May 13

This Day in History

General Interest

May 13, 1568:

Mary Queen of Scots defeated

At the Battle of Langside, the forces of Mary Queen of Scots are defeated by a confederacy of Scottish Protestants under James Stewart, the regent of her son, King James VI of Scotland. During the battle, which was fought out in the southern suburbs of Glasgow, a cavalry charge routed Mary's 6,000 Catholic troops, and they fled the field. Three days later, Mary escaped to Cumberland, England, where she sought protection from Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1542, while just six days old, Mary ascended to the Scottish throne upon the death of her father, King James V. Her great-uncle was Henry VIII, the Tudor king of England. Mary's mother sent her to be raised in the French court, and in 1558 she married the French dauphin, who became King Francis II of France in 1559 and died in 1560. After Francis' death, Mary returned to Scotland to assume her designated role as the country's monarch. In 1565, she married her English cousin Lord Darnley, another Tudor, which reinforced her claim to the English throne and angered Queen Elizabeth.

In 1567, Darnley was mysteriously killed in an explosion at Kirk o' Field, and Mary's lover, James Hepburn, the earl of Bothwell, was the key suspect. Although Bothwell was acquitted of the charge, his marriage to Mary in the same year enraged the nobility, and Mary was forced to abdicate in favor of her son by Darnley, James. In 1568, she escaped from captivity and raised a substantial army but was defeated and fled to England. Queen Elizabeth I initially welcomed Mary but was soon forced to put her cousin under house arrest after Mary became the focus of various English Catholic and Spanish plots to overthrow her.

In 1586, a major Catholic plot to murder Elizabeth was uncovered, and Mary was brought to trial, convicted for complicity, and sentenced to death. On February 8, 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded for treason at Fotheringhay Castle in England. Her son, King James VI of Scotland, calmly accepted his mother's execution, and upon Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603, he became James I, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

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