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

  Elizabeth had already anticipated that the Lennoxes might try to marry Darnley to Mary, which was naturally an alarming prospect, given that it would unite two strong claims to the English throne. No one knew what Mary would do now, and until the Scottish Queen’s future was settled, Elizabeth realized that it was imperative to keep the family in England, and abandoned all thought of helping Lennox to recover his Scottish estates.

  On December 16 she wrote to Lennox: “We are sorry, in respect of your particular cause, that the death of the French King does so alter the time, or suspend the judgment of what is meet, that it seems requisite for a season to forbear for your causes, and yourself also to stay, not doubting but that it will give us better occasion to further the same.” Cleverly she implied that this disruption to her efforts on Lennox’s behalf was merely temporary, “as surely for our cousin your wife’s sake, nature shall duly move us, and for your own sake, being our subject”—a timely reminder, this—“we will not neglect nor predetermine any thing that reasonably we may do.” She ended by sending her “most hearty commendations to her dear cousin, the Earl’s wife.”5

  Thomas Randolph, Elizabeth’s agent in Scotland, had also guessed that the Lennoxes would try to marry Darnley to Queen Mary. On December 23 he told Cecil he wished that Darnley could be summoned to court to preempt anyone trying to lure him to Scotland or any other place.6 Randolph, who admired Châtelherault, had no time for Lennox, and regarded him as a traitor to his country.7

  By now the Lennoxes had had enough of the troublesome Thomas Bishop, and it may have been around this time that “the Earl discharged him his house.” Bishop evidently saw in this the hand of Margaret, and now, cast out and in need of money, he saw an opportunity of being revenged on her and of recovering his disputed manor. By the end of the year he had agreed to act for the Privy Council as an informer against the Lennoxes.8 Clearly his loyalty to Lennox had been suborned on account of Margaret’s antipathy and his own desire for royal favor and preferment, and possibly, aware of the couple’s hopes for Darnley, he had approached the Council himself. That December, having apparently heard his employers complaining about the Queen, he wrote for his new masters a tract against the Lennoxes in which he claimed that they thought Elizabeth ungrateful for their service.9 That was followed, on February 9, by another tract written for Cecil, in which Bishop himself bragged of his manifold good services to England.10

  It is important to remember that much of the information laid against the Lennoxes in this period came from Thomas Bishop. He was a clever man, and the detail in his statements argues some basis in fact, but he had an agenda. He had long hated Margaret, who had probably poisoned Lennox’s mind against him, and he was out for preferment at court. Bishop’s information tallies closely—sometimes word for word—with that of the man who was probably one of his informants, the spy William Forbes, which suggests collusion, either to supply false information, or to ensure that there were no discrepancies that might cast doubt. Therefore the statements of both should be treated with caution, and we should look elsewhere for corroborative evidence, which does not always exist.

  On February 23, 1561, Quadra informed his master that “Lady Margaret Lennox is trying to marry her son, Lord Darnley, to the Queen of Scotland, and I understand she is not without hope of succeeding.” But the Scottish Parliament was recommending that Mary marry Châtelherault’s heir, Arran,11 which in itself was enough to spur the Lennoxes onward with their plans.

  It was probably during the winter of 1560–61 that Margaret commissioned the court artist Levina Teerlinc to paint a miniature of Darnley,12 which was almost certainly destined for Queen Mary. In February, Margaret arranged for Darnley, now fourteen, to go to France with Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford, who had been sent to offer Mary Elizabeth’s condolences on the death of the late King.13 Darnley carried with him a letter from his mother to the widowed Queen, which he delivered to her personally at Orléans.14 Margaret wanted her son to make an impression on Mary, and inevitably people drew their own conclusions.


