Mary's Letters and Poems


Mary was a prolific writer during her lifetime. Many of these letters in French are still available to read. Here is one example:

Several of these are stored in the Scottish Life Archive of the National Museums of Scotland.

Sarah M. Dunnigan lists Mary's poems in A History of Scottish Women's Writing;

"A 66-line elegy; two poems to Queen Elizabeth; sixteen sonnets; a sextain; a 100-line 'Meditation'; a poem of two quatrains addressed to Ronsard; a poem of two quatrains addressed to the Bishop of Ross; a quatrain preserved in Anne of Lorraine's Mass Book; quatrains and fragments in a Book of Hours; a prose essay."

Two sets of couplets inscribed on glass at Buxton Wells and at Fotheringhay are believed to have been written by Mary, and a 'Tetrasticha, ou Quatrains a Son fils' is recorded as having been in the library of William Drummond of Hawthornden.

Mary spoke six languages but her favourite was French which is not surprising since she herself was half French. The language had been regularly used by the Scottish nobility for a long time. Her library would eventually contain more than 300 books, and would constitute the largest collection of French and Italian poetry in Scotland. While she lived in France she moved in court circles and was familiar with the Pleiade group of poets set up by Charles IX. This group was later copied by Mary's son James VI with his Castalian Band. Mary's reign saw a revival of vernacular literature, an example of which is the Maitland Manuscript.

Mary Beaton (c1543-c1597) (one of the 'Four Maries') was also a poet.

During the last ten years of her life she wrote several sacred poems, including the 'Meditation' and 'L'ire de Dieu par le sang n'apaise'.

Collections of her poems can be found in:-

Poems of Mary Queen of Scots (1873), edited by Julian Sharman.

Queen Mary's Book (1907), edited by P. Stewart-Mackenzie Arbuthnot.

Bittersweet Within My Heart (Pavilion).


Back to the Timeline