Mary of Guise - Death


After an English assault on Leith was repulsed with heavy losses, some of the leaders of the Lords of the Congregation came to Edinburgh Castle on 12 May 1560 and had dinner with Mary and the keeper of the castle, Lord Erskine. They discussed a plan made before the troubles, that Mary would have travelled to France and met Elizabeth in England, and her brother made Viceroy in Scotland, and the Lords again complained of Frenchmen appointed to Scottish government posts. Negotiations to end the siege of Leith and demolish new fortifications at Dunbar Castle were continued. The next day the talks ended as permission was refused for the French commanders in Leith to come to the castle to discuss the proposals with Mary.

While continuing to fortify Edinburgh Castle, Mary became seriously ill, and over eight days her mind began to wander; some days she could not even speak. On 8 June she made her will and died of dropsy on 11 June 1560. Her body was taken to France and interred at the church in the Convent of Saint-Pierre in Reims, where Mary's sister Renée was abbess. Of Mary's five children, only her daughter Mary survived her.

In modern times, such as in Philippa Gregory's novel The Virgin's Lover, it has been suggested that Queen Elizabeth I of England ordered Mary's assassination by poisoning her, or, as portrayed in the 1998 film Elizabeth, that she was assassinated to protect Elizabeth's interests (without any direct order by the Queen). However, no evidence supports such allegations, and there was an autopsy the day after she died. Mary's death was evidently of natural causes, as she herself complained she had become lame from the swelling of her legs in April and diagnosed dropsy. This swelling was confirmed by her enemy, John Knox, who wrote that in May, "began hir bellie and lothsome leggis to swell." Even in the paranoid political climate of the 16th century, in which many royal deaths were suspected to have been murders, no contemporaries saw signs of "foul play" in Mary's death.

The Regent's death made way for the Treaty of Edinburgh, in which France and England agreed to a withdrawal of both their troops from Scotland. Although the French commissioners were unwilling to treat with the insurgent Lords of the Congregation, they offered the Scots certain concessions from King Francis and Queen Mary, including the right to summon a parliament according to use and custom. The effect of the treaty was to leave power in the hands of the pro-English Protestants.

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