There’s Something About Mary, Queen of Scots: Part Six: The Mermaid and the Hare (with Allison Epstein)

In this week’s episode, Mary pays a visit to her baby son and then everything goes really badly.

Content warning SA: 1:08:10-1:09:29


Daughters of the North: Jean Gordon and Mary Queen of Scots by Jennifer Morag Henderson

Embroidering Her Truth: Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power by Clare Hunter

Homecoming: The Scottish Years of Mary Queen of Scots by Rosemary Goring

Mary Queen of Scots’ Secretary: William Maitland–Politician, Reformer, and Conspirator by Robert Stedell

Mary Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy

Mary Was Here: Where Mary Queen of Scots Went and What She Did There by Historic Scotland

Learn more about Allison Epstein and their books at and follow them on IG and Twitter @ rapscallison

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Vulgar History Podcast

There’s Something About Mary, Queen of Scots: Part Six: The Mermaid and the Hare (with Allison Epstein)

June 28, 2023

Ann: Hello? Hello, welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. My name is Ann Foster, and this is Part Six of our ongoing series within a series, There’s Something About Mary, Queen of Scots. And honestly, I’m not going to recap everything that’s come before because that’s, I don’t even know, 8 hours’ worth of content and you can hear that. [laughs] But what I do want to say is I do have a guest with me today and it is… the one, the only, Allison Epstein. 

Allison: Hello friends, I’m back. Excited for Part Six.

Ann: Yeah. You were saying this is a dip, a part of the story you’re less familiar with.

Allison: I’m very familiar with the Darnley of it all, and I’m very familiar with what’s going to happen in about 10 years, but this little bit right here, I’m not as familiar with, this is a gap in my research. So, I’m learning a lot of this alongside many of your listeners.

Ann: Yeah, and this is, what’s funny– Well, I’ll confide in you/all the listeners. So, when I was first going to do the Mary, Queen of Scots season I was like, “You know what? This will be low-key for me. I know this story, I’ve researched it before, this will not be time-consuming to put together.” Au contraire! [both laugh] There’s a lot of this story I didn’t actually know. So, when we get to parts I know I’m like, “Ah! I know this 2% of what’s happened here,” but there’s so much I didn’t know, so I’ve been learning a lot. When I was originally planning, I planned for four episodes.

Allison: LOL.

Ann: [laughs] I think somehow, I had imagined that the deaths of Rizzio and Darnley would all be contained in one, one-hour episode.

Allison: We spent four hours, I believe, five? Going through that.

Ann: Yeah, there’s a lot. We’re really taking this step by step. But also, a lot of what I’ve been learning, what I’m excited to tell people about are these little dips, like, parts where I didn’t exactly know what happened. When I looked at the past things I’ve written about this, I skimmed past these myself but in fact, stuff was always happening. And I’m really grateful for the books that I’ve been reading. [laughs] I feel confident now, on episode six, there are these three to four core biographies and I’m going through them piece by piece to get each chunk of the story, otherwise, it’s overwhelming. 

But I feel confident enough in my understanding of the story that when I read something that describes it in a certain way, I’m like, “Mm, that’s not how I take that.” I feel like I’ve got some hot takes, but they’re backed up with facts, I don’t know. Because there are going to be some parts, especially in this episode, where takes vary on why some people did the things they did. I’ll mention what the various theories are and then I’ll tell you which one I think, and you can tell everyone which one you think after I tell you all the theories. 

So, I’ll tell you all my sources, it’s a lot of similar ones but there’s one new one I haven’t mentioned before. So, I’ve referred to, as ever, Daughters of the North: Jean Gordon and Mary Queen of Scots by Jennifer Morag Henderson, Embroidering Her Truth: Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power by Clare Hunter, Homecoming: The Scottish Years of Mary Queen of Scots by Rosemary Goring. This is the new one I haven’t used as a source before, Mary Queen of Scots’ Secretary: William Maitland – Politician, Reformer, and Conspirator by Robert Stedell, and William Maitland is Scottish Machiavelli, AKA. Mary Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy and Mary was Here: Where Mary Queen of Scots Went and What she did There by Historic Scotland. 

I just have a little, I have a short, “previously on,” for you and me, because we last recorded a week ago and you know what, the listeners last heard this a week ago as well, presumably. So, previously on… Firstly, a group of, kind of, most of the asshole Scottish lords came together with two to three exceptions to sign a piece of paper saying, “We are going to kill Davie Rizzio,” and then they did but in the most convoluted, badly planned way. They did kill him, RIP Davie Rizzio, but Mary got power back from them but then basically, those same guys came together, they signed another document being like, “We’re going to all kill Darnley now,” and then they did. Again, it was weirdly complicated, he did die but it was a bad plan. 

What happened is that Darnley died, Mary was like, “Oh my god, can we investigate this? Who did this?” But unfortunately, the one person who she was trusting, who was also the Sheriff of Edinburgh was Bothwell, who was part of this conspiracy, the rest of the conspiracy was effectively the police department. So, their investigation was not going well, and she was like, “Why is this investigation not going well, why are you not finding who did this?” And they’re like, “It’s hard to say, too soon to tell.” There were posters, Allison, I think the posters were a big highlight for you last time.

Allison: Ann asked me where we left off and I said, “We left off with the tits out Starbucks mermaid and the rabbit and the circle of swords,” that was our last topic.

Ann: Yeah, so posters went up that were saying really subtle things like a picture of Bothwell’s face and the words, “Here is the murder of Darnley. This man murdered Darnley.” So, in terms of posters, he was really being thrown under the bus and it was like, every night, posters went up and they’d rip them all down, and then the next night, more posters. There was also maybe a ghost, or maybe a person dressed like a ghost wandering around being like, “Bothwell killed Darnley!” [Allison laughs] Another highlight of yours, I think.

Allison: Truly. I don’t remember, was it supposed to be the ghost of Darnley or just, a miscellaneous ghost who knew things?

Ann: I think just a miscellaneous ghost who knew things, but it could have been the ghost of Darnley.

Allison: I like it way better if it’s not. If it’s just like, “I’m a ghost and I know facts.” 

Ann: Yeah, just a freelance ghost with some facts to share. Oh yeah, because remember there were the two women, Mrs. Whoever and Mrs. Whoever and they were like, “They’re just silly women!” Where it’s like, “No, we saw these people do these things,” and they’re like, “Women…”

Allison: “We saw this man run away from the castle covered in gunpowder.” “That can’t be relevant to this case.”

Ann: “Doesn’t sound true at all.” So yeah, I think you had a theory that maybe it was one of them dressed up like a ghost being like, “Actually…” [laughs]

Allison: “I’m not a woman, I’m a ghooost.”

Ann: “Will you listen to me now?” And everyone paid more attention to the ghost apparently than the women. 

Anyway, so, I have a couple of updates. So since, I don’t know, it’s like we’re recording this, the episodes come out, it’s not simultaneous. But since the last episode I posted, I got a really interesting message from tits-out brigade member, Chloe Christina who is in Scotland and had information about Mary, Queen of Scots connection to where she lives. I will just say that one of Mary’s greatest legacies is to, perhaps, the contemporary Scottish tourism industry because she spent at least one night sleeping in, what seems like, every castle in that country. So, every castle can be like, “Mary, Queen of Scots once slept here!” Because she spent every summer going on progress, traveling around, visiting her constituents but then also, she was almost kidnapped and had to go on the run and so she stayed in various castles for those reasons as well. 

So, where Chloe Christina lives is near Cumbernauld Castle. Mary visited this place in January 1562, so that was just a few months after she arrived in Scotland, that previous summer, so January was her first progress around Scotland, I guess. Anyway, here’s why that’s notable. While she was staying there, she and all of her entourage, mostly, went out hunting – which was one of her great things, she loved horseback riding, and she loved hunting. While they were away, the whole Great Hall of this castle collapsed, there was an architectural failure [laughs] and seven to eight men were killed. Mary herself was not hurt because she was off hunting at the time but just in terms of, how many crises can one life have?

Allison: I bet you at that point she’s just like, “Another castle has imploded and/or exploded while I was supposed to be inside it? What is happening?”

Ann: Yeah. So, here’s where she’s just like, I want to say she’s genuinely kind to people and she also knows that this is helpful to her in a very smart way. So, she herself was not hurt but she went to visit, she paid condolences to the relatives of those who were injured or killed in the village below, big, like, Princess Diana-type vibes of, like, yes this is good for your reputation and also, not everyone would do this, and it makes people like her. One of her superpowers is that the everyday people of Scotland were like, “Oh, we like her.” So, she went to pay respects to them and then she also planted a yew tree at a nearby castle that’s called, charmingly, Castlecary Castle.

Allison: That’s adorable. [laughs]

Ann: When I saw that, I was like, “That must be a typo, I must have typed that wrong.” No, it’s called Castlecary Castle. Anyway, that tree still grows there. So, if you’re keeping track, that’s the second tree we know of that she allegedly planted that is still growing. If, whenever I’m able to get to Scotland and just pay tribute to… When I go there for the five years it would take to visit every castle she also visited, I’d like to visit these trees because that’s a tangible thing, she planted it and it’s still there. 

Another update is from– This is one I sought out actually. So, do you remember Allison, in one of the previous episodes, Mary had that horrific health incident where she went into a coma, and it seemed like she was going to die?

Allison: Yes.

Ann: And then the doctor wrapped her up like a mummy, massaged her limbs, forced wine down her throat, and gave her an enema?

Allison: I remember that part, yeah.

Ann: And for some reason that helped her. So, I asked my friend Dagmar, who is a physician, and I’m like, “Tell me about gastric ulcers and why do you think this helped? Here are her symptoms and here’s what the doctor did.” So, she’s like, yeah, for sure that sounds like a gastric ulcer, that’s what the symptoms are. The treatment nowadays offers a surgical procedure, IV fluids, and medications to help the ulcer heal. So, I asked her, “The doctor did this, this and this. Why do you think that helped?” And she’s like, “Well, the funneled wine wouldn’t have been great for the ulcer because alcohol would interfere with its healing, but it was probably the better way to give her fluids as the drinking water may have been unclean.” You know what? Fair. How many people died of dysentery because of the water?

Allison: Yeah, I think in this era in London, they drank weak beer and wine instead of water because the water was consistently so bad. So, I’m sure this was their…

Ann: Yeah, it’s more like, here are some fluids, the fluid I have to give you is wine. “The wrapping and the massage may have helped her feel better but wouldn’t have helped the ulcer. The enema may have also helped because she could absorb more fluid through her colon. She would have needed fluids to replace all that she was…” Because she was, like, vomiting, I forget what it said, she vomited blood 50 times in a row or something. So, “She needed fluids to replace all that she was vomiting and bleeding to help keep her volume up and the blood pressure okay. So, it was likely time and her own body that took care of the majority of her recovery.” So basically, this doctor gave her fluids, which you know what, not every doctor would have.

Allison: He didn’t actively bleed her with leeches so, like, props to this guy.

Ann: I was going to say, yeah, he didn’t remove fluids. And then I asked, because Mary, as we go further into this story, she had this situation very recently to this story, I don’t have a timeline in front of me, but it was like, she married Darnley, she had this near-death experience with a gastric ulcer, Darnley was murdered. These things happened over the course of less than a year. No, it’s like, she had a baby, she had the gastric ulcer, Darnley was murdered…

Allison: And Rizzio was murdered while she was pregnant. So, like, there’s a lot going on.

Ann: Yeah exactly. And she already had chronic illness she was dealing with. And from now on she has various other symptoms so I asked Dagmar what other effects she might have had from this gastric ulcer experience. So, Dagmar said, “She could have developed an abscess, a collection of fluid or pus and after the infection died down, that could cause chronic pain,” which it did, “Or bands of tissue in her abdomen called adhesions could stick to her bowel and abdominal wall and cause bowel obstruction and chronic abdominal pain.” And from now on in this story, she will at times have horrible pain in her side. She would always say, “It’s in my side.” “Since the ulcers wouldn’t have been treated, she could also have chronic pain from recurring gastric ulcers.” 

So, yeah, I was happy to get that medical information because some of the sources are like, “Oh, this woman, always complaining.” It’s like… my friend, she has serious ongoing medical disastrous things happening to her. Also, in terms of having the baby, it was a traumatic birth, it was an uneasy birth, and she’s not even a year out from that.

Allison: And that very much has not changed since the 1560s, that women in pain are still not believed in the medical institutions. Of course, she’s in pain, she’s not just saying this to be a whiner.

Ann: No. And of course, this will affect her mood, this will affect how much she sleeps, this affects her decision-making process, and all these things. People are like, “Oh Mary, she’s so flighty,” this is what some people say about her. It’s like, the fact that she gets out of bed every morning is impressive.

