The Lost Tudor Princess: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas by Alison Weir

  Arran permitted Angus, who had now been an exile in England for thirteen years, to return to Scotland. It was at last safe for him to do so, for his great enemies, James V and Margaret Tudor, were dead. Henry VIII realized that Angus could be useful to him north of the border, for the King was set on a marriage between Prince Edward and the young Queen of Scots, which would ultimately unite the two kingdoms under English rule. Angus now departed for Scotland, intent upon furthering the marriage.

  We know from later sources that Margaret approved of Angus’s support for the English cause in Scotland. She seems to have spent the Christmas of 1542 with the Lady Mary, for in January 1543, Mary rewarded her with £20 (£6,150) for bringing her “a gown of carnation satin of the Venice fashion” as a New Year’s gift. Their cousin, Frances Brandon, Marchioness of Dorset, was also present, and received the same amount for her gift. Margaret’s gift from Mary was a gold brooch made by “Bush the goldsmith” at a cost of £3:15s. (£1,150).53

  After the Christmas season Margaret returned to Kenninghall, and she was apparently still in Norfolk’s household on April 29, 1543, when Sir Thomas Wriothesley sent William, Lord Parr,54 his commission as lord warden and keeper of the Northern Marches. Parr was about to ride north and Wriothesley added, “There be also in the packet letters from my lord of Norfolk and my Lady Margaret Douglas which it may please you to deliver to my Lord Lieutenant to be sent with the next letters that go into Scotland.”55 One of them was probably from Margaret to her father. In March 1543, Angus’s attainder had been reversed; his lands were restored to him and he was appointed a Privy Councilor.56 In April he had taken a third wife, Margaret, the daughter of Robert, Lord Maxwell.


  In the summer of 1543, having decided to marry for the sixth time, Henry VIII summoned Margaret back to court to wait upon his future Queen, the comely, charming Katherine Parr. Margaret was present alongside the Lady Mary, the Lady Elizabeth, Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, Anne Stanhope, Countess of Hertford, and a select company of courtiers at the wedding, which took place on July 12, 1543, “in an upper oratory called the Queen’s Privy Closet” at Hampton Court. Margaret was Katherine’s trainbearer.57

  Thereafter she was one of her chief ladies-in-waiting, several of whom were closet Protestants like their mistress. But despite Margaret being a Catholic and Katherine a reformist, they became good friends, and both were close to the devout Lady Mary. Among the great ladies serving the Queen were Margaret’s old friends, the Duchess of Richmond, her former sister-in-law, Elizabeth Stafford, Duchess of Norfolk, and Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, who was a fervent Protestant yet remained friends with Margaret for several decades—which suggests that Margaret was no bigot.58 Margaret and the King’s daughters all accompanied the King and Queen on their summer progress.59

  Margaret was now twenty-seven, and old to be unmarried in an age in which girls could be wedded and bedded at twelve and the average age at which upper-class women married was about twenty. There is no evidence that she was “rather unhappy” at still being unwed, as has been suggested,60 but if she did feel that way, she was soon to have cause for hope. Before she had witnessed the King and Katherine Parr making their marriage vows, someone had offered for her own hand.


  “A Strong Man of Personage”

  That summer Margaret learned that she had a new suitor, one of Scotland’s foremost nobles and a man not a year younger than herself. Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox,1 had been born on September 21, 1516, at Dumbarton Castle, and came from one of the greatest noble houses in Scotland, whose extensive lands centered upon Glasgow, Dumbarton and the west of the kingdom north of the River Clyde, as well as large parts of Stirlingshire. More important, he was descended from James II, King of Scots, through whom he had a claim to the Scottish throne via the female line.2 The Lennox crest was a bull’s head, and the family motto was To achieve, I endure; it was to prove apposite in Matthew Stuart’s case.

