Subscribe to Scotiana's blog RSS feed in your preferred reader!

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter
    November 2022
    S M T W T F S


    Follow Me on Pinterest

    1586: From her prison cell Mary Queen of Scots remembers…

    On my desk is Alex Nye’s book For My Sins, a fascinating historical novel I’ve just finished reading. I recommend it to all people interested in Mary Stuart’s life. There are many books devoted to Mary Queen of Scots but this one is particularly moving since the narrator is Mary herself. 


    For My Sins Alex Nye Fledgling Press 2017

    In my last selection of books for Christmas I had included Chill, Shiver and Dark ends, three books by Alex Nye written for young readers (and not so young ones believe me !). So, I was very happy, some time ago, to receive Alex Nye’s comment on Scotiana telling us that she had just published a new book, this time for adults, a historical novel about Mary Queen of Scots. I immediately downloaded it on my kindle and began reading it … I soon got immersed in the story, feeling close to Mary, much intrigued by the recurrent appearance of a number of ghosts haunting the queen night after night with their interrogations, asking questions which have never been answered. Sometimes you feel like in a theatre, watching a mystery play…

    François II and Marie Stuart Livres d'Heures de Catherine de Médicis

    François II and Marie Stuart Livres d’Heures de Catherine de Médicis

    I’m all the more interested in the story of Mary Queen of Scots that she also happened to be Queen of France, though for a rather short period of time. She had married “The Dolphin”, the French king’s elder son. After the king’s accidental death, the Dolphin succeeded Henri II, his father, under the name of François II while Marie Stuart became Queen of France.

    Mary Queen of Scots in white mourning by François Clouet Wikipedia

    Mary Queen of Scots in white mourning by François Clouet Wikipedia

    I have several English and French biographies of Mary Stuart/Marie Stuart in my library but before immersing in Alex Nye’s story I had only read historical articles about her or chapters in books of history. So my idea of this very popular Scottish/French monarch was not only limited but it lacked a soul…

    Alex Nye’s novel For My Sins is exactly the kind of story with which I like to enter history: easy to read but with much historical information in it.  I have a number of Scottish historical novels (French ones too) in my library, most of them written by Walter Scott and Nigel Tranter. This  kind of book has always triggered my curiosity and once I’ve turned the last page of one of them I generally turn to more austere volumes of history to learn more about the subject.

    For My Sins is a historical novel but it is also a ghost story which makes me love the book still more for I am a fan of the genre. Walter Scott himself wrote a number of thrilling ghost stories and I think I’ve not missed a single one 😉 From my reading of Chill and Shiver I can tell you that Alex Nye is a perfect master of the genre. I am presently reading Darker Ends, a story full of mystery and suspense in which a young boy and his ‘big sister’ found them isolated by the blizzard in an old inn situated in Rannoch Moor, not far from Glencoe. A strange man knocks at the door. The gloomy atmosphere of the place comes from the fact that it is closely linked with the infamous Massacre of Glencoe… but this is another story and for another post and indeed I’ve still not finished the book so let us come back to For My Sins.

    Alex Nye’s story begins in September 1586, in a turret of Fotheringhaig Castle, an English fortress where Mary Stuart is taken captive by his cousin Elizabeth I, six months before being beheaded (8 February  1587). We, readers, are supposed to know the fact but in her diary Mary still shows signs of hope to evade and even to overthrow her cousin Elizabeth II from the English throne.

    The book is divided into chapters, a number of them being printed in italics which corresponds to the diary Mary is writing in her solitary cell. In these chapters we learn many things about the life she shares with her companions: Elizabeth Curle and Jane Kennedy, her two servants and her little dog Gedeon. We also learn about the difficult relationships with her jailers and her cousin’s emissaries. But most of all we learn about the ghosts… many of them, in fact most of the people who had played an important part in her life when she was free and at the head of the Scottish realm.

    Here they come now, a motley crowd. They appear before me with all their vices and idiosyncrasies. My half-brother, Moray; Maitland; Morton; Lindsay; John Knox;  Rizzio; Father Mamaret. And Darnley, of course. Quite a cast of characters.

    In the non-italic chapters we learn about Mary’s past story.


    The motte of Fotheringhay Castle viewed from across the River Nene Wikipedia

    The motte of Fotheringhay Castle viewed from across the River Nene Wikipedia

    This mound is all that remains of Fotheringhay Castle. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned, and ultimately executed here in 1587.

