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Mary, Queen of Scots Free Unit & Lapbook

Mary, Queen of Scots Unit

Unit & Lapbook created by Wende


Optional Books –

Note: Level 6 books may include mature subject matter dealing with the sinfulness of man, including but not limited to murder, deceit, and adultery. While the HSS team tries to be discerning in their selections, the parent is ultimately responsible for deciding the appropriateness of each book. If you find that none of the books are appropriate, simply choose other books or use the lesson as is.



Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Without a Country by Kathryn Lasky (this is mostly about her childhood)

Mary, Queen of Scots by John Abbot Free Online (this is mostly about her adulthood)

Child’s History of the World (CHOW) by Hillyer (pages 410-422)

Book or website to learn French

Encyclopedias or access to internet


Lapbook clipart courtesy of:

Others found in public domain


Lesson 1: Renaissance and Reformation -                     


Mary, Queen of Scots lived during the Renaissance and Reformation. The Renaissance was a period of revival beginning in Italy towards the end of the fourteenth century and spreading through Europe. It bridged medieval to modern times. The word “Renaissance” means “rebirth” in Latin. This period in history is marked by a renewed interest in learning, exploration, and fine arts. People also began to rethink their spiritual lives and turned away from the State Church. The people protesting the Catholic Church were called Protestants, and this period of history was called the Reformation.


During Mary’s lifetime she saw the invention of the printing press and the invention of gunpowder. She saw a renewed interest in fine arts and viewed the works of artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo di Vinci, and Raphael. Mary witnessed much bloodshed over the right to believe the religion of ones own choosing. During Mary’s lifetime, explorers found routes to new lands and increased trade with other nations. She witnessed a time when people took more care in their appearance, wearing extravagant clothing, headpieces, and perfumes. Mary also lived at a time when the old religions and superstitions of the Greeks and Romans found their way into the beliefs of the Church. They believed in magic, fairies, and astrology, with Mary herself getting caught up in these things.


Lesson 1 Components


1.    Read about Renaissance and Reformation in 2 different sources.

2.    Define Renaissance, Reformation, and Protestant in Matchbooks.

3.    Describe life during the Renaissance in tab book. 

4.    Label countries on map of Europe. Shade in Mary’s homeland of Scotland in blue.



Lesson 2: Mary’s Childhood -                                     


Mary Stuart, an only child, was born to James Stuart V, the Scottish King, and Mary de Guise de Lorraine, a French princess, on December 8, 1542 at Linlithgow Palace. Her father died just six days after Mary’s birth, leaving Mary to be the Queen of Scotland before she was a week old.


It was the custom of royal families to arrange marriages for their children, mostly in an effort to spread their ruling powers. It was arranged through a treaty that when Mary was old enough, she would marry Edward VI, the frail son of Henry VIII, which would have eventually given the Stuart family power in England as well as Scotland. Mary’s mother, as well as many Catholic forces inside Scotland, preferred Mary to marry a French Catholic, not someone from the Church of England, and had a young man in mind.


So Henry VIII, in 1544, went to war with Scotland, called a Rough Wooing War, to force Mary into marriage with Edward VI. Over 10,000 Scots were killed, many of Scotland’s abbeys and castles were looted and burnt, and their crops and ships were stolen.  France came to the aid of Scotland, under the condition that Mary would marry the son of the French king. The Scots won the battle, and the marriage treaty was broken. It was then arranged for Mary to marry Francis, the son of King Henry II and Queen Catherine de Medici, and the heir to the French throne. (Note: if you shared Michelangelo’s Surprise, you’ll remember the famous Medici family from Italy)


Lesson 2 Components


  1. Draw and label top of Mary’s family tree. Refer to pgs. 186-188 in Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Without a Country by Kathryn Lasky or this website
  2. Define “Rough Wooing War”.
  3. What do you think of arranged marriages? Write your opinions using complete sentences.



