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

  It was said that, having seen Margaret, Lennox was so set on her that there was no question but that he would be true to the alliance.66 Henry was now satisfied that the match could go ahead, and in June 1544, Sir Thomas Wriothesley, Chancellor of England, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Great Master of the Household, and Sir William Paget, one of the King’s principal secretaries, were granted a commission “to treat with Matthew, Earl of Lennox, touching the realm of Scotland and the marriage between him and the King’s niece, Margaret, daughter of the late Queen of Scotland.”67

  Lennox had been a little indisposed, for on June 13 the King’s apothecaries supplied pills for him and special water for his eyes.68 His ailments had presumably improved when on June 26 he met with the appointed Privy Councilors at Whitehall to sign the marriage treaty. In it were enshrined most of the articles of the Carlisle agreement, but Lennox now made over to Henry VIII his rights to the crown of Scotland69 and promised to serve as his subject “against all who impugn his right, title and authority in Scotland.” He also renounced “all pacts contrary hereto with any of his own countrymen or others, and [to] serve the King against all princes and potentates, without exception.” Seeing that he was still a Scottish subject, this was a gross act of treachery.

  Nevertheless he had evidently made a good impression on Henry, whose attitude toward him seems to have undergone a change: In the treaty Lennox was praised for his “faithful and royal affection to his Majesty,” and as he had made “humble suit unto his Majesty for marriage with his Highness’s niece, Lady Margaret Douglas, it hath pleased his Highess, for the good opinion he hath conceived of the said Earl’s faithful loyal affection to his Majesty, upon an assured hope that the said marriage shall be an indissoluble knot-band of the said Earl’s and his posterity’s love towards his Highness and his most noble successors, to grant his suit therein.”

  Lennox further bound himself to Henry by endowing his bride with lands within the earldom of Lennox, the sheriffdoms of Dumbarton,70 Renfrew and Perth, and the lordship of Darnley, his subsidiary title, “all which lands the Earl promises to be clearly worth yearly 500 marks [£102,470].” Arran sneeringly valued these lands at less than £10,000 Scots (£768,900).71 However, unless Lennox succeeded in all that he had promised Henry VIII to undertake, he was unlikely ever to be in a position to give Margaret those lands, so for “more ample assurance of the said lands to the said Lady Margaret Douglas,” he bound himself “to do all and every such thing and things from time to time as shall be required by his Majesty or his Highness’ heir.”

  The King, in turn, was pleased to grant Lennox “the marriage of Lady Margaret Douglas and, in recompense of the loss he will sustain in France by this submission, to give the Earl and her, in tail, lands to the clear yearly value of 6,800 marks Scots, which amounts to 1,700 marks sterling [£348,520].” The bridegroom signed himself “Matthew, Orle of Levinax,” his phonetic spelling betraying a strong French accent.72

  The treaty made it very plain that Henry VIII intended to play a prominent role in Scottish affairs.73 The Scottish government was, not surprisingly, enraged by the betrothal and its terms; although in England there were those who thought that Margaret should be kept unmarried in case the young Queen Mary should die, in which case she might be married to her cousin, Prince Edward, and rule Scotland with him, rather than that the King had chosen to “gratify” Lennox and “put a perpetual obligation on him.”74 In France an angry King Francis threw Lennox’s unfortunate brother John into the Bastille, where he languished for three years.

  On the day the treaty was signed, the King celebrated the betrothal with a feast at Whitehall Palace in Lennox’s honor, attended by Henry’s three children and “divers other lords and ladies.” Five courses and a “void” (a private banquet for select guests) were served. The day’s festivities came to a climax with a “supper at Hyde Park,” at which, as at the feast, there were five courses.75 No mention is made of Margaret herself being present, or of the Queen, although they may have been. There was no custom that precluded a woman attending her betrothal celebrations, but with the wedding only three days hence, both ladies perhaps had to forgo the pleasure in the interests of making their preparations.


