Woke up this morning feeling good, today I will wean myself off drugs, by going turkey, may even try some. The weather looks rough out, high winds and clouds whizzing past. No cycling today that’s for certain.
I sat up until 2 am finishing the history of Mary Queen of Scots, by Antonia Fraser. This book should be compulsory reading in every Scottish school, for this is, on only, an in-depth book about the life of Mary Queen of Scots. But European history, brought to life, at around the time that Mary was alive. And to a greater of lesser degree, shows how little has changed in the mindset of those who rule over us today.
On reaching France, Mary, ‘the little half-royal cuckoo well and truly in the royal nest’ was shielded from the world and for the next six years her life took on a dream-like quality.
In those times it was essential that a household the size of the royals’ should move every few months in order that the castle should be more of less spring-cleaned. So Mary would embark on a series of glamorous journeys.
Housed in Saint-Germain in January, April they would journey to Fontainebleau, May return to Saint-Germain. October Mantes-sur-Seine, and by the 24th of November, they found themselves housed in Bury in Touraine (to avoid the epidemic). By the following April they had moved to Meudon at the palace of Blois, Mary attended the court in June then back to Blois, and in January the King himself took the royal children to Sait-Germain.
If Mary did remember anything of the small dark castles of Scotland the French palaces must have seemed very grand, this was another world. James V’s palace at Falkland, originally built in the royal passion for hinting, is a far cry from the spender of Fontainebleau built as a hunting lodge. Mary growing up in such spender, how could she ever understand that this was not the reality, that she would face if she returned to claim the Scottish crown.
Why was Mary such a threat to England? When Mary Tudor, (queen of England) died leaving no children, her throne was inherited by her half-sister Elizabeth (an unmarried woman of twenty-five). Therefore, until such times as Elizabeth married and had a child of her own, Mary was thus the next heiress to the English throne, for she was descended from her great-grandfather Henry V11 of England. But the situation was more complicated for although Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry V111 and his second wife Anne Boleyn, his devoice from his first wife, Catharine of Aragon was never recognised by the Catholic Church, therefore making Elizabeth illegitimate, no crown for the illegitimate sons and daughters of kings or queens. So Mary not Elizabeth should have inherited the English throne. Well no, you see Henry in his will had stopped the throne from going to anyone who was deemed a foreigner – which by English standards also put the kibosh on Mary inheriting the crown. No good would come of this.
Mary had been brought up all her life as a queen in waiting, she had married the French King so was Queen of Scotland and now married to the King of France, and by right (as she saw it) the English throne, had the King not been so frail, and had been able to produce a child with Mary, her life could have been so different. But, is that not a tread running through the whole of Scottish history, much like the name through a stick of Blackpool rock, “If only”.
On the return of Mary to Scotland, Scotland was a country controlled by ruthless warlords that would stop at nothing to further their own position and wealth. Mary would have to quickly form alliances. She knew nothing of the politics of Scotland, did not have the wealth of the French crown behind her and religious reformation was taking place.
The reformation was still in its infancy, (still not adopted as the state religion) so the reformers were afraid that Mary becoming queen would turn the country against the new religion and back to Rome. She thought she had solved that problem by saying that her people could worship as they wished – but she herself would keep the faith. (in Egypt today, a Muslim country, they wear the veil lightly, this is what Mary hoped for Scotland). But tolerance was not to be, and Knox would not let up, putting all his energies into casting Mary as the Pope’s Whore.
Marriage for Mary was not about love or pleasure – but about politics. A strong husband, that was acceptable to Elizabeth and had the backing of the Lords, could give her an heir to the throne was what was wanted in a marriage. She set about making a list.
One such suitor was Darnley, she liked him but did not see him as a husband at first. That was until Darnley took ill, it was said at the time to be smallpox, but was in fact syphilis. Mary nursed him through those long dark nights, and in the process fell head over heels in love with the fellow. She married Darnley, against the wishes of her advisors and her marries
“Don’t do it ‘My Queen” they cried, “It will be a disaster” and so it proved.
Elizabeth was infuriated by the marriage. It was a disaster, for he was a weakling full of his own importance and gullible and easy prey, for ruthless lords to exploit.
The violent death of Riccio, dragged as he was from her petticoat and stabbed viciously to death, must have opened her eyes to the danger that she herself faced at the hands of such men that it seemed would stop at nothing to attain the power they craved.
The gunpowder plot to kill the king by “Bothwell and his gang” that turned out to be another disaster for the king escaped the explosion only to be caught and strangled to death, so did not look like an accident, explosions do not strangle people, leaving the evidence behind to be found.