 Lesson 3: Mary in France  -                                  


On August 7, 1548, when Mary was just five years old, she was sent from Scotland to France to learn the ways of the French court and get to know her future husband. Also with her were her guardians, the Lords Erskine and Livingston, her nurse Jean Sinclair, her governess Lady Fleming, the four Maries, Ladies Fleming, Seton, Livingston and Beaton, three of her half-brothers and other children of the Scottish nobility.


Mary was terribly homesick and missed her mother, who only visited her once, in 1550. To pass time, Mary enjoyed sports including falconing and hunting, putting on petite balls, playing games such as chess, and learning how to be a proper queen.


Mary and Francis became good friends and truly cared for each other. There was some amount of tension between Mary and Francis’s mother, Catherine de Medici. Queen Catherine had her own personal alchemist, who was a master of poisons as well. Mary was often wondering who might be poisoned next. She also hired the astrologer Nostradamus who was supposed to have amazing powers of prediction. The two queens did eventually learn to tolerate, if not respect, each other.


Lesson 3 Components


1.    On map of Europe from Lesson 1, shade in France in pink.

2.    Explain why Mary had to leave her mother and move to France.

3.    Mary learned to plan feasts and balls. Help Mary to plan out a grand menu…in French.

4.    There were no telephones or computers during Mary’s day. Long distance communication was done through letters. Pretend you are Mary and write a letter to your mother, whom you haven’t seen in many years, describing your days in France.

5.    What is an alchemist? What role did they play during the Renaissance? 

6.    Research Nostradamus. Complete lapbook component.



Lesson 4:  Marriage –


Sixteen-year-old Mary and fourteen-year-old Francis were married in April 1558. The wedding took place in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Mary’s crown, embedded with rubies, pearls, and sapphires, was so heavy that it made her neck ache. When her young husband became King Francis II, Mary was made Queen of France in addition to her current position as Queen of Scotland. They were happy together, but when sickly Francis died from an ear infection just two years into their marriage, Mary was left a widow at the age of eighteen.  Mary’s mother also died the same year. Catherine de Medici, Francis’s mother, wanted Mary out of France. So after twelve years of being away from her homeland, Mary went back to Scotland, and moved into Edinburgh’s royal palace of Holyrood.


Lesson 4 Components


1.    If you are reading Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Without a Country, describe what Francis was like as a child.

2.    Identify Mary’s first husband and explain what happened to him.

3.    There were no photographers during the Renaissance. Royalty hired artists to create portraits. The artist hired by the French court was Francois Clouet. Francois often painted portraits of the young Mary. Examine portrait completed when Mary was newly widowed. How would you describe Mary’s expression? What mediums do you think the artist used? Do you think it would be hard to pose for a portrait such as this?

4.    Research medical practices during the Renaissance. Compare them to todays. Is it common today to die from an ear infection? Why or why not? Prepare and give an oral report to parent.

5.    Why did Queen Catherine want so badly to send Mary out of France?



Lesson 5: Religion –


Mary’s mother and father were both Catholic. Mary was brought up as a Catholic and knew no other religion. She said:


"I will be plain with you, the religion which I profess I take to be the most acceptable to God; and, indeed, neither do I know, nor desire to know any other. Constancy becometh all folks well, and none better than princes, and such as have rule over realms, and specially in matters of religion. I have been brought up in this religion; and who aught would credit me in anything if I should show myself lighter in this case." (Translated from original French)


Their royal positions all had the blessings of the Pope. King Henry VIII of England, however, did not have the blessing of the Pope. The Pope would not authorize King Henry’s divorces, so Henry separated from the Catholic Church and started the Church of England. There were also other people who did not want to follow the Catholic Church, called Protestants. One such man was John Knox, the Protestant often at odds with Mary. John Knox spoke out against women, namely Mary of Guise and her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, running governments. In 1559 Knox went to Scotland where he helped the Protestant party to take control of Scottish government. Knox and Mary, Queen of Scots did try on numerous occasions to work on an agreement that would allow the Catholics and the Protestants to live peacefully together in Scotland, but they usually ended up criticizing publicly each other’s personal conduct and public policy. Mary wrote to John Knox:


"Have I not borne with you more patiently than any other ruler in all your rigorous manner of speaking both against my self and my uncles; yea, I have sought your favours by all possible means. I offered unto you presence and audience whensoever it pleased you to admonishe me; and yet I cannot be quit of you. What have you to do with my marriage? What are you within this commonwealth?"


