There’s Something About Mary, Queen of Scots: Part Seven: Lochleven (with Allison Epstein)

In this week’s episode, our girl is BACK as Mary dons at least one disguise and manipulates numerous fools around her!


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: Escape from Lochleven Castle by Theresa Breslin 

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

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 Seven

Month 1, 2023

Ann: Hello and welcome back to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. This is the Mary, Queen of Scots season and there’s so much to get into. Again, I can’t believe I ever thought I would do this in four episodes, that was just a ridiculous thing I thought. And imagine if I had, how much weird stuff I’d have to skip. I’m Ann Foster and I’m joined today by Allison Epstein.

Allison: Hello, hello. I am back, happy to be here.

Ann: I think it’s interesting, your first appearances on this podcast, not this season but in general, were dirtbag-adjacent reasons. I brought you on when I had a story of a weird dirtbag, so you could react to it.

Allison: I was your straight man to the what-on-earth-is-happening-in-this-story kind of thing. Those have been my greatest hits so far.

Ann: And then we brought you on for Darnley because he is your nemesis.

Allison: The worst, I hate him so much, I would blow him up in his house myself if I could.

Ann: And then we had Bothwell, which is just, honestly, it’s like, “Wow, Darnley what a terrible husband… Oh wow!”

Allison: Could it get worse?

Ann: She was married to Bothwell for a month, and it was like, at least as bad as Darnley was. But now we’re into a part of the story that you don’t know as well so now I’m just, kind of like, telling you stuff.

Allison: I also love when you tell me stories, it’s why I listen to the podcast in the first place. 

Ann: Exactly. So, this is just like you listening to the podcast, but you also happen to be recording what you’re up to.

Allison: Yes, I’m also a deep enthusiast of Mary, Queen of Scots. I was telling Ann right before we started recording; I know a lot about what happened in France, and I know a lot about what happened in England. But after Darnley gets blown up in Scotland there’s just a period of some years that I’m not as familiar with.

Ann: And that’s a period of time that I don’t blame any movie maker, historical fiction writer for glossing over because it’s just, like, 75 men, all called James, writing weird contracts with each other over and over again.

Allison: There’s a lot of paperwork. More than I expected.

Ann: There’s a lot of paperwork, there are a lot of men called James, there are a lot of people not being sure… Like, no one is in charge. It’s just 28 guys and none of them is really steering what they’re doing but they all know that they want to do something. Anyway, we’ll see there’s a lot of that. 

First, I’ll say my references. Mary Queen of Scots’ Secretary: William Maitland–Politician, reformer, and Conspirator by Robert Stedell. Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle by Theresa Breslin, which is an illuschildren’sldrens’ picture book. [Allison chuckles] And you know what? I’m all for more illustrated children’s picture books about very specific moments in the lives of historical figures. Mary Was Here: Where Mary Queen of Scots Went and What She Did There by Historic Scotland, Embroidering Her Truth: Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power by Clare Hunter, Daughters of the North Jean Gordon and Mary Queen of Scots by Jennifer Morag Henderson and Homecoming: The Scottish Years of Mary Queen of Scots by Rosemary Goring, that’s Mary, Queen of Scots in Scotland, and what she did while she was in Scotland. 

So, last time, William Cecil was revealed as the Wizard of Oz behind everything. He manipulated Bothwell into forcing Mary to marry him despite Bothwell having three current other wives. This turned everyone in Scotland against him and kind of her. Bothwell fled, and Mary surrendered to the asshole confederacy who claimed, “Yeah, come with us, we’re going to restore you to be the Queen. Just march on with us behind this banner of your murdered husband.”

Allison: “And your screaming child.” 

Ann: Totally chill, totally chill vibes. So, when Mary struck this deal with the rebel assholes, she believed she was returning to Edinburgh to resume her reign and be reunited with her son. And honestly, she had faced down against assholes several times before and that has always weirdly happened after, she went back and it was, “Business as usual, I’m Queen again.” But then the rebels dismissed the women who were with her, like Mary Seaton from the Four Marys, leaving her escorted back to Edinburgh just by male soldiers. She was riding just next to the banner showing the corpse of Darnley and her baby son being like, “Avenge me, oh Lord Jesus,” or whatever. 

So, she must have been like, oh no– I think she later wrote, or someone said she said, “I wish I had never seen that banner.” Which, I don’t know if she had seen the illustration before but to see that banner and then to have to ride into town next to a banner of your murdered husband…

Allison: I wonder if they kept the tasteful ink blot over his private parts?

Ann: I’m not sure, I’m not sure. I might have an answer for you in next time’s episode because one of my books does delve a lot into this banner, one of the books I’ve been reading. 

So, she entered Edinburgh and throughout this story, throughout these last 6, 7 episodes, she’s entered Edinburgh a lot of times, generally to cheering crowds. Last time, to perplexed crowds being like, “Is she a prisoner of Bothwell? Should we cheer?” But this time, it was clear she had lost the support of the people because as she entered Edinburgh, “They screamed obscenities and threw mud at her yelling things like, ‘Burn the whore!’ and ‘Murderess!’”

Allison: Fairly direct, yeah. Not a lot of interpretation. 

Ann: No, it’s kind of like, “Oh, this is a change.” Remember also, she’s still wearing the borrowed outfit from last time where she had to get clothes from a much shorter peasant woman which did include, because I know you’re a hat enthusiast, a velvet hat. 

Allison: Excellent. The one good thing about this outfit, I’m sure.

Ann: Yeah. But did she sit there on the horse being self-pitying? No. In fact, she yelled at the asshole soldiers who were taking her being like, she was going to “Hang and crucify her for betraying her.” She told Lindsay – a character who we first met last time but I think you’ll remember because his name is Lindsay – she told, “I will have your head for this.” And you know, literally, she meant that. So, she wasn’t just being taken like, “Mm, I guess this is what’s happening to me.” In the Bothwell era, Mary was just not an active participant in a lot of what happened there. She was just kind of being dragged along; she was having health issues, she was having mental health issues. She was not the Mary we knew because she was overwhelmed with emotions and grief and medical issues and things. 

But our girl is back this week in the episode. But she’s also, interestingly… In times of wild crisis, she really thrives. Like, I think one of her most impressive eras was… the night that Rizzio was murdered and how she turned that all around. In a crisis, she’s your girl, she steps up.

Allison: She’s really, really good when her chips are down, which is great because her chips are always down all the time. So, I’m glad she’s good in a crisis, she’d better be. 

Ann: Yeah, exactly. She’s always trying to find allies and people to work with her but she’s so good on her own. Last time, she was relying on Bothwell and that went very badly, obviously, but she was just kind of letting him take over and she stepped back which I’m sure was maybe good for her to maybe sleep and get better. But here, she’s isolated again, and this is where she’s just like a feral cat who is like, “Oh, you’re going to fuck with me? I will murder you!” So, anyway, that’s the vibe. 

So, instead of going to the castle, she was taken to this fancy house on Edinburgh’s high street where she was placed under guard in an upstairs room and the dead Darnley banner was positioned opposite her window in the street below. So, when she looked outside it’s like… There it is. “A mob outside continued to yell abuse up to her. She was offered supper but refused because she, sensibly, assumed it was poisoned.”

Allison: I’m sure it was.

Ann: So, she was kept in the room. I’m trying to think who is in charge of this… Well, that’s the thing, kind of no one is, which is part of the problem because they had defeated Bothwell but now it’s like, no one was in charge of the other side.

Allison: The confederacy of lords is still kind of a blob of asshole men.

Ann: Yeah. Like, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart is kind of in charge but he’s not there because he’s never there when shit goes down because he wants to keep his hands clean. So, no one is quite sure what to do so they put her in this house. But they do know that she is a cunning bitch, so they’re just like, “She will escape, she will make a rope out of sheets, she will put on men’s clothes, she will switch places.”

Allison: “She will lower herself onto a horse like it’s Mission Impossible. We got ideas.”

Ann: They, to their credit? They knew that she was good at this shit.

Allison: Cunning bitch, complimentary.

Ann: Yes, absolutely. So, she was in the room and there were guards, like, male guards in the room with her the whole time because they knew that she might come up with some sort of scheme. This also meant she was in the room by herself, there were no ladies with her to help her undress because this is the era where there are no zippers, you just get pinned in and out of your dresses by a group of people.

Allison: There are no zippers, despite what the costume designers on Reign would have you believe.

Ann: Yeah, fair. This is where, whatever this episode is coming out a few weeks from now but there’s a new movie coming out called Firebrand about Katherine Parr, with Alicia Vikander playing Katherine Parr, and Jude Law as Henry VIII. And costume design social media are losing their minds at how accurate the costumes are. I’ve never seen the costume design… I love costume designers on social media and on podcasts, like my beloved Frock Flicks, because they’re so picky. They’re like, “Oh, I noticed that that extra is wearing a dress from 1763 and this one is wearing a dress from 1754. Oh my.” They notice so many things and I love how they notice things. But this trailer came out and unanimously they’re like, “Oh my god, oh my god. She’s wearing a French hood with a chin strap! A chin strap!” They’re losing their minds. But one of the images that was released was Alicia Vikander wearing a dress and someone’s like, “It’s pinned on! It’s pinned on!” People are losing their minds in a good way about those costumes. So, I was like, “Oh, pinned on. Yeah, that does look complicated to put on and off.” 

Anyway, Mary is there in this borrowed, too-short dress that is pinned on, she can’t change out of it, and she has no privacy, even when using the chamber pot. She’s pregnant.

Allison: Do people know she’s pregnant at this point?

Ann: They don’t. But I bet she was peeing a lot. So, this was humiliating but also, speaks to how much they knew that she was a wily bitch. At some point, she looked out the window and passed the banner of her dead husband and baby son screaming for revenge, Scottish Machiavelli was on the street, and she tried to get his attention, but he was just like, “I don’t see you,” and wouldn’t look at her. Later he did come up to talk to her and he told her if she rejected Bothwell that he would be able to protect her from those who wanted her dead. She’s like, “Guess what dipshit? Bothwell gave me this piece of paper on it with your name on it, with all y’alls names on it. It says James 45 times, that’s all of you.” 