  By now it was clear that Elizabeth, wishing to keep the Lennoxes in England, had no intention of helping the Earl to recover his Scottish estates, so in 1561, at Lennox’s behest, Galston appealed to Queen Mary, which served only to cast a further cloud of suspicion over Lennox in England.15 On March 16, Galston wrote from Edinburgh to inform Lennox that he had spoken with the Earl’s friends, who were going to capitalize on their favor with the Queen of Scots for obtaining his pardon, and had written to her urging that Lennox and his Countess should enjoy their inheritances in Scotland.16

  That same day Galston also wrote to Margaret, saying he had intended to visit her and her husband, but his friends had asked him to stay in Scotland to aid them in their appeal. He told her that “the common bruit” in Edinburgh was that Darnley had gone to France to be a suitor to the Queen of Scots. Many people had asked him if it was true, but he had said he did not know. He hoped to see her soon, and sent his “hearty commendations to Lord Darnley and Master Charles.”17

  According to Bishop, Margaret continued secretly to build support for the marriage of Darnley to Queen Mary. After Easter, which fell on April 6, she covertly sent her servant Ralph Lacy18 with letters of credence from herself, Lennox and Darnley to Aubigny in France, and thence to Spain to the Count of Feria, the former ambassador to England, and his English wife, Jane Dormer, who had devotedly served Mary I.19 In May, Bishop revealed, Margaret persuaded Lennox to ask Galston to carry letters into France. Lennox wrote them in French, at her behest, and Darnley handed them to the Queen of Scots at Orléans.20 But Mary was not interested in marrying Darnley, and he came away with just two letters from her to his mother.21

  Margaret was placing herself in a perilous position, because in the wake of a recent supposedly Catholic plot to murder Elizabeth by witchcraft, the Queen—who had enlightened religious views but feared Catholic activists—had reluctantly authorized Cecil to bring the full force of the law to bear on recusants suspected of intriguing against her.22

  If Bishop is to be believed, Margaret was now intriguing behind the scenes with Scottish nobles, spurred on by the news that Queen Mary was planning to return to Scotland to take up the reins of government. With Mary just north of the border, it would be far easier to arrange a match with Darnley. Around Whit Sunday (May 25), after Galston’s return to Settrington, Margaret sent him and William Forbes to Lennox’s brother-in-law, the Earl of Sutherland,23 and other noblemen, to “prove their good minds and affection towards the marriage of her son, the Lord Darnley, with the Queen of Scots.” Forbes brought their answers to Margaret at Temple Newsam; one, Lord Seton, had said “that he would not only spend his living, but would also spend his blood for that purpose.”24 Margaret was to have cause to regret entrusting William Forbes with such a mission.

  In the summer of 1561, Yaxley warned her he had received word that Thomas Bishop had been passing on information about the marriage that was being plotted. This was probably the first indication she had of Bishop’s treachery, and of course she could have had no idea how far he had already betrayed her and Lennox. Quadra had revealed the information to Yaxley so that Margaret “might provide remedy for the same,” and arrange for one of his contacts, John Stewart, Laird of Minto and Provost of Glasgow, to take Bishop captive if his nefarious activities took him into Scotland.25 Bishop would later allege that Lennox wanted Minto to murder him.26

  On August 15, Sir William Maitland warned Cecil that he had heard that the Queen of Scots intended to “draw home the Earl of Lennox and set him up against the Duke of Châtelherault.” He trusted that Queen Elizabeth would be on her guard.27 But Elizabeth had more reasons than that to fear Mary’s return to Scotland. Mary had never signed the Treaty of Edinburgh, which had renounced on her behalf her claim to the English Crown, vested the regency in the Lords of the Congregation and sealed a friendship between Protestant Scotland and Protestant England. She had also made clear her intenti
on of marrying Don Carlos, the son and heir of Philip of Spain—and Elizabeth had no desire to see a threatening Spanish presence north of the border.

  The Lennoxes, of course, held a very different view. When Queen Mary returned to Scotland in August 1561, having avoided an English fleet sent by Elizabeth to intercept her, Margaret’s joy—according to Bishop—knew no bounds. “Hearing that the Queen of Scots had passed through the seas, she sat down and gave God thanks, declaring to those by how he had always preserved that Princess at all times, especially now, for when the Queen’s ships were almost near taking of the Scottish Queen, there fell down a mist from heaven that separated them and preserved her.”28 Now it would be easier for Margaret to bring her plans to fruition.

