The Earl of Moray
Mary’s half-brother turned out to be her greatest enemy
Moray visited the captive Mary, who was weakened by sickness and a miscarriage, and coolly told her that she must abdicate
On the face of it, Mary’s halfbrother was her greatest supporter. He had accompanied her to France when she was five, had been a long-term advisor and, when Mary was first widowed, had counselled her to return to Scotland to take the throne.
But Moray’s motives were dubious. He wanted power for himself and – hampered by a weak claim to the throne, due to his illegitimate status as the son of James V and his mistress, Lady Margaret Erskine – saw Mary as the fastest way of gaining it. She would rule as a figurehead for him. But Mary was having none of it, and so began Moray’s repeated attempts to unseat her.
Mary’s marriage to Lord Darnley infuriated Moray because he feared this new rival would seize his lands and reduce his power. And so Moray and his allies plotted Darnley’s murder. When the deed was finally done, he cunningly deflected the blame on to Mary, encouraging her to leave the investigation to the council of lords that had been appointed to advise her. But the council did little to find the murderers.
Mary survived this attack on her throne, but her luck wouldn’t last. So unpopular was her marriage to Bothwell that it gave Moray the opportunity to gather around him an array of Scottish lords and make a final military attack to win power. He succeeded, took Mary captive and locked her in isolated Lochleven Castle. There, Moray visited the queen, who was weakened by sickness and a miscarriage, and coolly told her that she must abdicate. In 1568, she escaped (with the aid of the brother of the castle’s owner) and fled to England.
Moray now busied himself dividing up Mary’s treasures – both the queen of France, Catherine de Medici, and Elizabeth I sought to buy his sister’s famous black pearls. He had gained the power and the riches he had craved – while acting as regent for Mary’s son, James – until he was shot in Linlithgow in 1570. Power in Scotland was a dangerous game.
Moray was a chief engineer of Mary’s downfall, locking up the queen and forcing her to abdicate