Mary of Guelders

Mary of Guelders (Dutch: Maria van Gelre; c. 1434 1 December 1463) was the queen consort of Scotland by marriage to King James II of Scotland. She served as regent of Scotland from 1460 to 1463.

Mary of Guelders
Queen consort of Scotland
Tenure3 July 1449 3 August 1460
Grave, Netherlands
Died1 December 1463(1463-12-01) (aged 28–29)
Roxburgh Castle, Roxburghshire
James II of Scotland
(m. 1449; died 1460)
IssueJames III of Scotland
Alexander Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany
David Stewart, Earl of Moray
John Stewart, 1st Earl of Mar and Garioch
Margaret Stewart
Mary Stewart, Countess of Arran
FatherArnold, Duke of Gelderland
MotherCatherine of Cleves
ReligionRoman Catholic



She was the daughter of Arnold, Duke of Guelders, and Catherine of Cleves. She was a great-niece of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy.

Burgundian court

Philip and his wife Isabella of Portugal at first planned to have Mary betrothed to Charles, Count of Maine, but her father could not pay the dowry.[1] Mary stayed on at the Burgundian court, where Isabella frequently paid for her expenses. Mary attended Isabella's daughter-in-law Catherine of France, while she herself was attended upon by ten people.[2] The duke and duchess then started negotiations for a Scottish marriage. Philip promised to pay her dowry, while Isabella paid for her trousseau. William Crichton came to the Burgundian court to escort her back to Scotland.[3]

Queen of Scotland

Mary landed in Scotland in June 1449 and both nobles and the common people came to see her as she made her way to Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh. Mary married James II, King of Scots, at Holyrood Abbey on 3 July 1449, and was crowned Queen Consort by Abbot Patrick.[4]

A sumptuous banquet was given, while the Scottish king gave her several presents. Immediately after the marriage ceremony, she was dressed in purple robes and crowned queen. It had been agreed that any sons they might have would have no right to the duchy of Guelders.

Queen Mary was granted several castles and the income from many lands from James, which made her independently wealthy. In May 1454, she was present at the siege of Blackness Castle, and when it resulted in the victory of the king, he gave it to her as a gift. She made several donations to charity, such as when she founded a hospital just outside Edinburgh for the indigent; and to religion, such as when she benefited the Franciscan friars in Scotland.


After her husband's death, Mary acted as regent for their son James III of Scotland until her own death three years later. Mary was drawn into the Wars of the Roses taking place in England at this time. She appointed Bishop James Kennedy as her chief advisor; their companionship was described as well-functioning despite the fact that the bishop favoured an alliance with the Lancastrians, while Mary at first wanted to continue playing off the warring parties in England against each other.[5]

While Mary was still mourning the death of King James II, the Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou fled north across the border seeking refuge from the Yorkists. Mary sympathetically aided Margaret and took Edward of Westminster into her household to keep them out of Yorkist hands.

Mary's dealings with Margaret were mainly to provide aid to the deposed queen. Mary gave a number of Scottish troops to help Margaret and the Lancastrian cause. Mary and Margaret also organised a betrothal between Margaret's son Edward and Mary's daughter Margaret in 1461. In return for her support, Mary asked for the town of Berwick on the Anglo-Scottish border, which Margaret was willing to give up.

Relations between the two women deteriorated, however, with the increasingly friendly alliance between King Edward IV of England and Duke Philip of Burgundy. Any support by Mary for Margaret, Edward's enemy, threatened the alliance that Duke Philip wanted with King Edward IV against the French King Louis XI.

Edward IV tried to put a stop to Mary's support of Margaret by proposing marriage to the widowed queen, which Mary rejected. Mary's uncle, Duke Philip, pressured her to call off the betrothal of her daughter and Prince Edward, to Margaret's disappointment. In 1462, she paid the Lancastrian royals to leave Scotland and made peace with Edward IV. She also hinted at the possibility of a marriage between herself and the new English king. Mary, reportedly, had several affairs during her period as regent, notably one with the Lord Hailes.[6]

Mary went ahead with James II's plan to build a castle on land at Ravenscraig, designed to withstand the use of artillery, and lived in it while it was under construction until her death.[7]

Trinity College Church

Mary founded Trinity College Church ca. 1460 in memory of her husband. The church, located in the area now known as Edinburgh's Old Town, was demolished in 1848 to make way for Waverley station, although it was partially reconstructed on a different site in 1870 under the name Trinity Apse. Mary was buried in the church, and her coffin was moved to Holyrood Abbey in 1848.


James and Mary had seven children together:



  1. Marshall, Rosalind K. (2003). Scottish Queens, 1034-1714. Tuckwell Press. pp. 57–58.
  2. Marshall, Rosalind K. (2003). Scottish Queens, 1034-1714. pp. 57–58.
  3. Marshall, Rosalind K. (2003). Scottish Queens, 1034-1714. p. 60.
  4. Grants "Old and New Edinburgh"
  5. Marshall, Rosalind K. (2003). Scottish Queens, 1034-1714. p. 66.
  6. Anne Echols, Marty Williams: An annotated index of medieval women
  7. Marshall, Rosalind K. (2003). Scottish Queens, 1034-1714. p. 67.


  • Haeger, Knut (1982), Skotsk krönika (A Scottish Chronicle) (in Swedish), Stockholm, ISBN 91-20-06736-4
  • Thomas Finlayson Henderson (1893). "Mary (d.1463)" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 36. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  • Marshall, Rosalind Kay (2003), Scottish Queens, 10341714, Tuckwell, ISBN 9781862322714
  • Weir, Alison (1995), Lancaster and York: The War of the Roses, London, ISBN 978-0-09-954017-5
  • Richard Oram: The Kings and Queens of Scotland
  • Timothy Venning: The Kings and Queens of Scotland
  • Mike Ashley: British Kings and Queens
  • Elizabeth Ewan, Sue Innes and Sian Reynolds: The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women
Scottish royalty
Preceded by
Joan Beaufort
Queen consort of Scotland
Succeeded by
Margaret of Denmark
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