Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603

By William Croft Dickinson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXIII Mary Queen of Scots

FOR A whole year -- from August 1560 to August 1561 -- Scotland had no established government. Mary was still in France; her mother, the Queen Regent, had died, and no new regent had been appointed to take her place. For some twelve months the 'government' appears to have been largely in the hands of the Lord James Stewart, Mary's half- brother, and the Duke of Châtelherault, both important leaders of the victorious Congregation, together with William Maitland of Lethington acting as their 'Secretary'.

Probably neither the Lord James Stewart nor Châtelherault desired or expected the return of Mary. The Lord James could not forget that only the accident of birth had debarred him from the crown.1 Châtelherault certainly remembered that he was next in succession to the throne; and, if Queen Elizabeth could be persuaded to a Protestant marriage with his son, a Hamilton might yet rule Scotland, and England too. Indeed, following the meeting of the 'Reformation Parliament', an embassy was sent to England to propose that marriage, and stress was laid on the fact that the Hamiltons were heirs presumptive to the Scottish crown; but Elizabeth replied that she was 'not at present disposed' to marry.

Whatever may have been the hopes of the Lord James Stewart and the Hamiltons, however, they were rudely shattered by the unexpected death of Mary's husband, Francis II, in December 1560, and by Mary's resolve to return to her own country. No longer Queen of France, she was still Queen of Scots. And what would be the outcome when Mary, brought up in the Roman church, returned to govern a nominally Protestant realm?

Knowing of Mary's intention to return to govern her own kingdom, a number of the Roman Catholic bishops and lords sent messengers to her urging her to land in the north where she would find 20,000 men ready to march with her to restore the old faith. From the Protestant party, the Lord James Stewart also went to France to give counsel to the Queen, and his counsel was that she should 'press no matters of

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1
He was a natural son of James V by Margaret Erskine, daughter of John, fourth Lord Erskine.

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