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

  There had been a village at Stepney,28 two miles east of the City, since Saxon times. During the sixteenth century suburbs grew up along the north bank of the Thames beyond London’s walls; by 1548 the parish population numbered more than seventeen hundred, and in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries it became fashionable for courtiers, knights, gentlemen, and wealthy merchants to build houses in Stepney.

  “The Old Palace” stood on Stepney Green, near St. Dunstan’s Church.29 Commonly known as “King John’s Court” or “King John’s Palace,” it had no connection with King John but had been built between 1450 and 1550 and boasted an impressive early Tudor gatehouse. Like Temple Newsam, it had been the property of Lord Darcy.30 Margaret’s aunt, the French Queen, had visited several times and dated letters there.31 It was a twelve-roomed building described as “standing on a kind of terrace, with elaborate chimney-pieces and a large oaken staircase.”32 In 2013 the ditch, the walled moat, the boundary walls, the foundations of the gatehouse, and indications of a bridge across the moat were excavated, and fine sixteenth-century glassware in the fashion of Venice was uncovered. Other finds included a fashionable man’s shoe with cuts, such as Henry VIII himself wore, and Tudor bowling balls, suggesting that the house had a bowling alley.33 There is no record of Stepney Palace ever having been in royal ownership, and it does not feature on the list of properties granted to Lennox, so he or the King must have leased it for Margaret. Katherine Parr is known to have visited her there.34


  Margaret did not see her new husband for many months. Lennox “was not so fortunate as he might have been” and achieved neither the King’s objective, Dumbarton, nor his own, which was to be revenged on Arran and the turncoat Angus.35 In fact, having landed at Dumbarton and claimed it for England, he and his men had had to flee for their lives. In Scotland his “shameless conduct” was deplored,36 and much later Thomas Bishop, who was with him at Dumbarton, would assert that, rather than fight, Lennox chose to “return with shame to England,”37 but that was somewhat unfair, not least because of the treachery of his former ally, Glencairn. Lennox did succeed in taking Stirling, but was ejected when the garrison learned that his intention was to surrender it to Henry VIII. His ship was shot at when he sailed down the Clyde toward Dumbarton. In the late autumn of 1544, after invading Kintyre and raiding the coasts of Kyle of Lochalsh and Carrick, he returned briefly to Bristol. The season for campaigning was now over, and the taking of Dumbarton would have to await the spring. If he had not succeeded in his military objective, he had at least aided King Henry’s cause by stirring up dissension in Scotland.38

  Possibly Lennox saw Margaret during his brief visit to England, but early in November he was ordered by the King to go north again to Carlisle to negotiate with the Scots and press them to agree to the marriage of their Queen and Prince Edward; he was also enjoined to try once more to win back his father-in-law Angus to Henry’s cause. Lennox spent the winter in Carlisle. During his absence he wrote to Margaret whenever he could. On November 15, 1544, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Cuthbert Tunstall and Ralph Sadler wrote from Darnton to the Council about their suspicions of one James Colquhoun, a Scotsman “who pretends to be Lennox’s servant and for his sake banished out of Scotland,” and who had “arrived with letters from Angus to Lady Margaret, and others to Lennox from the captain of Dumbarton.” William Murray, the Laird of Tullibardine, who was there when he arrived, “seemed to suspect him to be a spy about Lennox,” perhaps in the pay of Angus, so to be on the safe side Shrewsbury and Sadler sent Colquhoun’s letters on to the Council.39

  Lennox was instructed on December 9 that if Angus finally broke with him “touching the King’s affairs,” “out of regard for his honour, having married his daughter,” he was to charge him with ingratitude to the King; if Angus offered to uphold the marriage of the Queen of Scots to Prince Edward and make peace with Henry VIII, Lennox was to say “he cannot move in that matter” as the Scots had “so little regarded their promises”; but if they wished to be trusted they should deliver the young Queen into the King’s hands. Margaret was furious with what she saw as her father’s treachery, and the fact that the recent birth of a son to him had displaced her as his heir, and the writer noted approvingly that “it were well that Lennox took with him letters from his wife to her father complaining of his unkindness to the King and her and her husband, and requiring him to redub [make reparation for] the past.”40


