NQ Scottish History

The French Marriage

The Treaty of Haddington, 1548

Painting of Marie de Guise
During the winter of 1547–8, the Scots loyal to Queen Mary decided that they needed French help to drive out the English. It suited France to keep Scotland as an ally against the English, so they were willing to send help, but only on French terms.

The King of France wanted Mary to marry his eldest son and heir, Francis, the Dauphin of France, who at that time was only four years of age. His plan was to unite the crowns of Scotland and France and, in time, Scotland would become a part of France.

The Earl of Arran was the leader of the powerful Hamilton family. He was Mary’s nearest legitimate relative, If the young queen died, he would become King of Scots. In January 1548 the Earl of Arran agreed to persuade the Scottish Parliament to agree to a French marriage for their queen, send Mary to France, allow the French to take over key strongholds in Scotland and accept a French Duchy for himself – he became the Duke of Châtelherault.

In June 1548, about 6000 French soldiers and mercenaries landed at Leith and laid siege to the English garrison at Haddington. During this siege, on 7 July, the Scots and French signed the Treaty of Haddington and agreed to the marriage of Mary and the Dauphin. The French fleet, which had brought the soldiers, then sailed to Dumbarton to take Queen Mary and her four young attendants, Mary Seton, Mary Beaton, Mary Livingstone and Mary Fleming – ‘the Four Marys’ – to France.

The queen sailed from Dumbarton on 7 August and sailed round the Orkney Islands to arrive at Roscoff in France on 13 August 1548. In this way, King Henry II of France managed to achieve everything that Henry VIII had wanted for England.

The French in Scotland

By accepting French help during the ‘Rough Wooing’, the Scots discovered that this caused as many problems as it solved.

Most Scots did not like too much French influence over Scotland: the French were speaking on behalf of Scotland to foreign governments, eg with England; French soldiers were in the key strongholds of Scotland; these French soldiers caused trouble when their pay from France was late; Mary of Guise was ruling Scotland as regent instead of a Scot, Governor Arran; Mary of Guise was using French officials and the Scottish nobles wanted these jobs.

  • Title page from ‘The first blast of the trumpet against the monstruous regiment of women’ by John Knox, 1558

Mary of Guise’s plans for a new tax

Mary of Guise proposed a new tax. There was a huge outcry, especially from the nobles. The Regent was never able to introduce the new tax. This showed that her authority could be questioned.

Mary of Guise’s religious policy

During the ‘Rough Wooing’, the English encouraged Protestantism by distributing English Bibles and books critical of the Catholic Church. The Church was finding it difficult to deal with such critics. Cardinal Beaton’s murder had removed a very astute man from its leadership. Many Catholic clergy had been killed at the Battle of Pinkie. Many monasteries had been destroyed by the English soldiers.

The new Archbishop of St Andrews, Arran’s half-brother John, did try to make some reforms, but these were not enough to satisfy the Protestant critics and too much for many Catholics.

'Lords of the Congregation'

In 1557, some Protestant Lords had started to organise themselves to promote the Protestant religion in Scotland. They hoped for English support after Elizabeth became queen in 1558. More Scottish lords then joined the ‘Lords of the Congregation’.

'Beggars' Summons'

During the winter of 1558–59 anonymous notices were nailed to the doors of many friaries in Scotland. These ‘Beggars’ Summons’ demanded that the friars leave their friaries by next Whitsunday (12 May 1559) claiming that the friars were rich and ungodly and that the needs of the poor were greater.

Extract from The Works of John Knox, I: "The Beggar’s Summons"

Dated 1 January 1558, the Beggar’s Summons was posted on friary doors as a formal demand that the friars remove themselves from residence and clear space for the genuine needy (infirm, aged, sick, widows, poor) for whose care the space was originally intended. The friars were warned that should they fail to clear out by the prescribed deadline, they would be removed by force.

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Mary of Guise, on the advice of the French and the Pope, began to prosecute the reformers. The reformers began to seek secret help from England. In the spring of 1559, the towns of Dundee and Perth announced that they were Protestant towns. Mary of Guise summoned the Protestant preachers to meet her in Stirling on 10 May.

The people of both towns and the landowners in the surrounding countryside began to gather weapons to defy the Regent.

John Knox landed at Leith on 2 May and he made his way to Perth, where he preached at St John’s Church on 11 May. His sermon was followed by a riot. Many religious houses in and around Perth were attacked and their religious statues, shrines and other decorations were smashed. The riots continued the following day, which, according to the ‘Beggars’ Summons’, was ‘Flitting Friday’.

The French arrive

Mary of Guise summoned French soldiers to help her, but their arrival persuaded many Scots to support the Lords of the Congregation instead. More French soldiers were sent to Scotland and these soldiers brought their families. Rumours spread in Scotland that the French intended to drive out the native Scots and settle there themselves. Consequently, more Scots supported the rebels.

The English arrive

The Lords of the Congregation were not strong enough to drive out the French, so they asked Elizabeth for help. She sent £3000 but made it clear she did not approve of subjects rebelling against their rulers.

The Lords of the Congregation soon needed more active help from England because the French were winning. In January 1560, an English fleet saved them from defeat by the French. In March 1560, English soldiers arrived to attack the French base at Leith.