Historical story

Maria de Guise. The woman who ridiculed Henry VIII and did not behead her head

Last updated:2022-07-25

Refusing Henry VIII's hand, she reportedly joked that maybe his shapes were lush, but his neck was thin. In this way, it alluded to the fate of Anna Boleyn, who was soon lost. And a few years later, she defeated the king in a game where the stake was ... the Kingdom of Scotland.

Maria de Guise was French, but she did not play a major role in the history of her homeland. She is just one of thousands of princesses of interest only to genealogists. It was different with the history of the British Isles, which it entered in 1537.

She was 22 at the time, widow of the Duke of Longueville for a year and the best party on the mainland side of the English Channel. She came from the family of Gwizjusza, powerful only recently, but compensating for centuries, spent on the sidelines of great politics, with the claim of descent from Charlemagne himself.

However, it was not Mary's affinities and riches that made Henry VIII Tudor pay attention to her. The King of England was looking for a fourth wife:he had abandoned the first, the second he shortened by a head, and the third was taken from him by the fever. Being a powerfully built man himself, he wanted an equally tall woman. As we read in John Guy's book "Mary, Queen of Scots. The True Story of Maria Stuart ”:

Maria de Guise was an unusually tall woman with auburn hair and subtle features. She was characterized by a truly royal way of being. She had expressive cheekbones, her high eyebrows formed arches, and her forehead was high. The mouth was slightly flattened and the nose was aquiline when viewed from the side.

Higher than English MEPs

Tudor was delighted to learn that Maria was taller than the English MPs. He didn't even pay attention to the news of her yellowish complexion. Except that for the French princess, the fate of Henry's previous spouses, especially Anna Boleyn, shortened by the head, was an average incentive to move to the Thames. Apparently said that being lush in shape, she has a very delicate neck after all.

Maria did not intend to share the fate of Anna Boleyn, therefore she did not think about marrying Henry VIII. Pictured is Edouard Cibot's painting of Anna Boleyn in the Tower.

By the way, at about the same time the English sovereign was given a similar answer by the Milan princess. Namely, she stated that she would give her hand to Tudor ... if she only had two heads.

However, the ambitious Guys were ready to take the risk and marry Maria to Henry. This was fiercely opposed by Francis I, King of France. The princess's hand had already been promised James V, King of Scotland, and the alliance with William Wallace's countrymen had been one of the foundations of French foreign policy for generations. The ruler of the Seine did not intend to change the alliances. In accordance with his will, on May 9, 1538, Maria and Jakub stood on a wedding carpet.

"... it started with a girl and it will end with a girl"

It was not a successful marriage. "I am only twenty-seven years old, but I am already overwhelmed by the burden of life and the crown," wrote Jacob V in one of his letters. He did not love his wife. He was cheating on her, breeding more bastards. All he expected from Maria was that she would give him an heir to the throne. It is no coincidence that her coronation took place in February 1540, when she was already pregnant.

Gwizjuszka bore Jakub two sons, but the boys died quickly. The third child was daughter Maria, who was born on December 8, 1542. At that time, the girl's father was already dying. He was aware that he was not leaving a male heir. "Adieu, goodbye, it started with a girl and it will end with a girl," he said.

It alluded to the fact that the Stuart dynasty had its origins in Walter Stuart, who had married Marjorie Bruce, heiress to the Kingdom of Scotland. It was to end - as he predicted - with his little daughter.

Formally ruled by a young child, Scotland became an even more tasty morsel for Henry VIII Tudor. He planned to betroth his son Edward to little Maria, bring the girl to his court, and if she died - take over the northern kingdom. The question is, with whom should I negotiate my future marriage?

Ralph Sadler, an English MP, first started talks with Count Arran, regent of the Kingdom of Scotland. This, however, wanted a heavy bribe, so the diplomat went to Linlithgow to meet with Maria de Guise. Rather, he didn't promise himself much. After all, the queen widow was French, which made her a natural opponent of the English . However, he wanted to see her little daughter, whom Henry VIII was constantly asking about.

To the envoy's surprise, de Guise agreed to everything. My daughter's engagement with the English prince? Of course! My daughter's trip to London? Agreement! Moreover, she insisted that Regent Arran was hostile to the union. She herself posed as a true Tudor ally.

