“Mary of Guise,” writes Marianne Morrison, Secretary of the Edinburgh Branch of
the Marie Stuart Society, is, quite simply, a worthy detailed compilation of well researched and
informed material written by Dr Rosalind Marshall who, with clarity of thought, creatively brings to life
the characters and scenes in her books like an equally well-rehearsed play which ' flows confidently '
from beginning to end. For my own part, on reading 'Mary of Guise', it has certainly helped me to
understand the woman "Who went before the Throne" and in turn to place together events and people
she was connected with, including thoughts, emotions, beliefs and courage passed on to her daughter
Mary, Queen of Scots.
MARY OF GUISE
"Here is a lady, whose story begins in Bar le duc, above the River Ornain in North East France, in 1515, who,
for the first 4 years of her life was the only child of Claud, Count of Guise and Antoinette de Bourbon
until her brother, Francis, was born in 1519. (Claude and Antoinette were to go on to have a total of
eight sons and four daughters).
Our Author describes how, while her Father was earning Military Glory in Francis I's struggle with the
Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Mary grew up in Joinville until the age of eleven when she left to join
her grandmother at the Convent of the Poor Clares in Pont-a-Mousson, where she stayed for several years.
By the age of 14 Mary’s beauty, charm and wit were being noticed, particularly by Duke Antony who decided
to prepare her for her first presentation at Court at the Wedding of Francis 1 to Eleanor of Austria in t
he Abbey of Saint-Denis. The first of many such royal occasions over the next three years.
Romance was certainly in the air as Mary was to meet and become betrothed to Louis, Duke of Longueville.
This gallant gentleman was to win her heart. Mary and Louis were married on 4 August 1534 in the Chapel
of the Royal Palace of the Louvre.
Their happiness together however was, sadly, short-lived, as three years later, after the birth of
their first son Francis, while travelling through Normandy on his annual progress, Louis fell ill
and died of smallpox, leaving Mary a widow at age 21.
Meanwhile, the following month, her friend, Queen Madeleine, wife of James V, died in the
Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
Mary’s second son Louis, was born but a few weeks later. The sadness of this young mother must
have been almost unbearable, don’t you think?
The politics of the day were such that as James V, King of Scotland, although grieving for his bride
of 7 months, decided he did not wish to remain a widower.
Imagine Mary’s horror, on receiving a letter from King Francis 1, which determined that “in her own
grief, she would be the ideal person to console James V”. How could anyone suggest such a thing,
even supposing, it would mean leaving her two sons to go to live in Scotland, where all imagined wild and
primitive lands and even wilder, more savage people.
James V, being the son of Margaret Tudor, ( sister to King Henry VIII of England), was a handsome,
rather egocentric person, and extremely enthusiastic on the idea of marrying Mary, Duchess of Longueville.
He duly sent his representative, David Beaton, (Abbot of St Andrews) first to Fontainebleau and then on to
Lyons seeking out the French King to discuss marriage proposals on behalf of his master.
Even in those days gossip was rife. – Was there any truth in the rumour that Dauphine Henry,
being dissatisfied with his wife, Catherine de Medici, was in love with Mary?
How ambitious were the Guise family that their daughter should marry into royalty?
What of Henry VIII who, having just lost his third wife, Jane Seymour, promptly announced
that he favoured marrying Mary, Duchess of Longueville - was he just creating mischief when,
on being told that she was already engaged to the King of Scots he boldly declared “that he had
heard she was both ‘lusty and fair’ and he was in need of a big wife”. “I may be big in person”
was Mary’s response, “but my neck is small” !
Was Mary just being used? After all, being the widow of the Duke of Longueville , all his estates and
inheritance on Mary’s death, would, as arranged by Francis 1, become the property of the King of Scots.
One wonders how a good lawyer today would untangle this diplomatic intrigue.
