Mary & Francis’ Wedding

The Wedding of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots


Francis of Valois, the Dauphin of France

Sunday, April 24th 1558.

In the

Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris

The brilliant ceremony took place in the morning at the Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame which had been elaborately decorated in honour of the royal couple.  Great crowds assembled in the streets to witness the colorful wedding procession to the cathedral.  In the presence of royalty, prelates of the Church, princes of the blood , exalted members of the aristocracy, and high city officials, the dynasties of Stuart and Valois were joined together in a matrimonial alliance.*  Charles, Cardinal of Bourbon, a relative of the French king performed the nuptial rites. “

*NOTE: The political consequences of the marriage gave hope to some that one day there would be a union of the two kingdoms.


Notre Dame Cathedral

  • “…  .  Before the great door of the church a royal canopy was erected covered with fleurs de lys with tapestry of similar nature on the two sides of the door …
  • And, from ten to eleven o’clock in the morning came first the Swiss, dressed in their liveries, carrying their halberds, with their tambourines and fifes performing according to their custom for about half an hours.


  • And afterwards came Monsieur de Guise, who having come upon the platform, saluted honourably the reverend father in God Eustache du Bellay, Bishop of Paris, who was there with several lords, nobles, and gentlemen, awaiting the arrival of the princes and nobles.  Then turning himself towards the people and seeing that these nobles and gentlemen who were upon the platform prevented the people who were below *from seeing the triumph of this marriage, in a few words, making a sign with his hand caused these gentlemen to retire. “


  • “…  there followed him a great number of players on musical instruments, such as trumpets, bugles, oboes, flageolets, viols, violins, zithers, guitars, and numerous others, sounding and playing so melodiously that it was most pleasing.  These musicians were dressed in red and yellow livery.


  • Afterwards came the hundred gentlemen of the King in good order and dress. 


  • Then came the princes so richly adorned and dressed that it was marvelous to behold. 


  • Afterwards followed the abbots, the bishops, three particularly carrying mitres and very rich croziers.


  • Then afterwards the archbishops in great number,


  • Then the most reverend Cardinals of Bourbon, of Lorraine, of Guise, of Sens, of Meudon, and Lenoncourt,


  • Which followed the most reverend Cardinal Trivulzio, Legate in France, before whom was carried the cross and maces of gold.


  • Finally came the King-Dauphin and Queen-Dauphine, the King of Navarre conducting the King-Dauphin accompanied by Monsieur d’Orleans and Monsieur d’Angouleme, and the Queen-Dauphine by the very Christian King of France, accompanied by Monseigneiur the Duke of Lorraine, was dressed in a garment white as a lily and so sumptuously and richly made that it would be impossible to describe it and of which two young ladies carried a wonderfully long train.”

*NOTE: A platform or stage had been raised at the parvis (the space at the entrance to the Cathedral) so the ordinary people could easily witness the procession of nobles, prelates and the bride and groom.



The Wedding


Henry, the King “arriving before the great door of the church…drew from his finger a ring which he gave to Monseigneur the Cardinal of Bourbon, Archbishop of Rouen, who married them here in this place in the presence of the reverend father in God, Monseigneur the Bishop of Paris who gave a learned and very elegant oration to  the company.


Meanwhile, Monsieur de Guise, accompanied by two heralds of arms, dressed in their tunics, came around the balustrades of the platform and made the nobles and gentlemen withdraw so that the people who were in very great and infinite number in the street of new Notre Dame and at the windows on all sides in the said great square of the parvis might more easily see this triumph. 


Then the heralds cried aloud three times ‘Largesse’ and threw to the people a great number of gold and silver pieces of all kinds, such as henrys, ducats, crowns, pistolets, half crowns, testons, and douzins.


 Then was seen such a tumult and cry among the people that one could not hear so great was the clamor of the company in that place, some throwing themselves upon others for the cupidity which they had.  Some fainted there, others lost their cloaks, some their hats and other clothes.  So greatly were the people crushed that they cried to the heralds not to throw more because of the tumult.  “


The nobles who had previously withdrawn at the request of the King  re-entered the church where “the Bishop of Paris said and celebrated Mass with so great dignity and reverence that it is impossible to tell it.  During the offertory there was thrown in the church from one side to another a great sum of silver and gold coins as a sign of liberality and generosity. “



The Banquet and the Royal Ball


“Having left the church King Henry as Prince and debonair monarch perceiving that the greater part of the people who were below could not see this triumph, had the whole company march by the side of (the) platform showing themselves to the delighted people.  Then they returned to the Bishop’s palace, the great hall of which was lavishly decorated in royal style and much magnificence. 


With dinner finished the royal ball began at which the very Christian King danced with the Queen-Dauphine his daughter.  The King-Dauphin, (danced with) the Queen his mother.  …   The ball ended about four or five o’clock in the evening.”


