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History of Golf

Mary Stuart Queen of Scots

Mary at 13 years of age
Born 8 December, 1542; Died 8 February, 1587

Few individuals in human history have been born to such a privileged position  and had such a promising beginning  in life only to  have their lives come to such a tragic end as  did Mary Queen of Scots.

Mary was born to Scottish Royalty with family ties through her mother to the most powerful families in France,The House Of Guise, and through her first marriage to the Dauphin to one of the most powerful families in Italy, the House of Medici.

The Dauphin's mother being Catherine Medici and his grandfather being Lorenzo the Magnificent of the House of Medici the patrons of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci and the wealthiest family in Italy.

 The story of Mary and the drama of her life developed primarily because she had direct ties to the English Throne through her ancestry. Margaret Tudor, sister to King Henry VIII, had married  James IV, the King of Scotland, and had birthed their son James V. James V married Mary of Guise, and Mary Queen of Scots was born into this union in 1542. Her father James V of Scotland died within a week of Mary's birth which made her the Queen of Scotland. Subsequently her mother ruled as regent while Mary was sent to France for her formal education. 

While in France Mary played golf as one of her favorite activities helping spread the early popularity of the game.

 Mary was raised  in the French Court which was a Catholic institution and her first husband Francis II was the Dauphin or heir to the throne of France.  At the age of 15 she was married to Francis II, the son of Henri II of France and Catherine Medici. The couple  had been playmates while growing up together in the French Court. This union lasted only two years ending with the death of Francis when Mary was age 17.

Upon the death of her first Husband she no longer had a claim to be the Queen of France. The French court became politically  dominated by her mother in law Catherine. Instead of staying in France and dealing with unfavorable political circumstances upon the death of Mary's mother she chose instead to return to Scotland in 1560 and claim the rule of Scotland as her rightful inheritance. This decision to a large degree marked the beginning of her personal misfortunes that ultimately lead to her captivity in England and her eventual execution.


A romanticized version of Mary Queen of Scots
playing golf with Lord Darnley on the Scottish Links

During the 16th century the game of golf became firmly established on the east coast of Scotland and began to spread further abroad. Mary Queen of Scots, was a notable player. So keen was her interest in the game she fell foul of the Church for playing golf only a few days after the murder of her second husband, Lord Darnley, rather than demonstrating a proper amount of time in mourning following his murder and death.

 Mary's son by lord Darnley, King James VI of Scotland (James I of England) became a convert to the game before he acceded to the English throne as James I in 1603.

The drama that lead to the death of her second husband was one of intrigue having to do with the rightful accession to the throne of Scotland and Mary came under suspicion of having planned and executed the plot to murder Lord Darnley with James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell the man she married within months of his death.

Her third marriage put her in conflict with other Scottish Nobles and she came under suspicion of having taken steps to murder Lord Darnley. She was asked to abdicate the Scottish throne to her son James the VI of Scotland and later James 1st of England. Seeking asylum from her problems in England lead to 18 years of house arrest  by Elizabeth I of England.

In England Mary was ultimately accused and tried for treasonous activities against the throne of England and beheaded on Feb. 8th 1587

Her execution caused an absolute outrage throughout Catholic Europe.  The invasion of the Spanish Armada in 1588 by Philip II of Spain  was motivated partially to avenge her death and the military goal of the Armada was to depose Elizabeth I and return the throne of England to the Catholic Church, however the Armada failed in its mission.

It is important to note that the plan to launch the Spanish Armada may have in fact have been partially influenced by Catherine of France, Mary's mother in law by her first marriage to Francis II of France. Catherine's daughter was married to Phillip II of Spain at the time the invasion was launched.

Elizabeth had handled the suspicion of Mary intrigues against the throne with great restraint and had signed but had withheld the death warrant against her only to have several of her lords execute the warrant without her permission. However following the Spanish invasion attempt, the Catholic Church's claim to the throne of England was to be dealt with much more severity by the authorities of the English Crown and the Anglican Church. The political environment created by this policy of the English Crown lead directly to the protestant reformation in England.

The Protagonists


Elizabeth I  portrait dating 1585


1585 Portrait of Mary during her captivity
by Francois Clouet

Perhaps the most famous image of Mary, it was painted during her imprisonment in England. This image was copied frequently during the reign of her son King James I of England and patron of the King James Version of the Bible.  


Sculpture by Chester Comstock dated 1986 
Mary Queen of Scots contemplating a Golf ball as if it were a globe. 
Trophy Proposed for the International at Castle Pines Golf Club

In conclusion the game of golf was developed in Scotland in the early 16th Century and had its advocates in the Royal family of Scotland. It had been introduced to France along with the entourage that went with Mary Queen of Scots to the French court. This event marked the beginning of the spread of golf to its current global status as a sport.


About the Art

The above sculpture was created and submitted  by Chester Comstock to the selection committee as a conceptual for the first place trophy for the International, a PGA tour event held at Castle Pines Golf Club in Castle Rock Colorado.

The sculpture was designed to convey the concept of the expansion of golf from its earliest origins in Scotland, to its truly International Status as a gentleman's sport. The 16th Century into which Mary was was the beginning of the Age of Discovery and the first century of the Globalization of trade.

During Mary's interment in England Sir Francis Drake became the second man to circumnavigation of the Globe in a three year journey from December 1977 to september 1980. This trip was the the first for England. This was an event that Mary surely had news of and which sparked global ambitions for the rulers of England.

The sculpture shows Mary contemplating a golf ball as if it were a globe, artistically suggesting her inner desire for the expansion of her personal dominion, the promise of which plunged her into direct political conflict with her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Although Mary's political aspirations lead directly to the turmoil which ultimately endangered her life, her promotion of and favor for the game of golf is now truly shared Internationally.



For additional historical background on 16 and 17 the century Globalization of trade visit these pages:

The life and times of St. Francis Xavier, 1512- 1552 Page: 1

Xavier meets Otomo Sorin the King of Bungo,1550 Page: 2

William Adams arrives in Japan, 1600 Page: 3

The Epic Journey of Hasekura Tsunenaga, 1613-1620 Page: 4

James I king of England (1603-1625) and his personal correspondence with Tokugawa Ieyasu Shogun of Japan ( 1600-1616)

Page: 5

For information about the art Call: (303) 657 9778  

  or E-mail:  chester058@artsales.com

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