The Four Marys

As a grand finale to the Mary, Queen of Scots series, we’re taking a look at her girl squad: The Four Marys. Who were Mary Beaton, Seton, Fleming, and Livingston? If they were Golden Girls, who is the Dorothy? If they were in Blackpink, who is the main visual (and who is the lead dancer)? How do they match up with Reign’s Aylee, Greer, Kenna, and Lola? Where did Mary Seton learn to do perms? Which of them has a sister who was legit a witch?


Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser

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

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

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Vulgar History Podcast

The Four Marys

September 13, 2023

Ann Foster:
Hello and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. My name is Ann Foster and today is the finale of the series about Mary, Queen of Scots, There’s Something About Mary, Queen of Scots. We’re going to be looking at the Four Marys who were her companions. We’ve mentioned them on and off throughout the whole series, but I never really got in-depth about who they were, how you can tell them apart, what their connection is to the four ladies-in-waiting on the TV show Reign. We’re going to get into that today but first, I have some announcements to give you. 

First of all, there’s some new merch in the merch store inspired by the season. So, both of these designs were done by Karyn Moynihan who has designed merch for us before; she did the “Reformation Renaissance Girl Squad” and the Mary Shelley, “Goth Queen Mom Friend” designs. And she did an amazing job with these new merch ideas. The first one is in honor of the de Guise family who we mentioned a lot throughout the whole thing. They were really fucking things up for Mary the whole time. Also, to new listeners, hi. I’m going to swear in this podcast, and I also say “like” a normal amount and if you can’t deal with that, there are lots of other podcasts you can listen to. Anyway, so the first design just says, “Don’t Stop De Guise’n” and it looks kind of like a rock band logo from the ‘80s and I love it. And the other one is inspired by a thing that friend of the podcast and frequent co-host, Lana Wood Johnson, said in one of the final Mary, Queen of Scots episodes. Lana said that she’s at least as good a leader as William Cecil and that resonated with a lot of listeners. And so, this other design, it’s sort of like a motivational poster from the ‘80s or ‘90s. It says, “Remember, you are at least as good a leader as William Cecil.” You can get the “Don’t Stop De Guise’n” on T-shirts, and on stickers. You can get the William Cecil one on a poster, on a mug, various different things. 

The merch is for sale in two different places. So, if you go to, that takes you to our Tee Public store, that’s best for people in the US, just in terms of shipping costs and stuff. And then if you go to, that takes you to our Redbubble store, where the shipping is a bit better if you’re living anywhere other than the United States, basically. Also, I just want to let you know, stay tuned until the end of today’s episode for an update about what is coming next for Vulgar History since we’re at the end of the Mary, Queen of Scots season. Exciting stuff is coming up next, is what I want to say. 

I also wanted to share a book recommendation. I’ve been doing several– [chuckles] I’ve had a lot of author interviews lately on the show and we’re going to continue doing those. There’s not always space in the schedule to interview all the authors whose books I think would be of interest to you. So, when there’s one where I’m not able to do an interview, I want to let you know about it. Especially because I’ve been trying to get more of a diversity of people who we talk about on the show, other than white, Christian, European royal women; I want to get into people of different ethnicities, different religions, from all different parts of the world. And one of those groups of people that I’m trying to find more people to talk about are Jewish women so this book I thought would be a good one to talk about. So, it’s a new book coming out Betty Friedan: Magnificent Disrupter by Rachel Shteir. 

The feminist writer and activist Betty Friedan (1921–2006), pathbreaking author of The Feminine Mystique, was powerful and polarizing. In this biography, the first in more than twenty years, Rachel Shteir draws on Friedan’s papers and on interviews with family, colleagues, and friends to create a nuanced portrait.

Friedan, born Bettye Naomi Goldstein, chafed at society’s restrictions from a young age. As a journalist she covered racism, sexism, labor, class inequality, and anti-Semitism. As a wife and mother, she struggled to balance her work and homemaking. Her malaise as a housewife and her research into the feelings of other women resulted in The Feminine Mystique (1963), which made her a celebrity.

Using her influence, Friedan cofounded the National Organization for Women, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and the National Association to Repeal Abortion Laws. She fought for the Equal Rights Amendment, universal childcare, and workplace protections for mothers, but she disagreed with the women’s liberation movement over “sexual politics.” Her volatility and public conflicts fractured key relationships.

Shteir considers how Friedan’s Judaism was essential to her feminism, presenting a new Friedan for a new era. 

So again, that book is called Betty Friedan: Magnificent Disrupter by Rachel Shteir and has just been published. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes so you can easily find a way to learn more about the book and buy a copy. 

I do also want to give you the references for today’s episode which are… So, there’s a biography of Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser. For a lot of the Mary, Queen of Scots episodes, I was using the biography by John Guy, that was the one I picked up first and that’s the one I was using. But I found that the biography by Antonia Fraser – which was the first major Mary, Queen of Scots biography published, like, in the 20th century and it’s the one that Lana Wood Johnson especially loves – I was happy to find so much information in Antonia’s book about the Four Marys. So, I used that as a big reference for this episode. Also, the book Daughters of the North by Jennifer Morag Henderson, who we had on the podcast earlier talking about Jean Gordon. So, you’ll see why that book has a lot of information about specifically one of these Four Marys. I also got information from Clare Hunter’s book, Embroidering Her Truth, which talks about Mary, Queen of Scots and her embroidery projects. Again, you’ll see how that interacts with this story. 

I also got information from Wikipedia which had times and dates and facts. If you’ve listened to this podcast before, you know that I have no problem with using information from Wikipedia. Often, it’s a quick way to find some straightforward information and that can help lead you to other sources to dive deeper into various things. Another book I used is Mary, Queen of Scots Secretary: William Maitland: Politician, Reformer, and Conspirator by Robert Stedell and you’ll learn why I was reading about him. He’s the one who in the Mary, Queen of Scots episodes we called Scottish Machiavelli, and he has to do with this story as well.

I will also say, if you’re new to this podcast, welcome. Glad to have you here. And just know that I’ve done a whole lot of episodes about Mary, Queen of Scots leading up to this point and there are a lot of nicknames I’m using for people. So, when you’re listening to this, you’re like, “What’s she talking about? What does Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart have to do with Mary, Queen of Scots?” Just go with it and if you want to learn how and why all these people got these nicknames you can listen back to the Mary, Queen of Scots season.

So, the Four Marys. I love them as… I’ve just loved the concept of them this whole time. Wherever she went, when she arrived in Scotland for instance, Mary arrived with the Four Marys, and they’re all dressed in black and white! And having them as her entourage, you just picture them strutting down the streets of anywhere they went, kind of like, the slow-motion walking montage at the beginning of a Law & Order episode or that part in Mean Girls where they’re walking slowly down the hallway. They’re a girl gang and they’re coordinated with each other within an inch of their lives. I love the energy of this, and I love that Mary had these besties with her. 

So, Mary, Queen of Scots was born in Scotland and then in 1548, when she was around 5 years old was sent to France for her own protection and safety. At that time, she was escorted by her four ladies-in-waiting, which is a cute thing to call a bunch of little girls. They were all coincidentally named Mary. Now, I think in that TV show The Serpent Queen, they suggest that Mary, Queen of Scots forced them all to change their name to Mary which is maybe something that other people have said in other places but is not true. As we’ve learned from this podcast season, there were like six names that anyone ever had in Scotland at this time, and Mary is one of those names, it’s not a coincidence they’re all called Mary. When I was going to school – and I am an elder Millennial – every girl was called Sarah or Megan and all the boys were called Chris. Names become popular and people all have the same name and there’s nothing nefarious about that necessarily. So, they’re all coincidentally named Mary. Some of them were born before her, so it’s not like they were all named after her. It does seem likely that Mary, Queen of Scots’s mother, Marie de Guise, personally chose these young girls to be companions to the little girl queen. 

So, these four all had Scottish fathers and two of them had French mothers so they could be relied upon to be loyal not only to their Scottish Queen but also to the French Queen Mother, Marie de Guise. They are known to history as the Four Marys and their names are Mary Seton, Mary Fleming, Mary Beaton, and Mary Livingston. We’re talking about a lot of people called Mary today so I’m going to try to always use their full name, sometimes just their last name. When I’m talking about the Queen, I’ll say “Mary, Queen of Scots,” probably, just so you know, or maybe I’ll say, “the Queen.” So, of these, they are all of noble and high birth, all four came from notably honourable houses. Mary Fleming was also a first cousin to Mary, Queen of Scots because they had the same grandfather, King James V. Mary Fleming’s mother was the illegitimate half-sister… Anyway, they’re cousins. Don’t worry about it. There are a lot of people called James, I might have misinterpreted the family tree, but they were first cousins, they had the same grandfather, but Mary Fleming’s was in an illegitimate way and Mary, Queen of Scots’s was in a legitimate way. 

So, they were called the Marys and it’s spelled often as M-A-R-I-E-S, so the Maries, because they were four people called Mary and they were always in a group. But also in Scots, at least at that time and maybe now – people who speak Scots, let me know – the word Marie was a word that just meant maids in honour, attendant on the Queen. So, they were called Mary, but the job was the Maries. 

So, in 1548 the Four Marys joined their Queen – and again, these are girls who are basically all 5 years old, some a bit younger, some a bit older – at Inchmahome Priory, that is in Scotland, I think, in preparation for their journey to France. If you go to Inchmahome Priory, I think there are plaques and things saying that they were there, these little girls. “The journey from France to Scotland was a rough sea voyage,” I talked about that in one of the first Mary, Queen of Scots episodes. “It was recorded during this journey, all of the ladies” which again, they’re called ladies and they’re like 5-year-old girls, “they all came down with seasickness.” And this is when they kind of entered the public sphere. Their public lives began. They were people that, I don’t know, today, the paparazzi would follow them. They were just, like, child stars of their era so their public lives began simultaneously when they were sailing on the galley to France in 1548. But as we’re going to talk about, they were a unit until life reasons separated them, they all ended their lives differently, in different, interesting ways but they emerged on the public sphere simultaneously, like a new generation of The Mickey Mouse Club or whatever. 

