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June 17, 1567 – Mary Stuart Imprisoned in Lochleven Castle

Mary Stuart about to  sign her resignation at Lochleven Castle, from John Cassell's Illustrated History of England
Mary Stuart about to sign her resignation at Lochleven Castle, from John Cassell’s Illustrated History of England (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s back up a little for context: four months earlier, Mary’s husband (Henry, Lord Darnley) had been murdered at Kirk O’Field, and many people believed that the Earl of Bothwell was the ringleader of the plot (many people also suspected Mary was involved). After Darnley’s family insisted, Mary agreed that Bothwell could be tried for the crime, but because she also refused to allow any time for the prosecution to gather evidence, so his acquittal did not allay people’s suspicions. Then on April 24th, Bothwell abducted Mary and brought her to Dunbar Castle, where he may or may not have raped her: the two returned on May 6th and married on May 15th.  Mary believed that the nobles supported her marriage, but she was universally condemned for wedding the man accused of murdering her husband. Twenty-six Scottish peers, known as the Confederate Lords, turned against the couple and raised an army that confronted Mary’s forces at Carberry Hill, about eight miles from the capital. When her men deserted, she was forced to surrender to the Lords, who paraded her through Edinburgh where crowds of spectators denounced her as an adulteress and murderer.

Late that night, before anyone could consider intervening to save her, the Lords sent her to Lochleven Castle, a late 14th or early 15th century tower built on an island in the middle of Loch Leven. She was rowed across just after daybreak, and given a retinue of ‘five or six ladies, four or five gentlemen, and two chamberers.’ A month later, Mary was forced to abdicate in favor of her one-year old son, James.

The French and the Spanish ignored Mary’s plight and pleas; only Elizabeth intervened to try to persuade the Scottish lords to reinstate their crowned sovereign. Ironically, this support is what inspired Mary to run to England when she managed to escape from Lochleven in 1568…another misguided mistake in which Mary just exchanged one cell for another since Elizabeth had little choice but to keep her close confined for close to nineteen years before executing her…but that is a story for another blog post.


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The cell in the Tower of London where Raleigh was imprisoned

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June 17, 1567 – Mary Stuart Imprisoned in Lochleven Castle
Published inOn This Day

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