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

  Bishop may have acted as he did out of resentment at Margaret’s understandable failure to help him recover what he believed to be his property. As lord of the manor of Pocklington, Yorkshire, he had claimed ownership of a holding in Waplington, but sometime after July 1553 he complained that his former steward, Thomas Dolman—whose family also served the Lennoxes as stewards and receivers—had dispossessed him of it, and secured it by royal grant. Thereafter Waplington was held in dispute until at least 1628.60

  It is clear that most of Bishop’s allegations were nonsense and that the Lennoxes did not lose the Queen’s favor. On December 19, 1557, she had assigned them revenues from twelve sacks of wool from a shipment at the port of Southampton, amounting to nearly 3,000 marks (£401,000) per annum.61 And Nesbit did go to Scotland in 1557, his mission being to sue for the return of his master’s estates. In that he failed, but he made the acquaintance of Lennox’s distant cousin, James Stewart, Laird of Cardonald near Glasgow, who wanted Lennox’s support against the Queen Dowager’s rule. But Lennox would not commit himself.62

  Marie de Guise was beleaguered enough as it was. In 1558 the Lords of the Congregation increased in strength, and they were joined by Margaret’s nephew, the Queen of Scots’ bastard half brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, a natural son of James V. Ruthless, clever and opportunistic, he cherished a deep-seated grievance because he had not been born legitimate, and may have had designs on the throne. Yet he was sincere in his Calvinist convictions, a model of moral rectitude, and would soon be the richest man in Scotland.

  In the summer of 1558, Lennox fell ill. He and Margaret were staying in the north at the time. On July 27 the Queen, much concerned to hear that he was “sick unto death,”63 and perhaps doubting his fervor for the Catholic faith, asked the devoutly conservative Thomas Robertson, Dean of Durham, to visit him, trusting that Lennox “might be much eased and relieved by the presence of some good, virtuous and learned man.” Robertson was instructed to give Lennox “godly and learned counsel, advice and comfort,” in which he was to “travail to the best of your power, and to advertise us in the end what you have done in this behalf, wherein you shall administer unto us acceptable pleasure and service.”64 The Queen also sent her personal condolences to her “dear Mathieu” and recommended a physician.65 It may have been his remedies that were efficacious, as Lennox recovered.

  John Stuart, Lennox’s youngest brother, had succeeded their uncle as Seigneur of Aubigny in 1544, and in the wake of the alliance of England and Spain had been a means of communication between the Lennoxes and the French court. Aubigny had been captured by the Spanish after the Battle of Saint-Quentin in August 1557 and later ransomed, thanks to the good offices of Lennox, the Count of Feria, who had served as Philip’s ambassador in England since 1554, and the schoolmaster Arthur Lallard, who acted as go-between. In January 1558, Aubigny had been in the French army that took Calais, the last remaining outpost of England’s French empire, a cataclysmic disaster for England that would haunt Queen Mary until her death.

  The Catholic Aubigny favored the succession of Mary, Queen of Scots, to the English throne. He worked as an agent of Marie de Guise, and in the autumn of 1558 took part in a border raid into England, during which he was captured. Lennox secretly sent him money, but also wrote to Queen Mary expressing his opinion that his brother might be persuaded to abandon the Scots, and might “tell much if he but list.” Margaret asked Queen Mary to send her copies of the dispatches of the Count of Feria, who was ordered to London in October 1558 after King Philip learned that the Queen was ill. These dispatches were conveyed to her by Lallard. But Aubigny escaped back to France, and when the Queen learned of this she began to look upon Lennox with grave suspicion.66 It may have been to this that Bishop was referring. Yet there were to be no adverse consequences, for Mary died at St. James’s Palace on November 17. In the end it was not Margaret who succeeded her, but Elizabeth, whom she had finally acknowledged as her heir on November 6.