Upon their arrival in France, it was made clear that their stations were different. So, Mary was sent to join the royal children – so, her future husband and in-laws, Princess Elisabeth, the whole gang – while the ladies, the girls, these little girls were separated from her. The Four Marys were initially sent away to be educated by Dominican nuns so that’s where they spent most of this time while Mary– They still got to visit with her, I think. But Mary, Queen of Scots was living, doing queen shit, and they were off, kind of being there if needed. They learned French, they learned calligraphy; they had schooling and training and stuff while they were in France. 

The time in France was not as long as anyone expected. Mary, Queen of Scots married Francis, Francis’s dad died and then Mary, Queen of Scots ruled as Queen of France until Francis himself died. So, this is 1560, so they’re all around 18 years old now. At this time, Marie de Guise also had died. So, with no French husband, with her mother dead, Mary, Queen of Scots was now in a place where the best bet for her, the best and only option was to return to Scotland as Queen. So, “The Four Maries French education was completed, and they were sent to accompany their mistress back to Scotland as they had accompanied her to France so many years ago. Scotland would be the place where the Four Marys would seek and find their own husbands,” in most cases, “as their now widowed Queen would seek out a new husband for herself.” 

We’re going to go Mary by Mary instead of what happened simultaneously with each other just so we can really focus on who each of these four Marys is. That was one of my first challenges when I was researching this, just to try to – for my own mind – figure out, how can I think about the.? What are the differences between them? Part of this is reading about them and I would think, which of the four ladies-in-waiting on Reign does each of these match up with? On Reign, they’re not called Mary, I think for understandable reasons. Why would you name five main characters all the same thing on a TV show? Of course, they gave them different names but each of the ladies-in-waiting on Reign – which again, if you’re new to this podcast, is my favourite TV show of all time, a perfect show, 10/10, no notes – they all were given different names. I was trying to figure out for myself, which of these Marys in real life inspired which of the ladies-in-waiting on Reign

And then I also started thinking about, kind of, the iconicness of having a group of four female friends and there are so many versions of that. There are the four March sisters in Little Women; there’s the four Golden Girls on the Golden Girls; BLACKPINK, the K-pop group, there are four members of that; The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, there are four of them. And then also, if you combine two of the sisters in Pride and Prejudice, there are basically four, if you treat Lydia and Kitty as all the same person. So, they all match up. Just trying to think of them in terms of all those things helped me keep them straight and I don’t know which of those references which of you are going to vibe with, so I’ll just give you them all so you can kind of imagine. 

So, the first person we’re talking about is Mary Livingston. The character on Reign who she inspired, and I was kind of proud of myself because I would guess and then I’d look in the Reign Wiki and be like, “Ha-ha! I was right.” So, the one who she inspired was Kenna on Reign, who, if you remember she was the, I don’t know, she was kind of the most sexy of all of them on Reign. She was also very, she could be impetuous, she had a real vitality about her and a real flirtatiousness. So, I was thinking that Mary Livingston, if she was one of the sisters in Pride and Prejudice, she would be Lydia, mixed with Kitty because Kitty is kind of an appendage of Lydia. If she was in Little Women, Mary Livingston would be Amy. If Mary Livingston was in The Golden Girls, she would be Blanche. And if she was in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I would say Bridget because she was really full of life and energy and vivacity. That’s part of why I also think if she was in BLACKPINK she would be Lisa, she’s got that same kind of energy about her. Also, Lisa is the main dancer in BLACKPINK and we don’t know a lot about Mary Livingston, but we do know that she was really into dancing. So, that’s who we’re looking at: Kenna, Lisa, Lydia, Kitty, Amy, Blanche, Bridget, from the Traveling Pants, that’s Mary Livingston. 

So, Mary Livingston was born around 1541, the daughter of Alexander Livingston, the 5th Lord Livingston, and his second wife, Agnes Douglas, a daughter of John Douglas, the 2nd Earl of Morton. So, you’re all saying it, “A Douglas!” So interestingly, she’s got these Douglas connections although she was always loyal to Mary herself despite having some Douglas in her. We know that the Douglases were often, with a few exceptions, pretty shitty to Mary, overall. But you know what, some of the Douglases were good #NotAllDouglases. Yung Willy was a Douglas. 

Anyway, Mary Livingston. So, her father Alexander was also Mary, Queen of Scots’s guardian. Her younger sister, Magdalen Livingston was a maid of honour to Mary, Queen of Scots. And so, I don’t have the specific numbers, but I do know that Mary, Queen of Scots, if there’s her at the middle of this circle, the outer layer, her confidants were the Marys, the four of them. And then there’s another outer circle, they were the ladies in waiting but the outer circle is the maid of honour; there are more of them and it’s a less status position. But several of the maids of honour seem to have been the sisters of the Marys. So, it’s not just Mary and these four people, it’s Mary and this group of people who are all connected through family ties and intermarriage and things. 

So, Mary Livingston arrived with the other Marys in Scotland, fabulous in black and white outfits, just striking a pose in Scotland and all the men in Scotland who, as far as I can tell, were all approximately 40 years old, were all just like, “What is this? Who are these cool, young, teens?” Because they were all 18 at the time, ish. So, Mary Livingston and the others arrived bringing a youthful, fun, party atmosphere. Scotland, if you’ll recall, had been in the midst of this Reformation for quite a while, John Knox screaming at everybody, calling everybody “Whooores!” The asshole lords had been turning against Marie de Guise. Everyone had been at war constantly, all these men, they’re all called James, they’re signing paperwork. It’s just like, they’ve all been through a lot of shit. And then the Marys arrive and it’s like, “Oh my gosh. They’re glamorous, they’re beautiful. Look at these outfits, look at this fun energy.” 

If we’re talking about what Reign got historically accurate, the way that Reign dealt with Mary going to Scotland, she only had one lady-in-waiting with her at that point on the show. But if you think about Season 1 Episode 1 of Reign, where it shows them arriving in France – they kind of just changed facts around a little bit to have it happen that way… Anyway, whatever Reign, no problems, 10/10 no notes. They come on the scene, the Marys and there’s this scene where they’re all getting ready for the party and they’re doing each other’s hair and makeup and they go to the party and they’re dancing and everyone is just like, “Who are these people? What is this fun energy these people are bringing to this really straight-laced royal court?” And that’s the vibe. They brought fun to a place that had been in war constantly, this whole time. 

So, John Knox hated her. He hated all of them, he hated Mary, Queen of Scots, he hated anyone called Mary apparently. He focused his attention on the Four Marys because he was hopeful that if there was scandal around them, he could use that to badmouth Mary, Queen of Scots by being like, “Look at these shitty people she hangs out with.” So, for instance, early on in Mary’s time in Scotland, a French woman who served Mary – so not one of the Marys but a more outer circle person – became pregnant by the Queen’s apothecary and the two of them… I’m not sure exactly if they conspired to have an abortion or if the baby was born and then they killed the baby. I’m getting this information via John Knox who is not a reliable source of information, but we do know something happened with this French woman and the apothecary and that pregnancy was involved. Both the man and woman were hanged for this, what they had done. In fact, John Knox was like, “Look at these slutty whooores who are around Mary, Queen of Scots! They’re all like this, they’re all getting pregnant out of wedlock, blah blah blah. This means that she’s a shitty person.” But he did not write in his record what is true, which is that Mary, Queen of Scots herself insisted on this death sentence being carried out. She was not here for, like, premarital sex, abortion, that was not her vibe. She was overseeing a party atmosphere, but she was also incredibly Catholic and following those rules. John Knox was just like, “Okay, I need to somehow make the Marys seem like whooores.” 

So, when Mary Livingston, who was the first of the Marys to get married, John Knox was like, “Mm, I think they’re getting married because she also is pregnant outside of wedlock, and that’s why this wedding preparation is being rushed. She’s a whooore,” et cetera. The thing is, we know that Mary Livingston’s marriage was planned for about two months, which seems like not a lot of time maybe now considering how long people plan weddings but for then, that was like, de rigueur, that was normal, that was fine. Her wedding, if anything, it was delayed. So, John Knox referred to Mary Livingston as lusty. I don’t know if other people did but I feel like the Reign writers were like, “Great. Mary Livingston is lusty, let’s make Kenna in the first episode, masturbate in a hallway and get caught by the King and become his mistress.” They took the word, and they ran with it. But the lustiness, I think, that John Knox even was referring to her was just how much fun she had dancing. I mentioned this to friend-of-the-podcast, Lana Wood Johnson, who was like, “Oh, she probably just had boobs.” It’s probably just, like, if you have big boobs and like dancing, someone like John Knox is going to be like, “Oh, look at that slut.” Like, whatever. She liked dancing. 

Her fiancé turned husband was called John Sempill. John Knox called him the “Dancer.” I am going to say, a couple that John Knox calls The Dancer and Lusty are just like, I’m here for it, what a cool couple, I like that. Anyway, she liked to dance [laughs softly] and John Knox didn’t like that. But she was reliable to Mary, Queen of Scots. She was given special charge of the queen’s jewels. All the Marys were entirely loyal to Mary, who also liked dancing, for the record. 

So, as we heard in the Mary episodes, she was always really supportive when people who worked for her were getting married, so she paid for the wedding gown and the bridal bouquet, and she gave Mary Livingston a dowry of £500 a year and land. John Knox, because he’s got to be himself, he disapproved of the grants of lands because it included the barony of Auchtermuchty, Scots people, did I say that right? I hope I did. He thought that Auchtermuchty, that that barony should be given to someone else and not her but fuck you, John Knox. Guess what? You’re not the king. She’s the queen and she can do what she wants. And so, Mary Livingston’s first child was born a year after the wedding, this was not a shotgun wedding. If anything, it was delayed. Initially, they were going to get married in the autumn of 1564 and then it was delayed until 1565. So, John Knox, full of shit. But what else is new? 

