Mary of Guise

Mary of Guise / Famous Historical Figures

  • Name  : Mary of Guise
  • Born  : 1515
  • Died  : 1560
  • Category  : Famous Historical Figures
  • Finest Moment : Regent of Scotland, 1544-60

She had the future of Europe in her six-day-old daughter.

She was the wife of James V, Regent of Scotland, and mother of Mary Queen of Scots. She was also the daughter of Claude, the 1st Duke of Lorraine from the powerful Guise family and was known as Mary of Lorraine.

Her first husband, Louis Duke of Longueville, died in June 1537. A few days later, in Scotland, Madeleine, the wife of James V for six months, also died. With their marriage, Francis I would revive the 'auld alliance' between Scotland and France, and James V would gain another French dowry. They were married in St Andrews in June 1538 (everybody wants to be a June bride).

Mary had two sons by James, both of whom died within four years. James himself died, six days after seeing his daughter Mary born, the future Queen. James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran was regent. He negotiated in 1543 the betrothal of the infant Mary to Prince Edward of England, but Mary of Guise persuaded the Scottish parliament to overthrow this. Mary was probably driven by four main forces; her sense of duty to France, the Guise family, the Roman Church, and of course her daughter's rights.

She was a skilful politician, exploiting Scottish resentments against the various English incursions. The influence of James Hamilton finally evaporated in 1553, when the Catholic Mary I took over the English throne. With judicious bribes to various of the Scottish lords, Mary's pro-French movement was looking secure. In 1554 the 12-year-old princess was declared of age, with Mary being installed as Regent of Scotland.

Mary continued being conciliatory at first, even with a growing spread of Protestantism in Scotland. John Knox was in the ascendant here, returning to Scotland in 1559, and preaching fire and brimstone from the pulpits. Mary Guise had finally arranged the terms of Mary's marriage to the Dauphin in France, concluded in 1558, and it was this open admission of French ambitions for Scotland which pushed the Protestant movement to the front. In England also, Mary I died, and Elizabeth acceded to the throne, making the way open for the Scottish 'Lords of the Congregation' to negotiate again with the English.

Mary of Guise was soon in the midst of a rebellion, going at first to Dunbar, then regaining Leith. The Congregation twice occupied Edinburgh, and twice withdrew. They dismissed Mary as Regent in October 1559; in March 1560 English troops entered Scotland, at the request of the Congregation under the terms of the Treaty of Berwick.

The English laid siege to Mary's French troops in Leith, while talks continued between the French and the English. Mary withdrew to Edinburgh Castle where, in June, she died, with dropsy, or accumulation of fluid under the skin, cause unknown, though heart disease, general ill-health or several other illnesses could have been a cause. Various figures paid their respect at her death-bed, including several opponents, but not John Knox.

Shortly after, the Treaty of Edinburgh was signed, ending French domination in Scotland and allowing for the later establishment of the Protestant Church.

 Print  Email