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Scourge of Henry VIII (ePub)

The Life of Marie de Guise

P&S History > British History > Tudors & Stuarts Women of History

By Melanie Clegg
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 20.3 MB (.epub)
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781473848399
Published: 15th August 2016


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Although Mary, Queen of Scots continues to fascinate both historians and the general public alike, the story of her mother, Marie de Guise, is much less well known. A political power in her own right, she was born into the powerful and ambitious Lorraine family, spending her formative years at the dazzling and licentious court of François I. Although briefly courted by Henry VIII, she instead married his nephew, James V of Scotland, in 1538.

James' premature death four years later left their six day old daughter, Mary, as Queen and presented Marie with the formidable challenge of winning the support of the Scottish people and protecting her daughter’s threatened birthright. Content until now to remain in the background and play the part of the obedient wife, Marie spent the next eighteen years effectively governing Scotland, devoting her considerable intellect, courage and energy to safeguarding her daughter’s inheritance by using a deft mixture of cunning, charm, determination and tolerance.

The last serious biography of Marie de Guise was published in 1977 and whereas plenty of attention has been paid to the mistakes of her daughter’s eventful but brief reign, the time has come for a fresh assessment of this most fascinating and under appreciated of sixteenth century female rulers.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I have said this before and I will say it again,, it must have been hard to be a woman in those days! Marie de Guise was no exception. Betrayed so many times. Her life was very interesting. Well written.

NetGalley, Cynthia Guerra

I would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy Tudor history and the relationships at this time from a European perspective. I will look out for any other books written by the same author.

Alison Wall, Local history/ nursing and public health groups

Featured in

Family and Community Historical Research Society Newsletter, Volume 22, November 2021

Although Mary, Queen of Scots continues to fascinate both historians and the general public alike, the story of her mother, Marie de Guise, is much less well known. Although briefly courted by Henry VIII, she instead married his nephew, James V of Scotland, in 1538.
James' premature death four years later left their six day old daughter, Mary, as Queen and presented Marie with the formidable challenge of winning the support of the Scottish people and protecting her daughters threatened birth right. Content until now to remain in the background and play the part of the obedient wife, Marie spent the next eighteen years effectively governing Scotland, devoting her considerable intellect, courage and energy to safeguarding her daughters inheritance by using a deft mixture of cunning, charm, determination and tolerance.

I really enjoyed reading this biography of Marie De Guise. She suffered so many personal losses, and sadness during her lifetime, burying 2 husbands and 4 of her 5 children, yet she managed to successfully hold the Regency for her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots for 8 years. She was successful in keeping the country Catholic, when it was struggling with the rise of the protestants, as well as constant conflicts with England.
Marie seemed to have learned from the mistakes of her Mother in Law, Margaret Tudor, and remained single after the death of King James V, allowing her to hold the Regency for her daughter. Marie also appears to have been a very caring and warm hearted lady, who hated being apart from her son and daughter.

I found the writing style of this book enjoyable, and although there was lots of facts, it didn't feel bogged down and boring to read.

Overall this is a really good and well written biography, about a Queen and Regent, who is often overshadowed by her daughter and contemporaries.

Good Reads - Reading With Leanne

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Very informative for all Tudor history fans! Highly recommend.

NetGalley, Heather Michael

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a interesting biography, I had never really heard of Marie de Guise before, but I think this book was a great biography to her.

NetGalley, Kay McLeer

This was a very interesting look into the role of Marie de Guise, who is often overlooked in favor of her daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots. This historical time period was greatly influenced by royal women and many ruled in either their own right (Isabel of Castle, Mary I, Elizabeth I) or for underage children (Catherine de Medici and Marie of Guise. While Mary, Queen of Scots is highly researched, her mother, Marie of Guise, arguably had a bigger impact on Scotland and England for her 18 years as queen.

NetGalley, Melisa Safchinsky

Marie was a charming, likeable and caring person who was forced to deal with several tragedies and dramas. She had to cope with her husband James V's black moods, English attacks, the deaths of some of her children and separation from others, fighting with volatile Scottish lords - the list goes on and on. The 'rough wooing' of her daughter by Henry VIII, who was anxious to marry Marie's more famous daughter Mary, Queen of Scots to his son required particular skills. Marie almost always coped admirably, hardly ever making mistakes.

