Mary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity

The time now approached when Henry began to think of confirming the French

authority in Scotland, by consummating the contract of marriage which had

so long existed between Francis and Mary. This was not, however, to be

done without considerable opposition from several quarters. The Constable

Montmorency, and the House of Bourbon, already trembled at the growing

influence of the Guises, plainly foreseeing, that as soon as the niece

the Duke and Cardinal of Lorraine became wife to the Dauphin, and

consequently, upon Henry's death, Queen of France, their own influence

would be at an end. It is not improbable that Montmorency aimed at

marrying one of his own sons to Mary. At all events, he endeavoured to

persuade Henry that he might find a more advantageous alliance for

Francis. The Guises, however, were not thus to be overreached; and the

King more willingly listened to their powerful representations in favour

of the match, as it had long been a favourite scheme with himself. It

would be uncharitable to ascribe to the agency of any of those who

opposed it, an attempt which was made some time before by a person of the

name of Stuart, a Scottish archer in the King's guards, to poison Mary.

Stuart being detected, was tried, condemned, and executed, but made no

confession which could lead to any discovery of his motives. It is most

likely that he had embraced the reformed religion, and was actuated by a

fanatical desire to save his country from the dominion of a Catholic


Francis, the young Dauphin, who was much about Mary's own age, was far

inferior to her, both in personal appearance and mental endowments. He was

of a very weakly constitution; and the energies of his mind seem to have

been repressed by the feebleness of his body. But if unable to boast of

any distinguishing virtues, he was undegraded by the practice of any vice.

He was amiable, timid, affectionate, and shy. He was aware of his want of

physical strength, and feared lest the more robust should make it a

subject of ridicule. He appears to have loved Mary with the tenderest

affection, being probably anxious to atone to her, by every mark of

devotion, for the sacrifice he must have seen she was making in

surrendering herself to him, in all the lustre of her charms. Yet there is

good reason to believe that Mary really loved Francis. They had been

playmates from infancy; they had prosecuted all their studies together;

and though Francis cared little for the pleasures of society, and rather

shunned than encouraged those who wished to pay their court to him, Mary

was aware that, for this very reason, he was only the more sincere in his

passion for her. It was not in Mary's nature to be indifferent to those

who evinced affection for her; and if her fondness for Francis were

mingled with pity, it has long been asserted, that "pity is akin to love".

On the 24th of April 1558, the nuptials took place. In December the

preceding year, a letter from Henry had been laid before the Scotch

Parliament, requesting that some persons of rank should be sent over from

Scotland as Commissioners to witness the marriage; and in compliance with

this desire, the Lord James, Prior of St Andrews, and eight other persons

of distinction, arrived at the French Court in March 1558. Their

instructions commanded them to guard against French encroachments, upon

the rights and privileges of Scottish subjects; and, that no doubt might

remain regarding the right of succession to the Scottish throne, they were

to obtain from the King of France a ratification of his former promise, to

aid and support the Duke of Chatelherault in his claims upon the crown, in

case Mary died without issue. They were also to require a declaration to a

similar effect from the Queen and Dauphin. All these demands were at once

complied with.

It has been alleged, however, that a very gross deceit was practised, upon

this occasion, by the French Court. It is said, that though, to satisfy

the Scotch Commissioners, all their requests were ostensibly granted,

Henry took secret measures to render these grants entirely inefficacious.

