Who's Who in the 16th Century?

Learn about the people of influence in the lives of
Mary Queen of Scots and her son James VI of Scotland.

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542 – 1587), (Mary Stuart), Queen of Scotland from (1542 - 1567) and consort of Francis II of France (1559 - 1560). On return to Presbyterian Scotland as its Catholic Queen she was guided by the Earl of Moray, but married her Tudor cousin, Lord Darnley, in expectation of becoming Elizabeth's heir. After his murder, she married the Earl of Bothwell, the known murderer, and being unjustifiably implicated remained imprisoned until executed at Fotheringhay in 1587.

Francis II of France

Francis II, the diminutive King of France. (1544-1560) He was betrothed to Mary in 1548 and married her in 1558. He became King in 1559, after his father, Henry II's death in a jousting accident. He was dominated by Mary until his death the following year.

Catherine de Medici

Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) was wife of Henry II, King of France and mother of Francis II, who married Mary Queen of Scots. Following Henry's death, she acted as a politically astute Regent of France on behalf of her sons.

Mary of Guise

Mary of Guise (died 1560). Member of the politically dominant Guise family in France, who married James V, King of Scotland and was the mother of Mary Queen of Scots. She remained in Scotland ultimately as Regent to maintain the throne for her daughter during her time in France.

James Stewart
1st Earl of Moray

Lord James Stewart (abt. 1531-1570). Illegitimate son of James V of Scotland and the dominant political figure during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots, determined to avoid Scotland reverting to Catholicism. He was closely implicated in the plot to kill Lord Darnley and in efforts to implicate Mary, resulting in her enforced abdication in 1567.

James Douglas
4th Earl of Morton

James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton (executed 1581) Coordinated the Scottish Lords on behalf of the Earl of Moray, and was closely implicated in the murders of Riccio and Darnley. He ultimately became an efficient but unscrupulous Regent on behalf of James VI from 1673 to 1679, but fell foul of Esme Stuart and was executed in 1581.

William Maitland of Lethington

William Maitland (abt. 1528-1573) was Mary's Secretary of State and married Mary Fleming, one of her four Maries in 1567. He negotiated with the English most persuasively for Mary to succeed Elizabeth as Queen of England, but was later blackmailed into concocting the Casket letters used by the English in evidence against her.

James Hepburn
4th Earl of Bothwell

The Earl of Bothwell (1535-1578) staunchly supported Mary, despite his Protestantism. As an able soldier, he agreed to plan the murder of her despicable husband, Lord Darnley, not appreciating that he was being used by the nobles as the 'fall guy'. He was then persuaded to marry her, thereby implicating her in what looked like a crime of passion.

Matthew Stuart
4th Earl of Lennox

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox 1516-1571 was 'very pleasant in the eyes of gentlewomen' and having married Margaret Douglas was the father of Mary's husband, Lord Darnley. Despite plotting to promote his son's dynastic claims ahead of Mary, he became Regent for his grandson James VI from 1570 until he was assassinated in 1571.

Margaret Douglas
Countess of Lennox

Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (1515-1578) was the daughter of Princess Margaret Tudor by her second husband the 6th Earl of Angus. She was a close friend of her cousin 'Bloody' Mary Tudor, who treated her as her heir on the English throne. She married Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox in 1544 and was the mother of Lord Darnley.

Henry Stuart
Lord Darnley

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. (1545-1567) As son of the Earl and Countess of Lennox he had a close claim to the thrones of both England and Scotland. Being handsome and accomplished, he married Mary Queen of Scots in 1565. Yet syphilis and his boorish character gave him delusions to aspire to replace her on the throne, resulting in his murder.

John Erskine
1st Earl of Mar

John Erskine, 1st Earl of Mar (died 1572) was a trusted confidante of Mary Queen of Scots, fulfilling a role as a neutral in Scottish politics. With his wife Annabella Murray, he was responsible for the upbringing of James VI at Stirling Castle. Despite a lack of great political acumen, he was Regent of Scotland from 1571 until his death in 1572.

David Riccio

David Riccio (or David Rizzio) (c. 1533 – 1566), was employed by Mary to sing in a quartet of her servants. Being pregnant and estranged from Darnley, she played cards with him and, he controlled access to her. To break his Catholic stranglehold, the Protestant nobles advised Darnley that the relationship was improper. When he approved Riccio's murder, they hoped to implicate Mary and to make the Earl of Moray Regent.

Sir Peter Young

Sir Peter Young (1544-1628) was James's childhood tutor serving under George Buchanan at Stirling. He was kindly to his charge and later became a diplomat travelling to Denmark to negotiate James's marriage to Anne of Denmark. In 1596, James appointed him as one of his 'Octavians' to try (unsuccessfully) to resolve the financial problems of the Scottish Treasury and he later became Dean of Lichfield.

Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange

After a noted career as a mercenary in France, Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange (abt. 1520-1573) became Scotland's most able general, but obsessed with honour. He was responsible for Mary's defeat at Langside, leading to her escape to England. He later held Edinburgh Castle against all odds on her behalf until 1573, but was executed by Morton, when he surrendered.

George Buchanan

George Buchanan (1506-1582) was an scholar with strong republican sentiments. On Mary's return to Scotland, he wrote Latin masques to entertain the Court, but, with his allegiance to the Lennoxes became convinced of her involvement in Darnley's murder. In his scurrilous Detectio, he recorded it as a crime of passion. He later became James's tutor to instill him with a strongly Calvinist education.

Elizabeth I of England

Elizabeth I (1533-1603), Queen of England, was keen to promote a Tudor succession, but became obsessed that Mary Queen of Scots was encouraging Catholic plots to replace her on the English throne. She corresponded with James to provide guidance, but feared that recognising him as her heir would allow her throne to be usurped.

Lord Robert Dudley
Earl of Leicester

Despite being her favourite, Elizabeth I promoted Lord Robert Dudley (1533-1588) to become the husband of Mary Queen of Scots, and even made him Earl of Leicester to make him more acceptable. He remained a reluctant suitor, still hoping that he might gain the greater prize of Elizabeth herself.

William Cecil
Lord Burghley

As Elizabeth I's Protestant Secretary of State, William Cecil (1520-1598) was determined to stop Mary Queen of Scots succeeding to the English throne as a Catholic. He master-minded a plot to implicate her in Darnley's murder by persuading her to marry Bothwell, who had arranged it.

Thomas Howard
4th Duke of Norfolk

Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk (1536-1572) was attracted by the prospect of marrying Mary Queen of Scots, but was 'cursed by the dignity of England's sole Dukedom, lured on by ambition, and too infirm of purpose to withdraw before he was deep in treason', resulting in his execution in 1572.

James VI of Scotland
& I of England

Mary Queen of Scots' son James (1566-1625), had few advantages, but managed to balance the power of opposing factions in Scottish Government to establish the authority of his Kingship. With native cunning he was able to garner sufficient respect to drive him on a wave of popular enthusiasm to inherit the English throne from Elizabeth I.

Anne of Denmark
Queen of Scotland

Anne of Denmark (abt. 1571-1619) married James by proxy in 1589, but was nearly shipwrecked on her way to Scotland, causing James to travel to Denmark to escort her. As a Royal princess, she added great respect to the Scottish Crown, but was extravagant and meddlesome. Yet James was devoted to her despite his bisexual inclinations.

Esmé Stuart
Duke of Lennox

Esmé Stuart, 5th Seigneur d'Aubigny (1542-1583) was Darnley's French cousin sent, in 1579, to persuade James to become Catholic. James was star-struck by his charm enabling Esme to oust Regent Morton and gain authority in 1581 as Duke of Lennox. Yet the Protestant nobles forced him into exile after kidnapping James in the Raid of Ruthven in 1582.

John Erskine
2nd Earl of Mar

John Erskine, 2nd Earl of Mar (1558-1634). Although 7 years older than James VI they educated in the care of the 1st Earl and his wife Annabella Murray. Mar led the Protestant Lords, who ousted Esme Stuart, but was exiled when Captain James Stuart gained control. He was later responsible for negotiating James's accession to the English throne.

George Talbot
6th Earl of Shrewsbury

George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury (1528-1590) and his wife, Bess of Hardwick were one of the few households able to bear the cost of maintaining Mary as a Queen under house arrest. She remained with them for sixteen years during which Shrewsbury became increasingly stressed by Elizabeth's failure to reimburse him.

Bess of Hardwick
Countess of Shrewsbury

Bess of Hardwick (c.1521-1608) was an extremely wealthy widow who married the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury in 1568. She was attracted by the responsibility for maintaining Mary as a Queen in her home and undertook much high quality needlework with her. Yet she latterly became estranged from Shrewsbury, as he became increasingly eccentric.

Sir Francis Walsingham

The shadowy Sir Francis Walsingham (abt. 1532-1590) became Elizabeth's Secretary of State when Cecil, became Lord Chancellor as Lord Burghley in 1572. While Cecil was her 'Spirit', Walsingham was her 'Moor'. He was determined to provide evidence of Mary's involvement in treasonable activity against Elizabeth and planted Babington into the plot that resulted in her execution.

Robert Cecil
1st Earl of Salisbury

Robert Cecil (abt. 1563-1612) was the 2nd son of William Cecil, who he succeeded as Elizabeth's most trusted minister. He secretly guided James in how to assure the English succession, and discouraged him from siding with the Earl of Essex and others, who opposed his Government. James raised to Earl of Salisbury after his accession.