The Tudor Society

The Scots Queen Surrenders: An Overview of the Battle of Carberry Hill 1567 by Heather R. Darsie

Mary Queen of ScotsBy 15 June 1567, twenty-four-year-old Mary Stuart had been Queen of Scotland for almost her entire life; never knew her father, James V, because he died when she was six days old; was Queen Consort, then Queen, of France for less than seventeen months; had lost her mother in July 1560; was about to celebrate her son and heir's first birthday on 19 June, and was married to her third husband. Mary's first husband, King Francis II of France, died three days before Mary's eighteenth birthday in 1560. Mary's mother was dead for roughly five months when her first husband died. She married her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, when she was twenty-two. Mary gave birth to her only surviving child, James VI, during her marriage to Darnley. Darnley died, likely murdered, less than two years after the marriage, and Mary married her third husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. Bothwell may have had a hand in the death of Mary's second husband and there is speculation as to whether Mary indeed wanted to marry Bothwell or whether she was coerced into the marriage.

Bothwell was charged with Darnley's 10 February 1567 murder in April, and was to be prosecuted by Lord Lennox, the dead Darnley's father. Lord Lennox never showed up despite being summoned, and Bothwell was acquitted. On 19 April, several Lords of Parliament and other notable men signed the Ainslie Tavern Bond. The Bond declared that the twice-widowed Mary should marry a Scottish subject; this document was then handed to Bothwell. Six days later, Bothwell and an escort of eight hundred armed men intercepted Mary on her way to Linlithgow Palace in Edinburgh. Mary, convinced by Bothwell that danger awaited her in Edinburgh, went with Bothwell to Dunbar. That night, he either sexually assaulted her or Mary consented willingly to Bothwell's advances. Only Mary and Bothwell know what truly happened. Either way, Mary and Bothwell were quickly married, and Bothwell was expediently elevated to the position of Duke of Orkney.

Moving ahead to June 1567, the Lords previously loyal to Mary declared against Bothwell and the marriage. Similarly, the Lords of Parliament who signed the Bond and were previously against Mary, switched to her side. From this short description, it can be gleaned that Scottish politics at the time were complicated and quick to change! The rebellious Lords entered Edinburgh, fully armoured and with a force on 11 June. By 15 June, Mary and Bothwell chose to leave the castle of Fa’side, about 3.2 km southeast of Musselburgh, and took position on Carberry Hill. Mary's troops made use of a trench that was dug for a different battle that took place a couple years before. Mary's army was equipped with around seven cannons, three hundred pike men, and about two hundred trained musket men, for a roughly two thousand-strong army. The opposing force had about two thousand soldiers, too, but were without cannons and had only a few volunteers from Edinburgh who could use a musket.

James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell

James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell

The battle began on a rather hot day, with Mary's troops having little to nothing to drink. The parties taunted each other for hours, from late morning until evening. The French ambassador tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a peace, followed by Bothwell firing a cannon at some of the opposition who were trying to spur Mary into action. Eventually, Bothwell agreed to settle things via single combat. Bothwell then summarily dismissed each opposing person willing to take up the challenge, as they were beneath his noble status.

Slowly, members of Bothwell's party began to ride off, some apologising to the queen. Bothwell himself headed for Dunbar with his guard. Mary chose to surrender to the rebellious Lords after Bothwell left. Robert Birrel or Birrell, a citizen of Edinburgh, wrote an account of the event in his diary,

"The 15 day being sonneday, the armies came within view. The one stood upone Carberry Hills, with 4 regiments of shouldiours, and six field-pieces of brasse: the uther armey stoode over against it, messingers going betwixt them all day till neir night; dureing which parley the Duke [Bothwell] fled secretly to Dunbar, and the Queine [Mary] came and randred herself prisoner to ye Lordis, quho convoyed her to Edinburghe to the Provost’s Lodgeing for yat night; Sr. Symeon Prestone of Craigmillar being Provost for ye time."**

Mary's dress for the day was recorded by William Drury, Marshall of Berwick, who said of her clothing:

"The Queen's apparel in the field was after the fashion of the women of Edinburgh, in a red petticoat, sleeves tied with points a "partlyte," a velvet hat and muffler. She used great persuasions and encouragements to her people to have tried it by battle. For welcome the Lords showed her the banner with the dead body, which seeing they say that she wished she had never seen him. The banner was hanged out before her window at the Provost's house, wherewith she seemed much offended."

