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In what respects, and with what motivations, did the historians of the Scottish Enlightenment rehabilitate the reputation of Mary, Queen of Scots?

In what respects, and with what motivations, did the historians of the Scottish Enlightenment rehabilitate the reputation of Mary, Queen of Scots?

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by James McDonald. Originally submitted for MO3260 Constructing Identities: Scottish Historians and the Past, 1707-1832 at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer David Allan in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by James McDonald. Originally submitted for MO3260 Constructing Identities: Scottish Historians and the Past, 1707-1832 at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer David Allan in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
A
BSTRACT
 The sixteenth-century royal drama that was the life of Mary,Queen of Scots has been a source of contention and fascination foralmost half a millennium. Riddled with confessional and politicalprejudices, accounts of Mary Stuart’s tumultuous reign have failed toprovide a conclusive history. It is unsurprising, therefore, that keyScottish figures during the nation’s greatest intellectual outpouring,the Scottish Enlightenment, sought to offer their own opinions aboutthis emblematic and enigmatic queen. This study explores three of themost celebrated mid-eighteenth century attempts to rescue the imageof Mary, posited by historians Walter Goodall, William Tytler andWilliam Robertson. The overall structure of the study focuses on thescholars' overriding motivations for writing. First, Goodall and Tytlerdemonstrate the confessional-driven defence of Mary. Alternatively,Robertson aims to establish Mary as a politically neutral figure whowas culturally and historically unifying. Set against the backdrop of post-Union Scotland, this study concludes that the reason for thelongevity of Robertson’s account, over those of Goodall and Tytler, washis moderation and cultivation of unity and pride in Scotland’s past.Robertson’s portrayal proved immensely compatible with thetransforming image of Scotland that would continue to grow untilpeaking in the time of Walter Scott and Queen Victoria in the first half of the nineteenth century.
(214 words)
1
 
In what respects, and with what motivations, did thehistorians of the Scottish Enlightenment rehabilitatethe reputation of Mary, Queen of Scots?
(1648 words, 2300 words with footnotes)
2
 
Mid-eighteenth century Scotland saw the heated re-emergenceof the three-hundred year old controversy surrounding the final twoyears of Mary Stuart’s six-year personal reign.
1
This ‘daughter of debate’, as Elizabeth I called her,
2
was a hugely divisive character fromher birth as Scotland’s infant female heir to her execution inFotheringhay Castle, England.
3
The controversial nature of Mary’sforced deposition (1567) elicited an immediate flurry of tracts bothsupporting and condemning the aggressors.
4
George Buchanan,leading apologist for the Moray-rebel camp, used the Englishlegitimisation of the sole incriminating evidence, the Casket Letters, tovilify the queen. Her judged guilt and subsequent nineteen-yearEnglish imprisonment provided the necessary means for the Buchananportrayal of an ‘adulterer [with Bothwell] and a murderer [of Darnley],a lascivious whore and a vicious tyrant’
5
to prevail. While partisanshave defended Mary from her deposition – Bishop of Ross,
6
Pope UrbanVIII,
7
the Spanish Armada
8
– the ferocity of the Marian debate largelysubsided with the accession of James VI and I in 1603.
9
The situationremained contentious – Ferguson claims that Queen Anne forbade theprinting of Buchanan’s tract against Mary out of ‘family pride and…
1
AE MacRobert,
Mary Queen of Scots and the Casket Letters
(New York, 2002), p. 1.
2
Jenny Wormald,
Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure
(London, 1988), p. 12.
3
Maurice Lee, ‘Review Article: The Daughter of Debate: Mary Queen of Scots After400 Years’ in
The Scottish Historical Review
, Vol, 68, No. 185 (April 1989), p. 71.
4
 
 Jayne Elizabeth Lewis,
The Trial of Mary Queen of Scots: A Brief History withDocuments
(California, 1999), p. 41.
5
Roger A. Mason, ‘George Buchanan and Mary Queen of Scots’ in
Records of theScottish Church History Society 
, Vol. 30 (Edinburgh, 2000), p. 1.
6
John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, ‘A Defence of the Honour of… Marie, 1569’ in JayneElizabeth Lewis,
The Trial of Mary Queen of Scots: A Brief History with Documents
(California, 1999), p. 67.
7
Antonia Fraser,
Mary Queen of Scots
(London, 1969), p. 544.
8
Wormald,
Mary Queen of Scots
, p. 14.
9
 
Ibid
., p. 14.
3

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