    Fotheringhay is a village and civil parish in Northamptonshire, England, six kilometres (four miles) north east of Oundle and around 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) west of Peterborough. It is most noted for being the site of Fotheringhay (or Fotheringay) Castle which was razed in 1627. There is nothing left of the castle to be seen today other than the motte on which it was built that provides excellent views of the River Nene. The Nene Way long distance footpath runs through the village.

    Fotheringhay is also where Mary, Queen of Scots, was tried and beheaded in 1587, and her body lay there for some months before its burial at Peterborough Cathedral and then its final burial in Westminster Abbey. Although it is often said that James I destroyed the castle because his mother was killed there, the facts are rather more prosaic; it fell into such disrepair that it had to be pulled down, and the stones were all taken to be used in other buildings. Local legend has it that the staircase from the Castle is now in the Talbot Hotel in Oundle.

    Source: Wikipedia

    For My Sins Alex Nye Fledgling Press 2017 back cover

    Fragments and Memories

    The Crown of Scotland was placed upon my brow when I was six days old…

    From the barred windows of this fortress… I can see the dreary countryside of England stretching away, endlessly flat, dull and grey. I am a captive here, with nothing but a dark past of memories to keep me company. As a royal sovereign I am provided with little luxuries, gifts to relieve the monotony – boxes of sweetmeat, lengths of Holland material to make clothes with, soap, Spanish silk. Only yesterday I received a small blue box of taffeta full of ‘poudre de senteur’. Such a kind thought. But the one gift which I constantly crave is never forthcoming. I am provided with satin clothes, perukes of false hair, gold and silver thread for my embroidery, but as I ply my needle through the stiff linen it is my freedom I dream of – my freedom and my return to absolute sovereignty.

    I have always been interested by the character of Mary Stuart and that is why I’ve decided to devote a series of posts to the subject, focusing on the  places in Scotland  which are linked to Mary. We’ve visited most of them and I’m eager to open our Scottish album again, this time to share with you our pictures and notes about the great Queen. I will insert quotes from Alex Nye here and there.

    Places in Scotland linked to Mary Queen of Scots

    1. Linlithgow Palace
    2. Stirling Castle
    3. Inchmahome Priory
    4. Dumbarton Castle
    5. Leith
    6. Holyrood Palace
    7. Edinburgh Castle
    8. Traquair house
    9. Jedburgh
    10. Hermitage Castle
    11. Craigmillar Castle
    12. Lochleven Castle
    13. Dundrennan Abbey
    14. Borthwick Castle

    It will begin at Linlithgow Palace where Mary Stuart was born on 8 December 1542…

