Gateway to the Classics: Scotland's Story by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Scotland's Story by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall

Mary Queen of Scots—France

King James v. had been twice married, both times to a French lady. His first Queen, who was the daughter of the King of France, only lived about a month after she came to Scotland. He then married another French Princess, called Mary of Guise. Her little baby daughter, who was also called Mary, was only seven days old when James died, and she became Queen.

Once more the country was without a real head, and the quarrels and struggles for power among the great nobles became very bitter. There were two great parties. The Queen mother, Mary of Guise, and a great churchman called Cardinal Beaton were at the head of one party, and the Earl of Arran, who was chosen to be Regent, at the head of the other. The Roman Catholics followed Mary and Cardinal Beaton; the Protestants followed the Earl of Arran.

Henry of England pretended to be very sorry when he heard of the death of King James. But he was not really sorry, for he now saw a new way of joining England and Scotland together. He proposed that the little baby Queen should be married to his son Edward.

Of course a little baby could not be married, but Henry wanted the Scottish people to promise that when she was old enough, she should marry his son.

The Scottish people did not love the English, but the Regent and many of the nobles had become Protestants, and it seemed to them that it would be a wise thing for their little Queen to marry a Protestant Prince. So it was agreed that when Mary was old enough, this marriage should take place. But the Queen mother, and Cardinal Beaton, and all those who followed them, did not like the arrangement at all.

Henry, however, was not content with this promise. He wanted to get possession of the little Queen, and asked the Scottish people to send her to England. The Scots would not hear of this, and said she must not leave Scotland until she was at least ten years old. Then, as Henry still went on trying to get possession of Mary, the nobles took back their promise, and said she should never be married to Prince Edward at all.

This made King Henry so angry, that he gathered his ships and men of war, and sent them to fight against Scotland. The Regent was a weak and foolish man, easily pulled this way and that, and never ready for anything. He ought to have known that Henry would be angry, and he might have been prepared. But he did nothing.

One bright May morning, a crowd of white sails appeared in the Forth. The people watched anxiously, wondering what ships they might be. Soon they saw the royal standard of England fluttering in the breeze, and knew that they had to do with their old enemy. Then cannon boomed, and the red fires of war blazed, till the fairest lands of Scotland were blackened wastes. It was a rough wooing. Too rough to suit the Scotsmen, and not rough enough to conquer them. For two years the war went on, the French helping their old friends, and at last peace was made.

Cardinal Beaton now became very powerful, and really ruled the land. But the Protestants were growing stronger and stronger. The Cardinal hated the Protestant religion, and tried in every way to stop it from spreading among the people. By his orders, George Wishart, one of the boldest of the Protestants, was hanged and his body burned at St. Andrews, opposite the Cardinal's palace, Beaton himself sitting upon the walls and watching Wishart die.

This, and many other cruel acts, roused the hatred of the Protestant party, and three months later, sixteen men rushed one morning into the palace, and murdered the Cardinal.

Many people even of the Protestant party were angry and grieved at this action. Yet they were glad that the proud, cruel Cardinal was dead.

"Although the loon is well away

The deed was foully done,"

they said. And cruel though he was, Cardinal Beaton had helped to keep Scotland out of the clutches of Henry viii.

Soon after this, Henry viii. died, and again the English people tried to force the Scottish people to let Queen Mary marry Prince, now King, Edward. Another great army was sent into Scotland, and a terrible battle was fought in 1547 a.d. , at a place called Pinkie, near Edinburgh. In this battle the Scots were defeated. It was the last time that they were ever defeated by the English in a great battle. But this defeat, instead of making the Scots agree to allow Mary to marry Edward, made them more determined than ever not to allow it.

All this time the little Queen, around whom there had been so much fighting, for whose sake so many brave men had died, knew nothing at all about it. She played in her nursery, or in pleasant gardens, with four other little girls, who like herself, were all called Mary. She was sent from place to place for safety, and her little friends always went with her. Now it was decided to send her to France, where she would be quite safe from the English.

So the Queen mother kissed her little daughter, who was now six years old, and sent her away with her four little friends to the court of France.

Some time after this, Mary of Guise, the Queen mother, was made Regent, instead of the weak Earl of Arran. She was a clever woman, but she made many of the nobles angry, by giving the chief posts to Frenchmen. On the whole, however, the land was more peaceful than it had been for some years.

Meanwhile the little Queen was growing up in France. Far away from the sounds of war and strife, she led a gay and happy life.