Mary, it is asserted, on the 4th of April, signed three papers, in the

first of which she made over the kingdom of Scotland in free gift to the

King of France, to be enjoyed by him and his heirs, should she die without

children; in the second, (lest it might not be deemed expedient to insist

upon the first,) she assigned to the King of France the possession of

Scotland, after her decease without children, till he should be reimbursed

of a million pieces of gold, or any greater sum which he should be found

to have expended on her during her residence in France; and, in the third,

she protested, that whatever declarations she might subscribe, in

compliance with the desire of the Scotch Parliament, touching the lineal

succession of her crown, the genuine sense of her mind was contained only

in the two preceding papers. If this dishonourable transaction really

took place, whilst it cannot involve Mary, a young and inexperienced girl

of fifteen, in any serious blame, it certainly reflects the highest

discredit both upon Henry and his advisers of the house of Guise. There is

good reason, however, to believe, that these instruments, though they

unquestionably exist, are forgeries. It was not an uncommon trick in those

times, for the Reformers to stir up jealousy against a Catholic sovereign,

by alleging, that he had promised away his country to some well known

papist. The Prince of Conde, in December 1568, was not aware of the

authenticity of any such papers; for, if he had been, he would undoubtedly

have mentioned them when he asked Elizabeth's assistance to establish the

Protestant religion in France. On the contrary, he trumps up a ridiculous

story, to which no one has ever given any credit, that Mary had ceded her

right to the crown of England, in behalf of the King of France's brother,

Henry Duke of Anjou. After Mary's death, it was confidently reported, and

with equal falsehood, that by her testament she had left England to the

King of Spain, unless her son became a Roman Catholic. There is, besides,

internal evidence of a striking nature, that these deeds were forgeries.

For its discovery, we are indebted to the industry and research of


Some of the provisions in the marriage-contract between Francis and Mary,

are sufficiently remarkable to deserve being recorded. The jointure

assigned by it to the Queen, provided her husband died King of France, is

60,000 livres, or a greater sum, if a greater had ever been given to a

Queen of France. If her husband died only Dauphin, the jointure was to be

30,000 livres. The eldest son of the marriage was to be King of France and

Scotland; and if there were no sons, the eldest daughter was to be Queen

of Scotland only, with a portion of 400,000 crowns, as a daughter of

France,--every younger daughter being allowed 300,000 crowns. Should her

husband die, Mary was to be at liberty either to remain in France or

return to Scotland, with an assurance that her jointure would be always

duly paid her. The Dauphin was to bear the name and title of King of

Scotland, and enjoy all the privileges of the crown-matrimonial.

The marriage, for which so many preparations had thus been made, was

solemnized in the church of Notre Dame, the ceremony being performed by

the Cardinal of Bourbon, Archbishop of Rouen. Upon this occasion, the

festivities were graced by the presence of all the most illustrious

personages of the Court of France; and when Francis, taking a ring from

his finger, presented it to the Archbishop, who, pronouncing the

benediction, placed it on the young Queen's finger, the vaulted roof of

the Cathedral rung with congratulations, and the multitude without rent

the air with joyful shouts. The spectacle was altogether one of the most

imposing which, even in that age of spectacles, had been seen in Paris.

The procession, upon leaving the church, proceeded to the palace of the

Archbishop, where a magnificent collation was prepared,--largess, as it

moved along, being proclaimed among the people, in the name of the King

and Queen of Scots. In the afternoon, the royal party returned to the

palace of the Tournelles--Catherine de Medicis and Mary sitting together

in the same palanquin, and a Cardinal walking on each side. Henry and

Francis followed on horseback, with a long line of princes and princesses

in their train. The chronicler of these nuptials is unable to conceal his

rapture, when he describes the manner in which the palace had been

prepared for their reception. Its whole appearance, he tells us, was

"light and beautiful as Elysium." During supper, which was served upon a

marble table in the great hall, the King's band of "one hundred gentlemen"

poured forth delicious strains of music. The members of Parliament

attended in their robes; and the princes of the blood performed the duty

of servitors--the Duke of Guise acting as master of the ceremonies. The

banquet being concluded, a series of the most magnificent masks and

mummeries, prepared for the occasion, was introduced. In the pageant,

twelve artificial horses, of admirable mechanism, covered with cloth of

gold, and ridden by the young heirs of noble houses, attracted deserved

attention. They were succeeded by six galleys, which sailed into the hall,

each rich as Cleopatra's barge, and bearing on its deck two seats, the one

filled by a young cavalier, who, as he advanced, carried off from among

the spectators, and gently placed in the vacant chair, the lady of his

love. A splendid tournament concluded these rejoicings.

