The Reputations of Mary Queen of Scots
Jayne Lewis, « The Reputations of Mary Queen of Scots », Études écossaises, 10, 2005.
As reputations go, that of Mary Queen of Scots was never an especially Scottish one. Nor does it appear ever to have been very good. Bred in the permissive Renaissance court of the Valois king, Henri II, this “silly, idle, coquettish French girl” was branded a harlot by many of her own Scottish subjects (Esher, 1912, i, p. 219). She was suspected of complicity in the murder of her second (English) husband, then accused of adultery with the man who soon became her third, and at whose side she waged war on many of her own people. When Mary was so famously beheaded, in England, in the winter of 1587, it was for plotting to kill her cousin once-removed, Elizabeth Tudor. How on earth could anyone have “pitied her” ? And yet, from another point of view, Mary’s reputation could hardly be better : she died a self-proclaimed martyr to her Roman Catholic faith, after nineteen years of captivity that won the sympathy even of some of her English captors. Her brief, disastrous personal rule in Scotland has shown many historians a gentle and tolerant spirit ill-equipped for the Realpolitik of a determined Protestant ascendancy. Her virtually life-long separation from her only child, James VI of Scotland and I of England, is poignant, her generous affection for the women who cared for her legendary (Donaldson, 1983 ; Lynch, 1988 ; Wormald, 1988).