  Margaret suffered various ailments during her pregnancy. In January 1545, Thomas Alsopp, the royal apothecary, supplied her with licorice (used to treat chest problems, migraines and constipation), boxes of powders for the breast, “almond milk restrictive” (used as a substitute for cow’s milk on fast days), and a conserve of quinces; it was believed that quinces strengthened the stomach and aided digestion. On February 5 she was prescribed a vial of “aqua composita”—a preparation used to relieve stomach problems—and an ounce of “wormseed,”41 which kills off parasitical worms or treats dysentery and sickness, but would not nowadays be given to pregnant women because it is poisonous. It can cause fetal abnormalities and vaginal bleeding, and increase the risk of miscarriage. Margaret’s use of it may have led to tragedy.

  For a decade and more she was to be continuously occupied with bearing and rearing children. According to her tomb epitaph, she and Lennox had eight, “to make our hearts glad”;42 the kneeling effigies of four boys and four girls can be seen on her tomb in Westminster Abbey. The first to arrive was a boy, born around the end of February 1545, probably at Stepney Palace. As proof of how far his father had identified himself with the English cause, he was given the name Henry, after the King, who was probably his godfather, and the English courtesy title Lord Darnley, rather than the Scottish title “the Master of Lennox,” traditionally borne by the heirs to the earldom. The lordship of Darnley, southwest of Glasgow, had been granted to Lennox’s forebears in 1356.

  Margaret’s son was born prematurely at seven to eight months—he cannot have been conceived earlier than late June 1544.43 It is possible that Margaret’s ingestion of wormseed may have brought on a premature labor. It has been questioned whether an infant born at seven months would have survived in those days,44 but there are instances of premature babies surviving in the Tudor period.45 The Lady Mary gave “to my cousin Margaret Lennox’s son a lace of goldsmith’s work set with little sparks of diamonds and rubies and xxi small pearls.”46 This was probably a habiliment to edge the baby’s cap or robe.


  In the three years following his marriage, Lennox led five expeditions to harry the western coast of Scotland, all in attempts to take Dumbarton, “in time of which journeys I was in displeasure with my lady,” he later revealed,47 showing that Margaret resented the long separations. He was obliged to remain in the north until the spring of 1546, so they were apart for more than a year.48

  While Lennox was away in Scotland, Margaret seems to have stayed either at Stepney or at Wressle Castle, Yorkshire,49 a once-magnificent moated stronghold of the Catholic Percys, substantially modernized in the early sixteenth century and acquired by the Crown on the childless Earl of Northumberland’s death in 1537. In 1540, Leland had called it “the most proper beyond [the River] Trent. The hall and chambers be fair, and so is the chapel and closets; so were the gardens within the moat and the orchards without,” where there was fine topiary.50

  On February 8, 1545, Angus, having been charged by Lennox with ingratitude to Henry VIII, let it be known that, “whereas he was called the King’s foe, he loved the King best of all men and if Lennox would obtain a truce for two months to commune with his friends in Scotland, he should be made chief ruler in Scotland, for, having married the woman whom Angus loved most in all the world, Angus loved him entirely.”51 But it was merely a ploy to neutralize Lennox, for on February 27, under the command of Angus, the Scots decisively defeated the English at the Battle of Ancrum Moor, near Jedburgh.


sp; In September 1545, Henry VIII temporarily abandoned the plan to take Dumbarton and sent Lennox to assist Hertford, who was still holding out against the Scots and French in the east. But in Lennox’s absence, his army in the west disintegrated. He was now the most hated man in Scotland. On October 1, 1545, the Scottish Parliament attainted him and his brother Robert, the unconsecrated Bishop of Caithness, for treason, seized his lands—which were given to Arran and other lords—and deprived him of his earldom, although he continued to use the title “Earl of Lennox.” Thus for the second time in her life Margaret, the Countess of Lennox, was styled by a title that was not rightfully hers.

  Even though Lennox’s Scottish lands and honors amounted to far less than those he held in England, their loss financially compromised the Earl and Countess for two decades, as they had to rely on the rents from the properties that Henry VIII had given them; moreover, Lennox’s attainder was seriously to undermine his claim to the Scottish succession. Margaret, who had been deprived of the lands with which her husband had endowed her, stoutly supported him in his efforts to get back what he had lost.

