Tuesday 20 December 2016

The Rough Wooing - by Ann Swinfen

It must have seemed the perfect solution. Marry Edward, the boy heir to the throne of England to Mary, the child queen of the Scots, and you would have peace and prosperity between the two countries. It would not be the first marriage between the two royal families.
Margaret Tudor

Most recently Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England and sister of King Henry VIII, had married King James IV of Scotland in 1503. This meant that Margaret Tudor was the grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots and aunt of Prince Edward, making Mary and Edward first cousins once removed, a relationship too close for marriage in the eyes of the Church. However, the Church could grant a dispensation, and there would be no trouble in gaining one from the English Church. No need to bother with the Pope, not since King Henry had severed all links with Rome.
Marie of Guise
There was just one fly in the ointment. Marie of Guise, mother of Scotland’s child queen. Marie was determinedly French, fanatically Catholic, and vituperatively anti-English. Part of the powerful French family of Guise, she was loyal not to Scotland, nor to England, but to France. She already had four French sons by a previous marriage, little Mary’s half-brothers. The Guises had their eyes fixed on a further rise to power, and Mary would be a useful pawn in the long game they were playing. She would be shipped away to France, brought up French speaking and Catholic, and married to the heir to the French – not the English – throne. In the meantime, her mother would rule Scotland and see to it that it remained Catholic and an ally of France against England.

Two mutually antagonistic plans, bound on a collision course.

Let us backtrack briefly.
James V of Scotland
The child queen Mary was born on 8 December 1542. Six days later, her father, King James V of Scotland, died of a fever, about three weeks after the Battle of Solway Moss, in which the Scots suffered a terrible defeat by the English army, a disaster which probably hastened his death. James was only 30, and his sole legitimate child was Mary. The Stuart kings had a distressing habit of dying young, leaving very young heirs. James himself had become king at under two. It made for trouble, as those around the infant monarch struggled for power.
Earl of Arran
If the infant Mary did not survive, the next heir to the Scottish throne (though somewhat distant) was the Earl of Arran, who became Regent (or Governor). At this point Arran was a Protestant and favoured an alliance with England. In the early part of 1543, he was involved in negotiations with England for this marriage of the two children, although Henry VIII did not altogether trust him and wanted him replaced. Even so, the Treaty of Greenwich, made on 1 July 1543, agreed that Mary would be married to Edward when she was ten.
Prince Edward at the time of the Rough Wooing

As early as March that year, George Douglas, brother of the Earl of Angus, warned Ralph Sadler, the English ambassador: 'if there be any motion now to take the Governor from his state, and to bring the government of this realm to the king of England, I assure you it is impossible to be done at this time. For, there is not so little a boy but that he will hurl stones against it, and the women will handle their distaffs, and the commons universally will rather die in it, yea, and many noblemen and all the clergy be fully against it.'

(If you have read Wolf Hall you will have met the young Ralph Sadler.)

Henry’s suspicions proved to be well founded. One of the most powerful men in Scotland at the time was Cardinal Beaton, more politician than man of God (who was later, May 1546, to meet an unpleasant end at the hands of Scottish Protestants in St Andrews). In September 1543, the Earl of Arran left pro-English Edinburgh secretly, in order to meet Cardinal Beaton, whereupon he converted to Catholicism, to the pro-French party, and to support for the marriage of Mary to the Dauphin of France. Oh, and incidentally, in pure gratitude for this change of heart the French bestowed upon him the dukedom of Châtelherault.

Now the Queen Mother, the Cardinal, and the Regent were in alliance, and opposed to the strong Protestant, pro-English party, mostly based in the east of Scotland. On 20 December 1543, war was declared between England and Scotland, a war which was to last for seven years and came to be known as the ‘Rough Wooing’. Everything hinged on whether a marriage alliance would be made between the child Mary and one young boy (Edward of England) or the other (Francis of France).
Mary Queen of Scots age c.16
In April 1544, King Henry, outraged at the Scottish alliance with France, ordered Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, (brother of Jane Seymour, and so the prince’s uncle) to attack and ravage Scotland. Seymour carried out his instructions with savage enthusiasm, a measure not likely to endear the pro-French party to England.
Prince Edward c.1546
King Henry VIII died on 28 January, 1547, and his son Edward became king at the age of nine. England was ruled by a body of Councillors, amongst them Seymour, who continued to wage war against Scotland. After the murder of Cardinal Beaton in 1546, the Protestant faction in the east of Scotland hoped for alliance with England, but were attacked by a French naval force, in alliance with the Earl of Arran and Marie of Guise.

