Mary, Queen of Scots and the Scottish Reformation

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Activity – Computer task
We have mentioned many places in Scotland in this section of the course:


Carberry Hill

Loch Leven

Using a computer or an atlas, find a map of Scotland. Identify all the places mentioned above on the map.

Activity – Enquiry skills
Look at the picture. It was painted 10 years after the Battle of Langside.
Is this picture useful for informing us of what happened at the Battle of Langside?

Mary flees to England
Mary, encouraged by her half-brother the Earl of Moray, escaped to England.
Mary had no choice but to leave Scotland but she also believed that she would be safe in England. She believed that Elizabeth would look after her because they were cousins. She also believed that a queen should look after another queen.
Escaping to England turned out to be the worst decision of Mary’s life.

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Why was Mary a threat to Elizabeth?

Activity – Most likely to….
We have met many different characters in this section that had a huge influence on Mary’s life.
Copy out the quotes below and decide who would have said it.

  • ‘I don’t agree with her beliefs but I will stay loyal to my half-sister as long as she does what I say.’

  • ‘Even though she is my cousin, I still don’t like Mary. She wants my country.’

  • ‘I am a good friend of Mary’s but I think her husband suspects we are too close. I am worried about what he will do.’

  • ‘I don’t like my wife’s new secretary. I have to get rid of him.’

  • ‘I am in love with Mary and know that she is unhappy with her husband but she can’t divorce him. There must be another way to end this marriage.’

Here is a list of points which the English government, and particularly Queen Elizabeth, discussed while they were deciding what to do about Mary.

  • Mary had fled to England for help.

  • Mary was Elizabeth’s cousin.

  • One queen should help another one.

  • It would set a bad example not to punish rebellious subjects.

  • Elizabeth had always promised to help Mary.

  • Mary repeatedly asked for a face-to-face meeting with Elizabeth to explain everything.

  • Mary could encourage English Catholics to rebel against Elizabeth.

  • Mary had always claimed she was the true Queen of England.

  • Mary had a bad reputation after the murder of Darnley and her marriage to Bothwell.

In groups or pairs, decide:

  • what you think Elizabeth should have done?

Give reasons for your answer.


Elizabeth decided that Mary should stay in England. Are you surprised at her decision? Give reasons for your answer.

Section 5: The confirmation of the Reformation in Scotland
As we have learned in the last section, Mary had to leave Scotland and was in exile in England.
In this section, we will see why Mary was put in prison by her cousin Elizabeth and how Scotland changed without their Catholic queen.
In this section you will learn about:

Moray and Morton as Regents of Scotland

The young James VI, son of Mary and Darnley

Andrew Melville and the development of Presbyterianism in the 1570s

The Regency of Moray
© Scottish National Portrait Gallery
ary’s half-brother, the Earl of Moray, became Regent of Scotland as a result of Mary remaining in England and her son James being too young to rule at only 13 months old. Moray had encouraged Mary to go into exile in England. The longer Mary stayed there, the longer he would be Regent of Scotland. He had to keep Mary in England. Moray produced the ‘casket letters’. These were letters that Mary had sent to Bothwell. One in particular seemed to prove that Mary and Bothwell had plotted together to kill Darnley. Some historians believe that these letters were false. However, this was enough for Elizabeth to

put Mary in prison while an investigation was carried out into her part in the murder.

Moray also had to make sure he had enough support in Scotland and England. As he was a Protestant noble, he had a lot of support in Scotland. Elizabeth also liked Moray as he successfully arrested any rebels who escaped from England to Scotland.
Moray was murdered in January 1570 by a loyal supporter of Mary in Linlithgow near Edinburgh. Mary did not mourn the death of her half-brother as he had betrayed her so badly.

