Mary’s marriages

The question of marriage

Mary needed to find the right husband to allow her to rule effectively:

  • Religion was a major issue.
  • She would upset a number of nobles, no matter which side of the Christain divide her husband was on.
  • Mary needed to choose a royal husband.
  • She could not choose a commoner.

However, a foreigner could result in Scotland becoming a puppet in European affairs. Carlos, son of King Philip II of Spain was an option, although this would rule out unity with England as he was opposed to Protestant Elizabeth I:

  • A Protestant or English husband would keep her hopes of ascending to the English throne alive.
  • Elizabeth I suggested two names herself – either Robert Dudley or Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

These were the three main choices that Mary had in the early 1560s.

Don Carlos

The suggestion of Don Carlos of Spain was highly controversial on the basis that Spain was an enemy of England.

In 1563, an accident left Don Carlos both physically and mentally unfit and negotiations of a marriage contract were cancelled.

Don Carlos
Don Carlos

Lord Dudley

Mary’s chance of being named as heir to the English throne would improve if she married an Englishman.

Elizabeth proposed Lord Robert Dudley whom she believed could be entrusted to advance English interests in Scotland.

However, neither Mary nor Dudley (who was involved in an affair with Elizabeth) desired the match.

Lord Dudley
Lord Dudley

Lord Darnley

Henry Stewart was proposed as suitor. Born in England into the Catholic Lennox family he was grandson of Margaret Tudor (Henry VIII’s sister) and son of the Earl of Lennox.

Mary may have thought that Darnley would help her secure the English succession and perhaps even help her restore Catholicism to Scotland.

Lord Darnley and Mary Queen of Scots
Lord Darnley and Mary Queen of Scots

Elizabeth was unlikely to have approved such a marriage:

  • She may have feared that in the future he would become Catholic King Henry IX
  • Elizabeth disliked the Lennox family
  • She still suggested the idea of a marriage between Dudley and Mary.
  • Elizabeth declared that she would not announce the succession until she herself married, or until she decided against marriage.

Mary decided on Henry Stuart. In May 1565, Mary sought permission to marry Darnley and on 15 May, this was granted by a meeting of the nobility. Mary and Lord Darnley met in February 1565 at Wemyss Castle in Fife and were married at Holyrood Palace in July 1565:

  • Although Henry Stuart was Protestant, the marriage ceremony was a Catholic one.
  • The marriage was to cause divisions amongst the Lords.
  • Many felt that the Lennox family were too strongly allied to England and this could endanger Scottish sovereignty.