  “The Second Person in the Kingdom”

  As soon as Elizabeth had been proclaimed queen, Margaret and Lennox hastened to her court at Hatfield, making sure that they were among the first to congratulate her. Elizabeth’s welcome was gracious,1 which seemed to augur well for the future, and Margaret rode immediately behind the new monarch when she made her state entry into London.2

  On December 13, Margaret was chief mourner at Queen Mary’s funeral in Westminster Abbey. Mounted on horseback and followed by several great ladies, “riding all in black trailed to the ground,” she followed the chariot, which bore a wooden effigy of the late Queen, crowned and robed, from St. James’s Palace to the abbey, where the Abbot and four bishops received the coffin for the first of the liturgical offices for the dead. Margaret was present the next morning for the Requiem Mass and the interment in the side aisle of the Henry VII Chapel, at which the officers of the late Queen’s household symbolically broke their staves of office and cast them into the grave. Then the heralds cried, “The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!” and the mourners went to dinner.3 This was to prove the last funeral of a reigning English sovereign to be conducted with Roman Catholic rites, and Margaret must have been aware that religious change would soon come.

  Henry II of France did not recognize the Protestant, illegitimate Elizabeth as her sister’s lawful heir, and on learning of her accession he ordered that the arms of his daughter-in-law, the Queen of Scots, be quartered with the royal arms of England, effectively acknowledging Mary Stuart as the rightful, Catholic queen. It was an act that would color all future relations between the two women, and of course to Elizabeth it represented a serious threat to her throne.

  To counteract French influence in Scotland, she made clear her intention of allying herself to Lennox’s enemy, Châtelherault, and his cohort Moray, who was at that time contesting Margaret’s claim to the earldom of Angus.4 Marie de Guise, desperately trying to preserve her daughter’s Catholic kingdom intact, now turned to Lennox. On December 20, Châtelherault’s son, James Hamilton, now Earl of Arran, and Moray informed Cecil, who had been reappointed secretary of state, “that the Dowager has desired the Earl of Lennox to come home in this country, promising him both his own lands and the Earldom of Angus, to which he has agreed. Desiring you to stop his coming.”5 The Lords of the Congregation wanted no interference from a man who had identified himself with the Catholic cause.

  On January 14, 1559, Margaret took part in the celebrations marking Elizabeth’s state entry into London prior to her coronation. In the great procession that advanced from the Tower through the gaily bedecked, crowded streets of the City, Lord Robert Dudley, as Master of Horse, followed immediately behind the Queen’s chariot, then after him came Margaret at the head of thirty-nine ladies; she and the Duchesses of Norfolk, Suffolk and Northumberland rode with twenty others on palfreys, the rest traveling in three chariots. The next day Margaret and the other ladies followed the Queen as she walked from Westminster Hall along a blue carpet to Westminster Abbey to the joyous sound of fifes, drums, organs and all the bells of London pealing. Yet it was not Margaret who was given the high honor of carrying the Queen’s train, but Margaret Audley, Duchess of Norfolk. Margaret followed with “the duchesses, marchionesses, countesses, etc., dragging their trains after them, going two by two, and being exquisitely dressed, with their coronets on their heads, and so handsome and beautiful that it was a marvellous sight.”6 The entire peerage, including Lennox, was present in Westminster Abbey when the Queen was crowned. One can only imagine Margaret’s thoughts at such a moment.

  Afterward, doubtless to her dismay, she and Lennox were given leave to return to Yorkshire. The Queen had offered no place or office at court, yet on bidding them farewell she told Margaret she had appointed Sir William Cecil to look to their affairs, and that they should contact him if they needed any assistance from her.7

  The Lennoxes could not have mistaken the cold draft emanating from the throne. Excluded f
rom the succession she might have been, but Margaret was still the second lady in England and remained a dynastic threat to Elizabeth, who hated and distrusted her, as she did all her female heirs, although in Margaret’s case she had more reason, given how unkindly Margaret had behaved toward her. Elizabeth would have identified Margaret strongly with the late Queen’s reign and policies,8 and had good reason to believe that she shared Queen Mary’s antipathy toward her. She had not forgotten how Margaret had been given precedence before her, and she was aware that the Act of Succession could be repealed in response to political and popular opinion; indeed, time would show that many believed the Scottish line to have the prior right to the English succession. She was also aware that Margaret had sons with strong claims to the crowns of England and Scotland, and that the Catholic Lennoxes had the potential to enlist support in Scotland, France and Spain; she knew too that Margaret would not hesitate to reinstate the Counter-Reformation, should sovereign power ever be hers.

