Neil Forbes

Mary Queen of Scots: A Controversial Figure in History


In the annals of history, certain individuals stand out, leaving an indelible mark on their era. Mary Queen of Scots, born as Mary Stuart, was undoubtedly one such figure. Her life was filled with political intrigue, familial strife, and an enduring struggle for power. In this blog, we will explore Mary’s relationship with Queen Elizabeth 1st, examine her claim to the English throne, and uncover the origin of her controversial moniker, “Bloody Mary.”

Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth

Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth 1st were cousins and had a complex relationship defined by both blood ties and political rivalry. Mary Stuart was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland, and sister of Henry VIII of England. As such, Mary had a legitimate claim to the English throne. Elizabeth 1st, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, became the queen of England after the death of her half-sister, Queen Mary 1st.

Mary’s claim to the English throne rested on the fact that she was the closest legitimate relative of Elizabeth 1st without any legal issues, as Elizabeth was born out of Anne Boleyn’s marriage, which was deemed invalid by the Catholic Church. However, Elizabeth viewed Mary as a threat to her reign and the stability of Protestant England. Their relationship deteriorated over time, fuelled by political manoeuvring, religious differences, and personal animosity.

Mary’s Qualifications to Be Queen:

Mary Queen of Scots possessed several qualities that made her a legitimate contender for the throne. She was educated, fluent in multiple languages, and had received a comprehensive upbringing in the French court, where she spent much of her youth. Additionally, her lineage connected her to both the Scottish and English royal families, which provided her with a strong claim to power.

Moreover, Mary was seen as a symbol of Catholicism, which appealed to a considerable portion of the population in England and Scotland. Her Catholic faith made her a natural figurehead for those who opposed the Protestant establishment under Elizabeth 1st. However, her reign was also fraught with controversy and challenges, as religious tensions simmered throughout the era.

The Origin of the Nickname “Bloody Mary”

Contrary to popular belief, the epithet “Bloody Mary” does not refer to Mary Queen of Scots but to her Tudor predecessor, Queen Mary 1st of England. Queen Mary 1st earned this sobriquet due to her efforts to return England to Catholicism. During her reign, she persecuted Protestants, leading to the execution of numerous religious dissenters. However, it is crucial to note that Mary Stuart, or Mary Queen of Scots, was not free from bloodshed herself, as her life was marked by political intrigue and violent conflicts.

Mary’s Claim to the English Throne

Mary Queen of Scots did indeed have a strong claim to the English throne. Her grandmother, Margaret Tudor, was the older sister of Henry VIII, making her the closest relative in line for succession after Elizabeth 1st Mary’s Catholic faith and her connections to both the Scottish and English royal families bolstered her claim. However, her tumultuous life and the political circumstances surrounding her prevented her from ever successfully ascending the English throne.


Mary Queen of Scots was a captivating and controversial figure in history. Her relationship with Queen Elizabeth 1st was filled with tension and rivalry, fuelled by their competing claims to the English throne. Mary’s qualifications, as well as her Catholic faith, made her a legitimate contender for the crown. While she was not the “Bloody Mary” of popular imagination, her life was fraught with political upheaval and violence. Ultimately, Mary’s quest for power ended in tragedy, as she was executed in 1587, forever etching her name in the annals of history.

Neil Forbes

Neil is the founder of Saltire Executive Travel, offering the finest in Holidays and day tours throughout Scotland, including Golf, whisky and castles with History.