Mary Stuart was born in Scotland, at Linlithgow Palace. She was daughter to James V of Scotland and the French Mary of Guise. Her father died six days after her birth so baby Mary became Queen. She grew up a Catholic in France and married Francis, the King of France. When he died, she returned to Scotland. There, she married her cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. He was murdered in 1567 and soon after, Mary married the prime suspect, the Earl of Bothwell. Mary herself became a suspect and was forced to leave Scotland, giving over the throne to her son, James VI.
Mary fled to England, where she hoped to receive help from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. However, Elizabeth saw Mary as a threat to her own throne and had her placed under house arrest, keeping her imprisoned for nineteen years. Fourteen of those years were spent in Sheffield at Manor Lodge and Sheffield Castle (where Castle Market is today).
In 1569 Elizabeth
put Mary in the care of George Talbot, the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and in 1570 he took her to Sheffield. Although she was a prisoner, Mary had her own rooms and still had maids and servants. Mary stayed in the locality of Sheffield as a prisoner until 1584, venturing out only occasionally to nearby places such as Chatsworth and Buxton.
Mary was always a danger to Elizabeth because of her own claim to the English throne. In 1586 Mary was implicated in the Babington Plot. Elizabeth’s spymaster, Francis Walsingham, discovered that Mary had replied to a secret letter from Anthony Babington. The letters were concerning a plot to free Mary and kill Elizabeth. Walsingham had incriminating evidence forged in Mary’s handwriting and Mary was arrested and tried.
Mary was sentenced to death and was executed at the age of 44 in the Great Hall at Fotheringay Castle on 8 February 1587. It took the executioner three blows of his axe to sever her head.