Allison: Why did Bothwell do that? Why? Was he just like, “I’d like to admit to murder before I leave town.”

Ann: I don’t know. But why did she tell him she had this piece of paper? Because she’s like, “I have this piece of paper and I’m going to expose all of y’all as the murderers of Darnley. I know that you are the reason this investigation didn’t see through, I’m going to expose you all.” And at some point, that night, this paper was taken from her and never seen again. Anyway, she continued to demand to be released, to have a hearing, to be told what she was being charged with but there is no response, and she grew “hysterical.” I don’t know what other word to use; she was crying and screaming, and I don’t know.

Allison: As most of us would be if we were arrested without charges and interrogated for several hours while staring at the banner of our dead husband and screaming child.

Ann: Yeah, after having just been in a weird, coercive, toxic, abusive, nightmare kidnapping.

Allison: While also recovering from sexual assault and still being pregnant.

Ann: Yeah. 

Allison: She’s upset.

Ann: She’s upset, she’s upset. So, the next morning she went to the window, and somebody who saw her described that she was in “So miserable a state, her hair hanging around her ears.” And okay, I’ll say how they described it. “Her breasts, most part of all her body from the waist up, bare and discovered.”

Allison: So, sad tits out?

Ann: So, tits out but sad? Or just, was it just like, her top was loosened or was she just like… I’m not sure. I’ve never encountered tits out but sad before. Anyway, she’s just like, “Have sympathy for me!” 

Later, those who wanted to besmirch her name would rewrite this to be like, “She was so sad she was separated from her true love, Bothwell. She was crying out for Bothwell, that she wanted to see her lover again.”

Allison: No. 

Ann: Which was categorically not what she was crying about. But anyway, so bear in mind, the thing is, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart is off in France or something being like, “I’ll just let the chips fall where they may and then I’ll swoop in,” so nobody knew what to do. Initially, they were pressuring her to divorce Bothwell, which she refused to do because she knew by now, they didn’t know, she was pregnant by him, and she didn’t want the child to be illegitimate. But she also probably thought, “Maybe he’ll come and rescue me, and we can take over again,” she didn’t know that he was off in a dungeon in Denmark or whatever, which he was not yet. At this point, he was trying to get supporters to help him, and no one was joining him.

Allison: He was being rejected by ex-wife number one, about to be rejected by ex-wife number two.

Ann: Exactly. But even if she did divorce him, which is a Protestant thing, not a Catholic thing… They were like, “You need to divorce Bothwell,” and let’s say she did that, if Mary was, like, single again, she would still have the power to overthrow these guys and she would insist on– As soon as she had power again she would get a parliamentary inquiry into the murder of Darnley now that she knew that they had done it and she would prove her own innocence because she had seen the piece of paper. As we’re going to see in this story, someone having seen a piece of paper can be evidence, even if that piece of paper is no longer there. Anyway, so the lords were just kind of like, “Eugh, we can’t let her have power again because she knows that we killed Darnley, and that will expose us, and then we can’t… whatever we want to do.” I don’t know what any of their plans are.

Allison: Well, I’m sure their plans were not to get executed for the murder of Darnley and so her being able to prosecute them for that would get in the way of the plan of staying alive.

Ann: Fair. That’s what their plan is, their plan is just let’s not be executed. And so, to do that, they had to keep her prisoner. But until they could “prove” that she was complicit in the murder of Darnley, they had to keep her away so she wouldn’t expose them, and they also had to keep her away from any allies who might try to come and help her, so they had to isolate her. 

Another thing to keep in mind, Mary at this point, I’m going to blow your mind listeners, so she’s 24 years old. She came to Scotland when she was 18. So, she has spent basically 5-6 years, from landing in Scotland until now, it feels like 25 years but… 

Allison: She’s 24, she’s been married three times. Lord. Remember when you were 24, Ann? I was not, not here for any of the things she was doing.

Ann: I was not successfully leading multiple armies against multiple civil wars led by people who I thought I trusted.

Allison: When I was 24, I have a very vivid memory of crying through doing my taxes alone for the first time so [laughs] I think historians don’t cut her a lot of slack for being barely not a child at this point.

Ann: Very much so. Yeah, so she’s 24 but here’s the clutch thing. So, this is what? It’s, like, June. And that December would be her birthday and she’d turn 25. So, there’s this law in Scotland that when you turn 25, when anyone, any of their series of baby monarchs turns 25, that’s the age of majority. At that point, they can undo things that happened previously in their reign, and they will be in full power.

Allison: Like a do-over? That’s neat.

Ann: Yeah, so when she turns 25, she could do things that, like, take away lands and titles that have been given to them. So, they really want to make her not be queen by the time she’s 25, basically, which is a ticking clock because she’s 24 right now.

Allison: 24 and 6 months, yeah.

Ann: Yeah, exactly. They needed to keep her both somewhere where allies and supporters couldn’t free her, but also somewhere where she couldn’t spread the word that they had killed Darnley but also to keep her somewhere where maybe they could keep her indefinitely so that when she turns 25, she wouldn’t take away all their lands and titles. And again, no one is in charge.

So, they stopped in at Holyrood where two of the Four Marys were there, so she was able to change into her own clothes, see the Marys and just eat food because she hadn’t been eating because of poison reasons. And she was there for a minute and then suddenly, I think in the middle of dinner, they came up and were like, “Actually, we’re leaving now, totally to go visit your son, I promise.” And she’s like, “Okay.” And then they went out on their horses and she’s like, “That’s not the way to where my son is.” And they’re like, “Isn’t it?” because they were headed to a place called Lochleven Castle which is on an island in the middle of a loch, which is like a lake but Scottish.

Allison: Scottish tits out brigade can correct us but that’s my understanding as well.

Ann: Yeah. So, being on an island, the only way to reach this place was via boat which meant it would be really hard for her supporters to come and get her because you would see the boat coming and you could stop it. So, Lochleven Castle was also owned by… A Douglas!

Allison: A Douglas!

Ann: [laughs] It’s owned by a Douglas, Sir William Douglas, AKA WD-40. [Allison laughs] Do you have that in the US?

Allison: We do.

Ann: Okay.

Allison: Oh boy, that’s great.

Ann: And WD-40 is the half-brother of Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart but in the other direction.

Allison: So, it’s his dad’s brother…

Ann: Same mom. They have the same mom, WD-40, and Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart.

Allison: That’s my favourite of your nicknames so far, by the way.

Ann: WD-40?

Allison: Yes. [laughs]

Ann: So, they had the same mother who had been the mistress to Mary’s dad, J5. There are other siblings as well, there’s also a sister named Euphemia, which is a great name. In a story full of Janets and Marys, I’m sorry, Euphemia?

Allison: I hope she gets to hang out with Lindsay, just for a whimsical day.

Ann: Allison, they’re married to each other.

Allison: What? Are you kidding me? [laughs] I’m so happy!

Ann: Euphemia and Lindsay are a married couple.

Allison: Fuck yeah.

Ann: So, WD-40 also has a wife, Lady Agnes Douglas, who was pregnant at the time, and she was assigned the job of being Mary’s shadow. Again, they know she’s a crafty bitch. So, Lady Agnes Douglas was staying with her 24/7, including sleeping in the same room, I’m going to guess the same bed because of this whole Scottish bed shortage. Also shadowing her but in an unofficial capacity were WD-40’s teen daughter and niece who I think just thought she was an icon and wanted to follow her around.

Allison: That’s awesome.

Ann: WD-40 was also under oath to kill Mary if she tried to escape. So, like, the fact that Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart is still not physically here but the fact that they’re like, “Let’s put Mary on this island owned by his mom,” he’s clearly behind this and helped come up with this idea at least. So, Mary arrived there, she did not eat for two weeks because of fear of being poisoned which… Sensible? Sensible fear.

Allison: It’s not an irrational fear. 

Ann: No. Anyway, she did not eat for two weeks, maybe from fear of poisoning, maybe because her anxiety response to a stressful situation is that she loses her appetite. So, of course, all the various illnesses are triggered, her limbs swole, she developed pustules, and she’s also actively pregnant. So, she didn’t know what was going on, not just because no one told her but also because the assholes didn’t know what was going on. They just put her there and they’re like, “Let’s figure this out later.” A warrant had been issued for her to be kept incarcerated indefinitely for helping Bothwell kill Darnley. And this, I hate, okay, she was also being accused of interfering in the investigation of Darnley’s murder, as though it’s her fault that they didn’t investigate properly.

Allison: You know who else interfered with Darnley’s murder trial? Every single man in Scotland. Every single person. She’s the only one who didn’t! 

Ann: Yeah. So, this warrant, just bear in mind for consistency in this podcast series, was a piece of paper that was signed by everybody. Because these guys just see a piece of paper, they sign it; these guys are into signing papers. But meanwhile, back in England, Elizabeth was like, “Wait, what? What?” Because we talked last time about how Elizabeth, her thing is, “We need to treat monarchs special, and if someone starts putting a queen in prison, for instance, that could be a slippery slope to someone putting a me in jail. So, not a fan of this.” She was 100% on Mary’s side against the asshole confederacy. In fact, Elizabeth called to raise an army to save her, not because women support women but because Mary was a queen, Elizabeth was a queen, and the fact that any queen was treated this way was offensive to her, she was horrified.

Allison: Offensive and also extremely threatening to her because her own legitimacy on the throne of England was not very certain in people’s eyes anyway so if all those angry Catholics in England were like, “Ooh, we can imprison queens on islands? Maybe we should do that.”

