Scotlands History

Birth of James VI

Mary had feared that she would lose her child during the night that David Rizzio was murdered. Queen Elizabeth I of England had prior knowledge of the plot to kill Rizzio. She failed to warn Mary and may have hoped that the Scots Queen would miscarry.

On 19 June 1566, Mary gave birth in a tiny room in Edinburgh Castle. She had suffered a difficult labour. On 9 June she had written a will in case she died in childbirth.

Fearing for the safety of her child and her own life, Mary sent for a sacred relic of St Margaret to be brought to Edinburgh from Dunfermline Abbey. As Mary fought the pain of labour the head of St Margaret sat in a silver reliquary watching over the birth - Father Hay later wrote that ‘Her skull is enclosed in the head of the Bust whereupon there is a crown of Silver gilt, enriched with severall pearls and Precious Stones’. Mary hoped that St Margaret, a Catholic queen of Scotland like herself, would intervene with God to come to protect and aid her and her child.

Eventually Mary gave birth to a son. He was destined to become James VI of Scotland and I of England. Darnley was immediately called for and made to acknowledge the baby as his own son. Mary held the baby up to Darnley and said, ‘My Lord, God has given you and me a son, begotten by none but you... I am desirous that all here, both ladies and others, bear witness: for he is so much your own son, that I fear it will be the worse for him hereafter.’

At the news that Mary had given birth to a son - a male heir to the throne of Scotland - the people of Edinburgh celebrated. Hundreds of bonfires were lit and the cannons of Edinburgh Castle were fired.

James was christened at Stirling Castle. The occasion was marked with three days of celebration, pageantry and a massive fireworks display.

When Elizabeth I heard that Mary Queen of Scots had given birth to a son she reeled and cried out ‘Alack, The Queen of Scots is lighter of a bonny son, and I am but of barren stock’.

  • Photo of dark wooden cradle with inlaid design along the side and posts at each corner
  • An aerial view of Stirling Castle

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