  “This Happy Match”

  Margaret Douglas and Matthew Stuart were married on June 29, 1544, at St. James’s Palace, built by Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn between 1531 and 1536 on the site of a leper hospital. The red-brick gatehouse with its octagonal turrets survives today, adorned with Tudor roses and the initials of Henry and Anne, as do three rooms and the Chapel Royal, in which Margaret was married.

  The date of the wedding is sometimes given as July 6.1 The confusion has seemingly arisen because on July 10, Chapuys reported that Lennox had “arrived here [in London], and married this King’s niece,”2 but on the morning of June 29, Chapuys had come to the court with letters from the Emperor to Henry VIII, “without previously applying, as usual, for an audience, lest there should be delay in the granting of it owing to this King’s many occupations, and principally to the solemnity of the marriage about to be celebrated of Count [sic] Lennox and Dame Marguerite [sic] Douglas, the King’s niece. I found that the King was not yet ready to receive me in his chamber, owing principally to the solemnity of the marriage about to be [performed].” Later that day Chapuys informed the Emperor that “the marriage of the Count [sic] of Lennox and Dame Margaret Douglas took place this morning at Mass, the King and Queen being present; and it is said that the King has promised the bridegroom and lady 3,000 or 4,000 ducats a year.”3

  Margaret would have gone in procession from the Queen’s apartments, which lay to the east of Friary Court, then down to the Great Court (now Color Court) and so to the beautiful Chapel Royal, which still stands to the west of the gatehouse. She and Matthew exchanged their vows under the magnificent ceiling—thought to have been designed by the King’s painter, Hans Holbein—that had been decorated with royal initials and coats of arms to mark the King’s marriage to Anne of Cleves.4

  Jousts followed the wedding, for which many soldiers had gathered in London.5 The Lady Mary gave lavish gifts to Margaret “at her marriage”: a balas ruby with a table diamond and three pendant pearls, a pendant depicting St. George and the Dragon set with diamonds, one gold brooch with a balas ruby depicting the story of Susanna and the Elders, another gold brooch with an emerald portraying “the story of Solomon,” a third set with a little diamond showing the history of Moses, and a fourth “of the history of David” set with a diamond and a ruby, a brooch portraying Noah’s flood “set with many little diamonds and rubies,” and one portraying “how Christ healed the man of the palsy, a table diamond in the same.” Sometime afterward Mary gave “my cousin Margaret Lennox” two brooches of gold with large sapphires, another with an emerald with the story of Solomon—presumably Margaret had so liked the first that Mary had another fashioned for her—and a brooch with “a helmet of mother of pearl standing in a touchstone garnished with gold.”6


  “This happy match,” as the antiquary William Camden called it, was successfully consummated, and a child was conceived almost immediately. Happiness in marriage was never a given in an age in which most unions were arranged for profit or advantage, but Margaret was exceptionally lucky, for the evidence shows that she and her bridegroom were soon lovers in every sense. “He was in my power, and I his true bride.”7

  Margaret was a Catholic, while Lennox, ever the pragmatist looking to his own advantage, bent with the wind. Having reembraced the Catholic faith of his youth at Henry VIII’s behest, he was never as committed to it as his wife, and would later turn Protestant, demonstrating that religion was ever a matter of expediency for him. Yet the couple were always to be happy in their marriage and devoted to each other, managing to surmount the difference in religion that could have divided them. This is evidenced by their letters, in which Margaret called her husband “Mathieu” (the French version of his name, whi
ch was probably how he spoke it), while he called her his “own sweet Madge,” or “Meg,” told her she was his “chiefest comfort,” and signed himself “your own Mathieu and most loving husband.”8 She was always to behave toward him with the “matchless steadfastness” mentioned in her tomb epitaph, and he seems to have been so “far in love” with her that he became “wholly governed by his wife.”9 It is clear that Margaret was the stronger character of the two, and the driving force and the dominant—if not domineering—partner in the relationship.

  On July 10, Lennox became a naturalized Englishman.10 This should have set the seal on his allegiance to England, but there was to come a time when the Crown would have cause to distrust him, for he had once become a French citizen, yet had betrayed Francis I. And now he, a claimant to the Scottish throne, was married to the King’s niece, who had a claim to the English one. It was a formidable alliance, and for the couple themselves a match made in dynastic heaven—but others, in the years ahead, would have good reason to fear its consequences.

