1558-1560: Queen consort of France

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  • A portrait showing Mary wearing white – en deuil blanc – the traditional mourning colour of the French royal family.
    A portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots by François Clouet © Royal Collection Trust

The years 1558 to 1560 were an eventful period in the young Mary’s life. At fifteen years of age, she had married, become Queen Consort of France and then was tragically widowed following the death of her husband, François.

Teenage marriage: 24 April 1558

Aged 15

Mary and François were married in a spectacular ceremony in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. By virtue of their union, François became King Consort of Scotland. The marriage contract had been signed by Mary three weeks earlier, and secretly bequeathed Scotland and her claim to the English throne to France should she die without issue.Ducat of Mary, Queen of Scots and François, Dauphin of France © National Museums Scotland

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National Museum of Scotland Look upon a ducat – a commemorative gold coin – of Mary Queen of Scots and François, Dauphin of France, which was minted in Edinburgh in 1558 to celebrate the royal wedding.

Queen over the water?:17 November 1558

Aged 16

The 16th century silver Cadboll Cup © National Museums ScotlandUpon the death of Queen Mary I of England, Mary Queen of Scots was the most senior descendant of Henry VIII’s elder sister. Catholics considered Queen Elizabeth I as illegitimate, and Mary Queen of Scots the rightful heir to the English (and Irish) throne. Indeed, King Henry II of France proclaimed his eldest son and daughter-in-law king and queen of England, and in France the royal arms of England were quartered with those of François and Mary.

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National Museum of Scotland The 16th century silver Cadboll Cup represents a fusion of Scottish West Highland decoration with French Renaissance strap work, reflecting the strong cultural ties between the two countries.

Queen consort of France: 10 July 1559

Aged 16

King Henry II was an avid participant in tournaments, and in 1559 was mortally wounded, ironically by the lance of the captain of his own Garde Écossaise, an elite Scottish military unit who were the personal bodyguards of the French monarchy. His 15-year-old son became King François II, and Mary acquired the title of Queen Consort of France. Some would say she was now queen of France, England, Ireland and Scotland.

Death of François II: 5 December 1560

Aged almost 18

During 1560 France suffered military setbacks, and on 6 July signed the Treaty of Edinburgh, which ended French occupation of Scotland. François and Mary were obliged to withdraw their troops, and desist from displaying English arms. During the autumn François became increasingly ill, and died from the complications of an ear condition, in Orléans, Loiret. Since the marriage had borne no children, the French throne passed to his ten-year-old brother, Charles IX. Mary was said to be grief-stricken, but her role in France had come to an end.

Jewelled pendant with skull cameos © Royal Collection Trust Discover more

Palace of Holyroodhouse A portrait by François Clouet, showing Mary wearing white – en deuil blanc – the traditional mourning colour of the French royal family can be seen in Mary's Outer Chamber as can a jewelled pendant with skull cameos, which dates from Mary’s period of mourning.