Marie's activities as Queen Regent especially impressed me. She oversaw many laws designed to set Scotland, weakened by numerous battles, back on its feet, for example, imposing harsh penalties on poachers and forbidding the export of meat to ensure supplies. She was also upset about the loss of trees which had been cut down to provide wood for the navy, so she gave orders to protect them.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of royalty.

NetGalley, Lisa Sanderson

Marie de Guise was the Mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. We hear so much of the Tudors, Elizabethans and Mary herself but I knew nothing of the woman that gave birth to her. This is well written and enjoyable and gave me an idea of the woman behind the famous daughter.

NetGalley, Kirsty White

I always enjoy a a well researched and written historical biography and I’m happy to say this was one of them. Melanie Clegg did a great job bringing to life a figure that honestly most people haven’t heard of, so many have heard of Mary Queen of Scots, but her story cannot be told in full without the story of her mother, the woman (and this is particularly important) that spent the vast majority of her life away from her child defending that child’s inheritance of the kingdom against English invasions and internal infighting, atthe cost of her own life in the end, And, yes I was also happy with the illustrations. :)

NetGalley, Eugenia Austin

Four stars. This is an interesting and well told biography of a woman who is largely ignored even by historians specializing in the period.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

Marie de Guise has long been a footnote in history, but she was much more than that! This enigmatic woman was a formidable opponent - not one to bend to the pressures of a male monarch from another country.
While we know her as the mother of Mary Queen of Scots, Marie de Guise was regent of Scotland after the death of her husband, and managed to guide Scotland through some rather difficult times, such as the religious upheaval that was sweeping through Europe at the time.

Melanie Clegg does a great job with this book, drawing Marie back into the light that she deserves, and restoring her back into history. I loved this read!

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I realised as I began this that I knew little or nothing about Queen Marie De Guise, the mother of Mary Queen of Scots. This was an interesting and informative biography, well written and sympathetic, and I galloped through it. It was interesting to see the the character of Henry VIII from a different standpoint. Despite the many tragedies that befell her, Marie De Guise remained a spirited and charming character. Thanks to Netgalley and to the publishers for an ARC. It was a real pleasure .

NetGalley, Sue Burnside

I've read a few books on Mary Queen of Scots, but nothing about her mother. So I really liked that the focus of this book was about her and her family. It definitely took me down a rabbit hole of reading about the French monarchy! It was an enjoyable and informative read. Not too dense, but tons of new info for me. It's one that I'd love to own to flesh out my Tudor shelf!

NetGalley, Caidyn Young

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Interesting book focusing on a person little talked about or even thought about, which is a shame as I found her story very interesting to read.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

This history book about the mother of Mary Queen of Scots is intriguing. I'm not a historian by any means but this book was written with ease in a way that made learning about history pleasurable. Many historical accounts of such figures are hard to slog thru, however, this one is honestly enjoyable. I'm not sure I have seen too many books published about her as her daughter is the more infamous character from history. It seems to be a thoroughly researched piece of work and I greatly appreciate that! I would read other books from this author for sure.

NetGalley, Suzanne Rickel

A very well-written and researched biography of a woman who belonged to a powerful family and whose fate was was to marry James V and become the mother of one of the most fascinating queens in history.
Ms Clegg depicts the period and Marie's life against it, her first marriage and a rather turbulent life she had during her stay in Scotland. The image we receive is that of an intelligent woman who knows how to navigate through political corridors of Scottish castles and who suffers personal losses when her two infant sons die and later on when she is the witness to the death of her son from her first marriage.
Ms Clegg knows how to write non-fiction and to keep a reader's interest throughout.

NetGalley, Beata B. Reviewer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you enjoy the stories of the Tudor era you should read this! Not that it talks about the Tudors much (the title is misleading) but it is a really good introduction to Marie De Guise. It also shows the Guise family in only a caring light, which is nice and unusual. This biography is light and does not require prior knowledge of the time or the players to be understood. Anyone without prior knowledge may have some difficulty understanding how the political climate developed or how the relationships/history of the countries involved played a major influencing role in the decisions made by Maria De Guise and the other figures mentioned throughout. However, history is steeped in history and no one book can give the whole picture. For those who know a fair amount about this time period, you shouldn't expect to learn anything new but it is still fun to read.

M. Clegg's style of writing in engaging and brings Marie's story to life. Most importantly, it leaves one wanting to learn more. Thank you very much to Netgalley for the opportunity to read such an entertaining book.

