Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was a lying adulteress who plotted with her lover to murder her husband, an intriguing new study claims.
The analysis by Lesley Smith, a medical historian, claims that Mary lied about being raped to explain her pregnancy and justify her third marriage after her second husband, Lord Darnley, was strangled in Edinburgh.
Instead of a tragic Roman Catholic monarch, the study – published today in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare – portrays Mary as a “moral loose cannon and fool for men”.
Her beauty and sexual attractiveness – at 5ft 11in, Mary was about a foot taller than the average woman – gave her cousin Elizabeth I all the more reason to eventually execute her for treason in 1587, Ms Smith said.
“All in all, Mary Queen of Scots was a very dangerous creature to the unmarried Protestant Elizabeth, and her physical presence made her positively intoxicating to anyone who met her.”
The researcher analysed a report by Claude Nau, Mary’s adviser and secretary, that she miscarried twins on July 24, 1567, at Loch Levan Castle, Kinross.
The Scottish queen was held prisoner by her own people at the castle after she married James Hepburn, fourth Earl of Bothwell, just 12 weeks after Darnley’s murder.
She justified the marriage to Bothwell, a Protestant, by saying that she had to preserve her honour after he abducted and “ravished” her at Dunbar Castle. Bothwell was the prime suspect in the murder, but was acquitted in what is now widely regarded as a sham trial.
Mary claimed she fell pregnant after the marriage, but Ms Smith – who is also curator of Tetbury Castle in Staffordshire, where Mary was held prisoner – found that would have been impossible.
The miscarriage took place seven weeks after the wedding. However, it would have required modern microscopes and knowledge of foetal development to identify the babies as twins such an early stage of pregnancy, said Ms Smith.
It also would have been “an astonishing coincidence” if she conceived during the “rape” 12 weeks before the miscarriage, she added.
Instead, it was more likely that “the widowed Mary had an affair with Bothwell, became pregnant and had used the abduction story as a cover for her condition and justification for marriage”.
She went on: “Mary had an undoubted passion for Bothwell, her supposed kidnapper and did not try and escape from him despite ample opportunity.”
The Scottish queen hated Darnley, a drunkard from whom she publicly separated five months before the miscarriage, Ms Smith added.
“The suspicion of an affair is not a new idea, but the medical evidence brings us very much closer to the likely truth.”