The Four Maries


Mary took with her to France some noblemen and their children, and amongst them were four girls who served her. Strangely, they were all called 'Mary': Mary Fleming, Mary Seton, Mary Beaton and Mary Livingston.

Sometimes the other girls serving her were called 'Mary' too, even if that wasn't their real name. This was because the word 'Mary' came from the Icelandic word 'Maer' which means 'maid'. People liked the idea of having the Queen served by women called 'mary'.

There's a famous song - nobody knows who wrote it or when - about the Four Marys, and in it the Marys are given different surnames to those listed above, which has caused a lot of debate. Instead of Marys Fleming and Livingston, there are Marys Carmichael and Hamilton. Mary Hamilton sings this song about the four whilst she awaits her execution. The problem is that there is no mention of a Mary Hamilton in the existing historical documents from the time of Queen Mary.

Here are some of the words:


The Queen's Maries


Yestreen the Queen had four Maries,
The nicht she'll hae but three;
There's Mary Seaton, and Mary Beaton,
An' Mary Carmichael an' me.

Oh often ha'e I dress'd my Queen,
An put gowd in her hair
But noo I've gotten for my reward,
The Gallows to be my share

Oh little did my mither ken,
The day she cradled me,
The land I was to travel in,
The death I was to dee.

Oh happy, happy is the maid,
That's born o' beauty free;
It was my dimpling rosie cheeks
That's been the dule o' me.


Back to the Timeline