Allison: The fact that she did as well as she did, being in this much pain, and then you look at what happened to Henry VIII after he got an ulcer… Like, come on.

Ann: Yeah, I know! Anyway, so this is what’s happening with her physiologically. So, that all happened about 6 to 7 months before what we’re talking about today, that was when she had the gastric ulcer situation. She also has, as we discussed, porphyria or something like that which gets triggered when she– by various things, when she’s upset, like, when her best friend is murdered in front of her.

Allison: When her castle explodes, when she’s right next to it, et cetera. 

Ann: Yeah. And then she also has… People write down, “She did this, she did this,” which is really interesting and actually useful because people would be like, “Here are the symptoms we’re seeing,” they didn’t know what it was. But now we can be like, “Okay, when she’s stressed out, she has trouble eating, and when she doesn’t eat enough then her porphyria triggers, and then that causes gastrointestinal problems.” We see this sequence play out over and over and over. And porphyria is also the thing that, potentially, George had from, who is he? George III from Queen Charlotte. Queen Charlotte, the Netflix series, and also, history. Which also causes some mental illness things because it affects your brain. So, this is the sequence: something happens, Mary doesn’t eat well, her porphyria is triggered and that includes her having, sort of, I don’t know, she just starts being incredibly depressed to the point of suicidal ideation.

Allison: It showed up in George more as a mania sort of thing, but in her, it’s really, really deep depression. 

Ann: Exactly, exactly. I would presume, by this point, she also is living with PTSD from having seen her friend murdered in front of her, and being betrayed by everyone she knows.

Allison: I think she probably had PTSD from being kidnapped so many times as a baby, there’s a lot.

Ann: Honestly, ages 0 to 5, she was constantly on the run.

Allison: The whole Stuart dynasty has PTSD from all the baby kidnappings.

Ann: Yeah, honestly. That’s why there’s this whole family in this story, the Hamiltons, there’s Arran Junior and Senior. So, the Hamiltons are the illegitimate children of one of the King James’ at some point. That’s the family because there were like, six baby kings in a row, and the Hamiltons were always the regent for those baby kings. There’s so much fucked up stuff happening, so many people being killed and kidnapped that there’s an official family in charge of being the regent and has been for six generations.

Allison: For the next time the baby king gets kidnapped, you guys will be in charge.

Ann: And bear in mind, they’re on the scene as well, here, still, in this story. Anyway, so that’s where she is at. We’re going to be talking about what happens and what she does but she’s just, I’m going to say, mentally checked out for a lot of this, for reasons I just explained. She’s not at her usual level of 15/10 scheminess, she’s just like, in a fugue state of shock/medical crises at the moment. 

So, all this stuff happened, her husband was killed. She still, understandably, assumes that that assassination attempt wanted to kill her but only failed because she went off to her friend’s wedding, which we know now is not true, but she didn’t know then. She’s just like, “Everyone around me is betraying me and just tried to murder me.” So, she’s just not able to be in charge of the country and do her queen shit at the moment because of everything I just described. 

But someone needs to be in charge so the one person, the one person she’s like, “I can trust in this world” is Bothwell. She saved herself but then he helped out during the Davie Rizzio situation, remember, he was one of the people who helped lead the army. So, she believes that the Darnley murder was actually, someone wanting to kill him and also her, and people are like, “We think Bothwell did it,” but she’s like, “No, because Bothwell would never kill me, he’s so loyal to me.” It was a murder just of Darnley and Bothwell was heavily involved. Anyway, but that’s who she’s kind of leaving in charge right now because she can’t, she just needs a holiday, some time off, yeah, she just needs to get away from it all. 

I also wanted to bring up, we’ve mentioned him before but in my subsequent reading, I learned a lot more about… So, William Cecil, Allison, he is running the show but what’s his actual job? Can you remind me?

Allison: I want to say, at least later, I’m not sure if he is right now but later, he is the Royal Treasurer so he’s in charge of the money for Elizabeth. He may be serving as Secretary of State also at this point, my timeline is a little shaky on privy council elections of the late 1560s but he’s very, very high up in her privy council.

Ann: Yeah, for Elizabeth. So, here’s what I want to say, if you’re listening to this episode, episode six of this miniseries, then by now I assume you’re okay with the fact that there are a lot of men in this story and I don’t care enough, I can’t bring myself to learn any more about them than I did, the bare minimum. So, I don’t know what his job is, but I know he’s basically running things in England. Elizabeth may or may not know that he is, but he is. 

So, he is the mastermind of everything. This was in the biography of Mary, Queen of Scots’ Secretary, the biography of Scottish Machiavelli, a book I picked up to learn more about him, and he mentioned some facts that I hadn’t seen in any other books. So, William Cecil kept amazing records. All these things, last time we were talking it was like, William Cecil had a copy of the “Let’s all kill Darnley,” contract. “Let’s all kill Rizzio,” he had that contract. He had the drawing, the famous drawing we went into in great detail last time of Darnley’s murder. I don’t, I just picture oldy-time filing cabinets of some sort. So, he had receipts of everything. He also kept kind of his own, “Memo to myself.” 

So, two years before Mary even arrived in Scotland, I think before Francis even died, she was in France being a teenager, thinking that’s what her life was going to be. Cecil was like, “Memo to myself, to-do list.” And on it, he basically said “Destabilize things in Scotland so that Mary resigns so I can put a puppet in place and then England can take over Scotland: To do.”

Allison: Note that down.

Ann: Yeah. And basically, everything he did, from that point on, was with that aim. People kept betraying Mary, but she kept fighting back, doing amazing, like, there was the Chaseabout Raids against her brother, and then when the assholes rose up against her on the Davie Rizzio murder, she kept winning and Cecil is just like, “That’s annoying to me, Cecil.” But big picture, what he wanted was to destabilize things in Scotland, make it such a chaos nightmare that she would eventually step down, she would abdicate, and stop being queen so he could put someone there who he could control. 

And everyone’s constantly changing teams. We’ve been through that a million times already. With Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, it’s like, now he’s helping Mary, now she’s fighting him, now he’s on her side again. Even Scottish Machiavelli is just like, what side is who on? So, Cecil is on and off supporting various people. He’s working with, you will recall, councillor Jeremy Jam from Parks and Recreation is here, Scottish Machiavelli is there, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart is pretty consistently working with Cecil because he, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, wants to become the regent, he wants to take over, and Cecil is cool with him doing that because he’s a Protestant and a man and a himbo who Cecil can control.

Allison: And I did double-check, Cecil is Secretary of State at this point so he’s in charge of foreign relations, which is why he is very much like, “I’m going to manage Scotland.” He becomes treasurer in, like, five years and when you’re in charge of money you’re also still very in charge of foreign relations. He keeps messing with things, but this is technically in his job description at this point.

Ann: Yes, doing foreign relations. For sure. So, Scotland being a major foreign relation he wants… He’s just slowly waiting for Scotland to just, like, rip itself apart, which it is doing, and feels like it maybe would have been doing without his help but the stuff he did actively made that happen faster. For instance, you remember the Douglases, do you remember their war cry?

Allison: A Douglas! A Douglas!

Ann: Yes. Yeah, I know, every time I write Douglas in my notes, I’m like, “The Douglases. A Douglas! A Douglas!” I have a friend who is in Glasgow, and I was like, “Do you know anyone with the last name Douglas?” because I believe they lived around Glasgow, and she’s like, “Oh yeah, there are a few people I know with the last name.” And I’m like, “Do they ever say, ‘A Douglas!’?” In the university classroom, apparently not.

Allison: It’s a shame. I just think of the guy I used to work with whose name was Doug. Now I want to see him in the hall and be like, “A Douglas! A Douglas!” But I don’t think he’d think that was funny.

Ann: Yeah, but if a tits-out brigade member was around, they’d think it was funny.

Allison: I’d get one laugh.

Ann: So, the Douglases were instrumental in the murder of Darnley. Remember when Darnley was murdered, one of those two women who nobody believed, heard Darnley say, “My kinsman, why are you doing this?” Darnley basically was like, “A Douglas! A Douglas!” pointing at them. So, the Douglases had been involved in the Davie Rizzio murder, so Mary understandably exiled them and kicked them out of Scotland. But then Cecil got his goons to get in her ear and manipulate her into bringing them back. And the Douglases were still mad at Darnley for betraying them, that’s why Darnley’s house was exploded, basically. So, that was Cecil, he knew that if he got the Douglases back in Scotland, something would happen, and it did. So, Cecil didn’t sign that document being like, “We’re going to kill Darnley,” but he led to that happening by manipulating Mary into letting the Douglases back. 

Allison: Let’s get some little mischievous traitors into this country and see what kind of mischief they can start.

Ann: Because he just wants things to be destabilized, he just wants things to be chaos, which they are.

Allison: And I love him and his approach because he’s not doing a single thing himself, he’s just like, “Let’s let them do this to themselves, I will watch, I will twiddle the knobs here to make sure everything is calibrated but then you guys just go. Have fun destabilizing your own country.” It’s very devious.

Ann: Here’s what’s funny. So, William Cecil as I picture him, in the Cate Blanchett Elizabeth movie, he’s played by Sir Richard Attenborough, the old Santa Claus-looking man from the Miracle on 34th Street remake. But also, he plays the guy who invented Jurassic Park in the first Jurassic Park.

Allison: I was going to say, that’s the Jurassic Park man Ann. [laughs]

Ann: No, I know. I was just explaining why I call him the Santa Claus-looking guy. But yeah, he’s from Jurassic Park. So, at first, I was like, “Man, I can’t believe William Cecil is so evil because he’s played by Sir Richard Attenborough from Jurassic Park.” And then I was like, “No! That’s just what his character did in Jurassic Park! He invented Jurassic Park.” [laughs]

Allison: He is to blame for Jurassic Park! 

Ann: The whole reason why that all happened is because he set this thing up and then the dinosaurs did dinosaur shit so it’s actually a consistent… So, anyway, it does work if you picture him as the Jurassic Park guy just being like, “Let’s just like, put some velociraptors over there. I don’t know what’s going to happen but maybe they’re going to kill some people.” 

Anyway, William Cecil has been hard at work, at this point for something like 6 to 7 years, trying to make Scotland such a disaster that Mary is forced out of it, but she is too good at this shit, and she keeps winning. And as we discussed last time, the reason why she is so successful is that the people of Scotland love her. They see she’s cool, she’s tall, she has outfits, she has this bright red hair…

Allison: She crimps it.

Ann: Her hair is crimped all the time by one of her Marys, and she goes around the country every summer, she’s always going around meeting people in a genuine way so they’re like, “That’s our queen, we support her. She took the trouble to meet us, great.” That’s what politicians still do today, they go around door-knocking or whatever. So, one of the reasons why she keeps winning is that the people of Scotland always have her back. So, William Cecil is like, “Okay, so how can I make the people of Scotland hate her? Because if she didn’t have them, what does she have?” 

So, he’s like, “What we’re going to do, is what if we make it seem like she was responsible for Darnley’s murder?” I’m just picturing him monologuing in some sort of tower room with some person being like, “But what will we do, William Cecil?” I think I’m picturing Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. So, he’s like, “I need to make it seem like Mary was responsible for Darnley’s murder and how do we do that? What if we make it seem like it’s a crime of passion?” That’s her husband and everyone knew that she hated him, “So, what if we pretend like she was having an affair with someone and then that person, they killed Darnley so she could be with this new guy?” And then it’s like, “Well, she’s spending all this time with Bothwell, and she keeps not turning on Bothwell, so what if we pretend like she was in love with Bothwell, the two of them were together to kill Darnley so that they could get married.”

Allison: I do have to say, that is a compelling story because, in my heart, I want to believe it. I know the facts do not necessarily support that Mary was in on the murder of Darnley but god, I wish she was! I wish she looked at this man and was like, “Absolutely not, we have to blow up his house because I just cannot deal with him anymore.” And props to Cecil for being like, “This is the story that’s going to make people, for hundreds of years, be on my side for this.” It’s massively controlling the narrative, it’s great.

Ann: Exactly. And he started this narrative at this time, right after Darnley’s murder and this is part of why, presumably, we still don’t know who made the posters, but whoever commissioned the posters knew Cecil’s plan– Because the posters were like, “Mary and Bothwell were having an affair. Bothwell killed Darnley.” These were connecting the dots so people would start getting this in their head that that was what had happened. 

Allison: I have a conspiracy theory for you. Has anyone ever compared the drawing style on the posters to the drawing style of Cecil’s guy doing that portrait of Darnley dying in the garden? Do you think maybe it was the same artist? Do you think we could tell?

