• University of Glasgow

The Life and Afterlife of Mary Queen of Scots

Explore the 16th century life of Mary Queen of Scots, and her place in cultural history in the centuries that followed.

6,104 enrolled on this course

Mary Queen of Scots stands in a room with others in a painting by Gavin Hamilton: "The Abdication of Mary Queen of Scots"    © The Hunterian, University of Glasgow.
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours

Discover the life and lasting legacy of Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots was born and ascended to the throne of Scotland in 1542, before being forced to abdicate in 1567. She was married three times, first to the king of France, and then to two noblemen from the British Isles, one of whom was spectacularly murdered.

She would spend close to 20 years imprisoned by her cousin Queen Elizabeth I before being executed for treason. Her son, James I and VI would go on to become the first monarch of both England and Scotland.

The history of Mary Queen of Scots was a dramatic one, even by the 16th century standards of the Tudors and Stuarts.

On this course from the University of Glasgow, you will learn about Mary Queen of Scots’ life You will also explore her afterlife in our shared cultural history, where she still occupies a prominent position.

Mary Queen of Scots, from the 16th to the 21st century

The life of Mary Queen of Scots provides a lens through which we can explore many of the tensions that defined 16th century Scotland and England. This was a period in the history of the British Isles that was characterised by deep political, cultural and religious upheaval.

On this course you will explore the complex forces that led to Mary’s rise and fall from power, and her imprisonment at the hands of a fellow monarch.

You will also explore how Mary Queen of Scots’ life has been memorialised in popular culture, investigating why she is so deeply entrenched into our cultural history.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds STEVEN REID: Hello, you’re joining me here at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where Mary Queen of Scots. Spent much of her short and tumultuous personal reign. It’s a great place to welcome you to the life and afterlife of Mary, Queen of Scots, an online course hosted by the University of Glasgow and Future Learn. Mary is arguably the most famous person in Scottish history, and you might think you know her story. A story that is full of marriages, murders, and tragedy.

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 seconds But Mary’s life and reign were far more complex than the well known narrative suggests, and she faced a wide range of unique challenges as queen due to her gender, her religion, and her upbringing in France. Much of her later reputation is built on stories created to justify her removal from the throne in 1567, which in turn were responded to by her defenders and which have led to huge debate ever since. In this course we asked two key questions. Who was the real Mary Queen of? Scots, in her own time? And why has there been such massive and continual interest in her story ever since?

Skip to 1 minute and 33 seconds You’ll hear from a range of leading historians of Mary, of 16th Century Scotland in Europe and of Mary’s cultural history, and we’ll examine a wide range of places, people and objects connected to the Queen of Scots.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 seconds We’ll guide you through this minefield with competing evidence not to give you one set view of Mary. There’s no such thing, but to give you a sense of how subjective the idea of truth is when it comes to the Queen of Scots.

What topics will you cover?

  • Introducing Mary and her early life in France
  • 1547-1561 Mary in Scotland
  • 1561-1567 Mary, Darnley, and Bothwell
  • 1565-1567 Mary’s Later Life
  • 1567-1587 ‘In my End is my Beginning’ – Mary’s Cultural Afterlife

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Apply a deep and broad knowledge of the personality of Mary Queen of Scots, of the major events and issues connected to her life and reign
  • Assess the major developments in political, cultural and religious life in Scotland between c. 1542 and c. 1587, using sources in a variety of media to do so
  • Compare the myriad ways in which Mary has been memorialised in popular culture from her own time to the present day
  • Evaluate multiple interpretations of complex historical debates relating to Mary, her reign, and her cultural afterlife

Who is the course for?

This course would suit anyone with a personal or professional interest in the life of Mary Queen of Scots, 16th century history, or cultural history.

It also covers culture, religion, and gender, as well as Anglo-Scottish relations through history.

Who will you learn with?

I'm a teacher and researcher in Scottish History at the University of Glasgow. I specialise in sixteenth-century Scotland, particularly the reigns of Mary Queen of Scots and her son James VI.

Who developed the course?

The University of Glasgow

Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK research universities.

  • Established

  • Location

    Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 70Source: QS World University Rankings 2020

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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