"The first died of an abscess, the second, she had blown up and the third died insane in a Danish prison."
Francis, Dauphin of France
Public DomainFrancis, Dauphin of France - Credit: wikimedia commons

In 1558 Mary Stuart married her first husband, Francis, Dauphin of France. A year later he ascended the French throne as Francis II, but he died of an abscess in the brain in 1560. Mary returned to Scotland.

A BBC Video about Mary's first marriage.



Lord Darnley
Public DomainLord Darnley - Credit: wikimedia commons

Mary’s second husband was her half-cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. They shared the same grandmother, Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s older sister. This meant that Lord Darnley was also in line for the English throne. Mary was reportedly completely in love with Darnley, but he soon proved himself a poor choice. He had a drinking problem, a tendency to become mean and violent, and the other nobles did not like him. Her marriage to a leading Catholic was also very unpopular with the Protestant Lords, who soon rebelled. The rebellion was put down, but it was clear that her marriage to Lord Darnley was a mistake. In 1566 Darnley murdered Mary’s secretary Rizzio, of whom he had long been jealous, right in front of his pregnant wife. That year, Mary and the Scottish nobles held a meeting and swore to get rid of Darnley. Fearing for his life, Darnley fled to his father’s house, where he became ill. In the new year, Mary persuaded him to return to Edinburgh and visited him often. Just when it seemed that there might be a reconciliation between them, a mysterious explosion occurred in the house while Mary was away. Lord Darnley was found strangled in the garden. It seemed that he was either strangled after managing to escape the explosion, or the explosion was intended to cover up his murder. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was found to have supplied the gunpowder, and most believed him guilty of the murder, though he was acquitted at the trial. When Bothwell divorced his wife and married Mary, things looked even more suspicious.


A BBC Video about Mary's marriage to Lord Darnley.

A BBC Video about Mary's troubles with Lord Darnley.


Earl of Bothwell
Public DomainEarl of Bothwell - Credit: wikimedia commons

After the death of Darnley, when Mary was on her way to Edinburgh, Bothwell met her on the road and warned her that there was trouble in the city. She agreed to go with him to his castle at Dunbar, where he could keep her safe. Once there, Mary was taken prisoner and allegedly raped by Bothwell to ensure a marriage. However, whether Mary was actually unwilling or not remains a controversial issue. The couple were married that year. The marriage split the country, and those Scottish nobles opposed to it soon turned against Bothwell. An army was raised against the royal couple, and Mary went to confront them. She agreed to go with the lords if they would let Bothwell go. They agreed, but broke their promise. Bothwell managed to escape and fled to Scandinavia, but was held by the King of Denmark who had heard that he was a wanted man. Bothwell was sent to the Dragsholm Castle prison and kept in appalling conditions for the rest of his life.


Meanwhile, Mary fled to England after an unsuccessful attempt to regain her throne, and there she was kept prisoner by Elizabeth I. James VI was Mary’s son by Lord Darnley. She had no surviving children by her other husbands.