Madeleine of Valois

For the daughter of Charles VII of France, see Magdalena of Valois.
Madeleine of Valois

Madeleine de Valois by Corneille de la Haye
Queen consort of Scots
Tenure 1 January – 7 July 1537
Born (1520-08-10)10 August 1520
St. Germain-en-Laye, Paris, Kingdom of France
Died 7 July 1537(1537-07-07) (aged 16)
Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Kingdom of Scotland
Burial Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, Kingdom of Scotland
Spouse James V of Scotland
House Valois-Angoulême
Father Francis I of France
Mother Claude, Duchess of Brittany

Madeleine of Valois (10 August 1520 – 7 July 1537) was a French princess who became Queen of Scots as the first spouse of King James V.

Early life

Madeleine (back right) with her mother and sisters, from the Book of Hours of Catherine de'Medici.

Madeleine was born at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, the fifth child and third daughter of King Francis I of France and Claude, Duchess of Brittany (daughter of King Louis XII of France and Anne, Duchess of Brittany). Very frail from birth, she grew up in the warm and temperate Loire Valley region of France, rather than at Paris, as her father feared that the cold would destroy her delicate health. Together with her sister Margaret, she was raised by her aunt, Marguerite de Navarre. This lasted until her father remarried and his new wife, Eleanor of Austria, took them into her own household.[1] By her sixteenth birthday, she had contracted tuberculosis.

Marriage negotiations

Three years before Madeleine's birth, the Franco-Scottish Treaty of Rouen was made to bolster the Auld Alliance after Scotland's defeat at the Battle of Flodden. A marriage to a French Princess for the Scottish King was one of its provisions. In April 1530, John Stewart, Duke of Albany, was appointed commissioner to finalise the royal marriage between James V and Madeleine.[2] However, as Madeleine did not enjoy good health, another French bride, Mary of Bourbon, was proposed. Mary of Bourbon would be given a dowry as if she were the French king's daughter.

James V contracted to marry Mary of Bourbon, and travelled to France in 1536 to meet her, but smitten with the delicate Madeleine, asked Francis I for her hand in marriage. Citing her illness and the harsh climate of Scotland, which he feared would prove fatal to his daughter's already failing health, Francis I initially refused to permit the marriage.[3]

James V continued to press Francis I for Madeleine's hand, and despite his reservations and nagging fears, Francis I reluctantly granted permission to the marriage when Madeleine made her interest in marrying James very obvious. The pair married on 1 January 1537 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.[4] Francis I also provided Madeleine with a very generous (and much needed) dowry, which considerably boosted the Scottish treasury. According to the marriage contract made at Blois, Madeleine renounced her and any of her heirs' claims to the French throne. If James died first, Madeleine would retain for her lifetime assets including the Earldoms of Fife, Strathearn, Ross, and Orkney with Falkland Palace, Stirling Castle, and Dingwall Castle, with the Lordship of Galloway and Threave Castle.[5]

Coat of arms of Madeleine of Valois as Queen consort of Scots

Queen of Scots

After months of festivities and celebrations, the couple left France for Scotland in May 1537. By this time, Madeleine's health had deteriorated even further, and she was very sick when the royal pair landed in Scotland. They arrived at Leith at 10 o'clock on Whitsun-Eve, 19 May.[6] According to John Lesley the ships were laden with her possessions;

"besides the Quenes Hienes furnitour, hinginis, and appareill, quhilk wes schippit at Newheavin and careit in Scotland, was also in hir awin cumpanye, transportit with hir majestie in Scotland, mony costlye jewells and goldin wark, precious stanis, orient pearle, maist excellent of any sort that was in Europe, and mony coistly abilyeaments for hir body, with mekill silver wark of coistlye cupbordis, cowpis, & plaite."[7]

A detailed list of wedding presents from Francis I also survives.[8] Some of her French courtiers came too and are included among the eleven named members of her household; her former governess, Anne de Boissy, Madame de Montreuil; Madame de Bren; her secretary, Jean de Langeac, Bishop of Limoges; master household, Jean de St Aubin; squire, Charles de Marconnay; doctor, Master Partix; pages John Crammy and Pierre de Ronsard; furrier Gillan; butcher John Kenneth; barber Anthony.[9]


Madeleine wrote to her father from Edinburgh on 8 June 1537 saying that she was better and her symptoms had diminished.[10] However, a month later, on 7 July 1537, (a month before her 17th birthday), Madeleine, the so-called "Summer Queen" of Scots, died in her husband's arms at Edinburgh, Scotland.

Queen Madeleine was interred in Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh. Madeleine's marriage and death was commemorated by the poet David Lyndsay's Deploration of Deith of Quene Magdalene, the poem describes the pageantry of the marriage in France and Scotland;

O Paris! Of all citeis principall!
Quhilk did resave our prince with laud and glorie,
Solempnitlie, throw arkis triumphall. [arkis = arches]
* * * * * *
Thou mycht have sene the preparatioun
Maid be the Thre Estaitis of Scotland
In everilk ciete, castell, toure, and town
* * * * * *
Thow saw makand rycht costlie scaffalding
Depaynted weill with gold and asure fyne
* * * * * *
Disagysit folkis, lyke creaturis devyne,
On ilk scaffold to play ane syndrie storie
Bot all in greiting turnit thow that glorie. [greiting = crying: thow = death][11]

Less than a year after her death, her husband married the widowed Mary of Guise, who had attended his wedding to Madeleine. Twenty years later, listed amongst the treasures in Edinburgh Castle were two little gold cups, an agate basin, a jasper vase, and crystal jug given to Madeleine when she was a child in France.[12]



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  1. Marshall, Rosalind K. (2003). Scottish Queens, 1034-1714. Tuckwell Press. p. 101.
  2. Hay, Denys, Letters of James V, HMSO (1954), 43-44, 51-52, 170.
  3. Ashley, Mike (1999). The mammoth book of British kings and queens. London: Robinson Publishers. p. 570. ISBN 1-84119-096-9.
  4. "Why did the 'Rough Wooing' Fail to break the Auld Alliance?"
  5. Hay, Denys, Letters of James V, HMSO (1954), 325-6.
  6. State Papers Henry VIII, vol. 5 part 4 cont., (1836), 79, Clifford to Henry VIII.
  7. Thomson, Thomas ed., John Lesley's History of Scotland, Bannatyne Club, (1830), 299.
  8. Guthrie, William, General History of Scotland, vol. 5, (1767), 166 note: "The Historical works of Sir James Balfour", vol. 1, Edinburgh (1824), 266-267: NLS Adv. MS 33:2:15.
  9. Thomas, Andrea, Princelie Majestie, John Donald (2005), 45.
  10. Hay, Denys, Letters of James V, HMSO (1954), 331-2.
  11. Hadley Williams, Janet ed., Sir David Lyndsay, Selected Poems, ASLS, Glasgow (2000), 101-108, 260-266.
  12. Thomson, Thomas, A Collection of Inventories, Bannatyne Club (1815), 63.
Madeleine of Valois
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 10 August 1520 Died: 7 July 1537
Scottish royalty
Title last held by
Margaret of England
Queen consort of Scots
Title next held by
Mary of Guise
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