On This Day: Marie De Guise - The woman with nerves of steel who turned down Henry VIII to become Queen of Scotland

22nd November 1515 - Marie de Guise born

Marie de Guise, Regent of Scotland, was born 500 years ago. An astonishingly long time yet we still know so much about her life and about what her character might have been like. 


James V and Mary of Guise 02

Marie de Guise and her second husband, James V of Scotland
Public Domain via Wikimediea Commons


Though she was twice widowed by the age of 27 Marie de Guise does seem to have had a little influence with her choice of spouse - more than many women, or men, in that era! - she famously turned down the advances of Henry VIII fearing a fate like that of Anne Boleyn. However unusual it was at the time she would need all of that fiery attitude when just 6 days after the birth of her daughter, and the only surviving heir, she was left a Dowager Queen upon the death of her husband, James V of Scotland, in 1542. 


Mary Stuart Young1

Marie de Guise’s daughter, Mary Queen of Scots by Francois Clouet
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons


Though men usually assumed the role of Regent in the case of an infant monarch, Marie fought tooth and nail for the right to protect her child’s interests finally becoming the official regent in 1554. It was certainly not all plain sailing and Marie got a fairly good dose of the troublesome religious conflicts which would be the downfall of her daughter in 1567. Marie’s position, as a Catholic Frenchwoman ruling Scotland was never going to sit well with the growing Protestant movement in Scotland, particularly with that infamous man, John Knox. She fought until the bitter end however and was in the process of fortifying the iconic Edinburgh Castle when natural causes overtook her and she died in June 1560. 


Edinburgh in 1544. Wellcome M0008080-2

Edinburgh in 1544 when Marie de Guise was fighting for the right to be Regent
M0008080 Edinburgh in 1544. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Edinburgh in 1544. From North East of Carlton Hill. Sketch made an engineer with the English Army of Henry VIII. Sketch History of Scottish Medicine Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Marie de Guise lived a hard life, that cannot be doubted. Burying two husbands and four children takes a will of iron and judging by her dogged determination to hold onto Scotland for her daughter she had just that. A strong willed woman who knew what she wanted and raged for it through storm after storm. The struggle may have been too much for her body but with her mind, she was faithful to the end.

© Isla Robertson 2017