May 9, 1538 – Henry Loses a Potential Bride

Marie de Guise and James V by an unknown artist (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This was the day on which Marie de Guise married James V of Scotland by proxy, removing this crown jewel from the European marriage market. Marie was a member of the powerful Guise family, the power behind the throne in France, and at 21 was already a widow with a healthy son. She was said to be tall, beautiful and attractive, and her princess-sized dowry was provided by Francis himself. Could she get any better? Yes. She was also smart and witty.  When she heard that Henry (recently a widower) had explained to the French ambassador that she would be the perfect bride because Henry was “big in person, and needed a big wife,” she responded with a great dig: “I may be a big woman, but I have a very little neck.”

(Still, I have to admit, Christina of Denmark did her one better…When she was told of Henry’s interest, her response was, “If I had two heads, one would be at the disposal of the King of England.” In response, Wriothesley advised Thomas Cromwell that Henry should; “fyxe his most noble stomacke in some such other place.” A bit of great irony here, Christina would go on to marry Anne of Cleves’ former betrothed, Francis Duc de Bar.)

Marie’s marriage to James would be successful: she got pregnant quickly, giving birth first to James, Duke of Rothesay (born May 22, 1540) and Robert, Duke of Albany (born April 12, 1541); however, both died on April 21, 1541 (with the cause blamed mainly on a change of wet nurses and over-feeding). Their third and last child, Mary, was born December 8, 1542 and became Queen of Scots six days later. That’s a whole other story!

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