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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

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Mary, Queen of Scots: Villain or Victim?

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, February 23, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2185
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$30 - Member
$35 - Non-Member

"Mary, Queen of Scots" by François Clouet

On February 8, 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed for treason on the orders of her English cousin, Elizabeth I. It was a tragic end to a turbulent life. But was she the victim of misogyny and anti-Catholic prejudice, or did she bring her troubles on herself by her own miscalculations?

Mary certainly had to contend with a lot of adversity. After becoming Queen of Scots in 1542 as an infant, she had to be sent into exile in France to escape a forced marriage to the heir to the English throne. Returning to Scotland after the death of her young husband, the king of France, she married her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. When the unpopular Darnley was murdered in dramatic fashion, Mary’s quick marriage to one of his accused assassins, the Earl of Bothwell, led to speculation that she was part of the murder plot, and she fled to England. But Queen Elizabeth I, fearing the Catholic Mary might act on her claim to the English throne, imprisoned her for 20 years. When she was named as a co-conspirator in a plot to kill Elizabeth, Mary’s next move was to be her last: the gallows.

Historian Jennifer Paxton explores Mary’s life for an answer to one of history’s enduring questions: was Mary a martyr or a failed conspirator? 

Paxton is clinical associate professor of history, associate dean of undergraduate studies, and director of the University Honors Program at The Catholic University of America.

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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.