Ann: I don’t know but what I do know is that when I was looking over stuff, I was like, “Who did that drawing?” And no one knows who did that drawing, no one knows who did that big graphic novel-type, one image of Darnley’s death. It’s a very famous image but the name of the artist is unknown. Name of the mermaid poster artist is also unknown. So, how many freelance artists are running around with the skill to draw a tits-out mermaid holding a sea anemone over a hare, and a circle of daggers? I don’t know. Who’s to say? I think you could compare because the mermaid poster did have letters, it had her initials and Bothwell’s initials. And then the other poster has little baby Prince James being like, “Oh avenge me, oh Lord!” So, there is writing on both, so you could do a handwriting analysis. 

Allison: I’ll call up the Folger Shakespeare Library and see if they’ll do some research for me.

Ann: Yeah, for sure. I’ll see if I can get a grant to go there myself. Anyway, so this is what he’s doing, he wants people to turn against Mary so he’s spreading these rumours being like, “Mary is in love with Bothwell, this was a crime of passion, this is who killed Darnley.” But the people of Scotland turned against Bothwell but not against Mary because she’s the Queen and they love her. So, he’s like, “Okay, how can I make these people hate Mary? They hate Bothwell but they’re not buying into this whole thing that she was involved with the murder, that she was in love with Bothwell.” 

Allison: I’m just imagining Cecil standing in front of a big old-timey whiteboard that’s got, “Ways to make Scotland hate Mary.” And the list is like, “Kills Darnley, kicks puppies, spends all of the money, puts ketchup on her hotdogs.” I can’t imagine what he’s going through… 

Ann: I don’t know. “Get her to somehow insinuate that haggis is not delicious. Have her, I don’t know, throw bagpipes out a window.”

Allison: “Wear a brown suit to the airport.” I don’t know, there are lots of options.

Ann: So, what he lands on, from that whiteboard list is, “We need to make her marry Bothwell because that will just ruin her reputation.” Firstly, because Darnley died two minutes ago and you’re supposed to be in mourning for 40 days in a dark room, let alone get married right away. But also, if that would just really definitively cement his narrative that she was in love with Bothwell, they worked together to kill Darnley and the proof of it is, “Look, now they’re married to each other.” So, that’s, I don’t think we’re going to mention Cecil again in this episode but just know that everything that happens is because of him and his whiteboard coming up with that plan. 

So, several things stood in the way of Cecil’s scheme to make Mary get married to Bothwell like the fact that Bothwell was already married to someone else. Remember a few episodes ago, Mary, queen of matchmaking, she matchmade, she personally decided who he would marry. She married Bothwell to a woman named Jean Gordon, Jean Gordon is the daughter of Cock o’ the North, George Gordon. 

Allison: Was Bothwell not already also married before he was married to Jean Gordon?

Ann: Oh yes. But we’re just going one wife at a time.

Allison: He’s already double married so… [laughs]

Ann: There are levels of marriages. So, legally recognized in Scotland, this is one of the marriages. So, Mary had married Bothwell to Jean Gordon and when she did that – and this is described by Jennifer Morag Henderson in her book about Jean Gordon – she explains how that was a really politically savvy thing Mary did because when she did, that was at a point when Mary really needed to solidify who was supporting her and the two big Scottish groups supporting her were the Gordons, Cock o’ the North’s family in the Highlands, and then Bothwell’s family, the Hepburns, in the border area. So, by marrying these two together, she made a literal alliance of people who would support her, so it was a very politically savvy thing to do.

Allison: Because she loves a wedding and she loves a politically savvy wedding, even the bad ones, on paper, they all look good.

Ann: Yeah. And this made total sense, the timing of it, it made all the sense in the world. So, in terms of, “Let’s get Bothwell to marry Mary,” he’s married to Jean Gordon, a marriage Mary, Queen of Scots herself arranged so it’s like, was she secretly in love with him? Why would she do that then? She attended the wedding; she provided the wedding dress. Oh, which actually, I just got, I think I said in the episode where I talked about the Jean Gordon-Bothwell wedding, that Mary gave a silver dress to Jean Gordon, and it’s literally a silver dress; it’s a dress that was woven through with actual silver fibres, which is quite a thing. 

But even if Bothwell hadn’t been married to Jean Gordon, he was also married to someone else already, which was a Norwegian woman, in Denmark, which is why I get confused about where she’s from. So, the woman is Anna Throndsen, which is… I’m saying [phonetic] Ahna, because I imagine it’s like Anna and Elsa from Frozen because that’s my main understanding of Scandinavian historical culture. And she’s AKA Skottefruen, which means The Scottish Lady in, I believe, either Danish or Norwegian, I forget. Anna Throndsen: citizen of the world. So, people call her Skottefruen. And I asked a tits out brigade member who is, I forget if she was in Denmark or her boyfriend was in Denmark, I was just like, “Red alert! Is anyone in Denmark?” And she’s like, “Hey, what’s up?” And I was like, “Do people in Denmark know about Anna Throndsen AKA Skottefruen?” And she was like, “No.”

Allison: [laughs] You’re like, “Thanks for the confirmation, appreciate that.”

Ann: But maybe people in Scotland call her that. Anyway, so she’s Anna Throndsen. So, here’s her deal, she was the daughter of some admiral or something, she wasn’t just some peasant-rando, she had connections and stuff. She also is always described as Spanish-looking, which basically means she had dark hair.

Allison: A real Lola Montez kind of lady. [laughs]

Ann: Exactly, exactly but she was Danish and/or Norwegian. So, her family was very powerful in Norway, but she was in Denmark because I think her father was there for Navy business. Bothwell was in Denmark, they met in Denmark. He is from Scotland, she’s from Norway and they got together. They were married but it was in what’s called handfasting which is, kind of like…

Allison: You do it yourselves, basically. You’re like, “I promise to marry you, you promise to marry me,” there’s not necessarily a priest present but because you both believe in your hearts that you’re married, it counts as marriage.

Ann: Exactly. So, this is legally binding in Denmark and Norway but not in Scotland. 

Allison: I’m going to guess it’s legally binding in Protestant countries more than it is in Catholic ones who need priests to, like, moderate things more heavily, but don’t quote me on that.

Ann: Yeah. So exactly. And Bothwell, this is very actually important, he is Protestant. So anyway, he went to Denmark, and handfasted with Anna Throndsen, the Skottefruen, she had a baby and he abandoned her, he went back to Scotland. She followed him back to Scotland.

Allison: I really like her. I’ve never heard of her before, but Anna seems dope, good for her.

Ann: Just wait, no spoilers, for the end of this episode and what Anna does because we’re going to follow up with Anna. Anyway, she followed him to Scotland to be like, “Hey remember me? I’m your wife.” 

Allison: “This is your child.”

Ann: “This is your child.” He’s like, “Mmm.” So, he set her up to live in a house with his mom, down, I guess, the border is where his family is. So, she was living with his mom and the child but he’s just like, “That’s my mistress, my ex-mistress. It’s not a wife, don’t worry about it. I can totally marry Jean Gordon for political reasons.” So, she was writing him letters being like, “Please come back to me,” from the mother’s house, she was writing him love letters, basically, being like, “Please come back to me,” et cetera.

Allison: Probably also money letters like, “Please come back, support your child. That would be helpful for me.”

Ann: The third level of Bothwell’s wives is third. So, even if he handfasted to Anna and hadn’t also literally been married to Jean Gordon, he had previously been promised to a Scottish noblewoman named Janet Beaton. So, we’ve seen from like Henry VIII and stuff, even having a previous promise can mean your later marriage is invalid, that whole thing. So, he had been promised to this woman named Janet Beaton and he was actively still lovers with her. Had he just been married to Jean Gordon for less than a year? Yes. He is a fuckboy, is his way.

Allison: I think that’s our reveal on this episode. [laughs]

Ann: At this point, all we know about him is he’s a player.

Allison: Yeah. Fuckboy in the very literal sense of a boy who fucks, he is that.

Ann: That’s all, well, 30 seconds from now there will be another reveal. But he’s a man who actively has basically three wives. And Cecil is like, “Here’s what I want to do, get him to marry Mary.” And then you can picture him on his whiteboard writing the names of the three wives being like, “Okay, how can we disentangle him from each of these wives so he can marry Mary?”

Allison: Remember the scene at the beginning of Lady Jane where they’re writing out the family tree from Henry VIII and the three sisters and they draw one big old line through Margaret Tudor? Like, “Nope not this one.” I imagine him doing the same thing just like Jean Gordon, “Nope absolutely not, nope absolutely not.”

Ann: Yeah, these are not insurmountable, the three wives he has already. But also, William Cecil was like, “I want to marry Bothwell to Mary because that will ruin Mary’s reputation,” basically. But what’s the incentive, why would Bothwell want to marry Mary? He has a wife, he has two mistresses, he’s also sleeping with one of the servants; his sexual needs are being met. But also, she is, as we mentioned, just checked out for the time being, she’s on a mental health leave and so he’s sort of acting monarch. He mostly had full control of everything in Scotland. He wasn’t literally the king, but he had so much power and influence because he was ruling in her place because he was the only person she trusted.

Allison: Sort of de facto regent at this point, even though she’s very much still the queen.

Ann: Exactly, exactly. So, why would he want this? The thing is, he wants power. Cecil is easy, he’s just skilled at finding, how do we manipulate who? What’s the thing they most want? And Bothwell was just, a basic ass bitch, he just wanted more power.

Allison: Darnley was sex and Bothwell was power. Both very simple people.

Ann: They really are, as much as both of them probably thought they were really complicated, interesting people. Also, the thing is that Bothwell is very easy to manipulate because once you figure out what somebody wants, and you start telling them things… He was getting carried away with how much power he got so it was easy to lean into that. 

So, William Cecil got Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, Scottish Machiavelli, and Jeremy Jam from Parks and Recreation to be like, “Hey Bothwell, maybe you should divorce Jean and marry Mary, Queen of Scots, maybe that would be a good idea. You’re basically the king already, maybe you should do that.” And he was like, “Maybe I should do that!” 

So, I’m going to just tell you a bit more about Bothwell as a person. So, the thing about Bothwell as a person is that everyone hates him and always had hated him. Darnley came to town, and everyone realized quickly, “Oh, he sucks,” and then they hated him but Bothwell from minute one, everyone already hated him,

Allison: His reputation preceded him into the room.

Ann: It’s not even his reputation. It’s because he’s like, “I’m not #LikeOtherAssholes, I’m not like the other lords. My family is different.” So, he never tried to be accepted by them, he wanted to be an outsider. That’s where he derived his power and personality from, just being like, “I’m not like the other guys.” So, he really, and this is because I have been listening a lot lately to a podcast called Newbie Star Trek, where people watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is a really good podcast, by the way. So, I’ve just been thinking a lot of like, he’s like a Klingon from Star Trek. He’s very much just like, “Honour!” He feels like everything can be sorted out with a sword duel. He’s like, “No more talking, everything is duels, let’s just do duels all the time.” It’s a really, sort of, old-fashioned, not chivalry thing but old-fashioned knight-era thing, a very medieval thing where he’s like, “I am the one person with ethics in this situation, everyone else is just talking and having committees and I’m just like, no, we should just fight!”

Allison: I’m getting, like, Sir Lancelot vibes from this and I also hate Sir Lancelot so that all tracks. “I am the only moral person, man of action in this room and everybody else is kind of…” Also, I’m sorry I’m not Lana for this episode for your Star Trek references.

Ann: It’s fine. People who get the Klingons are like, “Oh yes, he’s like Worf, got it.” So, he’s really like, laws don’t apply to him because he himself knows what’s right to do all the time, sort of thing. And this sort of code of ethics lifestyle was not as uncommon in continental Europe and in Ireland, but in Scotland and England they were like, “No, let’s have a committee meeting and talk this through and sign paperwork.” 

Allison: And Bothwell’s over there like, “This could have been an email!”

Ann: Exactly, he’s like, “This could have been a duel!” is where he’s coming from.

Just to remind you as well, because this is also pertinent, so his dad, Patrick Hepburn, it’s funny actually, speaking of Hepburn, at the point that only one episode of this series had come out, I had several people mention to me, they like how much I mention that my cat Hepburn is not related to the Hepburn family. So, I’m like, “I must have said that a lot of times.”

Allison: [laughs] Just want to be extra sure that people know Hepburn is not to blame for what happens, she’s a perfect angel.

Ann: And Hepburn is also not named after anyone in this story, she’s named after Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn, the actresses, who perhaps were descended from the Hepburns of the border region of Scotland. But anyway, the Hepburn family vibe is so different from my Hepburn’s vibe, I just really want to be clear about it. 

Allison: Hepburn, Ann’s Hepburn, would never have three secret wives. Never.

Ann: No. She would never, she would never. So, at one point, his dad had wanted to marry Mary’s mother, Marie de Guise, at one point in this story.

