On April 24 1567, Mary departed Linlithgow Castle for Edinburgh. Her retinue was small, consisting of a powerful men. Near the royal burgh, she came upon a scene that has been disputed through the ages.
Bothwell awaited her with a small army and with their swords drawn. When the queen drew closer, Bothwell took hold of her bridle. He told her some story about danger from insurrection in Edinburgh and was escorting her to Dunbar Castle along with the 5th Earl of Huntly, Sir Maitland and others of her party. The men were ready to defend her from Bothwell but the Queen stopped them.
Some say that she planned this abducation where others believe otherwise. Whatever is true does not matter but Mary went with Bothwell. The group rode through the night to formidable stronghold in Scotland.
Arriving at Dunbar Castle at midnight, she was separated from the others and the gates were locked. Yet, she sent a letter to the Governor of Dunbar to await rescue but no one came. Bothwell would marry Mary and this was his way to get her agreement. The Queen was against the marriage, denying the earl repeatedly. The man think he had an upper hand he produced the Ainslie’s Tavern Bond. (A bond signed by the Scottish Lords supporting the marriage). Still, Mary refused.
Since he couldn’t win her agreement one way, Bothwell tried another. He “…raped her, laying her open to dishonor and the risk of an illicit pregnancy, with the consequent loss of her reputation.” Melville, who was at Dunbar that night, professed as well as, “the Queen could not but marry him, seeing he had ravished her and lain with her against her will.”
Mary agreed to marry him “as soon as he was free.” Bothwell was still marry to Lady Jean Gordon, sister to the 5th Earl of Huntly–one of his captives that night. I believe that Mary agreed because he was a wedded man and believed that his marriage wouldn’t be dissolved.
There are others who claim her rape accusations are lies. Much hasn’t changed since the sixteenth century, right? Many at the time had their own story of events that took place at Dunbar and seem to be based upon whether the people support Mary, Queen of Scots or Lord James Stewart, her half-brother and Earl of Moray and leader of Confederate Lords. These events would come to be used against her with the Casket Letters and her trial in England.
But in Edinburgh, Lady Bothwell put forth her petition for divorce on the basis of adultery. Not for what occured at Dunbar but his affair with a maid that Lady Bothwell had caught him with months before this.
Mary was still at Dunbar where she sent letters to Elizabeth seeking her help. Elizabeth told her to punish all those invovled in Darnley’s death that including Bothwell and many other lords. But Mary’s reputation in Scotland, England and Europe.
On May 3, 1567, Bothwell’s divorce was granted and he also put his suit for an annulment. Two days later, Bothwell confident of the coming annulment, he left Dunbar with the Queen and an armed force. Meanwhile, the Confederate Lords were uniting against Bothwell. They were raising troops and gathering support.
On 10 May, Mary pardoned the men who assisted Bothwell in her abduction then on the 12th, she appeared at Edinburgh Tolbooth and “…declared that she was marrying Bothwell of her own free will and that in this marriage she foresaw much peace of the realm.”
On the morning of the 15th of May, Mary, Queen of Scots married Lord James Hamilton, the Earl of Bothwell, the newly created Duke of Orkney and Lord of Shetland, in a Protestant ceremony. A “solemn wedding breakfast” followed. The event was a quiet one. Not just in the sense of music and dancing and other joyous activities, people who did attend literally did not speak. When the event ended, Mary cried as she did during the breakfast. This queen was broken.
That night a placard was hung at Holyrood gates. It read “wantons marry in the month of May.” The morning after, Mary “cried aloud, then sought for a knife to stab herself or (as she cried) else I will drown myself.”
The marriage didn’t begin happily and worsened. Bothwell’s true demeanor was reveal. According to Allison Weir’s Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley , “he revealed himself as a Jekyll and Hyde chracter, sometimes dour, forbidding and even indifferent, sometimes embarrassingly over-familiar and given to using coarse and even obscene langauge in her presence. He dictated who might, and who might not have access to, and speech with, her and insisted on being present.” But in public Bothwell showed reverence to her.
