William Cecil, Lord Burghley 1520-1598

Note:  This article deals only with Cecil’s involvement with Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots. William Cecil was born on 13 September 1520 and was educated at Stamford School and St John’s College Cambridge. Although he gained a reputation as an academic, he did not sit his degree. On arriving in London, he joined the service […]

George Buchanan 1502 – 1582

George Buchanan had an impoverished upbringing after his father, a farmer in Killearn, Stirlingshire, had died young. His mother brought him to Edinburgh, from where his uncle James Heriot sent him, in 1520, to the University of Paris. He quickly gained a reputation as an academic student, but fell ill. Having recovered, he returned to […]

Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange 1530-1573

Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange was the son of Sir James Kirkcaldy, Lord High Treasurer under James V. His mother was Janet Melville sister of the five Melville brother who played such a prominent part as civil servants and diplomats during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots. He first came to notice in 1546 […]

David Riccio 1533-1566

David Riccio di Pancaliere in Piedmonte was an Italian courtier, born near Turin, a descendant of the Riccio Counts de San Paolo et Solbrito. As a young man, he went from Turin to Nice to seek a position at the court of the Duke of Savoy. On finding no opportunities for advancement, he was admitted, […]

Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1587

Mary Queen of Scots was born at Linlithgow on 8 December 1542. Her father, James V survived her birth by only six days, dying of acute depression following the defeat of the Scots at the hands of the English at Solway Moss. The English were soon hoping to establish a Scottish alliance to prevent having […]

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley 1545-1567

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley was the eldest son of Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox and Lady Margaret Douglas, niece of Henry VIII. He was born on 7 December 1546, and was four years younger than Mary Queen of Scots.  He and his brother Charles, nine years his junior, were the only two of the […]

Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox 1515-1578

On 8 October 1515, Princess Margaret Tudor, Queen Dowager of Scotland and sister of Henry VIII, gave birth to her daughter, Margaret, by her second husband, Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. She had recently been forced to hand over the Scottish Regency to the Duke of Albany, who had arrived from France, and had […]

William Maitland of Lethington, 1525-1573

William Maitland of Lethington was a man of great wit and learning from a well-connected, but not noble, Scottish family. He had been educated at St. Andrews and the French Court. His loyalties were not based on any strong religious conviction, but Knox converted him to be a Reformer in 1556. Although his brilliance as […]

James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton 1516-1581

David and James Douglas were a bit lucky. They were the sons of Sir George Douglas of Pittendreich, the younger brother of Archibald, 6th Earl of Angus. Sir George had been a loyal supporter of Angus, his brother, fighting on behalf of the English party in Scottish politics. Angus had married Princess Margaret Tudor, by […]

Francis II, King of France 1544-1560

Catherine de Medici was aged twenty-four and had been married to Henry II of France for ten years, before she at last conceived a child. In desperation she had turned to a Doctor, Jean Fernel, for advice. No one knows what he said, but he proposed a solution to the problem said to involve a […]