During the whole of these solemnities, every eye was fixed on the youthful

Mary; and, inspired by those feelings which beauty seldom fails to excite,

every heart offered up prayers for her future welfare and happiness. She

was now at that age when feminine loveliness is perhaps most attractive.

It is not to be supposed, indeed, that in her sixteenth year, her charms

had ripened into that full-blown maturity which they afterwards attained;

but they were, on this account, only the more fascinating. Some have

conjectured that Mary's beauty has been extolled far beyond its real

merits; and it cannot be denied that many vague and erroneous notions

exist regarding it. But that her countenance possessed in a pre-eminent

degree the something which constitutes beauty, is sufficiently attested by

the unanimous declaration of all cotemporary writers. It is only, however,

by carefully gathering together hints scattered here and there, that any

accurate idea can be formed of the lineaments of a countenance which has

so long ceased to exist, unless in the fancy of the enthusiast. Generally

speaking, Mary's features were more Grecian than Roman, though without the

insipidity that would have attached to them, had they been exactly

regular. Her nose exceeded a little the Grecian proportion in length. Her

hair was very nearly of the same colour as James V.'s--dark yellow, or

auburn, and, like his, clustered in luxuriant ringlets. Her eyes,--which

some writers, misled by the thousand blundering portraits of her scattered

everywhere, conceive to have been gray, or blue, or hazel,--were of a

chestnut colour,--darker, yet matching well with her auburn hair. Her brow

was high, open, and prominent. Her lips were full and expressive, as the

lips of the Stuarts generally were; and she had a small dimple in her

chin. Her complexion was clear, and very fair, without a great deal of

colour in her cheeks. Her mother was a woman of large stature, and Mary

was also above the common size. Her person was finely proportioned, and

her carriage exceedingly graceful and dignified.

In this description of Mary's personal appearance, we have placed a good

deal of reliance on the research and accuracy of Chalmers. It will be

observed, that our account differs, in many essential particulars, from

that of Robertson, who says--"Mary's hair was black, though, according to

the fashion of that age, she frequently wore borrowed locks, and of

different colours. Her eyes were a dark gray; her complexion was

exquisitely fine; and her hands and arms remarkably delicate, both as to

shape and colour. Her stature was of an height that rose to the majestic."

Where Robertson discovered that Mary's hair was black, or her eyes gray,

he does not mention. That her eyes were not black, we have the direct

testimony of Beal, Clerk to the Privy Council of England, who was ordered

by Cecil to be present at the death of the Scottish Queen, and who

describes her as having "chestnut-coloured eyes." As to her hair, and her

other features, though Melville, in his Memoirs, certainly seems to imply

that the former was auburn, yet, as he does not expressly say so, we

suspect correct conclusions can be arrived at only by a reference to the

best authenticated portraits which have been preserved of Mary. This,

however, is far from being a criterion by which opinions should be rashly

formed. There are few persons in the whole range of history, likenesses of

whom have been more eagerly sought after; and, in proportion to the

anxiety manifested to secure originals, has been the temptation to mislead

and deceive. Almost all the paintings said to be originals of Mary Queen

of Scots, are the impositions of picture-dealers. When the demand for

these paintings became general, it was not at all unusual to despatch

emissaries over the Continent to pick up every picture, the costume and

general appearance of which in the least resembled the Scottish Queen.

During Mary's life, and for some time after her death, the fame of her

beauty, and the interest attached to her fortunes, induced numerous ladies

of rank, who flattered themselves that they were like her, to have

portraits painted in the style then well understood by the phrase a la

Mary Stuart. There was, in particular, a celebrated Continental beauty of

those days--a Countess of Mansfeldt--(we speak on the authority of a

living artist of celebrity), who resembled Mary in many particulars, and

all whose portraits (nor were they few in number) when they afterwards

came into the hands of the picture-dealers, were affirmed to be Maries.

Thus, in the lapse of years, the truth became so involved in uncertainty,

that even Robertson, allowing himself to be too hastily misled, has lent

his name to the dissemination of error.

