Marie of Guise: A Family Visit

Chapter 2 : Visits and Ceremonies

The court remained at Rouen for some days. A procession had been arranged, reminiscent of the triumphs of Roman generals, with the court watching from pavilions erected by the bridge over the Seine. An endless stream of officials, courtiers and actors dressed in green, blue, and white velvet and satin passed by, enacting tableaux of ancient heroes. Even a mock sea-battle was staged, although it ended badly, with some of the actors being killed when the cannon went off. According to the English envoy, Sir John Mason, there was a good deal of squabbling amongst the Scots nobles in regard to lodgings.

Marie stayed in Scotland for over a year – travelling to her childhood home at Joinville and around the north of France. According to the English envoy, she was treated ‘like a goddess’.Henri II also feted and lavishly rewarded her Scottish nobles – tying them to the Franco-Scottish alliance with chains of gold.

Whilst Marie was in France she was deeply distressed by the discovery of an assassination plot against Mary, Queen of Scots. Following the murder of Cardinal Beaton in 1548, the holders of the fortress of St Andrew’s, referred to as the ‘castilians’ remained under siege for months before the castle was captured and the castilians sent to the galleys. One of these castilians, after being released, changed his name and talked his way into the Scottish Guard at the court of France. From this position, he plotted the assassination of Queen Mary in April of 1551. The plan was to poison her favourite pudding of pears. Fortunately, the plot was discovered, but Marie was so distraught she became ill.

She was sufficiently recovered by June to attend the ceremony surrounding the investiture of Henri II with the Order of the Garter. The Marquess of Northampton (William Parr, brother of Queen Katherine Parr) led the embassy at the event which took place at Chateaubriand on 20th June 1551. The English embassy made a final request for the hand of the Queen of Scots for King Edward VI, but it was refused, as she was contracted to marry the Dauphin. In recompense, a marriage was agreed between King Edward and the Princess Elizabeth, Henri II’s daughter.

Henri then took Northampton and the other English envoys to the chamber of Queen Catherine, where Marie and the Queen of Scots were also present. The whole company passed the evening in dancing. The following day, the King played tennis and then the court, including Marie, watched wrestling matches between English and Breton wrestlers. Once the treaty relating to the marriage of Edward VI and the Princess Elizabeth was agreed, Henri entertained the court with a midnight picnic and deer hunt by torch-light.