  At Whitehall, on July 12, in accordance with the marriage treaty, and to compensate Lennox for his losses in France and Scotland, the King issued Letters Patent granting him and Margaret property and estates in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Durham to the value of 1,700 marks (£340,780) per annum. The greater part of these lands had come to the King when Jervaulx Abbey was dissolved, and they mostly comprised estates on the northeastern border of the Yorkshire Dales. The rest—including two great houses, Temple Newsam and Settrington House—had been confiscated from Thomas, Lord Darcy, Sir Francis Bigod and Sir James Strangeways, all of whom had been attainted for their involvement in the Pilgrimage of Grace,11 or made over to the King by the childless Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, who had died in 1537. Almost certainly Henry VIII hoped that Lennox would create a strong and loyal affinity in the Papist north, or would at least put a brake on subversive activity in the area. This argues that up till now, Margaret had followed the King’s lead in religion, remaining Catholic in her observances but displaying no loyalty to the Pope. In fact, for all her piety, this seems to have remained her stance throughout her life, for there is scant evidence of her having any dealings with Rome, and no Pope ever properly espoused her cause.12 Yet Henry miscalculated badly in establishing Margaret in Yorkshire, the heartland of the old religion, as time would prove.

  The properties given to the Lennoxes were granted “in tail”; in other words, they were to be directly inherited by the heirs of the bodies of the recipients, and could not form part of Margaret’s jointure were she to be widowed. That meant that all she would then have to support her would be the Scottish lands settled on her by Lennox, but as they remained confiscated, she could never receive them unless Lennox emerged victorious in Scotland.13

  The Lennoxes did not have houses in all the estates granted them by the King. Most of these lands were a source of rents that would provide them with “a convenient living,” or income. For example, forty-six tenants are recorded at Settrington, paying a total of £57:6s.5d. (£17,630) in rent annually. Their names—and Margaret clearly came to know them all—recur again and again in the records: Dodsworths, Fothergills, Nesbits, Bells, Hungates, Blenkoes and a Thomasina Percy, among others. Simon Dodsworth was bailiff “long before” Margaret’s death. Thomas Fowler of Settringham was to play an important role in Margaret’s life, and served her for years, rising from clerk of the kitchen to become her secretary and later her treasurer, and he would remain faithful to her until she died.14

  The Lennox estates were administered by stewards on the Earl and Countess’s behalf. In 1598, Robert Dolman was to state that he and his father had served the family as stewards and receivers for sixty years.15 In the 1560s there would also be two other stewards, Richard Norton, a former captain of Berwick, and Sir Marmaduke Constable.16 All were Catholics, and Constable’s great-uncle Robert had been executed by Henry VIII for his leadership of the Pilgrimage of Grace.

  Lennox’s secretary, Thomas Bishop, would later assert that “my lady and he [Lennox], to the evil bruit of the country, hath defaced castles and manors, and sold away the lead, timber, brick and stones, and as I think never in their days spent one hundred marks in building.”17 The contentious Thomas Bishop, who was in time to incur the enmity of the Lennoxes, was a hostile observer, and he was probably exaggerating; what he later said about them was almost certainly a tissue of truth, half-truths and lies. This was an age in which much of the fabric of the dissolved religious houses had been appropriated for local building, and the Lennoxes had not only monastic properties to plunder but also several houses of their own; and they were inveterate builders, as will be seen.

