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April 19, 1558 – Marriage Contract between Mary of Scotland and the Dauphin Francis

Mary and Francis in Catherine de Medici's Book of Hours
Mary and Francis in Catherine de Medici’s Book of Hours (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1558, Mary was sixteen years old. Shortly after Francis turned fourteen (the age of majority in France), they moved forward with the marriage. The Marriage Contract, which carefully established the extent of French influence in Scottish governance, was signed on April 19 and the couple married on April 24.

Except the Contract was a lie.

Its terms were completely negated by a secret agreement signed by Mary on April 4 in which she bequeathed Scotland (!) and her claim to England to the French crown if she died without issue. Another secret deed she signed that day made Scotland responsible for repaying all the moneys France had spent in its defense. This was NOT something the Scottish lords would have agreed to, and she was smart enough to know that…if she had really been careful about checking what her uncles put in front of her to sign.

This was one of those events that characterized Mary’s life. On the one hand, why should a sixteen-year-old girl have mistrusted the uncles who were supposed to be protecting her? On the other hand, can you see Elizabeth ever trusting enough to sign something without having read it? This kind of impetuousness, carelessness, carried over fully into their reigns…


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