Mary, Queen of Scots and the Scottish Reformation

The Lords of the Congregation

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The Lords of the Congregation
When Elizabeth who was of the Protestant faith, was made Queen of England in 1588, Knox decided it would be safe to return to Britain. In 1559, Knox returned to Scotland in an effort to carry on spreading Protestantism throughout Scotland. He wrote what was called the ‘Confession of the Faith’ and presented it to the Lords of the Congregation. This was a group of Protestant nobles who supported Knox. They accepted it, and in 1560 Scotland officially became a Protestant country. The celebration of Mass was forbidden and it was illegal to practice Catholicism. You could no longer buy goods from a shopkeeper known to be Catholic. Knox even encouraged people to throw their own family members onto the street if they were Catholic!


Activity – Enquiry skills
Look at the picture above.
How valuable is this picture in showing how John Knox was with the Lords of Congregation?
Remember PADD on pages 10 and 11.
Rebellion against Mary of Guise
While Scotland became a Protestant country, the young Mary was still safe in France. As we have learned in the last section ‘Relations between Scotland and England’ her mother, Mary of Guise, was acting as the Queen Regent: she was acting as queen in Mary’s absence. However, she remained firmly Catholic and the Lords of the Congregation did not trust her. She asked her family in France to help but the Protestant nobles saw this as an act of betrayal against Scotland. As a result, Mary of Guise was removed from the throne of Scotland.
The Protestant Scots nobles had to deal with the problem of French soldiers in Scotland who were loyal to Mary of Guise. They called on Queen Elizabeth I of England to help. Elizabeth sent English soldiers to drive back the French and they succeeded.
On 11 June 1560, Mary of Guise, the former Regent Queen of Scotland, died.

The Treaty of Edinburgh
One month later, the Treaty of Edinburgh was signed. This stated that Mary would not claim the throne of Scotland and it effectively ended the friendship between France and Scotland. Protestants in Scotland used Mary of Guise’s death to their advantage. They were happy that they did not have ties with France any more.

Work in pairs or a small group.
Find the dates of each of the events listed below.
Put the events into chronological order.
(Hint: It will help to copy each event onto a separate square of paper and then move them around until you are happy you have the correct order)

  • Knox meets Calvin in Geneva and is influenced by him.

  • Scotland officially becomes a Protestant country.

  • George Wishart is killed.

  • Knox returns to England when Elizabeth I becomes queen.

  • The Treaty of Edinburgh is signed.

  • Knox is forced to work as a slave on a French ship.

  • Knox presents his ‘Confessions of the Faith’ to the Lords of the Congregation.

  • Knox becomes King Edward VI’s chaplain.

  • Mary of Guise loses the throne.

  • Knox is forced to leave when Catholic Mary Tudor becomes Queen of England.

Effects of the Reformation today
The Reformation had a huge impact on the lives of people living in Scotland at the time. It had a very negative impact on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots as her religious background of Catholicism meant that she remained separate from the Protestantism that had swept across Scotland.
The impact of the Reformation can still be seen today. Scotland is still, to an extent, a Protestant nation. Religion today is much more about personal faith and beliefs and not about power as it was in the time of Mary, Queen of Scots. Scotland is a country with religious diversity as many faiths live side by side.

Investigation – Religious diversity in your town
Find out about the different religions that are practiced in

your area.

Work in groups to create posters to show the rest of the class about the beliefs and customs of one of these religions.
Organise a visit to a place of worship.
Hint: Maybe your religious and moral education teacher can help you.

Section 4: Mary, Queen of Scots in Scotland
As we have seen in the last two sections, a lot happened in Mary’s life and she had only reached 19 years of age. Let’s recap:

  • She officially became queen when she was 6 days old.

  • She had to leave her home country because it was too dangerous.

  • She was married and widowed.

  • Her mother died.

  • Scotland became Protestant whilst she remained Catholic.

Mary made the decision to return to Scotland to reign as the rightful queen. In this section you will learn about:

Mary’s return from France

Mary’s personality and her policies

Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth

Mary’s relationship with Moray and the Scots nobles

Marriage to Darnley

Murders of Riccio and Darnley

Rebellion against Mary

Mary in prison

Escape and leaving Scotland

Mary’s return to Scotland
Mary returned from France on 19 August 1561. She arrived in Leith.

This is a drawing by a Scottish painter, William Allan, showing Mary landing in Leith from France in 1561.

Activity – Enquiry skills
Look at the drawing above.
How useful is this painting in showing how the people of Scotland thought of Mary?
Remember PADD.

As we learned in the last section, the Scotland that Mary returned to was very different from the one she had left behind. The Scotland she was born into had been predominantly Catholic and had a close friendship with France that was extremely strong. When she returned, Scotland had reformed to the Protestant faith and had allied herself to her old enemy, England. Mary was therefore a Catholic monarch who was ruling over a Protestant country. She was also one of the few female rulers in the world!