Henry VIII dreamed of placing his son on a Scottish throne. The cunning Maria de Guise, however, had other plans.

Long live the Queen of Scotland!

Whizjushka with her behavior set Count Arran into a trap. The pro-English regent had to outbid her, but he had nothing. Especially since most Scots were against the marriage of little Maria Stuart to the English prince.

Meanwhile, the pro-French faction grew stronger. She gained an active supporter in the person of Count Lennox, a Scottish magnate who had just returned from the Seine. Henry VIII, as an experienced player, sensed that his opponents would try to kidnap the little heiress. So he ordered Arran to gather troops, take the girl from Linlithgow, a summer residence rather than a serious castle, and put her outside the walls of impregnable Edinburgh.

According to Arran, Henry VIII's demands were exorbitant. He even stated that "every man, woman and child in Scotland would agree to lose their lives in one day rather than accept it." In response, Tudor threatened war ... and it turned out that the Scots weren't "losing their lives in one day" after all. The Treaty of Greenwich was signed on July 1, 1543. It was decided that Maria Stuart would go to the English court after the age of ten, and later marry Edward.

The coronation of little Mary as queen. Painting by William Ewart Lockhart.

And then Gwizjuszka started to implement her proper plan. Three weeks after the deal, with the pro-French Count Lennox and his associate Patrick Bothwell (both later tempted by the vision of a wedding), she moved from Linlithgow to the well-fortified Stirling. On September 9, she organized the coronation of a few-month-old daughter there. In October, French ambassadors came to her court and handed gigantic bribes to Scottish magnates. The results did not take long: in December, the local parliament passed a resolution to renew the alliance between Scotland and France.

Violent advances

Henry VIII was furious and determined. There could only be one answer for him. As John Guy writes in his book "Mary, Queen of Scots. The True Story of Maria Stuart ”:

It was obvious that he was paranoid, as not only was he going to launch the biggest invasion since Edward I's reign, he also went so far as to list the Scots he intended liquidate . He did not hesitate to even organize the attacks.

The "brutal advances" - as the English monarch's armed actions were called - turned out to be extremely painful for the people of Scotland. In 1544, the English looted and burned as much as they could for three weeks - Edinburgh itself burned for three days . The following year, they struck an area of ​​500 square kilometers with fire and sword.

The attacks on the northern neighbor were a nightmare for the inhabitants of the frontier lands, but had no political consequences. The more so because at the same time Tudor was at war with France and had to deploy most of the forces on the continent. When he concluded an armistice with Paris in 1546, Scotland was also included.

The king, however, did not give up. He also tried to take advantage of the disagreements between Scottish magnates, he also supported the rebels who took over the castle of St. Andrews. But he was not able to defeat Maria de Guise, whom he once so longed to marry. He died on January 28, 1547.

Life after Henry

For the Scottish Queen-Mother, over four years of rivalry with Tudor was a great school of politics. In 1550 she made peace with England, four years later she got rid of the Count of Arran and became regent of the Kingdom of Scotland. She maintained an alliance with France which cemented her daughter Maria Stuart's marriage to the dolphin Francis. In 1559, this couple took the French throne.

It was only in the last years of her life that Maria de Guise had another powerful opponent - the English Queen Elizabeth I, who communicated with the always wayward Scottish magnates. This is how Maria Bogucka described these events:

Ailing Maria Guise showed amazing energy and fortitude in difficult days. It firmly rejected the harsh conditions imposed by the invaders and rebels; French envoy, Bishop Jean de Montluc, who had come to Scotland specifically to mediate a compromise, was amazed at the power of this dilapidated woman at the end of her life.

In an effort to strengthen her alliance with France, Maria got her teenage daughter married to the dolphin Franciszek.

Her faith and stubbornness proved to be accurate. On May 7, the English launched a great assault on Leith, which was unsuccessful; to the fury of Elizabeth the English troops were repelled by the punitive, disciplined and ready for anything Leith crew . The rebels, shaky as usual, took the defeat of England as a signal to retreat .

It was the last success of the ailing Scottish Queen Mother. She suffered from ascites and cardiovascular failure. She died on June 11, 1560. Her body was secretly transported to France, where it was buried in the convent of Saint-Pierre des Dames in Reims. Whizjuszko was not allowed to find peace. Two centuries later her tombstone was destroyed during the French Revolution.