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July 24, 1567 – Mary of Scotland Forced to Abdicate

Mary Stuart About to Sign her Resignation at Lochleven, from Cassell’s Illustrated History of England (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

A little over a month after imprisoning the Scottish Queen in Lochleven Castle, the Scottish Lords forced Mary Stuart to abdicate her throne in favor of her thirteen-month-old son, James. Of course, they intended to rule in his name until he reached adulthood.

Let’s back up a little for context. Mary had been Queen of Scotland since she was only six days old; she had been raised in France to be their queen as well and only returned to Scotland because her husband died – and died quite young. Thus, at age nineteen, Mary was thrust into a very difficult situation: she, like all of France, was Catholic. Her Lords, like most of Scotland, were reformist. At the start, she showed herself tolerant, promising to make no changes to the country’s religious settlement….but then she made a series of bad decisions.

She married her cousin Henry, Lord Darnley, another Catholic whose claim to the English throne bolstered her own – and who was “the lustiest and best proportioned long man that she had seen” (her words, according to Ambassador James Melville). She quickly came to realize he was vain, arrogant, unreliable, also that he had a violent streak and a drinking problem.…so she quickly came to despise him. Whether or not she participated in his murder, at the very least she did her best to avoid prosecuting those who did…including the Earl of Bothwell who abducted her two months later and forced her to marry him. The Scottish Lords condemned Mary for wedding the man accused of murdering her husband, and imprisoned her in Lochleven Castle.

While at Lochleven, Mary miscarried twins…and given that she had been estranged from Darnley for some time, Bothwell would have been the father….which means that she had slept with him before the abduction/wedding. That does not mean she participated in Darnley’s murder, but it emboldened the Lords. And especially when they saw that the rest of the world was unlikely to intervene, they forced her to abdicate.

It is unclear what their plans were after this (beyond controlling Scotland!) – since she escaped Lochleven and fled to England. But that’s a whole other story (several, in fact!)

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Published inOn This Day

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