  With Lennox came the prospect of marrying into a long-standing feud, one that was fatally to dominate his life and cast a long shadow over Scottish politics. When Matthew was nine, his father, John Stewart, 3rd Earl of Lennox, had been murdered by a bastard of the powerful Hamilton clan, and ever since there had been bad blood between the Lennoxes and the Hamiltons. Because of this it had been deemed safer for Lennox and his brother, John, to live in France, where King Francis I was happy to offer them his protection. In 1532, having publicly, but unwillingly, forgiven his father’s murderer, the young Earl accepted an invitation to stay in the Loire Valley with his childless uncle, Robert Stewart, Seigneur of Aubigny, whose ancestors had been rewarded with lands in Berry, in central France, for supporting the French against the English in the Hundred Years War, and had been held in high esteem by French monarchs ever since.3

  Lennox stayed in France for ten years. Thanks to Aubigny’s influence and patronage, he grew up to be well educated and imbued with the culture of the northern Renaissance; he spoke fluent French and was a skillful player on the lute. He also received a thorough military grounding, which was then regarded as a sound basis for a gentleman in royal service. As captain of the Garde Ecossaise (the Scots Guard), the French King’s elite personal bodyguards, Aubigny was close to Francis I, and it had been through his influence that Lennox joined their ranks as soon as he arrived in France, and—at fifteen—was given command of eight hundred men.4 He fought for Francis I in Provence and Italy, and in 1537 the King granted him the right of denizenship under the French Crown, an honor he did not often bestow upon foreigners.5 While in France, Lennox adopted the French spelling of his surname, Stuart, and enjoyed a pleasant life at court until 1542, when James V unexpectedly died.

  Lennox was determined to counter the power of his hereditary foes, the Hamiltons, in Scotland. The Regent Arran was the head of the powerful Hamilton clan, and the half brother of the man who had murdered Lennox’s father. He claimed to be Mary, Queen of Scots’ heir, for he was descended, like Lennox, from King James II,6 but there was some uncertainty as to whether his parents had been lawfully married. It was Arran’s chief purpose in life to establish the legality of their union and the supremacy of his claim to the throne, yet his indolence and instability alienated many lords who might otherwise have backed him.

  Cardinal David Beaton, Arran’s opponent, now invited Lennox to return to Scotland, and King Francis appointed Lennox to act as his ambassador there, hoping to counteract the influence of the pro-English, Protestant Arran.7 Thereafter, for so long as Arran favored the English, Lennox would protect and further French interests and feather his own nest in the process. Although he himself would later recall that he had done “good and faithful service” to the little Queen in her minority,8 he was a great intriguer and dissembler, aspiring and duplicitous, and, as many would discover, unreliable, treacherous and driven by self-interest, but he had one great and useful virtue: perseverance.9

  Lennox was also ambitious. He insisted that he was Mary, Queen of Scots’ heir presumptive, even asserting that James V had named him thus, and as soon as he arrived in Scotland in April 1543 he contested Arran’s claim, and his right to the governorship of Scotland during the regency; all his life he would maintain that Arran had usurped his right to that office. In opposing Arran, Lennox tried to enlist the support of the Queen Dowager, Marie de Guise.

  Queen Marie, a member of the powerful noble French House of Guise, was then twenty-eight, a tall, charming and attractive woman who had now been twice widowed. Having been made to leave her children behind in France when she married James V in 1538, she had suffered acute homesickness, yet had quickly learned to speak Scots and taken a lively interest in her new country, while at the same time encouraging French Renaissance influences at court. She was always to remain politically pro-French and a devout Catholic, and was now focusing her efforts on ensuring that her daughter would rule a kingdom where these viewpoints predominated—a policy that would soon see her loya
lties called into question by the Protestant party in Scotland. But she was an adept political player with a talent for diplomacy and dissimulation, and indefatigable in protecting the little Queen’s interests.

  Before Lennox’s return to Scotland there had been a French-backed plan for his marriage to Marie de Guise,10 and he now saw it as a means of overthrowing Arran and gaining control of the young Queen. Marie, believing Lennox to be an ardent Francophile, encouraged him. In return for his allying with her and Beaton against Arran, she undertook to support his claim to the succession. Lennox now began competing with her other suitor, Patrick Hepburn, 3rd Earl of Bothwell, for her hand. “They daily pursued the court and the Queen Mother with bravery, singing, dancing and playing on instruments, and prided who should be the most gallant in their clothing.”11 Yet Marie gave them only “fair words,” for “she had been a king’s wife” and “her heart was too high to look any lower.”12 It is clear that she meant to use Lennox only to oust Arran from the regency and had no interest in supporting his claims; nor did anyone else on whose support he had counted.

