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James IV Memorial Lecture 2017

The TillVAS James IV Memorial Lecture was held at Etal Village Hall on Sunday 8th October and given by Jordan Evans, previously a guide at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh and now attached to the Royal Household. The title of the lecture most appropriately was “Mary, Queen of Scots”, as she was of course, the granddaughter of James IV who died at the ill-fated Battle of Flodden in 1513.

James IV Memorial Lecture Oct 2017

Mary was described as a most controversial monarch, a romantic Princess and a Catholic martyr who spent 19 years of her life in captivity. Born in 1542 she was sent to France where in 1558 she was married to the Francoise, the heir to the French throne. One year later following his death, she was left a widow and returned to Scotland as the heir to the Scottish throne, but with some opposition as she was a Catholic – “One mass is more fearful than 1000 troops”. Despite this she was apparently doing a fairly good job until the question of an heir raised the subject of marriage and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley; grandson of Margaret, sister of Henry VII; was chosen as Consort. Meanwhile in England, Elizabeth’s right to be Queen was questioned as she was possibly born out of wedlock, meaning that Mary and any issue had a better claim to the English throne.

Darnley however proved to be most unsuitable for several reasons, not least the murder of Mary’s favourite, David Ritzio at Holyrood Palace in 1566 and a plot supposedly led by the Earl of Bothwell, James Hepburn, led to his death in mysterious circumstances later the same year, leaving his son, James at 8mths old, the heir to the throne. Bothwell, previously a champion of Mary and with a good following, also appeared to have designs on the Scottish throne and attempted to persuade Mary to marry him, but following several refusals she was taken to Dunbar Castle, raped and kept there as a virtual prisoner. Finding that she was pregnant, she finally agreed to marry Bothwell, to avoid giving birth to a bastard and losing the Crown. This was apparently not an agreeable relationship and Mary wrote to Elizabeth, “I find his doings rude”!

The Scottish Lords were also concerned at the obvious ambitions of Bothwell and following a battle at Carberry Hill in June 1567, Mary agrees to surrender on condition that Bothwell is allowed to return to Dunbar and eventually go into exile. Mary is once again a prisoner and taken firstly to Edinburgh Castle and then to Loch Leven Castle where she miscarries. There she is persuaded to renounce the throne in favour of her baby son, who became James VI of Scotland. Dressed as a laundry maid she eventually escapes, raises an army of about 6000 men and marches on Glasgow but the rising is crushed and Mary flees to England seeking the protection of her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she has always been on good terms.

Unfortunately the protection she sought became 18 years of imprisonment in various castles in the Midlands, as Elizabeth, persuaded by her advisors that Mary was a threat, and finally presented with details of a plot to assassinate her by Anthony Babbington, Elizabeth authorises Mary’s trial. The alternative for Mary would have been another 10 to 20 years imprisonment. Mary appeared at her trial dressed as a martyr and said “I am a True Queen; look to your consciences and remember that the theatre of the whole world is wider than the Kingdom of England”.

This talk gave much insight into the life of Mary and was well received by the capacity audience, who responded with a number of pertinent questions.


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