EXAMING Glasgow’s history in the immediate aftermath of the 1560 Reformation Revolution, as I prefer to call it, it can be seen that the effects on the city were profound. Indeed I cannot but agree with Robert Renwick and Sir John Lindsay in their History of Glasgow published in 1921 that the immediate damage was “disastrous”.

It did not help that the city’s archbishop, James Beaton, had fled to Paris with all the major treasures and archives of the church in Glasgow, but the likelihood is that he would have been deposed and those treasures destroyed as the Protestant Reformers took control of most of Scotland.

Queen Mary visited Glasgow several times during her all too brief period of actually ruling over Scotland, and when she did for the last time, events proved catastrophic for her.

Mary’s convoluted life is far too big a subject to be detailed in this column, or even an entire month’s worth of every page of the Times, but for our purposes as a history of Glasgow the basic facts need to be known.

She remained a Catholic and fought with John Knox over her use of the sacraments and attendance at Mass. She put Protestant lords into the privy council while trying to keep the rump of the Catholic nobility happy, and eventually had to put down a rebellion by the Catholic Earl of Huntly. She then kicked her own half-brother, James, the Earl of Moray out of the Government and was forced to march west to confront forces gathering to usurp her. It was said that she entered Glasgow at the head of an army of 5000 men, Moray doing the sensible thing and running away to fight another day. And fight he did, as we shall see.

Her beauty acknowledged internationally, Mary would have had no problem getting a husband from the noble houses of Europe, but her desire to be Queen of England – she was acknowledged as first in line as long as Elizabeth remained childless – saw her look at English suitors before she finally made a disastrous marriage in 1565 to English subject Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, the son of the 4th Earl of Lennox, a notable property owner in Glasgow whose estates had been restored to him by Mary at the request of her cousin Elizabeth.

Theirs was a marriage made in lust – they were both very tall for the time and very good looking – and Darnley did at least do his dynastic duty and get Mary pregnant with the future King James VI and I. But he was also arrogant and headstrong and took part in the conspiracy to murder the Queen’s secretary David Rizzio, before leaving Mary with the infant James and heading to his father’s property in Glasgow. There he became very ill, some say from syphilis or smallpox, and Mary herself came to Glasgow to nurse him and eventually take him back to Edinburgh.

Not a good move on Darnley’s part, not least because he had angered Mary’s loyal lords with his plan to become king in his own right. Led by Mary’s thug of a future husband, James Hepburn, the 4th Earl of Bothwell, a gang of conspirators arranged Darnley’s murder at Kirk o’ Field on the night of February 9-10, 1567. The Earl of Lennox had Bothwell put on trial but the not guilty verdict was bought and extorted, and Bothwell married Mary, having probably raped her beforehand.

No fewer than 26 lords turned against Mary over her marriage, and after the non-battle at Carberry, Bothwell went into exile and Mary was forced to abdicate in favour of her son, the one-year-old James. The Earl of Moray took control as Regent, but Mary escaped from her prison at Lochleven Castle and loyal lords rallied to her. The scene was set for a confrontation that would either restore Mary to the throne or see her dead or at least exiled. And it took place in Glasgow’s suburb, the village of Langside.

Mary’s supporters included the powerful Hamilton family, the earls of Argyll, Ross, Eglinton and Cassilis and plenty other lords and barons. Glasgow’s loyalties as a city were uncertain due to the power of Lennox, but Moray had been in and around the city dispensing justice and it was from Glasgow that he sent out a proclamation declaring that he was acting for King James (being brought up a Protestant) against the abdicated Mary.

That religious divide played in Moray’s favour as the Protestant lords flocked to him so that he was able to gather an army of 4000 men by early May, 1568. Intending to make her royal base at the impregnable Dumbarton Castle, Mary’s lords mustered a slightly larger army of 5000 to 6000 men and marched north from the Hamiltons’ base in Lanarkshire with the Queen in the forefront.

Heading from Rutherglen to Langside, which now, of course is well inside Glasgow, on May 13, 1568, Mary’s army was confronted with Moray’s force, determined to stop her reaching Dumbarton and safety.

The difference between the armies was quality not quantity – Moray’s troops were battle-tried and he himself was an experienced general, while he had beside him one of Europe’s most respected commanders, William Kirkcaldy of Grange.

After repulsing a charge by Mary’s cavalry, this veteran of many battles in France directed Moray’s cannon and sharpshooters in such a way that Mary’s troops under the inexperienced Earl of Argyll were trapped on the road out of Langside, then known as Lang Loan.

Reinforcements soon arrived for Moray and under a hail of fire, Mary’s troops soon broke and fled. The battle lasted less than an hour, and while the death toll was probably less than 300, most of them were Mary’s men while many of her loyal lords were captured.

The Queen herself, watching from a nearby hillside, was forced to flee south to England to seek succour from Elizabeth Gloriana, while Moray entered Glasgow to a rousing reception, the citizenry quick to acclaim the winner of a local fight – they still are, as world champion boxers Scott Harrison and Ricky Burns would confirm.

The battle changed the face of Glasgow, for beside Langside you will find the area known as Battlefield, as well as Battlefield Road and Battlefield Rest, a former tram station that is now a fine restaurant.

There is also the Battlefield Monument erected in 1887. The plaque on it states: “The battle of Langside was fought on this ground on 13 May 1568 between the forces of Mary Queen of Scots and the Regent Moray, and marked the queen’s final defeat in Scotland.”

In simple terms, that’s exactly what happened at the most significant battle in Glasgow’s history.