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September 18, 1559 – Francis II Crowned King of France

Francis II and Mary Stuart, after Francois Clouet.  Miniature from Catherine de' Medici's Book of Hours
Francis II and Mary Stuart, after Francois Clouet. Miniature from Catherine de’ Medici’s Book of Hours

Fifteen-year-old Francis II had become King of France two months earlier, upon the death of Henri II (killed in a jousting accident – read about that here ). Now it was time to legitimize his accession by a ceremony performed with the Crown of Charlemagne at Notre-Dame de Reims.

The ceremony was officiated by his uncle (actually, his wife’s uncle): Charles de Guise, Cardinal of Lorraine (who was entitled to the honor as Archbishop of Reims). The crown was so heavy for the young man (an omen?) that nobles had to hold it in place for him. Francis II took the sun for his emblem – which was worked into the Great Seals of France and Scotland and infuriated Elizabeth. Not that she minded the use of the sun … the issue was the words and arms around it that included England and Ireland in his domains! As Nicholas Throckmorton, England’s ambassador to France, specified:

A Great Seal is lately sent into Scotland with the Arms of England, France, and Scotland quartered, having this style, “Franciscus et Maria, Dei Gratia Franciœ, Scotiœ, Angliœ, et Hibernœ Rex et Regina.” The same arms are also graven upon the French Queen’s plate; and at dinner he and Sir Peter Mewtas were served with the like.

https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/foreign/vol1/pp551-567

Mary would come to regret that….but back to the coronation.

 The ceremony had been scheduled for September 17, but because of his health it had to be delayed a day, making him the only French monarch to be crowned neither on a Sunday nor a saint’s day. Nicholas Throckmorton gives us this eyewitness report:

There were there the six Peers of the church and the six Peers of the temporalty. The Peers of the spiritualty were placed with the Bishops on the right side of the choir; and the temporal Peers, viz., the King of Navarre (representing the Duke of Burgundy), the Dukes of Guise, Normandy, Nevers, Guyon, Montpensier, the Counts of Flanders, Champaigne, Toulouse, and the Duke d’Aumale on the left side; on which were also the Knights of the Order, the Ambassadors of the Pope, Spain, Portugal, Mantua, and two gentlemen sent from the State of Sienna. The old Queen, her daughters, and all the ladies of the Court were all apparelled in dueill, except the young French Queen. The Duke of Savoy was present.

https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/foreign/vol1/pp551-567

Notice: his wife, Mary Stuart, was not crowned with him in this ceremony. While queens of France were customarily crowned and anointed at their husband’s accession, this was often done in a separate ceremony, even a separate city (French kings were most often crowned at Reims Cathedral, French queens were crowned most often at Paris’s St Denis Basilica). But since Mary Stuart had already been anointed Queen of Scotland, they dispensed with this second coronation altogether – but still painted in the crown in the official portrait.

In truth, Francis’ coronation itself feels a bit of a waste – he died only a year later. But that’s a story for another post

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