Is Queen Elizabeth II Related to Mary Queen of Scots? A Royal Family Mystery

The British royal family has a long and fascinating history that spans centuries and continents. One of the most intriguing questions that many people have is whether Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch of the United Kingdom, is related to Mary Queen of Scots, the ill-fated ruler of Scotland who was executed by Elizabeth I in 1587.

The Scottish Connection

The answer is yes, Queen Elizabeth II is related to Mary Queen of Scots, but the connection is not as direct or simple as it may seem. According to historian Robert Stedall, the Queen is a descendant of Henry VIII’s sister, Queen Margaret of Scotland, who was the grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots. This means that Mary and Elizabeth II are cousins, but many times removed.

Queen Margaret of Scotland married James IV of Scotland in 1503, and they had six children, including James V, who became the father of Mary Queen of Scots. Mary was born in 1542, just six days before her father died, leaving her as the infant queen of Scotland. She was sent to France at the age of five to be raised as the future wife of Francis II, the son of King Henry II and Catherine de’ Medici. She married Francis in 1558, when she was 16 years old, and became the queen consort of France. However, Francis died the following year, leaving Mary a widow at 18.

The English Rivalry

Meanwhile, in England, Elizabeth I had ascended to the throne in 1558, after the death of her half-sister Mary I. Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, who was executed in 1536 on charges of adultery and treason. Elizabeth was declared illegitimate by her father and spent her childhood in uncertainty and danger. She survived several plots against her life and became a Protestant icon in a country divided by religious conflict.

Elizabeth faced a formidable challenge from Mary Queen of Scots, who had a strong claim to the English throne as the great-granddaughter of Henry VII, the first Tudor king. Many Catholics in England and abroad considered Mary the rightful queen and Elizabeth a usurper. Mary also had the support of France and Spain, two powerful Catholic countries that were enemies of England.

Mary returned to Scotland in 1561, hoping to rule as a Catholic monarch in a predominantly Protestant country. She faced opposition from the Scottish nobility and clergy, who resented her French influence and her marriage to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, a cousin and fellow claimant to the English throne. Darnley proved to be an abusive and ambitious husband, who conspired with some nobles to murder Mary’s secretary and confidant, David Rizzio, in front of her in 1566. The following year, Darnley himself was killed in a mysterious explosion at his residence.

Mary then married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, who was widely suspected of being involved in Darnley’s murder. This provoked a rebellion among the Scottish lords, who captured Mary and forced her to abdicate in favor of her infant son, James VI. Bothwell fled to Denmark, where he died insane in prison.

The Captive Queen

Mary escaped from captivity in 1568 and fled to England, seeking refuge from her cousin Elizabeth. However, instead of receiving help or sympathy from Elizabeth, Mary found herself imprisoned for the next 19 years. Elizabeth saw Mary as a threat to her security and legitimacy, and feared that she would become a rallying point for Catholic plots against her.

Mary was kept under close surveillance by Elizabeth’s agents, who intercepted her correspondence and monitored her visitors. Several conspiracies were uncovered that aimed to free Mary and place her on the English throne, often with the involvement or support of foreign powers such as Spain or France. The most famous of these was the Babington Plot of 1586, which planned to assassinate Elizabeth and rescue Mary with the help of Spanish troops.

Elizabeth finally decided to take action against Mary after receiving evidence that implicated her in the Babington Plot. She signed a warrant for Mary’s execution on February 1, 1587, but hesitated to send it to Fotheringhay Castle, where Mary was held. She feared that killing a fellow queen would set a dangerous precedent and provoke a backlash from other monarchs. However, without Elizabeth’s knowledge or consent, her secretary William Davison delivered the warrant to Fotheringhay on February 7.

The next day, Mary was beheaded in front of a small audience of witnesses. She wore a red petticoat under her black gown as a symbol of martyrdom. She also carried a small crucifix and a prayer book with her. Her last words were “In manus tuas Domine commendo spiritum meum” (“Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit”). It took three blows of the axe to sever her head, which was then held up by the executioner and greeted with silence instead of cheers. According to some accounts, Mary’s small dog emerged from under her skirts and refused to leave her body.

The Royal Legacy

Elizabeth was shocked and angry when she learned of Mary’s death. She claimed that she had never intended to have her executed and blamed Davison and the other councillors for acting without her authority. She also wrote a letter of apology to Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland, who had been raised as a Protestant and had little affection for his mother. Elizabeth hoped to secure James as her successor and prevent a civil war after her death.

Elizabeth died in 1603, after ruling England for 44 years. She was succeeded by James, who became James I of England and united the crowns of England and Scotland. He was the first monarch to rule both countries as one kingdom, although they remained separate states until 1707. He was also the founder of the Stuart dynasty, which descended from both Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I’s grandfather, Henry VII.

Queen Elizabeth II is the direct descendant of James I through his daughter Elizabeth Stuart, who married Frederick V, Elector Palatine, and became the Queen of Bohemia. Their daughter Sophia married Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover, and their son George became George I of Great Britain in 1714. The Hanoverian line continued through George II, George III, George IV, William IV and Victoria. Victoria’s son Edward VII was the first monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which changed its name to Windsor in 1917. The Windsor line includes George V, George VI and Elizabeth II.

Therefore, Queen Elizabeth II is related to Mary Queen of Scots through both her paternal and maternal lines. She is also related to Elizabeth I through her paternal line, as both are descendants of Henry VII. However, Elizabeth I had no children of her own, so she is not a direct ancestor of Elizabeth II.


The story of Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I is one of the most dramatic and tragic episodes in British history. It is also a story of family ties and rivalries that shaped the destiny of two nations and two queens. Queen Elizabeth II is the living proof of their shared bloodline and legacy.

Doms Desk

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