Madeleine de Valois by Corneille de la Haye

Madeleine of France

10 August 1520 – 7 July 1537

Ailing Princess

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

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. By her sixteenth birthday, she had contracted tuberculosis.

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. 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.

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. Francis I also provided Madeleine with a very generous (and much needed) dowry, which considerably boosted the Scottish treasury.

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. 

A detailed list of wedding presents from Francis I also survives. 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.

Madeleine wrote to her father from Edinburgh on 8 June 1537 saying that she was better and her symptoms had diminished. 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.

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. 

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