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Mary Queen of Scots First Husband: King Francis II of France

I love writing about royal history. Find out more about Desiree Clary's life with the Bonapartes and Bernadottes in this article.

King Francis II of France (1544-1560) was Mary Queen of Scots first of three husbands.

King Francis II of France (1544-1560) was Mary Queen of Scots first of three husbands.

Mary Queen of Scots Grew Up in France With Francis

Aged five Mary Queen of Scots was sent to France by her mother Marie of Guise because she was contracted to marry Francis (Francois), the eldest son of King Henri II of France and Catherine de Medici.

Mary's great uncle Henry VIII of England wanted to trap her in a marriage with his Protestant heir Edward, the future Edward VI. In France, Mary was far from her great uncle's clutches and immersed in the Catholic faith.

Francis was born on 19th January 1544 at the Chateau de Fontainebleau, and he was named in honour of his grandfather King Francis I of France. Francis suffered from respiratory issues and a stutter, and his physical development was slow.

Francis and Mary grew up at the royal chateau of St. Germain-En-Laye near Paris. He was easily distracted and happy to be led instead of lead. Mary treated Francis like a younger brother, and she was considerate of his well-being.

Catherine de Medici considered Mary a threat to her influence. Even at such an early age, she was evidently the stronger of the two. Would Mary rule Francis and France?

The Chateau de St. Germain-En-Laye near Paris.

The Chateau de St. Germain-En-Laye near Paris.

Francis, Dauphin of France

Francis’ formative years were spent under the governorship of Jean d’Humieres and with a tutor named Pierre Danes. His fencing instructor was Hector of Mantua, and his dance instruction came from Virgilio Bracesco.

Francis was given the governorship of the French region of Languedoc in 1546. When Francis I died on 31st March 1547, Henri became the king of France, and Francis rose to the role of Dauphin.

On the 4th April 1558, the king persuaded Mary to sign a document that was kept secret. She agreed that rule of Scotland and her claim to the English throne would pass to France if she died without giving Francis any children.

Francis and Mary were married at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on 24th April 1558, and the streets were lined with people from early in the morning. Mary entered the cathedral after the Pope’s legate and Francis. That evening a fabulous ball was held.

The question that has bothered historians since the wedding day is whether Francis and Mary ever consummated their marriage.

Francis' mother Catherine de Medici was threatened by Mary.

Francis' mother Catherine de Medici was threatened by Mary.

King Francis II of France and Mary Queen of Scots and consort in France.

King Francis II of France and Mary Queen of Scots and consort in France.

King Francis II's Power Causes the Scots to Fight Back

A fifteen-year-old Francis became King Francis II of France on 10th July 1559 after Henri II died from the injuries sustained in a jousting accident. At his coronation in Reims, the crown was held above his head because it was too heavy for the fragile Francis to bear.

Marie of Guise was swift to ask for Francis and Mary's assistance when she was ousted as regent of Scotland because the Scots believed their country was now effectively under French rule.

Elizabeth I of England also threatened peace; she was incensed that Mary's coat of arms showed her claim to the English throne, and she sent troops to demonstrate her displeasure. Marie of Guise's brothers, Mary's uncles Charles and Francis greatly influenced the king and queen. Francis was content to let the Guises and his wife make decisions that should have been his to make.

French soldiers were deployed to Scotland to help Marie. The French coffers were soon empty, the Scottish campaigns were not received well by the French, and reinforcements were not sent. The English negotiated a peace that was humiliating to the Scottish and the French. Francis and Mary were outraged by the terms agreed.

In early 1560 Scotland became a protestant country. Francis refused to sign the treaty agreeing to the peace or accepting protestant dominance in Scotland.

The west face of the Basilica de Saint Denis, Paris, the traditional French royal burial site.

The west face of the Basilica de Saint Denis, Paris, the traditional French royal burial site.

Sixteen Year Old King Francis II Dies

During 1560 Francis’ health deteriorated. On the 16th November 1560, he suffered a syncope which is a loss of consciousness and strength. His attack was caused by either meningitis or mastoiditis that developed from an ear infection.

Francis II's physician considered drilling a hole into Francis’ skull, known as trepanation or trepanning, to alleviate the symptoms, but he didn't pursue this. Francis realised that he was dying aged just sixteen, and he asked his mother to be kinder to Mary.

He passed away in Orleans on the 5th December 1560, and on the 23rd December, his body was interred in the royal burial site, the Basilica of Saint-Denis in Paris.

Catherine de Medici was appointed as the regent for her second son ten-year-old Charles IX (1550-1574). The Guises lost their power and left the palace.

Mary dressed in traditional white mourning, and she was given the name La Reine Blanche or the White Queen. She was dispatched back to Scotland. Catherine was glad to be rid of the threat Mary posed to her influence, although she managed to shed some crocodile tears as Mary's ship sailed away to her unimaginable future.


© 2022 Joanne Hayle