Friday, December 5, 2014
On this day in 1560, King François II died at the young age of sixteen. François was the eldest son of Henri II and Catherine de Medici (and therefore grandson of his namesake, François I). He had become king only the year before, when his father Henri died after a freak jousting accident that lodged a lance splinter in his eye and brain.
François had never been a robust child; small for his age, he suffered from eczema and a chronic ear infection that ultimately caused his death. In mid-November 1560, a large swelling appeared behind his left ear, indicating the inflammation was spreading to nearby bone and tissue. Fever and violent fits took hold; prescribed bleeding and purgations further weakened his body. The infection formed an abscess in his brain and, in the absence of antibiotics, nothing could be done to save him. François fell unconscious on December 5 and passed away by nightfall, a month short of his seventeenth birthday.
His wife of two years, Mary Queen of Scots, had nursed him tenderly throughout the ordeal. A year older than François, Mary had been raised at the French court with him since the age of five. The two shared a strong bond of friendship and love, although it remains uncertain whether François's underdeveloped physique had prevented them from actually consummating their marriage. Mary was devastated by François's death, which dramatically changed the course of her life. Although she could have remained in France with her estates and status intact until she found another royal husband, Mary chose to return home to her kingdom of Scotland. Little did she know that her choice would ultimately lead to her own death at the hand of Elizabeth I of England.