Ann: It’s interesting. The story changes and develops and people’s goals and motivations change. Even for people who don’t know this story super well, myself six months ago, there’s this idea that Mary versus Elizabeth, that’s the rivalry, that’s what’s going on. But Elizabeth is very supportive of her at this time in this way. She’s like, “Raise a goddamn army, let’s go and free my girl.”

Allison: Elizabeth has no problem with Mary being Mary, Queen of Scots.

Ann: Yeah. But William Cecil is like, “Or, we could not.” He’s like, hiding his whiteboard with a poster. [laughs]

Allison: He’s hiding it behind a giant flag with Darnley’s dead body on it.

Ann: Yes, yes, yes. Oh my god, yes. So, he’s like, “What if we don’t go to war but instead send an envoy to go and make sure she’s treated okay?” And that happens. The envoy is Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, AKA Throcko. His job is not just to see if she’s okay. His job is to negotiate Mary’s release and reinstatement. 

So, Throcko shows up and he is denied permission to see her because the lords are like, “Mary? There’s no one called Mary here, boop-boop-boop. Don’t worry about it.” But he persisted because he knew that it would be really easy for them to kill her and make it look like an accident, or an illness or something, and Mary also knew that, that’s why she’s suspicious of all food she’s being fed. 

Allison: Was Throckmorton a Catholic? Or a closet Catholic? I feel like maybe he was interested in Mary for personal reasons as well as…

Ann: All I know in terms of the story that I’m telling you right now, but I could research more for next week, is that he is a good guy who is helping her out. So, he figured out a way to smuggle a letter to her. Remember there’s Moby Dick from last time, who is Sir Something Melville who was Mary’s secretary when she was being held by Bothwell. So, Moby Dick has a brother, Sir Robert Melville. 

Allison: Bob Dick. Yeah, familiar.

Ann: So, what happens is he’s helping out, Sir Robert is, like, an okay person. So, Throcko hid the letter in Sir Robert’s scabbard, of his sword, so the letter got to her. She read the letter and the letter said, “You should break all ties with Bothwell, this is how you can survive.” 

Allison: Also, can I just say, before we go on, I love that they’re confiscating letters but what they’re not confiscating, apparently, are swords. [laughs] They’re like, “Hide it on your sword, they won’t take that away from you.” 

Ann: That’s true. They didn’t want Mary to correspond with anybody because they didn’t want her to reveal that they had killed Darnley and they didn’t want anyone to offer her help. But you’re right, you’re right. They’re like, “You know what we don’t accept here? Letters. Swords, cool.” 

Allison: “Swords are good, no worries.”

Ann: “Yeah, we won’t even search your sword, it’s fine.” Anyway, so she sent a letter back, I guess through the scabbard, and she was just like, “I can’t break ties with Bothwell, I am pregnant, and my child can’t be named illegitimate.” There are also concerns about, like, if she had Bothwell’s child, would James be murdered? There’s a lot of stuff about what would happen.

Allison: Was this the big public reveal of her pregnancy? 

Ann: I’m not sure. I do have a thing… I’m not sure. But Throcko knows and Sir Robert knows. Throcko heard that the lords were going to make her abdicate so he smuggled another letter to her via scabbard urging her, basically, “They’re going to give you this abdication paperwork, but this will save your life if you sign it. It won’t be legal. A forced abdication is not legal, and you can revoke it later so just sign it.” So, he had been sent there to negotiate her reinstatement and release but now he’s trying to just make her be not murdered, is his focus. 

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh to the surprise of nobody, posters! A poster campaign! John Knox returned to Edinburgh.

Allison: With his teenage bride.

Ann: With his teenage bride and their children, and he thundered against the Whore of Babylon. He called her the Scarlet Adventuress.

Allison: Okay, that’s dope as hell John Knox.

Ann: That’s a merch idea, the Scarlet Adventuress.

Allison: I love it. I would like to watch that show.

Ann: Me too! Anyway, there are posters, the posters going up being like, “Mary is a whooore,” et cetera. John Knox is back being like, “Look at my beard, she sucks. Don’t look at my teenage bride, it’s totally not a Courtney Stodden situation at all!” He said, “God would send a great plague on the whole nation if Mary was spared from punishment.” So, he was just being like, “She’s awful, she sucks,” before she even arrived. And then she arrived and he’s like, “She’s awful!” and it’s like, she’s literally an 18-year-old Catholic widow who wears pants sometimes and he’s like, “She’s the devil!” But now she’d actually done stuff, so his sermons make more sense, maybe? I don’t know. Anyway, whatever. He could not be more excited that she maybe did something he could be actually mad about. 

So, Throcko is just, like, Mary’s pal. When we get to the Lady Jane Seymour Award, Davie Rizzio is a strong contender obviously, but Throcko is just coming in clutch. Again, he was not seeing her, but he was hearing that she needs more gentlewomen around her, she has very few servants, it was just these teen girls trailing after her, and there was this pregnant wife who is in her room all the time. She needed her girls. So, he appealed to Elizabeth that she needed more gentlewomen around her, and Mary Seaton from the Four Marys was allowed to come join her. And then, around the 24th of July, Mary had a miscarriage. 

So, there is some timeline stuff I want to get into. The widespread understanding of this is that she miscarried twins, but I don’t think she could have known it was twins that early.

Allison: Not with that level of obstetric medicine.

Ann: No. So, I checked with tits out brigade member Isobel who is a specialty trainee in obstetrics and gynaecology and she said, “It is incredibly unlikely that at 7 weeks, what she passed would have been distinguishable as two sacs, even if they weren’t identical.” Like, an experienced midwife wouldn’t necessarily be like, “Oh, that’s that.” So, why would she have said it was twins if she didn’t know that? 

But this is where the timeline of it all… So, it’s like, if she became pregnant when Bothwell first kidnapped her, which was a month before their marriage, she wouldn’t have wanted to admit that she got pregnant before she married Bothwell because then the child would be illegitimate because he was married to Jean at the time. So, she had to date her pregnancy as not happening until after she married Bothwell. But if she was starting to show more, her cover story might have been like, “Oh, it’s twins,” to cover the fact that she’s looking more pregnant than maybe should be? 

Allison: Is it also possible that if the pregnancy dated from earlier then she might be far enough along to know at this point, that it was twins?

Ann: That is possible, yeah. But I don’t think she would have dated… I don’t think she would have known. I guess a midwife could have seen. So, it’s kind of unclear. It’s just interesting to me that the commonly accepted thing here is that she miscarried twins where it’s like, we don’t actually know. Whatever passed from her body cannot be examined at this point. But yeah, I don’t know, it could have been twins, it could have been Bothwell’s twins. Anyway, she had a miscarriage. Guess what? She has a gazillion health issues already, this was not, this is another one. 

The news of, you were asking, was the pregnancy widely known? In fact, no. This news was kept from most people, other nobles too, because it would make people sympathetic to her if they’d heard that she had miscarried and they didn’t want people to have sympathy for her, they wanted people to hate her. So, I don’t think the pregnancy was widely known at that point. “The miscarriage caused her to hemorrhage, and she became incredibly ill,” because she’s also been not eating, and in a stressful situation, and has all these comorbidities. 

So, of course, because the assholes are assholes, they’re like, “You know what’s a great moment to get her to sign the abdication paperwork? While she’s bedridden, grieving her child loss.” So, that is when they came to her, lying in her bed. So, the person who brought the paperwork was in fact Lindsay and when she refused to sign the paperwork, Lindsay threatened to cut her throat if she did not agree and so she signed, bearing in mind what Throcko had told her, “This can be redacted later. If you sign this under duress, it doesn’t count.”

Allison: And I think, “I will cut your throat,” really counts as duress in this situation.

Ann: Especially being said by a man holding a knife to your throat, who you’ve seen murder other people.

Allison: While you’re in bed and can’t get up. Yeah.

Ann: Yeah. And you’re on an island where no one can get to you, and you can’t cry for help. So, what she signed was paperwork confirming, one, “I stepped down, I am no longer queen of Scotland.” The second said, “The new regent will be Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart.” And the third thing would appoint a regency council. So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart is officially the regent, but there would also be a council of advisors which would comprise of all the greatest hits; councilman Jeremy Jam, you know, the guys. So anyway, in her own words, “Vexed, broken, and unquiet, she signed away her crown, hoping that she could get it back later.” 

So, then BJ’s coronation was held in Edinburgh, and they got out the baby-sized crown, another baby king.

Allison: “Go get the tiny crown, James.” I assume it was a James.

Ann: “James needs his tiny crown, James.” It says it’s engraved James, Baby James. So, Mary wasn’t told that this was happening. She was in her room, I guess getting better and she was like, “Why are there bonfires being lit and people are dancing in the gardens outside?” And people were like, “Oh, they’re celebrating because of the coronation of your son.” And Mary was like, “James will avenge me,” you know, once he stops being a literal infant.

Allison: “James will avenge me, it says so on the flag outside.”

Ann: It does actually. She stared at that flag for so long that night in that room.

Allison: “I know what James will do, he will avenge me, oh Lord. I know.”

Ann: Again, she and Throcko have a good thing going with messages back and forth. Throcko gets a message to Elizabeth. So, she told Elizabeth she would rather “Herself and the prince were in your realm than elsewhere in Christendom.” So, she’s just really being like, “I wish I was with Elizabeth, I think things would be okay if I was with her.”

Allison: And she’s got good reason for thinking that because Elizabeth is the only one sending her people who are trying to help her.

Ann: Yeah. Elizabeth is the one who made her be not murdered right now. So, at the coronation though, although there were bonfires and stuff, and people were writing letters being like, “Everyone is so excited about the new baby king!” it’s like, no one was excited. Most of the nobles did not attend the coronation and even the asshole rebels, they’d taken over the council, but they didn’t have the support of the wider nobility who were just, kind of like, not cool with this coup that was happening. Even if they had been on the anti-Bothwell side before, there’s, like, a core group of people who are keeping Mary on this island and that’s not everybody, that’s this group. 