  Lennox had high hopes of regaining his lands. Bishop was to state that, after learning of Mary’s arrival in Edinburgh, he and Margaret sent Arthur Lallard, Darnley’s schoolmaster, ostensibly to meet with Aubigny, but secretly to give Mary letters from Lord Darnley. One morning the Earl of Sutherland brought Lallard to the Queen’s chamber at Stirling so that he could deliver the letters. She walked up and down with him, out of earshot of everyone but her women, and then sat down on a coffer and talked of Darnley, “his stature, age, qualities, ability,” and of Margaret’s friends in Scotland. Lallard thought that Darnley had been “well accepted.”

  He then spoke to Mary of Lennox’s request to have his appeal heard before the Scottish Parliament. Her reply was evasive: “she was but newly returned into her realm, therefor she could not give me such an answer as she would; but all she might do for my lord and my lady her aunt, she would do at a proper time all that they of reason could demand, desiring my lady to be always her good aunt, as she knew her for to be,” and sending “remembrances to them both.”29 Mary was stalling. She must have been aware that few of her lords would welcome Lennox back to Scotland,30 and that he was a potential focus for trouble.

  But Margaret was encouraged by Mary’s message. Soon she had various agents—Forbes, his man, her falconer Wat Nepe, Thomas Kelly, and Rigg, her footman—“continually passing with letters into Scotland,” assisted by Galston. Bishop alleged that she became a spy for Mary against the English government, devising that in all the letters that passed the Queen of Scots should be referred to as “the Hawk,” and insisting that those missives should all be burned. He asserted that she enjoined Mary to warn her powerful Guise uncles that any information she confided to them should remain secret. Mary’s replies to Margaret were written in her own hand.31 Forbes was to say that Margaret informed Mary “of all the things she had intelligence of,”32 and that her secret dealings were known to Nesbit, Yaxley, Hugh Allen, Lallard and Thomas Fowler, the clerk of her kitchen, who had recently killed a poor stranger in circumstances that are unknown, and subsequently fled.33

  At the end of September, Margaret sent Galston to ask the Queen of Scots whether she would keep her promise made in France or not, “and by plain and open words [he] made suit in the Earl and Countess’s names to the Queen for her marriage to Lord Darnley.” Mary commanded him to write to the Lennoxes telling them that he had received a “gentle answer” that she considered the matter to be of great importance, and that she would advise them of her decision, whereupon Galston told William Forbes that all would be well for Lord Darnley.34

  Bishop later claimed that Margaret openly spoke of what a good thing it would be to have both the realms in one through the marriage of the Queen of Scots to Darnley, who would then be king of both England and Scotland, “as her prophesiers at the death of her first son told her.”35 Later Margaret would say much the same thing in a letter to Quadra, and Mary was to inform Elizabeth that, from the time she arrived in Scotland, Margaret had never ceased urging her to marry Darnley. She herself, she would protest, had never given him a thought, or heeded his mother, for she had far greater suitors in her sights. But Margaret had inundated her with messages, letters and tokens pressing her son’s suit, and repeatedly reminded her that he was of the royal blood of England and Scotland, a Stuart, a Catholic and her rightful heir, and that he would always treat her respectfully.36

  The French were unlikely to back any claim by Margaret and her sons to the English throne. On October 8, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton reported to Elizabeth that Mary’s uncle, Francis, Duke of Guise, had insisted that his niece was Elizabeth’s lawful heir. Although Mary was excluded from inheriting the Crown because she was not born in England, he cited the cases of King Stephen and Richard II, who had both been born in what was now France. As to Margaret’s claim, the question of her legitimacy would prove a greater obstacle. However, people were saying that Katherine Grey and the sons of “Madam Lennox” should be recalled to court, “as they ought to be.”37


  The Lennoxes still did not know that Elizabeth’s spies had been planted in their household and were reporting their activities, but Bishop stated that they went in fear of Elizabeth finding out about their intrigues with Mary. They told their friend John Lockhart, the Laird of Barr, that “Queen Elizabeth loved them not, and that they looked every day for a pursuivant to come to their gates”38 with warrants for their arrest. Barr was an associate of Galston, and Barr Castle still stands in Galston, Ayrshire. From 1561 he was active on behalf of the Lennoxes in pursuing Queen Mary’s marriage to Darnley.