Allison: Because who wouldn’t? I would like to marry Marie de Guise.

Ann: Oh no, everybody did, people were falling out of trees being like, “Please Marie de Guise, you’re so tall, you’re so smart, you’re so capable.” Like, of course. But he was married, Patrick Hepburn was married to Bothwell’s mother.

Allison: Honestly, I am surprised, knowing this family.

Ann: Yeah. And this is kind of where it’s, like… So, it’s a family tradition that one wife not getting in the way of you getting another wife is sort of like, “Well, laws don’t apply to me, including the laws of bigamy because we’re just these Klingon guys.” So, in fact, he abandoned his wife and used his influence in the Catholic Church to get an annulment from her, but asterisk, not making his children illegitimate because he wanted Bothwell to still inherit, and Marie de Guise was just like, “What are you doing? Of course, I’m not going to marry you.” There was a thing a while ago, I forget, it was like Jonathan Franzen or somebody, left his wife to be with Natalie Portman, and Natalie Portman was like, “I’ve never met you, bro.”

Allison: That can’t have been Jonathan Franzen… hang on.

Ann: Someone like that. Some literary author like that but there’s something where he had a whole thing where he thought that he was going to be with Natalie Portman. 

Allison: Jonathan Safran Foer. 

Ann: Jonathan Safran Foer, thank you, one of the Jonathan authors.

Allison: The other Jonathan. I was like, that doesn’t sound like the Jonathan Franzen I know and have strong opinions about.

Ann: Jonathan Safran Foer. But yeah, didn’t he do that? He, like, thought Natalie Portman wanted to be with him but he never actually asked Natalie Portman, “Do you want to be with me?”

Allison: And of course she didn’t, she’s Natalie Portman. What are you doing man?

Ann: It’s like Marie de Guise. So, this guy left his wife, did all this stuff with the Catholic church to get an annulment to be with Marie de Guise and she’s like, “I don’t… that’s not happening, what are you even doing?” So, that’s his dad. 

Bothwell himself was 7 years older than Mary and he had this reputation as a daring do, sort of like, freelance mercenary, knight, pirate-esque vibes, he would just blow into town and be like, “It’s Bothwell, worldly and cosmopolitan.”

Allison: Have you ever seen Blackadder, Ann? Am I getting Lord Flashheart, a little bit, from Bothwell? Yes. You come in dick first, slashing your sword around, you’re like, “What up? I’m here to fuck things up and fuck somebody,” and then he sashays away.

Ann: That’s 100% it, to the point that I will put a picture of him when I post this on Instagram. [Alie laughs] So, Bothwell was like, short, but who is not short compared to Mary, Queen of Scots, who is six feet tall. He had dark hair, and what is described as a mustache in the “French manner.”

Allison: Which I’m imagining is like Kenneth Branagh or Hercule Poirot, off to the sides, yes.

Ann: Later in this story, he does grow a beard, which for a man, I think, is like somebody getting bangs. Like, “Oh, he’s in his beard era.” [laughs] Anyway, so one guy who met him described him as a “Vein, glorious rash and hazardous young man.”

Allison: I thought you were going to stop halfway through the sentence and just call him a “Vein, glorious rash,” which is the sickest burn I’ve ever heard. [laughs]

Ann: That is good. The other thing about him that’s also, everyone knew, is that he hated England; he was Anglophobic. He hated, which is interesting because his family lives right on the border with England, but he and his family hate England, that’s their defining feature and this is part of why William Cecil knew that he could never buy him off. William Cecil is like, “I could never use him, he’ll never work for me, so I guess he’ll just be a convenient scapegoat.” 

He was also a longstanding personal enemy of Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart because at one point, during the period, so before Mary, Queen of Scots was there, but when Marie de Guise was still there, after Marie de Guise was just like, “Bro, I’m not going to marry you. Have we even met? Who are you even?” So, the assholes were trying to usurp power from Marie de Guise; John Knox, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart were all teaming up together to try to get rid of her as regent. Cecil was sending some money to support them in their quest but Bothwell, maybe because he’s on the border, just grabbed the money and ran. Literally, it was like £1,000 worth of gold coins, he’s just like “Yoink!” and just took it. So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart took that personally because that money had been meant for him, all the other Protestants were also mad about that, and this is part of why everyone hates Bothwell because he just is out for himself all the time. At one point, he was expelled from Edinburgh for starting too many duels. 

Allison: [laughs] You love to hate this guy, for that reason. He has a consistent personality.

Ann: And I feel like getting kicked out of Edinburgh for starting too many duels is on par with when Lola Montez was expelled from Poland. A Polish listener was like, “Do you know what you need to do to be expelled from Poland?”

Allison: That was when she was expelled from Warsaw for undisclosed reasons, something just went wrong in Warsaw, yes. This is not a Lola Montez recap show but I have to bring her up every time she… [laughs]

Ann: No, it’s like being exiled from Las Vegas for, like, playing cards too much. How much do you need to, okay… anyway, he’s starting too many duels. Then this thing happened, we talked about in a previous episode, Bothwell got in a fight with Arran Junior, a duel, one might say. And then Arran Junior said, he claimed that Bothwell had wanted him, Arran Junior, to help kidnap Mary and force her to marry him. And everyone’s like, “Oh Arran Junior, you’re insane.” But it’s like, but is he?

Allison: The two old ladies from Darnley’s murder are just like, “We’ve been here before Arran Junior, no one listens.”

Ann: Exactly. So, both men were thrown in jail for treason, Bothwell escaped from jail because, like, in the Bushrangers episode, jails don’t have walls or ceilings apparently. So, that all happened before this, this is all before this but just bear in mind that Bothwell’s dad annulled his marriage to try and marry Marie de Guise, Bothwell himself allegedly had wanted to kidnap Mary earlier on perhaps. “Various things happened,” that’s what my note says, “Various things happened.” 

Mary started to become more anti-English and she started to think, “That Bothwell guy, he hates England and he’s like a chaos agent but if he’s a weapon working on my side, that could work.” So, Bothwell at this point when Mary is like, “Let’s call that guy Bothwell back to town, I know he was banished for starting too many duels, but I could use him.” At this point, Bothwell had escaped from jail, he was actively shipwrecked, he had been driven by a violent storm while en route to France, captured, taken by the English, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. So, Mary wrote to Elizabeth to demand his return, I would say request his return, but demand is apparently what she did. Elizabeth was like, “Mmm, we’ll think about it.” Eventually, Bothwell was released on parole, and the English ambassador to Scotland wrote, “Lock up your wives and daughters.”

Allison: [laughs] That’s a direct quote from Six the Musical, god bless. [laughs]

Ann: Yeah, yeah. So, he’s back on the scene.

Allison: He’s ready to fuck shit up.

Ann: Yeah, he’s on the scene, he’s back in Scotland. Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart is chasing him and then eventually Bothwell shows up at a clutch moment to help Mary when the assholes were rebelling against her for marrying Darnley; that’s the Chaseabout Raids. It was at this point that she matchmade him with Jean Gordon because she’s like, “Let’s cement these alliances. This is working for me.” He was put on the privy council, he became one of Mary’s trusted advisors, then the Rizzio murder happened, Bothwell helped her out a lot with that vis-a-vis, helping her escape. And then the Darnley assassination plot, which he was involved with, and everyone knows that because there was a piece of paper with his name on it [Allison laughs] and everyone else’s name, every male named character in this podcast was also on that document.

Allison: So, it just said James 95 times, basically. 

Ann: Basically. So, okay, this is the non-surprising plot twist is that Bothwell was a piece of shit as well. I mean, we’ve talked about him, he’s kind of a dirtbag but he’s also actively– I just learned a new phrase, I don’t know if you’ve heard this before. “He was a wrong’un.” Like a wrong’un. He’s a wrong one, he’s a wrong’un.

Allison: That’s adorable. 

Ann: Yeah, I learned that from Double Love, The Sweet Valley High podcast, hosted by two Irish women, Karyn and Anna, who are, at this point, in the extended Vulgar History shared universe in very confusing ways. But anyway, they were saying on their podcast, “Oh, he’s a wrong’un!” And I sent them a message I’m just like, “Wow, I learned a new word, wrongon.” And they’re like, “Oh no, it’s wrong’un. Like a wrong one.” Anyway, Bothwell is a piece of shit, AKA a wrong’un. He is so shitty. 

Here’s an example. So, for instance. A few months after Darnley’s death, he was hanging out with Mary a lot. She was going up to Seaton Castle, where she would go, remember, she needed to get air and be outside and not just in a dark room.

Allison: In the dark room where her best friend was murdered, yeah.

Ann: Yeah. So, they were there, and they were just strolling the grounds and they were approached by an old man and this old man had been one of Darnley’s former servants but now that Darnley was dead, he had fallen into bad times, he asked for money. Mary was always generous, she was always giving out tips, she was always giving out gifts, she was always, always, always, always helping people out so she likely would have given him something, but Bothwell just freaked the fuck out at this guy, in fact, “He began to punch and kick the beggar, so savagely that the man died two days later.”

Allison: Jesus Christ man!

Ann: Yeah. So, that’s like, a side of him that Mary had witnessed. Allegedly around this same time is when he first proposed marriage to her. So, it’s not like he beat up to death a homeless person and then proposed to her but it’s not too far apart. So, it reminds me of that thing in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth but is mean and she says no. But it’s like, “Hey, I just beat a man to death, will you marry me?”

Allison: [whimpers] No? No, I won’t. 

Ann: Mary turned him down.

Allison: And good for her.

Ann: [laughs] She’s like, “My husband died 20 days ago in a house bombing, the first in recorded history, no I’m not going to marry you. You just beat a man to death for asking for money.” Anyway, Bothwell, a piece of shit. And then people like Elizabeth in England and Catherine de’ Medici in France were writing Mary letters being like, “Please put Bothwell on trial for Darnley’s murder, everyone says he did it.” Remember there’s a thing, did I say this already? One of his servants was seen pushing barrels of gunpowder toward the house that day.

Allison: They were not good at crime, these people.

Ann: No. No. So, they were just like, “Please put Bothwell on trial for this murder, this is a no-brainer. You need to do this.” Especially Elizabeth was like, “People are saying you were involved, you need to disavow this, you need to disavow him, you need to put him on trial for your own reputation.”

Allison: And Cecil is in the background like, “Elizabeth, stop it. My plan!” [laughs]

Ann: That’s the thing, that’s the thing. There are a couple of moments in this, especially in that biography of Maitland, Scottish Machiavelli, because he worked a lot with Cecil, I got some more Cecil intel. But to understand how much Elizabeth was, kind of, supporting Mary almost throughout but Cecil is the one who was like, “What if we don’t do that?” So, there’s a lot of Elizabeth versus Mary, queen vs queen where it’s like, yeah, there are those parts in the story and there are more of those parts coming up, but Cecil is the one fucking this up because he wants to destabilize Scotland to take it over for England. But also, this gives Elizabeth plausible deniability like, “Oh, she wasn’t actually that bad.” If she knew about the plans, maybe she would have been in on them too. She didn’t not know what Cecil was doing.

Allison: She’s not, like, an innocent, “Oh no, you blew up my best friend’s life, how dare you? We wanted to spend all our time together.” She’s still a very savvy political person she’s just like… They are cousins though, so I do think there’s something in her that’s like, “I’d prefer not to completely destroy her but if I have to I will.”

Ann: And her thing too – and we’re going to see this as the story goes on – is that Elizabeth really has such importance placed on being a monarch and what that role means, being like, “God chose you to be the Queen,” and that’s more important than other stuff. So, that’s where she appreciates Mary because she’s like, “She and I may not see eye-to-eye on almost anything, but she is a Queen, she was divinely given,” and if something happens to Mary that could set a precedent where something could happen to Elizabeth.

Allison: Exactly. It’s like the French Revolution domino effect like, “Now we’re overthrowing kings? Oh no. Don’t do that here, please.”

Ann: Yeah, exactly. So, they wanted Mary to put him on trial, but Mary did not. And I don’t know, again, I don’t know how much this Mary actively not doing that and how much this is the investigators not making that happen because they themselves were literally the murderers and they were covering their own tracks. A trial did eventually occur, but it was not because Mary instigated it, it was because Darnley’s dad, Lennox, charged Bothwell with the murder. 

The day of the trial… So, I think Bothwell and Lennox were both told, “Okay, you can come and on the day of the trial you can each have six guys with you,” but Bothwell was like, “Did you mean 6,000?” And he filled Edinburgh with just, like, thousands of men loyal to him, like thugs, as they were described in one book. So, the streets of Edinburgh were full of Bothwell bros, to the point that Lennox didn’t even come to town because he was like, “Well, can I also bring thousands of people?” and it’s like, “No, six.” [Allison laughs] So, he’s like, “I’m just going to stay in Glasgow with the Douglases, who are my family.” A Douglas!