  In Phillips’s Commemoration, Margaret praises Elizabeth to the skies, extolling her as “a Princess of Peace” who excelled the Muses and the Graces, advanced God’s truth and put down falsehood—-sentiments she can never have entertained in the early years of the Queen’s reign. But this was written many years later, when much had been forgiven, if not forgotten, and when she knew she must not go to her Maker with hatred in her heart, or offend the one person who could protect the interests of her grandchildren.

  At the outset, Margaret spared no thought for Elizabeth’s insecurities. The hatred was mutual. Margaret had cherished hopes that she herself might succeed Mary. It has been shrewdly observed that “no Stuart, before or after, was so hypnotised by the crown as this Stuart by marriage, [who] understood herself to be the pure and living chalice of the blood royal.” Margaret was, after all, a great-granddaughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, sister, mother and grandmother to kings of Scotland, England and France, and on the distaff side she was “in equally close relationship to seven queens.” Probably “she found it hardly endurable that she herself should be denied the sweets of majesty.”9

  In the Protestant Edward VI’s reign, Margaret had had no grounds for opposing the legitimacy of the King’s title, but like most Catholics she regarded Elizabeth as a bastard, a heretic and a usurper, and seems never inwardly to have accepted her as the rightful Queen of England. In her own eyes, it was herself, Margaret, who was the true inheritor of the kingdom,10 and her sons who should come after her. Under Queen Mary, Margaret had had the freedom to practice her religion openly, and clearly she felt that she should not now be prevented from doing so by one who had no right to royal authority. From now on she would have no compunction about undermining the claims of the usurper Elizabeth whenever she could, and advancing the Catholic cause. It is easy to believe Thomas Bishop’s assertion that in the privacy of her house, “she openly said that either Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth was a bastard, and all the world knew that Queen Mary was lawful; and for herself she desired nothing but her rights, which she trusted to have one day. By open talk [she] many times usurped the name of second personage to the crown of England, and [said] that in default of the Queen she would give place to none. Her servants have made like boasts.”11

  It has been credibly suggested that, descended from the same grandfather, Margaret and Elizabeth had been “forced very probably by heredity into similar trains of thought” and come thoroughly to distrust each other, “probably because each understood, and so could be prepared for, the other’s wiles.”12 Elizabeth could never count on Margaret’s loyalty, and Margaret could never trust Elizabeth to give her what she believed to be her rightful due as a close heir to the throne.

  It is now, with her rival in power, that the real Margaret emerges, a strong, “masterful, ambitious woman” of forty-three “with more than a dash of Tudor spirit,”13 whose ambitions and prejudices had hitherto been fed, or kept in check, by circumstances, and who had been denied her rights to a great earldom and a crown. It would not be surprising if she felt angry and wronged, especially now that she found herself in opposition to a powerful enemy who represented everything she despised. Margaret had already demonstrated that she had an audacious, passionate nature and a talent for dangerous scheming, and it was at this time that her relentless ambition and determination came into evidence. She did not shrink from what Elizabeth would certainly have seen as treasonable activities, although Margaret would not have regarded them as such. Two forces now drove her: her fierce ambition for her sons, and a burning desire to see England and Scotland united under Catholic rule. And so, in the words of the Victorian historian James Anthony Froude, she embarked on “a restless life of feverish intrigue,”14 working to her uttermost to advance her house and exploit every political opportunity that came her way,15 emerging in the process as a serious political operator, the true successor of her ancestors on both sides. Fearlessly she would risk all, and for many years, as a leading Catholic with royal blood, she was to prove a powerful force in Elizabethan politics.


