‘If Mary Queen of Scots was your mom’

If Mary Queen of Scots was your mum, you would be very careful what you said around her. You would be dying to be flippant and say things such as, ‘running around like headless chickens’, or ‘keep your hair on’. But you think it might irritate her, that she might take it the wrong way — too literally.

If Mary Queen of Scots was your mum, she would write you long letters that went on about how miserable she was, being locked up and so on. She would tell you, yet again, about how she used to be Queen of Scots and Queen of France and the Queen of England (hmm yeh, you sure about that one?!), and how she would go out dancing and having fun. And now all she has is a drafty castle stuck on some boring English hillside. And you’d think, yeh right, mum, things aren’t that great for me either. Thanks for asking.

If Mary Queen of Scots was your mum she would end her letters with some pointed comment about how she’s worried you might have forgotten about her, since she doesn’t hear from you much. Maybe you have started hating her, with all those dour Scots men like George Buchanan around you telling you stuff that just isn’t true? But then she will say that she knows you wouldn’t think that, that you really love her and miss her, and that she thinks one day you might even build a special chapel in Westminster Abbey just for her — when you get the chance to, that is. And you’d nod, because that is exactly what you’d do. If you got the chance.

If Mary Queen of Scots was your mum she would always put in something nice with her letter, as a special gift for you. But the trouble would be that she sends you the Same. Thing. Every. Time. An embroidery of a cat. It would be nice, but you have run out of space on your wall to hang this new one up. And you know you should, because she might just get out some day and visit you, and then she would see you haven’t made an effort with her nice embroidery. Or perhaps one of those dour Scots lords who hang around you might write and tell her that you don’t seem to like her little presents. And then she’d be upset, and write to you saying she thinks you have forgotten about her, or something.

If Mary Queen of Scots was your mum you wouldn’t have the heart to tell her that you weren’t actually a Catholic anymore. Well, you know, you just couldn’t get into all that stuff. You know she’d go fleepy if she found out, so you just try to skirt round the issue, and hope it doesn’t come up in conversation anytime. It’s not that you don’t like Catholics, or anything. You just didn’t get into that scene. But you hope you don’t ever have to explain that one to her.

If Mary Queen of Scots was your mum you would definitely make sure you did not get talking about sex and all that sort of stuff. Now that is something she just wouldn’t understand. Not at all. She is just too cis-hetero. Especially not with her still being a Catholic. Oh no… you just wouldn’t go there at all.

If Mary Queen of Scots was your mum you would suggest that maybe you could talk over Skype sometime, since everybody else was doing that now. And she would write back and say she ‘hadn’t heard of spike’, and that she ‘didn’t have an eye-patch’ or pad, or whatever that was. And then you would remember that her gaolers wouldn’t give her the password for the wifi anyway, in case she used it to hatch some treason. Such as inciting all the Catholics to revolt, or something.

If Mary Queen of Scots was your mum you would find it really irritating when she talked to you about your interest in witchcraft and demons. She would talk in a way that showed she just didn’t get it at all. She’d call it ‘that thing you do… you know with the trials and the burnings, and stuff…’ And you would sigh heavily and begin to explain it again. And she would nod and pretend that she was listening. And then she’d look out the window, or over your shoulder at the TV, and you would trail off thinking that this was the last time you’d even try to make her understand.

If Mary Queen of Scots was your mum you would definitely remember to send her something on Mothers’ Day. Only you would get confused, because Mothers Day in England is in March which is different from the rest of the world, and so you wouldn’t send it when she thought it was Mothers’ Day and she would get upset. But then you would send her something when Mothers’ Day really is, in June, and then she’d think you were just trying to make up for forgetting when Mothers’ Day was, and it would all just make it worse rather than better. But at least you tried. And it’s not as if there is anyone else who is going to remember her on Mothers’ Day.

If Mary Queen of Scots was your mum you would get pretty sad when they chop her head off. There’s just no call for that sort of thing. And you get so pissed off, because it was your Aunt Elizabeth doing the chopping and you wouldn’t want to upset her in case she then got pissed off with you and said you couldn’t be king of England after all. So you’d stay quiet, and play the long game. And in the end they would name a colony after you, and a Bible too, so it would all work out in the end. For you at least. Not so much for your mum, though. Which is a shame. But then, this whole kings and queens thing is a tough business to be in.

Especially if Mary Queen of Scots is your mum.

And nobody can remember whether you are James the sixth or James the first, or both. And everybody gets bored when you try to explain. Especially when you mention Scotland — and they say, ‘oh no, not that one again’.

Instead, they just ask you about how exciting it must have been to have Mary Queen of Scots as your mum.


(This was written in tribute to another Malory, well Mallory Ortberg and the phenomenon that was The Toast.)


Malory Nye is an academic and writer who teaches at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He can be found on Twitter (@malorynye) and on his website, malorynye.com.

He produces two podcasts: Religion Bites and History’s Ink.

Malory Nye is also the author of the books Religion the Basics (2008) and There Shall be an Independent Scotland (2015).