Princes and princesses are sometimes very lonely. But little Queen Mary was not lonely. Besides her friends, the four Scottish Maries, she had as companions, more than thirty French princes and princesses, with whom she learned her lessons and played about. She was so pretty, and so graceful, and so clever, that every one loved her. A great lady wrote of her, that "This small Queen of Scots has only to smile, in order to turn all French heads."


In some sunny palace garden the days passed happily for the Queen and her Maries.

Mary was taught to sing, and to play, and to dance, to ride and to hunt. She was also taught to sew and to embroider, and she could speak and write Latin and several other languages. So, sometimes at the gay French court, sometimes in some sunny palace garden, the days passed peacefully and happily for the Queen and her four Maries. Then, when the Queen was fifteen, she was married to the Dauphin, the eldest son of the King of France.

Mary was now quite old enough to go home to Scotland to rule her own country; but she did not go. Among the many things that she had been taught, no one had thought of teaching her that a Queen must work, and think, and live, for her people. So Mary stayed at the gay French court with her husband, the Dauphin, leaving her mother to govern Scotland.

Then the King of France died, and the Dauphin became King, and Mary Queen, of France as well as of Scotland. And Mary called herself Queen of England too, and used the royal arms of England. Her cousin Elizabeth, was now upon the throne of England, but Mary said she had a better right to the throne than Elizabeth. She never tried, however, to make the English people give her the crown, and calling herself Queen of England was merely an empty show. But it made Elizabeth very angry. So instead of loving each other, these two cousins, ruling over neighbouring countries, hated and despised each other.

But while Mary smiled and danced in France, dark and difficult days were coming upon Scotland. The Queen Regent was a Roman Catholic, and more and more of the Scottish nobles were becoming Protestants. Although the Regent tried to be friends with these Protestant nobles, it became every day more difficult. As the Protestants grew stronger, the Roman Catholics urged the Queen Regent to persecute and destroy them. The Protestant nobles, or Lords of the Congregation, as they came to be called, began to be afraid that the Queen Regent meant to take away the freedom of Scotland, and make the land into a French province. At last these feelings grew so bitter, that war broke out. This war was called the war of Reformation, or the war of the Congregation.

Chief among the leaders of the army of the Congregation was a man called Knox. He was neither a soldier nor a noble, but a preacher. He marched up and down Scotland preaching fiery sermons, stirring up the people, till they tore down the altars and images in the churches, and often, I am sorry to say, ruined the beautiful old churches themselves.

French soldiers helped the Queen Regent and the Catholics; and the Lords of the Congregation, finding that they were not strong enough, asked Queen Elizabeth to send soldiers to help them. This Elizabeth did. So for the first time was seen the strange sight of an English army marching into Scotland, and being welcomed by the Scots. For some time the war went fiercely on, but the Queen Regent suddenly died, and soon afterwards the war came to an end.

The French soldiers were sent back to their own country in English ships, and the Scots, who no longer wanted the help of the English, accompanied them to the Border, and there said good-bye to their dangerous friends.

Then a Parliament was called. This was a strange Parliament, for instead of making and discussing the laws of the land, they made and discussed the laws of faith and religion, and made new rules for the governing of the Church. This Parliament declared that the Pope had no more power over the Church of Scotland, and it was made a crime for any one to read or listen to a Roman Catholic service. Thus, by one stroke as it were, the Reformation in Scotland was made complete.

When Mary heard of what this Parliament had done, she was very angry, for she was a Roman Catholic and loved the Roman Catholic Church. "I am your Queen," she said, "or so you call me. But you do not use me so. You have done what pleased yourselves." The Parliament was no Parliament, she said, because it had been called without the consent of the Queen. So she would not agree to anything it had passed. It might have ended in war between the Queen and her people, but just at this time Mary's husband, the King of France, died. As long as he lived, Mary was of great importance in France. Now that he was dead, and another King upon the throne, she found that the French people did not want her any more. She felt lonely and deserted, and so she resolved to go home to her own people; and she got on board a ship and sailed away to Scotland. But she found it very hard to leave France, where she had been so happy. She knew little about Scotland, and she was not sure if she would find friends there. She was only nineteen, and she was going away for ever from the land and people she had loved.

All day long, she leaned against the side of the ship watching the shores of France grow dim in the distance. When night came, she would not go down into her cabin, but ordered a bed to be brought on deck for her. It was a warm August night, there was no wind to fill the sails, so the ship lay becalmed. Very early in the morning, the Queen awoke to see faintly still the shores of France. But the wind sprang up, and soon the last outline faded away. "Farewell, beloved France," she cried, as tears filled her eyes, "farewell, I shall never see thee more."

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: James V.—King of the Commons  |  Next: Mary—Darnley and Rizzio
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.