Actually, fun fact… [laughs softly] that’s what my notes say, “Fun fact.” Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart is coming back on the scene, so I just wanted to clarify a bit more about him. So, before Mary even returned to Scotland, to recap very quickly. Her father died when she was six days old, she became the baby Queen of Scotland. Her mother, Marie de Guise fought until she, Marie de Guise was named the regent but then Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart and a bunch of other Protestant guys were like, “No, you shouldn’t be the regent. We should be the group of asshole regents.” And in fact, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was just like, “I should be goddamn King,” this is in the Marie de Guise era. So, he was like, “If I was legitimate then I would be the King right now.” So, he tried to get his mother’s marriage annulled to her husband…? This would mean that he would be the legitimate son of the King, which is not true, but he tried.

Allison: That doesn’t work. [laughs]

Ann: Because he’s not the son of the Queen so…

Allison: Right. Is it, like, any child that the King has that is not…? I don’t know.

Ann: It did not work. His petition was rejected for being nonsensical, presumably. But this just shows, like, even before Mary came, he was like, “I should be in charge.” Like with the Cock o’ the North scenario and everything, he was always actively working against her and that’s because he always clearly felt like he should be in charge. And now he’s the regent so he got what he always wanted, I guess, except she was still alive and could rally supporters at a moment’s notice as soon as she was off this goddamn island. 

So, he was overseeing her “care” at Lochleven, so he was the one who was treating her really badly. Basically, neglecting her actively; trying to humble and break her psychologically so she wouldn’t attempt to restore herself to the Crown. But he forgot: no one puts Mary in a corner. This is when she’s at her strongest; when she’s being isolated and someone’s trying to bring her down. But that’s the reason she was not given enough ladies, she didn’t get her outfits, she wasn’t fed enough, and she didn’t have enough things to do. 

She requested a professional embroiderer, she wanted to have a household, she wanted to, you know, bedazzle her outfits. But instead, she was sent… So, the court embroiderer traced out a pattern that he sent her and thread and he’s like, “Here’s how you do it,” but they wouldn’t send the actual embroiderer there for her. Also, because she’s on a little tiny island, she couldn’t do horseback riding or hunting, the things she liked to do. So, she just really got into embroidery at this point. 

So, she already was doing embroidery, that’s a thing lots of people did, it was a creative outlet, it was a way to communicate your thoughts and feelings. In the Clare Hunter book that I used a lot as a reference, she talks a lot about how Catherine de’ Medici never wrote journals, but she did so much embroidery and through that… It’s like looking at someone’s scrapbook. What did they choose to do? What was their style like? You can really see what they were thinking through what they were doing. So, she really turned to embroidery just for self-expression, I think. “Sewing is tactile, it has a rhythm, it steadies the mind, and calms the spirit and can be therapeutic.” So, maybe this was just helping her in that way as well. “It’s also a way to communicate for those whose voices are going unheard in other ways.” Clare Hunter wrote.

Allison: I’m sure your book gets into this as well, but it will always be devalued in every single period drama you’ve ever watched, “I don’t want to sit at home and embroider all the time, I want to have adventures.” It’s just, like… I hate that so much. It’s devalued because it’s women’s work but it’s art and it’s practical. It’s a skill, it’s not just a thing you do while you’re waiting for your husband to come home from the war. Mary, Queen of Scots is embroidering, it’s not like…

Ann: It’s a huge thing, for sure. Let me just say the title of the book again. Embroidering Her Truth: Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power by Clare Hunter. It’s really, really, really interesting. She talks about Mary, Queen of Scots but also that sort of stuff, the power in embroidery. And I think you’re right, there are so many things, like in Brave the Pixar movie, she’s like, “I don’t want to do embroidery, I want to do archery.” Or in Game of Thrones, Sansa is like, “I want to do embroidery,” and everyone’s like, “She sucks! Arya’s cool because she does sword fighting.” Mary also does sword fighting. But, like, the embroidery that she did – and we’re going to get to this in next week’s episode – really expresses what she was thinking and feeling like a journal would. Why are people not like, “Oh, she’s writing a journal? That’s women’s work.” Anyway. Even painting I think is respected more than embroidery.

Allison: Because men paint.

Ann: True. True. Yeah. So, this is a period of time when embroidery was becoming a thing that lots of women did. I forget if it’s in this book, but with the kinds of needles and thread that there were, people were really getting into it. Catherine de’ Medici was so into it, she left behind hundreds of thousands of things. And you can really learn about people by what they did. Anyway so, she’s getting really into embroidery at this point in her life for various reasons. And I like the idea that it’s a way to communicate, for people who are not able to communicate in other ways. 

So, the weeks/months went on and she acclimated to what her situation was. She was able to stroll around the gardens, she worked on her embroidery, she did other indoor things, played cards, she danced, and played music when she was able to. So, this could be mistaken, for the people there– At first, when she shows up, they’re like, “We have to keep an eye on her, she’s a crafty bitch.” But eventually, they’re like, “She seems fine,” so she starts getting more freedoms, more things to do. Not freedoms but she’s allowed to do more things. 

Allison: “We won’t be hovering over you all the time because you’re probably going to be needlepointing.”

Ann: Yeah. And the other people don’t have the energy to be following her 24 hours a day for this long. In August, and she was arrested in June, so two months later, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart came to visit her. So, Baby James had been crowned in July, so a month later, Jimmy Stewart comes to visit Mary. I love this detail. He arrived on one of her horses and he fell off into the loch when he arrived. 

Allison: [laughs] And Mary’s like, “Go horse.”

Ann: Exactly, exactly. So, then he came to her room, and he started just mansplaining, yelling at her like, “How dare you marry Bothwell, you’re such a shitty person? Bleugh.” And then he was like, “But I don’t know, should I accept the job as regent?” And she was like, “Well, you are the bastard son of our shared father so fuck you.” And he’s like, “I already am the regent, I was just asking you to be polite!” 

Actually, so rewind to what he’s been doing. So, actually all the way back to when she had the gastric ulcer that time, before Darnley was even dead. So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart then he’s like, “What? Mary’s getting sick and might die?” And he started secretly taking some of her possessions like her jewelry and stuff because he’s like, “Then I can be in charge.” So, now that she was actually in jail, he decided that he had the right to all of her things. So, he took everything including not just jewelry that were the Crown Jewels of Scotland, but things that were like, personal gifts given to Mary, like, by her first husband Francis, and things like that.

Allison: Did. He. Take. The. Tortoise?

Ann: [hushed tone] I don’t know.

Allison: Because if he did, I hope he’s burning. 

Ann: I don’t know. So, she wrote a will bequeathing this jewel to this person and this jewel… I think he took everything; he took everything. Her most on-paper, priciest thing was she had this “Many-stringed necklace of rare black pearls, each as large as a grape, which Mary had worn when she was Queen of France.” And he needed money for Scotland. This is the thing, he took the jewelry to try and sell it, to pawn it. Well, he gave some to his wife, and then other things he tried to pawn. So, he offered these black pearls to Catherine de’ Medici, who was interested, you know she likes a black look, it’s her colour. He also offered them to Elizabeth I and she bought them and actually, her famous portrait of Elizabeth, the Armada Portrait, she’s wearing them. 

Allison: Wow.

Ann: Yeah, yeah. I’ll post that on Instagram… I know, I know, the tortoise. Mmm. Anyway. So, speaking of Elizabeth, once Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was installed as regent and it seemed like Mary’s murder was not going to happen anytime soon, Throcko was recalled but Elizabeth never formally accepted Jimmy Stewart as regent because she could not be seen to condone Mary being kicked out of being Queen because that would set a precedent against her. 

Meanwhile, Mary is in this castle whatevering. But it’s, kind of like, they can’t keep her there forever. They’re like, “Okay, we want to prove that she was complicit in the murder of Darnley,” a thing that she was not complicit in. So, they needed to fake up some evidence to make it look like she was. By keeping her at Lochleven without a trial, the assholes could keep spreading rumours, putting up posters, and making everyone think she was guilty but like, they couldn’t put her on trial without any evidence at all. 

And so, my least favourite thing to talk about, one of my least favourite things to talk about in terms of Mary, Queen of Scots – whenever any book gets to this part I’m just like, “Goddammit” – are the Casket letters. Are you familiar with the Casket letters?

Allison: Vaguely, but not enough to explain what they are.

Ann: Well, a lot of people have a lot of theories. But I think everyone mostly agrees; they were letters found in Bothwell’s cabinet; they were all letters sent to Bothwell. I’m going to tell you what I think as though it’s true because I think it is true. So, they were letters from various people to Bothwell; some were from Jean Gordon, some were from Skottefruen, Anna Throndsen, some were from Mary but those were, kind of like, business letters. Some of them were love sonnets, like, “Oh please, I miss you. Come back to me.” Those were probably from Anna. 

But anyway, they were taken, rewritten by somebody, none of them have signatures, it’s like, [laughs] “Let’s just cut the bottoms off, and pretend that no one…” The dates are all messed up, even the ones that maybe are from Mary, the dates are wrong. There’s like, I forget, she refers in one… Basically, they found all these letters in Bothwell’s house and were like, “What if we say they’re all from Mary? That will make it look like she was having an affair with him.” Because the letters are all like, “I miss you, I love you.” They were like, “Let’s pretend Mary wrote all these letters.” And she did write some of them. So, the point of them was to make it seem like Mary had been in love with him for a long time and they’d worked together to kill Darnley. None of the letters are like, “Let’s work together to kill Darnley.” The letters are like, “Hey, so did you do that thing you promised?” They’re all like “[gasps] That must mean, ‘Kill Darnley.’”

Allison: It was like, “Can you please send me child support for your Danish son?”

