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


  After the Templar Order was suppressed in 1307, Temple Newsam was confiscated by Edward II, whose son, Edward III, granted it to Marie de St. Pol, Countess of Pembroke and foundress of Pembroke College, Cambridge. When she died in 1377 it passed to the Darcy family. Around 1517–35, on the site of the older building, Thomas Darcy built what has been called “the Hampton Court of the north”: a palatial square Tudor house of pink diaper-patterned brickwork with stone quoins, projecting rectangular bays and tall mullioned windows. He did not enjoy it long, for he was executed in 1537 for his involvement in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and the mansion reverted to the Crown. The great house that survives today, which partially replaced Darcy’s, is an E-plan one dating mostly from the first half of the seventeenth century and later, and it was much restored in Victorian times.68

  Archaeological excavations and an inventory made in 1565 have shown that the quadrangular house Margaret knew was built on a collegiate plan around a courtyard, with a porter’s lodge and gatehouse (on the site of the present North Hall) in the north wing. There were two galleries, probably in this gatehouse wing, described as “the gallery” and “the new gallery,” which suggests that the Lennoxes added the latter. In 1565 it contained a pair of old organs (small portable musical instruments) worth 40s. (£350). There was a chapel, of which the small Tudor doorway survives, where the family would have attended Mass. Next to it was the chapel chamber and a “low wardrobe” containing (in 1565) an old dripping pan, a lute, a crossbow and arrows.

  In the south wing was a great hall with an “outer entry” from the courtyard at the eastern screens end and a dais at the west end. Almost certainly the hall soared to the full height of the house. Beneath were vast cellars, which can still be seen. In 1565 they contained “four empty hogsheads, one cupboard, one pail and the gantries [wooden stands for barrels].”69

  Recent excavations made beyond the hall suggest that a polygonal tower housed a staircase leading into the western range—the only range that survives today from the Lennoxes’ house, with its interior much remodeled, and rooms added at either end. The first floor of this wing housed the couple’s private apartments, the chief of which was their great chamber, accessed through an antechamber. Here too were the ladies’ chamber and the gentlewomen’s chamber (used by Margaret’s attendants), the nursery, a closet and the Earl’s bedchamber. The present “Gothick Room” was then a high-status chamber, for it extended to the whole width of the building, had bays at either end, and was hung with tapestries. A pencil sketch of Lord Darcy’s crest survives in the stonework to the left of the bay window, where a molded sixteenth-century arch is covered by eighteenth-century decoration. This may have been Lennox’s bedchamber. A perpendicular Tudor fireplace and ribbed ceiling survive in another first-floor room.

  The “high wardrobe” was probably on the top floor; here were stored clothes, personal effects and unused furnishings. There was a chamber on its south side, and others leading off from that. In the present-day Tudor Room on the second floor, a perpendicular stone fireplace and doorway arches remain from Lord Darcy’s time. The ground floor probably provided lodgings for the household officers, while the rest of the servants would have bedded down in the “retainers’ wing.”

  That wing—the service range—stood on the eastern side of the courtyard. It contained the musicians’ chamber, the steward’s room (the steward being in charge of the “downstairs” household), another nursery, the tailors’ room, the schoolmaster’s chamber, “the Langstroppe chamber,”70 and a new chamber—again, probably one of the Lennoxes’ improvements. The service range was connected to the eastern end of the hall range, where there were kitchens, a wet larder, a dry larder, a buttery, a pantry, a brewhouse and a patisserie.

