As we approach the end of this series, not so much for lack of examples as for having made the point and just having a few choice guests of honor to go, we continue with the monarch theme this week for a negative example, Mary I of Scotland, or as she is colloquially known, Mary Queen of Scots.
Mary became queen of Scotland when she was barely six days old and as such Scotland was ruled by regents while Mary was raised in France. Most of Mary’s failings can really be attributed to her upbringing and it’s apparent from her history that she was more of a puppet of France and the Catholic Church (which at the time was a massively corrupt, only pseudo-religious institution far more in line with the modern European Union than the modern Catholic church), but being a figurehead doesn’t excuse your failings regardless of your gender. According to most accounts, Mary was an attractive child and strikingly beautiful woman, but she’s not known for too much else other than the intrigue regarding her alliance with France and claim to the English throne (after the death of Bloody Mary). In the opinion of Henry VIII of England, Elizabeth was his rightful heir after Edward (who died young), and the branch of the royal line that went back to Catholic Scotland had no claim. The Protestant-dominated parliament saw things the same way and legally declared Elizabeth queen under the Third Succession Act of 1543. Catholics, on the other hand, considered Elizabeth illegitimate (since Henry’s divorce was not valid) and therefore the throne should have passed to Bloody Mary’s Scottish cousin, Mary.
If that’s not enough use of the same name, the king of France who backed Mary’s claim to succeed…Mary, was also named Henry. It’s like these people put their baby name book on a cocktail napkin.
Anyway, Mary ended up returning to Scotland at a younger age than anticipated when her crown prince husband Francis died before reaching the age of 18. Protestant reformers had spread from England into Scotland by this time, including the outspoken John Knox whom Mary had tried for treason. Apparently Mary was not as forceful as Bloody Mary about eradicating the heretic menace, and as this dispute over who was the rightful queen of England dribbled on like nonsense about Russian hacking, nevertheless she persisted in her attempts to reassert Catholic hegemony and find some way to hijack Elizabeth’s throne via some legalism or plot or another.
Does this sound oddly familiar to anyone? Anyone at all?
The remainder of Mary’s dumpster fire of a reign was spent on internal strife, violence, and at least allegations of murder–the country was more than a little outraged when after the death of Mary’s second husband she married the prime suspect in his death a short time later. Elizabeth made repeated attempts to help and prop up her beleaguered and ever-belligerent cousin in exchange for Mary knocking it off with the whole
“but I won the popular vote” “but I’M supposed to be queen!” nonsense and leaving the Protestants alone. Nevertheless, Mary persisted, attempting to lead a coup in 1571 and in 1586 engineering a plot to assassinate her longsuffering cousin, at which point Elizabeth had finally had enough. She was beheaded in 1587.
It’s true that Mary’s misbehavior was a little less harmful to her nation in general than it ended up being to herself, but when you consider all the players in this game of thrones and the fact that this was setting up a Cold War-style faceoff between an England just through a reign of terror and the Catholic bloc on the continent, Mary’s malfeasance very nearly did have far broader consequences and most certainly had no shortage of collateral damage. You don’t get a free pass for being raised the wrong way, especially not after the person you’re hounding gives you every chance to cut it out, and you don’t get points for “it could have been worse” either.
Next week we’ll be on another good example. Still a couple to go.