Mary of Guise, also known as Mary of Lorraine (22 November 1515 – 11 June 1560) was a powerful figure in 16th-century French politics. Born to Claude the Duke of Guise and Antoinette de Bourbon, Mary was the oldest of twelve children.
At the age of 5, she was sent to live with her grandmother in the convent at Pont-à-Mousson in order to get a religious upbringing. Her rise to prominence began when her uncle Antoine, the Duke of Lorraine and his wife visited her at 14 years old and saw she was exceptionally tall for her age. Her physique prompted them to take her away from the convent and groom her for the French royal court.
In 1534, she married Louis II d’Orléans, the Duke of Longueville and had two sons by him named Francis and Louis. Unfortunately, she lost Louis who died in infancy, and her husband died of smallpox in 1537. Not long after the death of her husband, she was remarried to James V of Scotland, who wanted to marry into French aristocracy following the death of his own french wife, Madeleine of Valois. Mary was forced to leave her child – Francis, behind in France while she moved to Scotland to become Queen Consort.
She had two sons with King James V, named James (born 1540) and Robert (born 1541). Unfortunately, they both died hours apart in April 1541. She once again conceived, giving birth to a daughter, Mary in 1542.
Following the death of James V in 1542, their daughter Mary became the next in line for the crown, and the widowed Mary of Guise became the Regent of Scotland.
James Hamilton, the Earl of Arran, arranged a marriage between the young Heir Queen Mary and England’s Prince Edward, whenever Mary reached 10 years of age. This arrangement was rejected by her mother, Mary of Guise, who was against protestant England and sought to strengthen ties with Catholic France.
In 1548, Mary of Guise sent her daughter to France, to be groomed for marriage to the Dauphin Francois, following multiple attacks known as “rough wooing” by the English against Scotland. These attacks were meant to force Mary of Guise to allow her daughter to marry the English prince. However, the French provided military support to the Scots.
Mary, Queen of Scots, Mary of Guise’s daughter, for whom she acted as regent from 1554 to 1560.
The attacks carried on till April 12, 1554, when Mary of Guise finally seized power from Earl of Allan to become Queen Regent of Scotland. Her tenure proved to be filled with internal and external conflict stemming from protestant supporters within Scotland, and their suspicions about her strong ties to Catholic France. As the wave of Protestant reform grew stronger, many pro-protestant supporters led revolts against her rule with the backing of Queen Elizabeth I of England.
By 1560, her health was deteriorating due to heart disease and dropsy, but she maintained control until the very end. Her last wish was for the Lords of the Congregation to maintain an alliance with the French and cut off the English, as well as honour her daughter’s right as heir to the throne.
Mary Of Guise in 1537 painted by Corneille de Lyon.
She died on 11th June 1560, at the age of 45.