The Queen's Maries

Mary Stuart
Mary Stuart. Fototeca Storica Nazionale. / Getty Images
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The Queen's Maries

Mary Stuart
Mary Stuart. Fototeca Storica Nazionale. / Getty Images

Who Were the Queen's Maries?

Mary, Queen of Scots, was five years old when she was sent to France to be raised with her future husband, Francis, the dauphin. Four other girls about her own age were sent as maids of honor to keep her company. These four girls, two with French mothers and all with Scottish fathers, were all named Mary -- in French, Marie. (Please be patient with all these Mary and Marie names -- including those of some of the girls' mothers.)

  • Mary Fleming
  • Mary Seton (or Seaton)
  • Mary Beaton
  • Mary Livingston

Mary, also known as Mary Stuart, was already Queen of Scotland, because her father had died when she was less than a week old. Her mother, Mary of Guise, stayed in Scotland and maneuvered to gain power there, eventually becoming regent from 1554 to 1559 until deposed in a civil war. Mary of Guise worked to keep Scotland in the Catholic fold, rather than letting the Protestants take control. The marriage was to have bound Catholic France to Scotland. Catholics who did not accept the divorce and remarriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn believed that Mary Stuart was the rightful heir of Mary I of England, who died in 1558.

When Mary and the four Maries arrived in France in 1548, Henry II, Mary Stuart's prospective father-in-law, wanted the young dauphine-to-be to speak French. He sent the four Maries to be educated by Dominican nuns. They soon rejoined Mary Stuart. Mary married Francis in 1558, he became king in July of 1559, and then Francis died in December of 1560. Mary of Guise, deposed by Scottish nobles in 1559, had died in July of 1560.

Mary, Queen of Scots, now a childless dowager Queen of France, returned to Scotland in 1561. The four Maries returned with her. Within a few years, Mary Stuart began looking for a new husband for herself, and husbands for the four Maries. Mary Stuart married her first cousin, Lord Darnley, in 1565; thee of the four Maries were married between 1565 and 1568. One remained unmarried.

After Darnley died in circumstances that pointed to murder, Mary quickly married a Scottish noble who had kidnapped her, the earl of Bothwell. Two of her Maries, Mary Seton and Mary Livingston, were with Queen Mary during her subsequent imprisonment. Mary Seton helped Queen Mary to escape by impersonated her mistress.

Mary Seton, who remained unmarried, was with Queen Mary as a companion when she was imprisoned in England, until ill health led her to retire to a convent in France in 1583. Mary Stuart was executed in 1587. A few have speculated that two of the other Maries, Mary Livingston or Mary Fleming, may have been involved in forging the casket letters, which were supposed to have confirmed that Mary Stuart and Bothwell played a role in the death of her husband, Lord Darnley. (The authenticity of the letters is questioned.)

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Mary Fleming (1542 - 1600?)

Mary Fleming's mother, Janet Stewart, was an illegitimate daughter of James IV, and thus an aunt of Mary, Queen of Scots. Janet Stewart was appointed by Mary of Guise to be a governess to Mary Stuart in her infancy and childhood. Janet Stewart had married Malcolm, Lord Fleming, who died in 1547 at the Battle of Pinkie. Their daughter, Mary Fleming, also accompanied the five year old Mary Stuart to France in 1548, as a lady-in-waiting. Janet Stewart had an affair with Henry II of France (Mary Stuart's future father-in-law); their child was born about 1551.

After the Maries and Queen Mary returned to Scotland in 1561, Mary Fleming remained a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. After a courtship of three years, she married Sir William Maitland of Lethington, the queen's secretary of state, on January 6, 1568. They had two children during their marriage. William Maitland had been sent in 1561 by Mary, Queen of Scots, to Queen Elizabeth of England, to try to get Elizabeth to name Mary Stuart her heir. He had been unsuccessful; Elizabeth would not name an heir until near her death.

In 1573, Maitland and Mary Fleming were captured when Edinburgh Castle was taken, and Maitland was tried for treason. In very poor health, he died before the trial was over, possibly at his own hands. His estate was not restored to Mary until 1581. She was given permission to visit Mary Stuart that year, but it is not clear that she made the trip. It is also not clear whether she remarried, and she is assumed to have died about 1600.

