Mary Queen of Scots: The Young Queen


  • Elizabeth Bonner


Scotland history, Mary Queen of Scots,


It is just over four hundred years since Mary Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringay Castle on 8 February I 587. In acknowledgement of this anniversary, a number of historians have published books, essays and articles which seek to re-evaluate and place in perspective the historical Mary as Queen of Scots, rather than the figure ofmyth and legend that she has become in the past four hundred years. In the preface of her contribution to these writings, Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure, Dr Jenny Wormald observes that 'it is frankly inconceivable that any centenary of any English ruler would be so swamped with tours, plays, conferences, exhibitions, books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, radio and television programmes, which have been such a prolific feature of the Marian centenary in I 987-mainly in Scotland, but also, be it said, in England as well. From the Mass said in the parish church at Fotheringay on 7 February right through to the Edinburgh-or perhaps more accurately Marian-Festival and beyond'. The public enthusiasm for the legend, continues Wormald, 'has far less to do with the historical Mary than with that particular tendency of the Scots to follow the lead given by Sir Walter Scott and tum their history into tartan romance, making folk-heroes of failures and thugs, be they Mary Queen of Scots, Rob Roy or Bonnie Prince Charlie. No amount of scholarly history ... will ever combat it completely; that is the frustration of being a historian of Scotland, aware that the reality which was the kingdom of Scotland is so much more fascinating than the romantics could ever make it.' 1 Nevertheless, says Wormald, 'as the subject of historical studies, and heroine of romantic fiction, Mary Queen of Scots has a massive lead over all other earthly Maries, only the Virgin scoring more heavily'. In the I 962 Catalogue of Printed Books at the British Library, for example, Mary Queen of Scots has 455 books devoted to her whilst her contemporary in England, Mary Tudor, has but 73.