Mary of Guise

Mary of Guise

Mary of Guise, 1515-60, queen consort of James V of Scotland and regent for her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots. The daughter of Claude de Lorraine, duc de Guise, she was also known as Mary of Lorraine. Before her marriage (1538) to James V she had been married (1534) to Louis d'Orléans, 2d duc de Longueville, who died in 1537. When James died (1542), shortly after his daughter's birth, James Hamilton, 2d earl of Arran, became regent. He negotiated (1543) the betrothal of the infant Queen Mary to Prince Edward (later Edward VI) of England, but the queen mother persuaded the Scottish Parliament to repudiate the agreement. After the outbreak of war with England, Mary of Guise arranged the betrothal of her daughter to the French dauphin, and the young queen was sent to France. By 1554, with French aid, Mary of Guise had replaced the ineffectual Arran as regent, and she made no secret of her desire to bring France and Scotland together. Meanwhile, Protestantism was spreading rapidly in Scotland, and Mary, though at first conciliatory toward the reformers, began a campaign of suppression. In 1559 the Protestants, exhorted by John Knox, rose against the regent and declared her deposed. Mary received French aid, but the Protestants, allied with the English, proved the stronger force. The civil war was concluded shortly after Mary's death by the Treaty of Edinburgh (1560), which ended the French domination of Scotland and opened the way for the establishment of the Protestant church.

Mary of Guise (Marie de Guise; November 22, 1515June 11 1560) was the Queen Consort of James V of Scotland and the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. She was Regent, or Governor, of Scotland 1554–1560.

Duchess of Longueville

The eldest daughter of Claude, Duke of Guise, head of the French House of Guise, and his wife Antoinette of Bourbon-Vendôme, Mary was born at Bar-le-Duc, Lorraine. On August 4 1534, at the age of 18, she was married to Louis II, Duke of Longueville (born 1510), at the Louvre. Their union was a happy one and on October 30 1535 her first son François was born. In the winter of 1536, she attended the wedding of her future husband, James V of Scotland, and the French King's eldest daughter, Madeleine de Valois, known as Princess Madeleine at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

On June 9 1537, Louis died at Rouen and left her a widow at the age of 21. On August 4, Mary gave birth to her second son, Louis. Later that year, James V, having lost his first bride Madeleine de Valois in July to tuberculosis, was intent on procuring himself another French bride to further the interests of the Franco-Scottish alliance against England. Mary now became the focus of his marriage negotiations. His uncle Henry VIII of England tried to prevent this dangerous union by asking for Mary's hand for himself. Henry recently lost his third wife Jane Seymour in childbirth. Given Henry's marital history – banishing one wife and beheading the next – Mary disdained the offer. She was said to have replied, "I may be a big woman, but I have very little neck." Francis I of France accepted James's proposals over Henry's and conveyed his wishes to Mary's father. Mary received the news with shock and alarm. She did not rejoice at the prospect of leaving family and country, especially at a time when she had just lost her son, Louis, aged only four months. Her father was caught in a diplomatic wrangle. He tried to delay matters as much as he could until James, perhaps sensing her reluctance, wrote her a letter in which he appealed to her for advice and support. Mary accepted the offer and hurried plans for departure.

Queen of Scots

On 18th May 1538, at Notre-Dame de Paris, James V and Mary of Guise were married through Robert, Lord Maxwell acting as proxy. Accompanied by a fleet of ships sent by James, Mary departed from France in June, forced to leave little François behind. She landed in Fife on 10th June and was formally received by James. They were married in person a few days later at St Andrews. She was crowned as Queen Consort at Holyrood Abbey on 22nd February 1540. James and Mary had two sons: James Stewart, Duke of Rothesay (b. 22 May 1540) and Robert (b. 1541). Both sons died in April 1541: James with less than a year of life, and Robert a few days after his older brother, and only eight days after his baptism. The third and last child of the union was a daughter, Mary, who was born on 8th December , 1542. King James died six days later, making young Mary queen regnant.


From 1554, in succession to James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, Mary ruled Scotland as Regent for her daughter Queen Mary I, who had been sent to France some years before to be raised with her husband-to-be, the son of the French king Henry II. Mary always consulted with her two powerful brothers in France – Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine, and Francis, Duke of Guise, both of whom held government positions – so that Scotland and France worked as allies in dealing with other nations.

Queen Mother Mary's regency was threatened, however, by the growing influence of the Scottish Protestants, (namely the Protestant Lords of the Congregation), supported secretly by Elizabeth I of England. The Lords of the Congregation deeply distrusted Mary which led to a breakdown in authority. Mary called on her French family for help, which in the eyes of the Scottish Protestants questioned her loyalties to Scotland (at this time Scotland was worried about being dominated by either England or France). In 1559 the Lords of the Congregation had Mary deposed. When Mary died of dropsy on June 11, 1560 at Edinburgh Castle, her body was taken back to France and interred at the church in the Convent of Saint-Pierre in Reims, where Mary's sister Renée was the abbess. At her death, only her daughter Queen Mary was still living, Mary's son from her first marriage, François, having died as a teenager in 1551.

In modern times, such as in Philippa Gregory's novel The Virgin's Lover, it has been suggested that Queen Elizabeth I of England ordered Mary's assassination by poisoning her, or, as portrayed in the 1998 film Elizabeth, that she was assassinated to protect Elizabeth's interests (although apart from the queen's direct order). However, there is a lack of evidence to prove such an allegation. In the usually paranoid 16th century political climate, many royal deaths were suspected of having been the result of poisoning; such as Catherine of Aragon ´s , Henry Fitzroy ´s or Jeanne d'Albret´s. However, Mary's death was evidently of natural causes and it was, in fact, one of the very few which her contemporaries felt bore no signs of "foul play".

Portrayal in fiction

  • Mary de Guise appears in volumes 1, 2, 3 and 5 of The The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. Most notably, the events around her visit to her daughter in France in 1550 are portrayed in the second volume, Queens' Play.
  • In the film "Elizabeth", Mary was played by the French actress Fanny Ardant.


Mary's ancestors in three generations
Mary of Guise Father:
Claude, Duke of Guise
Paternal Grandfather:
René II, Duke of Lorraine
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Frederick, Count of Vaudémont
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Yolande of Lorraine
Paternal Grandmother:
Philippa of Guelders
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Adolph of Egmond
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Catherine of Bourbon
Antoinette of Bourbon-Vendôme
Maternal Grandfather:
François, Count of Vendôme
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Jean VIII, Count of Vendôme
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Isabelle de Beauvau
Maternal Grandmother:
Marie de Luxembourg
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Pierre II of Luxembourg, Count of Saint-Pol
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Margherita, Princess of Savoy

External links


  • Rosalind K. Marshall - Mary of Guise (1977)
  • Pamela E. Ritchie - Mary of Guise in Scotland, 1548-1560: A Political Study (2002)
  • Undiscovered Scotland

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