NetGalley, Jennifer Pye

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What first compelled me to request this book was the blurb and the realization that, indeed, I knew very little about Marie de Guise. I’ve read novels and non-fiction about both her predecessor as Queen of Scots, Henry VIII’s sister Margaret Tudor, and her successor, the famous Mary, Elizabeth I’s arch-nemesis, so I was quite intrigued to find out more about this other historical figure.

And Melanie Clegg didn’t disappoint me. She draws a fascinating picture of Marie de Guise’s forebears, including her upbringing in Lorraine, where she was surrounded by an almost clan-like, but loving family. The portraits of her doting mother, pious but cunning, and her larger-than-life chevalier of a father, successful war veteran and his daughter’s hero, together with other eminent members of the Guise let me understand how Marie’s character was forged. Later she joins the sparkling French court of King Francis I (François 1er), where she meets her husband, the Duke of Longueville. Theirs is a happy union which allows her to establish the same relationship of two equals she has seen her parents construct between themselves. Alas, only two years after their son Francis is born, the Duke dies at Rouen and leaves Marie a (well provided-for) widow.

She then goes on to marry Henry VIII’s nephew James V of Scotland against the resistance of the English king, who apparently would have liked to win her as his own wife instead. When Marie moves to Scotland, she leaves her little, beloved son behind. And her suffering has only just begun, because her first two sons by James die at a very young age, and her new husband deceases as well only six days after their daughter Mary was born. A situation which leads to a serious struggle for power between several forces within Scotland…

A highly enjoyable read that not only paints a compelling portrait of the Queen of Scots with lush details told in a vivid narrative, but also draws the picture of Marie de Guise’s contemporaries as well as of her times. Maybe there might not be enough referenced detail for a scholar, but for a lay historian with an educated interest in the Tudor-era like I am, this is a really good source not only of information but also of entertainment in the sense that I really loved reading the book.

NetGalley, Dieter Moitzi

Well written and very educational. Gives you a full picture. I enjoyed this book very much and would highly recommend.

NetGalley, Christine Cazeneuve

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I learnt much from this book, there is so much research included, but it doesn’t detract from a very good story. I have visited so many places in France and Scotland on the trail of Mary, Queen of Scots, perhaps it is time to return to France and find out more about a brave 16 th century, female ruler.

NetGalley, Daphne Sharpe

For people who love historical biographies, this is an untapped vein of fascinating content. Drawn in by the title and its reference to Henry VIII,I found myself discovering a whole new part of history. This is a terrific book and a refreshing new angle on a period of history already well chronicled.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

I was eager to read Melanie Clegg's book about Marie de Guise as most of what is written about the history of that period is through the lens of the French or English. Although Marie de Guise may be a lesser known figure of those turbulent times, Clegg offered a detailed look at a life of a charismatic, influential and savvy political operator and the book did not disappoint. Thoroughly researched, I enjoyed Clegg's writing and how she allowed the reader to come to know Marie de Guise in her entirety by weaving together personal details with accounts of the politically charged times through which she lived.

NetGalley, Erin Loranger

It was an enjoyable read overall, which fans of history and general readers alike will enjoy and it does much to bring Marie de Guise’s fascinating history to life, giving her the recognition as a ruler she deserves.

NetGalley, Uppity Blond

This is superb biography about a woman who you would expect to hear more about, but hear she looks to have been bought out of the shadow.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

Clegg deserves a great deal of credit for bringing Marie out of the shadows into the light of day. She truly was one of the most extraordinary women of the Renaissance and, while not native to Scotland, she clearly cared deeply for her adopted country and did her best to govern it as effectively as possible under incredibly difficult circumstances. I’d definitely recommend this book to others.

Read the full review here

Queerly Different

This book was a joy to read. Melanie Clegg was able to make a biography read like a novel, yet stay informative and academic. I did not know what to expect, since this was the first book by Melanie Clegg that I have ever read, but from page one I was hooked. This was the first biography about Marie de Guise that I have ever read and now I want to read more about her. If you would like to read an engaging biography about Mary, Queen of Scots vivacious mother Marie de Guise, I highly recommend you read, “Scourge of Henry VIII: The Life of Marie de Guise” by Melanie Clegg.