So, who is this husband? His name was John Sempill of Beltrees. His father was born in England, so he had some connections to England and he was in his forties, because as seems to me, based on the men I read about in terms of this episode, every man in Scotland was in his forties when the Marys arrived. So, it’s just kind of like, if they’re going to get married, that is the age of the husband they’re going to get. So, she was in her early twenties, he was in his forties. Let’s go. “The marriage was celebrated at Court during the Shrove-Tide on March 5th, called Fasterins Eve in Scotland and there was a Masque for which a painter was paid £12 for making props.” 

The English diplomat, Thomas Randolph, remember that name… Actually, remember this name. I’m going to call him Randy Randolph because… You’ll see why. Anyway, Randy Randolph called it the “Great marriage of this happy Englishman that shall marry Lusty Livingston.” So, did John Knox get everyone to call her Lusty Livingston? I hope she owned that, I hope she was like, “Yeah, hell yeah, I am lusty Livingston. Lust for life.” So, Randy had heard of a plan to invite the Earl of Bedford who was Governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed to the wedding because Sempill’s mother was also English. The Earl of Bedford had not previously visited Edinburgh.” So, part of this, you know how in all the stories with Queen Elizabeth it’s like, people needed to ask her permission to get married and nobody did, and she was always mad. Mary, Queen of Scots A) liked matchmaking and B) she knew that the marriages of the Marys, who were these really notable Scottish noblewomen, she wanted them to marry somebody that would be advantageous to her and to her politically and to her royal court. So, I think clearly, she wanted this connection to England by permitting this marriage to Sempill the Dancer. 

So, yeah, as the first of the Marys to marry, Lusty Livingston’s wedding attracted a great deal of attention because the Marys were like the celebrities of the time. French and English ambassadors attended the event and wrote a lot of details about the event because again, Scotland was just these 40-year-old men who had been signing paperwork and screaming at each other for, like, 20 years. And now it’s just like, a fun wedding, something nice and youthful and enjoyable. The French ambassador wrote a letter to Catherine de’ Medici reporting on this event. He wrote that “Queen Mary has begun to marry off her Marys and she wished herself were one of the band,” you know, she wanted to get married as well. And then, you know, she did. 

So, things we talked about in excruciating detail in previous episodes; Mary befriended Rizzio, Rizzio was murdered, Mary escaped then she came back in triumph, her husband Darnley, his house was exploded, he was strangled, tits-out mermaid posters, she was captured by Bothwell who forced her to marry him. So, the next mention of Mary Livingston after the wedding is after all that stuff happened with Mary. Eventually, Mary is taken in by the asshole lords, then calling themselves the Confederate Lords, post-Bothwell marriage. So, there was that stand-off, Bothwell ran away to Denmark and Mary was taken prisoner. She was, you know, on the horse, being led by the banner with her screaming baby picture on it being like, “Avenge me, oh Lord.” So, at that point, Mary was brought to Holyrood, the castle. There, she’s reunited with Mary Livingston as well as one of the other Marys, Mary Seton. Supper was prepared for her. And I just feel like, everything Mary Livingston had watched Mary go through, they’re like, “Oh my god, my girls.” I just think of RuPaul’s Drag Race when Ru is like, “Bring me my girls.” Mary is just with her girls and thank god. So, they got to hang out for a bit but then Mary, Queen of Scots was taken away, not allowed to take the Marys with her. 

Various things happened. Mary, Queen of Scots was in Lochleven, then she wound up in England. After she went to England, Mary Livingston retained some of the jewels, some of Mary, the Queen’s jewels; she inherited them, so she had them sent to her where she was staying at Bolton Castle. Her husband, John Sempill, the Dancer was charged– At this point, the regent was Lennox, who was Darnley’s dad. So, you remember the whole thing that Mary was taken to jail, and it was just a free-for-all, everyone just started stealing all of her jewels. So, Lennox was like, “Return these jewels and furs!” John Sempill, the Dancer to his credit, refused; he was imprisoned in Blackness Castle. Years later, more people were questioned about any jewels still in her keeping. I don’t know if her husband was eventually released, didn’t read that in any of my books but eventually, I assume he was, people are always in and out of jail at this point. 

“[Mary] Livingston outlived her husband, and as a widow in January 1582 she brought legal action against [her father-in-law] over the possession of some lands.” After last time’s Bess of Hardwick episode, I’m just always here for a woman taking a man to court. Mary Livingston, though she died that same year, was aged around 39 and this was about five years before the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. She had some children including Sir James Sempill, who became a Scottish Ambassador to England from 1591 to 1600.

The next Mary we’re talking about is Mary Fleming and this one is not as hard to deduce which of the ladies-in-waiting in Reign was inspired by her because her last name is Fleming and one of the ladies-in-waiting on Reign is called Lola Fleming. So, the thing with Mary Fleming is that she was the most beautiful of the Marys. The Marys were uniformly beautiful, I think it’s the sort of thing where especially as a group they were beautiful. But among them, everyone kind of agreed Mary Fleming was the most beautiful. In that sense, if we’re looking at this classically… In a group of four, the one who provides the visual… Now, I want to say, all the members of BLACKPINK are gorgeous, obviously. But officially, Jisoo’s role is visual. So, she’s there… Like, Mary Fleming is providing the visual; Mary Livingston is the dancer but they’re both gorgeous. If we’re looking at The Golden Girls, I think she’s like Rose who, again, I don’t think any of the Golden Girls are prettier or less pretty than the others but just the gentle, soft, nice one. This is why I would ascribe her to Jane Bennett in Pride and Prejudice and Meg March in Little Women. Mary Fleming is the pretty one. In Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, that would be Lena, the one played by Alexis Bledel in the movies. 

So, Mary Fleming was also, she’s not just beautiful, or maybe this is why she was beautiful, she was a cousin of Mary, Queen of Scots, as I mentioned before. So, she has this royal blood in her. She was the youngest child of Malcolm Fleming, 3rd Lord Fleming and Lady Janet Stewart. Her mother Janet was an illegitimate daughter of James IV of Scotland, Mary, Queen of Scots’s grandfather, Margaret Tudor’s husband. So, Janet was also named governess to baby Mary. Mary Fleming was born the same year as Mary, Queen of Scots and Janet Fleming was chosen to be the governess and then Mary Fleming became one of the baby Queen’s baby companions because they were also cousins. Janet Fleming, who we talked about in one of the Mary, Queen of Scots episodes, yes, she’s the one who went over and became mistress to the king of France and had an illegitimate child with him and then was kicked out of French court. That was her. I feel like they took some of her story for Kenna on Reign.

So, Antonia Fraser in her biography suggests that Mary Fleming was probably Mary, Queen of Scots’s closest friend because they were cousins. They were all very well-off, powerful, young women of the era but Mary Fleming being part royal, I think maybe she could get Mary in a way that others couldn’t. So, the same year that Mary Fleming was born “her father was taken prisoner by the English at the Battle of Solway Moss.” All four of the Marys had had some real stressful situations by the time they were 5 because they were in Scotland where it was just constant war. All the men were fighting on one side or the other of the war and often taken prisoner and stuff. 

Anyway, so, 1548, Mary Fleming 5 years old; Mary, Queen of Scots, 5 years old; Janet, adult-aged, super sexy. They went over to the Court of King Henri II of France. Mary, Queen of Scots, again, separated from the Marys. I will note that “Mary Fleming’s father had died the previous year,” so when she was 4. He was taken prisoner the year she was born and then he died when she was 4 “in the Battle of Pinkie. Her mother had this affair with the French king, the product of which was a son, Henri d’Angoulême, who was born around 1551,” and then her mother was kicked out. So, that’s a lot for Mary Fleming to go through, like, as a very young person but I feel like everyone’s life was kind of high key in that way so I’m sure Mary, Queen of Scots could understand and maybe help her out with it. 

In 1554, while they were all in France, this was proof that they did get to hang out sometimes, there was a masque performed in France. Mary Fleming had a major role in it, I think maybe because of her noble roots and maybe because of her beauty. So, when they returned to Scotland, do you remember there was a thing… So, one of the people who came back with her from France to Scotland was this poet called Pierre Chastelard, who was kind of Mary, Queen of Scots’s stalker; he hid in her bedroom and stuff. After that Mary, Queen of Scots was obviously freaked out and panicked and scared so Mary Fleming was the one she would call for and who would join her and be her roommate and stay in the room with her to make her feel better. So, that also speaks to her seeing Mary Fleming as her closest friend, her bestie of all the besties. 

May 26, 1562, the Four Marys attended the Queen at the ceremony of the opening of the Parliament of Scotland. Randy Randolph watched them. He described the procession, “Four virgins, maids, Marys, demoiselles of honour, or the Queen’s mignions, call them as please your honour but a fairer sight was never seen.” Every man at royal court was 40 years old and horny for these Marys, is what was happening. The Marys were super-hot and that’s what was going on. “During the twelfth day of Christmas Pageant in January 1564, Mary Fleming played the part of the queen of the Bean.” We talked about this before. There was a memorable episode of Reign where there was the queen of the Bean, that’s where there’s the cake and whoever gets the slice of cake with the bean in it gets treated as queen for the day. Mary Fleming in this instance got that so she got… Let’s see, Randy Randolph wrote about her at this, “Mary Fleming was the great beauty of the Marys. She had royal blood where the others had not and was the most beautiful as well.” Not Randy but another person who saw her wrote about her as “the flower of the flock.” So, here’s Randy explaining her outfit. 

The queen of the Bean was that day in a gown of cloth of silver; her head, her neck, her shoulders, the rest of her whole body so be-sett with stones, that more in our whole jewel house were not to be found. 