The King and all his company then traveled to the palace (Palais du Louvre) to continue the celebration.



The Procession to the Louvre Palace, Paris


Passing along the bridge Notre Dame and returning straight to the palace by way of the ‘Pot au Change’, were the princes and gentlemen and others mounted on splendid horses caparisoned in cloth of gold and silver.


 The princesses in their litters and open coaches were adorned the same way. 


The Queen was in her litter and the Queen-Dauphine her daughter with her, the Cardinals of Lorraine and Bourbon being at the side. 


The King-Dauphin followed this litter, accompanied by the Duke of Lorraine and other princes and princesses and the matrons and young ladies mounted on superb palfries adorned with crimson velvet and ornaments of gold and riches in such profusion that one could not estimate the value.


 The people were so numerous in the streets that the nobles could scarce proceed, although they were mounted on horseback.


They arrived at the palace which was so magnificently decorated that one had to say that the Elysian Fields would not have been more beautiful nor delightful.”



Supper and Festivities at the Louvre Palace


The King and all the blood royal sat down at the table at which place they were served right royally.


 First came the musicians with trumpets, clarions, oboes, flageolets, and others in great number after the hundred gentlemen carrying their arms.


 Then came the maîtres d’hôtel of the Queen-Dauphine, of the King-Dauphin, of the Queen and King.   After the grand maître d’hôtel of the King there followed Monsieur de Guise, serving as Master of Ceremonies in the absence of the Constable, who kept such good order in everything that he received great praise. 


At the supper were the presidents, councilors, generals and other officers of the court of Parliament, dressed magnificently in their red robes.”


“…   Supper over and grace said, one could see the matrons and maidens jumping for joy.  At the ball there were * masks, * mummeries, ballads, and other games and diversions.  There was so much entertainment that it is almost impossible to describe.  Among other things there were twelve make-believe horses all adorned with cloth of gold and silver, conducted and led artificially.  They walked so strongly that one would have said they were living.  Upon them were mounted Monsieur d’Orléans, Monsieur d’ Angoulême, the little children of the Dukes of Guise and d’Aumale accompanied by other little and young princes leading in their coaches a great number of visitors all dressed in cloth of silver and gold, with precious stones and jewels in great abundance, singing melodiously with instruments, hymns, and canticles in praise of the newly married couple and of the marriage.


After this celebration (parade) was finished came six ships covered with cloth of gold and crimson velvet, the sails of silver linen so ingeniously made and conducted with such dexterity that one would think they were floating in the water and being tossed about the waives and billows of the sea, for upon entering the hall, as at sea, they sometimes came forward, and sometimes they went back, as if going into harbor.  Sometimes they moved here and there as though they were harassed and agitated by contrary winds.  And sometimes they went with such force and abruptness, and the top sails were so well stretched that one would have said they were conducted by the winds artificially.  Below each one were two seats for two people, and having made several turns through the ballroom each of those on the ship took in passing any lady he fancied, and having put her into the ship the two together without any other apparent conductors sailed through the hall.  The princes who conducted these ships were first the Duke of Lorraine who took Madame Claude, daughter of the King, afterwards the King of Navarre and his wife, Monsieur de Nemours and Madame Marguerite, sister of the King, the Prince of Condé and Madame de Guise, the King and the Queen-Dauphine, the King-Dauphin and the Queen his mother, and all together led the ships with these ladies safely into port.  It is impossible to describe the triumphs and magnificence, the grandeur and dexterity in conducting those vessels nor the half of their richness.  I leave to others to tell of the enjoyments, fantasies, mummeries, song, and diverse amusements.  I shall only say most of those who were in the hall could not say whether the flambeaux and lanterns, or the jeweled rings, precious stones, gold and silver were brightest.  After that the royal buffet was announced which caused much admiration for there were eight or ten stages loaded with all kinds of golden vessels in antique style and otherwise, of inestimable value and workmanship, among which below were great and little tubs of gold.  In short there was so much richness and the vessels so well made that it is almost impossible to tell of what they were composed.


The triumphs and ball finished, each one retired till next day when the King and all the princes, lords, and ladies dined at the palace, and after dinner, about two or three o’clock in the afternoon, they went to the Louvre where the festivities continued for several days, during which several other marriages took place,

… .”


*NOTE: Masks were masquerade balls where participants wore fancy elaborately decorated masks.


*NOTE: Mummeries were pantomimes where funny costumes were worn while taking part in a  pantomime.  Pantomimes were performed during merrymaking at special celebrations and during the Christmas season.  The performers/actors  were called mummers.



Discours du grand et magnifique triumphs faict au marriage do tresnoble & magnifique Prince François de Valois Roy-Dauphin,fil aisne du tres-chrestien Roy de France Henry ij. Du nome, & de treshaulte & vertueuse Princesse madam Marie d’Estuart Roine de’Escosse  (Paris, par Annet Brière, 1558)

English translation by B.C. Weber








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