  In November, Lennox made another futile attempt to take Dumbarton. Banished from Scotland as a traitor, he remained in the north, directing operations from Carlisle. He and Margaret both knew that if he attempted to enter Scotland, his life would be forfeit. Only by successfully bringing to fruition Henry VIII’s plans could he return to the land of his birth.

  In these years Margaret was chiefly occupied with domestic matters. On April 2, 1545, she received an ounce of spermaceti wax from the royal apothecary, Thomas Alsopp; this wax was used as an ointment or a cosmetic or to make candles. On June 7, Alsopp supplied her with “mastick,” an aromatic gum used for varnish or flavoring food. On July 26 she was given two plasters for her shoulders and an ointment, and a month later she got treacle for her pet monkey and two glasses of “water of virgin’s milk” for a skin blemish or blister. Early in August she visited Titchfield Abbey, Hampshire, the home of the Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Wriothesley, where Alsopp had left her “with Mr. Cromer” a box of quince conserve.52 On April 22, Lord Wharton enclosed “a letter from my lord of Lennox to my lady his wife” with one to the Earl of Shrewsbury.53 Margaret may have been the “Lady Douglas” who bought goods from the executors of Cromwell’s nephew, Sir Richard Williams (who had adopted the surname Cromwell), on November 20.54

  Just over a week later, on November 28, Margaret’s infant son Henry died at Stepney, aged nine months. Prematurity may have accounted for his early demise, or the wormseed his mother took in late pregnancy. He was buried in St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, an ancient church dating from the tenth century and rebuilt largely in the fifteenth, which still stands. The memorial raised by the grieving parents to their firstborn has now disappeared, but in 1631 the antiquary John Weever described it as a slab in the floor of the upper end of the thirteenth-century chancel, situated east of the font and adorned with many small coats of arms. The brass inscription read: “Here lieth Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, of the age of three-quarters of a year, late son and heir to Matthew, Earl of Lennox, and the Lady Margaret his wife, which Henry deceased the twenty-eight day of November in the year of God 1545, whose soul Jesus pardon.”55 In 1786 the church wardens recorded that there were “many monuments, tombs and vaults in the church and chancel of St. Dunstan’s Stepney in a ruinous state.” Little Lord Darnley’s was probably one of them, and since there was no one interested in restoring it, it was irrevocably lost.56

  Undoubtedly Margaret had vested her dynastic hopes in her firstborn; she allegedly “at the death of her first son” consulted “prophesiers,” who told her that “her son should be king both of England and Scotland.”57 If this is true, she must have been desperate to know whether she would have other sons who could fulfill her ambitions, but the source is Thomas Bishop, so it is hostile and therefore suspect.

  There is no evidence to support the assertion that Margaret was at Temple Newsam when her son died.58 It was probably at this time that the royal wardrobe issued her with cloth of gold, damask and sarsanet, all in blue, the color of royal mourning. The grief of bereavement may have affected her health, for in December she was prescribed several medicines by Thomas Alsopp: a fomentation, or poultice, ointment, a plaster for stomachache, a plaster for her back, two sponges, sugar candy (then regarded as an aid to digestion) and “lozenges of diadragantum,” used for diarrhea or coughs. In January and February 1546 more lozenges, pills and sugar candy were supplied by the apothecary, as well as “pills for my lord” and medicaments “for two of her women, one a powder, another a purgation and liquor-ice.”59 Margaret conceived again soon after Lennox’s return home, probably in the middle of March.

  It was around this time that Queen Katherine is known to have written letters to Margaret, who was still at Stepney, and several other people.60 At a time when the King was clamping down on heresy, the Queen was becoming nervous about her secret adherence to the new faith and, fearful that the Catholic party at court might move against her, was seeking support.61 She may even have been warning her friends to hide or destroy any compromising books. Margaret, as a Catholic, would not have needed such a warning, but Katherine may have been asking her not to betray any secrets.

  By May 1546, Lennox had mustered more ships and men, and again he moved on Dumbarton, demanding that its governor surrender it. The governor admitted Lennox into the castle, but Arran laid siege to it, and Lennox was forced to abandon the project and flee back to England, knowing that he faced a long exile and a fight to regain his inheritance. It did not help that Angus’s brother, Robert, had gone over to Arran, seduced by the return of his confiscated revenues.