  The inventory shows that there were about as many rooms in the Lennoxes’ house as there are in Temple Newsam today, and that they were arranged on a similar plan, although the level of the courtyard has been raised since their day.71

  The 1565 inventory lists little in the way of furniture apart from beds, but several paintings. There were nine in the great chamber, “some very small and some bigger,” and they included portraits of Margaret herself, her husband, their second son, Lord Darnley, Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII, Mary I, Philip II of Spain, and Lennox’s brother, John Stuart, Seigneur of Aubigny. That room also contained six “hangings of old imagery” and a tester (cloth of estate) of cloth of gold and silver “with the arms of the Earl and his wife embroidered, and curtains of yellow and white sarsanet.” In Lord Darnley’s chamber there were six tapestries depicting hunting and hawking, a bedstead with gilt posts, twelve feather beds and fourteen bolsters. Lennox’s magnificent bed in the Earl’s chamber was decked out with a tester of cloth of gold and purple velvet, on which were embroidered the royal arms of England, and crimson damask curtains. It was valued at £70 (£12,170). No separate bedchamber is designated as the Countess’s, so this great bed, with its emblems of sovereignty, was Margaret’s marriage bed, and a fitting place for the conception of potential heirs to the throne.72

  Temple Newsam was to come to mean more to Margaret than just another grand house. Its links with the Catholic Darcy family and the Pilgrimage of Grace perhaps had resonance with her, and in a region where the Pilgrimage was vividly remembered and many nursed bitter grievances against the King’s religious reforms and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Margaret, who was to become identified with the Catholic cause, would in time make Temple Newsam a major center for the old faith in the north.

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  If Margaret had indeed consulted a seer, it may have seemed to her that the prophesier’s words looked very much like being fulfilled with the birth of the second Lord Darnley. It was perhaps because she had hopes of his one day wearing two crowns that she named him, as she had named his brother, after her aging uncle, Henry VIII, who was probably godfather to both. This longed-for child was born on December 7, 1546, at Temple Newsam. In 1715, Ralph Thoresby, the Leeds antiquarian, stated that “the identical apartment in which Lord Darnley was born remained in his time, and was distinguished by the name of the King’s Chamber.” By the time Thomas Whitaker published his edition of Thoresby’s work in 1816, that room could not be identified.73

  There has been some debate over the year of Lord Darnley’s birth. According to the continuator of John Knox’s history, he was not yet twenty-one when he married in July 1565, placing his birth in 1544, which is impossible, since his parents only married in July that year and his brother, born in 1545, had been styled Lord Darnley as Lennox’s heir. A 1563 copy of a portrait of Darnley executed in 1562 states that he was seventeen, implying a date of birth in 1545–46; and Margaret’s epitaph too dates his birth to 1545–46. Given this evidence, it has often been stated that he was born in December 1545. But Margaret had given birth to the first Lord Darnley in late February that year, which means that she would have had to conceive and bear a child within nine months. Moreover, at the time when she would have conceived, Lennox was still in Scotland. In March 1566 a messenger sent by Mary, Queen of Scots, to her uncle, Charles de Guise, Cardinal of Lorraine, stated that Darnley was nineteen years old.74 Thus he was born in 1546.

  Six of Margaret’s eight children died young, and the names of her four daughters are unrecorded. Given that she bore her last child in 1557, when she was forty-one, and that a study of aristocratic births in the sixteenth century shows that most women had their menopause in their thirties, it is likely that the daughters were all born before 1556. The fact that their effigies, and those of the two sons who were lost in infancy, show them as grown children does not necessarily mean that they survived babyhood; they may have died before baptism. The effigies of the daughters are of different sizes, possibly for architecturally aesthetic reasons, but perhaps suggesting that some lived longer than others. One was born in 1552, and two are recorded as being alive in 1562; the slender evidence we have suggests that they died that year. The other two daughters were probably dead by 1565. The
Temple Newsam inventory records crimson velvet and satin bearing cloths trimmed with ermine, in which Margaret’s infants were wrapped for their christenings.75

  This dismal obstetric account echoes those of other members of Margaret’s family. The Tudors had a poor record when it came to producing heirs. Margaret’s mother had had six children by James IV, of whom one lived beyond infancy. Her grandparents, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, had had seven children, but only three survived into adulthood. Her uncle Henry VIII had fathered fifteen children by his wives and mistresses, seven of them sons; of these, only five daughters76 grew to maturity.