The regencies of Lennox and Morton
After the death of Moray, Elizabeth chose the Earl of Lennox to be the next regent as James VI, Mary’s son, was still too young to rule. Lennox was the father of Lord Darnley so he was James VI’s grandfather. Lennox was determined to find and punish those who were responsible for the death of his son, Lord Darnley.
However, Lennox faced tough opposition as many of Mary’s supporters became very violent. Lennox had to be very careful around Edinburgh as Mary’s supporters were in control of the city. Lennox and his supporters were part of what was called the ‘creeping parliament’ as the members of parliament had to creep around in order to avoid any gunfire from Mary’s supporters. Lennox was eventually killed outside Stirling Castle by Mary’s supporters in 1572.
The next regent of Scotland was to be James Douglas, the fourth Earl of Morton. He proved to be the best of James VI’s regents. He managed to defeat Mary’s supporters and take back Edinburgh castle. He supported the Protestants of Scotland and helped them set up a separate church.
Morton was executed on 2 June 1581 after he was wrongly accused of the murder of Lord Darnley 14 years before.
Answer the following questions in your jotter under the heading ‘The confirmation of the Reformation in Scotland’.

  1. Who was to look after Mary’s son James when she left Scotland?

  2. What did the casket letters say?

  3. Why was Lennox’s parliament called the ‘creeping parliament’?

  4. Of the three regents, who was considered the best? Explain your answer.

Peer assessment
Swap your answers with a classmate. Correct their answers and they will correct yours. Write a comment at the bottom of their work telling them what they have done well, and how they could improve. (If you prefer, have a discussion instead of writing it down.)
Now change any of your answers you think you can improve on, based on what your partner has written or said.

The young James VI
Mary last saw her son at Stirling Castle on 22 April 1567 when he was just 10 months old. He never saw her again. James did not have the happiest of childhoods, not least due to the fact that his mother had been taken away from him so young.

James was crowned King James VI of Scotland on 29 July 1567. John Knox gave a speech at the coronation and James was brought up as a Protestant. King James was looked after by the Earl of Moray and the other regents but they did not care for him as much as they cared for his power. He was quite unwell as a child. He was born with bent legs, which meant he could not walk properly.

© Scottish National Portrait Gallery

However, there was one person who cared greatly for James. George Buchanan was James’ teacher. James was very clever and learned a lot about literature and poetry from Buchanan. James became famous for being a very intelligent young man. He was 14 years old when he began to take more responsibility for his kingdom as he did not have any more regents ruling for him.
Activity – Extension work
Use the internet to find out more about James VI. Go to:
Under the heading, ‘Union of Crowns to Union of Parliaments’ you can find out about what happened to him when Mary and then Elizabeth died.

Andrew Melville
In 1572, John Knox died. He had died before the Reformation was completed in Scotland. Andrew Melville was a fellow Protestant who took over from Knox. He was a Presbyterian: a Protestant that followed the teachings of Calvin, just as John Knox did. Melville made sure that the Presbyterian Church was to be the Protestant church in Scotland. He completed the work started by John Knox. Andrew Melville was a famous teacher and was in charge of the University of Glasgow and then St Andrews University.

He wrote the Second Book of Discipline which said that the Church of Scotland would be Presbyterian. He also said that the Church was to be completely separate from the control of the royal family. This angered King James VI because although he was brought up as a Protestant, he did not approve of Melville. He thought that Melville was taking things too far. King James wanted the church of his choice in Scotland which was the same as the Church of England – a Protestant church with bishops managing it and the king as the head of the Church. Melville said that the king was not in charge of the church because Jesus Christ was. Melville also described King James as ‘God's sillie vassal’. This was very insulting as he was saying that James was silly and that he was only a servant.

King James VI sent Andrew Melville to the Tower of London, where he was imprisoned for five years. James said that Melville could never return to Scotland after his release.

Answer the following questions in sentences in your jotter under the heading ‘Andrew Melville and the confirmation of the Reformation’

  1. Is a Presbyterian a Catholic or Protestant?

  2. What famous reformer influenced Andrew Melville?

  3. What did Melville say about the Church and the royal family?

  4. Why did this anger King James VI?

  5. What did Melville call King James that offended him?

Peer assessment
Swap your answers with a classmate. Correct their answers and they will correct yours. Write a comment at the bottom of their work telling them what they have done well and how they could improve. (If you prefer, have a discussion instead of writing it down.)
Now change any of your answers you think you can improve on, based on what your partner has written or said.

