A LOT of history raises the question “what if?” – and one of the biggest such questions for Scotland is “what if a young king had not contracted an ear infection and died?” In this week in 1558, that king, Francois II, while still Dauphin, or Crown Prince, married Mary, Queen of Scots.

I was reminded of this by reader Charlie Gallagher from Shetland who wrote to The National after the disastrous fire at Notre-Dame. He wrote: “On Sunday April 24, 1558, Mary, Queen of Scots married Francis, Dauphin of France in a wedding which was hugely ceremonial. There were five cardinals present in the cathedral and most of the population of Paris were present in what was a hugely joyous occasion.

‘‘The main entrance to the cathedral was altered to allow public viewing of the ceremony. A union between Scotland and France was openly discussed and if the marriage had developed over the years this would probably have taken place, thus changing Scottish history.”

Charlie is correct in all his facts, but I have been asked if his assertion about “a union between Scotland and France” might have happened.

Let’s put the events in context: Queen at the age of one week, when her father, James V, died in 1542, Mary had been sent to France at the age of five for her own safety as England’s King Henry VIII was determined to marry her to his son, hence the “Rough Wooing” invasion of Scotland by England.

Brought up as a Catholic Frenchwoman by her relatives while her mother, Mary of Guise, was regent for her in Scotland, the young queen had a blissful childhood among the powerful Guise family and received an excellent education, as well as becoming an accomplished horsewoman.

Mary had been raised in close proximity to the Dauphin of France, the future King Francois II. She grew up tall and beautiful, he was small and sickly, but they adored each other.

Francois’s father King Henri II saw the young queen as a very useful tool in his grand design of creating a French empire that would include England and Scotland – Mary had a legitimate claim to the throne of England.

Henri II began his machinations for Marie Stuart, as she signed herself, by openly suggesting she could be Queen of England as early as 1550. By 1554, Mary was at Henri’s court where she was adored by all, though probably not by Queen Catherine – a member of the Medici clan – and by 1557, her marriage to the Dauphin was inevitable.

The ambassador to France from Venice, Giacomo Sorenzo, wrote on November 9, 1557: “The causes for hastening this marriage are apparently two; the first to enable them more surely to avail themselves of the forces of Scotland against the kingdom of England for next year, and the next for the gratification of the Duke and Cardinal of Guise, the said Queen’s uncles.”

In March, 1558, the arrangements for the Dauphin and the Queen of Scots to be betrothed were discussed by the French court and a delegation of Scottish lords sent by Mary of Guise. It was agreed that the forthcoming marriage was to cement Scotland and France together forever.

Mary’s best biographer, Antonia Fraser, records the arrangements thus: “The young queen bound herself to preserve the ancient freedoms, liberties and privileges of Scotland… It was further agreed that the dauphin should bear the title of king of Scotland and that, on his accession to the French throne, the two kingdoms should be united under one crown, and the subjects of both countries should be thus naturalised with each other, in anticipation of the joint reign…In November, 1558, the Scottish Estates in their turn granted letters of naturalisation to all the subjects of the king of France.”

In other words, Scots and French alike were dual citizens.

By that time late in 1558, Mary and Francois were married, the ceremony in Notre-Dame being as glamorous as Charlie Gallagher described.

But the following July, Henri II died as a result of wounds sustained in a jousting tournament, and Mary Queen of Scots became Queen Consort of France.

Full regnal union between Scotland and France was a fact, yet disaster loomed. Francis caught a middle ear infection, possibly a mastoid abscess, which spread to his brain so that he died on December 5, 1560.

Had he survived and fathered a child by Mary, Scotland and France would have been a united kingdom, no matter what England did.

Instead, widowed Mary had to return to Scotland, already in the grip of the Reformation, and all hopes of a proper Franco-Scottish full union – something that had been discussed many times since the Auld Alliance was first signed in 1295 – were effectively ended.

Some historians contend that dual citizenship arrangements between Scotland and France have never really been rescinded, which raises an intriguing prospect – could Scots claim European Union citizenship via France?

And consider this: if at one time all Scots held dual citizenship with the French, could those Scots who now identify as British not retain dual nationality in an independent Scotland? Would rUK not agree to that? After all, it happened in Ireland, and the Westminster Government currently permits dual citizenship. Just a thought…