So, I’m picturing her in some sort of, like, diamond-encrusted catsuit like in Britney Spears’s Toxic music video. I’m sure it’s not that but it would be that effect, but non-see-through dress form. Randy continues, 

The Queen herself that day apparreled in colours white & black, no neither jewel or gold about her that day, but the ring that I brought her from (Queen Elizabeth) hanging at her breast, with a lace of black and white about her neck. 

So, Mary is wearing her trademark black and white, Mary Fleming is like a disco ball, practically, and also extremely beautiful. 

So, William Kirkcaldy of Grange who is a guy who comes up here and there in this whole saga, not enough that I gave him a nickname but enough that his name is memorable. So, he September 19, 1564, was the one who wrote that the Royal Secretary, William Maitland, AKA Scottish Machiavelli from numerous episodes of the Mary, Queen of Scots series, was showing an interest in Mary Fleming. William Kirkcaldy wrote, “ I doubt not but you understand me by now, that our secretary’s wife is near dead, and he a suitor to Mrs. Fleming, who is as fit for him, as I am to be Pope!” Because she was gorgeous, and he was old. 

Scottish Machiavelli was, he was smitten. He told his friend, William Cecil that just being around Mary Fleming brought him at least “one merry hour in the day.” Their age difference for the record, he was 36 and she was 22. So, he’s, you know, slightly younger than the 40-year-old men but just slightly. Anyway, Randy said, “Wise as he is, he will show himself a fool the way he carried on with his crush on Mary Fleming.” So clearly, she was so cool, so hot, Scottish Machiavelli is just this big, old nerd comparatively, but she was into it and Mary, Queen of Scots was like, “I could use this match. Okay, I’ll allow it.” So, it became clear that these two were going to get married. So, this was a three-year courtship, which was the talk of the English and Scottish courts because Scottish Machiavelli was such an important person, Mary Fleming was so close to the Queen, and she had royal blood as well. 

Randy was cranky and clearly jealous. He wrote that Scottish Machiavelli had been “pushed out of the centre of political affairs in order to have the time to make love to his coy mistress, Mary Fleming.” So, this was during the Rizzio era when Scottish Machiavelli was in fact, pushed aside so the Queen could have an actually helpful person as her secretary who wasn’t actively trying to betray her. So, Mary Fleming did wind up marrying Scottish Machiavelli in a ceremony at Stirling Castle on January 6, 1566. They did not have a honeymoon because he had to leave town right away to go to that conference where he, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, Bothwell, and 75 men named James all signed paperwork being like, “Let’s work together to murder Darnley. Great. Thanks. We’re all going to do this. Here’s the paperwork saying we’re going to do this.” So, it’s quite a fraught time. 

This is where it gets really interesting, actually, because Mary Fleming, Mary, Queen of Scots’s closest friend, her cousin marries this guy, Scottish Machiavelli, who is sometimes on Mary’s side, often not on Mary’s side. Where does this leave Mary Fleming in this scenario? And where it leaves her might surprise you. This is where I do want to mention, on Reign, there’s a plotline where Lola, the character who is inspired by Mary Fleming gets involved with a guy named Narcisse who is amazing on Reign; he’s such a camp, amazing character, he’s so villainous. It’s a great character. And unexpectedly, he and Lola Fleming on Reign kind of hit it off and they’re both just kind of scheming and sexy. She takes a lot of sexy baths and he, like, keeps walking in on her being like, “No, we can’t be together.” And she’s like, “Mm, we should be together.” And he’s like, “No, we can’t.” And that’s kind of what the vibe is honestly, between Mary Fleming and Scottish Machiavelli here. 

I was messaging with my friend and tits-out brigade member, Isobel, who was as into Reign as I was, we both wrote these recaps for it for a fashion website at the time. Isobel mentioned that she wants recognition always for “Young women who weren’t taken advantage of by old men but gamed them back and became a sneaky AF couple,” and that’s the vibe of Mary Fleming and Scottish Machiavelli, it’s not just like, “Oh no, Scottish Machiavelli is taking advantage of this poor, naïve woman.” Mary Fleming had been through shit by the time she was 5 years old. Her mother had an affair with a French king. Her illegitimate half-brother is a nobleman in France. She’s on top of things. She is also scheming, she’s also at his level, I would say. And that’s what we’re going to see as the relationship progresses. 

We’ll just go through what all the steps are here in their interesting and intriguing relationship in which, I would argue, she’s almost a Lady Macbeth-type figure, just subtly manipulating him to the point where eventually, he’s just doing whatever she says. Although I’m sure he thinks he’s manipulating her in fact, she was always in charge. So, everything that happened that was shitty, Scottish Machiavelli was on the shitty side of it. He was on the side of Rizzio being murdered; he was on the side of blowing up Darnley’s house; he was one of the people who was complicit in convincing Mary to marry Bothwell. He was never on the good side of anything, while he was also married to Mary’s best friend. So, it’s like, what is this situation? What is this relationship? 

But first, I do also want to mention that Mary Fleming’s sister, who is also one of the associated people in the royal court, was Margaret who was the witch, and who I mentioned was there when Mary, Queen of Scots was giving birth. Margaret Fleming was brought in to transfer the labour pains from Mary, Queen of Scots to somebody else, which didn’t work. But she was a witch and I’m not going to talk too much about her right now because perhaps I will talk about her more in-depth closer to Halloween, wait and see. 

Anyway, so yeah, Scottish Machiavelli. Complicit in getting Queen Mary to marry Bothwell, Mary Fleming might have helped in that instance to try and persuade her as well. Mary Fleming, loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots, I think undoubtedly. Her whole life was dedicated to serving Mary, Queen of Scots so it might have been, she felt like this was the best option for her at the time. It’s not like, “Ha-ha, let’s trick her.” Scottish Machiavelli was like, “Ha-ha, let’s trick her into marrying Bothwell because then I, Scottish Machiavelli, can get more power,” and he always wanted to ally with England, I think. So, Mary Fleming was certainly aware of these schemes and was maybe helping with these schemes. Like, when Mary, Queen of Scots was taken captive at that castle, Mary Fleming was the only one of the Marys who waited on her there at Dunbar while Mary, Queen of Scots was being held prisoner by Bothwell. So that’s where, like, Mary Fleming is in on the scheme. I don’t want to be like, “She wasn’t in on this.” She was but no one knew how this was going to shake out, really. 

Ultimately, by the time Mary, Queen of Scots was in prison, taken by the Confederate asshole lords, Mary Fleming’s influence seems clear because Scottish Machiavelli fully switched sides. He was remorseful for what he had done, he showed remorse for his actions, and he spent the rest of his life being on Team Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary Fleming manipulated him right back. This is where I feel like she wasn’t some little, naïve younger woman. 22 to 36 is a substantial age gap; in the pantheon of Vulgar History, it’s not that much. But also, Mary Fleming clearly had a real good head on her shoulders here. 

So, she had a son, her first son was a child named James after, I think, Mary, Queen of Scots’s son James and this baby was born around the same time Mary was being imprisoned and the Casket letter scenario was happening. So, there were all these rumours, like, I’m not going to get into the Casket letters of it all, just know that there were these letters, and they were clearly not written by Mary, Queen of Scots but the asshole lords said that they were. Who wrote these? The handwriting apparently looked like hers but all the Marys had had the same handwriting tutor so there are some people who think Mary Fleming was one of the people who helped write these forged letters because she was married to Scottish Machiavelli. But they were all on Mary’s side and frankly, Scottish Machiavelli later did admit when he was the secretary, he had sometimes forged the Queen’s handwriting. Mary, Queen of Scots said herself, “My handwriting is really basic, lots of people could copy it.” Never mind that Walsingham was on the scene. 

Anyway, Mary, Queen of Scots is in Lochleven in prison, March 1568 Scottish Machiavelli sent her a ring that was apparently a gift from Mary Fleming. It was enamelled with a lion and a mouse from Aesop’s Fable. There’s so much animal imagery in all these episodes and I know I mentioned this before, but I’ll just remind you now that we know who Mary Fleming is. So, the imagery in this might have meant, the mouse represents Scottish Machiavelli, who was gnawing away at a net surrounding the lion, who represents Mary, Queen of Scots. So, seemingly this ring symbolism was showing that Scottish Machiavelli was trying to help, which he was. So, Mary Fleming, seems like, was really placing him under pressure to help with Mary, Queen of Scots’s release. And he was doing it. She knew that this was what needed to happen, and he was on board with what she was suggesting. 

It’s all really schemey and complicated. I’m not trying to say Mary Fleming was this perfect sainted person. I think she was a scheming badass simultaneous to being loyal to Mary and she was working really hard. She has this really influential family so, like, with her family’s backing, the Flemings, that’s a lot of people who would be there to support, to go to war basically. But then Scottish Machiavelli is also politically motivated to try and provide evidence to discredit her in the form of the Casket letters. When Mary, Queen of Scots was in England, Scottish Machiavelli was one of the people who was trying to help her marriage to T-Dog, that potential treason marriage that she was going to do, while simultaneously, he was like a spokesman for her restoration as queen in Scotland. He had the support of the Flemings, also the Gordons, that’s the Cock o’ the North family, and the Hamiltons, AKA the Babysitter’s Club, he was also supporting T-Dog against William Cecil. He is playing all the angles and all the sides. 

On October 11th, he was able to send Mary Fleming to Mary, Queen of Scots with a transcript of one of the Casket letters. And that was the whole thing, Mary, Queen of Scots just wanted to read the Casket letters, and no one would let her read them. Mary Fleming also brought along a note where Scottish Machiavelli was offering his assistance to combat this evidence which he had maybe produced. Mary, Queen of Scots was sensibly like, “Thanks but no thanks, your husband sucks. But I love you Mary Fleming, nice to see you.” 