Section 6: Mary, Queen of Scots in England
As you learned in the last section, Scotland was now a completely Protestant country as the king, James VI was a Protestant.
Mary had gone to England for protection from Elizabeth. This was a massive mistake as Elizabeth had put Mary in prison.
In this section we will learn about:

Mary in England

Elizabeth I ’s reaction to Mary is Scotland

Mary’s involvement in the Catholic plots

Her trial and execution

Mary in England
Mary crossed the border into England on 16 May 1568. She was immediately arrested by Queen Elizabeth’s officers. Mary was moved around various castles in England until she was eventually put on trial for the murder of Darnley. As we learned in the last section, it was Moray and the other nobles that encouraged Elizabeth to do this. They needed Mary out of the country so that they could rule without her. However, Mary was never found guilty. Although Elizabeth did not like Mary, she couldn’t bring herself to order her execution.
Mary was imprisoned for 19 years in total, from 1568 to 1587. She was moved no less than 14 times from one castle to another. Mary was treated well and had her own servants and a doctor and she could even have some visitors. However, Elizabeth kept her closely guarded. During this time, Mary desperately missed her son and did not keep very well. She longed for freedom. During her imprisonment, she famously had the phrase ‘En ma fin gît mon commencement’ (‘In my end is my beginning’) embroidered on her cloth of estate.

This is a portrait of Mary showing her in prison. Mary was always shown in black with rosary beads.
It was painted after her death.

Look at the picture above and answer the following question.
How valuable is this picture in showing what Mary was like when she was in prison?

Elizabeth I’s reaction to Mary in Scotland
By even being in England, Mary was a threat to Elizabeth. England had become very stable under Elizabeth. Although England was a Protestant country and Elizabeth was a Protestant queen, she let Catholics live and worship in peace. The Catholics came to accept Elizabeth as their queen.

However, there were many Catholics in Scotland that thought Mary was the rightful Queen of England. Elizabeth was worried that these people would rise up against her. The Pope also told the Catholics in England that they did not have to obey Elizabeth. This greatly worried Elizabeth as the Pope was the leader of the Church on earth and Catholics had to obey him over anyone, even their queen.

This is why Elizabeth imprisoned Mary. If she sent her back to Scotland she could be murdered by the Protestant nobles. Although Elizabeth did not trust Mary, she was her cousin and she could not do this to her own flesh and blood, but if she was free in England, she could join together with the Catholics and remove Elizabeth from the throne.
However, in 1570, Elizabeth did agree to work with the French and help Mary retrieve the crown of Scotland. Elizabeth asked that Mary reject the Treaty of Edinburgh, which Mary would not do. From Section 2 we know that the Treaty of Edinburgh said that Mary had a claim to the throne of England. Also, the Catholic plots that were to follow made Elizabeth reconsider helping Mary.

While Mary was in prison, she and Elizabeth wrote to each other.
Imagine that you are Elizabeth. You have to write to Mary and explain why you are putting her in prison. Try to persuade her that you are doing this for her own good.

Mary’s involvement in the Catholic plots
During Mary’s captivity, there were many plots created by some English Catholics to remove Elizabeth from the throne and make Mary Queen of Scotland and England. One of them was called the Ridolfi plot, in which a wealthy Italian banker planned to remove Elizabeth from the throne of England. The idea was that Spain would invade England from The Netherlands with the assistance of a Catholic uprising in England.
Another plot involved Mary marrying the Duke of Norfolk, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth saw this as treason and Norfolk was locked in the Tower of London. He was later executed, in June 1572.
It was for this reason that Mary was moved to different castles and houses during her captivity in England. Elizabeth was worried that Mary was involved in these plots. Mary always denied involvement, although she did admit to paying Ridolfi money.

