Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, the daughter of Mary of Guise and James V, was born at Linlithgow Palace on December 8, 1542, and ascended the throne six days later. Her early childhood was jeopardized by “The Rough Wooing” of Henry VIII in 1544–1545 (that is, by English invasions of Scotland after the marriage agreement between Henry’s son, Edward, and Mary was dissolved when the pro-French, Catholic faction strengthened in Scotland). In 1548 Mary was sent to France where, for thirteen years, she received the protection of the Guise-Lorraine family and a religious, intellectual, and artistic education. Her marriage to the young Dauphin, François II, ended after his sudden death in 1560, and Mary entered a period of mourning as “la reine blanche” (the white queen). In 1561, at the age of nineteen, she returned to a Reformed Scotland. Mary’s own exertion of religious authority proved moderate and conciliatory; she herself attended Mass and received communion in private. The early years of her reign were relatively stable, although the issue of her marriage remained contentious in its implications for the English succession and religious power.
In 1565, Mary married Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, in a Catholic ceremony. Controversy surrounded their marriage: Mary’s moral and sexual conduct was increasingly scrutinized, and apparent tensions between Darnley and Mary made the former a useful pawn for the queen’s enemies. In March 1566, David Rizzio, an Italian musician promoted to the position of Mary’s secretary, was murdered by Protestant rebels in consort with the embittered Darnley who sought to gain the crown matrimonial; speculation had grown about the nature of the Mary-Rizzio relationship and his Catholic allegiance. Mary witnessed the attack, pregnant with the future King James. Mary’s seven-year Scottish reign entered its most acute crisis on February 10, 1567, when Darnley was assassinated. Accusations spread that Mary herself was implicated in the murder, intensified by rumors of an adulterous liaison with