Ann: Yeah, exactly. And the whole thing is so stupid. William Cecil was like, “This isn’t going to hold up in court. You’re assholes.” So, the original letters were “mysteriously lost,” and only copies and extracts were provided later when there was a trial. And only copies of these copies have survived. [laughs] This is the point at which the letters first were… Some of the assholes were like, “We just found these letters, they totally prove she’s guilty.” And they send them to William Cecil and he’s like, “No they don’t. Never show these to anyone.” 

Allison: “This is terrible. Why is Scotland so bad at crime?” [laughs]

Ann: Exactly. It’s Daniel Craig in Glass Onion being like, “It’s so stupid. Why are you so stupid?” William Cecil is just like, “Does anyone have two brain cells in Scotland?” Anyway, this is where the letters show up. They’re going to recur throughout this story, but this is where they came from, this is when they first arrived. And I think it’s important to note that at that time William Cecil was like, “This isn’t evidence, you guys are dummies.” But anyway, rumours started spreading that letters existed that showed that she was guilty and people talked about them, and that itself became, sort of, evidence, just the fact that there was a rumour that evidence existed. So, they would never withstand scrutiny in court. Mary was never permitted to see them. In fact, nobody was allowed to see them. [laughs]

Allison: [laughs] “We have the evidence. It’s so good no one can look.”

Ann: Yeah. Meanwhile, back in Scotland, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart declared peace, like, that’s not how that works.

Allison: “I declare bankruptcy!” he said.

Ann: [laughs] So, this is September, The timeline is wild! She was kidnapped in April, she was arrested in June, and now it’s September of the same year. And she’s going to turn 25 in December, that’s the whole like, “And then all these things change.” So, on December 4th, four days before her 25th birthday, she was charged with the murder of Darnley and with the intent to murder her son.

Allison: That’s new.

Ann: Yeah, that is new. So, these acts both count as high treason so she was charged just before she turned 25, just under the wire before she got all these powers that she would have gotten. So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was now basically king in all but name, which is all he wanted, although he wanted to be king in actual name. But he, like every person in this story, had burned a lot of bridges and a lot of people hated him. He also had an unpleasant personality and had personally betrayed basically everyone, all these people you know are murderers. 

Allison: No one likes the guy who is in on all the schemes but is never around to take the blame for the schemes. No one likes him.

Ann: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Some of the people who were mad at him were the Hamilton family, so they were the ones who were historically always the regents of all the baby kings. And they were like, “Wait a minute! We are the regents of the baby kings!” And they were mad that he became the regent of this baby king when they were like, “But that’s the Hamilton family job!” So, they were like, “You know what? We support Mary now.” 

She had supporters and they started to coalesce into a group that became known as the Marians. I would have called them the Maid Marians. So, the Marians were trying to find ways to rescue her from this Alcatraz castle prison. Other supporters included Cock o’ the North Junior, the Gordons, all of the Highlands… the gang, the gang. 

Anyway, so we’re going to do a whole episode later, later on, after we’ve finished with Mary, I’m going to do an episode about the Four Marys, so I haven’t really gotten into details about them because there’s a lot of stuff to talk about otherwise. But one of the Four Marys was Mary Fleming, and her husband was, in fact, Scottish Machiavelli. But she was still on Mary’s side and presumably, hopefully, she kind of got Scottish Machiavelli to be more on Mary’s side as well. And she’s probably the person– Mary was sent a secret gift; I don’t know if this was also on the scabbard of a sword. Somehow Mary acquired a secret gift which was, “Aring representing Aesop’s fable of the mouse and the lion in which the mouse gnaws through the lion’s ropes.” So, I guess it’s a thing about like how, even though you’re trapped, you can still escape, even though you feel powerless. Mary Fleming probably sent this to Mary, so it could have been like, “Hey girl, don’t give up.” But it could have also been her being like, “Hey, guess who is on your side now? Scottish Machiavelli, my husband.” It could have been indicating that, who knows? There’s a lot of codes, there are a lot of creatures and animals, like, the posters in Edinburgh, it’s like, “This poster has the hair, and everyone knows that means Bothwell…” There’s a lot of symbolism going on that I don’t entirely understand.

Allison: Yeah, it feels like family crests but for individual people like how Richard III was always the wild boar or whatever. Richard the Lionheart. There’s just like… Bothwell the Rabbit. We’re running out, it’s been a minute.

Ann: So anyway, she was sent this Aesop’s Fables-inspired ring by probably Mary Fleming who was married to Scottish Machiavelli, so it was probably some sort of message, but we don’t know what the message was. 

And then, please know, Mary has been nonstop scheming as well. While her supporters are trying to figure out ways to free her she’s like, ”Fuck that, I’m going to free myself.” Like, she’s climbed out of windows onto horses, she’s put on men’s outfits, she’s outsmarted during the Rizzio murder. How many times has she run off into the darkest night on a horse after climbing out a window? She’s just like, “I got this. If no one is going to come save me, I will save myself.” 

So, one of the things she was using was her personal charm and beauty which was, I think, also why people were like, “Oh, don’t trust her.” But she could win people over with her personal charm and beauty and she did. This did backfire in the sense, in one instance here where one of the nobles who was there guarding her fell in love with her so hard that he burst into her room at 4 AM to say if she took him as a lover, he would help her escape. She had him removed but also, like, if you want to help her, that’s not how you do that.

Allison: If that guy’s not going to be helpful, I’m not sure that’s a good, subtle schemer you want on your team.

Ann: No, no. So yeah, separating the wheat from the chaff; who is going to be a helpful person here?

Allison: “You are going to be a hindrance, Sir.”

Ann: Yeah, that was actually the son of the guy from the Rizzio murder who showed up in armour, that guy’s son.

Allison: Of course, it was! [laughs] That whole family is like, “Subtlety? I’ve never heard of it.”

Ann: No, no. So, a useful ally was George Douglas.

Allison: A Douglas!

Ann: A Douglas… But a good one. The younger brother of WD-40 and Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, brother of Euphemia. So, I don’t know how old he was but bearing in mind, Mary is 25, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart is 10, 12 years older, he’s probably around Mary’s age, so a young man. With Bothwell now, everyone assumed he was dead so there was a thing about, is Mary going to take another husband? That was also a question/concern. And George Douglas could have been a good option. So, this might have been part of what she was thinking about too. But also, the best character in this week’s episode, Young Willy Douglas! That’s how he’s known, Young Willy is what he’s called.

Allison: Adorable.

Ann: AKA the Orphan, who… 

Allison: Aw, poor guy. [laughs]

Ann: He’s a young teen and he’s either one of WD-40’s young cousins or his illegitimate son or something, he’s a Douglas but he’s also lower class somehow and kind of like a servant-esque person. And so, another person who is there and always ready to help is Mary Seaton of the Four Marys. 

So, with those pieces in place, we’re going to go through escape attempt number one. So, this is March 1568, so she’s been there since the previous June, so not quite a year at this point. She’s now clearly gotten… Her health has restored after the miscarriage, hemorrhage, not eating for two weeks, everything, and she’s ready to climb out some windows and get this done. So, what happened this time is that– I’m not sure how she got this, George or Young Willy, one of them helped Mary get the clothing worn by a laundress. They’re on an island so the laundry ladies would come in, drop off the laundry, pick up the laundry, and then go back on their boat. So, Mary disguised herself as a washerwoman and left the island on a prearranged rowboat but the guy rowing the boat was like, “Your hands are like, really clean.” 

Allison: “Also, you’re, like, 6 feet tall.”

Ann: Yeah. For some reason, he recognized her and was like, “I’m pretty sure you’re not a laundress.” and just rowed her back and brought her back to jail.

Allison: We do love an elaborate disguise though so at least she got dressed up. 

Ann: She does love an elaborate disguise. [laughs] I think maybe that gives her confidence, the disguises, because she was always into disguises anyway, outfits.

Allison: I also feel like it gives her something to do because she’s been locked in this room. If you had told me 8 months into COVID, “Do you want to dress up like a washerwoman and try to sneak out of your apartment without your roommate seeing you?”  I would have been all into that, 100%, for sure.

Ann: Absolutely, absolutely. Exactly. So, I guess the guy told on her, that guy sucks. And then her security heightened again. Remember it was super high security at first, then it lessened, and now it’s super high again.

Allison: So, like, “She’s just back on her schemes. Call in reinforcements.”

Ann: It’s like, “We waited a year, we thought we demoralized her, but in fact, we only made her stronger.” So, she wrote, “I am so closely watched that I have no leisure but during their dinner or when they sleep that I get up for their daughters sleep with me.” So, the teen girl fan club is still like, “We love you, you’re so cool.” WD-40’s wife is still there sleeping with her, so she’s just being followed all the time. George Douglas fought with his brother WD-40 after this because I guess he’s just like… I don’t think he was like, “We should free her,” but anyway, they had an argument about it.

Allison: “The way you’re treating her is kind of fucked up, bro.”

Ann: Yeah. So, George was banished from Lochleven but not a bad thing because back on the mainland he was able to start rallying her supporters together, getting them aligned. Instead of, here are the Gordons up in the Highlands, and here are these people here, and here are the Hamiltons, he’s just like, “Let’s come together as a team.”

Allison: Avengers assembled across Scotland.

Ann: Yes, yes, yes. Marians assemble. So, escape attempt number two. Mary was, as we’ve discussed numerous times but bears repeating, 6 feet tall. The walls of the castle are 7 feet tall. 

Allison: [laughs] She’s just like, “Meh, I can reach.” 

Ann: So, she decided to climb out.

Allison: [laughs] Stands on tiptoes and she can see over the castle walls.

Ann: Well, she’s just like, “Here’s what we’re going to do: climb out.” But first, she got Mary Seaton to try to see what’s on the other side, what are we going to land on? But Mary Seaton fell and hurt herself and the guards figured out what was going on and then stopped her from doing that. 

By then WD-40’s wife, Agnes, who had been her 24-hour shadow had had her baby and because of this was not able to be by Mary’s side 24/7 because of baby, I don’t know, not that people breastfed their own babies but for baby reasons. She just was busy. And Mary took advantage of this with escape number three: this time for real. 