This is an extract from a letter written by Mary during her captivity to a friend

‘If I shall be holden (held) here perforce (by force), you may be sure then being as a desperate person I will use any attempts that may serve my purpose either by myself or my friends’

Read the source above and answer the following question.
Is this source useful in proving that Mary was involved in the Catholic plots?
Remember PADD.
The Babington plot
Elizabeth was becoming increasingly concerned about Mary. She knew she could not execute Mary without cause and without a proper trial. Elizabeth knew that the Catholics of England and Scotland would rebel against her and she could lose her throne. She had to find a clear reason for executing Mary. If Elizabeth could prove that Mary was involved in a plot to kill her then this would be a legitimate reason to kill her.
In 1585, when Mary had been in prison for 16 years, Elizabeth passed new laws in England which said that if anyone was seen to be plotting against Elizabeth then Mary would be executed. This was something that the Catholic community did not want.
Elizabeth asked her secretary of state and close advisor Francis Walsingham to spy on Mary and read her letters to find out if Mary was plotting anything. Mary had been writing letters to friends in France and Spain asking for help in her attempt to escape and overthrow Elizabeth. Walshingham intercepted these letters. Walsingham did not stop the letters right away because he wanted to know who else was involved in the plot.

Walsingham also discovered that Mary was communicating with a young Catholic man called Anthony Babington. Although these letters were written in code, Walsingham was able to break it. In July 1568, Babington wrote to Mary making it very clear that he was planning to murder Elizabeth. Mary responded that it was up to him what he

decided to do. This was enough evidence for Walsingham and Elizabeth. Now the government had a case against Mary.

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Below is a secret code similar to the one used by Mary and Babington














































Decipher this message using the code above:

} * ¬ x / = { & / [ < * ~ £ * – ¬ # # £ [ /
[ + # } % ¬ £ # ¬ /= # < | ] * ^ # [ +
Can you write your own message using the code above?

Mary’s trial
Babington was arrested and charged with treason. In September 1586, Babington was executed. Mary was then put on trial in October 1586. She was accused of the crime of treason. This means planning to overthrow the person in charge of the country, in this case it was Elizabeth.
Mary denied being part of the plot to assassinate Elizabeth but the judges did not agree.

Extract from Mary’s trial

Mary to the judges: ‘You are indeed my enemies’.

The Judges to Mary: ‘We are the enemy of the enemies of our queen.’

The trial lasted two days. Mary was found guilty of treason and was sentenced to death.
However, it took Elizabeth a few months to sign Mary’s death warrant. Elizabeth knew that this was the first time that a queen had been put on trial and found guilty in another country. Elizabeth was perhaps worried that other kings and queens would follow her example and someone could do the same to her.
Eventually, in February 1587, Elizabeth signed Mary’s death warrant. She was to be beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle on 8 February.

Mary was said to have been very brave on the day of her execution. She walked with dignity to the Great Hall at Fotheringhay Castle. She was helped by her servants as she was too weak to walk herself. She was dressed all in black with a white veil and a scarlet red underskirt. The red underskirt symbolised the fact that Mary believed she was dying because she was a Catholic and that she was a martyr, someone who dies for their religious beliefs.

Mary was very composed in front of the several hundred people who had come to watch her execution.
While her death warrant was read, Mary prayed aloud with her rosary beads in her hand. She prayed for her son and the Church. She also prayed for Elizabeth and wished her well.

Mary spoke to her servants and friends and asked them to remember her in their prayers. Her eyes were covered with a white cloth and she put her head on the block. She spoke a prayer in Latin, saying ‘Into your hands, oh Lord’ and the executioner slammed the axe down on the back of her head. However, it would take another two attempts to cut her head off! The axe man lifted up her head to show the crowd that she was dead.
However, to the shock and horror of the crowd, he was left holding her hair. Her head fell down and rolled along the floor. Mary had been wearing a wig: her hair was very short and was completely white.

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