December 14 – A new queen for Scotland

Dec14,2022 #Mary Queen of Scots

On this day in Tudor history, 14th December 1542, King Henry VIII’s nephew, King James V died at the age of 30.

James was succeeded by his six-day-old daughter, Mary, who became Mary, Queen of Scots.

Find out what happened to James V, and how Mary became queen at such a young age…


The death of James V of Scotland and the accession of Mary, Queen of Scots

On this day in Tudor history, 14th December 1542, six-day-old Mary, daughter of King James V and his second wife, Marie de Guise, became Queen of Scotland – Mary, Queen of Scots.

By the time of his death, thirty-year-old King James V of Scotland, son of Margaret Tudor and King James IV, had ruled Scotland for 29 years. Like his daughter, he’d become monarch when his father was killed at the Battle of Flodden on 9th September 1513, a battle against the forces of Henry VIII, Margaret Tudor’s brother. He’d been crowned on 21st September 1513 at Stirling Castle when he was just seventeen months old.

War had broken out between Scotland and England in the summer of 1542, when Henry VIII had made an alliance with Emperor Charles V against France. Scotland and France were old allies, so Henry sent men to the Scottish borders to prepare for war. On 24th August, the Scots defeated the English at the Battle of Haddon Rig, so Henry sent seasoned soldier and leader Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, the man who’d commanded the troops so successfully at Flodden, to command English troops again.

In November 1542, James decided to divide force into two, mustering one force with Robert, Lord Maxwell, at Lauder, and putting the Earl of Moray in charge of one at Haddington. James stationed himself at Lochmaben Castle and wasn’t present on 24th November 1542, when Lord Maxwell led a force of between 15,000 and 18,000 against a much smaller English force, numbering about 3,000, led by Sir Thomas Wharton. The two sides met on the edge of a salt marsh at Solway Moss and the English routed the Scots. Some Scots died of drowning in the marshes and river, and many hundreds were taken prisoner by the English.

On hearing the news of the resounding Scots defeat, a depressed King James V returned to Edinburgh to speak to his council and organise further raids against the English. He was taken ill with a fever in the second week of December, and by 12th December he’d taken to his bed at Falkland Palace. While he was ill, on 8th December 1542, his wife, Marie de Guise, gave birth to a daughter, Mary.

On the morning of this day in history, 14th December 1542, the dying king appointed his wife, Marie, Cardinal Beaton, and the earls of Moray, Huntly and Argyll, as joint tutors and governors to his infant daughter when she became queen and until she reached her majority. James V died later that day, passing the throne to his little girl, Mary.

John Knox and the chronicler Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie both recorded that James uttered the words “it came wi a lass, it’ll gang wi a lass” (“it came with a lass, it will end with a lass”) as he lay dying, referring to how the Stuart dynasty began with a girl, through Marjorie Bruce, Robert the Bruce’s daughter, and how he feared it would now end with his daughter, Mary. However, the Stuart dynasty actually ended with another girl, Queen Anne, in 1714, and it is not known that James actually ever said these words.

James was buried at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh on 8th January 1543.

James’s daughter Mary was Queen of Scotland until 24th July 1567, when she was forced to abdicate in favour of her son, James, who became King James VI of Scotland at the age of just one. Mary was executed as a traitor in England in 1587 after being found guilty of conspiring against Queen Elizabeth I. Her son succeeded Elizabeth to the English throne as King James I after Elizabeth’s death in March 1603.

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