  The loss of her little ones had a heavy impact on Margaret and her husband. “But Death unto life found daily a foe: six of our children away from us bent; in tender youth he laid them down low, whose loss with tears we did much lament; but yet with God’s will we stood well content, Whose divine working we could not withstand, Who maketh and killeth in turning a hand.”77

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  Toward the end of 1546, Henry VIII’s health deteriorated. Later Thomas Bishop would claim that the King and Margaret had a bitter dispute, which allegedly took place in Henry’s final months, for Bishop refers to a grant of land he received “a little before [the King’s] death, and after the breach with my Lady Lennox.”78 It has sometimes been assumed that the King objected to Margaret’s attachment to the Church of Rome,79 but Bishop later stated that the King was so angered by false accusations made by the Lennoxes about him that Margaret “ever after lost a part of his heart, as appeared at his death.”80 This tells us much about Bishop’s overinflated sense of self-importance, since Henry VIII is hardly likely to have fallen out with Margaret on account of her unspecified allegations against a servant81—unless Bishop wasn’t telling the whole story, and had in fact been the cause of trouble between her and her uncle. The latter is a more plausible explanation, since Bishop’s statements are suspiciously vague and doubt has very rightly been cast on their veracity.82 Certainly between 1546 and 1553, Bishop was dismissed from the Lennoxes’ service, which would account for his enmity toward them, and it may have been to justify that dismissal that Margaret made accusations against him to Henry VIII—although whether they were false or not is another matter.

  Bishop also claimed that the breach with Margaret became apparent at the King’s death, and so it may have seemed, because when Henry came to make his will in December 1546, he excluded Margaret Tudor’s heirs from the succession: the Queen of Scots, not just because she was an alien, but because he was determined that she should marry his son; and Margaret, perhaps on the grounds that she was of dubious legitimacy, but more likely because Henry did not want the Scots or the duplicitous Lennox ruling England. Some writers have accepted that there was a breach, and that that was the reason why Henry passed over Margaret in his will,83 but far too much has been made of this alleged quarrel,84 and there were more compelling reasons for her exclusion. It should be remembered that Henry had never once named Margaret as his heir.

  Possibly Henry’s true reason for excluding Margaret was the same reason why he had excluded her from the Act of Succession, which was to remove a dynastic threat to his son.85 Lennox’s claim to the Scottish throne could only be pressed if the little Queen of Scots died, and then he would have had Arran to contend with, for each claimed a prior right. It would not have suited Henry to have his subject ruling autonomously north of the border, and he would have been aware that Lennox had turned his coat to serve his own interests before and was not to be trusted. Once King of Scots, Matthew’s ambitions might extend to the throne of England, to which his wife had a claim, although it is highly unlikely that the xenophobic English would have rejected Henry VIII’s heirs in favor of Margaret and her Scottish husband. Almost certainly Henry’s chief considerations were to prevent England coming under Scottish rule, and to smooth the way for the two kingdoms to be united through the marriage of Edward to Mary, Queen of Scots.86 Whatever his reasons, his exclusion of the Lennoxes from the succession must have been devastating for them.87

  Having thus passed over the line of his elder sister, Henry left the throne—failing any issue of his body—“to the heirs of the body of the Lady Frances, our niece, eldest daughter of our late sister, the French Queen,” and failing those to the heirs of her younger daughter, Eleanor.88 The King’s will had legal force, since the 1544 Act of Succession had provided for him to leave the throne to his children, in turn, and then to whomsoever he chose.

  On January 28, 1547, Henry VIII died at Whitehall Palace. Giving the lie to Thomas Bishop’s calumnies, Phillips’s Commemoration reveals that Margaret mourned him deeply: “My griefs did increase, my plaints did abound, and with me all England themselves did bestow to wail for his want. A Mars was he named, such was his power, not Hector could gain more honour in [the] field.” While Henry lived, she had had a strong advocate and generous protector; now that he was dead, she would be cast adrift into a very different world.

