Tag Archives: Catherine de Medici

Mary Queen of Scots and the arms of England

heraldic mary.jpgIn November 1558 Henri II of France upon hearing the news that Mary I of England  (Bloody Mary) was dead declared that his young son, Francois, and his daughter-in-law, Mary Queen of Scots were king and queen of England by virtue of Mary Queen of Scots descent from Margaret Tudor, the eldest surviving daughter of Henry VII.  In the eyes of the Catholic world Elizabeth was at best the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and could thus have no claim to the crown.  Royal_Arms_of_Mary,_Queen_of_Scots,_France_&_England

The quartering of the English arms with Mary’s arms was the start of a lifelong struggle between Elizabeth and Mary although Elizabeth did acknowledge that the initial ambitions stemmed from the House of Guise and Henri II.  At this stage in the proceedings it was largely a matter of posturing – but a seed had been sown.

francois_maryBarely two years later in December 1560 Francois died from an ear infection that turned into an abscess on his brain.  Mary decided to return Scotland – landing her squarely on Elizabeth’s doorstep. This was a development that made her claim to the throne more dangerous not least because Mary refused to accept the Treaty of Edinburgh which recognised Elizabeth as Queen of England. As a direct consequence of her refusal to ratify the treaty Elizabeth refused to permit her cousin safe passage.  Mary relied on God and good winds to get her home  to Leith on August 19 1561 but the tone was set for growing animosity between the two queens until Mary went to her death at Fotheringhay in 1587.

 

Mary had been in France since she was five-years-old.  Her mother, Mary of Guise, widow of James V had sent her only surviving child abroad for fear of kidnap attempts from her own nobles and from the attentions of the on-going English so-called ‘Rough Wooing’.  In April 1558, after an upbringing fit for a princess, Mary, aged 15, married the dauphin who was almost two years younger than her.  In 1559 Henri II was killed in a jousting accident. The young husband and wife briefly became king and queen of France. Francois had always been a sickly boy so the day to day ruling of France fell to his older relations including his mother Catherine de Medici and his uncles the Cardinal of Lorraine and the Duke of Guise.

 

In Scotland, Mary of Guise, Mary’s mother who had acted as her daughter’s regent died in June 1560. The Treaty of Edinburgh should have been ratified in the July but Mary insisted that she hadn’t agreed to it so wouldn’t sign it. By the end of the year Mary Queen of Scots would be a widow.  She was just eighteen.  Her ten-year-old-brother-in-law Charles now became king of France and Catherine de Medici became regent.

bothwellAt Calais, in French hands since 1558, Mary boarded the vessel that would take her back to a Scotland where John Knox preached Protestantism.  The man who was the admiral of her little fleet was none other than James Hepburn, earl of Bothwell.

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century

La Belle Ecossaise

 lady_janet_stewart_mediumLady Janet Fleming was Mary Queen of Scots governess – and her half-aunt.  She began life as Janet or Jenny Stewart, an illegitimate daughter of King James IV.  When she was about fifteen she was married to Malcolm, the third Lord Fleming who was ten years older than her.  They had eight children before he died at the Battle of Pinkie.

Lady Janet now found herself employed as the infant Mary’s governess and went with her to France.  The journey was difficult and when they arrived the French court took one look Mary’s Scottish entourage and decided that they were barbaric and unwashed with the exception of ‘the beautiful Scot.” – Janet Fleming.  Her daughter Mary Fleming, to be known in history as one of Mary Queen of Scots’ four Marys was packed off to a convent for education and polish while Janet remained with her royal charge.  It may be that she had already caught King Henri II’s attention.  Certainly, she’d made an impression on the Venetian ambassador who described her as “a very pretty little woman.” (The Venetian Ambassador was clearly a contender for patronising ambassador or the year).

Janet spoke only in scots, she didn’t know any french when she arrived in France.  However, clearly there was some effective communication with Henri II because she became pregnant and bore a son Henri de Valois-Angouleme.  She is recorded as believing that her role as mother of the king’s child had secured her position.  She hadn’t bargained with Catherine de Medici or Diane of Poitiers who as wife and mistress respectively clearly felt that they didn’t need the competition.  Janet was despatched back to Scotland in disgrace- the reason being that Mary had just acquired her own household and it was important that the future queen of France should have no scandal attached to her name (a pity that Mary didn’t recall that later in her life).

Little Henri remained in France and was later legitimised.  Janet found herself trapped in Scotland.  She died in 1562.

5 Comments

Filed under Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century