Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Stuart, known as Mary Queen of Scots, was but six-days-old when her father James V died (following disaster at the Battle of Solway Moss), and the Scottish throne passed to her. At two and a half years-old, in 1545, she made Hawick history by confirming (as was required by law) the Douglas’ charter of that same year (though how aware she was of this remains to be seen).

In the early years of Mary’s life, Henry VIII of England, following his break from the Catholic Church, wished to unite both countries under him. Thus, he sought to force the regents in charge of Mary to marry her to his son, Edward. The Scottish (Catholic) monarchy refused, however, and in turn Henry instigated the devastating War of Rough Wooing (or Nine Years’ War), 1543-51. The war decimated the Scottish borders, reigniting the necessity of local families to turn to the outlawry of reiving to survive. A victory at Ancrum Moor in 1545 staid the English hand for a short while, but the war climaxed with a bloody defeat of Scottish forces at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547. Despite their losses, the Scottish regents held out, and Scotland remained an independent kingdom allied, not with England, but with France, as had been the case before the war. Young Mary Stuart was smuggled safely out of the country to France, and there betrothed to the French Dauphin, Francis, who she was married to until his death in 1560.

Widowed, Mary returned to Scotland, and by her second husband (her half-cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley) had a son. The boy, James, would later be crowned King James VI of Scotland and I of England. Around the time of James’ birth, Mary made Borders history once again. Just a short while after giving birth, Mary, lodged at Jedburgh, made the long, arduous horseback ride over rough moorland, from Jedburgh to Hermitage Castle (possibly by way of the ancient ‘Thieves’ Road’). On her way back to Jedburgh that same night, her horse become embogged in a marshy area known to this day as ‘The Queen’s Mire’, and she was forced to dismount and wade through the fetid waters. Arriving back at Jedburgh, she succumbed to an illness (possibly the result of the ‘mire’ episode), which incapacitated her for weeks.

Mary had made the famous journey to visit the wounded Earl of Bothwell, who was recovering at Hermitage Castle, and who many at the time believed to be her lover. Both Mary and he would later be accused of conspiracy to murder Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, who was found dead in his garden in the spring of the following year. Though acquitted, both Mary and Bothwell (whom she married, in 1567) would long suffer the consequences of this accusation. Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle on 17th June (just one month after her marriage to Bothwell). On 24th July, she was forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled southward seeking the protection of her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Unfortunately for Mary, Elizabeth saw her as a threat to the English throne, and had her imprisoned. After eighteen and a half years as Elizabeth’s hostage Mary was sentenced to death, and famously beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle. Her ghost is said to have walked the halls of Hermitage Castle ever since.