ultra montane

Francis, Duke of Guise

Francis II, Prince of Joinville, Duke of Guise, Duke of Aumale (February 17, 1519February 24, 1563), called Balafré ("the scarred"), was a French soldier and politician.

Early life

Born at Bar-le-Duc (Lorraine), Guise was the son of Claude, created duc de Guise in 1527, and his wife Antoinette de Bourbon. His sister Mary of Guise was wife of James V of Scotland and mother of Mary I of Scotland. His younger brother was Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine. The youthful cousin of Henri II, with whom he was raised, was by birth a prominent individual in France, though his detractors emphasised his "foreign" origin in the Duchy of Lorraine.

In 1545, he gained his sobriquet through a wound sustained at the second siege of Boulogne. In 1548 he was magnificently wedded to Anne d'Este, daughter of the duke of Ferrara and his French princess, a daughter of Louis XII.

Military career

In 1551, he was created Grand Chamberlain of France. He won international renown in 1552 when he successfully defended the city of Metz from the forces of Emperor Charles V, and defeated the imperial troops again at the Battle of Renty in 1554, but the Truce of Vaucelles temporarily curtailed his military activity.

He led an army into Italy in 1557 to aid Pope Paul IV (and probably to further his family's pretensions to the Angevin inheritance), but was recalled to France and made Lieutenant-General of France after the defeat of the Constable de Montmorency at the Battle of St. Quentin. Taking the field, he captured Calais from the English on 7 January 1558— an enormous propaganda victory for France— then Thionville and Arlon that summer, and was preparing to advance into Luxembourg when the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis was signed. Throughout the reign of Henri II Guise was the premier military figure of France, courteous, affable and frank, and universally popular, the "grand duc de Guise" as his contemporary Brantôme called him.

The accession of Francis II (10 July, 1559), however, and his consort, Mary Stuart, niece of François de Guise, was a triumph for the Guise family, and the Grand Master of France Montmorency was disgraced and sent from court. François de Guise and his brother the cardinal were supreme in the royal council. "My advice", he would say, "is so-and-so; we must act thus." Occasionally he signed public acts in the royal manner, with his baptismal name only.

The Wars of Religion

In reaction to the power at court of the ultra-Catholic Guise, La Renaudie, a Protestant gentleman of Périgord, perhaps at the distanced instigation of Antoine de Bourbon and the Prince de Condé, organized an amateurish plot (the conspiracy of Amboise, 1560) to seize the person of François de Guise and his brother, the second cardinal of Lorraine. The plot was discovered and violently suppressed, initiating a series of assassinations and counter-assassinations in an increasingly toxic atmosphere. In the immediate aftermath Condé was obliged to flee the court, and the power of the Guises was supreme. The discourse which Coligny, leader of the Huguenots, pronounced against les Guises in the Assembly of the notables at Fontainebleau (August, 1560), did not influence Francis II in the least, but resulted rather in the imprisonment of Condé, at the cardinal's behest.

The king, however, died, 5 December, 1560—a year full of calamity for the Guises both in Scotland and France. Within a few months their influence waxed great and waned. After the accession of Charles IX, François de Guise lived in retirement on his estates. The regent, Catherine de' Medici, at first inclined to favour the Protestants. To defend the Catholic cause, François de Guise formed with his old enemy, the Constable de Montmorency and the Maréchal de Saint-André the so-called triumvirate (April, 1561) at the head of the Catholic League, opposed to the policy of concessions which Catherine de' Medici attempted to inaugurate in favour of the Protestants. His former military hero's public image was changing: 'he could not serve for long as the military executive of this extreme political, ultra-montane, pro-Spanish junta without attracting his share of odium," N. M. Sutherland has observed in describing the lead-up to his assassination.

The plan of the Triumvirate was to treat with Habsburg Spain and the Holy See, and also to come to an understanding with the Lutheran princes of Germany to induce them to abandon the idea of relieving the French Protestants. About July, 1561, Guise wrote to this effect to the Duke of Württemberg. The Colloquy of Poissy (September and October, 1561) between theologians of the two confessions was fruitless, and the conciliation policy of Catherine de' Medici was defeated. From 15 to 18 February, 1562, Guise visited the Duke of Württemberg at Saverne, and convinced him that if the conference at Poissy had failed, the fault was that of the Calvinists. As Guise passed through Wassy-sur-Blaise on his way to Paris (1 March, 1562), a massacre of Protestants took place. It is not known to what extent he was responsible for this, but it kindled open military conflict in the French Wars of Religion. The siege of Bourges in September was the openiung episode, then Rouen was retaken from the Protestants by Guise after a month's siege (October); the Battle of Dreux (19 December), at which Montmorency was taken prisoner and Saint-André slain, was in the end turned by Guise to the advantage of the Catholic cause, and Condé, leader of the Huguenots, taken prisoner.

The assassination

In the fourth encounter, Guise was about to take Orléans from the Huguenot supporters of Condé when he was wounded on 18 February, 1563 by the Huguenot assassin, Jean de Poltrot de Méré, and died six days later, bled to death by his surgeons, at Château Corney. The seminal event of his unexpected death temporarily interrupted open hostilities.

It was not the first plot against his life. A hunting accident — Francis had been appointed Grand Veneur of France in 1556 — had been planned, as Sir Nicholas Throckmorton informed Queen Elizabeth in May 1560, but the plot was uncovered by one and his five co-conspirators fled.


Francis, Duke of Guise's ancestors in three generations
Francis, Duke 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, Duchess of Lorraine
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Adolf of Egmond
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Catharina of Bourbon
Antoinette de Bourbon
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 de Luxembourg
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Margaret, Princess of Savoy


Guise married in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on April 29, 1548 Anna d'Este, daughter of Ercole II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, and Renée of France. They had seven children:

  1. Henry I, Duke of Guise (1550–1588), who succeeded him as Duke of Guise.
  2. Catherine (July 18, 1552, JoinvilleMay 6, 1596, Paris), married on February 4, 1570 Louis II, Duke of Montpensier
  3. Charles of Lorraine, Duke of Mayenne (1554–1611)
  4. Louis II, Cardinal of Guise (1555–1588), Archbishop of Reims
  5. Antoine (April 25, 1557January 16, 1560)
  6. François (December 31, 1559, BloisOctober 24, 1573, Reims)
  7. Maximilien (October 25, 1562 – 1567)

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