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Mary’s personality and her policies
Mary returned to Scotland to fulfil her duty as the rightful queen of Scotland. However, many of the Scots nobles did not feel comfortable with her as she was a threat to the stability of Protestantism in Scotland. Mary trusted and took the advice of James Stuart, her half-brother, who later received the title Earl of Moray. James was a Protestant and tried to help Mary with the Protestant nobles, although he too did not feel comfortable with her religious beliefs.

© Scottish National Portrait Gallery

John Knox preached against Mary and criticised her for attending Catholic Mass in her own chapel. He also criticised her for dancing – he said that a good Christian woman should not do that. Mary refused to become a Protestant when she was asked. However, she did accept that Scotland was now a Protestant country. This angered many Catholics in Scotland as they believed Mary should stand up for them and return Scotland to Catholicism. They were also suspicious of her Protestant advisor James Stuart.

Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth
When Mary returned to Scotland, she realised that she had made a lot of enemies because of her Catholicism. She tried to work with the Protestant nobles of Scotland. Most of all, she really wanted to secure a strong friendship with the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England.
Mary and Elizabeth were cousins although they never met. Elizabeth knew that Mary had a legitimate claim to the English throne and was worried that she could take the throne away from her. Mary invited Elizabeth to come and visit Scotland but she refused.

As Elizabeth was unmarried and had no children, her nearest relative was heir to the English throne. This happened to be Mary. Mary was scared that Elizabeth would name another person as king or queen.

Mary’s relationship with other nobles
Mary remained unmarried after her French husband Francis died. The people of Scotland wanted her to remarry so she could have a child to be heir to the throne. The nobles, in particular, were very interested. Mary was trying to keep them on her side so she would have to choose her future husband carefully.

Activity – Discussion point
Mary had a lot to consider when looking for her future partner.
What qualities would you look for in a future partner? Discuss this with the person next to you.
Now look at the list below. Are your considerations similar to Mary’s?

Mary had to consider the following:

  • She could not marry a Catholic as this would upset the Protestant community within Scotland.

  • If she married a Protestant, the Catholic community within Scotland would be upset.

  • Elizabeth had to approve because she could name someone else as heir to the English throne.

  • Elizabeth wanted her to marry an Englishman.

  • If she married someone from a foreign country, they could become involved in a war with England.

Mary intended to marry the son of King Philip II of Spain, Don Carlos. Spain was a Catholic country so the Protestant nobles would not have approved.

Some of the Scottish nobles hoped that they would be chosen by Mary as they wanted to be in a position of greater authority. Whoever married Mary would become a very wealthy and powerful man. Elizabeth even suggested someone. She wanted Mary to marry Robert Dudley. He was a Protestant and Elizabeth knew that she would be able to control him. This meant that she would have more control over Scotland. Elizabeth hinted that if Mary was to marry Dudley, she would accept her as heir to the English throne and would become her friend. However, Mary rejected Dudley.

Imagine you are an advisor to Mary. You have to help her decide who should be her husband.
Read the following descriptions of suitors and give reasons why Mary should NOT marry each of them by explaining who would be upset by the marriage.

Suitor no.1

I am the Prince of Spain.

I am very rich.

I am a Catholic.

Suitor no. 2

I am an English nobleman.

I own lots of land.

I am a Protestant.

Suitor no. 3

I am deeply in love with Mary.

I am a Catholic.

Marriage to Darnley
Mary eventually chose to marry her cousin, Lord Henry Darnley. They were married on 29 July 1565 at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh when she was 22 years old. He was English but he was also a Catholic, which did not reflect the full wishes of Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth was not the only person who was very angry about the marriage. Mary’s half-brother, James, the Earl of Moray, was furious that she had married a Catholic. He was so angry that he tried to get a group of Protestant lords together to rebel against Mary. However, Mary quickly suppressed this uprising and James and the other rebels fled to London.

Murders of Riccio
Mary’s marriage to Darnley was not popular with the people of Scotland. Darnley was alleged to be a violent and bad-tempered man. He was also demanding more power and influence. Mary became deeply unhappy during the marriage and became very close to her secretary, an Italian man named David Riccio. Darnley became incredibly jealous of Mary’s relationship with Riccio and was convinced that they were having an affair. The other Protestant nobles did not like Riccio either as they felt he had too much influence over Mary.
On 9 March 1566, Mary was having a dinner party for close friends in one of her private rooms in Holyrood Palace. Riccio was

there. Darnley, accompanied by Lord Ruthven and other nobles, entered the room. Riccio was terrified and hid behind Mary, who was six months pregnant at the time. Riccio was stabbed and then dragged out of the room screaming. He was stabbed 56 times in total. Mary was horrified and this incident made her hate Darnley even more.

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On 15 June 1566, Mary gave birth to a baby boy, James, who would be the future King of Scotland. He also became the King of England when Queen Elizabeth I died, as she died without having any children and he was her closest living relative.

Activity – Police report
Imagine that you are a police officer investigating the murder

of Riccio. Complete this police report.

Police Report

Date of crime: __________________________

Type of crime: murder/assault/theft (circle)

If crime is murder, how was victim killed?


Name of victim: _______________________________________

Place of crime: ________________________________________

Any witnesses: ________________________________________

Suspect: ______________________________________________

Motive for crime: ______________________________________



Activity – Enquiry skills

How useful is this painting in showing us what happened the night Riccio died?
Remember PADD on pages 10 and 11.