Mary Fleming was in possession of a jeweled chain that Mary Stuart had given her; she refused to relinquish it to Mary's son, James.

An older sister of Mary Fleming, Janet (born 1527), married a brother of Mary Livingston, another of the Queen's Maries. The daughter of James, an older brother of Mary Fleming, married the younger brother of Mary Fleming's husband, William Maitland.

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Mary Seton (about 1541 - after 1615)

(also spelled Seaton)

Mary Seton's mother was Marie Pieris, a lady-in-waiting to Mary of Guise. Marie Pieris was the second wife of George Seton, a Scottish lord. Mary Seton was sent to France with Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1548, as a lady-in-waiting to the five year old queen.

After the Maries returned to Scotland with Mary Stuart, Mary Seton never married, but remained a companion to Queen Mary. She and Mary Livingston were with Queen Mary during her imprisonment after Darnley died and Mary Stuart married Bothwell. When Queen Mary escaped, Mary Seton put on Mary Stuart's clothes to hide the fact of the Queen's escape. When the Queen was later captured and imprisoned in England, Mary Seton accompanied her as a companion.

While Mary Stuart and Mary Seton were at Tutbury Castle, held by the Earl of Shrewsbury on the orders of England's Queen Elizabeth, Mary Seton's mother wrote a letter to Queen Mary inquiring about the health of her daughter, Mary Seton. Mary Pieris was arrested for this act, released only after the intervention of Queen Elizabeth.

Mary Seton accompanied Queen Mary to Sheffield Castle in 1571. She turned down several marriage proposals, including one from Andrew Beaton at Sheffield, claiming she had taken a vow of celibacy.

Sometime about 1583 to 1585, in ill health, Mary Seton retired to the Convent of Saint Pierre in Rheims, where an aunt of queen Mary was the Abbess, and where Mary of Guise had been buried. The son of Mary Fleming and William Maitland visited her there and reported that she was in poverty, but her will indicates that she had wealth to bestow on heirs. She died in 1615 at the convent.

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Mary Beaton (about 1543 to 1597 or 1598)

Mary Beaton's mother was Jeanne de la Reinville, a French-born lady-in-waiting to Mary of Guise. Jeanne was married to Robert Beaton of Creich, whose family had long been in service to the Scottish royal family. Mary of Guise chose Mary Beaton as one of the four Maries to accompany her daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, to France when Mary Stuart was five.

She returned to Scotland in 1561 with Mary Stuart and the other three of the Queen's Maries. In 1564, Mary Beaton was pursued by Thomas Randolph, ambassador of Queen Elizabeth to Mary Stuart's court. He was 24 years older than her; he apparently asked her to spy on her Queen for the English. She refused to do so.

Mary Stuart married Lord Darnley in 1565; the following year, Mary Beaton married Alexander Ogilvey of Boyne. They had a son in 1568. She lived until 1597 or 1598.

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Mary Livingston (about 1541 - 1585)

Mary Livingston's mother was Lady Agnes Douglas, and her father was Alexander, Lord Livingston. He was appointed guardian of the young Mary, Queen of Scots, and went with her to France in 1548. Mary Livingston, a young child, was appointed by Mary of Guise to serve the five year old Mary Stuart as a lady-in-waiting in France.

When the widowed Mary Stuart returned to Scotland in 1561, Mary Livingston returned with her. Mary Stuart married Lord Darnley in July of 1565; Mary Livingston had married John, a son of Lord Sempill, on March 6 of that year. Queen Mary provided Mary Livingston with a dowry, bed and wedding dress.

Mary Livingston was briefly with Queen Mary during her imprisonment after Darnley's murder and the marriage to Bothwell. A few have speculated that Mary Livingston or Mary Fleming helped forge the casket letters which, if authentic, implicated Bothwell and Mary Stuart in Darnley's murder.

Mary Livingston and John Sempill had one child; Mary died in 1585, before the execution of her former mistress. Her son, James Sempill, became an ambassador for James VI.

Janet Fleming, an older sister of Mary Fleming, another of the Queen's Maries, married John Livingston, a brother of Mary Livingston.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "The Queen's Maries." ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/the-queens-maries-3529590. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, March 7). The Queen's Maries. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-queens-maries-3529590 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "The Queen's Maries." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-queens-maries-3529590 (accessed November 22, 2017).