Page 51. " He has only just emerged from the shadow of his regents "
James Stewart, Earl of Moray
Public DomainJames Stewart, Earl of Moray - Credit: wikimedia commons
A regent is a person who rules in the place of the true monarch, either because the true monarch is a minor or because he or she is debilitated or not present. When James came to power he was only one year old, meaning that regents were needed to rule in his place. James had four regents before he finally took power at fifteen. The first was his uncle, the 1st Earl of Moray, the illegitimate son of King James V. After he was assassinated in 1570, James’ paternal grandfather, the 4th Earl of Lennox, took over, but he was fatally wounded in a raid by Mary Stuart’s supporters a year later.
James Douglas, Earl of Morton
Public DomainJames Douglas, Earl of Morton - Credit: wikimedia commons

He was followed by the 1st Earl of Mar, who fell sick and died in 1572. Last came the 4th Earl of Morton, who finally managed to end the civil war with Mary Stuart’s supporters. Ironically, he introduced an early form of guillotine called a maiden to Scotland, and was eventually executed by it when he fell from favour.

Although he was now free from regents, James remained under the influence of a Frenchman called Esmé Stewart, the cousin of James’ father Lord Darnley. Esmé was the first of James’ powerful male favourites, and was made Duke of Lennox. James’ followers distrusted Esmé, and in 1582 the earls of Gowrie and Angus imprisoned James and forced Esmé to flee Scotland. James was released, and from that point on took more control of his kingdom.

Page 53. " the Catholic League "

The Catholic League of France was created by Henry, Duke of Guise in 1576 to eradicate Protestantism from France. The League was a union of loyal Catholics, spearheaded by the Duke of Guise and supported by Philip II of Spain and the Pope. They resisted laws showing tolerance to Protestants, and eventually put so much pressure on King Henry III that he was forced to rescind the Peace of La Rochelle, which had given Protestants freedom of belief. Protestant worship once again became a criminal act. The Catholic League was particularly strong in Paris.


Armed procession of the Catholic League in Paris
Public DomainArmed procession of the Catholic League in Paris - Credit: wikimedia commons
Page 55. " But they are gutting every Jesuit missionary they catch on the scaffold at Tyburn "
Jesuit Missionary
Public DomainJesuit Missionary - Credit: wikimedia commons

The Jesuits (Society of Jesus) were founded in the 16th century. They devoted themselves to teaching and charity, and travelled around the world as missionaries dedicated to spreading the word of God. They journeyed as far as Japan, Ontario and Ethiopia in their mission to convert those who had not heard the gospel. They also took on the challenge of halting the spread of Protestantism, travelling as missionaries to Protestant areas all over Europe.


The Tyburn Tree
Public DomainThe Tyburn Tree - Credit: wikimedia commons

 Tyburn was a village in Middlesex, close to London, with a long history as a place of execution. In 1571 the ‘Tyburn Tree’ was erected and first used to hang the Catholic Dr John Story, who refused to recognise Elizabeth I as rightful Queen. It was a wooden triangular frame held up on three legs, from which several criminals could be hanged at once. Many Catholic priests of the Elizabethan period were executed at Tyburn for high treason, to the full extent of the law. This meant being hung, drawn and quartered (see bookmark for page 110). Executions were public and were a popular spectacle; large stands were even erected by the villagers for spectators. The bodies of the criminals were often displayed as an example to others, to be seen by travellers on the road into London.

Page 61. " But it may be that she has sent him a new cipher "
A disk cipher
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA disk cipher - Credit: Mark Pellegrini/wikimedia commons

A cipher is a form of message code, where letters or words are substituted according to a secret pattern. Knowledge of the pattern is needed in order to decrypt the message. Historically, a cipher might substitute certain letters for others, such as all Es for Gs, all Rs for Ys, etc, or replace letters with numbers or invented symbols, or rearrange the letters in words. A slightly more complicated cipher uses several letters to replace one, so E might be replaced with L, H or T. All these ciphers are relatively easy to crack.


During the Renaissance, the science of cryptology was studied more seriously, and more sophisticated ciphers were introduced. These involved a key (a variable combined in some way with the text) and an algorithm (a formula for combining the key with the text). A block cipher breaks a message up into several sections and combines a key with each section. These forms of cipher are much harder to break.

Page 71. " 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.

Page 72. " They have dragged him kicking and screaming to the Tower "
The Tower of London
Creative Commons AttributionThe Tower of London - Credit: pikous on Flickr

The Tower of London was used as a prison for noble or important people such as political prisoners. Imprisonment was not necessarily uncomfortable, as prisoners could purchase luxuries and fine food from the Lieutenant of the Tower. Torture did take place in the Tower, but had to be sanctioned by the Privy Council, so was not commonly used.

The most common form of torture was the rack: a prisoner would be stretched, causing terrible pain until his joints dislocated and his bones and ligaments snapped. Another was the Scavenger’s daughter, which worked by compressing the body, expelling blood from the nose and ears. Nevertheless, some prisoners held in the Tower for long periods found it as comfortable as their own home. While Walter Raleigh was held there, he had his rooms altered to accommodate his family, and his son was even born there!