  CHAPTER 9

  “Great Unnaturalness”

  Henry VIII was succeeded by his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, and England, like Scotland, became subject to a regency council. It was headed by the new King’s uncle, Edward Seymour, now Duke of Somerset, who was determined to carry on the war against Scotland. That spring Margaret visited Hampton Court with the infant Darnley, and there the Scottish ambassador, Sir Adam Otterbourne, saw her present her son to the young King.1 She was obviously hoping for great things for him. Several noble boys were being brought up and educated with Edward, and Darnley, with his royal Tudor blood, was an obvious choice.

  But her reception was cool.2 The court—and the religious climate—had changed. Henry VIII had remained a Catholic all his life, but he had appointed reformers to the Council who would govern for his son. The young King had long been under the influence of reformist tutors, his uncle, Somerset, and Queen Katherine Parr, all of whom had been secret Protestants in Henry’s reign. The boy was ready openly and fervently to embrace the reformed faith, and under the governance of the Council the kingdom officially turned Protestant.

  It must have been early in the new reign that the Lennoxes moved against one John Hume, who is described by John Foxe in his Acts and Monuments (“The Book of Martyrs”) as Lennox’s servant. They had him arrested for denying the Sacrament to be the real flesh and blood of Christ, and for saying that he would never doff his bonnet to it, even if he were sentenced to be burned at the stake for it, and that if he heard Mass he would be damned. The Lennoxes sent him “with special letters” to Archbishop Cranmer, demanding that Hume be punished for his offenses, which legally still amounted to heresy. But Foxe could find no record of his execution,3 probably because neither the new government nor Cranmer was willing to proceed against a man whose views corresponded with their own.

  As a Catholic, Margaret was out of place in Edward’s court. The new Protestant regime must have been inimical to her, and the pious young King—England’s “new Josiah”—was a cold, distant child who, while he might show courtesy and refer to her as “my cousin Marget,”4 stood much on ceremony and did not approve of her beliefs. His sister Mary was to spend the years of her brother’s reign at her country houses, fighting for the right to hear Mass, which had been declared illegal. Margaret engaged in no such dispute, and seems—outwardly at least—to have complied with the law.

  As the young King was unmarried, there were no places for women at his court anyway, save on official occasions when they were required to accompany their husbands. Katherine Parr, to whom Margaret had been close, had left court and retired to the royal palace at Chelsea. In the spring of 1547 she secretly married the Protector’s brother, Thomas, Lord Seymour, which caused a great scandal as Henry VIII had been dead for less than three months. The Lady Elizabeth went to live with her stepmother, but after Seymour made improper advances to her she was sent away for her own protection. Later, after Katherine’s death in childbirth in September 1548, Elizabeth came under suspicion when Seymou
r was tried for treason, for it was believed that she had treasonably intrigued to marry him. Following his execution in March 1549 she too stayed away from court, making every effort to retrieve her tarnished reputation.

  Thus there was no more than an occasional ceremonial role for Margaret in the new order, and little hope of preferment for Darnley. She retired to Yorkshire and remained there for most of the six years of Edward’s reign, running her household, bearing the girl babies who were to die young, and supervising Darnley’s education. Rarely did she go to court.

  Lennox, who was pragmatic in matters of religion, remained in favor with the regency government. He was useful to Somerset, for he funded, from his own pocket, an army of spies whose purpose was to infiltrate the Scottish government and supply their master with valuable information, which he passed on to the English Council. Thus Somerset learned what the Scots and their French allies intended, and much about the rugged Scottish topography, which had long confounded the English. Indeed the maps that Lennox acquired were still in use in the 1590s.5 Lennox was prepared to serve Somerset, but with the “sole motive” of revenging himself on the Hamiltons, which happily coincided with the Protector’s objective of establishing an English presence on the Clyde.6 In the early autumn of 1547 he even supported Somerset’s campaign to force the Scots to marry their Queen to Edward VI and stand with England against Rome. Stationed at Carlisle with Lord Wharton, he led a diversionary assault on western Scotland while Somerset invaded the east. Lennox ravaged the western Marches and Annandale, captured Dumfries, and sustained wounds.

 
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