John Erskine, 1st and 22nd Earl of Mar (17th Earl) d. 1572

Note: The numbering of the Earls of Mar causes confusion. There were two titles, the ancient earldom of Mar, which passed through the female line, and a title originally created for Lord James Stewart on his marriage. When Lord James became Earl of Moray, John Erskine received the new Mar Earldom, but it passed only […]

Elizabeth I, Queen of England 1533-1603

Note: This biography focusses on Elizabeth’s attitude to Scotland and both Mary Queen of Scots and James VI. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn, born at Greenwich on 7 March 1533. When her mother was executed in 1536, she was declared illegitimate, but was named in the order of succession in Henry VIII’s […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox, 1516-1571

Matthew, 4th Earl of Lennox spent most of his early years in France. He left Scotland in 1526 at the age of ten after his father had been killed by James Hamilton of Finnart, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Arran. There was rivalry enough between the Hamiltons and the Lennox Stuarts, who competed […]

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 […]

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 […]

Mary of Guise, Queen Regent of Scotland, 1515-1560

Following the death of the consumptive Queen Madeleine, daughter of Francis I of France, James V of Scotland sent the newly appointed Cardinal Bethune to Paris in early 1538 to find him a new French bride.  The chosen spouse was Marie of Guise born in 1515, daughter of the powerful Claude, Duke of Guise. She […]