However, Mary surrendered in literally dramatic fashion, having changed out of her gorgeous, embroidered black dress with contrasting red cloak and coat, and leaving those items with her richly embroidered hat at Fa’side Castle, and choosing to wear what were effectively rags that showed an embarrassing amount of her calves. The Lords took Mary to the aptly named Lochleven Castle, which is on an island in the middle of Loch Leven, where they imprisoned her. Roughly a month later, by 23 July, Mary miscarried twins. The next day, the recovering Mary was forced to abdicate to her one-year-old son, James VI. Sadly, Mary would spend the next almost twenty years in some form of imprisonment or another, only to die by beheading.

Mary spent her last day of freedom in terrible heat, anxiously waiting with Bothwell, a man who may have killed Mary's second husband and may have raped Mary so he could become king, only to be abandoned by him on the field. One can imagine the range of emotion and brutal thoughts the twenty-four-year-old Mary Stuart endured on her last day as the free Queen of Scots.

**Author's note: I have found reading older styles of English out loud can help make sense of the spellings!

Heather R. Darsie lives in the United States with her family and three parrots. She works in the legal field, with a focus on children. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in German Languages and Literature, then a Juris Doctorate in American jurisprudence, and studied abroad in Costa Rica and France. Heather has always loved history. She first became acquainted with Elizabeth I when she was in middle school and chose to write a book report about her. Since then, she has always held an interest in the Renaissance and its numerous enigmatic citizens, with particular focus on the history of England and Italy. She is currently working on a book on the heraldry of Tudor women and is also researching Anne of Cleves.

Sources & Suggested Reading

  • Dunn, Jane. Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens. New York: Vintage Books, Inc. 2005.
  • Chambers, William and Robert. Birrell’s Diary. Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, Fifth Series. Pgs. 81-83. Vol. IV, No. 162. 5 February 1887.
  • Carberry Hill. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  • Guy, John. Queen of Scots: the True Life of Mary Stuart. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
  • Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth. No. 1313. Vol. 8: 1566-1568 (1871).
  • Mary, Queen of Scots. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  • Aikman, James, trans. History of Scotland by George Buchanan. Pg. 522. Vol. 2 (1827).
  • Cameron, Annie I., ed., Warrender Papers. Pg. 50. Vol. 1, SHS (1931).

There are 7 comments Go To Comment

  1. S

    What a brave woman she was. And the hardships she had to overcome is just horrible. And then to miscarry twins at such a horrible time, yet again in her life, is heartbreaking. This young woman went thru sooo much in her early years it’s amazing she kept her wits about her at all. So sad all this happened to a courageous woman in a time when woman were nothing but something to bed.

  2. B

    Wow! Great story, even though so very tragic for such a young woman! I guess things never change when it comes to love. Glad you didn’t live back than! Instead of the cost of prisons, just behead people, lot cheaper! Keep up the good work, you are doing great work.

  3. L

    Did Bothwell just abandon her? Better he retained his freedom to fight another day.
    I am sure that in the circumstances a free Bothwell could offer more hope then an imprisoned one. Had Bothwell remained it is highly likely his head would have quickly parted company with his body.
    Mary was unfortunate with her first two husbands. Several books have some sympathy for Bothwell and his marriage to the queen. He did not have the reputation for cowardice.

    1. L

      Mary De Guise died on the 11th June 1560 of Dropsy. Her body was shipped to France in March of 1561 and after her funeral sevice at Fecamp, her remains was buried in the convent of St Pierre in Reims. Marie’s sister Renee was the Abbess there.