  Even though they still treated Temple Newsam as their chief seat,16 from 1558—as Lennox’s letters show—the Lennoxes resided mainly at Settrington, a great house remotely situated in Ryedale, not thirty miles from Bridlington Bay on the Yorkshire coast, where ships from Dieppe came to trade.17 It was therefore well placed to facilitate communications with France and its Queen, Mary Stuart, and it was far distant from London. Another advantage was that it lay in an area well populated with old Catholic families, and came with strong Catholic connections. It had been the home of the Bigod family from the thirteenth century until Francis Bigod had involved himself in the Pilgrimage of Grace and paid with his life and his estates. He had rebuilt the medieval house.

  There is no surviving image of Settrington, but a survey carried out by John Mansfield in 1599–1600, when it was “damnified by decay,” lists its rooms, offices and outbuildings: the Low Parlor, with a chamber above and a little room next to it; the Great Chamber; the stair head by the Great Chamber door; a small room called the Tailor’s Chamber; another little chamber and an entry next to it; a corner chamber on the west side of the house; the hall, wet larder and dry larder; the kitchen; the buttery and hall porch; a room called Paradise, then “fallen down and clean gone,” which had measured three yards by six, with a ceiling three and a half yards high, covered with lead. It may be significant that Margaret had a room called Paradise, as Queen Elizabeth had the famed and opulent Paradise Chamber at Hampton Court, and Margaret was perhaps trying to emulate her rival.

  Outside were the gatehouse and a granary store, or “garner,” the “places of ease” (latrines), a dovecote, a stable, the barn, the larder house, the bakehouse, the brewhouse and the laundry house. Pipes and cisterns of lead supplied the kitchen and brewhouse with water. Beyond the house were yards, orchards and fishponds.18

  The Lennoxes also spent time at their manor of East Witton near Leyburn in Wensleydale, seventy miles east of Settrington. It incorporated the ruins of Jervaulx Abbey, dissolved and dismantled under Henry VIII. A 1997 survey of the surrounding earthworks revealed evidence of a “totally unsuspected but short-lived great house and formal garden on the site, probably built by the Earl of Lennox in the second half of the sixteenth century, but demolished or abandoned by 1627,” for no sign of it, or the grand formal gardens, appears on a 1627 map of the estate.19 The survey showed that the house was massive and stood in the abbey precinct, in the southeastern corner of the inner court. A rectangular area of mounds and hollows adjoining the monastic buildings and measuring eighty-two by ninety-eight feet was perhaps the end part of a southern range, but the northern range had disappeared under later landscaping. Surviving monastic buildings were probably incorporated into the main part of the house.

  This lost house of the Lennoxes was of great status. It had up to fourteen formal gardens with paths, terraces and watercourses. There were two pavilions and possibly a gazebo, situated so as to afford v
iews over the gardens. The monastery’s water supply system and fishponds were adapted for ornamental water features, and its watermill was made into a picturesque ruin. On the eastern side of the gardens there was an embankment to divide the formal area from the hunting park. The remains of what might have been a coach house were located in the field to the south of Mark Hill.20


  At a time when Parliament was establishing the Protestant Church of England, and the Queen was working for religious unity in her realm, Margaret’s houses once again became lodestars for those of the Roman faith. Her household was not only effectively a northern court, but also a focus for Catholic intrigues that might encourage disaffection and undermine the new Anglican settlement, which was initially to make very little impact in the predominantly Catholic north. For the first time we hear that Margaret was “one who is beyond measure hostile to [the Protestant] religion, more violent even than Queen Mary herself,”21 and, according to Miles Coverdale, the translator of the Bible into English, “more stiff in her Poperies” than Mary.22 Her hatred of the Protestant faith had doubtless been fueled by the grim news that her mother’s tomb had been desecrated, her corpse burned and the ashes scattered when the Charterhouse at Perth was attacked and destroyed by a mob of Calvinist reformers on May 11, 1559.23 Soon it would become clear that she was ready to use her faith as a political weapon and exploit it in order to bolster the claims of herself and Darnley to the throne. Thus it is not hard to see why the activities of the Lennoxes, and of Margaret in particular, came to be regarded as threats to the security of the state.

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