Politically, the government was shattered. The Privy Council had thinned out. Mary never granted Bothwell title of King but that didn’t stop him from behaving as one. The Roman Catholic rose was wilted and all were scandalized by the marriage. Her Guise family deserted her. Nobles fled court. There were no more festivities. And Bothwell forbade Mary from visiting her son in Stirling. Meanwhile Mary’s health hadn’t improved. She suffered from fainting spells.
The Confederate Lords planned to capture Mary and Bothwell. Catching wind of this plot, Bothwell decided to move to thick, strong walls of Edinburgh Castle. But the Governor of the Castle refused them entry. It is said, “who who holds Edinburgh Castle, holds Scotland.”
Mary had lost Scotland.
So the couple headed to Borthwick Castle where Mary summoned her levies to meet at Auirshead Abbey on June 12. This summons wasn’t obeyed and those who did arrive possessed no will to fight. Also at this time, Mary discovered she was pregnant. Now,”…she had no choice but to fight or fall with Bothwell.”
That June, the Confederate Lords appeared at the fortfied walls of Borthwick Castle. The lords screamed up to the walls for Bothwell come out. Mary appeared at the castle walls and informed them of Bothwell’s absence. He had departed days before their arrival. The lords asked her to return to Edinburgh with them and help them punish Darnley’s murderer. She refused. The lords insulted her but withdrew since they had no artillery to attack the castle.
At the midnight hour, Mary escaped from Borthwick castle before the Lords returned with an army and artillery. Dressed in men’s clothing, she met up with Bothwell’s servants who escorted her to her third husband who together journeyed to Dunbar. Having left her belonging behind, the Queen of Scotland had to borrow clothes from a countrywoman. Allison Weir writes that she donned, ” a red petticoat that barely covered her knees, sleeves tied with bow, a velvet hat and a muffler.”
In the daylight hours, both sides summoned men to their banners. Bothwell had the loyalty of the Borders but not many join Mary’s side. The Confederate Lords had 4000 men. The Queen departed from Dunbar with her 600 horses and 3 cannons and met up with her husband and his 1,600 men. Mary was a woman ready to fight. On her way, the people didn’t join her side and she was dismayed by this. Mary and her husband rode to Seton Castle and spent their last night together.
On June 15, the two armies lined up at Carberry Hill, seven miles east of Edinburgh. “The Queen’s forces were drawn up on the hillside beneath pennants bearing the Lion Rampant of Scotland and the Saltire of St. Andrew. The Lords were positioned at the foot of the hill, under an emotive white banner portraying the infant James praying before his father’s murdered corpse, and bearing the legend, ‘Judge and avenge my cause, O Lord.'”
The day was spent parleying and sadly, all that talk had come to nothing. Mary wept and Bothwell bellowed and challenged the lords in single combat. One lord was found but Mary turned down that idea.
Mary asked the terms of surrender. If the Queen placed herself in the Lords’ care then they would allow Bothwell to leave and go where he wished until Parliament ruled upon his case. Bothwell wished for Mary to retreat to Dunbar and to raise another army. Mary replied with, “she owed a duty to the late King her husband, a duty which she would not neglect.” She owed Darnley justice and that she would find his killers and have them prosecuted and punished.
Bothwell was guilty in this act. He certainly played a part but to what extent I cannot nor can history determine. So, Bothwell let his wife go. The reason Bothwell wasn’t arrested that day is tied with politics and the other lords guilt in Darnley’s murder.
So, dressed in the red petticoat too short for her and the velvet hat, she surrendered to the cries of “Burn the whore!” She was pushed and shoved by the ranks then returned to Edinburgh.
Bothwell escaped to Denmark, where he was arrested. Mary meanwhile, was locked away at Loch Leven, miscarried her twins, and signed away her throne. She escaped and raised another army but lost that battle and escaped to England.
On April 14, 1578, the 4th Earl of Bothwell died imprisoned in Dragsholm Castle. Less than a decade later on February 8, 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle by her cousin Elizabeth.
Her son James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. In the end, Scotland won England.