Mary of Guise in Scotland, 1548-1560: A Political Career

Mary of Guise in Scotland, 1548-1560: A Political Career

Mary of Guise in Scotland, 1548-1560: A Political Career

Mary of Guise in Scotland, 1548-1560: A Political Career


Challenging the conventional interpretation of Mary of Guise as the defender of Catholicism whose regime climaxed with the Reformation Rebellion, this book shows that she was, on the contrary, a shrewd and effective politician whose own dynastic interests and those of her daughter took precedence over her personal and religious convictions. Detailed is how Mary of Guise's dynasticism, and political career as a whole, were inextricably associated with those of Mary, Queen of Scots, whose Scottish sovereignty, Catholic claim to the English throne, and betrothal to the Dauphin of France carried with them notions of Franco-British Imperialism.


On 21 October 1559 the Reformation Rebellion ceased to be a Protestant revolt against Catholicism that was exclusively concerned, at least publicly, with the establishment of the reformed kirk in Scotland. The Lords of the Congregation’s ‘Act of Suspension’ added a nationalist dimension to their rebellion that was now directed specifically against the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise, and the establishment of French power in Scotland. In their act attempting to depose Mary of Guise from the regency, the Lords of the Congregation charged the Queen Regent with the ‘interprysed destructioun of thair said commoun-weall, and overthrow of the libertie of thair native cuntree’. She had revealed her true intentions by such acts as building and fortifying strongholds, appointing Frenchmen to key offices of state and, most obviously, by bringing in French troops in August and September 1559. The fact that these troops had arrived in Scotland with their wives and children so soon after Mary, Queen of Scots’ husband, François, had succeeded Henri II to become the King of France, was used by the Congregation to infer that Scotland’s future as an independent kingdom would be short-lived in the union of the French and Scottish crowns. Such ‘enormities’ clearly showed that Mary of Guise’s true political objective was the ‘manifest conqueast of our native rowmes and countree to suppress the commounweall, and libertie of our native countree, [and] to mak us and our posteritie slaves to strangearis for ever’.

Rhetoric such as this typified the propaganda disseminated by the Lords of the Congregation during the Reformation Rebellion. Its

1 Knox, Works, I, pp. 444–9 and History, I, pp. 251–5; R.A. Mason (ed.), Knox: On Rebellion (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 171–4.

2 Knox, Works, I, p.444 and History, I, p.251; Mason, Knox: On Rebellion, p.171.

3 Knox, Works, I, p.445 and History, I, p.252; Mason, Knox: On Rebellion, p.172.

4 For an excellent analysis of the Congregation’s propaganda, see RA. Mason, ‘Covenant and Commonweal: the Language of Politics in Reformation Scotland’ in N. Macdougall (ed.), Church, Politics and Society: Scotland, 1408–1929 (Edinburgh, 1983), pp. 97–126.

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