The image of Mary which comes down to us through the biased lens of Protestant history is a classic case of ‘blaming the victim.’ The Whig historians of the British Empire depicted her as weak-willed and excessively romantic – so hopeless, in fact, that she ‘deserved’ her fate.Share
The real Mary Stuart, however, appears to unbiased eyes as guileless and forthright, clearly possessed of intelligence and character sufficient to survive a life rife with calamity – and still to keep her wits and charm about her.
Daughter of King James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise of France, Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland at her father’s death. She was six days old. What followed were certainly her happiest years – her youth spent in the French court, educated by devoted French religious.
She was then married to the sickly Francis, son of Henry II and Catherine de Medici, whom she treated with kindness. His death two years later followed that of her own mother; she was eighteen years old.
Grieving her losses, Mary nevertheless stalwartly acknowledged her royal obligations, and left her merry France for dismal Scotland. It was a country engulfed in religious turmoil, with significant political opposition entrenched against her. The stern Puritans who followed John Knox made much of her elegant French wardrobe; she was said to have arrived with more than 20 lavish black gowns, the height of French fashion.
Regardless of their politics, however, the Scots were inevitably struck by Mary’s beauty, charm, sweetness of character and gentleness of spirit. An eyewitness relates that “In one of the … processions Mary was moving along with the rest, through a crowd of spectators, and the light from her torch fell upon her features and upon her hair in such a manner as to make her appear more beautiful than usual. A woman, standing there, pressed up nearer to her to view her more closely, and, seeing how beautiful she was, asked her if she was not an ‘angel’.”
Wishing to avoid further discord and bloodshed, Mary allowed the Scots their religious freedom. (Read more.)