Marie and Louis of Orleans : A princely wedding in the summer of 1534

There are no pictures of the event, neither of the young woman of eighteen called Marie, nor of her husband Louis of Orleans, duke of Longueville, born in 1510 and Great Chamberlain of France. Marie of Guise, eldest daughter of duke Claude of Guise and Antoinette of Bourbon, was introduced to the French Court three years ago, in march 1531, when she was only fifteen. It had been for a royal wedding, the second for the king of France Francis I. His new queen was Spanish raised Eleanor of Austria, sister to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. From the descriptions in the Cérémonial François we know how Marie looked like when she followed the new Queen from the Saint-Denis abbey into the city of Paris.

But how did Marie look at her own wedding in August 1534? What colour was her gown? How was her hair done, and which jewels did she wear? One thing we are sure of: there was no compulsory white wedding dress in 16th century Europe. Marie of Guise might have resembled the blond noblewoman painted by Bernhard Strigel (1460-1528):

Portrait d'une jeune mariée aristocrate

Bernhard Strigel, Portrait of a young noblewoman © Staatliches Museum, Kunstsammlungen, Schlösser und Gärten Schwerin, Germany

This young woman’s portrait probably possessed a pendant representing her fiancé. This second portrait is now lost, as is any image of Marie’s young fiancé Louis, duke of Longueville : we have no known picture of him.

Now to the wedding ceremonial. Marie of Guise and Louis of Orleans were married in the Louvre palace in Paris on the 4th of August, 1534. As mentioned before, there are no pictures of the event, but a 16th century manuscript showing the marriage of Paris, prince of Troy, with the Spartan princess Helena, might come close to the historical scene.

Mariage de Pâris et Hélène

Mariage of Pâris and Helena, from « Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César » © BnF, Paris

Helena stretches out her right hand, dextre from the Latin word dextrum, to receive the ring on her forefinger. The priest in the centre of the picture grasps her arm while Helena’s husband-to-be holds a ring in his right hand. The couple is surrounded by the witnnesses of the scene in the church, the men to the left, the women to the right.

In the 16th century, wedding ceremonies are filled with symbols of faithfulness, stability, fertility and love. Italian writer Andrea Alciato, in his famous emblem book, explains these, and an engraving in his book illustrates mariage’s various symbols : 1. The clasped hands of husband and wife symbolizing faithfulness.  2. The couple seated close to each other, a sign of constant friendship. 3. The bench they sit on, which symbolizes stability. 4. The little dog at the women’s feet, again a symbol of faithfulness. 5. The apple tree, the apple being the symbol and fruit of love.

Page 236. Mariage : "Sur la foy du mariage"

Andrea Alciato, Emblemes, Lyon 1549. Page 236 « Sur la foy du mariage » © RMN-Grand Palais (musée de la Renaissance, château d’Ecouen)/René-Gabriel Ojéda

The French description following the emblem stresses out the importance of the apple tree producing apples, the fruit of the goddess Venus and symbol of love. But apples also stand for the result of carnal love and therefore symbolize children:

La femme auprès de l’homme, à dextre assise, Le chien aux piedz. C’est de Foy la divise. Lesquelz, s’ilz sont par ardeur maintenus: Soit ung Pommier, Pommes sont à Venus. Ainsi vinquit Atalante Hippomane, Et son amy frappa la blanche Dame. Au Mariage de l’homme, & de la femme, est Amour, & foy, desquelles le signe est le chien fidele, & bien aimant son maistre. Et pource que souvent cest Amour, & Foy conjugale, est entretenue par la charnelle conjunction des corps: Pource bien y advient ung pommier, avec ses fruyctz. Car la Pomme est dediée à Venus, à qui la pomme d’or fut adjugée, & Hippomanes vinquit la belle Atalante à la course, par le gect des pommes d’or, & la blanche Galathée frappoit de pommes gettées son amy par lascive, & attrayante mignardise. » (Andrea Alciato, Emblèmes, 1549).

 » A woman next to a man, seated to her right, the dog at her feet. The motto is of Faith. They are, if ardour is maintained by them : an apple tree, apples belong to Venus. Thus defeated Hippomenes Atalanta, and her friend stroke the white Lady. At the marriage of man and woman is Love & faith, who’s mutual symbol is the faithful dog & dearly loving his master. And to have love and faith often in this union, it is sustained by the carnal conjunction of the bodies: to become an apple tree with its fruits. For the apple is dedicated to Venus, to whom the Golden Apple was awarded, & Hippomenes vanquished the beautiful Atalante at the [foot]race by throwing golden apples, & the white Galatea threw apples at her friend in a delicately playful & teasing way. » (Translation A.B. 2015)

Alciato’s emblem and following textual descriptive of marriage symbols, show the complexity of his allusions to figures taken from Greek mythologie. As for Marie of Guise and Louis of Orléans, the apple tree produced its fruits in the shape of two sons : Francis, born 1535 at Amiens and Louis, born 1537 at the châtau of Châteaudun. The latter died the same year, thus following his father the duke of Longueville, who had departed in June at only twenty-seven. His wife Marie survived, and a few months later, she was already in for a second apple tree experience – this time a Scottish one.


4 Commentaires

  1. A reblogué ceci sur Marie Macphersonet a ajouté:
    Marie de Guise’s first marriage

  2. Very interesting. I love the portrait by Striegel!

    1. Thank you, Jo Woolf. Strigel also painted a portrait of emperor Maximilian of Habsburg; this young lady must have been of some importance.

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