Okay so Mary, Queen of Scots was in England for 19 years during which time Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was regent and then he was assassinated. Eventually, Jeremy Jam from Parks and Recreation took over to become the new regent. Everybody hated him, Scottish Machiavelli hated him, they were huge enemies of each other. Scottish Machiavelli though had been ill for quite a while; he had some sort of creeping paralysis; more and more of him was slowly becoming paralyzed, I don’t know what disease or condition that is. Randy Randolph is still a messy drama queen living for drama, thank god, writing us all these letters about what was going on. By 1570 he wrote that Scottish Machiavelli’s legs were clean gone, like he couldn’t use them. “His body was so weak he could not walk, even to sneeze caused extreme pain.” Randy was still not over him stealing Mary Fleming, allegedly, from him so he wrote, “To this hath blessed joy of a young wife brought him.” So, he’s just being like, “Fuck you, you stole my girlfriend, I hate you.” Anyway. So, they’re firmly on Team Let’s Reinstate Mary As The Queen. 

So, Scottish Machiavelli and Mary Fleming were both in Edinburgh Castle in 1573 when it was held by supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots against an English army supporting the government of James, Baby BJ, basically. They were both captured when the castle was surrounded, she was surrendered to, at this point, Jeremy Jam is still the regent. She was kept a prisoner in Robert Gourlay’s house. 

At this time Scottish Machiavelli was carried out of the castle on a litter because he wasn’t able to stand or walk. He died a month later in June. He had been found dead in his bed where he was being kept under house arrest and it was assumed he took poison to kill himself in, “the Roman fashion.” So, Cleopatra, Mark Antony vibes, that he’d rather die by his own hands than be executed. So, he was aged 45 and he was left unburied which was the usual thing for traitors, which he technically was, it was described, I think in the Antonia Fraser book, “His body became a feasting ground for maggots.” 

So, do you remember in the earlier episode, the whole thing with the Cock o’ the North scenario where he died and then they took his body and propped his body up in parliament and put his dead corpse on trial? I think they were gearing up for that sort of thing. So, Mary Fleming wrote a moving personal plea to William Cecil, who had been friends with Scottish Machiavelli. She said the body of her husband, “which when alive has not been spared in her Highness service, may now after his death, receive no shame or ignominy.” And so, William Cecil was like, “This is a well-written letter. Handwriting looks suspiciously like Mary, Queen of Scots but whatever.” So, he got Queen Elizabeth to read it and she was like, “Fuck this Scottish thing about putting bodies on trial. This is not cool, please bury this man,” and so they did. 

Again, the jewels of it all. So twice, I think that same year, 1573, yeah, Mary Fleming was ordered to return some jewelry of rubies and diamonds which had belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots. I don’t know if she did but just like, these assholes are trying to get all these jewels that people took that Mary gave to people legitimately. Eventually, Scottish Machiavelli’s estates and properties were restored by grant of King James, Baby BJ and then she and her son were granted a restoration or rehabilitation, so they were no longer seen as traitors, the wife or son of a traitor. She was allowed the benefit of a property that Scottish Machiavelli had given her, Bolton in East Lothian. 

So, her son James we’re going to hear about in a bit, something else he did. He later became a Catholic and lived in France and Belgium in self-imposed exile and she had a daughter who she named Margaret. In 1581, Mary, Queen of Scots asked Elizabeth for permission for Mary Fleming to come and visit her but there’s no evidence that Mary Fleming went so maybe she didn’t get permission. She did marry again, someone called George Meldrum of Fyvie and she died around age 39, 1581, about four years after the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. 

This leads us to our next Mary, Mary Beaton. So, she was described as the bravest and most intelligent of the group so she’s kind of the smart, bookish one. On Reign, she inspired the character of Greer and if she was in Pride and Prejudice, she would be Lizzy Bennet. If she was in Little Women, she’d be Jo. In Golden Girls she’d be Dorothy, in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, she would be Carmen and I’d say in terms of BLACKPINK she would be Rosé because Rosé is… I don’t know enough about BLACKPINK to say if Rosé is really bookish, but I do know that she’s really committed to music and artistry in that way so she’s very thoughtful and that’s where I would put her if we’re describing everybody in terms of BLACKPINK. 

Anyway, Mary Beaton. Born in 1541, she was the child of Robert Bethune, 4th Laird of [harsh R sounds in pronunciation] Creich. That’s my attempt at Scots pronunciation. Scots people come at me, it really feels like I’m saying a Klingon word but the 4th Laird of Creich. Her mother was Joanna or Jane Renwall. So, her mother had been one of Marie de Guise’s ladies-in-waiting. Her aunt, Mary Beaton’s aunt, Janet Beaton was a mistress of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. Yes, that Bothwell. Everyone is connected in this situation. So, she was called by Mary, Queen of Scots the Duenna, which I think is a term that indicates that she’s the eldest of the Four Marys. She’s kind of like Mary in charge. In that way, she’s like Jisoo from BLACKPINK but I’m still going to say she’s the Rosé. She’s the leader, you know, K-pop bands have a leader, if she was in BTS she’d be the RM. 

So, her grandfather, Sir John Beaton, if you’re thinking, like, “I’ve heard the name Beaton before,” I’m going to explain to you why. “Her grandfather Sir John Beaton was the hereditary keeper of the royal palace of Falkland. The Beatons of Creich were a younger branch of that same family.” So, the senior lines of Beatons had been given to Scotland Cardinal David Beaton, who is the dirtbag guy who murdered John Knox’s mentor and then he was murdered and hung up in a castle by John Knox and some other people. “Daaa-vid Beaton,” I called him because of how they say the name Harry Beaton in Brigadoon. Anyway, the Beatons, big deal in oldy-time Scotland, perhaps still a big deal in modern-time Scotland, who is to say? Also, one of Mary, Queen of Scots’s faithful ambassadors was James Beaton. So, Beatons, prestigious name. 

So, again, near the age of 5, Mary Beaton was chosen by Marie de Guise as one of the Four Marys to go to France with the little kindergarten-aged queen. Mary Fleming was the prettiest of all of them, Mary Beaton was apparently the most classically beautiful of the four. I don’t know if that means Mary Fleming was more catalogue and Mary Beaton was more editorial in terms of America’s Next Top Model, but where she specifies herself from the others is that “she was less flamboyant than Mary Fleming or Mary Livingston, she was bolder than Mary Seton,” who we haven’t talked about but who is quite shy and quiet. She was again described as “the bravest and most intelligent of the quartet.” She also loved books, she loved reading. Apparently, “She was tall, plump and pretty with light hair and dark eyes. She was intelligent and well-read, speaking fluent French and also understanding Italian. She loved poetry.” 

She signed one of her letters, “Marie de Bethune.” So, if your name is Mary Beaton but you’re growing up in France and your mother is French, I could see that you’d put your name in a French way, especially when word spellings, you can change your mind all the time in this era. So, Mary Beaton AKA Marie de Bethune. Her younger sister, Lucretia Beaton, also joined Mary’s household as one of the not-ladies-in-waiting but the maids of honour. So, another sister who is on the scene. 

Mary Beaton attracted the attention of an older man, quelle surprise, but which older man it is might surprise you. It was, in fact, Randy, Randy Randolph, who I guess had pivoted from one Mary to another who was still single. So, at the time of this courtship, 1564, Randy was 45 and Mary was 21. So again, Randy was Queen Elizabeth’s ambassador to the Scottish court. He was like, “Hey, Mary Beaton can you be my wife/mistress, and also can you spy on Mary, Queen of Scots for me for Queen Elizabeth?” And Mary Beaton was like, “Fuck you, of course not. What are you– No. Fuck off, Randy.” Although they were known to be courting or hanging out with each other informally. In April 1565, Mary Beaton and Randy were a team, they played some sort of game called bowls with Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley which is just like a cursed double date, honestly, Mary Beaton and Randy, Mary, Queen of Scots and Darnley playing, I don’t know, cards or bowling or whatever. Anyway, Mary Beaton and Randy won, “Darnley gave Mary Beaton a ring and a brooch with two agates worth fifty crowns. 

One of Randy’s Scottish friends, Alexander Clark, sent him a letter teasing him about…” I love that these 40-year-old men are all throwing themselves at the Marys and all the other 40-year-old men are making fun of them for it. It’s good to have a friend to keep you in check like that. But it also puts it in perspective that some of these do end up in marriages but also, people are like, “You’re a fool, she’s young, you’re a goofball.” Alexander Clark wrote this letter saying, “And as to your mistress Mary Beaton, she is both…” Augh, this is like… he was making up fake words where it’s like, words are hard enough to read in oldy-time letters but he’s making up words. Alexander Clark wrote, “And as to your mistress Marie Beton, she is both darimpus and sclenbrunit, and you in like manner without contrebaxion or kylteperante, so you are both worth little money.” Honestly, these guys are just nerds, I don’t know. 

George Buchanan, who you may remember… All these I’m just like, “Oh him,” when these names pop up. He was the guy who was friends with Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart in France and then he came over to be Mary, Queen of Scots’s Latin tutor and he also wrote some of the masque plays. Then later, after Mary was arrested, George Buchanan is the one who wrote the erotic fan fiction about her. But before all that, George Buchanan was just the courtly writing, and he wrote Latin phrases praising Mary Beaton and her performance in one of his masques where I guess she played a queen. He wrote, “The fair Fleming was surely chosen by fortune to be a queen and not for Twelfth Night only.” He compared her to “Venus in beauty and Minerva in wit.” So again, everyone is just horny for the Marys. I like that she’s just Fair Fleming. Were they all like this? Fair Fleming, Lusty Livingston, were those the nicknames just because they couldn’t call them all Mary? It was confusing? I don’t know. 

