King Edward I of England had claimed feudal lordship over Scotland beginning in 1290 AD and there had been battles ever since. John Balliol, King of Scots and Philip IV of France negotiated the “Auld Alliance” and it played a momentous role in relations between Scotland, England and France from 1295 until the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1560. The alliance was to be renewed by all the French and Scottish monarchs during that time except King Louis XI of France. By the late 14th C. renewal of the alliance occurred whether either kingdom was fighting with England or not.
The terms of the agreement specified if Scotland or France was attacked by England, the other country would assault England. In 1513, King Henry VIII of England was planning to invade France to try to reclaim what he believed was his inheritance. King James IV of Scotland was Henry’s brother-in-law and while he and his wife Margaret Tudor did not want to attack England, the “Auld Alliance” demanded he do so. Scottish and English forces met at Flodden Field on September 9, 1513 and the flower of Scottish nobility died along with their King. By August 26, 1517, the Treaty of Rouen between King James V of Scotland and King Francis I of France renewed the “Auld Alliance” providing shared military assistance and reciprocal aid. Another provision was the marriage of the young King James to a daughter of King Francis, living or yet to be born.
At the time of the Treaty of Rouen, James V was five years old and King Francis’ eldest child and daughter was one year old and was soon to die of convulsions. In 1530, negotiations began for the French marriage. In 1536, King James was twenty-four, ready to marry and to strengthen the ties between Scotland and France. In March of that year it was agreed James would marry Marie of Bourbon and Francis would give her a dowry as if she were his own daughter. Marie’s father was a first prince of the blood royal after the sons of Francis I. In the fall, James travelled to St. Quentin and visited Marie. He was not pleased with what he saw so he made his way to the court of King Francis and there, he met Princess Madeleine.
Madeleine of Valois was the daughter of King Francis and his first Queen Claude, Duchess of Brittany. She was born on August 10, 1520 at Saint-Germaine-en-Laye and was the fifth child and third daughter. Her health was delicate from the time of her birth and her parents decided she should live where it was warm, in the valley of the River Loire. She and her younger sister Marguerite were raised by Francis’ sister, Marguerite of Navarre. When the negotiations started for the Scottish marriage, Madeleine was ten years old and in bad health. This was the main reason Francis suggested Marie of Bourbon as James’ wife.
At the time of James’ visit to court, Madeleine was sixteen and back at court. It seems the two fell in love with each other. James insisted he wanted to marry the King’s eldest daughter and Madeleine pleaded with her father to allow her to marry James. Francis reluctantly gave in. They were married on January 1, 1537 at Notre Dame in Paris. Francis gave her a considerable dowry which greatly helped the Scottish treasury. One of the conditions of the marriage contract signed at Blois on November 26th was that Madeleine renounce her claim and any of her heirs claim to the French throne.
There were beautiful decorations and days of jousting at the Louvre. There was a splendid entry procession into the city of Paris. The festivities lasted until May when James and Madeleine left for Scotland. They were accompanied by a fleet of ten French ships. They arrived at Leith on May 19th. Madeleine fell to her knees and kissed the earth in thanks for arriving in her husband’s kingdom. By this time Madeleine was very ill, suffering frightening bouts of fever and catarrh. It is believed she suffered from tuberculosis, just as her mother Queen Claude did.
In preparation for Madeleine’s arrival, James had ordered improvements to Falkland Palace, painting the King and Queen apartments, making enhancements to the Chapel Royal and was planning a new tennis court. James built a new tower at Holyroodhouse in the French style for Madeleine. We know the name of eleven of Madeleine’s servants who accompanied her to Scotland. On June 8, Madeleine wrote to her father telling him she felt better and was improving. Plans were being made for her coronation. On July 7, 1537, Madeleine died in her husband’s arms at Holyroodhouse. She was known as the “Summer Queen” and the royal marriage was one of the shortest in history at six months and seven days.
Madeleine was buried at Holyrood Abbey. About a year later, James married Marie of Guise, the widowed Duchess of Longueville and a good friend of Madeleine’s. When James died in 1542 he was buried with Madeleine. There’s an inventory of possessions from five years after Madeleine’s death that mentions a few of her dresses, two small gold cups, an agate basin, an ewer of jasper and a flagon of rock crystal that were made for Madeleine when she was a child and that she brought to Scotland from France.
© Susan Abernethy 2012
Resources: “Mary of Guise: Queen of Scots” by Rosalind K. Marshall, “The True Life of Mary Queen of Scots” by John Guy, “Princelie Majestie: The Court of James V of Scotland, 1528-1542” by Andrea Thomas, “Scottish Queens, 1034-1714″ by Rosalind K. Marshall