was blown up with gunpowder; and his lifeless body was found in the neighboring garden. In the month of May following, she wedded the Earl of Bothwell, who was openly accused as the murderer of the late king.
This fatal step at once arrayed her nobles in arms against her. She was taken prisoner and after signing an act of abdication in favor of her son, was confined in the castle of Loch Leven. Escaping, on the 2nd of May, 1568, she found herself in a few days at the head of an army of 6,000 men. It was met and defeated at Langside, by Murray, who had obtained the regency. Four days afterward, in spite of the entreaties of her best friends, Mary crossed the Solway and threw herself on the protection of Queen Elizabeth, only to find herself a prisoner for life. After a captivity of eighteen years, she was tried on a charge of complicity in a plot against the life of Elizabeth. Sentence of death was pronounced against her on the 25th of October, 1586, but it was not until the first of February, 1587, that Elizabeth took courage to sign the warrant of execution. It was carried into effect in the castle of Fotheringay, on the 8th, when Mary laid her head upon the block with the dignity of a queen and the constancy and resignation of a martyr.