The ins and outs of the struggle are too complex to detail here, but the English won a decisive victory at Pinkie Cleugh on 10 September 1547, causing panic amongst the pro-French party. And during all this fighting the child Mary was moved from one place of safety to another.

The area where I live became involved after the victory at Pinkie, when the English fleet sailed into the Tay estuary. The mouth of the Tay was guarded (and is still guarded) by Broughty Castle. The garrison there, being Protestant and pro-English, handed over the castle without a shot being fired.
Broughty Castle

The English forces also built a fort on the hill overlooking the harbour at Broughty, yards from where I live. It must have been a fairly temporary structure, as nothing now remains of it, except the name Fort Hill. The city of Dundee, also primarily Protestant, agreed to resist Governor Arran and ally itself with England.

The man established as governor of Broughty Castle, Sir Andrew Dudley, sent word to the English government that what he needed was not more troops, but good Bibles (Tyndale’s Bible), with which to convert any remaining Catholics to the Protestant faith. What he got instead was military reinforcements, who sailed up the Tay to Perth, burning Balmerino Abbey on the southern (Fife) shore, on Christmas Day 1547. On 29 December, they seized and burned the nunnery at Elcho, taking prisoner the nuns and the girls at school there, and holding them to ransom. As both nuns and schoolgirls came from good families, this would have proved quite profitable. (The nuns later returned and rebuilt their priory.)
Inchmahome Priory
Alarmed by the English successes in the east of Scotland, the pro-French party moved four-year-old Mary west to safety at Inchmahome Priory on an island in the Lake of Mentieth, where she remained for a few months. On 7 August 1548, Mary was smuggled away from Dumbarton Castle on a French ship and taken away to be reared in the French court. In 1554, Marie of Guise became Regent of Scotland in succession to the Earl of Arran, four years after the ‘Rough Wooing’ was abandoned, as now pointless.
King Edward VI c.1550
By then young King Edward was dead, on 6 July 1553, at the age of fifteen.

Francis, Dauphin of France

The French marriage went ahead, but only after Mary had secretly signed an agreement on 4 April 1558, bequeathing Scotland and her claim to the crown of England to the crown of France, should she die childless. On 24 April, she was married to Francis, Dauphin of France, at Notre Dame de Paris. She was 15, he was 14, and through this marriage became king consort of Scotland.
Henry II of France

Just over a year later, on 10 July 1559, King Henry II of France died after a jousting accident and the young couple became the rulers of both France and Scotland. The Guises were now in control of France, although Marie of Guise could only maintain her position in Scotland against the rise of the Protestant lords by the use of French troops.
Francis (15) & Mary (16) - King & Queen of Scotland & France
The reign of the young couple in France was not to last long. Francis died on 5 December 1560 at the age of sixteen. He was succeeded by his ten-year-old brother, and Mary was now surplus to requirements. She returned to Scotland.

So what did the Rough Wooing accomplish? As for its professed aims – nothing. What it did do was help to harden the lines between Catholic and Protestant Scots. It turned the young queen pro-French and anti-English, which would have a long term effect on her life and her relationship with her cousin Elizabeth I of England.

None of those manipulating Mary’s marriage chose well, both boys dying in their mid teens. It is interesting to speculate, however. What if Mary had married Edward? By all accounts he was a highly gifted and intelligent boy. If he had lived long enough and managed to father a child before his death, how different the rest of the sixteenth century in England and Scotland would have been!

Ann Swinfen


Ruan Peat said...

I love the what if at the end, makes you wonder if Henry VIII had lived or Elizabeth had married and had children? how the Tudor reign longer would have made much difference to our own world in the present day.
Thank you for putting the focus on what happened in Scotland, and in general terms of Europe, this is one of the times I do remember from my own history lessons from my school days.

Leslie Wilson said...

Very enjoyable and interesting. I was wondering-no doubt history tells - what it was like for Mary to come back to Scotland from France, when she was widowed. Culture shock, I imagine!