DAILY PROMPT – In Loving Memory – Write your obituary? Say what? I don’t think so. I’m not up for the Daily Downer. So instead, let’s do some history, shall we? As usual, there will be a short quiz at the end of the period.

Mary Queen of Scots did everything wrong from the get go. Some of it wasn’t her fault … she was too young to have much say in the matter, after all … but even after she knew her own mind, she always seemed to make the worst possible choice in every situation. She lost her head, though many felt it was too little, too late. Nor was it an unusual fate in her family where getting beheaded was a more common cause of death than liver disease from excessive alcohol consumption.

As a toddler, she was betrothed to the French Dauphin and in due time, married King Francis II of France. He was a child king and she a child bride. He didn’t live to adulthood, leaving Mary a very wealthy and insanely eligible widow. She was next hitched — by all accounting of her own choice — to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. He was a total jerk, but was descended from the Plantagenet lines and himself in line for the English throne. Upon which no one wanted to see him sit except a few drinking buddies.

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley

He was a complete asshat — drunken, cruel, probably syphilitic — but handsome. Pretty is as pretty does. The relationship between he and Mary deteriorated immediately, to no one’s surprise. Shortly thereafter, Hank Stuart was murdered

“No, no, I had nothing to do with it, I swear,” said Mary, but no one believed her, probably because she was lying. She didn’t kill him with her own hands. Queens don’t do that. She had Bothwell do it for her. And then married Bothwell a month later. Sneaky.

"Mary Stuart Queen" by François Clouet

“Mary Stuart Queen” by François Clouet

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was believed (with good reason) to have “taken care” of Darnley on behalf of his Queen. Like most rich people accused of murder, he was acquitted in April 1567. When Mary married him in May, pretty much everybody thought it was a bad idea. Especially Elizabeth I, in Merry Olde England. Mary was her heir, but she thought Mary should not try to get to the throne while Elizabeth was still sitting on it.

Mary just didn’t have  … what do you call it? Oh, right. Brains. Commonsense. She couldn’t for a single minute stop plotting and trying to overthrow cousin Liz. And then Liz got all pissy about it and Mary lost her head.

What a tragedy! Well, maybe not a tragedy exactly. Despite it being a major personal loss for Mary and the hottest scandal of the century, it was no loss to the world. The Stuarts were a nasty bunch, right down to and including Bonnie Prince Charlie who gathered the clans for one last glorious battle then abandoned them to be slaughtered. What a guy!

This is my favorite part. Mary was not beheaded with a single strike. The first blow missed her neck and struck the back of her head. The second blow severed her neck, except for a bit of sinew, which the executioner cut with the ax. When he held her head aloft and declared, “God save the Queen,” her hair came off in his hand. A wig, it turned out. Her head fell to the ground and rolled some distance, revealing Mary’s short, grey hair. Mary’s little dog — a Skye terrier — had been hiding in her skirts. After Mary’s execution, the little dog was covered in blood and had to be removed from the scene and washed. Yuk.

Now that is a death scene to remember. Have a great day!

Categories: Daily Prompt, History, Humor, In Memorium

Tags: , , , , , , ,

53 replies

  1. About the post that went missing … I didn’t like his sources. So I deleted it. I tend to think that we — humans — believe we have more control over the way the world goes than we do. We CAN spoil it … but we can’t control it. Hell, we have done our best to ruin all the best parts. And if people believe that global warming is the thing and it will make them stop polluting, it works for me. It might not stop the changes, but it certainly can’t hurt.


  2. OFF WITH HER WIG!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • It was actually worse than this. It took a total of 13 whacks to get the job finished. That’s not an execution. It’s an ax murder with an audience. You’d think someone would have noticed the wig, wouldn’t you?


      • Maybe this was the origin of the Mafia term “whacked”…??


      • I guess since most people were wearing wigs at the time, nobody paid attention to it. Or maybe had TMZ existed at the time, they would have broke the stoey and “pulled the rug” out from under the Queen…


        • They had the Oral Channel, the Gossip Channel, Bards Network, and of course, the English Channel. Between one thing and another, they seemed to have managed to be very up-to-date on the latest scandals. Apparently the human mouth is a great transmitter and is never down due to weather.

          I suspect that those closest to Mary knew she wore a wig … but no one told the executioner. Who may have been the worst headsman in all of history, so maybe he did know, but he was drunk and forgot.