So, when it became time for her to get married, Mary, Queen of Scots was just like, “I need to marry my Marys in politically advantageous ways.” Randy Randolph I’m sure was just there, raising his hand like, “Ooh, pick me,” but he was out of favour because he had been on team Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart recently in one of those anti-Mary attempted coups. Mary Beaton couldn’t be married to Randy because that would get her too close to the enemy, which is also interesting about how Mary, Queen of Scots was cool with Mary Fleming marrying Scottish Machiavelli, which is maybe where she trusted that Mary Fleming was up to his level but also, she knew that Scottish Machiavelli could be changed. But Randy was just a hot mess. 

So, who did she marry Mary Beaton to? Well, remember we talked all about Jean Gordon, we had a whole episode about her. So, as a teenager, Jean Gordon’s true love had been Alexander Ogilvy but then Mary, Queen of Scots made Jean Gordon marry Bothwell instead. And in fact, Mary, Queen of Scots also arranged the marriage of Alexander Ogilvy to Mary Beaton. So, part of this is that Mary, Queen of Scots probably knew that Alexander Ogilvy and Jean Gordon were in love with each other and she just didn’t want– These political marriages had to sort out in a certain way so she felt like, “Okay, if I’m marrying Jean to Bothwell I need to make sure Alexander is married to someone as well just so there’s not any risk of Jean leaving him,” or whatever. So anyway, Mary Beaton and Alexander Ogilvy’s wedding was two months after Jean and Bothwell’s and I do think they were of similar age, for once in this episode. 

So, Mary Beaton was with Mary, Queen of Scots in Edinburgh Castle when Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to Prince James and Mary Beaton was the one who, I guess she left the room because it was all women in the room and then she went to tell a guy who rode to London to tell the news to Elizabeth who was like, “Oh god dammit, she had a son. Blerghh!” Anyway, that just shows how trusted Mary Beaton was. 

Anyway, Mary, Queen of Scots’s saga is happening and when we fast forward to the part where Mary escaped Lochleven and there were all the Scottish guys waiting across the loch to like, fight for her, Mary Beaton’s husband, Alexander Ogilvy, was among those facing off against Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart. Eventually, they lost this battle. Alexander was captured alongside the other Beaton family members who had been involved. They were sent to Edinburgh Castle and sentenced to execution until John Knox called for pardons of everybody and Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart agreed. So, like, for once in their life, they did something okay. I think it’s because they were just like, “We can’t kill every Scottish man in Scotland, there will be nobody left.” So, Alexander Ogilvy paid a fine and was able to return home. 

Mary Beaton was still on Mary, Queen of Scots’s payroll even after the queen was sent to England because technically, she was still lady-in-waiting. So, she was getting a bit of income and she and Alexander Ogilvy were growing their wealth. They were living in the north of Scotland and in a kind of Bess of Hardwick vibes, Alexander Ogilvy had embarked on an ambitious building project building Boyne Castle. So, it’s one of the castles that today is in, you know, it was abandoned and now is kind of ruins, but it shows the outlines of a grand house. There were rumours, the Casket letters of it all, people were like, “Of all the Marys, Mary Beaton’s handwriting was the most similar to Mary’s,” which is like, why would she have done that? She was in north Scotland learning languages, building a library and a house, but she wasn’t doing that. But apparently, her handwriting was the most similar to Mary, Queen of Scots’s. 

As things progressed, they were still on Team Catholic, We Support Mary, even as the Protestants took over and that was clearly not the way the winds were blowing. So, this led to some financial difficulties because this wasn’t a popular way to be, and they needed money for this building project. And I love this detail because guess who Mary Beaton turned to try and appeal to for money? She turned to her old pal Randy, asking him to please intercede for her with Jeremy Jam from Parks and Recreation, who is currently the regent. And Randy, to his credit, passed along this request. By this point, I was reading up a little bit about Randy and he married Francis Walsingham’s sister and then he went to Russia. He had an interesting life. I might do a So This Asshole on him one day because he is an intriguing figure. Anyway, Randy passed along this request to Jeremy Jam and somehow, this all kind of worked out. They managed to reach an agreement so that Alexander Ogilvy didn’t lose this land. So, it seems like these guys really did help out and I do, first of all, I appreciate the audaciousness and the bravery to turn to your former almost-boyfriend, decades after you had not married him and asking him for money. But the fact that Randy did is kind of cool of him. 

May 1590, Mary Beaton was one of the people who greeted the new Queen of Scotland Anne of Denmark when she arrived to marry Baby BJ who was now an adult man, she was among 30 other gentlewomen. Mary, Queen of Scots had written various wills. One of them, she had said to leave her books in French, English, and Italian to Mary Beaton which also shows how Mary Beaton was kind of the bookish, clever one. This will was not used, as we know, they kind of ransacked Mary’s shit and didn’t give stuff that she wanted to give to the people she wanted to give it to. But Mary Beaton was, like, a lifelong bookworm. She became a friend of the poet William Fowler who served as secretary to Anne of Denmark. He dedicated a translation to “The right honourable Ladye Marye Betoun Ladye Boine.” She wrote a poem to preface his translation of the Triumphs of Petrarch and she and Alex had built up a library in their castle in a time when books were scarce. So, she was a really committed book person at a time when it was hard to get books.

She died in 1597 at the age of 55. She and Alexander Ogilvy had three sons. All the Marys all had sons all called James, so they’re like, the Jameses. But again, that’s the only name there was. James, Andrew, and Robert were their sons. Alexander Ogilvy later married his first love Jean Gordon and when he died, he was buried next to Mary Beaton because– I think we talk about that in the Jean Gordon episode or at least it’s in the book about Jean Gordon, Daughters of the North. Jean Gordon was cool with that. Alexander Ogilvy, that was his family. They got to spend their Golden Girls era together, but he was married to Mary Beaton for a long time. There are conflicting reports about where Mary Beaton was buried. One suggestion is maybe in a place called Boyndie Church. 

Which leads us to Mary number four, Mary Seaton. I feel like we all know a bit more about her because she was the one that was present with Mary for most of her life and that’s because she never got married. So, in terms of Reign, it’s interesting because Reign is doing its own thing. It’s basically alternative history. The first few episodes there are four ladies-in-waiting and for reasons I will not disclose, there become less ladies-in-waiting as the show goes on. Anyway, so the person on Reign who is most similar to Mary Seton is Aylee who in the early episodes of Season 1 of Reign is one of the ladies-in-waiting and is very sweet and naïve and kind of innocent and pure, little cinnamon roll type. That’s the Mary Seton vibe which is why in Little Women she’s Beth. It’s a bit trickier to get into the other ones. Because she’s not really Sophia in Golden Girls but that’s the only one who is left and she’s not really Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice but that’s the only one who is left. She is like Mary Bennet in the sense that she’s a spinster. If we’re getting into BLACKPINK though, I do think comparing her to Jennie is accurate because Jennie is also sweet and quiet and kind of shy, and Mary Seton also was. Who is left in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Tibby; that’s not the vibe. I don’t know, I should have done, I didn’t do Sex and the City people but none of them are Mary Seton. I guess Miranda? No, not really. Anyway, Mary Seton is Jenny from BLACKPINK/Beth from Little Women is who she is. She’s sweet and pure and kind and nice. 

So, Mary Seton came from one of the grandest Scottish families, she was George, the 6th Lord Seton by his second marriage to a French woman, Marie Pierres who had come to Scotland as one of Marie de Guise’s maids of honour. So, two of the four Marys had mothers who were French women so there’s that French connection as well. “The French Pierres family claimed to have descended from the Percy family of Northumberland.” So, when Queen Mary returned to Scotland after her ceremonial entry in Edinburgh, she went to Linlithgow Palace where the Four Marys went to the house of Mary Seton’s brother, George Seton, at Seton Palace for dinner. Mary Seton was the quietest of the Marys although having talked about the other three, it’s not hard to be the quietest of the Marys, the other three all sound pretty talkative. She was also the most pious and the most devoted to serving her queen versus to the pleasures of the court. 

We know that she had a huge talent for fashion and hair styling. So, she learned that art in France and anyone can learn an art, but Mary Seton was so good at it, there was clearly some innate talent as well. We know that Mary, Queen of Scots wore false hairpieces; when she was a younger person with a full head of natural hair, she still added hairpieces to that because that was the look. We know this because there are repeated references to these hairpieces in various inventories of her belongings as well as lists of bags to carry them in. When she was sent to Lochleven, her hairpieces were among the first things she sent for when she was trapped there. 

It’s interesting, I think it was in the Antonia Fraser book, which is a bit older, so people talk about– Hair is treated differently now than maybe it was before. People nowadays are very open about using a weave or hairpiece or wigs. I think people used to not talk about that as much although people have used these since forever. In the Antonia Fraser book, she says at one point, where it’s like, Mary, Queen of Scots still used these wigs and hairpieces, even when she had beautiful long natural hair. And it’s like, yeah because the looks she was going for, you needed a wig or a hairpiece, these were the looks she wanted. You know, anyone can wear wigs for any reason. Anyway, and Mary, Queen of Scots, that brought her confidence and that was the look that she was after. Later in her life, when Mary, Queen of Scots left Scotland, she cut off all her hair so Mary Seton, the wigs of it all were, like, quite crucial because having a pixie cut was not a thing women did in that era when you were a queen. And then later, Mary was so ill her hair got thin and stuff. So again, you’ve got Mary Seton there on the scene, making sure her hair always looked amazing. 

Speaking of when they were in Lochleven, twice Mary Seton was called for. Mary, Queen of Scots was like, “Please, can I have one of my Marys with me?” And they were like, “Okay, you can have this one.” And thank god because she was there for her. In terms of being devoted to her mistress and, devoting her life to serving Mary, Queen of Scots, she did whatever was needed, whether it was hairstyling, swapping clothes, or standing in the window pretending to be her, which she did twice. At one point, Mary Seton was the one who did a trial run of climbing over the walls to test if Mary could do it and then she hurt herself and the guards were like, “Uhh, let’s keep Mary, Queen of Scots away from the walls, maybe.” Anyway, Mary Seton, the second disguise switcharoo was successful so she was a crucial part of Mary, Queen of Scots being able to escape with the help of Yung Willy, et cetera. 