  Lennox was in a strong position, however. Francis I needed him to bolster the “Auld Alliance” between Scotland and France; Henry VIII hoped that he would transfer his allegiance to England.13 Henry was now bent on the marriage of five-year-old Prince Edward to the infant Queen Mary. Angus backed the plan, as did the pro-English Arran, and Margaret was vigorously to support it.14 Eager to secure the English King’s support for his claim to be heir presumptive in the event of the little Queen of Scots’ death, Arran agreed to his proposal, and on July 1, 1543, the marriage treaty was concluded at Greenwich. Mary was to go to England when she was ten, and be married the following year. Many Scots found this unacceptable, fearing that Scotland would thereby lose its independence and end up being ruled from England.

  Kept at arm’s length by the Queen Dowager, Lennox was beginning to realize that no support for his claim would be forthcoming from that source. On hearing an unsubstantiated rumor that Marie was to marry Bothwell, he took the first step toward defecting to the English, which was calculated to push his rival Arran into the arms of the French. By July, Lennox had conceived the idea of allying with the Anglophile Angus, and asked him formally for Margaret’s hand in marriage. Lennox would have been aware that Margaret had a claim to the English throne, and that marriage to her would assuredly strengthen his claim to be Queen Mary’s successor. Margaret was also a member of the ancient, distinguished and powerful Douglas clan, and, should any children born of her father’s new marriage fail to survive, potentially a great heiress.15

  Having received a favorable response from Angus, and been made aware that he needed also to secure Henry VIII’s consent to the marriage because Margaret was one of the heirs to the English succession, Lennox approached Sir Ralph Sadler, the English ambassador in Scotland. On July 2, Sadler reported to Henry VIII that Angus had “lately said that Lennox would gladly make alliance with him [Angus], and marry his daughter, the Lady Margaret Douglas, which marriage he referreth wholly to your Majesty.”16 The proposal appealed to Henry VIII, who saw it as a means of securing the support of a powerful Scottish noble for his own dynastic ambitions; and it must have intrigued Margaret greatly.

  But Sadler was not sure where Lennox’s loyalty really lay. That month Cardinal Beaton and Marie de Guise resurrected the Earl’s hopes of marriage with the latter and the governorship of Scotland in Arran’s place.17 On July 13, Sadler informed Henry VIII that he had not been given “any hope of Lennox being induced from France to the King’s devotion.” Sadler had canvassed the opinions of those who knew Lennox, of whom Sir Hugh Campbell, Sheriff of Ayr, “thinketh that Lennox would be content to marry Lady Margaret Douglas, yet whether for her he would leave France [i.e. his French allegiance] and adhere firmly to your Majesty, he is in great doubt.”18

  The Catholic party in Scotland, led by Marie de Guise and Cardinal Beaton, was vehemently opposed to the treaty that Arran had signed, and Lennox, seeing a pretext for overthrowing his rival, now gave them his support. Late in July, backed by a force of ten thousand men, he confronted Arran at Linlithgow and emerged supreme, removing the little Queen from Arran’s custody and triumphantly escorting her and her mother to Stirling Castle, where Mary was crowned in the Chapel Royal on September 9, 1543. Lennox was present, carrying the scepter. Arran remained in office, but Lennox was not prepared to work with him, although he was active on the regency council, championing French interests.

  Sadler had been right to doubt Lennox’s intentions. Lennox had for the moment abandoned his plan to marry Margaret, for his hopes of marrying the Queen Dowager had been revived. Marie, however, remained evasive, and when, in mid-September, an angry Lennox left Stirling without permission and she rebuked him for his “strange” departure, he replied that he found it strange that she should find fault with him.19 Her interest, he was realizing, had been merely a ploy to keep him sweet; she and Beaton had used him. Disillusioned and alienated, he left Stirling to join Angus.20

  Henry VIII was now wary of agreeing to the marriage of Margaret and Lennox. He was all too aware of Margaret’s dynastic importance, and felt threatened by the prospect of her being united with the ambitious and powerful Lennox. On the other hand, Lennox could prove useful to him in Scotland, and he had a claim to the Scottish throne that might be prosecuted, should any ill befall the young Queen Mary. But could he be trusted?

