Mary's return to Scotland

Initially, Mary appeared reluctant to return to Scotland – she did not come back until August 1561 – though her husband died in December 1560. This delay is said to have aided the Protestant cause in Scotland.

Siobhon Redmond describes the problems facing Mary on her return to Scotland in the video below.

While in France, Mary had become increasingly concerned about the situation in Scotland. She was a Catholic and did not accept the decision of Parliament to abolish the celebration of mass.

A nation having a Queen of a different faith was a very unusual situation for this time.

The Pope, the French and Spanish all wanted Mary to restore Catholicism to Scotland. Generally speaking the expectation was that as a Catholic, Mary would try to restore the Catholic faith to her nation.

Neil Oliver describes Protestantism after Mary's return to Scotland in the video below.

However on her return Mary did nothing to reverse the Reformation.

She did issue a proclamation ‘forbidding meantime any change in religion’.

She also looked for support from the moderate reformers including her half-brother Lord James Stewart who guaranteed her personal religion.

Catholics were disappointed in this approach and this led to some disagreement. However, in the early years of her reign Mary stood firm and showed that she would stand against Catholic citizens who opposed her.

The issue of religion was important to Mary, but linked to this were relations between Mary and the nobility. There were disputes between different families as to who would help Mary rule Scotland.

It was always difficult for Mary to assert her authority as she was a young woman, with a French background and this helped shape the views of nobles towards her.

The Huntly Revolt

An example of nobles trying to influence Mary was the Huntly Revolt:

  • The Earl of Huntly was a Catholic and wanted to influence the Queen’s decisions.
  • Huntly and his son put pressure on the Queen and treated her disrespectfully.
  • At the end of 1561, Huntly took over the Earl of Moray’s lands without permission.
  • When Mary travelled north and gave the lands to James Stewart instead, Huntly tried to raise an army against Mary.
  • Huntly was defeated and he died soon after, but his son was beheaded.