Allison: A Douglas!

Ann: So, the trial was held, as Bothwell went down to the courthouse riding on one of Darnley’s old horses – Mary had given him Darnley’s old clothes, Darnley’s old horses, and again, not because she loves him but because clothes were valuable, and Mary liked giving people things. She was seen waving to him from the window as he headed off. So, the trial was a farce, almost literally a farce, because any witnesses had been either beaten up or threatened or bribed to not say what they saw, or they were dismissed like those two ladies. The people who did testify did so just to protect the assholes. Predictably, Bothwell was acquitted. It was a show trial, it was literally a play that they put on to pretend that Bothwell was on trial, but he wasn’t really. He’s like, great, that’s done. So, he got new posters made saying, “This guy is totally innocent,” picture of Bothwell. [laughs] “Guess who didn’t kill Darnley?”

Allison: This guy.

Ann: [laughs] He’s like, “That’s how this works, right? This is how you change people’s minds? Using posters?” But everyone knew he was probably guilty; the trial had been a sham. Bothwell being Bothwell, he challenged anyone brave enough to hand-to-hand combat, like, “You think I’m not innocent? I’ll kill you! Let’s duel this out, bro.” Somebody had to be arrested for the Darnley murder because he had been murdered very ostentatiously and very publicly so even just to quell the public unrest. So, over the next months, 62 suspects total were rounded up, almost entirely, maybe entirely, servants. None of them were anyone whose names were on that piece of paper. They were all lower-class people who had been sacrificed.

Allison: Because of course they were.

Ann: One of whom was a guy that we mentioned before and I think you’re going to remember him, French Paris.

Allison: I do remember French Paris.

Ann: French Paris, Bothwell’s servant, who you might recall, Mary saw when he was putting the gunpowder in the room and said, “Paris, how begrimed you are.”

Allison: [laughs] “The better to blow up your husband with, my dear.”

Ann: So, he testified that Bothwell had kicked him until he had agreed to help.

Allison: Which he probably did.

Ann: Which tracks! Bothwell just kicked him repeatedly, that’s the Bothwell way. Also arrested, I’m so sad to say, Captain William Blackadder, played by Rowan Atkinson, who we mentioned during that episode. He was first on the scene, but he was just a looky-loo, he was like, “No, I was just here hanging out with my friends, drinking” and they’re like, “Sounds like you’re a murderer.”

Allison: “You do have a suspicious-sounding name.”

Ann: You do have Rowan Atkinson’s eyebrows and overall demeanor. So, of the servants who were arrested, some of them named some of the actual conspirators like Scottish Machiavelli, Jeremy Jam from Parks and Recreation, Cock o’ the North Junior, they did name them, but those guys were not charged, only servants were charged. And in fact, Blackadder and French Paris were among those found guilty and executed for the murder of Darnley. French Paris, au revoir

So, Bothwell was again, doing fine. To celebrate his being innocent, he invited 28 assholes with him to a place called Ainslie’s Tavern, which it’s unclear if that’s actually a place, or if Ainslie’s Tavern was like, Ainslie’s Tavern Catering Services Incorporated and they could just “Turn your house into Ainslie’s Tavern,” [Allison laughs] and they could just do that in your house. 

Allison: Like a Tupperware party!

Ann: Yeah. 

Allison: [still laughing] Incredible.

Ann: Literally, I read that in a book, it’s just like, this happened at Ainslie’s Tavern but there’s no record of a place in Edinburgh at this time called Ainslie’s Tavern so, is that just…?

Allison: Maybe just a guy named Ainslie brought over some beer and that’s what they called it.

Ann: Ainslie’s artisanal ales.

Allison: Adorable. Good for him for supporting a small business though, honestly. [laughs]

Ann: Yeah, yeah. So, he invited these 28 guys over to be like, “Yay, I am innocent,” and the 28 guys were also the 28 guys who killed Darnley so they’re like, “So are we!” Anyway, so while they’re there at Ainslie’s Tavern, he brought up a document. He’s like, “You know what we like? A group scheme signed on a piece of paper.” So, this became known as the Ainslie’s Tavern Bond, this piece of paper. It basically said, “Bothwell is totally innocent of Darnley’s murder and also if Mary decides to get married, a great choice of new husband would be this guy, Bothwell, who totally didn’t kill Darnley. If Mary marries Bothwell, then he will get presents and honours to everyone who signs this piece of paper.” So basically, everyone there signed this piece of paper being like, “Sure. Okay.” So, signing this were, it was described in one of the books, kind of like the 12 days of Christmas: 9 earls, 8 bishops, 7 barons. [Allison laughs] Among them, Jeremy Jam from Parks and Recreation, Scottish Machiavelli, Cock o’ the North Junior. 

Allison: Can you remind me what Jeremy Jam’s actual historical name is?

Ann: James Morton. The thing that is challenging to me in reading all these biographies is we’ve got Morton, who is Jeremy Jam from Parks and Recreation, we’ve got Scottish Machiavelli, who is William Maitland, there’s also a guy coming up who is going to be called Melville and I’m just like, that’s too many M names I can’t have that many M names. They’re all just guys, they’re all just guys who were there.

Allison: Too many guys.

Ann: He is, Jeremy Jam is also a Douglas. 

Allison: A Douglas!

Ann: He is affiliated with the Douglases, I think he is the leader of the Douglases. I think during the Davie Rizzio murder he was leading the Douglases to do that.

Allison: Okay. Were there 5 Douglases Douglasing at this signature party? [both laugh] That’s really hard to say by the way.

Ann: [sings] 5 Douglas-es.

Allison: 5 lords a leaping, 10 Douglases Douglasing.

Ann: There were definitely lords and I’m sure they were leaping. So, basically, it’s Ainslie’s Tavern Catering Company Supply Incorporated and they sign a piece of paper being like, “If Bothwell married Mary, we would support that,” we, the undersigned, every named character from this story. Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was not there because he’s a slippery guy and he just doesn’t put his name to paper, so he has plausible deniability.

Allison: Which honestly, good for him.

Ann: In this era, it’s just like these other assholes are just like, “Let’s sign some more paperwork.” Like, bro, again? Signing paperwork again? This never works. These guys are also at this party, they know he has three wives already. But Jean Gordon was the main wife, she’s the one that everybody knew about and she’s like, “I’m not going to divorce you. No.” Not because she liked Bothwell but because she had married him and got some properties to manage and wanted to maintain that stuff, the money and things, reasonably. She said, in fact, she would “Die with the name of Lady Bothwell.” Again, this is not because she loved or even liked him, in fact, Bothwell had started having an affair with one of her servants on their honeymoon.

Allison: Brooo.

Ann: Yeah. And he was also constantly hooking up with his ex, Janet Beaton, but she refused to claim that their one-year marriage had been a sham. 

So, this is like a Catholic/Protestant thing because Protestants could get a divorce, but Catholics could only annul or separate.

Allison: You could get an annulment from the Pope, that would mean you were free to marry again. You could separate but you were still technically married in the eyes of God unless the Pope said, “No, you’re good.” 

Ann: Yeah so, he was trying to cover all his bases. He was like, “We should get an annulment,” on the basis that he had a pre-existing contract with Janet Beaton, and this is what he wanted because Mary was Catholic, and he knew that a Catholic can’t marry a divorced person. So, he wanted to get an annulment, not a divorce, but Jean was like, “No.” Considerable pressure was brought on her, which is quite an evocative phrase considering this guy just kicks people until they do what she says. Included in the people trying to convince her to end this marriage was her own brother, Cock o’ the North Junior, who was one of Bothwell’s bros now; he’d signed the Ainslie’s Tavern bond. 

So, Bothwell was like, “Okay, maybe we can get, instead of a Catholic annulment, maybe a Protestant divorce? Maybe on the grounds of, I had an affair with a servant on our honeymoon.” [Allison laughs] And Jean was still like, “No, I’m not ending this marriage, fuck you.” Honestly, good for her, because anything that makes Bothwell mad makes me glad. So anyway, Jean is just like, “No bro, I’m not doing it.” And then Bothwell’s just like, “You know what? I’m just going to marry Mary anyway because that is the Hepburn way,” asterisk, no affiliation to Hepburn my cat, this is his Klingon way. 

So, the Ainslie’s Tavern Bond was signed and two weeks later, Mary, not knowing any of this is going on, she’s just again, extremely depressed, numerous simultaneous health issues. She’s just whatevering she needs to do to get through the day-to-day. She didn’t know these schemes were happening, but she knows schemes are always happening. She went to Stirling Castle to go visit her son, baby Prince BJ who is by now 10 months old. 

So, if we’re just tracking everything in terms of timeline, the baby is 10 months old, Rizzio was murdered while she was pregnant, and Darnley was murdered shortly after he was born. This two-year period is just, like, event! Event! Event! So she wanted to bring the baby back with her to where she was staying at Holyrood Castle but the guy in charge at Stirling was like, “Uhh, no,” and kind of in a good way because he was like, “I feel like if I gave you the baby, Bothwell might kill this baby because what the fuck is this guy not going to do?” Or he might hold the baby ransom. Basically, this guy at the castle, I didn’t write down his name but thank you this guy, he’s just like, “I’m going to keep the baby here, away from Bothwell who is awful.”

Allison: Also, do you remember this country’s long history of kidnapping babies? Let’s not bring this baby outside right now.

Ann: Stirling Castle is the castle where you put babies to have them not be kidnapped and that’s where the baby is and he’s like, “That’s where the baby is going to stay.” So, Mary hung out with her baby for two days then she fell ill, understandably, she is always ill but she needed to rest, so she stayed for two days at this other palace, and then she was heading back to Edinburgh with her, like, entourage which included Scottish Machiavelli, Cock o’ the North Junior, another guy who I haven’t really mentioned but he’s going to be important. I was like, “Goddammit, another man I need to put in this fucking story.” Anyway, his name is Melville and I’m going to call him Moby Dick after Herman Melville, as well as 30 horsemen. So, they’re just heading back to Edinburgh after she saw her son, she’s sick, and they were halted on their way by Bothwell with 800 men with swords who told her that she was in grave danger and she shouldn’t go back to Edinburgh, it was dangerous there. Come with him back to Dunbar Castle and Mary was like, “Sounds fake.” But she’s like, “I guess, whatever.” She’s sick, she’s tired.

Allison: What’s she going to do? He’s got 800 swords.

Ann: She’s got 30 guys, like, he’s got 800 swords and it’s this guy she trusts, the only guy. So, she was taken to Dunbar Castle where she was locked inside “for her own safety”, the castle is surrounded by 800 guys to defend her against enemies. Bothwell brought two women to wait on her, who are both named Janet, which was his lover, Janet, and also his sister, also called Janet. So, instead of the four Marys, she’s got two Janets. Moby Dick, this is where I’m just like, goddammit, this guy, Moby Dick is on the scene, he’s acting as Mary’s personal secretary at this point, so we know part of what happened at this castle because he was there. She’s still doing queen shit. So, then Bothwell is like, “Hm-hm, I’ve got this piece of paper that says you should marry me, so I think you should marry me. As you can see, I have a document saying that you should.” 

Who knows what happened here? I guess I… We’ll put a little content warning, Christina, we’ll put a content warning in the show notes because there is a sexual assault component to this story. So, put the timestamp for whatever time it is right now thank you. So, they had sex in some coerced way, Bothwell and Mary. This is where people still, to this day, find it easier and more palatable to think, maybe she was already lovers with him. Maybe if she was already in love with Bothwell, they worked together to kill Darnley and then she only pretended to be kidnapped by him, but secretly she knew he was going to do it, so that when they had sex at Dunbaitis wasn’t rape.

Allison: That is a nicer story to think about. Is it a true story? Given what we know about Bothwell so far, I would question it. 

Ann: So, whether he talked her into it, or took her physically by force, Mary had not chosen to be there, she had not chosen to be there with him.

Allison: Either way it’s sexual assault, it doesn’t matter if it’s verbal coercion or physical coercion. 

Ann: Yeah, exactly. She had not chosen willingly and freely for any of this to happen. The reason why I’m including this detail in the story is because it’s part of the narrative and because she became pregnant at this point and that is crucial. Following this, Mary spent the next two weeks at Dunbar and so this is where, again, we don’t know what was going through her head, which is fine but also, this is where a lot of people try to guess what is going through her head. So, she spent two weeks there, “without trying to escape,” where it’s like, bro, there are 800 people outside, like, what’s she going to do? We know she’s good at escaping when she needs to so some people take it to mean that she didn’t mind being there, or she wanted to be there or, she wasn’t a prisoner because she didn’t try to escape.

