Madeleine of Valois, Queen of Scotland

1520 -1537

Madeleine of Valois was the daughter of King Francis I of France and his first wife Claude, Duchess of Brittany, eldest daughter of Louis XII of France and Anne of Brittany. Madeleine was born on 10 August 1520 at Saint-Germaine-en-Laye.

From the start, Madeleine's health was delicate, and her parents decided she would benefit from living in the valley of the River Loire, which enjoyed a mild climate. Following the death of their mother Queen Claude, Madeleine and her younger sister Marguerite were brought up by their paternal aunt, Marguerite of Navarre.

Madeleine of Valois, Queen of Scotland Madeleine of Valois, Queen of Scotland

Three years prior to Madeleine's birth, the Treaty of Rouen was negotiated to strengthen the 'Auld Alliance' with France after Scotland's shattering defeat at the hands of the English at the Battle of Flodden. By the terms of the treaty, the young James V, King of Scots was to marry a French Princess

As Madeleine suffered from poor health, another French bride, Mary of Bourbon, was proposed, who was to be given a dowry as if she were the French king's daughter. James V contracted to marry Mary of Bourbon, and accordingly travelled to France in 1536 to meet her, where he became smitten with Madeleine, and promptly asked her father for her hand in marriage. Francis, I was concerned that the harsh climate of Scotland might prove fatal to Madeleine's already frail health, and on those grounds refused to permit the couple's marriage.

James V James V King of Scots

James V, who was smitten by the sixteen-year old's delicate beauty, continued in his requests to marry Madeleine, the princess also expressed a desire to become James' wife, after which despite his nagging fear about her health, King Francis, I reluctantly agreed for the marriage to take place. By the terms of the marriage contract made at Blois, Madeleine renounced her claims to the French throne for herself and her heirs Francis I provided his daughter with a large dowry.

The happy couple were married on 1 January 1537 at Notre Dame Cathedral, and after months of festivities and celebrations, James and Madeleine sailed for Scotland in May 1537. By this time, Madeleine's fragile health had deteriorated further, and she was very unwell on landing at Leith on Whitsun-Eve, 19 May.

Madeleine wrote to King Francis from Edinburgh on 8 June 1537 stating that she was feeling better and her symptoms had improved. Plans were being put in motion for her coronation as Queen of Scotland. Sadly, just a month later, after a marriage that lasted but six months and seven days, Madeleine died in the arms of her husband on 7 July 1537. She was buried at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh.

James V later married Mary of Guise, the widow of Louis II of Orleans, Duke of Longueville, but on his death on 14th December 1542, was buried beside Madeleine at Holyrood.