Henry VIII negotiated a marriage treaty for his son Edward and Mary Queen of Scots. He pursued an aggressive policy when the Scots rejected the treaty’s terms.

Portrait of Henry VIII
Portrait of Henry VIII

The English defeated the Scots at Solway Moss on 24 November 1542 and took 1,200 captive. James V died three weeks later, leaving his week old daughter Mary as Queen of Scotland.

Treaty of Greenwich

Influential Scottish nobles were captured and brought to London where they were pressured into signing the Treaty of Greenwich on 1 July 1543. Henry’s terms were harsh. Mary must be handed over to the English, when she was ten years old.

Edward as Prince of Wales, 1546.
Edward as Prince of Wales, 1546.

Henry’s prisoners changed allegiance once they arrived back in Scotland. The Scots rejected this treaty and renewed their alliance with France, especially when Catherine de Medici finally produced an heir (the future Frances II) in January 1544.

Mary of Guise was extremely reluctant to hand her daughter over to a man who had already beheaded two wives!

Henry was furious so he sent Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, to annihilate the Scots in the most savage campaign known as “the Rough Wooing”.

Hertford was ordered to “put all to the fire and sword, burn Edinburgh, so razed and defaced when you have sacked and gotten what ye can of it as there may remain forever and perpetual memory of the vengeance of God upon [them] for their falsehood and disloyalty.”

Edinburgh was burnt in two days, Holyrood Palace was sacked and ancient tombs of the Douglas family at Melrose were also destroyed.

Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector
Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector

The Scots took revenge by destroying an English raiding force and won a short-lived victory at Ancrum Moor on 27 February 1545.

Hertford led another equally destructive raid in September. Henry VIII had established garrisons in the Lowlands, manned by English troops and foreign mercenaries. They proved very expensive to maintain.

Henry VIII and Francis I of France both died in 1547. Hertford was created Duke of Somerset by Edward VI. Henri II became King of France and the Guise family were returned to power. Mary of Guise was determined to seek an alliance with France with help from her influential relatives.

Somerset determined to force the Scots to agree to the marriage of Mary to Edward VI, as he believed in total conquest and union of Scotland with England. His aim was bringing the little Scottish Queen to Court.

Battle of Pinkie

An offer of peace was made – on condition of a marriage treaty between Edward and Mary – when Somerset reached Berwick with 16,000 troops. The Scots chose to attack, rather than defend their position, with disastrous results. Somerset defeated the Scots at Pinkie* (near Musselburgh) on 30 August 1547, but it soon became a massacre within five hours. About 13,000 lost their lives.

Francis II of France
Francis II of France

Mary of Guise was concerned for her daughter’s safety at Stirling, Scotland’s strongest castle, especially with the English only six miles away.

Mary Queen of Scots was hidden away at Inchmahome Priory whilst her mother appealed to the French for aid. Henri II suggested a marriage between his son, Francis (born 19 January 1544), and her daughter.

The French sent 5,000 professional soldiers and the latest fighting equipment. They landed at Leith in June 1548 and defeated the English.

The French Marriage Treaty was signed on 7 July. A month later, six-year-old Mary sailed for France from Dumbarton to be raised as the future dauphine and queen.

Somerset’s Downfall

Somerset’s massive armies and network of garrisons were too expensive to maintain.

A French attack on Bologne finally forced Somerset to withdraw in 1549.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, replaced Somerset as Head of the Government in October 1549.

*Also known as the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.

Mary Queen of Scots, aged 13.
Mary Queen of Scots, aged 13.


Dunn, Jane, Elizabeth & Mary Cousins Rivals Queens, Harper Perennial (An imprint of HarperCollins), Hammersmith, 2003

Fisher, Andrew, A Traveller’s History of Scotland (Fifth Edition), Interlink Books, New York, 2002

Fraser, Antonia, Mary Queen of Scots, Phoenix Press, London, 2002

Fraser, Antonia [Editor], The Lives of the Kings & Queens of England, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, (reprinted 2005)

Gold, Claudia, Queen, Empress, Concubine: Fifty Women Rulers from the Queen of Sheba to Catherine the Great, Quercus, London, 2008

Marshall, Rosalind K, Scottish Queens 1034-1714, John Donald [an imprint of Birlinn Ltd], Edinburgh, 2007

Skidmore, Chris, Edward VI: The Lost King of England, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2007

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© 2009 Carolyn Cash

This article was originally published by Suite 101 on 6 June 2009.

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