9th June 1573

Diplomat Sir William Maitland dies in jail

William Maitland was a supporter of a unified kingdom of Scotland and England long before James VI (of Scotland) became simultaneously James I of England. He was born in 1525 and appointed Mary, Queen of Scots’ secretary of state in the late 1560s.

Support for Mary

When Mary was captured and forced to abdicate, Maitland approached Nicholas Throckmorton, the English Ambassador in Edinburgh, who offered Queen Elizabeth’s assistance if the plan was to return Mary to the Scottish throne (the queens were cousins). Maitland declined but, when Mary later crossed the border to England, he remained in Scotland and continued to work towards regaining the Scottish throne for her and establishing her as the rightful successor of the childless Elizabeth.

He wasn’t the only one who considered this a fair claim. Elizabeth’s mother had been Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, following his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. As not all believed in the validity of divorce, Elizabeth was considered illegitimate in some quarters, and thus to have no claim on the English throne. Mary, on the other hand, was the son of the Scottish King James V, the granddaughter of James IV, and the great-great granddaughter of Henry VII, king of England.

In the event, the United Kingdom did come about, not through Mary’s accession to the English throne, but that of her child, James VI, when, in 1603, he was anointed James I of England upon Elizabeth’s death.

Capture and death

Maitland didn’t live long enough to see the thrones united. His efforts on Mary’s behalf put him in direct conflict with the various regents acting on behalf of her son and heir, James VI, until he was old enough to assume power in his own right. The fourth and final regent was the Earl of Morton, James Douglas, who was instrumental in bringing about the end of the civil war that had been raging in Scotland over who was the country’s true and valid monarch. The last place to hold out for Mary was Edinburgh Castle, then under Maitland’s command. When at last Maitland surrendered, after more than a week of bombardment, he was arrested and imprisoned in Leith.

Maitland died there on 9 June 1573 – 11 days after the fall of Edinburgh Castle. The cause of his death is uncertain. He had been in poor health at the time, so he may have died of natural causes. Equally, aware that he faced execution, he may have chosen to take matters into his own hands and commit suicide.



Other events that occured in June

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