Murder of Darnley
At the time of James’ birth, Mary was separated from Darnley; she had absolutely no love left for him. She did not want to be married to him anymore. However, the Catholic Church would not recognise an annulment or a divorce.
Mary had a new friend, the Earl of Bothwell. Many people at the time suspected that Mary and Bothwell were in love and that she was having an affair with him.

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© Scottish National Portrait Gallery

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Why was divorce out of the question for Mary and Darnley?

By the end of 1566, Darnley was very sick, possibly suffering from small pox. Mary arranged for him to go to Kirk o’ Field, a house in Edinburgh. He could not stay in Holyrood Palace in case the young James caught the illness.
On 9 February 1567, Darnley was murdered at Kirk o’ Field. His death was very suspicious. Someone had placed gun powder in the basement of Kirk o’ Field and the house blew up. In fact, Mary had seen Bothwell’s servant, Paris, there. Most suspiciously, Darnley’s body was uncovered in the courtyard outside Kirk o’ Field and not a mark was found on his body. Beside his body were a cloak, chair, dagger and piece of rope. Mary had been at a ball in Holyrood Palace the night Darnley died.

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Activity – Enquiry skills
Look at the top right-hand corner of this painting.
How useful is this painting in informing us about the murder of Darnley?
Remember PADD.

The whole of Edinburgh was asking two questions: first of all, who killed Darnley and secondly, how did he die?

Bothwell went on trial for the murder of Darnley in April 1567. He was found not guilty, but he had 300 of his own men standing outside the court, in an attempt to scare the jury into finding him not guilty.

Also Mary’s actions following the murder made people very suspicious. On 15 May, just 3 months after the death of her second husband, Mary married the Earl of Bothwell. Mary was now 24 years old and married to her third husband.


You have been asked to investigate the murder of Darnley.

There are two main suspects: Mary, Queen of Scots and the Earl of Bothwell.
You are to look at the evidence and explain why you think they could have been involved. Police look for a motive – a reason why someone would want to kill someone.
Complete the reports below.

Mary as suspect in the murder of Lord Darnley
Relationship with Darnley?


Where was Mary when Darnley died? ______________________


Motive for killing Darnley? Why would she want him dead?


Bothwell as a suspect in the murder of Lord Darnley
Relationship with Mary?


What evidence is there that he was involved? (Think about his servant Paris.)_______________________________________________________________________________
Motive for killing Darnley? Why would he want him dead?


Activity – Class discussion
Now that you have filled in the information above, what do YOU think happened to Darnley? Was he murdered when the house exploded or was he killed in another way?
Who do you think killed Darnley?
Discuss your theories about what happened with members of your class.
Look at the three pictures below. Explain which one is the odd one out and why. (There can be more than one reason or answer.)

Compare your answer with your partner’s.

© Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Scottish National Portrait Gallery





Rebellion against Mary
Many of the Scottish nobles and the people of Scotland were outraged that Mary had married the main suspect in Darnley’s death. Some of the Protestant nobles, including her half-brother Moray, decided to rebel against Mary and her new husband. The Protestant nobles raised an army together as did Mary and Bothwell. The two armies met at Carberry on 15 June 1566. The Protestant nobles said they would withdraw if Mary gave up Bothwell. She refused. Eventually some of

her supporters gave up and went home. Mary thereafter surrendered to the Scottish nobles. Bothwell escaped and tried to raise more troops for Mary. He then escaped to Denmark and died 10 years later. He never saw Mary again.

Mary in prison
Mary believed that she would still be queen after she surrendered. However, the Protestant nobles imprisoned Mary in Loch Leven Castle. They also forced her to abdicate (which means give up her throne). On 24 July 1567, Mary was no longer Queen of Scotland. Her one-year-old son James was to be King of Scotland. Her half-brother, the Earl of Moray, was to be the King Regent as a result of James being too young to rule.

Escape and exile
Mary escaped from Loch Leven Castle on 2 May 1568. She was helped by a few brave friends who remained loyal to her. One was Willy Douglas. He managed to help smuggle Mary out of the castle, dressed as a servant.

Activity – Enquiry skills
How useful is this painting in informing us of what happened when Mary escaped from prison?

Mary had other friends, one of whom, Lord Seaton, was waiting for her at the side of the loch. They immediately headed for Hamilton, where Mary rallied around 6000 supporters. Mary wanted to go to Dumbarton Castle next as they had always been loyal to her there.

The Protestant nobles, headed by her half-brother the Earl of Moray, tried to gather troops to fight Mary’s army. Although they only had 3000 to 4000 men, they decided to fight Mary before she could recruit more men.

The Battle of Langside, 13 May 1568
Although Mary’s army was bigger, she lost the Battle of Langside. Some people have argued that it was badly led. Mary had to leave Scotland immediately. She was prevented from going to France, the country where she grew up. She had no other choice: she would have to go to England and ask her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, for help. Mary was now in exile. This means that for some reason you cannot return to your own country.

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