Allison: And that’s a real victim-blamey way of framing this. “If you didn’t fight back, you must have wanted it,” which is gross.

Ann: Exactly. One of the biographies was like, “Well, Moby Dick was there, some of her other people were there, if he was assaulting her, she could have screamed” … [laughs] Everyone there was on Bothwell’s payroll.

Allison: Also, maybe she did! Who knows? You weren’t there!

Ann: Right, so that’s where people really want this not to be rape because that gets in the way of any reading of the story that’s not “Bothwell is a piece of shit who kidnapped her.” An interesting tidbit is that the TV show Reign ended before any of this happened, their version of Mary, Queen of Scots’s story, because they were tragically cancelled before they could do a fifth and final season. So, Season 4 ends with Mary and Bothwell… It basically ends with Bothwell being arrested for Darnley’s murder and then flashforward to years later. So, you don’t get any of this. 

And I was like, it’s interesting because on Reign – and I think I told you this before, not on the podcast, but I want everyone to know on the podcast too. So, when Bothwell came on the show Reign– Well, everyone on the show Reign is an extremely attractive person because it was a show on the CW and that’s their vibe, that’s the aesthetic. Even the guy playing John Knox, weirdly hot, quite a choice. So, the guy they cast to play Bothwell was really handsome in a sort of Errol Flynn, Cary Grant sort of way. He’s like, you know what? He’s like the strapping knight sort of vibe, the actor who they hired. So, he came on and was like, “Hey, your mother trusted me, and she says that you can trust me too,” which is true to what happened, and so he becomes her loyal advisor, true, also happened. But then Reign ended when he was arrested. 

So, I was a Reign stan when it was on, I have a friendly relationship with one of the writers of Reign and so after the show ended, I was like, “What were you going to do in Season 5 with Bothwell? You set him up to be this great alternative to Darnley.” He’s this handsome guy who is nice and helpful and whatever. In Reign they actually show Bothwell literally being the one who beats up Darnley amid the fiery explosion of his house, he’s the one who kills him, it was very satisfying. And he said, basically because it’s Reign, “He’s going to sell his soul to the devil or something.” To be able to make this shift of, “Oh, he seems like a great guy who is actually nice and helpful, to doing this shit,” which any retelling has to show him doing, they were like, “Oh, he was going to become possessed by an evil demon or something.”

Allison: Which I think is letting him off a little bit easy, personally. 

Ann: Oh, for sure, for sure.

Allison: Like, “No, no, no. This was all, all of this was you.”

Ann: He was always a piece of shit.

Allison: You were in charge. You have agency, my man.

Ann: Yeah. So, I don’t know, in that sense, Reign, a lot of the times, I see it as kind of Mary’s point of view. What I’m trying to do with this podcast too is I want to tell you how she saw these people and how she trusted them without the foresight that they’re going to be a piece of shit later. So, I think on Reign, she thought he was good so they showed him as being good, but they never got around to showing the rest of the shit he did.

Allison: I assume once you make your billions on the tits-out brigade empire. You’re going to give at least 5 million dollars to the team of Reign and ask them to make Season 5, just for you.

Ann: You know what, just for me, yeah. What a dream, I would love to. Because there are some characters that I would love to see them cast, characters we have yet to meet. 

Anyway, so here’s the thing, Moby Dick is on the scene, Melville, who is her secretary or whatever. He’s on her side insofar as he’s not on Bothwell’s side, and he wrote down what he witnessed and part of what he witnessed was her calling out for a knife so she could kill herself and if it didn’t come quickly enough, she was going to drown herself. So, crime of passion? Two lovers absconding together, this was not. This was a woman in crisis who was kidnapped and assaulted and yeah, that’s what’s happening.

Allison: Listeners can’t tell but I can tell that Hepburn the cat has arrived to make sure that we know she has no relation to Bothwell.

Ann: She’s very much here just being like, “I disavow this.” [laughs] The only Hepburn that she recognizes is Katharine. But the citizens of Edinburgh, her subjects, they heard that she’d been taken to Dunbar, they heard that she was kidnapped so the guys, remember the guys with the torches who are like, “What’s happening? Is someone messing with our queen?” Those guys came out, they tried to send a rescue party to go and save her, the alarm bell was rung because she was on her way to Edinburgh when she was taken, this is at the point where she’s being taken so they try to point the cannons– Or two guns moved out of Edinburgh Castle to try to fire on Bothwell’s troops but they were too far away so they weren’t able to fire at them. The cannons of Edinburgh Castle, supporting characters in this story. 

So, during those two weeks Mary was there, she did archery practice, she went horseback riding, she spent time embroidering, and the administrative duties of Queen continued to be carried out with Moby Dick kind of writing her letters for her and stuff. But everyone knew this was really fucked up, this was weird. It’s like, they were all play-acting that this is not weird, but this was real weird what was going on. And again, people being like, “Well, she did archery practice, that means she wasn’t depressed and hadn’t been assaulted.” It’s the same as when Darnley died and they’re like, “She wasn’t really grieving, she went for a horseback ride.” Don’t police other people’s emotional responses to things. And if Mary was in that house all day for two weeks screaming and crying and clawing at the windows, Bothwell maybe would have killed her, I don’t know. She was doing what she needed to do. 

Anyway, during this two-week period, Bothwell went off to see, poor Jean, long-suffering wife of one year, she had understandably by now begun divorce proceedings because he had just kidnapped the Queen.

Allison: She’s like, “I would like to remove myself from the narrative.”

Ann: Very much. So, she got her lawyers to sue Bothwell for Protestant divorce on the grounds of the affair with the maid.

Allison: Not on the grounds of kidnapping the queen and keeping her captive and sexually assaulting her.

Ann: Exactly. So, he filed a counterclaim with the Catholic Church asking that the marriage be declared null on the grounds that he and Jean were too closely related, and they were closely related in the sense of, one of his family members had married one of her family members, sort of thing. But in fact, they had gotten a dispensation before their marriage for that, and Jean had that piece of paper.

Allison: The Pope was like, “I thought I covered this already.”

Ann: Bothwell was like, “Nope, totally didn’t get a dispensation.” Anyway so, she was granted the divorce within a week, and he got his annulment saying the marriage was null and void. Both of these things happened weirdly quickly, everything is happening weirdly quickly. So, then they returned to Edinburgh and they’re just on their horses, and unlike other times she’s returned to Edinburgh the citizens were just like, “Do we cheer? Is this a good thing? Is she a free person? [laughs] What is happening?” So, she moved back into Holyrood Palace, and she had Bothwell appointed the Duke of Orkney and the Lord of Shetland which raised his profile such that she would be able to marry him. So, it seems like she’s going ahead with the “I’m going to marry Bothwell” situation, which again is like, “What are you doing? Why?” The thing is, Scottish law at this time said that if a rape occurred, and the man married the woman afterward and she forgave him, then it was no longer a crime. So, it seems like that’s what she’s doing?

Allison: The law is wild, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Ann: Yeah. So, she could have not married him. She could have been like, “This motherfucker just kidnapped and assaulted me.” So, the fact that she went along with marrying him is why some people think, “Well, maybe she really was secretly in love with him and killed Darnley,” and it’s like, “No! It’s what William Cecil put on his whiteboard! That’s not what really happened, man.” But like you just said, it’s an efficient storyline to be like, “Okay, if she was in love with Bothwell, and then they teamed up together to kill Darnley, and then they got married,” that’s a neat and tidy story that is easy to–

Allison: It’s also a big win for her which is a nice story to believe in because you’re like, “Yeah, fuck yeah Mary. Go you!”

Ann: Exactly. Anyway, so these events happened, and we don’t know why she made the choices she did, part of why she made the choices she did may be that she suspected because of the rape that she was pregnant, which she was! She wouldn’t have known two weeks later but she knew it was a possibility and she wouldn’t have wanted to be an unwed mother, she wouldn’t have wanted her child to be illegitimate. Abortion is so much not an option for her that at some point previously in this story there was a thing where two people, I think it was her French apothecary, had an affair or got one of her servants pregnant and they tried to get an abortion and that was found out and then both of them were executed for trying to get an abortion. So, that’s abortion law in Scotland.

Allison: Reminding everyone that she was very Catholic.

Ann: Yeah, so this is where she’s coming from, abortion is not an option for her. Anyway, so whatever, maybe she also saw that letter signed by 28 people being like, “Yeah, if you marry Bothwell, we’d support it,” so she might just be like, “I guess I’ll do that?”

Allison: This is what happened and then historians have argued over why for 400 years.

Ann: So, all I can say is here’s what happened but I’m like, very confident that she was not involved in the murder of Darnley, mostly because she was just about to sign paperwork with Elizabeth that would have settled the succession and Darnley being murdered fucked that all up and she’d been working toward that for five years. She wouldn’t have fucked that up, she wouldn’t have. That was her whole dream. And then the Bothwell thing, to me, he clearly kidnapped her and raped her, and then she agreed to marry him, and I don’t think it’s a love story. But I understand that that’s an appealing narrative and that’s why Cecil engineered this all. Because her marrying Bothwell so soon after Darnley’s murder with everyone assuming he was guilty of the murder did just what Cecil had wanted, it made her look guilty of murdering Darnley as a crime of passion. 

So, there was a thing in this era when a couple was getting married, someone had to pre-announce it, it’s like, having the bands proclaimed. I think people still do this in some places, you have to post in the newspaper, “So and so is going to marry so and so.” So, someone can be like, “No they can’t, I’m his secret wife from Norway,” or whatever. So, the bands had to be proclaimed by the minister in church saying, “So and so is going to marry so and so,” but Bothwell had trouble finding someone to do this [chuckles] because…

Allison: Because everyone hates him.

Ann: Everyone hates him, and no one supports this marriage, and they all assumed the queen was being held against her will by him, which she was. 

So, John Knox was not on the scene at this point, I don’t give enough of a shit to learn why, but I did see one reference to the fact that he had married a teenager recently, and he was aged 57, and that was fucked up for everyone even in Reformation Scotland, even if it’s John Knox, and he kind of peaced out for a while to ride out the scandal of him grooming and marrying a child. So anyway, John Knox was not on the scene, but his assistant was there. 

So, this assistant had heard, everyone had heard rumours– not even rumours, everyone knew that Bothwell had kidnapped Mary and he refused to allow the bands to be proclaimed unless Mary gave written proof that she had not been raped or abducted against her will. So, she provided a statement saying, “I was not raped or abducted against my will. At first, I was mad at Bothwell for kidnapping me but because of his record of loyal service, I now forgive him.” So, the assistant proclaimed the bands in church but then he kind of– and this is where you’re like, “Oh, you’re John Knox’s protégé,” because he’s like, “So, Bothwell is going to marry Mary, Queen of Scots but this I fucked up! He killed Darnley, I don’t agree with this.” He said all this stuff in church. Bothwell summoned this guy to be like, “What the fuck, dude?”

Allison: “That’s not what I asked you to do.”

Ann: And this guy, just like the John Knox fanboy he was, he was like, “If I can just mansplain to you for a minute why actually you’re a piece of shit, actually.”

Allison: And in this case, good for him. 

Ann: Exactly. In this case, I’m just like, yes! I kind of wish it was John Knox at this point because it’s like, just use your power for good, telling off this piece of shit for being a piece of shit. Bothwell of course threatened to kill this guy but did not.

Allison: A duel! A duel!

Ann: Exactly! And then Mary and Bothwell were goddamn married. So, this was like, he kidnapped her on April 24th, and they were married on May 15th so not even a month later. And it was a Protestant ceremony.

Allison: Scandal.

Ann: Yeah, that was Bothwell’s religion, not Mary’s. She wore an Italian black gown embroidered in gold and silver because of mourning because her husband died 3 minutes ago, and then she changed into a dress of gold and yellow for the reception, which was open to the public. People who went by said no one was talking, everyone was sitting there looking sad; she was softly weeping to herself. Shortly after the ceremony, one of her friends, the priest or somebody, found her in tears, and she regretted agreeing to a Protestant ceremony. She also said if she was seen to be sad it was because she “Could not rejoice nor ever should again for she did nothing but wish for death.” 

And then he was a piece of shit as a husband, he often made her weep, and he had mood swings. The moods he swung between were mean, overly sexual, and cranky, were his three moods. But he also really leaned suddenly into a Calvinist Protestant Puritan vibe where he forbade all fun, he forbid music, cards, hunting, hawking

Allison: All the things she liked. Golf.