Horace Walpole, after having made extensive inquiries on this subject, has

recorded, that he never could ascertain the authenticity and originality

of any portrait of Mary, except of that in the possession of the Earl of

Morton, which was painted when she was at Lochleven. Chalmers, in order to

come as near the truth as possible, employed Mr Pailou, an artist of

ability, to compare the picture belonging to the Earl of Morton, with two

or three other undoubted originals which have been discovered since

Walpole wrote. Pailou commenced by sketching the outline of his picture

from Lord Morton's original. He then proceeded to the examination of

three genuine portraits of Mary, one in the Church of St Andrew in

Antwerp, another in the Scotch College at Douay, and a third in the Scotch

College at Paris. Neither did he forget the profile heads of Mary struck

upon her coins, nor the marble figure representing her on her tomb in

Henry VII's Chapel, which Walpole thought a correct likeness. Mr Pailou

thus made Lord Morton's picture the basis of his own, but, as he advanced,

constantly referred to the others, "till he got the whole adjusted and

coloured." Though we cannot exactly approve of thus cooking up a picture

from various different sources, and should be inclined to think, that too

much was left by such a mode of procedure to the arbitrary taste of the

artist, we nevertheless feel satisfied that Mr Pailou has hit upon a

tolerably accurate likeness. His picture, engraved by Scriven, forms the

frontispiece to the second volume of Chalmers's work. The brow, eyes,

mouth, and chin, he has given with great success. But the painting is far

from being without faults;--the face is a good deal too round and plump,

the nose is made slightly aquiline--a decided mistake,--and the neck is

much too short, at least so it appears in the engraving.

The portrait of Mary, which forms the frontispiece to the present volume,

and on which we place greater reliance than on any with which we are

acquainted, is an engraving executed expressly for this work, from an

original picture of much merit. It was painted when Mary was in

France, by an Italian artist of eminence, who flourished as her

cotemporary in the sixteenth century, and whose name is on the canvas. It

would have been impossible to say at what precise age it represented Mary,

though, from the juvenility of the countenance, it might have been

concluded that it was taken a year or two before she became Dauphiness,

had not the painter fortunately obviated the difficulty, by inserting

immediately after his own signature the date, which is 1556, when she was

just fourteen. It is upon this picture that we have chiefly founded our

description of Mary's personal appearance. What gives us the greater

confidence in its authenticity and accuracy, is, that it very exactly

corresponds with two other portraits, believed on good grounds to be

originals. This is a strong circumstance, for it is a very common and just

remark, that almost no two likenesses of Mary agree. The paintings to

which we allude are, first, one at the seat of Logie Almond, which

represents Mary at the same age, but in a religious habit. It gives

precisely the same view of the left side of the face as the engraving in

this volume does of the right. From the style and other circumstances, it

is very probable, that both pictures were painted by the same artist. The

second is in the possession of his Grace the Duke of Hamilton, and is in

one of the private apartments at Hamilton palace. It represents Mary at a

somewhat more advanced period of life, but the features are quite the

same. There is still a third picture, said to be an original, in the

collection of the Marquis of Salisbury, at Hatfield House, and which has

been engraved for Miss Benger's Memoirs, which very closely resembles our

own. To be yet more assured, we have carefully examined the heads upon

Mary's gold and silver coins. Some of these are inaccurate, but they have

all a general resemblance to each other. A silver coin, of 1561, and the

gold real stamped in 1562, agree minutely with our picture,--a

circumstance which cannot but be considered a strong corroboration of its

truth. It is unnecessary to make any apology to the reader for having

entered thus minutely upon a subject of so much general interest.

