November 2015. The 500th birthday of Marie of Lorraine, or Mary of Guise, has arrived. To celebrate this historical event now follows an extract of the book that has pulled her out of oblivion. The first modern work on the eldest daughter of Claude duke of Guise and Antoinette of Bourbon, Mary of Guise-Lorraine, queen of Scotland written by Emmeline McKerlie, was published in 1931. But it was Scottish historian and art historian Rosalind K. Marshall, by releasing Mary of Guise in 1977, who has definitively restored the life and historical importance of a woman born 500 years ago in the duchy of Bar. The baby girl from 1515 was to become a courageous and intelligent woman, and a queen and queen regent of Scotland.
On 20 November 1515 in the Castle of Bar-le-Duc, perched high on its rock above the river Ornain, the young Countess of Guise gave birth to a daughter. The baby was her first, and she lay in her great bed watching her women bustling around the child, Antoinette was well content. The dangers of the last few months were now past. Not only has she come savely through childbirth, but her husband had miraculously survived near-mortal wounds in battle. […]
For Antoinette, the birth of her daughter therefore brought a double measure of rejoicing, nor was Claud‘s survival at Marignano merely a matter of personal relief for his wife. Perhaps from that day dates the real fame of the House of Guise. Later centuries have coloured and exaggerated the reputation of the family. For Catholics, Claud was to become the Christian hero, the protector of the Faith, the soldier of God, appearing at the head of his army in a nimbus of light, a flaming sword in is hand. For Protestants he was to be the Great Butcher, the savage murderer of the innocent, the rapacious, Machiavellian leader of a group of treacherous schemers. Religious controversy has shaped and distorted posterity’s view of this family more than most, so it is all the more important to discard preconceptions and to remember that in the winter of 1515 the name of Guise had none of the sinister overtones which it was later to acquire.
Rather, Claud was the handsome and popular hero of the day, on the threshold of a brilliant military career and establishing a family of his own. He could not, of course, get back to Bar-le-Duc in time for his daughter’s christening, but the knowledge of his restoration to health mitigated for Antoinette the pain of his absence. After all, she had the company of other members of the family. Her own mother, Mary of Luxemburg, had come to Bar for the birth and so had Claud’s mother, Philippa of Gueldres. These two formidable ladies would stay on to act as godmothers. Claud’s brother John, the Bishop of Metz, would be godfather and the ceremony would be performed by a cousin of Antoinette’s who was Bishop of Châlons.
So it was that when she was just twelve days old, the baby daughter of the Count of Guise was christened in the castle church at Bar-le-Duc. She was called Mary, from the Virgin Mary and after her grandmother, Mary of Luxemburg, and she was to be known to history as Mary of Guise or Mary of Lorraine.
Rosalind K. Marshall, Mary of Guise, William Collins 1977, p. 15 and p. 19 to 20.