James V: French Fashions

Chapter 2 : A Choice of Brides

There is some inconsistency as to whether James went first to Paris, or to the Duke of Vendome’s chateau (variously reported as at St Quentin in Picardy, but more likely the Vendome chateau near Tours), but little doubt as to what happened in either place.

Lindsay of Pittscottie claims that James went to the chateau in disguise, but that Marie recognised him from a painting she had been given, and picked him out. Her perspicacity may have owed something to the fact that he would be obviously foreign, spoke poor French and was red-headed.

For some undisclosed reason, having met Marie and spent eight days at her father’s home, near Chartres, being feasted and honoured, and practically smothered in cloth-of-gold, James no longer wished to go through with the match (it is unlikely she would have been allowed to refuse). Marie of Bourbon died the following year – according to Pitscottie, she pined away following the heartbreak and dishonour of being jilted.

When James arrived in Paris the French court was not in residence so James amused himself, apparently ‘incognito’, much to the disgust of Sir George Douglas, brother of James’ enemy, the Earl of Angus, and currently in Paris in English pay.

According to Douglas, James, who had ‘beggared Scotland’ to take £19,000 Scots to cut a magnificent figure in France, ran up and down the streets of Paris, with no more than a couple of servants, buying everything in sight, fondly believing himself unrecognised, whilst the shopkeepers pointed and whispered ‘Voila le roy d’Ecosse’. Perhaps it was a matter of etiquette, that, until he had waited upon the King himself, he should not admit to being in the country.

In his running up and down the streets, James did some serious shopping. He purchased a great diamond, fifty-five spears, some for tournaments, others for battle, tipping the spear-makers lavishly, and four white feathers at a cost of 12 francs for his bonnet (as a comparison, the diamond cost him 8,787 francs).

In due course James travelled to La Chapelle, near Lyons, where the King and court were in residence, in deep mourning following the death of Francois’ eldest son. Some reports have Madeleine as present, although too ill to ride, others state that she and James did not meet until the court was at Amboise. With the appearance of his royal guest, Francois was roused to activity. James made a good impression, and there are reports of the two Kings hunting together at the Chateau of Loches, in the Loire.

The Chateau of Amboise where James V may first have met Madeleine of France - the influence on Falkland Palace is obvious

Perhaps the loss of his son (his third child to die) made Francois reluctant to disappoint his daughter, who, despite her illness, apparently wanted to be a Queen. More romantically, she and James may have become genuinely attached – although there was an eight year age gap. It is certainly likely that James was attached to the French alliance in principle, and the 100,000 livres tournois dowry plus an annual pension that was on offer. Despite his misgivings about sending her to the damp climate of Scotland, Francois agreed to the marriage, and they were betrothed on 26 th November 1536.

The court returned to Paris, and on 31st December made a state entry. James made a splendid figure, dressed in crammasy (red or crimson) velvet, lined with red satin with raised gold work and 116 22-carat gold buttons, with lapis-lazuli. According to his wardrobe inventory, he had another fifty similarly elegant and extravagant outfits. Complaint was made by the burgesses of the French Parliament that they had been obliged to dress in their red coats and process in front of anyone other than a King of France, but Francois replied that he wished James to be treated with as much honour as himself.