With regard to the asseverations of cotemporary writers, as to the effects

which Mary's beauty produced, many of them are almost too extravagant to

be believed. They prove, nevertheless, that, whatever beauty may be,

whether a mere fortunate arrangement of material atoms, or a light

suffused upon the face, from the secret and etherial mind, it was a gift

which Nature had lavishly bestowed on Mary. A year or two previous to her

marriage, when walking in a religious procession, through the streets of

Paris, with a lighted torch in her hand, a woman among the crowd was so

struck with her appearance, that she could not help stopping her to

ask,--"Are you not indeed an angel?" Brantome, with more questionable

sincerity, compares her, at the age of fifteen, to the sun at mid-day. He

tells us also, that the brother of Francis, afterwards Charles IX., never

saw even a picture of Mary, without lingering to gaze upon it, declaring

passionately, that he looked upon Francis as the happiest man on earth, to

possess a creature of so much loveliness. Nay, Brantome even goes the

length of asserting, that no man ever saw Mary who did not lose his heart

to her. He is pleased, likewise, with some naivete, to pay her several

high compliments at the expense of her native country. It appears that

Mary, amidst all the gaieties of the French Court, had not forgot her

early residence at Inchmahome, in the quiet lake of Monteith. Actuated by

these recollections and other motives, she delighted to testify her regard

for Scotland in various ways; and, among others, by frequently wearing in

public the graceful Highland costume. The rich and national Stuart tartan

became her exceedingly; and Brantome, who seems to have been greatly

puzzled by the novelty of the dress, is nevertheless forced to declare,

that when arrayed after "the barbarous fashion of the savages of her

country, she appeared a goddess in a mortal body, and in a most outre and

astonishing garb." Mary herself, was so fond of this costume, that she

wore it in one of the portraits which were taken of her in France. If she

appeared so beautiful thus "habillee a la sauvage," exclaims Brantome,

"what must she not be in her rich and lovely robes made a la Francaise,

ou l'Espagnole, or with a bonnet a l'Italienne; or in her flowing white

dress, contending in vain with the whiteness of her skin!" Even when she

sung, and accompanied herself upon the lute, Brantome found occasion to

discover a new beauty,--"her soft snowy hand and fingers, fairer than

Aurora's." "Ah royaume d'Escosse!" he touchingly adds, "Je croy que,

maintenant, vos jours sont encore bien plus courts qu'ils n'estoient, et

vos nuits plus longues, puisque vous avez perdu cette Princesse qui vos

illuminoit!" The historian, Castelnau, in like manner, pronounces Mary

"the most beautiful and accomplished of her sex;" and Mezeray tells us,

that "Nature had bestowed upon her every thing that is necessary to form a

complete beauty;" adding, that "by the study of the liberal arts and

sciences, especially painting, music, and poetry, she had so embellished

her natural good qualities, that she appeared to be the most amiable

Princess in Christendom." On the occasion of her marriage, not only were

the brains of all the jewellers, embroiderers, and tailors of Paris put in

requisition, but a whole host of French poets felt themselves suddenly

inspired. Epithalamiums poured in from all quarters, spiced with flattery

of all kinds, few of which have been borne down the stream of time so

honourably for their author's abilities as that of Buchanan, who, having

long struggled with poverty, had at last risen to independence, under the

patronage of Cardinal Lorraine. This poem is well known, but is not more

complimentary than that of Joachim du Bellay, who, after comparing Mary to

Venus, concludes his song with these lines:--

"Par une chaine a sa langue attachee

Hercule a soi les peuple attiroit;

Mais celle ci tire ceux qu'elle voit

Par une chaine a ses beaux yeux attachee."

Homage, so general, cannot have been entirely misplaced, or very palpably


In Scotland, through the instigation of the Queen Regent, Mary's nuptials,

which were far from being agreeable to a numerous party, were celebrated

with probably less sincere, and certainly much more homely expressions of

pleasure. Orders were sent to the different towns "to make fyres and

processions general." Mons-Meg, the celebrated great gun of Edinburgh

Castle, was fired once; and there is a charge of ten shillings in the

treasurer's accounts of that year paid to certain persons for bringing up

the cannon "to be schote, and for the finding and carrying of her bullet

after she was schote frae Wardie Muir to the Castel of Edinburgh,"--a

distance of about two miles. A play was also enacted, but of what kind it

is difficult to say, at the expense of the city of Edinburgh.