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The Bride

Mary I, Queen of Scotland (December 8, 1542 – February 8, 1587), reigned over Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567.

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Mary I, Queen of Scotland

Mary was born on December 8, 1542 at Linlithgow Palace, Scotland, to King James V of Scotland and his French second wife, Mary of Guise. She was said to have been born prematurely and was the only legitimate child of James to survive him. She was the great-niece of King Henry VIII of England, as her paternal grandmother, Princess Margaret of England, was Henry VIII’s sister. Besides being the queen of Scotland, Mary was a granddaughter of Claude, Duke of Guise, a very influential figure at the court of France.

On December 14, 1542, six days after her birth, she became Queen of Scotland when her father died, following the Battle of Solway Moss after drinking contaminated water while on campaign.

The Groom

François II (January 19, 1544 – December 5, 1560) was King of France from 1559 to 1560. He was also King consort of Scotland as a result of his marriage to Mary I, Queen of Scots, from 1558 until his death in 1560.

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François II, King of France, King Consort of Scotland.

Born eleven years after his parents’ wedding, the long delay in producing an heir may have been due to his father’s repudiation of his mother in favour of his mistress Diane de Poitiers, however this repudiation was negated by Diane’s insistence that Henry spend his nights with Catherine. François was at first raised at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. He was baptized on February 10, 1544 at the Chapelle des Trinitaires in Fontainebleau. François became governor of Languedoc in 1546, and Dauphin of France in 1547, when his grandfather King François I died.

The Arrangement

King Henri II of France, his father, arranged a remarkable betrothal for his son to Mary, Queen of Scots, in the Châtillon agreement of January 27 1548, when François was only four years old. King Henri II desired to unite France and Scotland through the marriage.

King Henri II of France on the promise of French military help and a French dukedom for himself, the Earl of Arran agreed to the marriage. In February 1548, Mary was moved, for her safety, to Dumbarton Castle. The English, opposed to the union, seized the strategic town of Haddington. In June, the much awaited French help arrived at Leith to besiege and ultimately take Haddington. On July 7, 1548, a Scottish Parliament held at a nunnery near the town agreed to the French marriage treaty.

Once the marriage agreement was formally ratified, The French fleet sent by Henri II, commanded by Nicolas de Villegagnon, sailed with Mary from Dumbarton on August 7, 1548 and arrived a week or more later at Roscoff or Saint-Pol-de-Léon in Brittany.

Mary was accompanied by her own court including two illegitimate half-brothers, and the “four Marys” (four girls her own age, all named Mary), who were the daughters of some of the noblest families in Scotland: Beaton, Seton, Fleming, and Livingston. Janet, Lady Fleming, who was Mary Fleming’s mother and James V’s half-sister, was appointed governess.When Lady Fleming left France in 1551, she was succeeded by a French governess, Françoise de Paroy.

Although Mary was tall for her age and eloquent, François, her betrothed, was unusually short and stuttered. Henri II commented that “from the very first day they met, my son and she got on as well together as if they had known each other for a long time”.

The Wedding

On April 24, 1558, the fourteen-year-old Dauphin married Mary the 15 year old Queen of Scots in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It was a union that could have given the future kings of France the throne of Scotland and also a claim to the throne of England through Mary’s great grandfather, King Henry VII of England. As a result of the marriage, François became King Consort in Scotland until his death. The marriage produced no children, possibly due to Francis’ illnesses or his undescended testicles.

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King François II and Queen Mary of France and Scotland

A little over a year after his marriage, on July 10, 1559, François became King of France at the age of fifteen upon the death of his father Henri II, who had been killed in a jousting accident. On September 21, 1559, François II was crowned king in Reims by his uncle Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine.

King François II died on December 5, 1560, of a middle ear infection that led to an abscess in his brain. Mary was grief-stricken. His mother, Catherine de’ Medici, became regent for the late king’s ten-year-old brother the new King Charles IX, who inherited the French throne. Mary returned to Scotland nine months later, arriving in Leith on August 19, 1561. Having lived in France since the age of five, Mary had little direct experience of the dangerous and complex political situation in Scotland.

After a tumultuous reign which ended with her abdicating the throne to her one year old son, James VI of Scotland, from her second marriage to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Mary was in prisoned in England by her cousin and rival Queen Elizabeth I of England. After eighteen and a half years in custody, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth in 1586, and was beheaded the following year at Fotheringhay Castle.