  Lennox knew that Henry VIII’s support would be advantageous. On September 20, Sadler informed Henry that Lennox’s ally, William Cunningham, Earl of Glencairn, had “sent word that Lennox would leave his affection to France and gladly ally with Angus, by the marriage of the Lady Margaret, in which case he hopes for the King’s aid in the recovery of his title to this realm, which (he says) the Governor [Arran] usurps.” As Sadler was writing his dispatch, a servant of Lennox brought him two letters from Glencairn, one for Margaret and one for himself. The servant told him that Lennox “is now become a good Englishman, and will bear his heart and his service to your Majesty, and very shortly intendeth to dispatch a servant of his to your Highness, and to the said Lady Margaret, with his full mind in all behalfs.”21 On September 30, Sadler reported that Lennox was at Angus’s “devotion” and plotting to march on Arran in Edinburgh.22

  Francis I had naturally supported the French party in Scotland. On October 6 six French ships had sailed up the Clyde with money and firearms for the Queen Dowager. Lennox intercepted them, appropriating all the money and most of the artillery.23 That day Hugh, Lord Somerville, who was with Lennox and Angus, informed Sadler that Lennox “hath his mind so set on the marriage of the Lady Margaret Douglas that he will not now slip from the party of the King’s Majesty’s friends here, notwithstanding the arrival of the said aids from France.” Sadler, who had doubts about Lennox’s sincerity, could “hardly believe” it. “This he saith, but what he will do knoweth God.”24

  Yet it was now crucial to English interests that Lennox remain tied to Henry VIII, and it did seem that he was in earnest. At Glasgow, in October, he complained to a French envoy about Arran’s misgovernment, and asked if it was any wonder that he was tempted by the English King’s offers to make him governor in Arran’s place, and to marry him to his niece.25 Warned that he could, as a French subject, be prosecuted for treason for intercepting the ships, Lennox hastened to Stirling and made a diplomatic peace with the Queen Dowager.26 But he held on to most of the money.27

  On October 11, Sadler was informed by the Privy Council that Henry VIII wanted possession of the strongholds of Dunbar and Dumbarton, to cut off access by water from their enemies. Lennox had been granted a nineteen-year tenure and governorship of Dumbarton Castle in 1531. It was the strategically sited gateway to the west of Scotland, and Henry, with some justification, regarded it as the key to that kingdom. He let it be known that, “if Lennox has such desire to serve the King and so fervent love for the King’s niece, Lady Margaret Douglas, he will not stick to deliver Dum
barton.”28 Thus it was made clear to Lennox from the start what the terms of any marriage alliance would be.

  Two days later Sadler reported to Henry VIII that he had discussed the matter with Angus and others, but not with Lennox, who had gone back to Dumbarton. Angus and the rest appeared willing to agree to Henry’s terms, but made it clear that they would wait and see what transpired at Dumbarton. Angus’s brother, George Douglas, had visited Sadler and expressed the view that “Lennox, although young, was more constant than the Governor [Arran], but that he would require two things of the King, viz. the marriage of Lady Margaret Douglas, with a convenient living in lieu of that which he will lose in France, and assistance in attaining his title to this realm, which the Governor now usurps the government of.”

  George Douglas, fearing the consequences of Lennox gaining too much power, thought that Henry VIII should consent to the marriage, but that Henry himself should invade Scotland the following summer. Lennox, he advised, “should be entertained, because he is of great power here, and if assured to the King will do good service.” Several lords were riding west to join him “to establish his good determination towards the King” and to ensure that the money and munitions sent by the French to Dumbarton were not seized by the Governor. “They intend to persuade Lennox to repair to the King to see Lady Margaret.”29

  But Lennox was still clinging to the remote chance that the French party would abandon Arran in favor of his own claim to the governorship, and was not willing to commit to Henry until he was forced to abandon that hope.30 Courted by both sides, he knew he was in a strong position and stood to do well out of it. On October 16 the English Council were informed that he was now demanding to be acknowledged as joint heir with Margaret to Angus’s earldom, “to which Angus will not agree.”31 Should there be no children of her father’s marriage to Margaret Maxwell, Margaret would be his lawful heiress, destined to be Countess of Angus in her own right.

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