  3. Thanks for the history lesson Marilyn! Poor woman.


  4. Very enjoyable post. I love history too. Of course being English myself I learned some of this in school, they used to teach it in Australian schools too but not in an interesting way. The nobility were the celebrities of their day, what a good thing they didn’t have social media although I’m sure gossip was thriving. The Wars of the Roses is fascinating but complicated too. You could not make that up. A good friend of mine is a member of the Richard III Society and I think she can actually follow all the relationships without looking at a chart 🙂


    • Thanks 🙂 I used to be able to recite all the monarchs of England from William I through the Stuarts. After that, I got lost, but I was a real British history buff. When we got to William and Mary and the Restoration and the Charleses I drifted off to other eras. I still remember most of it, but not like I once did. I got into it from literature. Elizabethan literature. All those poets who were also courtiers … and the histories of Shakespeare which are not history, but rewriting history so the Tudors didn’t look like the usurpers they were … Finally, I ambled across the Atlantic and started getting into American history. Trying to find out what really happened, as opposed to what they told us in school. You really couldn’t make up the stuff that really happened.

      The royals have always been the rock stars of their worlds. And it’s amazing how effective rumor and gossip can be when that’s the primary mode of information distribution. You wouldn’t think word could get around that quickly, but it did. I am always trying to convince kids that history isn’t dull. It is so poorly taught in schools, no wonder kids can’t see any point in it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My favorite World History teacher in high school claimed no one ever failed her class and I found out why. She peppered her lessons with little slightly scandalous stories about the main figures. No one could forget those stories, and so most all passed her exams with ease.


  5. Great post. Love it. Not a happy time to be heir apparent to the Queen of England


    • Had Mary not been such a dunderhead, it would have been okay. She just didn’t get the point that Elizabeth would not tolerate competition. She needed to smile and be NICE and it would have been fine. She was the wrong woman for the job.


  6. Marilyn, that is the best bit of history writing I’ve ever read! I never knew the details but it was fascinating and funny.


    • Thanks 🙂 People get so serious about history. So much of it was, in its own time, scandal. It was the hot celebrity news of the day, what people talked about. No internet, but word of mouth did the job pretty well. Rumor-mongering is always popular, not matter what the means. I love history, maybe because there’s so much that’s fun and funny and not in any of the books they give you to read in school 🙂


      • Clearly, you could do a lot to improve the histroy texts. When I read some of the dreary stuff out there, it is a real turn off.


        • I always wonder how they can make something as interesting as history so BORING. They have to hire specialists to write without a trace of humor or irony. History is so full of weird stuff. I’m pretty sure if it weren’t taught as a list of dates to be memorized, more kids would pay attention. It’s a pity.

          Liked by 1 person

          • That is a major problem with our educational system here in Canada.
            We need your wit and expertise.


            • There are a lot of great history writers. I could name a half dozen without pausing for breath and they have all written wonderful books. Yet not one single school system uses those books. Why? No idea. Apparently there’s an unwritten, secret rule that history texts have to be lethally dull.


              • It is probably an insider job. And you are right they are dull, dull, dull.


                • It’s a conspiracy. Boring Writers History Conference (BWHC) have a monopoly on text books. Everywhere.


                  • I think you could really make a great contribution here. Lord only knows, it is needed.


                    • If I was a real historian, I would. But I’m a hobbyist. I love history and I love writing about it, but I do NOT have bona fides in the field … and history requires you have the credentials. There are great — wonderful — historians writing amazing, fascinating histories — Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCollough, to name just two. Barbara Tuchmann died, but her books live on and hers are the books that hooked me on history. Better than fiction and often, stranger. You really can’t make this stuff up!

                      Liked by 1 person

      • And things haven’t changed mush at all these days…


  7. Problem being you just cannot choose your relations.


  8. I read once about her trial, very interesting. She didn’t even allow her a lawyer, neither did she have access to any paperwork. Great post! Daily downer LOL good one.


  9. Great stuff – told with such acerbic wit – grizzly bits and all. Especially like: “Nor was it an unusual fate in her family where getting beheaded was a more common cause of death than liver disease from excessive alcohol consumption.”


  10. Ugh, I didn’t know about the botched beheading! They couldn’t get her Anne Boleyn’s executioner?



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