1560 – 1561: First Meetings With Mary, Queen of Scots


Mary At Sea

With the death of Mary of Guise, Bothwell now had no powerful friends in Scotland, so it was extremely important that he win favour with his Queen, who was married to Francois II of France. When he arrived in Fontainebleu, for an audience with her, he found she was indisposed – the eighteen year old Queen was already suffering from the bad health which would plague her throughout her life. When he finally met the royal couple, he was rewarded with six hundred pounds and the salaried post of Gentleman of the Kings Chamber. He was also promised the abbeys of Melrose and Haddington.

Whilst at court, he was able to advise Mary of the political situation in Scotland. The Treaty of Edinburgh decreed that the country should be governed by twelve men, five members selected by the Congregation, and seven by the Queen. Mary knew that the Lords’ nominees would work against her, but was unsure of who would remain loyal to her. The final list contained Bothwell, Atholl, Huntly, and the Primate of Scotland, all of whom were known to be loyal, along with Argyll, Chatelherault and Lord James Stewart, who were not so trustworthy.


Francois II of France, Mary’s first husband

Bothwell was due to depart for Scotland, when Francois II became ill with an ear infection, and Mary requested that he stay. Although he delayed his departure, he suddenly left before Francois died. It has been suggested that he left because of urgent news from Anna, presumably that she was pregnant or had given birth. He left on 17th November, and did not return to Scotland until the end of the next February. Anna came to Scotland too, and did not leave until 1563. He arrived in time to carry out Mary’s instructions to set up a parliament, but this never happened, as Lord James Stewart had decided to invite Mary back to rule Scotland herself. Stewart knew she would need a mentor, and he was determined to be it. Of course, he was still receiving a pension from England, and regularly met with Nicholas Throckmorton, the English ambassador to France.

Bothwell was too busy with his affairs in Scotland (Anna Throndsen, getting hold of Melrose Abbey and trying to reconcile himself with his enemies) to be aware of the hold his enemies were getting over Mary in France. But his position seemed safe enough – Mary requested that when the French left Dunbar, he was to occupy it in her name.

Mary had decided to return to Scotland, but Elizabeth I refused to grant her safe passage, under the pretext that Scotland had delayed to sign the Treaty of Edinburgh. Mary summoned Bothwell, as Admiral of Scotland, to France, where he arrived to find her in bed with a fever. Despite this, she left France on 14th August 1561. Elizabeth had sent a letter promising safe passage, but Mary had never received it, and it is probable that she would have captured Mary anyway if she could. As it was, mist prevented an English fleet from capturing more than three Scottish vessels during the Channel crossing. After a journey of five days, Mary arrived in Leith. Once she got to Holyrood, she went to bed for a fortnight.

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