Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

Mary, Queen of Scots

The story of Mary, queen of Scots, is known to nearly everyone. She became queen of Scotland when only a few months old. Henry VIII was king of England at that time, and he thought it would be a very good plan if his young son, Edward, were to marry the little Scottish queen.

Mary's bedroom, holyrood


Now, the mother of the young queen was a French princess, and she thought it would be much better for her little daughter to marry a French prince. So Mary was sent to France when only seven years of age, and she lived there until she was eighteen.

Her life in France was very bright and gay. Everybody thought the young queen beautiful, witty and clever. She married her cousin, the young king of France, and so, for a time, was queen of two countries. Some of her friends told her to take the title of queen of England, too, and this she did.

This was not a wise thing to do, for it displeased our queen Elizabeth, and caused Mary much trouble in after years. She was not queen of France very long, for her husband died the next year; and Mary then left the land where she had been happy, to return to her native country.

Holyrood palace


Here, everything seemed very strange to her, and she missed the bright life of the French court very much. Many of her people, too, did not agree with her about religion, and this made it hard for Mary to rule the land well. Still, most of her people loved her for her beauty and her kind heart.

A few years after queen Mary came back to Scotland, she married her cousin, lord Darnley; and, in the end, this led her into sad troubles. One night, some men who hated Darnley blew up his house with gunpowder; and, in the morning, his dead body was found lying in the gardens outside.

You will be surprised to hear that Mary did not punish the men who had done this deed. A little later, she went so far as to marry one of them. This turned the hearts of her people from her: they rose up in arms, and made her give up the crown to her infant son.

Mary was now shut up in a castle which stood on a small island in the middle of a lake. One day, her page managed to steal the keys of the castle, and so set his mistress free. He locked the gate, flung the keys into the lake, and placed the queen in a boat which he had ready for her.

Mary Queen of Scots


Before long, she was at the head of a little army, and trying to get back her crown once more. But her army was beaten, and she was forced to flee.

We are told that she rode sixty miles without stopping. Some of her friends begged her to find a ship which would take her to France. Instead of doing this, however, she crossed into England.

She very likely thought queen Elizabeth would help her to get back her throne, or allow her to cross over to France. Now, the English queen did not think it safe to let Mary do either of these things. So the unlucky queen of Scots was shut up in a castle, and for eighteen years she was moved from prison to prison.

Then some of her friends made a plot to set her free, and to put queen Elizabeth to death. It was found out, and the unhappy queen Mary was tried for her life. She said, over and over again, that she knew nothing about the plot for killing queen Elizabeth, but wished only to get back her freedom.

In the end, she was found guilty; and then, the chief men in the country begged the English queen to sign the warrant for Mary's death. This was done at last, and the sad life of the queen of Scots came to an end, at the castle of Fotheringay.