Mary, Queen of Scots, was the daughter of James V of Scotland and great-granddaughter of Henry VII of England. She was born 8 December 1542 and became queen a week later upon her father's death. Her great-uncle Henry VIII of England tried to get her betrothed to his son, the future Edward VI, but the Scottish Parliament refused to accept this, and England and Scotland went to war. Mary was sent to France for safety while her mother Mary of Guise served as regent.

In 1558 she married the heir to the throne of France (much to English displeasure) and was Francis II's queen for a while, but was widowed at the age of 18. Her mother died about this time and Mary was needed in Scotland. When she returned in 1561, her Catholicism caused some problems with the Protestant Scots, but eventually they seemed to accept their queen. In 1565, she married her cousin Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley, also a descendant of English royalty) but they separated soon because she found him too wild. She was there when he murdered her secretary (and some say lover) Rizzio. In 1567 Darnley was killed; it was supposed to look as if he'd died in an explosion, but his body was found strangled outside the building where it took place. The Earl of Bothwell was suspected of the murder, but Mary pardoned him and three months later married him.

This was the last straw for Scotland. Outraged, her nobles forced her to abdicate in favor of her baby son James. She raised an army and tried to regain her throne, but failed again and fled to England. She asked Elizabeth I for protection, but protection soon turned to imprisonment. Protestant Elizabeth did not like having a Catholic woman with a claim to the English throne loose, as the Catholic minorities in England were likely to try and get Elizabeth out of the way for her. Elizabeth came into possession of letters seemingly implicating Mary in a conspiracy against Elizabeth, and decided to have Mary executed after 19 years of imprisonment. Mary died in 1587 at the age of 44, and ironically, after Elizabeth's death in 1603, Mary's Protestant son became King James I of England.