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New Trail follows in the footsteps of a great Queen of Scotland

14 June 2010

Mary of Guise - widowed single mum who rose to rule Scotland.

Beautiful, witty, clever and a superb political operator – Mary of Guise was among Renaissance Scotland’s most remarkable figures.

In December 1542 she was left widowed with a week-old baby girl following the unexpected death of her 30-year-old husband, James V.

Yet this charismatic Frenchwoman outwitted her opponents to become ruler of the war-torn Scottish kingdom.

However her memory is often eclipsed by that of her ill-starred daughter Mary, Queen of Scots.

Historic Scotland has produced a free downloadable Family Trail, plus dedicated website pages, highlighting Mary of Guise’ links to three of its most popular attractions – Stirling Castle, Linlithgow Palace and Edinburgh Castle.

The trail coincides with the 450th anniversary of her death at Edinburgh Castle in June 1560, during her final struggle against Scots Protestants and their English allies.

Historic Scotland’s special offer, which lasts until July 11th,  means families following the trail can save money on tickets by becoming members and get three months extra free.

Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland head of cultural resources, said: “Mary of Guise was a towering figure of Renaissance Scotland who was of central importance to events which shaped the history of Scotland.

“Despite being a young widow in a foreign land, with a newborn daughter, she refused to be elbowed aside by the Scottish noblemen jostling to fill the power vacuum created by James V’s death.

“Instead she made a stand; outwitted her rivals, used French money and troops to fight the English, rose to become ruler of Scotland in her own right, upheld the Auld Alliance and successfully defended the rights of her daughter.

“All this was despite having a life dogged by tragedy, twice widowed with all four of her sons dying before adulthood, and having two narrow escapes from death herself.

“Our family trail shows Mary of Guise’ connections with three great royal residences – Linlithgow Palace where she gave birth to Mary, Queen of Scots, Stirling Castle which was her powerbase, and Edinburgh Castle where she spent her last weeks.”

Historic Scotland is carrying out a £12 million project to return Stirling Castle’s royal palace to how it might have looked when it was the main residence of Mary of Guise and her young daughter.

Further Information


For pictures

  • The portrait of Mary of Guise is available from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. To access a copy and arrange terms for its use please contact Shona Corner, Photography and Licensing Manager, National Galleries of Scotland on 0131 624 6260 or at scorner@nationalgalleries.org.

Notes for editors


  • For details of the membership offer – which gives three months extra free to anyone taking out a year’s Historic Scotland membership see www.3monthsforfree.co.uk.  

  • For all the latest on the palace project, and everything else that happening at Stirling Castle, visit our website at www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk and sign up for our free e-newsletter.

  • Stirling Castle is at the top of Stirling Old Town off the M9 at junction 9 or 10. Call 01786 450000

  • Historic Scotland has 345 historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/places.  



About Mary of Guise

  • Born 1515 the eldest child of Claude de Guise and Antoinette de Bourbon. In 1534 she married Louis II, Duke of Longueville who died in 1537. They had two sons, both died before adulthood. Mary turned down a proposal from Henry VIII of England saying ‘I have a strong body but a slender neck’.
  • In 1538 Mary married James V of Scotland who was building a splendid new palace at Stirling castle where they were to hold court. He died in 1542 – the year after both their sons – and just days after she had given birth to Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • Regent Arran tried to stop her getting Stirling Castle, there was a military standoff and he backed down. In 1543 the Marys moved from Linlithgow Palace to Stirling Castle, where the infant’s coronation was held.
  • In 1547 the English defeated the Scots at Pinkie Cleugh but the following year French troops arrived to push back the English who had occupied parts of Scotland. Also in 1548 Mary suffered an illness feared to be the plague and was nearly killed by English guns at the siege of Haddington – many around her died.
  • In 1554 Mary of Guise became regent, effective ruler of Scotland.
  • Mary, Queen of Scots married the heir to the French throne in 1558 and he became King Francis II the following year but died in 1560.
  • During 1560 Mary of Guise tried to rally resistance to an uprising by the Protestant Lords of the Congregation, who were supported by English naval and land forces. She took refuge in Edinburgh Castle and French troops tried to hold the heavily fortified port of Leith. Mary, in her mid-40s, fell ill and declined very fast. She was held in such respect that even enemies visited her on her deathbed.
  • Three days after Mary’s death the French agreed to a treaty. This brought the end of the Auld Alliance which had existed between Scotland and France since the 1290s and made way for the triumph of the Scottish Reformation.
  • In 1561 Mary, Queen of Scots arrived at Leith to begin her personal rule – a Catholic queen of a Protestant country. Her son, and Mary of Guise’ grandson, ultimately united the thrones of Scotland and England as James VI and I.

For further information


Matthew Shelley
Marketing
0131 668 8734
matthew.shelley@scotland.gsi.gov.uk