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The Tudor Society

19 April – Mary, Queen of Scots gets betrothed

On this day in Tudor history, 19th April 1558, fifteen-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots and fourteen-year-old Francis, the Dauphin, son of King Henry II of France, were formally betrothed at the Louvre Palace in Paris.

This betrothal was just five days before their wedding and was a lavish affair, celebrated with a ball.

Find out more about the betrothal, the bride and groom, and arrangements for their marriage, in today's talk.

You can find out more about the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Dauphin, the future Francis II of France, in my video from 24th April last year:

Also on this day in history, 19th April 1587, Sir Francis Drake "singed the King of Spain's beard", as he called it, by attacking the Spanish fleet in the harbour of Cadiz. Find out more in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1568 – Funeral of Sir Ambrose Cave, Knight of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem and administrator, at the Savoy Chapel. He was buried at Stanford, Northamptonshire. Sir Francis Knollys was his chief mourner.
  • 1601 – Hanging of James Duckett, bookseller and Catholic martyr, at Tyburn, after Roman Catholic books were found in his possession.
  • 1608 – Sudden death of Thomas Sackville, 1st Baron Buckhurst and 1st Earl of Dorset, poet, member of Parliament and administrator, at Whitehall from a stroke suffered at the council table. Sackville's offices in Elizabeth I's reign included ambassador, Chancellor of the University of Oxford and Lord Treasurer. His literary works included the 1561 drama “Gorboduc”, written with Thomas Norton, the poem “Complaint of Henry, Duke of Buckingham” and the allegorical poem “Induction”.
  • 1615 – Death of Laurence Bodley, Church of England clergyman and brother of Thomas Bodley, founder of the Bodleian Library. He died at the age of sixty-seven and was buried in Exeter Cathedral.

Transcript:

On this day in Tudor history, 19th April 1558, fifteen-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots and fourteen-year-old Francis, the Dauphin, son of King Henry II of France, were formally betrothed.

The King of France escorted the young Scottish queen into the great hall of the Louvre Palace in Paris, while Anthony Bourbon, King of Navarre, escorted the dauphin into the hall. After the king announced that Mary and Francis would marry in five days time, on 24th April 1558, the Cardinal of Lorraine joined the couple’s hands and they plighted their troths, with Francis declaring that of “his own free will and with the fullest consent of the King and Queen his father and mother, and being duly authorised by them to take the Queen of Scotland for his wife and consort, he promised to espouse her on the following Sunday April 24.” Mary agreed too.

The formal betrothal was celebrated with a lavish ball, where Mary danced with her future father-in-law, the king, Francis danced with his aunt, Marguerite of Valois, and Francis’s mother, Catherine de Medici, danced with the King of Navarre.
Historian Lady Antonia Fraser doesn’t seem to think much of Mary, Queen of Scots’ first husband, the Dauphin. In writing of his affection for his bride-to-be, she also writes:
“His mother, Catherine de Medici, and Mary Stuart seem to have been indeed the only two human beings for whom this pathetic, wizened creature felt true emotion.”

Harsh!

She goes on to say that he had been sickly in his childhood and now, in adolescence, “his physique was scarcely developed and his height was stunted” and that he “showed little enthusiasm or aptitude for learning”. Oh dear!

His bride, however, was described by the Venetian ambassador as “the most beautiful princess in Europe” and was tall for a woman of the time, being about 5’11.

On the eve of the wedding, 23rd April 1558, the royal family prepared for the marriage by moving to the bishop’s palace which was located near to Notre Dame Cathedral where the ceremony would take place. Historian Retha Warnicke, in her book on Mary, explains that a viewing platform had been erected on the pavement outside the cathedral for important officials and that a 12 foot high arch-shaped gallery had been constructed linking the bishop’s palace door to the cathedral door, and that it was decorated with greenery. A pavilion decorated with fleur de lis had also been erected near the cathedral door.

Historian John Guy notes that Henry II was determined that his son’s wedding “was to be the most regal and triumphant ever celebrated in the kingdom of France” and that there had been secret preparations for it for well over a month, with people from officials to carpenters, dress-makers to pastry chefs, working day and night. This marriage was important to Henry, the agreement for the marriage stipulated that if Mary died without heirs then Scotland would become a vassal of France, and Mary wasn’t just Queen of Scotland, she was also going to be laying claim to England.

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19 April – Mary, Queen of Scots gets betrothed