Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots was born 8 December 1542.
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley was born 7 December 1545.
They were first cousins. He was her second husband.
Mary's first husband Francis II died from an ear infection, although some have speculated that it was poison.
Mary and Henry both had strong claims to the English throne, but if they married they would have even stronger claims. Any offspring would have an unparalleled claim.
They married. By all accounts they fought immediately and incessantly.
|Mary in 1565|
courtesy of Blairs Museum
She was queen, he was king consort. This meant that she had all of the power, and he had none. He fought for more influence, but she did not give it to him.
But she did give birth to a baby boy, James.
The marriage got even worse when Mary began an affair with James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell.
|Mary and the Earl of Bothwell|
The marriage ended in tragedy when Henry was found dead. It was believed that an explosion of gunpowder had killed him. Upon closer examination it was found that he may have been strangled after the explosion. The fact that he had been sick in the recent days suggested that he may have been poisoned.
Mary, who was suspected of having him killed, did nothing to further her innocence when she married Bothwell almost immediately.
As you may know, she and Bothwell were separated, and never saw each other again.
Mary was put in prison. She was only 26 years old.
She was executed in February 1587, when she was 44 years old.
1587 was just around the time when William Shakespeare was either in London already, or on his way.
The news of Mary's execution would have shocked him, as it shocked all of Europe.
What did Shakespeare think of her and her legacy?
Well, as you can tell by what I have written -- the idea of murdering a king with poison must have stuck in his mind, and of course found its way into Hamlet.
I think Shakespeare did not think of these matters very much in his early days, as he was breaking into London's theatre scene.
But in 1603, when Queen Elizabeth died and James -- Mary and Henry's son -- was crowned, Shakespeare must have re-examined the history of Mary, Francis, Henry and Bothwell with great interest.
Shakespeare's job as a King's Man was to entertain the monarch.
I think Shakespeare did that, and more. He resurrected the spirit of his mother in plays like Macbeth and King Lear.
This would be dangerous ground to walk on, and Shakespeare may have paid a price for this. I think he suffered for his art.
But without this suffering, and without Mary, Francis, Henry, Bothwell and James -- we may not have the treasures that are Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear.
David B. Schajer
|BUY NOW from iTunes|