February 2024
Follow Me on Pinterest

24 April: a Scottish-French anniversary in Notre-Dame de Paris

24 April 2019…

I will never forget what two Australian ladies, or should I say “pilgrims” for these friendly ladies were actually visiting the country of their ancestors, emphatically told us one morning, as we were sharing one of the best Scottish breakfasts we’ve ever had, in one of our favourite B&Bs situated near Scone Palace : “How we envy you to have shared so many pages of history with Scotland and especially the one with Mary Stuart. Yes, we French must not forget that Mary, the venerated Queen of Scots, was also Queen of France from 10 July 1559 to 5 December 1560… too short a time alas for François II, the young king of France, died prematurely in 1560. Marie Stuart had married the French Dauphin a few months before at Notre-Dame de Paris…

François II and Marie Stuart Livres d'Heures de Catherine de Médicis

François II and Marie Stuart Livres d’Heures de Catherine de Médicis

A sumptuous wedding it had been at the cathedral, on that 24 April 1558, 461 years ago exactly, when Marie, aged only sixteen, married the French Dauphin, Francis Valois, her cousin only aged fourteen at the time.

This marriage and the coronation which would take place a few months later were to be major landmarks on the path of the Auld Alliance.

Mary Queen of Scots, by Antonia Fraser, is my favourite biography of Mary Stuart. Many of its pages are devoted to the years she spent in France and I’ve found a very detailed description of the wedding.

Mary Queen of Scots Antonia Fraser 40th anniversary edition Phoenix 2009 edge and front cover

The French court, in true Renaissance fashion, desired its principals to shine out luminously against a background of endless pageantry; never were its wishes more splendidly gratified than in the marriage ceremonies of Francis, dauphin of France, and Mary Queen of Scots. The wedding itself took place on Sunday, 24 April at the cathedral of Notre Dame. The contemporary Discours du Grand et Magnifique Triomphe faict du Mariage gives a full description of the festivities, in which the writer himself seems to be frequently awed by the magnificence of what he is recounting. Already in March, Henry had asked the French Parliament  to stay at the convent of the Augustins, in order that its palace could be adequately and conveniently prepared. Notre Dame itself was embellished with a special structure outside in the antique manner, to make a kind of open-air theatre, and an arch twelve feet high inside. The royal fleur-de-lys was embroidered everywhere, and positively studded the canopy in front of the church.

(Mary Queen of Scots– Chapter 5 “Queen -Dauphiness” – Antonia Fraser)

The Hotel-Dieu and Notre-Dame - 16th engraving - Source Wikipedia

The Hotel-Dieu and Notre-Dame – 16th engraving – Source Wikipedia

This old engraving of Notre-Dame gives an idea of what it looked like at the time of the wedding of Mary Queen of Scots with the dauphin François II.

Now entered the King-Dauphin Francis, led by the King Antoine de Navarre and his two younger brothers Charles, duke of Orleans, and Henry, duke of Angoulême. Finally entered the centre-piece of the occasion, Mary, queen-dauphiness, led by Henry II and her cousin the duke of Lorraine. Mary Stuart, on this the first of her three wedding-days, was dressed in a robe as white as lilies, so sumptuous and rich that the pen of the contemporary observer fell from his hands at the thought of describing it. Since white was traditionally the mourning colour of the queens of France, Mary Stuart had defied tradition to wear it on her wedding-day; it certalinly remained a favourite shade with her throughout her youth, and even in later years she loved to have something white about her face and neck; perhaps of all colours she felt that it set off her brilliant colouring to best advantage. On this occasion, her immensely long train was borne by two young girls; tall and elegant, she herself must have glittered like the goddess of a pageant, with diamonds round her neck, and on her head a golden crown garnished with perarls, rubies, sapphires and other precious stones, as well as one huge carbuncle worth over 500,000 crowns.

(Mary Queen of Scots– Chapter 5 “Queen -Dauphiness” – Antonia Fraser)

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris Northwest view at sunrise Wikipedia

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris Northwest view at sunrise Wikipedia

A picture of Notre-Dame as it was only a few days ago,  not exactly the same as it had been in 1558, but Mary would certainly have recognized it.

Notre Dame de Paris, south façade, a view from le pont de l'Archevêché - Wikipedia

Notre Dame de Paris, south façade, a view from le pont de l’Archevêché – Wikipedia

A few days ago, Notre-Dame was still standing proud on the “île de la Cité” , like a stone vessel anchored between the two arms of the Seine, in the heart of Paris… but that was before the fatal day of 15 April 2019…


15 April 2019 fire at Notre Dame of Paris Source Wikipedia

That day, just before 18:20, a fire broke out beneath the roof of Notre-Dame. Soon, the whole edifice seemed to be on fire and the magnificent 96 meter-high spire collapsed. On the quays along the Seine, people coming back from their work had crowded and were standing there, silent, incredulous, dumfounded by what they saw. We were all glued to our televisions and most people began to think that the whole cathedral was going to be burnt to the ground…

The BBC’s reports are remarkable:

One week after the fire, the Easter Mass was celebrated in the nearby church of Saint Eustache not far from Notre-Dame which now stands there as a big solitary empty shell.

Today, I can understand better what had happened to the magnificent ruined abbeys of the Scottish Borders: Melrose, Jedburgh, Dryburgh, Kelso…

However, Notre-Dame has escaped the worst. It will take time but it will be reconstructed and most of all, there had been no victims.

“Cathedrals and churches are being urged by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland to ring their bells in solidarity with Paris following the devastating fire that struck the Notre-Dame cathedral.”

But for whom the bell tolls…

April 2019 will remain forever in our memories as a very sad month but not only because of the devastating fire which destroyed part of our beloved and emblematic cathedral. We can’t but sympathize with the people of Sri Lanka who were also celebrating Easter, far away from Paris, in their beautiful and sunny island. Nobody could have imagined such a carnage that the one which took place there when several explosions occurred at the same time in the churches of Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo and in several hotels. They killed  359 people and wounded 500… another “Bloody Easter”… it’s terrible and beyond comprehension…

No need to say more…

So, à bientôt, dear readers.


Façade Sud de Notre-Dame de Paris à la floraison des cerisiers - Wikipedia

Façade Sud de Notre-Dame de Paris à la floraison des cerisiers – Wikipedia

1 comment to 24 April: a Scottish-French anniversary in Notre-Dame de Paris

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.