Born in Linlithgow Palace on 8 December 1542 and pronounced queen six days later when her father, James VI, died with no male heirs, Mary’s life was set to be a difficult one. After spending the first five years of her life in Scotland, she was sent to France where she spent 13 years at the French court and married the first of her three husbands: Francis II of France.
Mary would rule as Queen consort of France for only 17 months until Francis suddenly died on 5 December 1560 of a middle ear infection that led to an abscess in his brain. Nine months later a grief-stricken Mary returned to Scotland where her Catholicism attracted suspicion in the Protestant country. When she was later accused of plotting the murder of her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and went on to marry the man who was believed to have carried out the deed, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, the Scots forced Mary to abdicate in favour of her son, the future James VI of Scotland and I of England.
Mary fled to England, expecting her cousin Elizabeth I to help her reclaim her throne, but instead Mary was kept prisoner in England from 1568 until her execution in 1587, accused of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth and place herself on the English throne.
Since her execution, Mary’s character has been debated time and time again. Was she a victim or a villain? Whoever she was, we continue to be fascinated with her story.
Mary has inspired books, operas, plays, songs, television series and continues to inspire filmmakers, but who portrayed her best? Take a look at the seven actresses below and decide for yourself!