So, May 1568, she’s been, it’s almost a year that she’s been there. So, on May 1, 1568, she wrote a letter to Elizabeth being, like, sad. Not that anyone would see this letter, so it’s not like she’s pretending to be sad, she is sad. But basically, she’s like, “This sucks, no one is coming to rescue me. I hate it.” And then the next day, it all went down. Allison, get ready.

Allison: I’m so ready. I’m so ready for the Ocean’s Eleven of it all.

Ann: The Young Willy Eleven. So, May 2nd, time for the annual May Day celebrations at Lochleven which includes… In a previous episode, I talked about the celebration they did one time where there’s the Queen of the Bean, whoever finds the bean in the cake gets to be Queen for the day and stuff. 

Allison: That’s what I call my cat when she’s showing the little bottoms of her feet, I call her the Queen of the Bean.

Ann: Queen of the Bean? That’s a merch idea as well. So, in this celebration, in this festival, there was a similar thing called the Abbot of Unreason.

Allison: Okay, love. I feel like they’re trying so hard not to call it Wacky Pope Day but like, that’s what it means. [laughs]

Ann: [laughs] So, it’s Wacky Pope Day. So, this tradition basically means that someone of high status was demoted for the day to act as a servant to somebody else, basically. So, a Queen of the Bean-adjacent thing but for, not just a woman.

Allison: A real Festival of Fools from Hunchback of Notre Dame, sort of thing.

Ann: Yes. So, what happened is Young Willy, I kind of picture it as Y-U-N-G, so like a rapper name, [Allison laughs] Yung Willy. So, he schemed, this teenage boy, he’s great. So, he schemed to make sure that he got the role of Abbot of Unreason and then he chose Mary to be his servant. So, “This role required her to follow Willy wherever he went, which set up a reason for them to be in each other’s company. Earlier in the day, Yung Willy had secured all the boats but one on the castle shore.” And while he was doing that, there was actually a close call when WD-40 noticed Yung Willy at the boats and he was like, “What’s he doing? The Orphan?” So, Mary, Queen of Scots had to pretend to faint to distract him, which worked.

Allison: I love…

Ann: Yeah.

Allison: It’s not quite a fake going-into-labour moment but it is adjacent.

Ann: “Oh no, woman problems!” Yeah. And then later, WD4-0’s mother noticed horsemen gathering on the far shore of the loch. So, the castle on this island, then water, then the mainland. So, the mother noticed, like, “What’s this little, some sort of team, some sort of Avengers assembling on the other side?” And Mary distracted her by being like, “You know who is a piece of shit? Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, your son!” [Allison laughs] And that worked, that distracted her. 

And so, a pearl earring was to act… this is so Mary. She’s like, “Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to escape in style. There are going to be disguises, there are going to be secret symbols.” This is her. So, “A pearl earring was to act as the signal for escape, its discovery and return a sign to Mary that all was ready.” So, Yung Willy would lose it and then find it and when Mary saw that happening that would be a symbol, that would tell her shit’s going to go down.

Allison: So dramatic. It’s like when someone caws twice like a screech owl from outside the castle, they’re like, ” Now it’s time to go!” Love her.

Ann: Yeah, so “When she received the earring, she went to her room saying she needed to be alone to pray but when inside, she put on a disguise” of, like, a chambermaid’s outfit.

Allison: Probably not the same washerwoman outfit as before because we established that that didn’t work.

Ann: That didn’t work, no, but a different outfit. And Mary Seaton put on Mary’s outfit so that she could stand and be her. 

Allison: Was Mary Seaton also 6 feet tall?

Ann: I don’t know. [laughs] She couldn’t climb up the wall so maybe not. 

Allison: Standing on really big shoes.

Ann: Exactly. So, meanwhile, Yung Willy, who is the Abbot of Unreason, who is also kind of the party leader was like, “Woo! Let’s all get really drunk… More drunk than that, let’s all get even more drunk, everyone… Even more drunk!” Just trying to get everybody distracted but also incapacitated, especially WD-40, who had the keys to get out of the castle. Anyway, Yung Willy managed to get WD-40 drunk enough that he could grab the ring of keys. 

So, then Mary Seaton replaced Mary in her room, maybe she would stand by the window and be like, “Oh, I’m so sad, I’m Mary, Queen of Scots, [little moan]” while Mary in her disguise literally just walked out of the room, crossed the busy courtyard with people in it who were just like, “Wooo! We’re all drunk! Willy is a great party host!” And she just went out the front door of the gate, of the castle, she just went outside.

Allison: She must have been shitting bricks the whole time though, right? Like, so scared.

Ann: Oh, I’m sure. Yeah.

Allison: Good for her.

Ann: So, then Yung Willy, “locked the door behind them and then threw the key down the mouth of a cannon,” which, I’m not sure if that means everyone else is trapped inside now but I think it does. So, there was a boat waiting, she was ferried across the loch to horsemen on the other side where George was leading things and then they sped off to freedom.

Allison: Hell yeah!

Ann: Can you give me just, your immediate feedback on her escape plan and the Ocean’s Eleven of it all?

Allison: I have two thoughts immediately. Number one, we love a girl with a scheme, a secret signal, a fake person in the window; it’s wonderful and Shakespearean. She’s obviously having a lot of fun because there’s no reason for it to be this elaborate, so good for her. Thought number two, everyone in Scotland is so bad at schemes! Mary is nailing it and everyone around her is like, “Let’s assemble my army on the bank in broad daylight and make sure I stand right here.” [Ann laughs] Come on guys! You’ve got to pull your weight on the group project, is all I’m saying.

Ann: But the fact that they’re all like, “We can’t let this bitch out of our sight, except one night a year when we all get drunk and let this bitch out of our sight.” [laughs]

Allison: [laughs] We put her in the custody of a scheming 14-year-old. [laughs]

Ann: Yeah. So, if you like this story, I do want to recommend Mary Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle by Theresa Breslin, an illustrated children’s picture book, which is a great subject for a children’s picture book. Okay, so she has escaped and headed off to Hamilton Palace because remember, the regents there are like, “We support you because we hate your piece-of-shit brother because we should be the regents, not him.” And she’s like, “Don’t like your reasoning but I’ll accept your accommodations.” So, she was reunited with all the nobles still loyal to her cause, who George had gotten together. Yung Willy sticks with her, by the way.

Allison: Good for him, well he can’t go back.

Ann: For the rest of her life, Allison!

Allison: Good for Yung Willy, which I am also saying Y-U-N-G now.

Ann: Mm-hm. In terms of just, like… there are so many awful people so when people are good like him and Davie Rizzio, it’s just like, “Yes! Yes!” 

Allison: I’m glad she’s got a couple of supporting performance candidates here because she deserves them and everyone else around here is the worst.

Ann: Absolutely. Somebody who, I feel like that was part of what she spent… She was there for a year, with some health issues and stuff so she couldn’t really actively scheme, but she’s just sussing out, who is here? The servants. These teenage girls, are they useful? No. Who is smart and actually helpful? And it’s like, “You know who is? The Orphan, Yung Willy.” And she was right, that’s who it is, that’s who she needed. So, she’s at Hamilton Palace. When news of her escape reached Elizabeth, Elizabeth sent a letter of support because she did not want queens being captured by their subjects. Every time Elizabeth does something that’s like, “Yeah girl, go!” I’m like, the narrative is so much, “Elizabeth and Mary hated each other,” where it’s like no, in this instance, Elizabeth is like, “We are queens and I do not want you to be in prison and I’m happy you’re not in prison.”

Allison: Yes. “Would like you to be out of prison and ruling Scotland over there, that would be great.”

Ann: Yeah. So, then some more paperwork happens because everyone is just like, “You know what we need to do? Sign a paper that says, ‘We support Mary now!’” [laughs] Paperwork. This was signed by another 12 Days of Christmas, 9 earls, 9 bishops, 18 lords a-leaping? and 100 others signed a proclamation saying, “We will serve and obey Mary, Queen of Scots.” This document also denounced the confederate assholes as traitors, declared Mary’s abdication was invalid, and – you know who put this one in there – named the Hamiltons as the heirs to the throne after her and baby Prince James. [laughs]

Allison: They were like, “May I make one small request for this document?” She’s like, “… Okay.”

Ann: “Is your request to be regents?” “Yes please!” Anyway, they also were like, “And you know, you’re single now because we all think Bothwell is dead, he’s dead to us. Why don’t you marry Arran Junior?” who is a Hamilton, but you might recall, not mentally capable to do much of anything at this point. She was like, we’ll see about that, guys! 

Allison: How about you sign the paper first?

Ann: Yeah, “How about you get me to be queen first then we’ll talk about which Douglas you want me to marry. Yeah, great.” Anyway, a group quickly gained more supporters, and troops were rallied. So, she was in prison for a year, and then two weeks after her escape, she’s leading an army of 6,000 people. The people who supported her never stopped supporting her and they also, just like Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, piece of shit. And also, she’s the Queen. A lot of people believe that as well, “You can’t treat a Queen this way. You can’t do that to a monarch.” Anyway, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart is like, officially the leader of the other army but I feel like he’s always the leader of the other army. And he was in Glasgow so she’s like, “I want to go to Glasgow where he is, and I want to face off against him personally.” “By battle, let us try it!” she said. So, she just wanted to go there and murder him.

Allison: Which, good for her, I would like that.

Ann: Especially after that time he went to visit her in prison and he was all like, “Meh, I don’t know, should I be the regent, you piece of shit?” He’s awful. She now knew he was awful; she had seen the paperwork and stuff. So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart knew he had to attack quickly before the… So, she had 6,000 people but I think there could have been more once the Highlanders got there but they had to commute. So, he was like, “I need to attack before her army gets any bigger, she’s getting more supporters wherever she goes.” 