Mary, using political dexterity, coupled with no doubt, charm and grace, favourably negotiated an
excellent settlement between James V and herself, and so, at Chateaudun on 9th May 1538 Mary
of Longueville became the wife of the King of Scots, James V – by proxy.
Trinity Sunday 1538, Mary arrives in Scotland, not as arranged at St Andrews where her new husband James
was waiting, but 10 miles short. That night was spent in Balcomie Castle.
Perhaps if Mary had been feeling just a little ‘ romantically neglected’ by her new Groom, having gone
through a proxy marriage, with no new husband to greet her on arrival and having just spent the previous
night in a Castle without him, her natural inclination to feel disappointed was soon diminished as she
looked out, early the following morning, to a happy procession of courtiers and their servants dressed
in a colourful array of scarlets and yellows. James V and Mary exchanged welcomes and greetings and
before long French and Scots rode together towards their destination, the old walled grey stone city of
The following day, Mary walked in procession to the Cathedral where her marriage to James V was confirmed
Picture the scene, a huge congregation, the church bells peeling out their message, trumpets,
powerfully proclaiming this magnificent and happy occasion, which would last 40 days of celebrations.
Mary and her French entourage would, from today forward, dispel all thoughts that Scotland or her people
were anything other than ‘friends’.
In the August, James and Mary started out on their progress, first to Falkland Palace, westwards to
Stirling Castle and as winter approached moved on to Linlithgow, birthplace of James V. Mary was
enchanted by Linlithgow Palace, its loch and surrounding beauty. However it was time to make her
formal entry into Edinburgh, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse 16th November 1538.
22nd February 1540 Mary was crowned Queen of Scots, by this time pregnant with her son James.
But was trouble brewing, Henry VIII, having severed his links in 1931 with the Pope, was now to
dangle a financial carrot at James, would he persuade him to abandon his support for the
Catholic Church ?
What of James’ ensuing anxieties, would these fits of depression have anything to do with
his guilt at having a once much favoured friend and Master of Works, Sir James Hamilton of Finnart,
charged with treason and executed – why? His nightmares, visions of Sir James Hamilton with a
drawn sword, striking off both the King’s arms and threatening to return to cut off his head.
Was this a premonition - Mary was now pregnant with her second son, who would be Robert.
However, within a matter of weeks, Prince James became ill and died, but worse, Prince Robert
had also become ill and died. The two little brothers were buried together in Holyrood Abbey, -
had their deaths been foretold in the King’s nightmare - did the little boys die naturally, -
or were they poisoned?
Meanwhile machinations were afoot, Henry VIII was stirring it again, in an attempt to seize his
nephew’s kingdom, he sent a small force north, accompanied by the Earl of Angus and his brother
Sir George Douglas. However the Scots defeated them at Kelso, but was this just an initial attempt
at reconnaissance – to check out the true situation, strengths and weaknesses of James and his nobles?
Despite the ensuing battle between the English and the gallant Scottish troops, led by Oliver Sinclair
at Solway Moss, the Scots suffered a disastrous defeat. James, although not present at the battle,
headed for Tantallon Castle, - to meet a mistress, while Mary of Guise was spending the last weeks
of her pregnancy at Linlithgow.
8th December, a daughter was born to Mary of Guise, her fifth child, and on hearing the news
King James uttered the now famous words ‘it cam’ wi’ a lass and it will gang wi’ a lass’.
On 14th December he died, leaving Mary of Guise, at the age of 27, a widow for the second time,
and with her little 6 day old daughter who was now Mary, Queen of Scots.
Let us move forward now to 1543 , - so much is happening.
Our author tells us that the Lord Arran is engaged in a power struggle for the Regency.
Suspicion and unease as the Lords assembled in Edinburgh to decide who should be Regent;
Because of his hereditary rights – on 3rd January Lord Arran was proclaimed Lord Governor of Scotland.
His bitter rival, Cardinal Beaton was made Lord Chancellor.
