The ambitious Lorraine family

Back in January 2013, when I started writing this blog, everybody in Great Britain called Marie of Lorraine Mary of Guise, or in France, Marie de Guise. However, I always felt (and have good arguments for it) that the name Mary of Guise was anachronistic. Therefore, I kept repeating to whoever was listening or reading my articles that in fact, Mary of Guise should be called Marie of Lorraine. After four years of relentless efforts, my persistence seems to finally have been rewarded. In the book description of the recent biographical novel about Marie published by Pen&Sword, we learn that she « was born into the powerful and ambitious Lorraine family » – yes, « the powerful and ambitious Lorraine family », not the powerful and ambitious Guise family, that’s some success!

Actually, it’s not, because this is not and never was just about words, but about historical facts. Marie wasn’t born into an ambitious Lorraine family, as she was never born into an ambitious Guise family. She was born a first daughter to one of the younger or cadet sons of the Lorraine family, and that changes everything. Her father Claude started off as comte d’Aumale and younger brother to the firstborn Anthony of Lorraine. Luckily, his father the duke René liked him well, and he gave his son Claude all the territories of the Lorraine family situated in France, including Guise. Therefore in November 1515, when Marie was born in the duchy of Bar, Claude of Lorraine was just a courageous nineteen-year old soldier who followed the French king Francis I to war in Italy. Marie’s mother Antoinette of Bourbon was twenty-one and came from a famous but not very rich French family.

What did change the destiny of the Guise family was the decision of king Francis I of France to promote Claude of Lorraine duke of Guise in 1527. Marie was in her twelfth year and became all of a sudden the eldest daughter of a duke and pair de France, one of the most important and powerful men in the French kingdom. This was indeed the moment the Guise family became ambitious, and it all started with their firstborn daughter, Marie of Lorraine-Guise.


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