So, she had chosen the Earl of Argyll; he’s the guy who has been here and there in this story, mostly loyal to her. But anyway, the battle is happening, they are having a battle. But then the Earl of Argyll collapsed mid-battle, is this because he like, fell ill or was old? Or was this a planned betrayal and he was secretly working against her? Anything is possible. But that was kind of the worst timing because they now didn’t have a leader of their army. Mary tried to rally the troops herself but found that the men had started fighting amongst themselves. So, this isn’t the battle… I was confusing it with the other one where they were all drinking wine all day, I’m like, “Well, that explains that.” But here, I don’t know. Anyway, so she had to flee. But you know what? She’s good at fleeing. 

So, she and her small entourage had to outmanoeuvre Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart’s supporters on the roads; she couldn’t go anywhere where they would find her but also the roads were all full of Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart supporters, so she had to go south, she had to stay off the main roads, she had to go through the woods. Here’s how she described this later. 

I have endured injuries, calamities, imprisonment, famine, cold, heat, flight, 92 miles of cross country without stopping. And then I’ve had to sleep upon the ground and drink sour milk and eat oatmeal without bread. In the meantime, they demolish all the houses of my servants, and I cannot aid them.

So, she’s going through it.

Allison: This sounds like Hot King Charles II on the run, hiding under trees.

Ann: Yes! Her descendant, who also notably had a boat-based disguise escape. And so, did Bonnie Prince Charlie, right?

Allison: I think so! 

Ann: Her lineage is just people who like disguises in boats, but this is very much that. You’re right, he had to sleep in the tree, this is her version of that.

Allison: I like that all of her descendants love disguises and they’re all like 6.5 feet tall. You’re the least possible people to disguise, but they do their best.

Ann: You’re the most distinctive people of all. Yeah, it’s interesting in terms of who inherited what from who but the fact that… You’re right, you’re exactly right, this is so much Hot King Charles II when he had to go on the run. But then also, Bonnie Prince Charlie, when he went on the run, he disguised himself as, I believe, an Irish washerwoman when he was being rowed by Flora MacDonald. I like that that trickled down through the generations. What is too bad trickled down through generations is Darnley’s whole bullshit which, like, Baby BJ got quite a lot of, and some others do too. 

Anyway, she’s doing it, she’s sleeping on the ground, she’s eating oatmeal with sour milk. She’s just like, “Whatever I’ve got to do, this is what I’m going to do.” But honestly, if you have all these medical issues and you’re sleeping on the ground… not ideal. Anyway, so they sought sanctuary at Dundrennan Abbey, which was an actual abbey. There are a lot of places– I was confusing this with England, you know Henry VIII turned all the abbeys into houses. But this is actually an abbey, a literal abbey with…

Allison: No Henry VIII in Scotland, they were fine. 

Ann: No! No, no. Where is your God now, Henry VIII? So, it’s a little abbey with Catholic monks in it. So, the country is Protestant, this is kind of like out in the middle, far away from places, secretly being monks, I guess. So, she was there with her guys. I’m not sure who her guys are, no one whose name I’ve said before, but guys she could trust. Hopefully, George is there, Yung Willy. And she’s just like, “What do we do? Brainstorm time.” 

So, they were like, “Maybe France?” Because she had… although when she married Bothwell, France was like, “Fuck you. Goodbye, you Protestant.” But now that she was free from Bothwell and she’d been in prison, people were maybe more on her side. So, it was like, “Okay, she could go to France, she had political allies, family, the de Guises, and money there as well from being dowager queen of France. And she could maybe muster an army there to return to Scotland and reclaim her throne by force with a French army.” Or she could go head north to meet up with her supporters there, Cock o’ the North Junior, the Gordons, the Highlanders. But Mary was like, “Option 3 bitches! England!” And they’re like, “Tell us more. What do you mean?”

Allison: “Why?”

Ann: Elizabeth had been so supportive of her. During her imprisonment she sent Throcko. When Mary escaped Elizabeth was like, “Yay, good for you!” And through this whole time, they’d had this pen pal relationship and she felt like, “No one gets me, but Elizabeth would.” She called her sister and stuff. And she was like, “I think if I go to England, Elizabeth will help me out because she said, I want you to not be in jail,” et cetera. But the others were like, “What about France or northern Scotland?” She wrote later herself she said, “I decided this myself. I commanded my best friends to permit me to have my own way.” And this is where it’s like, in retrospect – and this happens not just with this but in marrying Darnley and marrying Bothwell – people are like, “Why would Mary make these bad decisions?” It’s like, she didn’t make a bad decision on purpose. She didn’t know what was going to happen. She made what seemed to her like the best decision.

Allison: “Let me go to the country that’s right here, shares a land border with the country I want back, and has a monarch who has been visibly sympathetic to me throughout this whole scenario and who has a pretty sizable military who could conceivably help me out.” It’s not a bad plan.

Ann: How about that Elizabeth had sent Throcko? She saved her life, really. So, she wrote a letter to Elizabeth and included in this letter… So, previously in their pen-pal relationship, Elizabeth had sent Mary this heart-shaped diamond as a token of friendship and Mary sent that back. And I like that she has, how does she have that with her? Did she take it with her to Lochleven? I don’t know how she…

Allison: She must have.

Ann: One of her guys got it… because Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart took all the diamonds, right? Or maybe Elizabeth had sent it to her while she was in jail? Anyway, Mary sent this heart-shaped diamond, which is a cute Sailor Moon adjacent thing to send to somebody, a little sparkly jewel, and she sent it back to her as a token of like, “You sent this to me as a friendship token, I’m returning it. We’re friends.” And she signed the letter, “Your affectionate sister.” And then Allison, she headed off to England in men, pants disguise. 

Allison: Pants disguise!

Ann: She dresses up like a man and she also cuts off all her hair and/or shaves her head, unclear, to avoid recognition.

Allison: I can’t decide if I want to call that a Catalina de Erauso move or a Mulan move but both of them, exceptional.

Ann: I didn’t know that until this research I’ve been doing. I’m like, “She cut off all her hair!” She’s committed. She knows, “I am 6 feet tall and recognisable; my hair is long and red.” Anyway, so she’s committing to this bit, “I’m dressing like a man, and off we go.” 

So, “She and her friends commandeered a small fishing boat to carry her and 16 followers on a 4-hour voyage across the Solway Firth,” which is like from Scotland to England. And so, among those 16 was Yung Willy. 

Allison: Yung Willy!

Ann: As well as George Douglas, two guys who came out of nowhere and I love that they’re connected to Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, yet they take her side. And I like that they’re Douglases because historically, in this story, a Douglas…

Allison: Has been a bad thing to hear.

Ann: When you hear that war cry, something shitty is going to happen. But these are like, two good Douglases.

Allison: A Douglas! Not like that. Not like that though.

Ann: A Douglas! A Douglas! Willy, George; two good ones. So, they’re on this 4-hour boat trip, and midway across, allegedly, she had a sudden change of heart, and she asked the boatmen, “Can you switch direction? Let’s go to France instead,” but the tide was headed in England’s direction so that’s where they went.

Allison: Also, they’re in a fishing boat, that’s not going to make it all the way to France. You’re going to capsize.

Ann: True. There are so many boat moments in this. Starting with, she went to France in the first place and was the only one who didn’t get seasick. And then when she was coming from France back to Scotland, she witnessed this other boat sink and all the people in it die and she’s like, “Eugh, that’s a bad omen.” And so now she’s in another boat-based… I don’t know. There are a lot of boat omens in this story.

Allison: Boat omens. [laughs]

Ann: Bomens. And that is where she went, she headed to England and that’s where we’re leaving the story for this week.

Allison: How will she be received?

Ann: With no hair, dressed like a man.

Allison: With no hair, in her pants, looking amazing in a fishing boat.

Ann: So yeah, we will pick up this story again next week. So, this is a part of the story you did not know as well?

Allison: Yeah. I know the names of the things that happened. I am familiar with the words “the Casket letters,” and I know there was an escape but knowing the details of it, it’s really validating my picture of Mary in my head because I’m like, “Yeah, that’s exactly what she would do. Yes, girl! Do it!” I find her escapes extremely satisfying. I love her schemes, they’re my favourite thing about her.

Ann: And this is where the last Mary, Queen of Scots episode, the Bothwell episode, the fact that she wasn’t in a place where she was able to either physically or mentally or whatever, get the schemes done, where she’s just being taken place to place, I was just like, this is… And I think that’s how some people imagine her whole story is; she’s just a person who is a victim being dragged from place to place. Where it’s like, no! Her story is jumping out of windows, climbing down a rope ladder, dressing like a man, landing on a horse.

Allison: Dressed like a washerwoman, hiding in a boat. She’ll try anything once and I love it.

Ann: Yeah, trying to jump over the wall. She’s like, “I’m 6 feet tall, I can take this.” That’s her story! So much, I don’t know… It is the Bothwell stuff, I think people get bogged down on that and think I guess either she was, that whole thing about “Elizabeth leads from the head and Mary leads from the heart.” It’s like, no bitches! Mary is not just this foolish person who is swept away by passion or whatever, she’s just making it a scheme with unnecessary disguises involved, but it’s still successful. 

Allison: It worked! Can you imagine Elizabeth in a disguise escaping from a palace? Absolutely not.

Ann: I’ve never heard of any Elizabeth I-related disguise stories. Mary, choose which one! She’s in disguise constantly. So, I find that this is the last time, was a bummer, frankly, the Bothwell stuff… That is, I would think, in retrospect, a low point for her. She herself is also saying, “I want to kill myself now.” She was not in a good headspace; she was not physically well. Things were bad. But in this episode, she just sits and waits and then just like, bam! 

