The Life and Afterlife of Mary Queen of Scots HIST4272

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Mary Queen of Scots was an active ruler of Scotland for just six years (1561-1567) yet her reign has attracted more attention and debate than that of any other monarch in Scottish History. This course will provide an overview of Mary's life, reign and legacy. It begins with an overview of renaissance and reformation Scotland, and its relationships with Catholic Europe and its closest neighbour England. It then looks in depth at Mary's life - her time in France as the French Queen, her Scottish reign, and her period of imprisonment and execution in England. Finally, it will look at Mary's cultural afterlife and memorialisation - why is she such a figure of endless debate and fascination, and what does that say about Scotland's ever-evolving relationship with the 'daughter of debate'?  


14x1hr lectures; 6x1hr seminars over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





2 Essay (2,000 words each ) - 80%

Oral Presentation ( 5 minutes with handout 800 words) - 20% 

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Prepare students for independent and original analysis of a complex range of evidence, including source materials, thereby developing intellectual skills which will be of benefit in a wide range of careers;

■ Familiarise students, through source criticism, with a wide range of problems of interpretation arising from different usages of language, underlying meanings and intentions, differing standards of objectivity, and the variety of purpose and intent associated with historical evidence (written, visual or other);

■ Ensure, through student-led discussion, that the relative validity of alternative historical interpretations is fully recognized;

■ Encourage students to develop the confidence, imagination, skills and self-discipline required to master a similarly demanding brief in the future, whether in historical research or in any sphere or employment where these qualities are valuable.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Apply a deep and broad knowledge of the personality of Mary Queen of Scots, of the major events and issues connected to her life and reign;

■ Critically assess the major developments in political, cultural and religious life in Scotland between c. 1542 and c. 1587, using sources in a variety of media to do so;

■ Account for the myriad ways in which Mary has been memorialised in popular culture from her own time to the present day;

■ Acquire thorough knowledge of the relevant primary and secondary sources, and the problems of interpretation arising from these sources;

■ Reconcile multiple interpretations of complex historical debates relating to Mary, her reign, and her cultural afterlife;

■ Present such understanding in clear, concise and effective prose in essays and seminar papers, or in verbal argument in seminars, incorporating a range of substantiating evidence.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.