With so much in common, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth I of England should have felt a mutual affinity, but they were fated to be bitter rivals. The enmity between the two female rulers was partly a consequence of Mary being manipulated and abused by her three husbands, who each in different ways brought her into confrontation with Elizabeth. If only, as Mary once jokingly remarked, they could have married each other, things might have been different. As it was, Mary’s marital history amply vindicated Elizabeth’s decision to remain forever single.
In 1558 Mary, aged fifteen, married Francis, eldest son of King Henry II of France. Their brief time as husband and wife appeared happy, but the union had disastrous implications for Scotland. Prior to the wedding, her father-in-law forced Mary to sign documents bequeathing her kingdom and its revenues to France if she died childless. Worse still, in November 1558, Henry II formally proclaimed his daughter-in-law queen of England, effectively rejecting the right of Elizabeth Tudor to succeed to the throne. Henceforth, Elizabeth would always see Mary as a would-be usurper.
When Mary was widowed in 1560 and decided to return to Scotland, establishing friendly relations with England proved challenging. Elizabeth indicated that she would view it as a hostile act if Mary married another great prince who would champion anew her claim to the English throne, but when