Read the full review here

Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

It’s brilliant and all of the Tudor/Stuart history lovers out there HAVE TO read this... his brings to life, the story of the Mother of Mary, Queen of Scotland, the woman who stood against the Protestant reform in Scotland. The Queen Mother. She is such a misunderstood character but this book shows her true skill: she was a capable and smart ruler, smarter than all the man who surrounded her. Great read guys.

Read the full Instagram review here

The Marina Era, Instagram

I loved discovering how Marie became this strong & courageous figure that was devoted to protecting her daughters (Mary Queen of Scots) birthright after James V died.

A fantastic gilmps into the life of the mother of Mary Queen of Scots.

See the full Instagram review here

Adele Healey, Bits_faerietales Instagram

As featured in author highlights

History of Royals, November 2017

Melanie Clegg’s biography on Marie de Guise is most definitely history at its best. It has everything in a biography that I could wish for so much so that I didn’t want it to end and I certainly didn’t want to say goodbye to Marie. Since reading this biography Marie has now become one of my favourite historical female figures.

The last thing I would like to say about this book is that I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in this period of history, wanting to learn more about events that occurred then or simply want to find out and learn about such a kick-ass historical female figure. This book will definitely be on my top read favourite books of 2017.

Read the full review here.


Check out this video review, as featured on Lil's Vintage World YouTube Channel.

Lil's Vintage World

Despite the title, Clegg's book is in fact a fairly conventional biography - and as biographies of de Guise are in rather short supply, it's one that's most welcome.

History of Royals, January 2017

The last serious biography of Marie de Guise was published in 1977 and whereas plenty of attention has been paid to the mistakes of her daughter’s eventful but brief reign, the time has come for a fresh assessment of this most fascinating and under-appreciated of sixteenth century female rulers.

Pennant, Forces Pension Society

Mary, Queen of Scots, is one of the most famous and iconic monarchs the world has ever known. Less famed but no less formidable was her mother, Marie de Guise. When a brief courtship with Henry VIII came to nothing, this worldly, wily woman married James V of Scotland, and after only four years of marriage, would go on to rule the nation as a widow. Marie's story is often a footnote in the life of her daughter, yet it was thanks to her political wheeler-dealing, shrewd cunning and sheer charm that Mary made it to the hotly-contested throne at all.

From Marie's childhood at the glittering court of the Lorraine dynasty - alive with the intrigue, scandal and glamour - to her grave at Reims, Clegg brings this remarkable woman vividly back to life. Her passion for the era is evident and her investigation into the blazing feud between Marie and the Tudors shows a keen and evocative eye for drama. This is not just a biographical account of Marie de Guise's life, however, as Clegg also includes a fascinating look at how the queen regnant influenced Renaissance art and architecture. A selection of photographs from the author's own collection and other sources illustrate not only this influence, but also the players in this remarkable tale.

The book is opened by a dramatis personae that will prove handy to those who might be new to some of the characters, and Clegg writes with an informative, entertaining and enthusiastic tone that draws her readers straight into the heart of the story. Marie de Guise has not been the subject of a complete biography in almost 30 years, and Melanie Clegg has more than made up for lost time with Scourge of Henry VIII. This is a book that will fascinate anyone who loves a simmering, twisting tale; it's a pleasure to see Marie finally heading the bill.

All About History, December 2016

Whilst Mary, Queen of Scots is a familiar historical figure her mother, Marie de Guise, is relatively unknown. The historian and blogger Melanie Clegg delves into the relationship de Guide had with her French family, The Lorraines, with imaginative fervour which sees this lively biography often stray into the realms of fiction.

Scottish Field, November 2016

As someone who has always been fascinated by history, and in particular the Tudors, this biography of Mary de Guise is more of an historical textbook, and fills in an enormous number of gaps in what we know about Mary Queen of Scots. I don't believe people will ever tire of reading about this dynasty, and Melanie's relaxed style seems almost suited to novel writing. If only school history texts had been this readable back in the 1950s!

Books Monthly, reviewed by Paul Norman

As featured in as BOOK OF THE MONTH

Majesty magazine, October 2016

As featured on Goodreads Rated 5 Stars!


About Melanie Clegg

Fascinated by history from a very early age, Melanie Clegg graduated from the University of Nottingham with a degree in History of Art. She originally turned to writing historical fiction and her women’s history blog, Madame Guillotine, as a means of escaping from the dull admin jobs that she found herself doing, before becoming a full time writer and historian.

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