  In May 1546 “my Lady Margaret Douglas” is listed after the Lady Mary and the Lady Elizabeth as one of “the ladies ordinary [customary] attendant at the court.” She was also one of “the Queen’s ordinary accustomed to be lodged within the King’s Majesty’s house.”62 She was at court in July for the official reception of Claude d’Annebault, Admiral of France, the new French ambassador. A host of lords, ladies, and courtiers were summoned to attend on him at Greenwich and accompany him to London and thence to Hampton Court. The Ladies Mary and Elizabeth, Anne of Cleves, and the Duchesses of Richmond and Suffolk were also present. The ladies of the Queen’s privy chamber are listed separately, so Margaret was evidently not one of them at this time.63

  That summer the religious conservatives at court persuaded the King to agree to an investigation into the Queen’s household and her religious beliefs. Warned in time, and seeing herself facing death at the stake, Katherine Parr threw such a fit of hysterics that Henry came to see her and she managed to convince him of her innocence.64 Margaret was not implicated in any way; her compliance in religion seems not to have been in doubt.

  That year she and Lennox continued to suffer from intermittent minor ailments. In April he was prescribed more pills, after which his complaint seems to have gone away, but her health issues may have been connected with pregnancy. In April and May she was given oxirodium, “an ointment, a glass with diaciton,” used to cure melancholy and other distempers in the brain, a plaster for her stomach, and a box of “manus Christi”—sweet boiled candy made with gold leaf. Between June and September she received various other remedies including senna “cods” for the relief of constipation, and kidney plasters. At various times during the period 1544–46, Thomas Alsopp supplied glass containers used for the examination of urine, a common diagnostic practice in those days.65

  On September 29, Henry Whitreason, “receiver to the right noble Matthew, Earl of Lennox and Lady Margaret his wife,” petitioned the King to pay for a whole host of expenses incurred by his employers during the past year. These open a few windows on the Lennoxes’ daily life at this time. “Money delivered to my lady” amounting to £280 (£56,140) on December 23 and 31, 1545, was probably for Christmas celebrations and gifts. Two London mercers received “by my lord’s warran
t” a total of £70 (£14,000) for supplying rich fabrics.

  Among those who received fees were the Lennoxes’ stewards and bailiffs, and those responsible for “the game and wood in Wensleydale.” Margaret’s devotion to her faith is evident in the annuities, stipends and other charges paid to eight chantry priests, all—as was customary Catholic practice then—styled with the courtesy title “Sir”: Sir John Cancefeld, Sir Peter Glentham and Sir Martin Wardman at York Minster; Sir John Kay at Leeming, Yorkshire; Sir Richard Waddell and Sir John Wilde at Lazenby; and Sir Thomas Swadale and Sir Thomas Middelton at Bedale. William Knockes, “my lord’s falconer,” who bought Lennox a goshawk, was on the list, as was Margaret Maxton, the Countess’s former attendant, who was paid “a whole year’s annuity” of £10 (£2,000).

  William Mompesson got a “half year’s fee, for keeping the house or manor at Temple Hirst,” a former preceptory of the Knights Templar, now owned by the Lennoxes. A bricklayer of York had received a fee for viewing “the faults at Temple Newsam,” and two plumbers had been paid “to value the lead” at another of the Lennoxes’ Yorkshire properties, Whorlton Castle, and “for taking down and melting the lead.”

  A baker of York had been paid for “baking a red deer that went to London,” likewise the man who conveyed “a barrel of fresh sturgeon from York to London,” and two others for barley, beans and peas. A Mr. Bates was paid “for a gelding bought of him for my lord.” Edmund Andrews, fishmonger, of London, received £9:11s.8d. (£1,921).66


  By December 1546, Margaret had taken up residence at Temple Newsam. This imposing mansion was situated five miles east of Leeds in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and the surrounding estate comprised about four thousand acres, extending east from Leeds to Swillington, and south from Whitkirk to Rothwell. There had been a property on the site since Saxon times, and “Neuhusam,” meaning “new houses,” was recorded in the Domesday Book as the former property of two thanes, Dunstan and Glunier. It was granted by William the Conqueror to Ilbert de Lacy, but from ca.1155 until 1308 it was in the possession of the Knights Templar, hence the addition of the name “temple”; it was this fortified preceptory that was immortalized as Templestowe in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.67

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