Allison: For the listener, we’re recording this one immediately after the Bothwell episode because we couldn’t end our conversation on that one, it’s too much of a bummer. We have to go about our days after this. So, we’re like, can we get one win before we stop? [laughs]

Ann: I’m just sitting in it. I’m so satisfied with the escape plan. It’s so ridiculous and cinematic really. And also, it doesn’t bother me, but I just think it’s notable that of the movies of her story, the Saoirse Ronan movie also basically stops before she gets to Lochleven. Reign was cancelled before they could do this stuff. I haven’t seen the Katharine Hepburn but that one is like, “Her beloved courageous lover, Bothwell,” I don’t think… No one ever puts this part in Mary, Queen of Scots movies or TV series and it’s so cinematic! 

Allison: It’s so cinematic, it comes on the heels of the biggest cinematic bummer that you can imagine, so it’s a tough narrative to tell and it’s much easier to start way earlier or way later but this is a satisfying midpoint.

Ann: It was so good. I think so many of the stories are just, Rizzio, Darnley, Bothwell; that’s the part of the story that is often told and retold. But this part is no less dramatic, she’s no less capable. I just love it. When I was reading this, I couldn’t wait to go through this with you, especially now that I know you hadn’t heard a lot of these details before it’s like, “Oh, here comes Yung Willy, get ready.”

Allison: Yung Willy!

Ann: He’s got Yung Willy style; the pearl earring, the Abbot of Unreason party escape. It’s iconic! It’s just, like… what a treat. I also love that she tried to escape as a washerwoman, didn’t work. She tried to climb over the walls, didn’t work. She never stopped trying. She wasn’t like, “I guess I won’t escape blurp-blurp-blurp.”

Allison: She’s like, immediately back to her own whiteboard. 

Ann: Yeah. Her whiteboard which is her embroidery.

Allison: [laughs] She’s just embroidering Mary Seaton falling over the wall and she’s like, “Note to self: that does not work.”

Ann: Or she’s embroidering the floor plan of the castle like, “You’ll go here, and I’ll go here,” making that sort of thing. It’s great. And there’s more of her story to tell because she’s going to England and I don’t know how many people listening to this have now read ahead in a biography, or on Wikipedia, or anything, but there are a lot of people who don’t know this story and they’re waiting for us to tell it so I’m excited. Because next week, we’re going to get to where the story interrelates with your book! Why don’t you tell everyone about your first book?

Allison: That was a beautiful segue Ann, thank you. I wrote a book that is an Elizabethan spy novel, the first half of which is all about Mary’s time in England, the topic of next week’s podcast. It’s called A Tip for the Hangman, you can read it, there will be some spoilers for next week’s podcast if you get through it before we come back to tell you what happens.

Ann: Maybe you could buy the book, hold off, read it after, while it’s fresh in your mind.

Allison: You can read to, like, Chapter 5 and then I would pause.

Ann: That’s true. Or get the audiobook. Listen to a bit, pause, listen to our next episode, and then go back to it. And then you have another book that’s coming out.

Allison: I do, I have another book coming out in October, Let the Dead Bury the Dead, you can find that on my website I think by the time this episode airs, I will also be able to tell you all that I have a third book coming out in 2025, just announced in mid-June. So, by the time this airs, it will be real and y’all will know about it. You can find more about that on my website as well!

Ann: Very exciting. And if it’s not announced, we can edit that out.

Allison: I’m pretty confident, that’s why I waited until this one.

Ann: And can you tell people about the pre-order thing for Let the Dead Bury the Dead, where they send you the receipts and stuff?

Allison: Yes, of course. That’s on my website also, it’s linked on all of my things but if you pre-order Let the Dead Bury the Dead, I got some original character art commissioned by the fantastic designer Ari Kiser and I would love to send you some as a thank you for pre-ordering. So, if you drop your receipt into the Google Form that’s on my website.

Ann: Lovely. And I believe, are those the same pictures you have framed on your walls?

Allison: They are. I’m looking at them right now, they’re over there.

Ann: I believe we were recording some nonsense when the delivery person came and dropped those off at your house.

Allison: And I believe I derailed the entire recording, I was like, “Guys, guys, guys I have to open these, these are my babies.” And they were.

Ann: Mm-hm. It’s wonderful. So, you have your website, you have your books, that’s how people can keep up with you. You have your newsletter as well.

Allison: I do indeed, Dirtbags Through the Ages, it’s, it is terrible people from history delivered to your inbox biweekly.

Ann: And to keep up with me and this podcast, we’re on Instagram @VulgarHistoryPod. I don’t even remember what images– Oh, the black pearls, I’ll show the picture of Elizabeth’s portrait where she’s wearing Mary’s stolen pearls that Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart pawned to her. Anyway, on Instagram, we’re @VulgarHistoryPod and I’m on TikTok @VulgarHistory, where again, my cat Hepburn does make audio appearances. I think I recorded one and she wasn’t there and people were like, “Is she okay? Where’s Hepburn?”

Allison: [laughs] She’s okay as of this recording, I have seen her, and she’s still very cute.

Ann: Yeah, proof of life. But yeah, maybe I’ll show a picture of Hepburn in the show notes for this as well. Honestly, the Mary, Queen of Scots season is getting increasingly unhinged. By the time I got to WD-40, I’m glad you found that funny because I was just like, “I’m hilarious!… Or am I losing my mind?”

Allison: The tits-out brigade got to hear my unhinged genuine laugh at that one, so you are appreciated at least by me.

Ann: Yes, yes. And then we have our merch store which is Vulgar, which is better shipping for the US. is better for international orders. And honestly, tits out brigade, we have the Where is Your God Now, John Knox? merch from the Marie de Guise. But out of everything we’ve talked about with Mary, Queen of Scots, merch concepts. The brigade is so good with merch. They were the ones who were like, “You need to do, ‘ Where is your God now, John Knox?’” and now it’s, I have to say, a best seller in my very strange store.

Allison: New York Times merch best seller, Where is your God now? [laughs]

Ann: So, I don’t know. There’s the Darnley murder banner, if there’s a way to reinterpret that to be less gruesome. What was it? The Scarlet Adventuress. Could just be that, I don’t know.

Allison: I’m just picturing Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart…

Ann: Jimmy Stewart but done up like he’s in Renaissance era. So yeah, merch store. And then I have, that’s to get early ad-free access to episodes. And if you pledge at least $5 or more, you can get the spinoff podcast, Vulgarpiece Theatre, where we talk about costume dramas, and also So This Asshole where we talk about gross men in history. And when I get to 500 Patreon supporters, I will do a special John Knox, So This Asshole episode but I will not do that until and if such time I get 500 followers. It’s a similar thing you did with your newsletter, you didn’t do the Darnley until you got to 500 followers, I believe.

Allison: Yeah, save it up. You’ve got to give people a reason to tell your friends. Tell your friends, you guys want that John Knox episode.

Ann: Also, it’s like, I need that strength and tits out brigade energy behind me to have the constitutional ability to, like, spend that much time thinking about John Knox.

Allison: You really have to gird the tits for this one. 

Ann: [gagging, squirmy sounds] There was something else I was going to say… Patreon… Oh yeah, because we talk about Vulgarpiece Theatre, and we do various costume dramas and there are different things we have. At the point this comes out, I’m not even sure which episodes are out but at this point, we need to do a Mary, Queen of Scots movie. That might be another live event scenario.

Allison: At the end of this season maybe? Celebration of reading all of these books.

Ann: Maybe the Saoirse Ronan one? I don’t know. It’s funny because I saw that. I watched Reign which ended in 2017, the Saoirse Ronan movie came out in 2018 and I was like, “I know the story of Mary, Queen of Scots.” I watched the movie and was like, “Yes, that’s correct. I knew that she had a brother, yes. John Knox, I’m familiar.” 

But now with the amount of knowledge I now have, I feel like I’d watch it and be like, I don’t know… This will already have come out, I think. So, I interviewed Jennifer Morag Henderson, who wrote the Jean Gordon biography and I think I asked her at one point, “Did you watch that movie?” And she was like, “Yes.” And I was like, “You know how the brother in that movie looks like a Viking mixed with Outlander?” And she was like, “Oh my god, yes.” Because Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was like, the portraits of him, he looks like an Elizabethan gentleman. People in Edinburgh were not stylistically very different from people in London. The Highlanders were doing their own thing and so in the Saoirse Ronan movie, they have Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart with his beard and shaggy hair and like, 12 necklaces and eyeliner.

Allison: What are we doing?

Ann: He kind of looks like Braveheart a little bit. They’re really being like, “He’s from Scotland.” Where it’s like, well he is from Scotland but it’s quite a different thing to be from the Highlands.

Allison: He’s not from the woods! He lives in a house. 

Ann: So, I watched the movie and was like, oh that’s an interesting take on him but now I’m just like, “Oh no.” Now that I understand the difference between the Lowlands and Highlands, I feel like watching that movie might be interesting. Anyway, tits out brigade, if that would be a thing you would enjoy let me know! Anyway, I think next time, yeah, we’re going to talk about Mary’s time in England. We might get to a scoring moment, which is going to be a real discussion. 

Allison: We have a lot to cover in the scoring portion. Also, knowing Ann’s ability to underestimate how many episodes the story is going to take… that may not be in the next one.

Ann: That might not be in the next one. But yeah, the way that she like, became Queen of Scots at 6 days old and her story was just unrelenting from then on, no one else I’ve ever covered on the podcast has had so many things happen in so many years. Usually, people are like, “And then she went off and had children for 20 years and then she came back.” But she’s just unrelenting.

Allison: We’re on what? Episode seven and she’s like, 25?

Ann: Yeah. [Allison laughs] I can’t believe… Her time in Scotland was 6 years of reigning actively in Scotland. So much happened. So much in the last six months. 

Anyway, thank you so much Allison for spending so much time talking to me about nonsense. I’ll talk to you next time. Until then everybody, keep your pants on and tits out and, you know, shave your head, climb out a window, whatever…

Allison: Dress as the washerwoman, follow your bliss. [Ann laughs]


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: Escape from Lochleven Castle by Theresa Breslin 

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

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

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