Meanwhile, Henry VIII is still conniving – perhaps his son and heir Prince Edward could marry the infant
Mary, Queen of Scots. – Was he planning to effect this and unite the two kingdoms ?
What could Mary of Guise do now to protect her daughter – she turns to her ally Cardinal Beaton.
At the instigation of Sir George Douglas, and Lord Arran, Cardinal Beaton is seized and held in
the Douglas’s Castle at Dalkeith.
What happened to the two Treaties of Greenwich on 1st July? Would there be peace between England
Would Henry VIII get his way in marrying Mary, Queen of Scots to his son Edward.
Why did 2500 mounted men and 1000 heavily armed foot soldiers take Mary Queen of Scots to
Stirling Castle on 26th July?
What would the ceremony have been like on 9th September when Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in
the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle?
For what purpose did Mary of Guise offer the hand of her young daughter, in marriage, to the
Earl of Lennox, 26 years her senior?
15th December Scotland’s ancient alliance with France was renewed. However because Henry VIII had
broken the peace by seizing Scottish ships, not only was the marriage contract between his son Edward
and MQS invalid – but The Treaties of Greenwich were declared Null and Void.
Henry VIII – not to be outdone, decided to avenge the repeal of the Treaties. By May 1544 saw
English ships sighted in the River Forth, where their Commander Edward, Earl of Hertford,
embarked at Leith. His instructions were “to put all to fire and sword” and this dastardly
deed he carried out with relish.
Devastation flowed, Holyrood Palace, the whole of Edinburgh (excepting Edinburgh Castle which
Hertford believed to be impregnable) before moving on to destroy Fife, especially St Andrews.
Although it was agreed that French and Scottish forces should invade England, this was not
such a successful plan, and brought about an English invasion as the Earl of Hertford led his
forces north once more to continue the ‘Rough Wooing’ of Mary, Queen of Scots.
January 1547 Henry VIII dies.
Four months later Francis I dies.
The following chapters are so well laid out by our author as she describes how after the death of his
father, the new King, Henry II come to aid Mary of Guise by sending 21 French galleys
(where John Knox, among others were at the oars).
Read how the English and Scottish forces met at Pinkie Cleugh, just outside Edinburgh, and how
Lord Huntly mistook Lord Angus’s men for the enemy and attacked them, and how by the time Somerset
at last sounded his trumpets to signal the end of the fighting, the Pride of Scots chivalry lay dead.
To protect her little daughter, Mary of Guise, fearing the English should capture her, decided to
send the four year old Mary, Queen of Scots, to the French Court for safety. Henry II had suggested
that she be brought up as the future Queen of France, and on becoming of age to marry his son Dauphin Francis.
After an anxious wait, at last a French fleet was sighted off Dunbar, and sailed into Leith
on 16 June 1548.
The new Treaty between France and Scotland was signed on 7th July 1548 in Mary of Guise’s presence.
By the Terms of the Treaty of Haddington, Mary, Queen of Scots would become the bride of the Dauphin Francis.
In return, Henry II would observe Scotland’s ancient freedom and laws, defending the country and its people
just as he defended France and the French.
7th August 1548 the little Mary, Queen of Scots sailed from Dumbarton for France, accompanied by her
entourage of Lords and Ladies, including other little girls, the Four Maries.
From here-on-in the story concentrates on her life and troubled times as Queen Regent, ending in
her untimely death on 11th June 1560 in Edinburgh Castle, as the Protestant troops besieged the
embattled French forces at Leith, with the monumental consequences flowing from the raising of
the seige soon to follow.
Mary of Guise was loved, admired and certainly respected for her courage. As our Author says
“Her Life is perhaps best summed up by the Emblem she chose. It is a Crown set above a rock,
beaten by winds and waves, above it are the words “And Yet It Stands”.
I hope I have done justice to an excellent publication. Throughout this review I found it necessary,
on occasion, to quote Dr Rosalind Marshall “verbatim” - as it is Her Words which arouse the mind and
intrigue the spirit.