Mary Queen of Scots: 13 facts about her fascinating life and grisly death

She is one of the most legendary royals of all time but Mary Queen of Scots reign was as bloody as it was glorious.

The monarch was beheaded at just 44 years old (Photo: Shutterstock)
The monarch was beheaded at just 44 years old (Photo: Shutterstock)

In honour of the monarch’s 476th birthday this Saturday (8 Dec), here is everything you need to know about Mary Queen of Scots:

1. Mary Stuart was born at Linlithgow Palace on 8 December 1542 to a French mother, Mary of Guise, and Scottish father, King James V of Scotland. She was born and raised a Catholic.

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2. Mary inherited the throne at only six days old when her father James V died.

Mary Queen of Scots was born in Linlithgow Palace (Photo: Shutterstock)

3. She was crowned Queen of Scotland at Stirling Castle in 1543.

4. Through a shared hatred of England, the ‘Auld Alliance’ saw Mary betrothed to France’s crown prince Dauphin, Francis at just five years old. She was sent to live in France in 1548 and Mary and Francis married when Mary was just 15 years old.

5. Besides speaking Scots, Mary was naturally fluent in French and also spoke Latin, Greek, Spanish and Italian.

6. She briefly became Queen of France when her husband inherited the throne and became Francois II. Less than two years later, Francis died of an ear condition, leaving Mary widowed for the first time.

7. From her time in France, Mary developed a love for riding dancing, music, masking and embroidery.

8. After arrival back in Scotland (now a largely Protestant country) in 1561 Mary married her cousin Lord Darnley in 1565. Mary and Darnley had a son together in 1566 – Prince James. He would later become King James VI of Scotland, and I of England.

9. Mary and Darnley had a tumultuous relationship and out of jealousy, Darnley had Mary’s secretary, David Rizzio, murdered in front of her in 1566.

10. Lord Darnley was later found dead under mysterious circumstances in 1567 – the young queen was accused of being linked to his murder through her relationship with the prime suspect, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.

11. Mary then married the Earl of Bothwell. It was a controversial marriage and months after their vows Mary abdicated the throne in favour of her son and left for England in 1568. She would never see her son again. James IV would be raised as a protestant and become King James IV of Scotland.

12. After being accused of being involved in the Babington Plot to assassinate overthrow her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, Mary was imprisoned for 19 years in various castles around England. She was later convicted of treason.

13. Mary spent her final days at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire and was beheaded in the castle’s Great Hall on 8 February 1587. She was just 44 years old when she died.