So, Mary Seton’s role and talent as the queen’s hairdresser was described in detail by Sir Francis Knollys, the father of Lettice Knollys, who was Mary’s first babysitter when she went to England. So, he wrote a letter to William Cecil because Mary, Queen of Scots, wherever she went, she cut off all her hair then emergency went to England and then was like, “Please send me my wigs, I need my wigs.” And then when she was arrested and sent to Lochleven she’s like, “First order of business, send me my wigs.” Anyway, Mary had told Francis Knollys that Mary Seton was the “finest busker of a woman’s head and hair in any country.” I think that’s true. Francis Knollys wrote, 

Yesterday, and this day she did set such a curled hair upon the Queen, that was said to be a periwig that showed very delicately: and every other day lightly she hath a new device of head dressings, without any cost, and yet set forth a woman gayly well.

He was the one who was like, “What colour and texture is Mary, Queen of Scots’s hair? I can’t even tell because these wigs are so good.” 

Presumably, I have to think, Mary Seton being there was a help for Mary, Queen of Scots in this really traumatic time, reminding her of happier times, just having her bestie there with her, especially her bestie who knows that looking good is so important for Mary, Queen of Scots’s mental health and self-care. Mary Seton was there as Mary, Queen of Scots was sitting around in the swamp castle and other places with Bess of Hardwick doing embroideries. Mary Seton was there. So, when we see some of the embroideries that were done in that era, Mary Seton probably contributed to some of them. I have to presume, if her embroidery was as skillful as her hairstyling, you know, she was helpful and that these were beautiful stitches that she did. 

Mary Seton did fall ill in August 1570, her mother Mary Pierres heard that Mary Seton was ill and wrote to Mary, Queen of Scots asking if Mary Seton could come home. We talked about this in the Mary, Queen of Scots trapped episodes. But this was at a period of time where Mary, Queen of Scots was not allowed to receive or send any letters so even though this was a letter from Mary Seton’s mom being like, “Can my sick daughter come visit me, please?” The messenger carrying the letters, John Moon was captured, and Mary Pierres was imprisoned in Edinburgh just for writing a letter to the exiled queen. This was August, so that October, two months later, “Queen Elizabeth heard that Mary Pieris had been arrested and would be banished from Scotland for writing to her daughter,” and Queen Elizabeth was like, “Fuck this, this is dumb.” And so, she wrote to Regent Lennox, again that was Darnley’s dad, and Elizabeth is like, “This is no great cause.” Basically, no big deal. Although Mary had, by the time Elizabeth intervened, she had already been released and she promised not to write to Mary, Queen of Scots again. 

So, Mary, Queen of Scots kept being moved around, Mary Seton was able to stay with her and there was a plan at one point for Mary Seton to visit her family, I think she’s been sick for at this point, at least 10 years and has just been with Mary, just being her ride or die, with her all the time. There was a point where they thought that maybe they could switch, somebody else would come and be the new bestie for Mary but then that other person got married so Mary Seton kept her job. 

Mary Seton did have one admirer, I didn’t write down his name here, who wanted to marry her but then he was involved in the Northern Rising which is when the Bible burning thing that T-Dog was involved with and then was executed, so she couldn’t marry him. Mary, Queen of Scots got a new master of the household, whose name was Andrew Beaton, presumably part of the massive Beaton clan, who fell for Mary Seton and wanted to marry her. There were two things standing in their way. Firstly, even though he was from a very fancy, well-regarded family, Mary Seton was from the Setons and was he good enough for her? But the other thing sounds like when Mary Seton had been in France, she had made a vow of celibacy which was a piece of paperwork that had to be renounced, it had to be annulled. So, Andrew Beaton was like, “I don’t know about the family thing but…” So, he went to Paris to obtain a dispensation to marry a person who had made a vow of celibacy. Which I guess he did but then on the journey back from France to Scotland or to England, he drowned. The boat sank, I guess. So, I mean, that sucks. 

And yeah, so Mary Seton, two years later, she’d never married anybody. She was permitted to leave Mary and go back to France to retire. Starting in 1583, she lived at the Convent of Saint-Pierre at Reims where the abbess was Renée de Guise, Mary, Queen of Scots’s mother’s sister. Mary Seton though, her devotion to Mary, Queen of Scots was not diminished. None of them were, the Marys made this vow to be her friends when they were 5 years old and none of them waivered ever. The same year she was sent away, Mary Seton sent a gift to Mary, Queen of Scots via the French ambassador; she sent a book and a box, and we know that both of these things were searched for secret messages because everything was being searched for secret messages although I don’t think Mary Seton is the secret message type of person. But we do know that she sent her some presents. She didn’t go to France and forget about her, it still mattered to her. 

In 1586 Mary Seton wrote a letter to the new France ambassador, who was headed to Scotland, like from France, to go be the new ambassador in Scotland. She wrote about how much she missed Scotland. She wrote:

It is now nearly 20 years since I left Scotland and, in that time, it has pleased God to take the best part of my relations, friends, and acquaintances. Nevertheless, I presume there remain still some who knew me, and I shall be obliged by your remembering me to them as occasion may serve. 

It’s interesting because Mary always missed France, that was the place and time where she was happiest, and Mary Seton felt like Scotland was maybe the time when she was maybe happiest. Mary Seton wrote a letter in 1608 to Bess of Hardwick’s daughter Mary, who was then the Countess of Shrewsbury, I guess because she’d hung out with Bess and Mr. Bess for like, 19 years give or take, so she was still in communication with them. In this letter, Mary Seton mentioned that her right arm was paralyzed. She wrote the letter in French because she had forgotten the little English that she knew after 20 years as, she calls herself, “a poor recluse in a monastery.” She also sent other letters to Arbella Stuart, other letters to Mary, Bess’s daughter. She wrote to a companion of Anne of Denmark in 1614 and then Mary Seton died in the convent in Reims in 1615. 

So, little is known about her last years at this convent other than what was written by James, the son of Mary Fleming and Scottish Machiavelli, who went to visit her at some point. I don’t know, I feel like the Marys were all like, cool aunties to each other’s sons, all called James. So, this guy, James, Scottish Machiavelli Junior, visited the convent to find his auntie Mary Seton and found her to be “living in poverty and suffering from failing health. He complained to her family,” to whom he was vaguely related and also to King James but there’s no evidence of a response. “The bequests in her will show that she was wealthy.” So, I don’t know if he misinterpreted what he was or if he was exaggerating things. Anyway, Mary Seton outlives Mary, Queen of Scots by nearly 30 years. So, let me just do some quick math here that I forgot to do… So, she would have been aged 75 or so when she died, she lasted 30 years longer. Maybe that’s where she’s the Sophia in The Golden Girls because she’s the oldest one. 

Anyway, those are The Marys. And I will say when I started researching them, I couldn’t even remember what the four different last names were let alone who was who but by the end of it, I was just like, “Oh, that’s that one, oh that’s that one.” And now, will I remember six months from now which is which? I don’t know. But I’d like to think I will. 

So, we’re going to score them as a group, this is a similar thing to what I did when we did the Mazarinettes, Hortense Mancini’s sisters, we’re just going to score them as a group although there are other categories. There’s the Lady Jane Seymour Award for Outstanding Supporting Performance which we have given to Mary Seton for her devotion to Mary, Queen of Scots. I don’t see myself giving this award to any of the other Marys for their devotion to each other or to Mary, I think Mary Seton was the one who was most there for her. And it’s not that the other ones didn’t want to be, it’s just that they weren’t in a position to help as directly as Mary Seton was. The jewelled Tortoise Award, that’s a very rare and prestigious award for people who go above and beyond in the best-friending business. 

So, we’re going to score on the Fredegund Memorial Scandaliciousness Scale. For the Four Marys, this is a combination. So, Scandaliciousness, I feel like they showed up and were dancing and cute and 19 years old and all these 40-year-old men were either horny for them or really mad about them having boobs. That’s not scandalous, that’s just them existing in a patriarchal hell hole. I wouldn’t necessarily call any of them scandalous. Mary Seton helping Mary, Queen of Scots escape is a bit scandalous. Hmm… Mary Fleming was involved with Scottish Machiavelli, and I imagine that it was this sexy Lola-Narcisse relationship which is scandalous but not really. You know, god bless them, the Marys. I’m going to give them ultimately, a 4 for Scandaliciousness. They weren’t… That wasn’t their job, that’s not what they’re there for. There’s nothing wrong with having a low Scandaliciousness score, that’s just what they were up to. The 4 is mostly for Mary Seton for her complicity in Mary’s schemes.

 Speaking of schemes, Scheminess is the next one. I do think there’s evidence of scheminess with Mary Fleming. She married Scottish Machiavelli and he, over the course of their relationship, completely changed from being this weaselly, playing every side guy, to being ride-or-die for Mary, Queen of Scots which speaks to her being able to manipulate him in a long-term very successful way. Mary Seton, her scheminess, she didn’t come up with the schemes necessarily to switch clothes, but she was involved in the scheminess of trying to climb over the wall, switching clothes twice. I think for scheminess, it’s not a high score. Livingston, I don’t know about any schemes she did. Beaton, that’s not really scheminess, she’s just reading books. I’m going to say 5 for scheminess because of the subtextual scheminess of Mary Fleming and we know that Mary Seton was involved in helping Mary, Queen of Scots escape from prison, which is inherently schemey, whatever her role was in coming up with the scheme. She helped pull it off. 

