Mary was born in 1542. She was the daughter of King James V of Scotland. On the death of her father in the same year, the infant Mary became Queen of Scotland and her mother, Mary of Guise, ruled Scotland on her behalf. Since Mary of Guise was French and a strong Catholic, it is not surprising that Mary was brought up in the Catholic faith. Nor is it surprising that a marriage was arranged in 1548 between Mary and Francis, son of Henry II of France and heir to the French throne.

In August 1548, Mary was sent to live in France, leaving her mother to rule Scotland. Mary's marriage to Francis took place in 1558, the same year that Elizabeth, her cousin, succeeded to the English throne. With the death of Henry II in the following year, Mary's husband became Francis II, King of France. This meant that she was now Queen of both Scotland and France.

Many Catholics, particularly in France, also claimed that Mary was the rightful Queen of England. They argued that the marriage of Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, to Anne Boleyn was unlawful, that Elizabeth was illegitimate, and that the crown should pass to Mary, who was next in line of succession. Mary herself never claimed that she should be Queen of England instead of Elizabeth, but she did claim to be Elizabeth's heir.

Suddenly, in 1560, two events occurred which changed Mary's life. The first was the death of her mother, Mary of Guise. This brought an end to French influence in Scotland, which now became a Protestant country. The second event was the death of her husband, Francis II. No longer Queen of France, Mary decided, reluctantly, to return to Scotland.

Although it began well enough, Mary's reign in Scotland was in the end disastrous. This had much to do with her choice of husbands. The first, Lord Darnley, was murdered in suspicious circumstances, whilst the second, the Earl of Bothwell, was thought to have been involved in the murder of Darnley.

Eventually, a group of Scottish lords rose in rebellion against Mary, forced her to abdicate in favour of her son, James, and then to flee her kingdom. She crossed the Solway Firth in 1568, seeking protection and support from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England.

What then happened to Mary Queen of Scots is the subject of this program.