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Baths in white wine and six other surprising things about Mary Queen of Scots

24 July 2017

Mary, Queen of Scots might be one of the most famous figures in Scottish history, but there are a few things about the tragic monarch that you might not know.

1) She bathed in white wine

Mary was described as having a fine, pale complexion

Mary was fond of having white wine in the bath. Not drinking it, though: she apparently had it poured into the tub.

It’s been said that Mary believed this practice helped her complexion, although it has also been suggested that it was a form of pain relief.

This isn’t just a 16th Century phenomenon, some contemporary spas make use of wine as part of “vinotherapy” treatments.

2) She brought French food to Scotland

French wine was imported into Scotland

There were close ties between Scotland and France during the 16th Century.

Mary’s mother was a French noblewoman and in 1558 Mary married the heir to the French throne. She was even briefly the queen of France.

The relationship between the two countries saw French cuisine being imported to Scotland during this time.

At Falkland Palace in Fife, Mary would order up French food and drink like soup a la reine and a confection of pears and apples mixed with the best French wine.

3) The executioner needed three cuts to chop her head clean off

Mary was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587

While it is well-known that Mary Queen of Scots got her head chopped off, it took three attempts to completely decapitate her.

Her physician wrote that she ‘endured two strokes of the other executioner with an axe, she making very small noise or none at all, and not stirring any part of her from the place where she lay; and so the executioners cut off her head saving one little gristle, which being cut asunder he lifted up her head to the view of all the assembly and bade God save the Queen.’

4) She was the subject of Nazi propaganda

Joseph Goebbels used a variety of media to spread Nazi ideology

Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels used Mary Queen of Scots’ life story for propaganda purposes during World War Two.

One of his directors, Carl Froelich, made a film in 1940 called Das Herz der Konigin (The Heart of a Queen) which focussed on the English queen’s oppression of her Scottish cousin.

Goebbels was intitially disappointed with the film, noting after watching a preview that it ‘should be anti-English and anti-Church and has become pro for both. Still has to be changed a lot’.

5) She spent most of her life away from Scotland

While Mary is best known as the Queen of Scots, she actually spent the majority of her life outside Scotland.

She moved to France in 1548, aged five, and returned in 1561 following the death of her first husband, Francis.

But Mary would only stay on Scottish soil until 1568.

She fled across the Solway Firth to England in 1568 and spent the next 19 years of her life in captivity in various locations in England, including Carlise Castle and Tutbury Castle.

6) Marrying her was worth fighting over

Mary’s choice of husband was a matter deemed worthy of war.

Henry VIII had wanted to force the Scots to agree to Mary marrying his son Edward.

When they refused, Henry attacked in a military campaign that became known as the ‘rough wooing’.

The Scots sought help from the French to fight off the English. But the price of this support was promising that Mary would marry the heir to the French throne, Dauphin Francis.

7) She was buried more than once

James became king of England and Ireland in 1603

Following her execution Mary was buried at Peterborough Cathedral.

But once her son James became king of England, he ordered her body to be removed and taken to Westminster Abbey.

Mary’s remains were placed in a specially built tomb, close to that of Elizabeth I.

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