Lesson 5 Components


1.    Why were Mary, Queen of Scots and reformer, John Knox often at odds?

2.    Research John Knox. Complete Lapbook Components

3.    Explain Mary’s quote about her religion in your own words.



Lesson 6: Husband 2 –


Mary’s reign in Scotland began on her return in 1561. To strengthen her claim to the English throne, in 1565 Mary married her cousin, Henry Stuart, known as Lord Darnley, also an heir to the English Throne. Darnley was nothing like Francis and the marriage was quite unhappy. There were all kinds of misunderstandings between Mary and Darnley, about his crown going to his heirs, and his jealousy of Mary’s secretary, David Rizzio. Darnley planned and carried out the murder of Rizzio in front of Mary. When Darnley was then killed in 1567, there was much speculation about Mary’s part in it. Mary was at that time pregnant with Darnley’s child.


Lesson 6 Components


1.     Identify Mary’s second husband and explain what happened to him.




Lesson 7: Husband 3 –


Mary’s advisors urged Mary to tend to affairs of the state and tend to her son, the future James VI of Scotland and James I of England. She did not heed the advice, and Mary lost all public appeal when she married yet again, this time to James Hepburn, the 4th Earl of Bothwell, the man accused of killing husband number two. There were inquiries made of both Bothwell and Mary regarding the death of Darnley, but there was insignificant evidence to prove either did it. Scottish nobles did believe that Queen Mary played a part, and turned against her.  On July 24, 1567 Mary was forced to hand over her Scottish crown to her son, a very young child. Mary and Bothwell were also forced to separate and never see each other again in order to avoid war with the Scottish nobles. Bothwell went to Denmark where he was imprisoned, became insane, and died in 1578.


Lesson 7 Components


1.     Identify Mary’s third husband and explain what happened to them.

2.     Why was Mary’s crown handed over to her son?



Lesson 8: Mary’s Cousin, Elizabeth –


Henry VIII, then current king of England, and Margaret Tudor, Mary’s great-grandmother, were brother and sister. That made Henry’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, and Mary, Queen of Scots, cousins. Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth, much to the discontent of England. You see, Henry VIII had many wives, which the Pope did not approve of. Elizabeth was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, one of the unapproved wives. So Elizabeth was thought to be illegitimate and not the rightful heir to the English throne. This caused much strife between Elizabeth and Mary, who was a true heir to the throne. 


Lesson 8 Components


1.     Explain how Mary and Elizabeth are related.

2.     Why didn’t the Catholics recognize Elizabeth as the true Queen of England?



Lesson 9: Confinement –


Mary, now twenty-six years old, turned to her cousin Elizabeth for help. She went to England and asked to see her cousin, but for 19 years was refused. Mary was kept in England, in a sort of honorable captivity, moved from one castle to another. Queen Elizabeth wanted to keep a watchful eye on Mary, knowing that she was the true heir to the throne of England, and figuring she was even more of a threat now that she lost her Scottish crown. Mary passed the time by writing letters and embroidering. Mary became quite ill with various ailments while in confinement. There were still many Catholics who believed Mary should be the Queen of Scotland and the Queen of England and they did not like her being confined.


