The Treaty of Edinburgh was signed between Scotland, England and France on the 6th of July, 1560.
Two events in 1560 combined to create the environment for the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh. In February, the Treaty of Berwick was signed, which led to English troops entering Scotland. And in June, the Catholic Mary of Guise, mother of Mary, Queen of Scots, and co-Regent of Scotland, died. That latter event signalled and end to Catholic resistance in Scotland. The Treaty of Edinburgh was then concluded on the 6th of July, 1560. With the assent of the Scottish Lords of the Congregation, the Commissioners of Queen Elizabeth I and French representatives in Scotland agreed to formally conclude the Siege of Leith, abolish the ‘Auld Alliance’ between France and Scotland, establish a new Anglo Scottish accord, and maintain the peace between England and France that had been agreed by the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis. Also included in the Treaty was the agreement for Mary, Queen of Scots, and her husband, the French King François II, to give up Mary’s claim to the English crown and to recognise Elizabeth I as rightful Queen of England.
The earlier Treaty of Berwick was signed on the 27th of February, 1560, between the representatives of Queen Elizabeth I of England and the Scottish Lords of the Congregation. The result of that treaty was that an English fleet and an army came to Scotland to help expel the ten thousand French troops that were defending the Regency of the Catholic Mary of Guise. The reason Elizabeth was so keen on that treaty was because she feared that France intended to rule Scotland, which would have threatened her realm. In addition, she feared greater unity between Scotland and France, and in particular, Mary Stewart’s claim to her throne.
Mary had a strong claim to that throne, through her grandfather, James IV, who was married to Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. Catholic Mary was therefore a legitimate relative of Henry VIII, unlike Protestant Elizabeth, who was illegitimate, at least in Catholic eyes, because they saw her father’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother, as being illegal. Ipso facto, she was not the true Queen of England.
In addition, when Mary had married the then fifteen year old Dauphin, François, on the 24th of April, 1558, when she was herself just fourteen, the two countries had signed an accord. That agreement stipulated that the crowns of Scotland and France would be unified if there were children of the marriage, and the crown of Scotland would be given to France if there were not. From a French point of view, because Mary had legitimate claims, they wanted her to be the Queen of England, Scotland and France. Voilà!
Another factor concerning Elizabeth was the desire to further hasten the Reformation in Scotland, which is why the Scottish Lords of the Congregation were trying to get the Catholic French expelled. For Elizabeth, if Scotland were Protestant, that would make it an ally and help protect England. Armed conflict ensued and the English arrived. French troops retreated, and fortified the port and town of Leith against the combined force of English and Scottish Protestants. And so began the Siege of Leith.
With the death of Mary of Guise, on the 11th of June, 1560, the figurehead of the Scottish Catholic resistance was removed. Mary of Guise had been ruling as Queen Regent on behalf of her absent daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, who was at that time also Queen Consort in France. In Mary’s absence, the Lords of the Congregation acted on Scotland’s behalf or more properly, their own behalf. Some were confirmed Protestants and couldn’t see past their religious fervour, but some were just chancers who saw an opportunity to claim power for themselves. The terms of the treaty were drawn up on the 5th of July by John de Montluc, Bishop of Valence, Charles de la Rochefoucault, Sieur de Randan, Sir William Cecil and Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury and York. It was concluded on the following day, the 6th of July, 1560. Nobody asked Mary, Queen of Scots, if that would be OK.
After the Treaty was signed, the French and English armies left Scotland and left the Scottish Protestant nobles in charge – properly delighted with themselves. Later, in August, the ‘Reformation Parliament’ of 1560 met and ratified the acts that would establish the Protestant Kirk in Scotland. It prohibited the practise of the Latin Mass in Scotland and denied the authority of the Pope, in effect implementing the Reformation across Scotland. The detestable John Knox was one of the leading figures during the rebellion against Mary of Guise and French Catholic control of Scotland. The signing of the Treaty and the removal of the French enabled him to return from Europe to lead the fight to make Scotland Protestant. Ultimately, he and his Calvinist successors succeeded.
On the 5th of December, 1560, the eighteen years old Mary, Queen of Scots, was widowed and, as Charles IX had no real incentive to support her, she was increasingly isolated in France. The French also had more to do with their own affairs after the outbreak of the Wars of Religion. And so, on the 19th of August, 1561, Mary had little choice but to accept an invitation to return to Protestant Scotland as Queen.
Now, don’t forget, the Treaty of Edinburgh had not been ratified by Mary, Queen of Scots. She was the reigning monarch and it needed her ratification, but as somebody might have said, “Ach weel, it was lackin’ only a signature and hersel’ still a wee bit lassie, just.” Mary was put under considerable pressure to ratify the Treaty, but she had no intention of so doing. She viewed the Lords of the Congregation as rebels and traitors against herself and her mother, Mary of Guise. Another reason for not ratifying the treaty was because it officially declared Elizabeth I Queen of England, effectively ending Mary’s claim to that throne. When all was said and done, Mary had to accept the terms of the Treaty, but she never signed.