To understand Mary, we must first understand her lineage, and why she thought she had a claim on Elizabeth's throne... Mary's father was King James V of Scotland, and her mother was Mary of Guise. Her grandmother was Princess (later Queen consort of Scotland) Margaret Tudor - Henry VIII's older sister. Confused? Based on her lineage, Mary was a legitimate descendant of Tudor royalty, although she was raised in Scotland as a Princess.
Mary was only six years old when her father, the king, died suddenly and she was crowned the rightful Queen of Scotland. She had a brief stint as Queen consort of France when she married the Dauphin, Francis, but he died two years later and she returned to Scotland, later to marry her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. This was a reportedly unhappy union, and in 1567, Lord Darnley was found strangled in the garden next to their house, where an
As far as Mary's claim to the English throne goes, even I find it hard to dispute it. Once Mary I of England (Bloody Mary) died, King Henry II of France proclaimed his oldest son and daughter-in-law (this Mary) to be the King and Queen of England, based on Mary's relations with the Tudors. From this point on, Mary thought herself to be the true heir, which was cause for a tense relationship with Elizabeth I, who ascended the throne upon her half-sister's death. The situation gets especially tricky when you look at the people's view of Elizabeth, whom (while many people loved her), most Catholics deemed her illegitimate and unworthy of the throne. This made the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots the true heir in their minds.
This is where she gets to be a very controversial figure. Some people believe she was more headstrong and forceful in plans to assassinate Elizabeth than others do. Personally, I feel there is enough evidence to believe that was her plan, but I suppose we will never know for sure. Queen Elizabeth's secretary and 'spy' - (really one of the earliest known spy networks) - Francis Walsingham successfully disrupted a range of plots and letters from Mary to her 'supporters,' therefore gathering evidence of her plans to remove the Queen through murder.
This is where it's hard to take Mary's side....if she truly was plotting to kill Elizabeth then, given the standards of those times, she deserved her fate. Unfortunately for us, we will never know what truly went on, but we do know that it was a very tough decision for Queen Elizabeth to make - (by the way, this is a picture of her, known as the "Darnley Portrait").
Elizabeth was wary to order the execution, though, fearing retaliation from the Scots, or Mary's Catholic supporters. She hesitated, but eventually signed the execution order, and her councillors carried out the sentence before she could change her mind.
The horrible thing about this execution is that it reportedly took two blows of the axe to remove Mary's head - the first one apparently striking the back of her head. The second blow also did not completely sever the neck, and the executioner gruesomely used the axe as a saw to finish the job. OUCH. As was normal at executions, the axeman lifted the Queen's head by her Auburn hair and yelled "God save the Queen!" but as he said this, her head toppled from her hair, revealing that she had been wearing a wig, and that her natural hair was actually short and gray. (An awful execution, to say the least).
So today is not a happy day for fans of Mary, Queen of Scots, although there is a bit of a positive side to the end of her life - First of all, Queen Elizabeth went on and continued her glorious reign as England's Queen, but as she died without producing heirs, the tragic Mary of Scots' son, James, ascended the English throne, being the closest familial relation to English royalty, and beginning the Stuart Dynasty.