Lesson 9 Components


1.     Locate England on Europe map from lesson 1 and color it red.

2.     Describe the relationship between Mary and Queen Elizabeth.

3.     Explain why Mary was kept in confinement.



Lesson 10: Attempted Escape –


One loyal Catholic, Sir Anthony Babington, sent Mary coded messages to plan an escape.  But, unfortunately, he also coded a message that he was going to get rid of Queen Elizabeth. Mary responded to go ahead with the escape plans, but did not mention the assassination of Queen Elizabeth. The letter was intercepted and de-coded. Because of Mary’s sin of omission, meaning that she did not tell Babington not to go through with the plan to kill Elizabeth, Mary was arrested and charged with plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth. Mary would stand trial as a traitor, and if convicted would face execution.


Lesson 10 Components


1.     What is a sin of omission? Does it prove guilt?

2.     What is a traitor? Do you think Mary was a traitor?

3.     Create a code and write a letter for a friend or sibling to decipher.



Lesson 11: The Trial –


When a person was charged with treason, even if she were a queen, no lawyer was allowed. So Mary was brought to the English Castle of Fotheringhay where she went to trial without any representation. This suited Queen Elizabeth just fine, as her goal was to execute England’s legitimate heir. The trial began on October 12, 1586, when Elizabeth wrote a letter to Mary: (translation from the French original)


You have in various ways and manners attempted to take my life and to bring my kingdom to destruction by bloodshed. I have never proceeded so harshly against you, but have, on the contrary, protected and maintained you like myself. These treasons will be proved to you and all made manifest. Yet it is my will, that you answer the nobles and peers of the kingdom as if I were myself present. I therefore require, charge, and command that you make answer for I have been well informed of your arrogance.

Act plainly without reserve, and you will sooner be able to obtain favour of me.



Mary described her treatment while in captivity quite differently than Elizabeth. Mary wrote this letter to her uncle in France:


"I have endured injuries, calumnies, imprisonment, famine, cold, heat, flight not knowing wither, ninety two miles across the country without stopping or alighting, and then I have had to sleep upon the ground and drink sour milk, and eat oatmeal without bread, and have been three nights like the owls."


After being held captive for nineteen years, not being allowed the counsel of a lawyer, and not being familiar with the laws of England, Mary was at a major disadvantage in pleading her case.


Mary wrote this letter, in disgust of the trial:


"I am myself a Queen, the daughter of a King, a stranger, and the true Kinswoman of the Queen of England. I came to England on my cousin’s promise of assistance against my enemies and rebel subjects and was at once imprisoned...As an absolute Queen, I cannot submit to orders, nor can I submit to the laws of the land without injury to myself, the King my son and all other sovereign princes...For myself I do not recognize the laws of England nor do I know or understand them as I have often asserted. I am alone without counsel, or anyone to speak on my behalf. My papers and notes have been taken from me, so that I am destitute of all aid, taken at a disadvantage."


The trial lasted ten days and Mary, Queen of Scots was found guilty of treason. Mary was imprisoned again, until Queen Elizabeth finally signed her death warrant on February 1, 1587.


Lesson 11 Components


1.     Define treason. Do you think Mary was guilty of treason? Why or why not?

2.     Compare and contrast how Elizabeth describes her treatment of Mary to Mary’s description.  

3.     Consider Mary’s trial. Do you think she had a fair trial? Why or why not?

4.    Read the Bill of Rights. How many of Mary’s rights were violated, had she been under the jurisdiction of the United States?



Lesson 12: The Execution –


The execution was set for the morning of February 8, 1587, but Mary was not told until the evening of the 7th.  Mary’s rights were further disregard as she was refused the services of a Catholic priest. Mary gave her remaining possessions to her servants and wrote her Will. She also wrote a letter to the younger brother of her lost love, Francis, King Henry III of France:

Queen of Scotland
8 Feb. 1587

Royal brother, having by God's will, for my sins I think, thrown myself into the power of the Queen my cousin, at whose hands I have suffered much for almost twenty years, I have finally been condemned to death by her and her Estates. I have asked for my papers, which they have taken away, in order that I might make my will, but I have been unable to recover anything of use to me, or even get leave either to make my will freely or to have my body conveyed after my death, as I would wish, to your kingdom where I had the honour to be queen, your sister and old ally.

