A Brief But Happy Marriage

On April 24, 1558, Mary, Queen of Scots married Francois, Dauphin of France in a glittering ceremony that put her on the road to a brief reign as Queen of France.

Like most noble marriages of the time, this one was arranged for political reasons. The death of Mary’s father within just a few days of her birth left Scotland vulnerable, a situation Henry VIII was only too happy to take advantage of. He proposed a marriage between Mary and his son, Edward, and although the match was initially agreed to, the people of Scotland changed their minds and those in power began to favor a French match. Enraged, Henry began the “Rough Wooing,” which basically consisted of him sending his brother-in-law, Edward Seymour, north to trash Scotland. Despite losing battle after battle (and many lives) the Scots wouldn’t give, and Mary’s French mother called on France for help. Remaining true to the Auld Alliance, which dates back to 1295, France obliged, and in return for their assistance, the Scottish Parliament agreed to betroth five-year-old Mary to the three-year-old Dauphin.

To keep her daughter safe, Marie de Guise sent Mary to France, where she lived with the other royal children (including her future husband) at the French court. Mary was much admired for her beauty, cleverness, and vivacity. She was well educated in languages, music, poetry, horsemanship, and needlework, and she forged strong relationships with her mother’s powerful family, in particular her grandmother, Antoinette de Bourbon. She and Francois were especially close, which boded well for a long and happy marriage.

Mary and Francois were married when she was 15 and he a year younger. He took the title King of Scots upon their marriage. A little more than a year later, King Henry died after a jousting accident, making Mary and Francois King and Queen of France. A year later, Francois too, died, making Mary a widow at the age of 17. The following summer, she left France and returned to Scotland, where as we know, things didn’t end up going so well for her.

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