A wedding portrait of James V and Mary of Guise from a collection at Blair Castle, Perthshire
From being destined to be the sole surviving heir to the Scottish throne, her betrothal to Edward, Prince of Wales aged only six months and her coronation at nine months, the first year of Mary’s life is a fascinating period in Scottish history.
Born into conflict: 8 December 1542
The death of the two infant sons of King James V of Scotland on the same day in 1541 destined Mary to be the sole surviving heir to the Scottish throne. Her mother was Marie de Guise, whom King James V had wed to further the alliance between Scotland and France; earlier, Marie (reportedly replying that she had ‘a very little neck’) had declined the hand of Henry VIII of England, who had hoped to thwart James’ ambitions.
Linlithgow Palace This was the seat of Stewart kings and birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. It's a spectacular lochside ruin with its atmospheric Great Hall, the scene of royal banquets, and its famous ‘oriels’, the elegant projecting windows that marked the king’s and queen’s bedchambers.
Two weeks before Mary’s birth, King James V suffered a devastating defeat by Henry VIII’s forces at the Battle of Solway Moss. Humiliated and ill with fever, he retired to Falkland Palace, where he died aged just 30. Thus six-day-old Mary began a reign that would span a quarter of a century, as a queen who would inspire some of the stormiest chapters of British history.
St Michael’s Parish Church This Roman Catholic church lies close to Linlithgow Palace, where Mary was baptised. The font, carved with symbols relating to the Stewart royal family, and still used for christenings today, is now in Newbattle Abbey, a Cistercian monastery until 1587.
Falkland Palace At this castle in Fife you can visit the restored King’s Room.
Betrothal to England: 1 July 1543
Aged 6 months
King Henry VIII of England, Mary’s great uncle, was determined to bring Scotland into union with his kingdom. He took advantage of his victory at Solway Moss and the period of regency to propose that Mary would marry his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, then aged five. The agreement was enshrined in the Treaty of Greenwich, and signed between representatives of England and Scotland.
Portraits of King Henry VIII of England and King Edward VI hang in the Outer Chamber at Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh.
Coronation: 9 September 1543
Aged 9 months
The infant Mary was crowned Queen of Scots in the Chapel Royal, Stirling Castle, and it is said she ‘howled’ non-stop throughout the ceremony. She spent most of her first five years in the safety of the castle, under the care of her widowed mother, Marie de Guise.
Stirling Castle This Royal Palace, the work of Mary’s father James V, is one of the finest and best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the whole of Britain. It boasts unique carved stonework, and the king’s and queen’s apartments, where the young queen’s tiny feet must once have pattered.