Marie R.

Mary Queen of Scots
and the Battle of Carberry Hill


Mary, Queen of Scots


James, Earl of Bothwell

Mary Queen of Scots and Carberry Hill

contemporary drawing

On a hot sunny day on Carberry Hill (a few miles east of Edinburgh) in June 1567, Queen Mary spent her last few hours of freedom. After the murder of Lord Darnley in February, many pointed at Bothwell as one of the conspirators responsible. This was never proved, and he was found not guilty at a subsequent trial. However suspicion remained. Bothwell was a rough and ruthless man, amusing and charming too, but had made many enemies. When, only months after Darnley's death, in May, Mary married the recently divorced Bothwell, many people in Scotland disapproved. Powerful men such as Maitland, Morton, Balfour and Murray of Tullibardine formed themselves into a confederation to oppose Bothwell, and if that meant opposing Mary too, then so be it. At 2 a.m. on Sunday the 15 June they marched out of Edinburgh with an army of supporters and took up position between Carberry Tower and Carberry Hill. Before them they held up a banner depicting the murdered Darnley with the legend: "Judge and avenge my cause, O Lord".

Illustration from a contemporary drawing of the Battle of Carberry Hill.

The banner mentioned above is held up by the footsoldier at the upper left. Bothwell is behind the four cannons, Mary is being led by three escorts towards the rebel camp. Carberry Tower is depicted right on the edge in the middle on the left-hand side.

Mary and Bothwell, who had spent their last night together at Seton Castle, took up position with their supporters on the higher ground of Carberry Hill. The sun was hot; some drank wine to assuage their thirst.

Lindsay and 'Archibald-the-Cat'

The two sides faced each other according to time-honoured chivalry, sending messengers across to each side with challenges to combat. There was much hesitation. Monsieur du Croc, the French ambassador, rode out from Edinburgh to mediate. He was deputed by the rebels to implore Mary to abandon Bothwell, and if she did so they would back down and submit to her. She resolutely refused. Challenges to personal combat were issued though none took place. Bothwell challenged Morton who delegated to Lindsay who girded his waist with his great sword called Archibald-the-Cat, handed down from his ancestors. But it all came to nothing. Mary's supporters began to drift away and by evening she realised that her cause was lost. She decided she would trust the rebels with the safe conduct of Bothwell if she gave herself up to them. She and Bothwell parted and he rode back to Dunbar.

When she rode into the rebel camp, she was shocked to find that they jeered at her, such had her popularity declined. She was led to Edinburgh and installed in the house of the provost, Simon Preston of Craigmillar, under guard. Thus began her captivity, first in Scotland, then in England, which was only to end with her execution 20 years later.