Mary was in many ways a woman way ahead of her time. In an age where women were not deemed as significant as their male counterparts, her story sparks a debate among historians till today. Her life was nothing short of romanticised glory in terms of her romantic as well as political life. Her story has been told numerous times through the years by authors, historians, poets and even depicted in movies as series, a woman who has till today been a muse for many. Perhaps the reason why her story attracts the audience it does is because it is one of tragedy, romance and dramatic allusions.
It is said that she was a beautiful woman with red long hair and amber eyes who stood tall at 5.11 inches. Six days after her birth she reigned as the queen of Scotland, with the death of her father. Mary grew up in France, with the powerful Guises owing to her family relations on her mother’s side. She gets up in a charmed luxury with her excelling in activities such as hunting and dancing, and not just that she was well educated and fluent in many languages. With time she embodied the perfect renaissance princess, her marriage to Dauphin Francis, Henry and Catherine’s eldest son was a political ploy aimed at uniting Scotland and France at the time. However, the union had a short life span and saw its end with the premature death of her husband Francis in December 1560 and at the mere age of 18, Mary had become a widow.
Before her husband’s untimely demise, she had been ruling as the glittering, Queen consort of France. After the ascension of Elizabeth Tudor, Mary was nest in line as the roman catholics deemed her as the rightful heir to the throne. It was then that her father-in-law, Henry II of France claimed the throne on her behalf till his death in 1559 after which his son took to the throne.
After Mary’s return to Scotland, she found herself at rows trying to rule a country where religious tolerance was a new and alien subject. But it is said that it her second marriage to her cousin Henry Stuart, earl of Darnley that sent her life in a spiral. She married the earl recklessly for love which soon proved to be nothing short of a disastrous choice. The earl showed little to no promise as he wasted his life away as a drunkard. He was given little power and plotted the vicious death of Mary’s confidant David Riccio. The following eight months are supposedly the most controversial time of her life. It was around this time that she had adulterous liaison with James Hepburn the 4th earl of Bothwell. Although there is no contemporary evidence it is said that the two planned the death of Darnley her husband at the time.
Mary and Bothwell parted forever at the Carberry Hill on June 1567, Bothwell died insane and imprisoned while Mary was disposed in favour of her one-year-old son, James in the island of Loch Leven. Mary fled once again after the defeat of her supporters at Langside and found herself seeking refuge in England. This was a futile attempt on her part as she was in turn admonished to a life of imprisonment for 18 years.
It was during her time in prison that she is said to have been a part of a conspiracy to overthrow Elizabeth along with the support of the Roman Catholics. When this plot came to light, she was tried in an English court despite being the sovereign Queen of another country where she was sentenced to an execution at the age of 44.
Even her death was not an easy one and is one that sparked a controversy of its own. Her entire life Mary had to fight to make a place for herself and to call her own. She not only transpired with weak willed men but also had to face the consequences of a force with too much power. She’s been termed by many as a romantic and tragic figure, a scheming adulteress, a fool in political affairs. She sparked countless controversies even as she lived and still continues to be a provocative argument for many. However, the 16th century femme fatale was maybe just a force too ahead of her times, too eccentric to be fit into the narrow constraints of the conservative society.
Amity University, Kolkata
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