Mary of Guise

Born in 1515, Mary of Guise was the Queen Consort of Scotland. She was married to James V of Scotland. Their only surviving child together was Mary Queen of Scots. Previously she had been married to Louis II, the Duke of Lorraine, but he died in 1537 and her two sons from her first union would not outlive her. After James V’s death in 1541, Mary served as regent from 1554 to 1560. James and Mary also had two sons, but they did not survive into adulthood.

Mary was born in Lorraine at Bar-le-Duc. She was the first-born child of Claude of Lorraine, Duke of Guise, and his wife Antoinette de Bourbon. They would have eleven more children after Mary. After the death of Mary’s first husband she was courted by both James the V and Henry VIII. She refused to marry Henry due to his various marriages that ended badly and accepted James V. She and James were married by proxy in 1538. A few weeks later they married in person at St. Andrews.

James’s death in 1542 left Mary a widow for the second time. Their daughter Mary, their only surviving child, became Mary Queen of Scots. The Second Earl of Arran, James Hamilton, first acted as the infant’s regent, but her mother assumed this role by 1554. Early in her regency there was conflict with England. Mary of Guise refused to betroth her daughter to Henry VIII’s son, Prince Edward and, instead, betrothed the child to the dauphin, Henry II of France. This resulted in an invasion of Scotland by England known to history as the Rough Wooing. Mary of Scots was sent to France to be educated and France sent military aid to Mary of Guise which increased her power in Scotland.

Overall Mary of Guise was a popular regent in Scotland, but she faced threats by Scottish Protestants and Scottish factions who feared she would transform Scotland into a puppet of the French government. She died of dropsy, known today as edema, in 1560 at the age of forty-four. While death by foul means was often suspected in royal deaths, no one during Mary’s times regarded her death as such. Only recently has Mary of Guise’s death been regarded with suspicion; however, no evidence exists to demonstrate that her death was an assassination. Mary’s death did result in the Treaty of Edinburgh. Her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, was executed in 1587 by Elizabeth I of England, the youngest daughter of Henry VIII.