    2. L

      I rather think Bothwell was more of a chancer, and a complete scoundrel. I agree he was not a coward, but he was impetuous and often acted quite irrationally. Did he rape Mary? No I think that Mary was very attracted to him, but he perhaps saw marriage to her as a means to getting revenge on his enemies he did have a fair few of them, including James Earl of Moray, Mary’s half brother.
      Bothwell’s downfall was not to come at the hands of any Scotsman or Scotswoman, but at the hands of a Danish woman and her family. Anna Tronds or Anna Throndsen, her father was a favoured Admirel and Royal consul in the Danish king’s household.
      Bothwell had married or rather handfasted himself to Anna, when in Denmark on business probably around 1557/58? Handfasting in Denmark was (and I believe still is) as legally binding as marriage is in any other country. Anna’s father, had given them a very generous dowry, Bothwell may have been given a ship by the Danish King as a wedding present. Bothwell is also to have rumoured to have married another woman, when he went to France. Anna and Bothwell returned to Scotland, where Anna unhappy and perhaps feeling very lonely in a strange land soon got fed up with Bothwell either returned to, or was sent by Bothwell back to Denmark. Either way Bothwell was to never see Anna again until he abandoned Mary and fled Scotland to Denmark.Anna is rumoured to have given birth to a son by Bothwell, whom she called William.
      Of course by then Bothwell had married twice more, Jean Gordon (who was the sister of the powerful 5th Earl of Huntly) a marriage which was not exactly happy and I feel that Bothwell was more in it for the money than anything else, whom he divorced shortly before (as in a few weeks) before he married Mary.
      When it was common knowledge that Bothwell was in Denmark again, either Anna’s family, or perhaps at the insistence of the Earl of Moray (Rumour again speaks of Elizabeth putting her two pence worth in as well. Unlikely since Mary was now her guest and Moray had managed to gain control of Scotland with a few teething troubles. Elizabeth may have mentioned something in passing such as “It would be better all round by and large if Bothwell stayed where he was”) Bothwell was imprisoned by Anna’s cousin Danish Viceroy Erik Rosenkratz in the Rozenkratz Tower in Bergen, Norway, on the basis of Anna’s legal complaint against him for his use of her as his wife, and demand for restitution of her sizable dowry. Bothwell agreed to repay his debt by offering her one of his ships and annual restitution payment neither of which he could repay. However shortly afterward and knowing that until the debt was repaid he had no hope of freedom, in the meantime the Danish king became aware that Bothwell was the prime suspect in the murder of Lord Darnley of Scotland and many people (Alledgely including Elizabeth 1st) were calling for Bothwell to be extradited back to Scotland to stand trial. Rather than send him to Scotland the Danish King decided to imprison him in Malmous Castle, and waited to see if Mary Queen of Scots would regain her throne. Once it became know that wasn’t going to happen the Danish King had him transferred to Dragsholm castle. I believe that Bothwell was treated with all due respect being that he was indeed a noble, but at some point tried to escape, bothwell was then locked in one of the dungeon’s and chained to a post. The dungeons had one very small window which let in very little light and were very damp places. Bothwell died in 1578 possibly insane, and it was only known that he had died after the guard saw that the food he had brought had been touched. I can believe he possibly may have been driven insane, Bothwell despite his faults was an active man always on the look out for something to exploit. To be locked in a dark dank cell and not know what was happening in the outside world must have been complete torture for him. There is a death mask in dragholm castle (I believe) which is alledgely supposed to be that of James Bothwell.

  4. L

    Mary De Guise died on the 11th June 1560 of Dropsy. Her body was shipped to France in March of 1561 and after her funeral sevice at Fecamp, her remains was buried in the convent of St Pierre in Reims. Marie’s sister Renee was the Abbess there.

    1. L

      sorry for the double posting.. Nova (my computer) is having a funny five minutes…

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The Scots Queen Surrenders: An Overview of the Battle of Carberry Hill 1567 by Heather R. Darsie