Sometimes you will see Mary Queen of Scots referred to as Mary Stewart or Mary Stuart. Both are correct and both are her rightful names. However, one is her maiden name (Stewart) and one is her married name (Stuart). They are not interchangeable, as some people think. They also refer to two distinct monarchies, one which ruled Scotland and which ruled both Scotland and England.
The Stewart Kings of Scotland
The Stewarts ruled Scotland from 1371 until the abdication of Mary in 1567. The name Stewart comes from Walter Stewart, who married Marjorie, daughter on Robert I of the Cranmore Dynasty. It is said when James V (Mary’s father) lay dying a week after her birth he sighed “It came wie’ a lass and will go wie’ a lass.” He was of course referring to the beginning of the Stewart line with Marjorie and the end of it with his own daughter.
Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lennox
A Scottish noble by the name of Matthew Stewart traveled to France during the reign of James V. He stayed for several years picking up the refined manners of a French courtier in the court of François I and even adopted the French spelling of his last name, Stuart. Upon his return to Scotland in 1542 he began courting Mary’s mother, Marie de Guise. Matthew was third in line for the throne of Scotland, after the little queen and their cousin, the Earl of Arran and would have been happy marrying either the queen or her mother- whichever would bring him closer to the throne of Scotland. Mary’s mother let the Earl of Lennox believe that she was considering him as a suitor for herself or her daughter. However, by 1544 Matthew Stuart turned to England for support. He allied himself with King Henry VIII, who wanted to see the Queen of Scots married to his own son, the future Edward VI. For his service to the English king, Matthew was married to the king’s niece, Margaret Douglas. Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister. She was the half sister of James V and an aunt to Mary, Queen of Scots.
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley & Mary, Queen of Scots
Matthew Stuart and Margaret Douglas had two sons, Henry and Charles. Although the Earl of Lennox had been banished from Scotland and stripped of his lands after siding with King Henry VIII, he did not lose his ambition of ruling Scotland. He sent his eldest son to France, to meet the Queen of Scots, who had been living there since the age of four. When Mary returned to Scotland in 1561 following the death of her husband, François II, she was reacquainted with Henry Stuart (on Valentine’s Day, no less). Despite serious misgivings by her friends and advisors, Mary married Lord Darnley on July 29, 1562. And that is how she acquired the name of Mary Stuart.
The Stuart Dynasty
The marriage between Mary and Henry Stuart proved to be a disaster, ending with Henry’s murder at Kirk of the Field in February, 1567. Mary’s son, James, would become the first Stuart king, James VI. He would go on to be King James I of England. Through his children and grandchildren, the Stuart monarchy would rule England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland until the death of Queen Anne in 1714.