Mary was the daughter of king James V and spent her first few years in Scotland, before being taken to France when she was six. She married a French prince but he died in 1560 and Mary returned to Scotland in 1561, the year after the Reformation.
Mary was a Roman Catholic however, which brought her into conflict with John Knox. The Protestant leaders of the country had allowed Mary to have a private mass, but Knox said that he feared one mass more than ten thousand armed enemies landing to try and overthrow their whole religion, because if they accepted idolatry they would lose God’s presence and protection. Knox appeared before the Queen on four different occasions, reducing her to tears a number of times, when he said that she shouldn’t marry a Roman Catholic.
Many other people weren’t happy with Mary either and after coming under suspicion of being involved in the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley, Mary was forced to give up her throne in July 1567. Her baby son James VI was crowned king and Mary fled to England where she soon became a prisoner of her cousin, the Protestant Elizabeth I, and an investigation was held over her husband’s murder. Eventually, in February 1587, after Mary’s involvement in a plot against her, Elizabeth reluctantly signed Mary’s death warrant. Mary was then executed by being beheaded. Catholics throughout Europe protested that she had died as a martyr for her faith.
DSCHT: Mary Queen of Scots
John Knox, History of the Reformation in Scotland ed. W. C. Dickinson (2 vols, 1949).
Julian Goodare, ‘Mary (1542–1587)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2007
Jane E. A. Dawson, ‘Knox, John (c.1514–1572)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008