  There seems to have been mutual animosity from the first between Margaret and Thomas Bishop. He has been called vicious, treacherous, and “the most determined mischief-maker.”18 He himself insisted that he was “of honest nature,” but the Lennoxes later laid to his charge—and he did not deny it—that Henry VIII came to repent of giving him a living for “the faithful service which [the King] supposed [Bishop] had done for the Earl, understanding that he went about to set dissension and debate between the Earl and his lady.”19 They claimed that the King was enraged to hear that Bishop had tried to come between them.20 There is plenty of other evidence that Bishop was a troublemaker, but he was to insist that Margaret had been out to disparage him all along. Much of his ill feeling seems to have sprung from his resentment at her having undermined his influence with Lennox, “seeking the rule of her husband” and urging him to dismiss Bishop from his service.21 Since his association with Lennox was his likeliest route to preferment at court, that threat was enough to make Bishop hate Margaret, the interloper in a hitherto satisfactory partnership, and in time he would exact a terrible revenge.

  As well as great estates, Henry VIII gave the Lennoxes lavish gifts of costly clothing. Between 1542 and 1547 Margaret received over 1,040 yards of rich fabrics from his silk store at Whitehall, and 248 ells of linen, in equal amounts to similar items given to the King’s daughters, which served to underline her high status. At various dates she received cloth of tissue; cloth of gold in crimson, incarnate (red or rose), purple and blue; cloth of silver; velvet in black, crimson, incarnate, purple, russet, tawny and yellow; satin in black, crimson, incarnate, purple, tawny and white; damask in black, blue, crimson, murrey (mulberry), tawny, white and yellow; taffeta in black, crimson, incarnate and purple; sarsanet in black, crimson and red, murrey, purple, blue, violet, russet, tawny, white and yellow; “bridges satin,” or Satin de Bruges, a combination of silk and wool; Holland cloth (unbleached linen); Normandy cloth (used as a base for embroidery); and cambric. Lennox received a total of sixty-eight yards of materials: crimson cloth of gold, cloth of silver, crimson satin, crimson damask and white sarsanet. Some may have been for his wedding clothes.22 Purple was reserved for the use of the King and his family, so none was issued to Lennox, although Margaret was permitted to wear it. Blue was the color of royal mourning, and these fabrics were probably given to her early on in her marriage, for the saddest of reasons.


  Through her marriage to Lennox, Margaret immediately became involved in Anglo-Scottish politics, and she was loyally to support all the causes taken up by her husband. That must have been hard to begin with, because almost immediately Henry VIII expected Lennox to fulfill his side of the marriage treaty by returning to Scotland and taking Dumbarton. In July 1544 he was given command of sixteen ships and six hundred soldiers,23 and early in August, unaware that Margaret was already pregnant, he was obliged to leave her in attendance on the Queen and sail north from Bristol. During these early years of her marriage she “was always honourably entertained in England, as both her birth in respect of her kingly blood, and her calling in respect of her place, did worthily deserve.”24

  Lennox began his campaign by making an alliance with the Irish, laying waste the shores of the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran, and initially trying fruitlessly to win back
the support of Angus, whose disaffection was now obvious. In leading this campaign, he was not acting solely as Henry VIII’s puppet; as he wrote to Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, in March 1545, he wanted “revenge upon the King’s enemies, and those who slaughtered my father and oppressed his house.”25 The Scottish lords, outraged at Lennox’s defection, expressed to Francis I the opinion that he had lost his senses.

  King Henry, who was himself on campaign that summer, besieging Boulogne, was pleased with Lennox’s progress. On August 8 he appointed him lieutenant of the north of England and southern Scotland, although they were empty titles since Lennox did not have the power bases to support them. The next day Queen Katherine, now acting as regent of England, wrote to the King that the good speed that Lennox had made was because “he hath given himself to serve such a master whom God doth aid and support in all things. He might have served the French King, his old master, many years, and not attained such a victory of his enemies.”26 But she was being overoptimistic.

  On September 8, Henry wrote to Katherine: “We pray you to give in our name our hearty blessings to all our children, and recommendations to our cousin Margett [sic] and the rest of the ladies and gentlewomen.”27 The misspelling of Margaret’s name was probably deliberate, for “Margett” may have been Henry’s pet name for her.

  By the time she received this message Margaret must have known that she was expecting her first child. In Lennox’s absence she had remained with the Queen, but later that year, when her pregnancy grew more advanced, she bade farewell to Katherine and to her friends at court and retired to Stepney Palace, east of London.

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