Their Significance… This is one where I was like, not sure. So, people who join my Patreon at at least $5 or more per month get access to a Discord which is basically a big group chat where we’re talking shit about John Knox all the time but also, you know, I go there when I have questions. And I was like, “Y’all I’m doing this episode about the Four Marys. What is their significance? I love them too much I can’t decide.” When I think about Mary, Queen of Scots, it’s her and there’s the Four Marys. On Reign, there’s Mary and there’s the Marys. In the 2018 Saoirse Ronan movie, there’s Mary and there’s the Marys. Her having these backup dancers/singers is part of her myth and legend. But the Marys themselves, are they significant? Of them, I think Mary Seton is significant in the sense that, without her perhaps Mary, Queen of Scots wouldn’t have escaped Lochleven which was an important part of her story. I think they’re significant to Mary for just like, having at least one of them with her all the time helped her out mental health-wise. Mary was so known for her fashion, Mary Seton was involved in that but also, the four of them, Mary, Queen of Scots showing up in the black and white outfits was emphasized by having the Four Marys with her but they’re not just accessories. It’s tricky, it’s tricky. I’m going to give them a 4 for Significance. One for each of them because I like them all a lot.

The Sexism Bonus is where we give points for people who maybe could have accomplished more were it not for sexism. I do want to say that when I was doing the Bess of Hardwick episode two weeks ago, I gave her, I think a 4 for Sexism. And I know some of you like to play along at home, so I do want to make clear, in very rare cases, people do get less than 5 for Sexism. Early on in the show I would say, you know, everyone gets a least a 5 because the patriarchy is everywhere and it’s shitty. Bess of Hardwick I gave 4 because she made the patriarchy her bitch. How much more could she have accomplished without sexism? How much more could she have accomplished at all? She accomplished everything; sexism didn’t really get in her way. Other people who have had lower than 5 on Sexism, again it’s just a few people. Empress Sisi got less because she wasn’t… I forget what her rationale was exactly, but I don’t think sexism is what got in her way. Lola Montez also I think got less than 5 on Sexism because that didn’t stop her. If I ever do Elizabeth I, I feel like sexism didn’t stop her, in fact, it helped her. 

But in terms of Sexism, I’m going to give them the general standard score of 5 because all of them… Maybe they could have done more if they hadn’t had to find a husband, not that Mary Seton did get married. But I don’t know, I think the fact that they went to Scotland and all these 40-year-old men were drooling over them or calling them whooores all the time sucks, and they could have had much more fun if that wasn’t happening to them. 

So, all together, this is a score of 18 which in terms of this podcast is pretty low because I tend to talk about really scandalous people. In fact, that is the second-lowest score anyone has gotten ever but that’s where they land. I talk a lot about royals and stuff and they’re able to get away with more shit than non-royals but also, we know about them. So, the fact that we know about the Marys at all is impressive because it’s kind of like this season we did the Jean Gordon episode or even the Elisabeth of Valois episode, people who are living more standard-issue lives for this era. I like to look at them too, partially because it shows how people like Mary, Queen of Scots are set apart, how they’re living their lives differently. Bess of Hardwick is maybe a better example of someone who could have lived a life like that but through her tenacity and good luck and things was able to make a different sort of life for herself. It’s interesting to look at people like the Marys. Also, I like this as the finale for the Mary, Queen of Scots season because there’s been high drama and this is just kind of like, well here are some nice people who were nice. It’s a nice way to chill out. 

Speaking of the Mary, Queen of Scots season and this being the last episode of it, I do have information that I’m in the early stages of planning a live YouTube stream. Sometime in October, I’m going to be doing a YouTube Live with Allison Epstein and Lana Wood Johnson. We’re going to do a live episode of Vulgarpiece Theatre which is where the three of us talk about costume dramas. We’re going to talk about the much-requested 2018 Mary, Queen of Scots film which is literally called Mary, Queen of Scots, it’s the one starring Saoirse Ronan as Mary, Margot Robbie as Elizabeth, Taylor Swift’s ex, Joe Alwyn as Bobby Duds, and David Tenant as John Knox. Lots of people in it, lots to talk about. 

I’m really interested because I watched that movie in the theatre in 2018 when it first came out when I was just riding on vibes. I was like, “I know the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, I’ve watched Reign.” And I watched it and was like, “Seems accurate to me.” But now that I know so much more than I did then, I think it’ll be interesting to watch it, especially now that I will maybe kind of know more about who some of the man characters are. Anyway, the date has not been chosen for that yet. When one is, I will announce it here on the podcast so you can all enjoy that. I think that can be the true finale of the Mary, Queen of Scots season. 

But also, we’re done talking about Mary, Queen of Scots but the podcast continues on. There’s still going to be an episode every week, just so you know. My style in preparing this podcast is when I’m reading about a person, I really like to immerse myself in the story, and that’s why these podcast episodes end up being like 2.5 hours long. But I want to read a biography, I want to look at more biographies, I want to look at pictures of them, to really sit with it until I feel like I know the person and that’s where I feel comfortable sharing the story with you. That takes time and effort and energy. I’m not able to do that every week which is why some weeks it’s going to be not that. 

So, some weeks it will be me sharing a story with you that I’ve researched. Some weeks it’s going to be a guest coming on to share a story with me and with you, and that’s sometimes where I’m like, I really love this story but instead of me paraphrasing a person who wrote an academic paper, I’m going to bring that person on so they can explain it one-on-one to you. So, sometimes it’s going to be me talking, sometimes it’s going to be a guest telling a story, sometimes it’ll be an author talking about their book coming out that I think you will enjoy. So, every week there’s going to be something and thank you for going with me on this journey. 

I know this is different from other podcasts, but this is because I’m figuring this out as I go along. The first season of this podcast, I did like six episodes and then I took six months off and then was like, “Oh hey, here are some more episodes.” I’ve just been figuring it out. But now that I know, for a long time the biggest request I had was people wanted weekly episodes. With the international season, I did that, burned myself out a bit with the amount of research I was doing every week to do a new episode. So, what I’ve found is a way to be able to provide you with weekly content while also, you know, having self-care for myself is to have different sorts of things. So, every week there’s going to be something fun, there’s going to be something nice. There’s lots of fun stuff coming up, this show is a beautiful potpourri, this is how I’ve figured out to be able to have weekly episodes for you all and thank you all for understanding that and vibing with me on this journey. Please know, some people have been like, “When are there going to be episodes of just Ann?” There are going to be those, it’s just not every week. I can’t do that every week. 

But if you are just like, “I want some more just Ann talking in my earholes!” Well, if you join the Patreon at, you get access to all of the archived episodes that I have there and all the new ones that are coming. I’ve done a bunch of episodes called So This Asshole where I talk about gross men from history and honestly, after doing this research on the Marys, 100% I’m going to be doing one on Randy Randolph coming up at some point because the Walsingham of it all, the Russia of it all, this messy bitch, I feel like that appeals to me to learn more about him. I’ve got episodes there talking about how shitty Napoleon is, Charles Dickens, Thomas Jefferson, Hernán Cortés, John Smith from the Pocahontas story. Anyway, you can hear all those on the Patreon if you subscribe for at least $5 or more per month.

There’s also Vulgarpiece Theatre which are episodes where Allison, Lana, and I talk about different costume dramas. We’re going to be doing one on Chevalier, the movie about the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, but we’ve also talked about Cyrano with Peter Dinklage, Newsies the musical, we did Anastasia the animated film, A Knight’s Tale, Tombstone. We rotate which of us is choosing the movie so mostly it’s an episode where one of us has seen the movie and the other two haven’t and we have a really good time doing that. 

Also, if you join the Patreon for at least $5 or more a month you get access to our Discord, which is our little group chat thing. I’m really happy with how it’s shaping up. By the time you hear this, it’ll probably be done but we’ve been doing a thing on there that’s, like, Vulgar History-Survivor sim which is like taking some of the most memorable people from Vulgar History and what would happen if they were on Survivor. But we’re also chatting and having a nice time and stuff about the Scandaliciousness score, or the Significance score, I was asking people there. I do get nice messages from people who are listening, members of the tits out brigade and sometimes I think it would be nice for you all to talk to each other and the Discord is a way that I found to do that. 

Anyway, you can also, if you join my Patreon at for $1 or more a month, then you also get early ad-free access to all the episodes. Every contribution helps and the more money I make from the Patreon, the more time I’m able to contribute to this podcast which is part of why I’m able to do weekly episodes now. You can also get in touch with me if you have ideas of people to talk about in future episodes, which I love getting. I’ve got a really long list but I’m happy to get more suggestions. The more, to me, lesser known, obscure people are often always suggestions from you of people from your culture or your country or your community. I do still want to do an episode, at least one, about every country where there’s somebody out there listening right now so if I haven’t talked about someone from your country, let me know who you suggest from there. You can get in touch with me, there’s a form at Vulgar or you can also email me at 

I’m also on social media. I’m most active on Instagram @VulgarHistoryPod. I’m also on TikTok @VulgarHistory. I’m on Threads, I’m on Bluesky. I don’t know how this is going to all shake out with where people are landing in terms of social media but if you’re on one of those places, follow me and say hi and I’ll know that maybe that’s where I should be posting more. Truly, I don’t know. But in terms of pictures and things, that’s going to be mostly on Instagram. I also have merch available; takes you to the TeePublic store which is best for people in the US. If you’re outside the US, you can shop on Both sites like, every couple weeks have a sale so if you’re like, “Ooh, I don’t know if I want to buy this merch at this full price,” truly just wait a week, there’s probably going to be a sale. 

I think that’s everything I have to tell you… I’ll just tell you one more thing which is just that I also have a newsletter which has nothing to do with this podcast at all. Honestly, I started it so I would have a place to talk about not women’s history because I was starting to see that as a lack in my life. I mostly talk about murder mysteries that I’m reading or watching and that’s at

 Anyway, so many amazing episodes coming up, weekly episodes. I’m not going anywhere. Thank you all for listening to me on this journée. I still laugh a little when I think or some of you have mentioned that I said this is past episodes when I ever thought I could have done Mary, Queen of Scots in four weeks, that was preposterous of me. Anyway, until next time my friends, keep your pants on and your tits out.


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

Transcribed by Aveline Malek at


Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser

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

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

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