TT: Mary — Widowed, Remarried, and Worse

Looking for the Wednesday Wandering?  Page back one for the secret of where to find really alien aliens.  Then join me and Alan as we discuss the more  events in the tragic life of Mary Queen of Scots.

JANE: Lord Darnley’s murder may have eliminated a husband Mary no longer loved.  However, rather than solving her problems, his death only added new ones.

Mary and Bothwell

Bothwell and Mary

ALAN: Do tell!

JANE:  Gladly!  Part of the problem was that although no one ever proved beyond a doubt who arranged for Darnley to be strangled (and then blown up), Mary’s visit to him shortly before his death certainly looked suspicious, especially since Mary and Darnley had been increasingly estranged from each other since he murdered her secretary, Riccio, in front of her (thus ruining a perfectly good dinner party).

I don’t think anyone thought Mary herself had strangled Darnley or planted the bomb, but that visit didn’t look good.  Suspicion fell heavily on James Hepburn, the fourth Earl of Bothwell.   He even went to trial for the murder, but was acquitted.

ALAN: Bothwell’s trial lasted for only seven hours. It could not have been a thorough examination of the evidence. It seems clear that the fix was in!

JANE: Perhaps because the queen was grateful?

ALAN: The trial was certainly an odd affair, in both senses of the word. Even before Darnley’s death there had been rumours that Mary and Bothwell were lovers. Certainly they were very close friends – they had first met each other when Mary was living in France. And then, a few days after Bothwell’s acquittal, he “abducted” Mary and took her to his ancestral home Dunbar Castle. I put rabbit ears around the word abducted because most contemporary accounts claim that Mary was more than willing to be taken away…

However, the diplomat James Melville, who was present at Dunbar Castle, claims that once Bothwell got Mary into his lair, he raped her –  “…[he] had ravished her and lain with her against her will”.

Whatever the truth of it, she must have forgiven him because just a few weeks later, they got married.

JANE: The marriage was only eight weeks after Darnley’s death.   Prince Hamlet (had he attended) would certainly have commented on the widow’s haste.

Bothwell was a Protestant and they married in the Protestant rite, but for some reason Queen Mary’s subjects weren’t happy.

ALAN: Well, the Catholics didn’t recognise the validity of the Protestant marriage. Also, Bothwell was divorced, and that didn’t sit well with the Catholics either. Both the Catholics and the Protestants were scandalised that Mary had married the man who had been accused of the murder Darnley. The legal system may have (somewhat dubiously) proclaimed his innocence, but the court of popular opinion was not convinced.

JANE: This third marriage was the beginning of the end for Mary, both as a reigning queen and as a living person.

ALAN: Yes, indeed. A group of Scottish peers raised an army and confronted Mary and Bothwell at Carberry Hill. No battle took place because most of Mary’s army deserted her. She was arrested and imprisoned  in a castle on an island in the middle of Loch Leven. There she miscarried twins. A few days later she abdicated, and her one-year-old son became James VI of Scotland.

JANE: One of my sources notes that Mary was publicly humiliated as well – led through the streets of Edinburgh wearing a short red petticoat.  Given that the heavy gowns worn by fashionable women at that time turned the lower half of the body into a solid bell, rather than anything vaguely human, this was nearly as bad as being stripped naked.

Even if she hadn’t abdicated, Mary never would have been able to command respect again.

 What happened to Bothwell?  Did he get off any better?

ALAN: Not in the least. He was driven into exile and eventually ended up in Denmark where he was imprisoned in Dragsholm Castle. He was held in appalling conditions which drove him into insanity. He died, raving, in 1578.

The pillar to which he was chained for ten years or more still exists. There is a deep circular groove in the stone floor around it where he dragged his chains as he walked around in never ending circles…

JANE:  I didn’t know about that.  I got the shivers, just reading about it.  His enemies must have hated him fiercely.

Mary certainly did better than that.

However, like everything else in her life, there are lots of interesting and convoluted details.  How about we save them for next time?


5 Responses to “TT: Mary — Widowed, Remarried, and Worse”

  1. Paul Genesse Says:

    This post has some riveting details. The fate of Bothwell was so harsh.

  2. Heteromeles Says:

    Too bad this kind of stuff doesn’t make it into fantasies more often. It seems like the notion of the Good King is far more common in novels than reality.

    Makes me enjoy democracy, actually. Even in something as dysfunctional as what we’re shambling through at the moment, our leaders don’t have to kill each other because we’ve got a mechanism for bloodless succession, ex-rulers get to go off, be moderately wealthy and enjoy retirement, and contenders for the throne get to duke it out with mailers and debates, rather than by arming their people for pitched battles in a war of succession. Best of all, if our rulers’ marriages break down, it leads to a media circus rather than a bloodbath. Speaking as one of the scruffy commoners, I really like it this way actually.

    • janelindskold Says:

      I agree that the history of monarchies makes one appreciate the government we live under.

      And I DO think that Fantasy deals with such, perhaps more often than you realize. Perhaps the difference is that monarch who behave in this fashion are recognized as “Bad” or “Evil” rather than being accepted as part of the “same old, same old.”

  3. Heteromeles Says:

    Interesting, just found out that the American CW network show Reign is a dramatization (read soap opera?) of the life of Mary Queen of Scots. I haven’t watched it, but if anyone’s interested…

  4. Paul Says:

    This stuff doesn’t make it into fantasies so often because, as the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up.

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