Ann: Golf, all the things she liked but also her coping mechanisms, the things that helped her get through the day, he swore constantly, the way that he talked, I have to say, to use a Vulgar History/Double Love, Sweet Valley High podcast phrase, made the asshole lords of Scotland say, “Herman, my pills!” To make those guys say, “Herman, my pills!” is like, how much swearing did he have to swear? This is dueling too much, getting kicked out of Edinburgh level. He swore too much, for them?

Allison: He swore too much for Scotland? Oh my gosh. [ laughs]

Ann: Yeah. He yelled at her constantly in public making her cry. Also note, the asshole lords did not attend their marriage, even though they had signed that document being like, “We support this marriage.” They threw their own party at the same time and part of their party was they had a play where actors played Darnley and Bothwell. And part of the play was the actor playing Darnley, I think, jokingly hanged Bothwell to death and everyone got so into it that the actor playing Bothwell actually almost died, didn’t die, but almost died. 

Mary stopped attending Catholic mass, so between that and the Protestant marriage made basically, the country of France, AKA Catherine de’ Medici, stop supporting her. The Pope was also like, “Yeah, pass from me, bro.” So, all the Catholic countries that used to support her now didn’t, her de Guise relatives no longer wrote her letters.

Allison: And to me, that’s the biggest sign of what an abusive asshole Bothwell was because she’s like the most Catholic person ever, and when she’s like, “Okay, I will have a Protestant wedding and then stop going to mass,” she’s terrified of him. 

Ann: No, this is horrifying. But she saw him beat a man to death, so she knows, like, if you don’t do what he says, even though she’s the queen, that’s clearly not going to stop him. So, the broadsheets, AKA posters, in Edinburgh compared her to biblical floozies like Jezebel and Delilah, and also to the Greek figure of Clytemnestra. So again, with the posters, the posters are being done with people with a real classical education assuming that the readers of the posters can A) read and B) are familiar with these allegories. 

So, Catholic Europe saw her as entering a bigamous marriage with a heretic, and just like Cecil wanted, she also lost public opinion, so no one was supporting her anymore. Every person in Scotland was against Bothwell including the guys who had signed that document at Ainslie’s Tavern saying, “We support this marriage.” They signed that because they wanted to bring her down so that they could take over. They knew that her marrying Bothwell would ruin her reputation, but they wanted her reputation ruined so they could take over, not so Bothwell could take over. So, they got out a new document Allison, they’re just like, “You know what we need? To sign all of our names, which are all James, to another piece of paper.”

Allison: This is like Treaty_Final_FinalFinal. [laughs]

Ann: So, they made a new document and this one was like, “We’re going to free Mary from Bothwell and then we, the assholes, will take over,” is what they were going to do, and they called themselves the Confederate Lords which means a different thing than the way that sounds today.

Allison: Yeah, back then it was like, “We got a bunch of Lords, together.”

Ann: Yeah, joined in a group. So anyway, everybody hated him, they’d already hated him and now they hate him even more, they’re all writing letters to Elizabeth being like, “We hate him, he’s terrible, Elizabeth, can England take over? Get rid of this guy. We hate him.” Although Bothwell wrote Elizabeth a letter being like, “Hey, so I’m the King of Scotland now, everyone loves me, it’s great.”

Allison: She’s like, “Hmm is that true? “And Cecil is over by his whiteboard being like, “It is absolutely not true.” 

Ann: Yeah, so Elizabeth wrote Mary a strongly worded letter like, “What the fuck? I wanted to name you my heir, but I can’t because you just married this guy.” Cock o’ the North Junior was one of the only noblemen left at court, almost everyone had left, at the meetings of the privy council, no one showed up, so Bothwell made a rule that’s like, “Attendance is mandatory,” but everyone’s like, “We’re still not going to come, we hate being around you, we hate you.” Cock o’ the North Junior was one of the only people still left but he asked Mary’s permission, good for him, to leave because being around Bothwell was disgusting and Mary was in such a bad place she was just like, “Oh really? So, like your father Cock o’ the North, are you going to rebel against me now too?” Which is the cruelest thing she could have said to him considering how she, like…

Allison: The last guy on her side.

Ann: The last guy on her side and she had, you know, led a civil war that led to the destruction of his whole family. So, the Confederate Lords, it’s the same guys, it’s the assholes, it’s the asshole lords, they just give themselves a new name that I refuse to say. So, they were going into open rebellion, they publicly declared Bothwell had murdered Darnley and ravished the Queen, both true facts, although they had also co-murdered Darnley.

Allison: We’re going to leave that bit out.

Ann: Yeah, but you know, technically true. So, Mary, at this point, this is where it’s like, okay now she’s doing stuff. So, she was in this state of shock, whatever, we don’t know what she was thinking, we don’t know what she was doing; things were happening to and around her but now she, like, starts doing stuff again. So, her head is clear, whatever, she’s back on the scene. So, she joined military preparations to face off against the asshole lords, she’s like, “Done this three times already, I know how to do this, and I always win, so let’s go.” They needed money to pay soldiers, so they started melting down gold and silver things to make coins to pay their soldiers, which included melting down the giant, solid gold baptismal font that Elizabeth had sent.

Allison: Glad that came up again, glad for that callback. 

Ann: Yeah, but it was too big to fit into whatever they were melting things with so only part of it could be melted. So, then they went to hide out at Borthwick Castle, which is 12 miles south of Edinburgh. By now, the assholes had taken baby Prince BJ in their custody, they called upon the people of Scotland to take up arms against Bothwell and I feel like the torch guys would do that. The whole country is united in hating Bothwell. Nothing has ever thought Catholics, Protestants… Everybody is just like, “He sucks!” So, they’re all on that side except for these guys being paid from the melted-down gold font coins. 

So, they’re at Borthwick Castle and then about 700 of the assholes arrived led by Jeremy Jam from Parks and Recreation, a guy who is on the squad is named Lindsay, and I’m going to mention him a few more times and I don’t have to change his name because it’s Lindsay. They wanted to “Free Mary,” and demanded Bothwell come out to face them, but knowing he couldn’t duel them all at once…

Allison: Even though he really, really wanted to.

Ann: I’m sure he did. So, to distract them so Bothwell could escape, Mary went out to address them. This just turned, she was calling at them from the top of the castle and they were on the ground, and this just turned into yelling and insults back and forth. Apparently, she started swearing, which was not like her, but she had Bothwell’s influence, I guess, and they were like, “A woman swearing? Herman, my pills!” Listen to my whole episode about women talking to learn about why women swearing is okay, but people hate it. Anyway, she went back inside to wait for backup which never came. The next day she heard that rebels had entered Edinburgh and they had been applauded by the crowds, which again, everyone hated Bothwell. So, she had to escape. To escape this castle, she dressed in men’s clothes. Remember how she liked to dress as a man? She liked a disguise, she liked an outfit, she’s just like, “This is a pants moment.”

Allison: “Ready to go. Get my escaping pants on.” 

Ann: Exactly. So, she’s lowered by servants on a rope from a window onto a horse.

Allison: That’s so cool!

Ann: Yeah, like at the end of The Princess Bride. So, under darkest night, she rode for a mile dressed as a man on a horse, like, this is the thing, where they’re like, “She could have escaped from Bothwell if she wanted to,” where it’s like, not if no one was helping her. She makes these daring escapes, but she needs someone to hold the rope, she needs helpers. Anyway, she’s met by Bothwell, it’s a cool story. But also, this place, Borthwick Castle, claim to fame is that Mary, Queen of Scots slept here once but also allegedly, the castle is haunted by the ghost of Mary, Queen of Scots wearing pants.

Allison: Which I love. She’s just like, “Oh, I wore pants here, good times. Let me visit here again from beyond.” 

Ann: I know, it’s a place, like, an outfit she did not die wearing, a place she did not die in, one night out of her life she’s like, “You know where my ghost will haunt?” And fair. I think at the end of the final episode I’ll talk about all the places where Mary, Queen of Scots’s ghost is said to be but this one, I was just like, “A pants ghost?! A ghost in pants?!”

Allison: You know the lady on TikTok who is like, the receptionist in heaven and when you show up, she’s like, “What do you want your ghost outfit to be?” Bet you Mary was like, “Remember those cool pants I was wearing that one night I escaped? Let’s go with those, those are cool.”

Ann: Yes, perfect. So anyway… There are just betrayals, double-crossing, people switching to the other side. The assholes took Edinburgh, they got Edinburgh Castle, they got the city and once you had that it’s like, whoever had Edinburgh is going to win, basically. But Mary and Bothwell get ready for battle, waiting for Cock o’ the North Junior to arrive with reinforcements but he never came because he had gone to Edinburgh Castle which was now under enemy control but also maybe he was just like, “I’m just going to not send reinforcements because I too hate Bothwell.”

Allison: This is such a weird vibe because I’m actively rooting for Mary to lose so that they can kill Bothwell. It’s such a strange…

Ann: It’s a weird thing and it’s also confusing. I think it’s part of like, we hate Bothwell. So, the Confederate Lords, their whole thing was, “We need to liberate Mary from this guy,” which is like, “Yes you should but then what are you going to do with her?”

Allison: Am I on your side? I don’t know yet.

Ann: And this is the thing, I don’t think the lords knew either, they keep signing these documents, then they have these really bad, mismanaged group murders and none of them ever think what will we do after? And this is another example of that. 

Anyway, so the battle was held at Carberry Hill near Edinburgh, on June 15th, so that’s one month after her marriage. So, she was abducted on April 24th, two months, she was abducted, one month later, married, and one month late this battle is happening. The rebel lords, if you don’t know this detail, it’s a callback to something you’re going to be really excited about. The rebel lords came out carrying a flag and do you know what was pictured on the flag? Can you guess?

Allison: Is it a tits-out mermaid?

Ann: No, it’s the picture of Darnley’s naked corpse [Allison laughs] from the drawing along with a picture, from that same drawing, of baby Prince James crying out, “Judge and revenge my cause, oh Lord.”

Allison: I didn’t know that! That makes me so happy. Oh my god, I’m going to get one of those flags and hang it out my living room window, in the courtyard for the neighbours. Oh my god.

Ann: Yeah, so the images from that picture, they made a flag version of it, they’re making merch.

Allison: I’m not saying that should go in the merch store but think about how that can go in the merch store.

Ann: Something involving that picture need to, yeah. So, they came out with their flag of the drawing. So, by now, Mary had changed out of her men’s disguise, but she didn’t have any of her outfits with her, so she borrowed clothes from the local woman which consisted of an outfit that– remember she used to dress like this for fun to make marmalade with her Marys? She’s wearing peasant woman cosplay but she’s so tall, she’s 6 feet tall and no one else is that tall so the skirt wasn’t long enough, the petticoat only came up to her knees. When she rode her horse, because remember she would ride astride, people could see the bottoms of her legs. So, it’s just an undignified thing for the Queen, considering the glamour and power the last time she was doing this with Darnley, they had their bespoke armour, they had their special helmets, and now she’s wearing clothes that don’t fit, her long legs sticking out… Legs out moment but not in a good way. 

So, there’s a character who I’m happy to have a reason to say his name, he’s the French Ambassador du Croc, I just picture being a little crocodile person from the Disney Robin Hood, somehow. So, the French ambassador du Croc was permitted to act as an arbiter between the assholes and Bothwell and Mary’s side and du Croc advised that she should surrender. If she did, Bothwell would be given safe passage to leave the country and she would be restored to the throne. She refused. So, if we’re doing the timeline of it all, she was abducted April 24th… So, she’s as much as 7 weeks pregnant, potentially, she would know by now that she was, she’s like, “No, my child cannot be illegitimate,” she didn’t tell anyone, but she would know that she was pregnant, so she wasn’t going to have Bothwell leave to safeguard her child’s legitimacy. And du Croc was like, “Oh well,” and then left. 

So, a battle did not commence right away, it was just a bunch of messages back and forth, for literally hours, it started in the morning and just went all day. Bothwell was like, “Let’s settle this like Klingons do with single combat, a duel!” So, he wanted the other team to send one guy and then he would fight that one guy and they would do all this through a duel. And they’re like, “Okay, we’ll do that, and we’re going to send this guy.” And Bothwell’s like, “No, I don’t want to fight that guy. How about this guy?” And they go, “Mm, that guy accepts but he chooses this guy as his stand-in.” Bothwell is like, “Well no, I can’t fight that guy.” So, it’s just like, the day is just going on. It was all really hot, and Mary and Bothwell were at the top of a hill and the assholes were at the bottom of the hill near a stream so they could drink water, this is also June and it’s hot and they’re wearing armour. So, they were drinking water so eventually the Bothwell-Mary team, all they had to drink was wine so, how’s that going? And eventually, they started deserting because they were thirsty, so they started switching to the other side.

