MO4807 The Marian Moment: Politics and Ideology in Mary Stewart’s Britain (previously SC4114)
Lecturer Professor Roger Mason (St Katharine's Lodge, room1.16)
Credits 60
Availability Semesters 1 and 2, 2016-17
Class Hour Wednesday 10 - 1
Description The life of Mary Stewart (1542-1587) is among the best known and most highly mythologized of all British monarchs. Queen of Scots more or less from birth, she also possessed a strong claim to the throne of England and it as much her dynastic rights as her personal charms that led to the series of marital adventures that have so preoccupied her biographers. Yet while her career needs to be firmly situated in the context of sixteenth-century dynastic politics and diplomacy, it is important also to recognise that her life and reign generated a range of ideological debates that proved critical in crystallizing and developing early modern thinking on such issues as the role of women in government, the rights of the people to resist tyranny, religious confessionalization, and the meaning of Britain. Using a range of contemporary record and literary sources, this module uses Mary’s life as a focal point for exploring these ideological issues as they developed in England as well as Scotland in the years from the 1540s to the 1580s.
Basic Reading

Jane Dawson, Scotland Re-formed 1488-1587 (2007)
John Guy, ‘My Heart is My Own’: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (2004)
Kristen Post Walton, Catholic Queen, Protestant Patriarchy: Mary Queen of Scots and the Politics of Gender and Religion (2007)


Course Structure

Semester 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Mary and her Biographers
  3. Mary and the Stewart Inheritance
  4. Henry VIII and Tudor Imperialism
  5. The Rough Wooing and the Invention of Britain
  6. Religion, Dynasticism and Identity
  7. Reading Week
  8. Scotland and France: The Auld Alliance
  9. Mary of Guise
  10. Mary Queen of France
  11. France, England and the Scottish Reformation

Semester 2

  1. 1561: The Return of the Queen
  2. Female Rule: The Knox Debate
  3. Debating the English Succession
  4. Two Darnley Marriage
  5. The Collapse of the Marian Regime
  6. Resistance to tyranny: Abdication or Deposition?
  7. King's Men and Queen's Men: The Marian Civil War 1568-73
  8. Plot and Counter-Plot: Mary in Captivity
  9. Trial and Execution
  10. Mary: monster or martyr?
  11. Revision
Assessment 60% examination - two 3-hour papers
40% coursework - 4 essays (c.3000 words); 1 gobbets test; oral assessment – 6 marks equally weighted)

Learning Outcomes

  • In depth knowledge of a critical period in British and European history
  • Understanding of the differences and continuities between past and present
  • Historiographical awareness and conceptual sophistication


Restrictions Available only to students in the second year of the Honours Programme. Anti-requisite: SC4114.