Mary Queen of Scots
In 1561, nineteen-year-old Mary Stuart, Catholic Queen of Scotland, returns to her home country from France following the death of her husband, Francis II, to take up her throne, where she is received by her half brother, the Earl of Moray. In neighbouring England, Mary's twenty-eight-year-old cousin Elizabeth is Protestant Queen of England – unmarried, childless, and threatened by Mary's potential claim to her throne. Mary dismisses the cleric John Knox from her court. A Protestant and leader of the Scottish Reformation, Knox views Mary as a danger to the kingdom's Protestant supremacy.
Seeking to weaken her cousin's threat to her sovereignty, Elizabeth arranges for Mary, whom English Catholics recognize as their rightful Queen, to be married to an Englishman. She chooses Robert Dudley, whom she secretly loves; though he and Mary are unwilling, news of Elizabeth's smallpox convinces Mary to accept, provided she is named Elizabeth's heir apparent. Reluctant to let go of Dudley, Elizabeth sends Lord Darnley to Scotland with the pretence of living under their religious freedom. Despite sensing an ulterior motive, Mary grows fond of Darnley and eventually accepts his marriage proposal.