Allison: Probably also because everybody hated Bothwell so that’s a nice reason to…

Ann: Yeah. So, then the rebels eventually began to advance, and not just the one guy, but like, all of them. Bothwell knew if they engaged in battle, it would be a massacre, so he urged Mary to surrender and this time, she agreed. So, the sun was going down, this has been the whole day. They embraced publicly and as they did, he gave her one of those documents, he gave her the document saying, “We will all kill Darnley together,” so she would know who actually had been involved in that and then he rode away to raise support for her elsewhere.

Allison: That’s a wild choice, on his part. 

Ann: Yes. Only after he was too far for anyone to catch up did Mary allow herself to be led away through the rebel’s army toward Edinburgh. Following her on a pony was Mary Seaton from the four Marys, so I guess she’d been there for a lot of this. And the rebels were like, “Okay, Bothwell is gone, Mary, we’re going to take you back to Edinburgh and you can be Queen again, maybe your son will be there,” is what they said. Is that where they were taking her and is that what was going to happen? Find out next time. [laughs]

Allison: What a tease! What a tease.

Ann: This is already an incredibly long episode but I’m going to say even more because we have time, we started recording early. I want to tell you what happened to Bothwell next because he’s not going to be in the later episodes.

Allison: So, we can get rid of Bothwell in this one episode and the listeners do not have to have a Bothwell warning for next week, that would be a good idea. 

Ann: Yeah, but also this is a story I’m excited to share with you, especially if you don’t know this. So, he rode around, trying to get people to join his cause. Nobody did, everyone hates him. He went up north trying to rally his supporters, but do you remember he married Jean Gordon from, like, Cock o’ the North, from the Gordons who were in charge of the north? And he’s like, “Come join me!” And they’re all like, “Didn’t you just treat Jean Gordon like a piece of shit? So, we’re going to not support you actually.” Jean is just like, “Fuck off forever.” So, they didn’t help out. 

And then he had, like, a dozen bros still with him, Bothwell bros I guess, guys with nothing better to do. So, they hung out up there in the northeast of Scotland with his great uncle who was the Bishop of Moray but then some of his children tried to betray Bothwell for money because this whole family was garbage, but he was also garbage. A group of assassins tried to kill him, but he fought them off. I feel like he’s living his dream life.

Allison: It’s all he ever wanted is to be able to fight off a pack of assassins single handedly. 

Ann: Just duel after duel. So, then he headed further north by boat. Where did he get the boats from? He stole them, he saw some fishing guy and was like, “You! Give me your boat,” and took the boat. So, he sailed up the coast making for Orkney because he was named the Duke of Orkney before they got married, but had the news even reached Orkney yet that Darnley was dead? Maybe not, I don’t know. Anyway, so he did not get a warm welcome there, he went onto Shetland, added on some more ships, including a double-masted boat called The Pelican which was equipped with guns to defend against pirates. 

And then, I’m going to say, name redacted, was in charge down in Edinburgh and four large ships equipped with guns, 400 men, and several smaller vessels were sent after Bothwell. One of the main men in charge of this was a guy whose name comes up every now and then, Kirkcaldy of Grange, which is just a memorable name. When he shows up, I’m like, “I remember that name.” So, Kirkcaldy is the main guy leading these ships. So, they sailed to Shetland where Bothwell was, he was on shore eating lunch [both laugh] while his boats were lying at anchor. So, they set sail. In the confusion, one of his Bothwell’s ships sailed dangerously close to a reef, it just made it over but Kirkcaldy of Grange’s ship, The Unicorn, struck hard and sank. And that is why that is still called Unicorn Rock to this day. 

Bothwell escaped overland rejoining his ships and then a sea battle took place, like, against the people chasing him, lasting three hours, but his side won because the weather and his crew’s expert seamanship were on his side. And he sailed off toward, and I’m sure why, Norway, but that’s where he was going.

Allison: That’s where you go when the going gets tough and you’re a Hepburn, I think.

Ann: That’s what’s up. So, they’d been on the run for two months, had no provisions, and didn’t really know where they were or where they were going. And then they were challenged in the ocean, by a Danish warship out patrolling for pirates, and Bothwell’s like, “It’s cool, I’m the King of Scotland actually.” [Allison laughs] He like, beard, been on the run for two months, messy, he didn’t have any of his papers with him because the ship had sunk. And the Danish warship captain was like, “Sure, yeah you’re the King of Scots, right.” Anyway, so they’re like, “Why don’t you just come on board for a little visit, King of Scotland.” Bothwell’s like, “Don’t mind if I do.” Once he was on board they were like, “We’re going to take you to Bergen to sort this out,” and he had to go, he was on their ship. So, he went to Bergen where he got entangled in legal problems. Basically, they thought, “You’re a pirate. These are ships that you don’t own, you stole them.”

Allison: “You’re sailing mysteriously near Norway; I don’t trust this.”

Ann: Yeah, “So, you clearly are a pirate, you’re a pirate.” So, there were legal battles about who owned the ships he was commanding, he had no papers for them. And one of the ships he had stolen was already accused of piracy so that’s like stealing a car that’s been reported stolen by someone else. But also, in a devastating twist that I love, do you know who was in town in Bergen at the same time? Skottefruen, Anna Throndsen.

Allison: Yesss! My girl! Get it.

Ann: So, she was the daughter of a Danish admiral, she had status there and she had Bothwell summoned before the court where she provided documents showing that they had been married and in Scandinavia, a handfasting was legally binding. So, Bothwell had to agree to pay Anna an annuity and hand over one of his ships to her. I love that he’s just hoisted by her, I love that she was there, I love that he wound up in the country where she was.

Allison: I love that both of his first two wives fucked him over in the end. The Gordons were like, “No, we won’t help you. Run away, you little man,” and so he runs away to the home of his first wife who is like, “Actually, give me all your money and your ships.” This is what you deserve man. 

Ann: Exactly. So, then he was sent to Copenhagen for the Danish government to decide his fate. He claimed to be the King of Scots, but they were just like, “You are a pirate, you stole a ship from honest merchants, you’re a multiple adulterer, you’d abandoned this important Scandinavian woman, you’re a piece of shit, you are a wrong’un and that’s what we see.” So, the Scottish parliament asked for him to be sent back but he wasn’t and then he was forgotten and everyone in Scotland assumed he was dead, but he wasn’t. So, by the summer of 1573, he was in Denmark state prison at Dragsholm where he was put in the dungeon, it was a room… Okay, so he ended his days in a sunken room, so it’s like a half-basement, not a full ceiling height.

Allison: Like a garden apartment, sort of thing.

Ann: Yeah. You’d pay a lot for this in Brooklyn or whatever. He was chained to a pillar half his height, unable to stand upright. Food was thrown down to him at regular intervals and he went insane, as you would. But he probably lived for another 5 years like that. Then it gets… Here are some final details. His corpse, mummified by sea air, was left on public display until the 1930s!

Allison: What?! That’s so long.

Ann: The head was separated from the body, and there are stories that children had at one point used his head as a football.

Allison: Good for them.

Ann: This is just, again, no punishment is too severe for this piece of shit. So, in the 1970s, an American with the surname Bothwell became interested in this story. I don’t know what became of his child with Anna Throndsen, I don’t know if this is a direct descendant. Anyway, someone called Bothwell is just like, “Oh! A person in history called Bothwell who died in a prison and then his mummified corpse was put on display.” So, a personal intervention from the Danish Queen in like, the 20th century, resulted in the removal of his body from public display, and his coffin was sealed. So, another of his distant descendants tried to have his body be repatriated, I guess to Scotland?

Allison: Where nobody wanted him to be.

Ann: Nope. His grave remains in a crypt in Denmark, in a sealed wooden coffin provided by the Queen of Denmark. And that is the end of Bothwell. And I just wanted to wrap things up with two quotes. So, this is a description from a 2013 movie, Mary Queen of Scots which I haven’t seen, it’s not streaming anywhere, the director is Swiss. “When Mary finds the love of her life, the Earl of Bothwell, she has Darnley murdered and marries Bothwell. Horrified by this deed and the bling passion that motivated it, both the nobles and the people of Scotland spurn her to avert a bloody battle, Mary is compelled to give up her beloved Bothwell.”

Allison: All right.

Ann: So, just in terms of that narrative is compelling and to this day still used to explain what happened. This is from the back of the box of the 1936 movie, Mary of Scotland starring Katharine Hepburn. “Lovely Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland and France but only sometimes ruler of her own heart, careens through a tumultuous life. Men flatter her then betray her, her people embrace her then vilify her, both fierce and fragile as a headstrong queen, Katharine Hepburn is brilliantly matched by Fredric March as her courageous lover, Bothwell.” 

Allison: I hated this.

Ann: Yeah, so Bothwell in terms of, how is he remembered, it’s kind of not as the piece of shit that he was.

Allison: Well done, Cecil. 

Ann: Eugh, to this day. The fact that he started engineering that before the two of them even got married, he was like, “What if we connect those two together, make it seem like a crime of passion.” That he was doing that… That he did that!

Allison: And then 400 years later Katharine Hepburn was like, “Absolutely.” 

Ann: Yeah, “My courageous lover Bothwell. Who can play this role of this dreamy knight of my heart?” 

So, that was that very long episode. There will be more episodes because this story is not over. But Allison, please tell everyone about your books, your website, your newsletter, and all your things.

Allison: All the things, yes. You can find all of the things that I do on my website, which I updated last weekend, Lana didn’t even have to yell at me, I did it myself, You can find there, links to my two books, the first one is A Tip for the Hangman which is a Tudor spy adventure, the first half of which involves later adventures of Mary, Queen of Scots, which we will get into maybe next week, maybe the following week. The second is Let the Dead Bury the Dead, an alternate-history, 19th-century Russian novel coming out in October. And you can also find on my website a link to subscribe to my newsletter, “Dirtbags Through the Ages,” which is a biweekly look at the worst people in history and why I hate them or why I love them for being shitty.

Ann: Including a two-part Darnley super special.

Allison: If you want to see the pictures of Darnley lying dead without any pants in a garden, you can indeed find those in my newsletter.

Ann: Absolutely. And I will say, you can keep up with this podcast on Instagram @VulgarHistoryPod, I know we mention a lot of people and pictures and things and Instagram is where I share most of those. Also, I’m on TikTok @VulgarHistory and if you go to Vulgar, all the episodes are there as well as the recent episodes have transcriptions by Aveline Malek of The Wordary. We have a store which is, which is the link that works best for people in the US in terms of shipping costs. If you’re international, works better in terms of shipping costs. 

I also have a newsletter, which perhaps by the time this episode comes out, I will have updated. It’s a low-pressure fun thing for me, so I have a lot on my plate right now vis-a-vis recording six hours of podcasts about Mary, Queen of Scots every day. But anyway, is where you can follow my newsletter which I will be doing more stuff with once this Mary, Queen of Scots shenanigans is over. 

And I have a Patreon which is where, once I get to 500 people on Patreon, I am going to do, So This Asshole John Knox, as a special episode for the patrons. There’s a new thing where you can sign up for a trial so you can see what it’s like before you commit. But anyway, if you pledge at least $1 a month, you get early ad-free access to all episodes, and if you pledge at least $5 a month, you get that, the early ad-free access, as well as access to our special Patreon-only spin-off series. So, there’s So This Asshole, Allison recently joined me for a So These Guys, we did an episode about the Bushrangers, Australian dirtbags. And Vulgarpiece Theatre, where you and I and Lana Wood Johnson talk about costume dramas in episodes that are nearly as long, longer than what this is.

Allison: But not by much.

Ann: Not by much.

Allison: We’ll be recording one this weekend which means that I am talking to Ann for upwards of 8.5 hours this week so lots of content coming your way.

Ann: Lots of content. Lots of Allison and Ann banter. Anyway, that was a long episode, thank you all for listening to this. There’s going to be more Mary, Queen of Scots episodes, let me think, there are going to be, I don’t even know, basically between me telling you stuff and then experts, maybe the authors of some of the books that I’ve referred to coming on to share information with you, there’s going to be at least four more episodes of Mary, Queen of Scots content so thank you all for listening. Until next time, keep your pants on and your tits out. 


Vulgar History is hosted, written, and researched by Ann Foster and edited by Cristina Lumague.

Transcribed by Aveline Malek at



Daughters of the North: Jean Gordon and Mary Queen of Scots by Jennifer Morag Henderson

Embroidering Her Truth: Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power by Clare Hunter

Homecoming: The Scottish Years of Mary Queen of Scots by Rosemary Goring

Mary Queen of Scots’ Secretary: William Maitland–Politician, Reformer, and Conspirator by Robert Stedell

Mary Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy

Mary Was Here: Where Mary Queen of Scots Went and What She Did There by Historic Scotland

Learn more about Allison Epstein and their books at and follow them on IG and Twitter @ rapscallison

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