SHE might be one of history's most infamous monarchs, but a new survey reveals that more than half of Brits cannot identify Mary Queen of Scots from her portrait.

The polling comes as Glasgow University launches a free, three-week online course from today focusing on the doomed royal and life in 16th Century Scotland.

The course, titled The Life and Afterlife of Mary Queen of Scots is five years in development and will be delivered in partnership with online learning platform, FutureLearn.

Its creators say it will take an "honest look" at the former monarch's life, her legacy and impact on the royal family as we know it today, and why she retains a hold in the popular imagination, inspiring everything from a recent film biopic starring Saoirse Ronan to features on TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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They also hope that it will help to generate a better general knowledge of Mary among the wider public after a survey of 2000 people carried out ahead of the course launching found that 51 per cent of respondents did not recognise her from her portrait.

Only 27% could correctly state how old she was when she was executed (she was beheaded at the age of 44) and only 18% knew that she was just six days old when she became Queen of Scotland.

Nearly three quarters (73%) did not know how many children she had (one son, James VI of Scotland and James I of England).

Two thirds (62%) knew that the Stuart queen was a redhead, and 63% that she was accused of having her second husband, Lord Darnley, killed.

Just over one in three (36%) of respondents knew that it was her cousin, Elizabeth I, who imprisoned her, and eventually ordered her execution after she was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth.

However, 77% of people did not know that Mary had been held captive for 19 years prior to her death, and only 48% knew that she had ascended to the throne in Scotland in the 1500s.

The new online learning course builds on work by Glasgow University researchers over the past five years, which has compiled over 2000 Mary-related relics and personal artefacts from museums, galleries, and archives all over Scotland and in the larger national British collections.

The course will also introduce students to 16th Century Scotland and Europe at the time of the Protestant reformation, which radically reshaped political alliances and had a direct impact on Mary’s own reign as the Catholic ruler of a firmly Protestant nation.

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Dr Steven Reid, a senior lecturer in Scottish history at Glasgow University and course leader, said: “We’ve found over 2,000 different objects, ranging from art to personal relics, that tell us how Mary was remembered and how stories about her were told throughout centuries.

"These stories tell us as much about the cultural biases of the people who tell them – their views on gender, on religion, and on power, for example – as they do about how Mary has lived on in the popular imagination.”

Although she might be better known for the heartbreaks and scandals in her life, from being widowed twice before the age of 25 to the murder of her second husband and her doomed plot to usurp the English throne from her Protestant cousin, one of the lesser known facts about Mary - highlighted in the course - is that she somehow also found time to be a keen jam maker.

Her reign as Queen of Scots spanned 25 years, from 1542 until her abdication in 1567, although most of that time was spent in France.

She did not return to Scotland until 1561, aged 19, following the death of her first husband the Dauphin of France.

Mary was executed in 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle in England and is now buried at Westminster Abbey.

Astrid deRidder, director of content at FutureLearn, said: “We are thrilled to announce the launch of our new course built in partnership with The University of Glasgow’s leading academics, which dives into the fascinating life and legacy of Mary Queen of Scots.

"With hundreds of courses available and over 17 million learners globally, FutureLearn’s social learning platform is the ideal platform to help educators and learners broaden their skills, hone their expertise, and learn new and exciting subjects from history and culture all the way to healthcare and coding.”