Mary Stuart – Elizabeth’s Rival Essay – English Literature (100 Level Course)
Mary Queen of Scots was Elizabeth’s great rival. She was very different from her cousin Elizabeth; she was a warm-blooded woman, who often yield ed to her private passions, and lacked the instinctive political skill and deep understanding of her people possessed by the queen of England.Mary Stuart was the grand-daughter of Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret, and next in succession after Elizabeth. She was sent to France in 1548, and in 1558 married the
Dauphin of France, Francis II. In 1559 Francis became King of France, but he died in the following year. Mary returned to her country in 1561. When Mary had married the Dauphin, Scotland was still a Catholic country, but the great prelates were often corrupt and inefficient. The common people opposed the privileges and corrupt practices of the clergy, as well as the insolence of the French troops, who, in Mary’s absence, ruled Scotland as if it were a Protectorate of France. As the English had identified Catholicism with Spanish pride, so the Scots began to identify it with French insolence.
This was the situation which John Knox, a Scottish Protestant reformer of Calvinistic tendency, was able to exploit by preaching the Protestant doctrines.
He was successful because he had the help of many of the nobles, and of Queen Elizabeth, who was afraid of a Catholic Scotland.
When Mary returned to Scotland, she thus found a Protestant country; she was nevertheless supported by the Catholic powers of France and Spain, who hoped that she would reintroduce Catholicism into Scotland, or that she would become Queen of England, if Elizabeth were declared illegitimate or died.
For several years, however, Elizabeth did not interfere in the struggles between Mary, the Scottish nobles and John Knox. Mary would probably have been successful if she had been able to control her private life. But she married a descendant of the Tudors, Lord Darnley, who was mysteriously murdered in 1567. After three months, Mary then married a Scottish lord, the Earl of Bothwell, who was suspected of the murder of Darnley. Public opinion, the Pope, France and Spain abandoned the Queen. Many feudal lords took up arms against her. After some months of fighting, Mary was taken prisoner and deposed in favor of her son, James. She escaped from prison, and took refuge in England.
Elizabeth kept her a virtual prisoner for nineteen years, from 1568 to 1587, but Mary became the centre of several plots. These were planned by Spain and by the extreme wing of the English Catholics, who wanted to see a Catholic queen on the throne of England again. Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth, but the majority of the English were for their queen, and the Commons repeatedly asked for the execution of Mary. For many years Elizabeth refused, partly because Mary was her cousin, a woman and anointed queen. partly be cause she knew that Mary’s execution would lead to a war with Spain, which England could not yet afford- Only in February 1587, after the discovery of the latest plot, did Elizabeth consent to her cousin’s execution: on February 8, Mary was beheaded, a tragic figure in a great and tragic age.