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December 8, 1542 – Birth of Mary of Scotland

A Clouet drawing of the young Mary i 1552 (photographed from Antonia Fraser’s Mary Queen of Scots)

On this day was set into motion the process by which Scotland and England would be united under a single crown: on this day was born a girl, not a boy, to a king in need of an heir – a king who would be dead before the year was out.

Mary Stuart was the only legitimate child of James V of Scotland, himself the only legitimate child of James IV to survive infancy. Also like her father, Mary came to the throne of Scotland at a very young age (she was only six days old, her father had been seventeen months old) – and both their fathers were killed by the English. Interestingly, that made Scotland quite used to being ruled by regents – regents who in both cases were at odds with a larger coalition of lords who ended up taking control. Margaret Tudor worked to keep England as a friend during her son James V’s minority, but the pro-French lords ousted her when she married Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus. Marie de Guise rejected English overtures during her own pro-French regency, but on her premature death was replaced by a pro-English Council.

But I digress (you can’t really blame me – that’s one of those great parallels that are the hallmark of the Tudor era…). The point is, a female queen brings her country as a dowry to whatever man she marries. And while this was precisely what Henry VIII never wanted to have happen to England, it was what he was thrilled to see happen to Scotland. What better way to unite England and Scotland under a single crown? It was the perfect plan….for him, not for Scotland. The dream evaporated in when Mary married the boy who briefly became Francis II of France… but the next generation turned things back around and Mary’s son James ascended the English throne on Elizabeth’s death.

But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves. For today, Scotland welcomed a baby girl despite their prayers for a boy, the same way England had for years…


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December 8, 1542 - Birth of Mary of Scotland
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