  Lord Grey, now governor of Berwick and warden of the Scottish Marches, was evidently unaware of Forbes’s true role. On November 3 he informed Cecil that a servant of Lennox, William Forbes, had been waiting in Berwick for a fortnight to receive intelligence from Châtelherault’s son, Arran, and should have crossed into Scotland with errands from Lennox, but had been commanded by his master to remain till letters came to him from Scotland. Grey was content to let him stay there, because he hoped to intercept his letters. In the meantime he would be offering him “courteous entertainment” to preempt Forbes becoming suspicious. But Grey was concerned that if he found reasons in the letters to arrest him, Forbes’s informants would go to ground. Grey asked Cecil what he should do,39 and Cecil probably told him that Forbes was in Dudley’s employ. He certainly ordered him to arrest any of Lennox’s genuine messengers, which Grey did.40

  On November 27, Quadra reported:

  The Queen has sent a summons to Lady Margaret Douglas to come hither [to London] with her husband and children. It is said publicly that the reason of this is that she shows favor to the Catholics in the province of York, and that consequently the Bishop dares not visit his diocese or punish any Papist. This reason, however, is a pretended one, and has been made public to deceive the people as to the reality, which is that the Queen hears that Lady Margaret is trying to marry her son to the Queen of Scots. This has been divulged by one of her servants whom the Queen has taken into her service and rewarded for the information, and inquiries are now being made as to those who may have taken part in the matter. The earls of Northumberland and Westmorland and the Duke of Norfolk have been brought hither at once with the excuse that the Queen wished them to pass Christmas with her.

  Norfolk had long been keeping Margaret under surveillance, and it was known that the earls were her friends. Margaret, probably warned by Quadra that a summons was on its way, had evidently written to the ambassador, for he continued:

  I understand that Lady Margaret is much distressed, as she thinks she will be thrown into the Tower, and that her son’s life is in danger. I am told that she is resolved not to deny the allegation about the marriage of the Queen of Scots as she says it is no crime, and as that Queen is her niece, the daughter of her brother, she thinks she has done no harm in advising her to do what she believes would be the best for her, namely, to marry her son, by which the succession of this kingdom would be secured to the Scotch Queen, and all reason for strife would be avoided in case of the Queen of England dying without issue.

  In other words, Margaret was doing her patriotic best to avoid the prospect of a war over a disputed succession.

  If the English should all
ege that the Queen of Scots could not succeed in consequence of her being a foreigner, she would nevertheless reign over the kingdom by right of this youth, the son of Lady Margaret, if she married him, as he is an Englishman and beyond doubt the nearest heir to the crown after her. This Queen, however, bases her security on there being no certain successor to whom the people could turn if they were to tire of her rule, and I understand she is in great alarm about this business, and determined to obtain possession of the persons without the reason being made public, as she fears that if the people were to understand the business it might please them and cause a disturbance if Lady Margaret were free. In order to summon her without turmoil they have taken the pretext of finding fault with her about religion, which will make her unpopular with London people. This gives great pain to the faithful, as they had placed all their trust in this woman and her son, and if they dared I am sure they would help her, and forces would be forthcoming in the country itself if they had any hopes of help from without.41

  Margaret had panicked prematurely. What Quadra assumed was a summons with sinister import was probably an invitation to spend Christmas at court,42 so that the Council could keep her under observation. Moreover, it seems highly unlikely that Margaret did go to London at this time; as will be seen, she was still expected there at the end of January.

  That December, Elizabeth began pressing for a meeting with Queen Mary, a matter that was to remain under discussion for some months. But—again this is Bishop—“Lady Lennox was a let [hindrance] to the Queen of Scots coming through England.” Fearing that Mary might inadvertently let slip something about their secret dealings, she did her best to persuade her not to agree to coming to England for the meeting. She sent word to the Queen of Scots “to have her most trusty friends about her, and to keep herself near the castles of Edinburgh and Stirling, declaring that if she came here, England would have them all.”43

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