And fi­nally… Mary her­self

How much blame should the Queen of Scots shoul­der for her own demise?

BBC History Magazine - - Cover Story - Kate Wil­liams is an au­thor, broad­caster and pro­fes­sor of pub­lic en­gage­ment with his­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Read­ing. Her pre­sent­ing cred­its in­clude The Stu­arts on Yes­ter­day

Mary, Queen of Scots is of­ten seen as the au­thor of her own down­fall. But, from the start, the odds were stacked against her. She was ma­nip­u­lated, she was sub­jected to re­peated mu­tinies, she was as­saulted and she was im­pris­oned.

As I ar­gue in my re­cent book on El­iz­a­beth and Mary, she could have been an ex­cel­lent queen. When she moved to Scot­land as queen at the age of 18, she en­cour­aged re­li­gious tol­er­a­tion, en­gaged ad­vi­sors from all the ma­jor clans and lis­tened to their coun­sel, even when they were work­ing against her. El­iz­a­beth’s style of queen­ship, sim­i­larly pred­i­cated on ex­press­ing re­spect for her ad­vis­ers and in­sti­tut­ing re­li­gious tol­er­a­tion, was rightly praised.

When El­iz­a­beth’s min­is­ters un­der­mined her, they did so by ly­ing to her and go­ing be­hind her back. By con­trast, Mary’s ad­vi­sors staged coups and tried to abduct their monarch – even the ones she thought she could trust, such as her treach­er­ous half­brother, the Earl of Mo­ray.

Mary be­lieved that the best way to pro­tect her­self was through mar­riage. Un­doubt­edly, her choice of hus­band was un­wise in that her union with Lord Darn­ley only ex­ac­er­bated her prob­lems, but in re­al­ity she had no op­tion that would have sat­is­fied the Scot­tish lords.

Mary’s big­gest mis­take was to flee to Eng­land after she lost her throne. She was con­vinced that El­iz­a­beth I would help her re­turn to power. That sup­port never ma­te­ri­alised and, fa­mously, the two never even met. Locked up in Eng­land with no prospect of re­lease or es­cape, Mary be­came one of the most iso­lated fig­ures in royal his­tory. And that iso­la­tion un­doubt­edly played a part in her writ­ing the let­ter that would lead to her ex­e­cu­tion: throw­ing her weight be­hind the ‘Babing­ton Plot’ to as­sas­si­nate El­iz­a­beth I.

Monar­chs are al­ways sur­rounded by treach­ery, but Mary had not a sin­gle per­son she could trust. DIS­COVER MORE FILM

Mary Queen of Scots, star­ring Saoirse Ro­nan as Mary and Mar­got Rob­bie as El­iz­a­beth I, pre­mieres in Bri­tish cin­e­mas on 18 Jan­uary BOOK

Ri­val Queens: The Be­trayal of Mary, Queen of Scots

by Kate Wil­liams (Hutchin­son, Sep­tem­ber 2018)

Mary’s big­gest er­ror was to flee to Eng­land. Here she be­came one of the most iso­lated roy­als in his­tory

Mary’s ex­e­cu­tion shown in a c1613 wa­ter­colour. The queen “had not a sin­gle per­son she could trust,” writes Kate Wil­liams

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.