Marie of Guise: A Family Visit

Chapter 1: The Voyage Home

In 1548, Marie waved goodbye to her five-year-old daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots when the little girl sailed from Dumbarton for France. She was now without any family in Scotland. It is apparent from Marie’s extensive correspondence with her mother and her siblings that she was very close to her family, and missed them, as well as her son by her first marriage, Francois, Duke of Longueville.

In the Spring of 1550, Marie’s father, Claud of Lorraine, Duke of Guise died. She wrote to her brother, now Duke of Guise, that she had lost the best father that any child had ever lost and this bereavement may have contributed to her desire to see the land of her birth and her family again.

On 23rd July 1550, Henri II of France wrote to Edward VI of England, requesting a safe-conduct for Marie to travel through King Edward’s dominions, if necessary. It was unlikely that Marie planned to travel overland, but a safe-conduct was necessary in case she should be blown off-course and land at an English port, as indeed occurred on her return trip. Whether the English King and Council would have been quite so accommodating had they known that Henri was planning a grand fete to celebrate the “liberation” of Scotland from English forces is questionable!

On receipt of the safe-conduct, Henri sent six galleys under the command of Pietro Strozzi, Prior of Capua, to fetch Marie. When she heard the ‘joyueuse nouvelles’ of her impending visit, Marie’s daughter, Mary Queen of Scots was overjoyed, writing to her grand-mother, Antoinette de Bourbon that to see her mother would be ‘the greatest happiness that [she] could desire in the world’.

Marie embarked on the 6th or 7th September, at Newhaven, together with a large proportion of the Scottish court, no doubt to keep as many of them close to her as possible, and also as an opportunity for Henri II to meet them and ‘reward’ the supporters of the Franco-Scots alliance personally. They landed in Normandy some twelve days later, either at Dieppe or at Havre-de-Grace – the sources conflict. It is likely that Marie spent the first few days at her son’s home in Normandy before travelling on to Rouen by 25th September.

The entire French Court was assembled to meet the Scottish entourage – Henri II, his wife, Catherine di Medici and their children, his influential mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and, of course, the seven year old Mary, Queen of Scots. The little Queen of Scots had been taught a formal speech to deliver to her mother, but, unusually, Marie abandoned all protocol and ran towards her little girl, scooping her up in her arms.