The abduction and rape of the queen by Bothwell, and the hasty marriage that followed even although his first divorce was not fully lawful. Showed her in a very poor light and implicated her in the eyes of many that she was party to the murder of her husband.
(two things to remember, Bothwell had shown her a letter signed by the Lord that they had approved of the marriage, and he had their full support, she, therefore, must have looked on Bothwell as a man able to control the Lords in Scotland. If rape had taken place, then Mary would not wish her child to be a bastard.)
Then the abduction and imprisonment in Loch Leven Castle,
by the Lords that was the gang that was closely associated with the kings murder, needed her out of the way so that they could rule as a junta in Scotland.
Escaping from Loch Leven Castle into England was “out of the frying pan and into the fire” the junta in Scotland did not want her back, Elizabeth certainly did not want her in England.
The Casket Letters produced and doctored, said to show that Mary Stuart had an adulterous liaison with Bothwell before the death of Darnley and her guilty foreknowledge of the murder was the reason given for her imprisonment, although it was not so much imprisonment but held until all the facts about the matter were cleared up. A sort of trial was held and no one was found to be guilty, Mary was not guilty of having any prior knowledge, in the murder of her husband, the king. Moray was found not guilty of begin a rebel and abducting the queen for his own ends, to rule in her place as regent. Mary was never allowed to see the letters, or answer the allegation against her. So on the 31st January, the inquire ended what was one of the strangest judicial proceedings in the history of The British Isles. With a verdict of not proven given to both parties, yet one plaintiff allowed to return freely to Scotland (with £5,000.00 in his pocket) and rule in the place of the other plaintiff, who in the meantime continued to he held a prisoner.
So we have the long drawn out saga for Mary’s19 years in captivity in England, ended with the changing of the law to make it possible to try Mary for treason if anyone (known or unknown to Mary) plotted against their queen. There would be no escape for Mary, any plot (and there were many manufactured) that involved a threat to Elizabeth and the crown and Mary would be implicated and tried for treason and executed. And as soon as Mary answered the letter from Babington her fate was sealed, Walsingham had set a trap and Mary fell into it, he even draw a noose on the letter when he received it.
If Mary had participated in any treasonable activities in England, where she was in any case, a prisoner, held against her will, the remedy (although never considered) was to expel her from the country. The judicial proceedings for trying a sovereign presented enormous difficulties by English common law. In England it was the foundation-stone of justice that every man had the right to be tried by his peers; Mary being a queen had no peers in England, except Elizabeth herself. No one could be said to be the equal of an anointed queen.
But by the time that the parliament had all its ducks in a row to get rid of this tiresome wench, Mary was a middle-aged woman of forty (old for that time). She had been kept in harsh conditions and prone to long illnesses, and now suffered from rheumatism, which made her a partial cripple, the lack of exercise did not help in this.
We hear all along how Mary would take to her bed for long days and months. Become easily upset and melancholy. At first sight this is hardly surprising for a woman in her state of mind, and having to deal with circumstanced outwith her control on a day to day basis.
Antonia Fraser breathed new light on the subject.
“The exact medical causes of Mary’s undoubted ill-health have been a subject of several modern investigations. It used to be suggested that her symptoms corresponded most nearly with those suffering from a gastric ulcer. But recently Drs Ida Macalpine and Richard Haunter, working on a group of diseases known as porphyria, have identified the recurrent illness of George 11 as belonging to it. An important aspect of this disorder is that it is hereditary, being transmitted as a Mendelian dominant character, showing itself in varying degrees of severity, they have traced back similar symptoms to George 11’s ancestor and ancestress James V1 and Mary Queen of Scots.”
Mary probably inherited it from her father James V for he was known to become very melancholy, and after losing the battle he had taken to his bed in Falkland Palace and turned his face to the wall.
It would certainly make sense about her day to day life, and of course not only George 11 (depicted in the film “The madness of King George”) but we know that Princess Margaret, (sister of the present Queen Elizabeth 1st and 2nd.) suffered from porphyria.
What an eye-opener this book has been for me, it has taken a while to get through it, in dribbles and drabs, but well worth the effort, for it is a study rather than a good read.
Mary’s fate was sealed as soon as she crossed the Solway Firth and onto English soil, why did she choose this route? We are told she had second thought as the boatman brought her across asking him to take her instead to France. However it was too late for that, the tide was against them and carrying them ever onwards onto the English shore. She could have gone to France where she had the support of her extended family, money and property. But she truly believed that Elizabeth would send her home at the head of a great army and reinstate her on her throne in Scotland, her upbringing has prepared her from birth on how to be a queen, but had left her totally unprepared, for the power game, that was ruthlessly played out by Queens and Lords, in this foreign land.