Stories of Bolton Castle Part 2: Mary, Queen of Scots.

IMG_0961Bolton Castle is situated in the Yorkshire Dales 54 miles to the north west of York.

Permission for the castle to be built was given by Richard II, and it was complete by 1399. (I wrote more about it’s history here)

Quadrangular in design, it was built with defense in mind, and the living quarters were built to be comfortable with large and spacious rooms.

I don’t suppose it mattered much to Mary, Queen of Scots how lovely the castle was, she was imprisoned at Bolton in 1568.

Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary was born on the 8th of December, 1542 at Linlithgow Palace, Scotland. She was the

Mary, Queen of Scots by an unknown artist, circa 1560-1592. Owned by the National Portrait Gallery

daughter of King James V of Scotland, and his wife Mary of Guise, and she became Queen at 6 days old after the death of her father. James V died of illness after his army was defeated at the Battle of Solway Moss, a conflict with the English.

James V was the son of Margaret Tudor, one of Henry VIII’s sisters, and this placed Mary in line to the English throne, as well as being Queen of Scotland. This would turn out to be the cause of many of her troubles.

In 1559, Mary married Francis II and became Queen of France. Unfortunately her husband died within a year and she returned to Scotland in mourning.

For the next few years, Mary governed Scotland alongside her advisers.

Mary on her return to Scotland in 1561, depicted in mourning clothes. Portrait at Holyrood House

Ill-starred Marriages

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth at Hatfield House

In 1565, Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and it proved to be a disaster in many ways.

It angered Queen Elizabeth due to the fact that Lord Darnley had a claim to the English throne, as he was descended from Margaret Tudor, just like Mary.

Lord Darnley wasn’t happy being a consort, he was prone to be difficult and overreaching, demanding that Mary make him her heir should she die without issue.

Mary refused, and despite a strained relationship gave birth to their son James, later James VI of Scotland and James I of England at Edinburgh Castle in 1566.

Lord Darnley was murdered in 1567, and many thought James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell was responsible. Mary had spent time with Bothwell, and it was rumoured that they were lovers.  However in a strange turn of events, Bothwell ended up kidnapping Mary on her way home from visiting her son and took her to Dunbar Castle.

Remarkably, Mary and Bothwell were married one month later.

This was an incredibly unpopular marriage, and eventually the Scottish Lords rose up against the couple, raising an army against them. Mary was imprisoned, and Bothwell was forced into exile.

Mary at Bolton Castle

Courtyard of Bolton Castle

After escaping her imprisonment, Mary fled into England, hoping that her cousin Elizabeth would support her and help her to regain her throne.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth saw her as a threat and had no intention of helping her.

She ordered her to be housed at Carlisle Castle initially, and then that she be moved to Bolton Castle as it was a good distance away from both London and the Scottish border.

It was a good place to place someone if you wanted to cut off their communication with others, as Bolton Castle is quite isolated. Mary arrived there in July, 1568.

At this stage, Mary still hoped that Elizabeth would support her in trying to reclaim the Scottish throne and as such was relatively cooperative at Bolton.

Bolton housed her in comfort. She had 50 attendants, and spent the time embroidering and learning English. She didn’t stay there long however, being moved on to Tutbury Castle in January, 1569.


I thought of Mary when I visited Bolton Castle. Being there in December, the weather was cold and bleak, with a view across the Dales that went on forever. It must have been hard to look out onto all that space and know you can’t leave. I thought of Mary leaving for Tutbury Castle in January and imagined the day she left, the castle and view beyond looked very much like

Wikipedia – Bolton Castle
Bolton Castle –
Wikipedia – James V of Scotland


One thought on “Stories of Bolton Castle Part 2: Mary, Queen of Scots.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s