Mary Stuart – were it not for her death, France could spread along two coasts of La Manche….
Only the French had reason to weep over her
Mary Stuart was a queen of Scotland. Her tragic life is widely known. The story of her life was described, inter alia, by Friedrich von Schiller in his drama ”Maria Stuart”. Having read Maria Stuart, Giuseppe Bardari decided to write a libretto while Gaetano Donizetti composed operatic music for it. On opening night, “Maria Stuart” took place in the famous La Scala in Milano in 1835. 180 years later, residents of Warsaw had a chance to see this opera in February 2015 in the National Opera in Warsaw. This is why I finally found a reason to write about the queen of Scotland. Wait… only Scotland?
Not everyone knows that she was half French, I guess. (Her mother was French. Mary was a catholic like most Frenchmen and women, unlike people from Scotland and definitely unlike all inhabitants of England). And because of her blood, after she had been decapitated, only the French had reason to weep over her. At least that is what Stephen Clarke, an author of ”1000 Years of Annoying the French”, says. Let’s delve into a little more detail.
Growing up in France made her a French woman
There always was a traditional bond between Scotland and France. That is why young Maria Stuart, when she was only 5 years old, was sent abroad to be raised in the French court. She was supposed to get married to the 3 year old son named Francis II of the French King Henry II. She would have then become a French queen, which carried a far more distinctive and important title rather than being the queen of Scotland. (Now, I do not say that because I am French, but rather this is what historians say).
5 year old Maria spent in France another 13 years, which were extremely important to her future life as the 13 years molded her into a young French woman. I have no doubt she picked up the French language and habits rather quickly. She was the first to use surname Stuart instead of Stewart. Stuart sounding more French, obviously. In France, people loved her, as she was clever and beautiful. She was a darling, held in high esteem, a favourite of everyone, with the exception of Catherine de' Medici, her future mother-in-law.
Then her problems started
When she turned 16, she became the queen of France. Unfortunately her husband died soon after, so her mother-in-law showed her that she was not welcome in France any longer at which point, Mary decided to go back to Scotland. She took some French people who surrounded her for the rest of her life.
However, coming back to her motherland was not a good idea at all. Scotland then was divided between noble men. Maria Stuart as the only descendant was rightfully the queen of Scotland even though she had spent the last dozen or so years abroad in exotic France. So while it is little wonder that the Scottish people were not excited about her at first, there were others who wanted to marry her in order to become a king. Could you blame them?
Maria Stuart had no idea about the country in which she was born. But she knew what to do in order to gain control over England some day. Therefore, she married an English Lord, her cousin – Henry Darnley. It was not a good marriage, the Lord died and Mary Stuart was captured soon after that. At first she spent some time imprisoned in Dunbar Castle, and later she was moved to Loch Leven Castle.
When she eventually managed to escape from this castle she decided to go to England. Why you ask? Well, for one, she was not welcome in Scotland. Since she was deprived of her power, her half-brother had taken control over the country. Meanwhile, in France she was also not welcome. Do you recall her ex mother-in-law? So eventually she decided to go to England, to the country of her cousin – Elizabeth I of England.
Coming to England was also not a brilliant idea
Her coming back was also not a good decision because Elizabeth I was afraid of her as she still had some right to become a ruler of England. And thus she was imprisoned yet again and would spend 19 years in 3 different castles. It certainly looked like nobody liked her at all. But looks can be deceiving.
Mary Stuart still had some friends among the people and even a few of them wanted to help her out and deprive queen Elizabeth I of her power. Unfortunately Maria’s letters to one of the conspirators were revealed by a spy of queen Elizabeth I. When it became obvious that Mary wanted to replace the queen of England, she could start doing only the one thing in her power – counting down her last days. She was beheaded in 1587.
Mary Stuart desired to be buried in France but she was not. With her death, the chance to get control over England by the French nation disappeared forever. Never would there arise a chance for a union between both nations. It was a tragedy. Together, Scotland and England could have become a French colony had the French not squandered the opportunity. A tragedy indeed.