Mary Queen of Scots Revisited – David Templeman – 21st May 2018

David, a reg­u­lar speaker at our Probus, is an Elizabethan Historian, a nation­ally known speaker and Chair of The Friends of Sheffield Manor Lodge.

He became a guide at Manor Lodge in 2004, at which time he could find only a single chapter to read about Mary Queen of Scots and her 19 years of cap­tiv­ity in the Sheffield area. David chose to talk to us about this period of cap­tiv­ity, which he has since researched and writ­ten about in his new book “Mary Queen of Scots – The Captive Queen in England, 1568–87,’’ and which has been 12 years in the making.

Mary, born in 1542, became the right­ful Queen of Scotland when very young. She was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth I, both being related to Henry VIII. But Mary, the daugh­ter of the Scottish King James V, was a Catholic, and Queen Elizabeth of England was a Protestant.

Protestants gained con­trol of Scotland during Mary’s youth, so she escaped to France but returned to Scotland to reign in 1561, at the age of 18. Still a Catholic, she reigned as Queen and had a son James with her first hus­band, Lord Darnley.

This mar­riage and the sub­sequent one were con­tro­ver­sial and dis­astrous, neither of which had been sanc­tioned by Elizabeth as pro­tocol deman­ded. Mary’s right to reign was even­tu­ally chal­lenged and she ended up in a Scottish prison.

However, she escaped and sailed for England, land­ing at Workington on 16th May 1568 against all advice, and totally unan­nounced, in the hope that Elizabeth would help her to regain her Scottish throne as she had once pre­vi­ously prom­ised.

But Elizabeth now had a prob­lem with a Catholic Queen on Protestant English soil. Initially, Mary was held in Carlisle Castle, but within three or four months she was moved south to Bolton Castle in Wensleydale, away from the coast and the Scottish border for secur­ity. Elizabeth had con­cluded that she was a threat to her throne and could become a Catholic ral­ly­ing point for English revolts, or inva­sions from Spain, France or Scotland. For that reason, she could not release her and needed to keep her in the easi­est place to defend, should there be an attempt to rescue her.

To begin with, a con­fer­ence in York was con­vened to estab­lish the facts about her mar­riages, with a view to resolv­ing her pos­i­tion in Scotland, but this was incon­clus­ive. Mary was then moved fur­ther south, and fur­ther from the sea, to secure places cent­ring on Sheffield. The sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, at his own cost, was engaged by Elizabeth to be Mary’s ‘jailer.’ The main loc­a­tions used to hold Mary over the next 19 years were, Tutbury Castle, Wingfield Manor, Worksop Manor, Chatsworth, Sheffield Castle, and Sheffield Manor Lodge. The Earl’s wife, Bess of Hardwick Hall and Chatsworth, was a friend of Elizabeth and helped to look after Mary, as well as keep an eye on her.

Some of the places were unhealthy, so Marys’ health deteri­or­ated, even though she was per­mit­ted occa­sion­ally to take the waters at Buxton, when she stayed at what is now the Old Hall Hotel.

So we had Mary, on the one hand, involved in intrigues and plots, and Elizabeth, on the other, impris­on­ing Mary and thwart­ing any Catholic plots to under­mine her, or the estab­lished Protestant faith. Sir Francis Walsingham, the spy­mas­ter, and Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth’s main advisor, were strong advoc­ates for execut­ing Mary, to solve the prob­lem. However, mon­archs believe that they are chosen by God to reign, so Elizabeth couldn’t bring her­self to sign the death war­rant of another mon­arch.

The Duke of Norfolk, one of the most influ­en­tial per­sons in England, and a Catholic, plot­ted to marry Mary and take over the throne. He was even­tu­ally executed for treason, with Elizabeth sign­ing the death war­rant. A revolt (the only one during Elizabeth’s reign) came from the Northern earls in the Catholic North of England, but this petered out. Of the lead­ers, Northumberland was tracked down. Reprisals in the North, by Elizabeth’s army, were ruth­less, to dis­cour­age any other revolts. The other leader, Charles Neville, escaped to Spain but had all his prop­erty con­fis­cated.

Three attempts were made to escape from the Earl of Shrewsbury’s prop­er­ties and four attempts were made from Sheffield Castle. But there were spies every­where, who dis­covered all the plots, which came to noth­ing.

Relationships slowly deteri­or­ated between all the parties involved in Mary’s deten­tion. The Earl’s mar­riage fell apart as well as his health and fin­ances, and Mary’s health suffered because of the con­di­tions under which she was held. From being a sporty person used to hunt­ing, fal­conry, arch­ery and real tennis, her move­ments became very restric­ted as plots to rescue her came and went. So she spent her time doing embroid­ery, which is now on exhib­i­tion in Oxford, Norfolk and Edinburgh.

Finally, one of the plots — in which it was proved that Mary was implic­ated — was deemed to be treas­on­ous, so even­tu­ally Elizabeth reluct­antly signed Marys’ death war­rant and at the age of 44 she was executed. She died for her faith at Fotheringhay Castle. Elizabeth was said to have ‘won’ in life, but ‘lost’ in death, as iron­ic­ally, James VI of Scotland, Mary’s son, who was a Protestant, also became James I of England when Elizabeth died. This was the first time both coun­tries had had the same mon­arch.

We learnt that there is a film being made at a cost of £180m on this sub­ject, which is due to be released in January 2019. It was a very enlight­en­ing and enjoy­able hour. For more inform­a­tion, David’s book gives it all.