The Challenge to the Crown

May Queen of Scots – Volume I:  
The Struggle for Influence in the Reign of Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1567

Mary Queen of Scots: Catholic martyr or manipulative femme fatale?

On 10 February 1567, conspirators bent on killing Henry, Lord Darnley, King-Consort of Mary Queen of Scots successfully razed his Edinburgh residence at Kirk o’ Field in a huge explosion. Soon afterwards, Darnley’s partially-clothed body was discovered in a nearby orchard, strangled to death by an unknown assailant.

Rumours of Mary’s involvement in his murder quickly surfaced. Placards across Edinburgh implied that she had provoked the Earl of Bothwell into killing her husband in a crime of passion. This became more plausible when she tried to avoid having to prosecute him for the murder, and subsequently married him, encouraged by her most senior Protestant nobles.

While Mary’s motives for the marriage might be explained by her need for his protection, those of the nobility who had encouraged it are confusing. Why would they want a union, which would inevitably place Bothwell, a man they hated, as head of government? Was their motive to associate her in the murder plot?

Mary’s involvement in Darnley’s murder has remained one of the great historical mysteries.  Genealogist and historian, Robert Stedall has spent ten years researching the inter-marriages within the Scottish peerage to provide an explanation for their motives in removing Mary from the throne. In this first volume, of his two volume history of Mary and James, he explains in vivid detail the switching allegiances of the nobility, and can reveal for the first time, the gripping true story of Mary’s downfall and imprisonment.


The second volume “The Survival of the Crown” deals with Mary’s imprisonment and execution in England, and James’s reign in Scotland, until he also became King of England in 1603. It was published by the Book Guild on 27 February 2014.