    Linlithgow Castle and St Michael's Church © 2007 Scotiana

    Linlithgow Castle and St Michael’s Church © 2007 Scotiana

    Linlithgow Palace © 2003 Scotiana

    Linlithgow Palace © 2003 Scotiana


    Mary stuart aged about thirteen by François Clouet

    Mary stuart aged about thirteen by François Clouet

    • 1542
      • 08 December : birth of Mary Stuart in Linlithgow Palace.
      • 14 December, only six days later, death of James V, Mary’s father.
    • 1543
      • 09 September : Mary, aged 9 months, is crowned Queen of Scots at Stirling Castle. Her mother, Mary de Guise rules as regent helped by Cardinal Beaton.
      • King Henry VIII of England tries to secure an alliance with Scotland by the marriage of the infant Mary to his young son, the future Edward VI. The negotiations are a failure.
    • 1544
      •  Henry VIII launches a series of bloody reprisal attacks against Scotland which are known as the ‘Rough Wooing’.
    • 1547
      • 28 January: death of Henry VIII in Whitehall Palace, London. He is succeeded by his son Edward VI, then 9 years old. England is ruled by the Duke of Somerset.
      • 10 September: battle of Pinkie Cleugh, the “Black Saturday”. This battle took place on the banks of the River Esk near Musselburgh. It was part of the ‘Rough Wooing’ conflict and ended on a a terrible defeat for Scotland
      • Following the disastrous Scottish defeat at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, Mary is sent for her safety to the Priory of Inchmahome situated on the island of the same name on the Lake of Menteith in Stirlingshire. There she spent about three weeks.
    • 1548
      • New invasion of the English. Mary is sent to Dumbarton Castle.
      • Henri II of France offers protection to Mary and the sending of troops to help repel the English out of Scotland provided the young Scottish Queen marry his son François.
      • Mary sails for France on 7 August 1548. She is aged 5.
    • 1553
      • 06 July : death of Edward VI, Henry VIII’s son. He is succeeded by Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.
    • 1558
      • 24 April : marriage of Queen Mary and François, the Dauphin of France in Notre Dame de Paris cathedral. The contract stipulates that if Mary dies without successors, François would become King of Scotland.
      • November 1558 : death of Mary Tudor who is succeeded on the English throne by Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn. For many people she is illegitimate because Henry VIII’s marriage to her mother, Anne Boleyn, followed his illegal divorce from Catherine. Mary Queen Mary’s claim to the English throne being thus stronger than Elizabeth’s.
    • 1559
      • 10 July : death of Henri II, King of France, a few days after he had been wounded in a tournament by Gabriel Montgomery, captain of the King’s Scottish Guard. He  is succeeded by the Dauphin, who becomes King under the name of François II. Mary becomes Queen of France.
    • 1560 :
      • 11 June : death of Marie de Guise, mother of Mary Stuart and Regent of Scotland
      • 11 August : the Scottish Parliament establishes the reformed Protestant religion in Scotland
      • 05 December : death of François II leaving Mary as an eighteen year old widow and depriving her of the French crown. He is succeeded by his brother Charles IX.
    • 1561
      • 19 August : Mary returns to Scotland, arriving at Leith in a country which is no longer catholic.
    • 1565
      • 29 July : Marriage of Mary with Lord Darnley in the chapel of Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh but she soon gives up the idea of having him crowned alongside her.
    • 1566
      • 09 March : murder of Mary’s secretary David Rizzio in Mary’s presence at Holyrood Palace. She is six months pregnant then and considers this murder is part of a plot against her and her unborn child. Fleeing Edinburgh she takes refuge at Dunbar Castle, where James, Earl of Bothwell meets her with an army of 4,000 which she will use to hunt down the plotters.
      • 19 August : birth in Edinburgh Castle of Mary’s son, James. He will become James VI of Scotland and James I of England.
      • 17 December : James’ baptism in a Catholic ceremony held at Stirling Castle.
    • 1567
      • 10 February : Darnley is killed in the criminal explosion of the Old Provost’s lodging, a two-storey house situated within the Kirk’O’Field church quadrangle, about ten minutes’ walk from Holyrood Palace.
      • 12 April : trial of Bothwell who is accused of Darnley’s murder. He is acquitted.
      • 20 April : signature of the “Ainslie Tavern Bond” (also known as the “Ainslie Band”, or the “Ainslie Tavern Band”) by a number of Scottish bishops and nobles. The document clears Bothwell of all suspicion in the murder of Lord Darnley and recommends him as an appropriate husband for Mary, Queen of Scots.
      • 24 April : Mary is kidnapped by Bothwell and kept in Dunbar Castle.
      • 15 May : Mary marries James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.
      • 12 June : rebellion of the Scottish lords against Mary Stuart and Bothwell.
      • 15 June : Battle of Carberry Hill. Mary is taken prisoner by her nobles who accuse her of having killed Darnley. Bothwell is outlawed. He first takes refuge in France and then to Denmark where he will die in prison.
      • 17 June : Mary is imprisoned at Lochleven Castle.
      • 26 July : Mary is forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son. Her choice is abdication or death…
      • 29 July : James VI is crowned in Stirling.
      • 22 August : James Stewart,  the Earl of Moray and Mary’s half-brother  is made regent of the Scottish realm.
    • 1568
      • 02 May : Mary escapes from Lochleven and raises an army.
      • 13 May :  Queen Mary and her supporters are defeated by the Earl of Moray at Langside.
      • 16 May : Mary decides to seek assistance from Queen Elizabeth and flees to England. She will never come back to Scotland, will never meet Queen Elizabeth and finally she will be sentenced to death under the accusation of plotting against her. She arrives at Workington, Cumberland.
      • 18 May : Mary is lodged in Carlisle Castle and then moves to Bolton Castle, Yorkshire.
    • 1569
      • The Earl of Shrewsbury becomes the custodian of Mary.

    Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (c. 1527-1608), known as Bess of Hardwick, was a notable figure of 16th century Elizabethan English society (…) While in the care of the earl and countess, Queen Mary lived at one or another of their many houses in the Midlands: Tutbury, Wingfield Manor, Chatsworth House, and Sheffield Manor. Throughout this period, Bess spent time as Mary’s companion, working with her on embroidery and textile projects. Indeed, all Mary’s work later become part of Bess’s historical collection at Hardwick Hall, which inspired the rhyme, “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall”, because of the number and size of its windows. (Wikipedia)

    • 1570 : secret marriage plans between Mary and the Duke of Norfolk.
    • 1572 : Execution of the Duke of Norfolk for his part in the plot against Queen Elizabeth
    • 1584 : Mary taken from the charge of the Earl of Shrewsbury.
    • 1585 :
      • January : Mary is imprisoned at Tutbury under Sir Amyas Paulet
      • Autumn : Mary moved to Chartley Hall, Staffordshire.
    • 1586
      • April-May : beginning of the Babington Plot.
      • 6 July : letter of Babington to Mary Stuart, giving the details of the plot.
      • 17 July : letter from Mary Stuart to Babington.
      • September : Mary is taken to Fotheringhay Castle
      • 20-21 September : execution of Babington and of his accomplices
      • 15 October : trial of Mary Queen of Scots
      • 25 October : Mary is declared guildy and sentenced to death
    •  1587
      • 8 February : execution of Mary Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay
    • 1612 : Mary had been buried in Peterborough after her execution but James VI/I decides his mother’s Mary’s body will be brought to Westminster Abbey and interred not far from Elizabeth’s, in a far grander tomb.
    Mary Stuart's 'The Phenix' embroidered panel, from  Margaret Swain's book "The Needlework of Mary, Queen of Scots"

    Mary Stuart’s ‘The Phenix’ embroidered panel, from Margaret Swain’s book “The Needlework of Mary, Queen of Scots”

    “En ma Fin gît mon Commencement”

    “In my End is my Beginning..

    (Mary Queen of Scots)

     What a life and what a fate ! Mary Queen of Scots and of France could well have become Queen of England too but, if she had, her story may not have been so pathetic, giving special meaning and full value to Mary’s famous motto : In my end is my beginning

    A very beautiful statue of Mary was unveiled at Linlithgow Palace in April 2015.


    Scotland’s first public statue of Mary, Queen of Scots. The bronze, seven-foot statue of Mary stands on the Linlithgow Peel, looking out over the palace, where she was born.

    In the end is my beginning…. Mary Queen of Scots Statue

    Formed in 1992 to mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of Mary, Queen of Scots at Linlithgow, The Marie Stuart Society promotes further study of her life and times through research, lectures, activities and publications.

    Over the years the Society has been involved in many projects:

    Erected plaques at a number of different venues including Leith, Dumbarton, Carberry, Workington, Crail and Sheffield Manor.
    Planted a tree and plaque at Dundrennan Abbey.
    Financed the restoration of rare books in Lambeth Palace Library.
    Initiated an essay/poetry competition for primary schools throughout Scotland.

    Recently we succeeded in raising sufficient funds to erect a statue of Mary at her birthplace, Linlithgow Palace – this was unveiled on 24 April 2015.

    Statue of Marie Stuart by Jean-Jacques Feuchère. Luxembourg Garden Paris

    And there is also a beautiful statue of Marie Stuart by Jean-Jacques Feuchère in Luxembourg Garden, Paris

    In my library and on my reading list 😉

    Mary Stuart Stefan Zweig Pushkin Press London 2015

    Mary Stuart Stefan Zweig Pushkin Press London 2015

    Mary Queen of Scots Antonia Fraser 40th anniversary edition Phoenix 2009 edge and front cover

    Mary Queen of Scots Antonia Fraser 40th anniversary edition Phoenix 2009 edge and front coveIn French :


    The Needlework of Mary Stuart Margaret Swain

    The Needlework of Mary Stuart Margaret Swain


    Bonne lecture et à bientôt !

    Keep tuned to follow us in the steps of Mary Queen of Scots in a new series of adventures which will lead us to some of the most beautiful and romantic castles of Scotland, and elsewhere along the paths of History in France and England…


    Share this:
    Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

    Leave a Reply

    You can use these HTML tags

    <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.