Mary of Guise’s Coat of Arms


The Mary of Guise-Lorraine article from this blog, recently republished on Celebrate Scotland, features amongst its illustrations the Queen regent’s Coat of Arms on stained glass. These Arms are situated in the middle window in the south wall of the Magdalen Chapel in Edinburgh. The Magdalen Chapel website states that it « was built [more likely founded] between 1541 and 1544 by Janet Rynd, widow of Michael MacQueen (died 1537)« . The Charter of Confirmation dates from 1547:

when the said Michael was greatly troubled with an heavy Disease, and oppressed with Age, yet mindful of Eternal Life, he esteemed it ane good Way to obtain Eternal Life, to erect some Christian Work, for ever to remain and endure.

Following the informations provided by the Magdalen Chapel, « the stained glass in this window is the only pre-Reformation stained glass in Scotland which is still intact« , an assertion taken from an article by J.M. Gray, written in the 1890’s. I take this opportunity to discuss three other 16th century coats of arms from Mary of Guise in Scotland, and the territorial struggle between the houses of Lorraine-Guise and Habsburg between 1538 and 1543.

The earliest Coat of Arms of Mary of Guise can be found on the Blair castle double portrait, painted probably around 1538-39, which represents king James V Stuart and Mary of Lorraine.


Coats of arms of James V Stuart, king of Scotland, and Mary of Guise. Detail of a 16th century painting. Coll. Duke of Atholl, Blair Castle, Perthshire

On the right or dexter part of the coat of arms (left side of the picture) is the red (Gules) rampant lion of Scotland, au double trescheur fleuronné et contre-fleuronnée on a yellow (Or) field. On the sinister or left part (right side of the picture), the coat of arms of Mary of Lorraine. The chief, from sinister to dexter, holds Hungary, Jerusalem, Naples and Aragon. On the base are Anjou, the duchies of Guelders, of Jülich and the duchy of Bar, Mary’s birthplace. Over all is the escutcheon of Lorraine – three silver eaglets on a red band set on a yellow background. Below the coat-armour appear the two letters M R, Latin for Maria Regina (queen Mary), which may have been added in 1540, sometime after Mary’s coronation at Holyrood abbey. The golden colour of these letters, slightly brighter than the coat of arms itself and the crown belonging to king James (not visible on this detail), might be proof of this later addition.

Following the death of duke Charles of Egmont in 1538, the house of Lorraine-Guise had laid claim to the duchy of Guelders, heritage of Mary’s grandmother and sister to the duke, Philippa of Guelders. But German emperor Charles V incorporated the duchy into the Holy Roman Empire. The duchy of Jülich, which also belonged to the Lorraine family, had been attributed to John III, duke of Cleves, a few years earlier. Even after this hold-up by emperor Charles V, Philippa’s son Claude, duke of Guise, kept the duchies of Guelders and Jülich in his coat of arms, as did his sons and Mary’s brothers Francis, duke of Guise and Charles, cardinal of Lorraine. Mary of Lorraine’s wedding portrait was made in 1538-1539: she also proudly displayed her grandmother’s heritage.

The second Coat of Arms is situated in Leith near Edinburgh. It bears the following inscription: MARIA DE LORAINE REGINA SCOTIE 1560 (Mary of Lorraine, queen of Scotland 1560). If the date can be trusted, it was made the year in which the Queen regent of Scotland died and displays the souvereign houses claimed by the Lorraine-Guise, including Guelders and Jülich. Jerusalem and Naples appear in reverted order compared to the coat-armour of 1538-1539. The Leith stone coat also shows a crown with, on the left side of the picture, three white lilies, the symbol of France, and on the right side three thistles, the symbol of Scotland.


Coat of arms of Mary of Guise. Leith, Scotland © All rights reserved

Two new elements appear : on the chief, a lambel de trois pendants d’argent or label, the white band from which three points descend. It is used as a mark for the cadet or younger son of a family, here probably for the cadet branch of the house of Lorraine. Mary’s father Claude was a younger brother to Anthony, duke of Lorraine (1489-1544). Claude became duke of Guise in 1528. The second cadet element is a small label de Gules on the arms of Naples. Both might indicate the possessions of the second duke of Guise, Mary’s brother Francis, head of the Guise family since their father’s death in 1550.

The third document, a heraldry manuscript held at Lambeth Palace Library London, was probably made in 1560, or later. Mary of Lorraine-Guise, represented as crowned queen holding thistle and sceptre, stands next to king James V Stuart bearing a crown and holding sword and sceptre. Mary’s coat of arms is represented on her skirtle. The duchies of Guelders and Jülich are no longer displayed. This looks much like her Arms on stained glass in the Magdalen Chapel in Edinburgh. However, on the manuscript, the escutcheon of Lorraine stands out more prominently.

James V (1512-42) of Scotland and Mary of Guise (1515-60)

James V and Mary of Guise, 16th century. MS. 316, fol.16 © Lambeth Palace Library, London

The duchies of Guelders and Jülich, present on the Leith coat of arms of 1560, have disappeared from the Lambert palace manuscript arms, but also from the stained glass roundels of the Magdalen Chapel. If we accept the date on the carved Leith arms as genuine, it might indicate that its making was supervised by the Queen regent herself, as it is identical to her former Coat of Arms. Then why the Lambert palace manuscript Arms, and the stained glass roundels of the Magdalen Chapel, differ?

On the Magdalen Chapel website, the poor inmates of the 16th century hospital were supposed to « pray for Mary Queen of Scots »:

The building was to be the new chapel for the Incorporation of Hammermen and was to include accommodation for a chaplain and also an almshouse for seven Bedesmen (poor men) ‘who should continually pour forth prayers to Almighty God’. In particular they were to pray for the soul of Mary Queen of Scots.

In the original text in Latin appear only the words « Marie dei gratia regine scotorum ». It is not clear which Mary is meant, as this could be Mary of Guise, Queen of Scotland since 1540, or her daughter, Mary Stuart :

Ipsamque capellam nomini marie magdalene dedicavimus. Ac capellanum et septem pauperes inibi deum pro salute anime serenissime principis Marie dei gratia regine scotorum. Illustrissime neenon (?) pro salute anime dicti quondam sponsi mei et mee perpetuo depecaturos fundavimus.

The first editor of the text, published in 1916, is more cautious when he translates:

There [i.e. in the chapel] would the inmates ever pray for the salvation of the soul of the high and mighty princess Mary by the grace of God queen of Scots.

The stained glass of Magdalen Chapel was re-leaded in 1893, and the two upper roundels were repositionned within the glass window. Their original positionment is unknown, as is the original disposition of the two lower roundels. The actual chapel window therefore shows a 19th century design and not the Renaissance condition.

(Research is in process, article to be continued soon).


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