Tonight, after dinner, I have been advised of my sentence: I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning. I have not had time to give you a full account of everything that has happened, but if you will listen to my doctor and my other unfortunate servants, you will learn the truth, and how, thanks be to God, I scorn death and vow that I meet it innocent of any crime, even if I were their subject. The Catholic faith and the assertion of my God-given right to the English crown are the two issues on which I am condemned, and yet I am not allowed to say that it is for the Catholic religion that I die, but for fear of interference with theirs. The proof of this is that they have taken away my chaplain, and although he is in the building, I have not been able to get permission for him to come and hear my confession and give me the Last Sacrament, while they have been most insistent that I receive the consolation and instruction of their minister, brought here for that purpose. The bearer of this letter and his companions, most of them your subjects, will testify to my conduct at my last hour. It remains for me to beg Your Most Christian Majesty, my brother-in-law and old ally, who have always protested your love for me, to give proof now of your goodness on all these points: firstly by charity, in paying my unfortunate servants the wages due them - this is a burden on my conscience that only you can relieve:    

further, by having prayers offered to God for a queen who has borne the title Most Christian, and who dies a Catholic, stripped of all her possessions. As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him. I have taken the liberty of sending you two precious stones, talismans against illness, trusting that you will enjoy good health and a long and happy life. Accept them from your loving sister-in-law, who, as she dies, bears witness of her warm feeling for you. Again I commend my servants to you. Give instructions, if it please you, that for my soul's sake part of what you owe me should be paid, and that for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whom I shall pray for you tomorrow as I die, I be left enough to found a memorial mass and give the customary alms.

Wednesday, at two in the morning
Your most loving and most true sister   Mary R


She finished up all her preparations and got dressed for a final time, wearing a black satin dress trimmed with velvet, a white veil that touched the ground, and a red petticoat, the symbol of a Catholic martyr. She also had a crucifix, prayer book, and two rosaries with her.


Mary’s execution was to be a public spectacle, up on a stage, stripped down to only her red petticoat.

She hugged her female servants goodbye and asked her male servants to pray for her until “the last hour”. She was then blindfolded, and speaking a Psalm in Latin, her head was then placed on the block. She spoke words of forgiveness to the executioner:


I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles.


After three attempts with the axe, Mary was beheaded. Everyone was then in horror as her body begun to move once her head was gone. Mary’s little lapdog had hidden itself under her petticoat! Another surprise was the discovery that the beautiful auburn hair that Mary was admired for was actually a wig! While in captivity, due to poor diet and other ailments, Mary’s beautiful hair had fallen out and turned gray.


Lesson 12 Components


1.     What two issues does Mary claim as the reasons for her execution? Do you agree?

2.     What was Mary dressed in for her execution?

3.     What was the significance of the red petticoat?

4.     Why do you think it took the axe man three swings to behead Mary?

5.     What two surprising things happened after Mary was dead?



Lesson 13: Her Burial –


Mary’s body was embalmed and placed in a lead coffin. It remained unburied for over six months, when it was finally taken to Peterborough Cathedral. Mary’s son, James VI became King of England in 1603 upon Queen Elizabeth’s death, and then had the authority to order his mother’s coffin be brought to Westminster Abbey in London, a proper resting place for this devout Catholic.


Lesson 13 Components


1.     Define “embalmed”. 

2.     Research what a “death mask” is.

3.     Where was Mary’s final resting place?

4.     Who, ironically, is resting in the same place? Hint: She spent much of her life staying away from Mary.

5.     Complete timeline depicting important events in Mary’s life. Color timeline pieces blue if they took place in Scotland, pink if in France, and red if in England.