e all love a titillating tale! And we all love a queen or maybe some of us do! This month I’d thought I’d shine the spotlight on one of the notorious queens that has grace the north. No not Graham Norton or Elton John but much older, the notorious Mary Queen of Scots. Quite an interesting figure, Mary Queen of Scots was the only heir of James V of Scotland and granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret Tudor. She was betrothed to the Dauphin of France when she was five years old and went to live at the French court. It was during this time that her father James V of Scotland died and Mary became Queen of Scotland at the tender age of six. However, regents ruled Scotland until she came of age.
She was royalty by blood and given her marriage to Francis II of France, she was quite the royal diva. In fact, what is known about Mary is that she knew very little of the English and Scottish language, conversing mostly in French.1
When Francis II died in 1560, widowed and without an heir, Mary was forced to return to Scotland; a land in which she was not familiar with or having lived in since she was five. It is here where our titillating tale begins! Mary, not well versed in political matters, reached Scotland and continued to mourn the loss of her husband.
It was during this time that she became enamored with an Englishman and her cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.
This match was not well suited and even the biggest diva of all, Queen Elizabeth I was not happy as Darnley was an English subject and did not obtain her permission to marry. Be that as it may, the two married and produced a child, James. The marriage began happy but ended terribly.2
In a terrible story of jealousy, rage and arrogance, Mary was accused of infidelity with David Rizzio (the secretary and friend of Mary) and so Darnley, along with a group of conspirators, killed Rizzio in front of her. This led to the erosion of Mary and Henry’s marriage.
And it wasn’t long before another handsome lad, Lord Bothwell, came into the picture and Mary was smitten. Soon a plan was hatched to remove Lord Darnley and in 1567, Lord Darnley was found dead in his garden in an apparent explosion. Quickly, Bothwell and Mary were implicated but eventually Bothwell was acquitted and the two married. And so this is where our story takes the turn to the connection of Mary, Queen of Scots and our beloved Yorkshire.3
Given the accusations of the planned murder of Darnley and the unpopularity of the marriage to Bothwell, Mary was soon forced to abdicate. This abdication led to her plight to England. Meanwhile, regency for James VI of Scotland ruled Scotland. Hoping to receive assistance in restoration and protection from Elizabeth, Mary, a fellow queen, was confined as a guest of Queen Elizabeth, However, the awkward presence of a Catholic queen in England, along with royal blood and a strong connection to the English throne, led to Elizabeth and her councilors becoming increasingly concerned about Mary’s presence in England. This confining as a guest soon turned to imprisonment, as Elizabeth wanted to keep Mary from Catholic influence and support.4
After arriving in Workington from Scotland, Mary and her entourage went to Carlisle. It was in Carlisle that Elizabeth confined Mary at Carlisle Castle in Cumbria. However, the castle proved to be unsuitable to hold Mary, either because of the diva having too much stuff and too many people (it is reported that she travelled with fifty-one support staff) or because of the castle being to easy to escape from. It was then, that Mary was moved to Bolton Castle in northwest Yorkshire. Bolton Castle was built in the late medieval period (1379) by the then Lord Chancellor of England to Richard II.5
At the time of Mary imprisonment in England, Bolton Castle was the home of Henry Scrope, Baron of Scrope; a prominent member of Elizabeth’s government as he was appointed to the Council of the North.6 His wife was the sister of the Duke of Norfolk. It was at Bolton Castle where it is rumored that Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk a prominent and powerful courtier at the court of Elizabeth and a man considered a prince in his home county and region of Norfolk, first proposed marriage to Mary. This scandalous and suggestive information would become what was known as the Casket Letters that would implicate both Mary and the Duke of Norfolk in committing treason. This would be the downfall of both.7
Mary stayed at Bolton Castle for six months and was then moved again to Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire, where she spent the final eighteen years of her life. What a hussy Mary was: three marriages and a proposed fourth marriage! She was the Elizabeth Taylor of her day! Mary’s connection to Bolton and Yorkshire occurred during one of the most dynamic and interesting periods in Scottish/English history. It also connects us to one of the most notorious divas in history.
Today, Bolton Castle still remains and is open to the public. There is even a replica of Mary’s bedchamber where she slept and was imprisoned. It just goes to show that one cannot be too much of a diva! How does that old saying by Shakespeare go? “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” or in this case, uneasy lies the head that doth get around!!
For more information, please check out the sources below or as ever; please feel free to contact me.
1,2,3 Julian Goodare, ‘Mary (1542–1587)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2007.
4 Robert Tittler & Norman Jones, Companion to Tudor Britain, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. p. 173-179
6 Edward M. Furgol, ‘Scrope, Henry, ninth Baron Scrope of Bolton (1533/4–1592)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009.
7 Michael A. R. Graves, ‘Howard, Thomas, fourth duke of Norfolk (1538–1572)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008.