01 January 2020
Explore the life of Mary Queen of Scots, with our timeline of key events in the life of the Stewart queen.
Mary Queen of Scots timeline
1. Mary's birth: 8 December 1542
Mary was born at Linlithgow Palace, the daughter of James V of Scotland and his second wife Marie de Guise.
2. Mary became queen: 14 December 1542
James V was killed following the Battle of Solway Moss, leaving Mary as queen of Scotland at six days of age.
3. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned: 9 September 1543
Mary was crowned at Stirling Castle, a building which was a favourite with the Stewarts, and which Mary would visit many times. Stirling was chosen because of its position as one of the most secure locations within the kingdom. Stirling Castle facts.
4. The rough wooing: 9 September 1547
Mary arrived for a stay at Inchmahome Priory during the ‘rough wooing’ during which Henry VIII of England tried to force a marriage between Mary and his son Edward.
5. Mary left for France: August 1548
Mary leaves Scotland for France, to be brought up in the royal court in preparation for her marriage to Francis, dauphin of France, under the terms of the Treaty of Haddington. The royal party leave from Dumbarton Castle, with a week-long sea voyage ahead of them.
6. The marriage of Mary Queen of Scots: 24 April 1558
Mary married Francis in Notre Dame de Paris. Explore the story of Mary's three husbands.
7. Mary as queen: 10 July 1559
Henry II of France died, leaving Francis as king of France and Mary his queen.
8. Death of Francis II: 5 December 1560
Francis II died and the French throne passed to his brother Charles. His death came just months after that of Mary’s mother Marie de Guise, who died on 11 June in Edinburgh Castle.
9. Return to Scotland: 19 August 1561
Mary returned from France to Scotland, arriving at the Port of Leith.
10. Mary and Darnley: 29 July 1565
Mary married her second husband, Henry Lord Darnley, a marriage which proved unpopular with Mary’s advisors and courtiers, as well as with Elizabeth I of England, because of the pair’s individual claims to the English throne – both Darnley and Mary were descendants of Henry VII of England.
11. Birth of James VI: 19 June 1566
Mary gave birth to a son, the future James VI. The prince was born at Edinburgh Castle, again chosen for its secure position.
12. Mary and Bothwell: 15 October 1566
Mary’s horseback journey to Jedburgh was interrupted with the news that the Earl of Bothwell has been injured. She undertakes what became an infamous horseback ride to the earl, who later became her third husband.
13. Darnley's murder 10 February 1567
Darnley was found murdered, presumed suffocated, at Kirk o’Field in Edinburgh, after escaping an explosion in the house where he was staying. Mary had been attending wedding celebrations and was accused of involvement in Darnley’s death. Although Mary was accused of involvement in the murder, the prime suspect was the Earl of Bothwell, who within weeks would be Mary’s husband.
14. Abduction: 24 April 1567
Mary was abducted, either forcibly or willingly, by James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell and taken to Dunbar Castle. The pair travelled to Edinburgh together and were married in a Protestant ceremony on 15 May.
15. Mary's abdication: 24 July 1567
Mary was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son James, whilst staying at Loch Leven Castle. In May 1568, she was able to escape her island prison with the help of George Douglas, and set about trying to gather support.
16. Langside: 16 May 1568
Mary was defeated at the Battle of Langside and fled to England, hoping for the support of her cousin Elizabeth I of England. Little did Mary know that this would be the start of a 19-year imprisonment and she would never be granted an audience with her kinswoman.
17. Imprisonment: January 1569
Mary arrived at Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire, which will reputedly become her most hated prison. She was placed in the care of the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife Bess of Hardwick.
18. Babington Plot: 1586
After years of imprisonment, Mary was implicated in the Babington Plot, when she was tricked into agreeing to a plot proposed by Anthony Babington which proposed the assasination of Elizabeth I.
19. Mary's death 8 February 1587
Mary was executed at Fortheringay Castle in Northamptonshire.