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

  On December 14, Lord Grey had to inform Cecil that he had been about to apprehend messengers of the Earl of Lennox, but they had given him the slip and gone south to Northallerton, where they had been arrested.44 One was John Lockhart, the young Laird of Barr, who was taken with letters that John Knox described as “the cause of his and [the Lennoxes’] trouble,” as their content led to accusations that they had been “trafficking with Papists.”45

  Lennox, hearing of Barr’s arrest, immediately went up to London “of his own accord,” as Cecil later divulged.46 Margaret probably did not accompany him.47 Lennox knew that the letters found on young Barr were compromising and clearly wanted to limit the damage. He must have given a satisfactory explanation; otherwise the government would quickly have moved against him, which it did not.


  For some weeks prior to Christmas, Elizabeth was very ill with dropsy.48 Thomas Bishop would claim that, during the festive season, hearing of the Queen’s sickness, Margaret’s servants at Settrington “said their mistress should rule as long, and that they should have the ball at their foot.”49 The implication was that they were hoping that Elizabeth would die so that Margaret could ascend the throne—but of course this could have been a malicious invention on Bishop’s part.50

  On January 2, 1562, Randolph informed Cecil that “nothing will be done touching the Earl of Lennox,” and that the Queen of Scots “will make the Queen privy to all his intention.”51 On the 15th, Maitland told Cecil he trusted “that Lennox’s practices here will do no great harm,” and said that Queen Mary had assured him they would not.52 That day Randolph confirmed that Maitland had spoken to Mary “touching the Earl of Lennox. She said that whatever he intends she will advertise the Queen.”53

  Despite the gathering storm clouds, Margaret remained hopeful. It must have been early in January 1562—she would not have been free to do it later in the year—that she commissioned a full-length double portrait of Darnley and his younger brother Charles, who was still in long skirts and not yet breeched; the brothers stand in front of a battened wall. Unusually the picture was painted on linen, probably so that it could be rolled up and transported easily to Scotland to be viewed by Queen Mary. It was inscribed: These be the sons of the right honourables the Earl of Lennox and the Lady Margaret’s Grace, Countess of Lennox and Angus, An. Do. MDLXII [1562] Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley and Douglas, aetatis svae X; Charles Stewart his brother, aetatis svae VI.54 Although the inscription states that they were respectively in their tenth and sixth years, Darnley was actually fifteen and Charles not quite five.

  As we see below, Margaret was expected daily in the capital at the end of January. It has been stated that, after spending Christmas at court, she must have left with her children early in the new year and gone back to Yorkshire,55 but Quadra makes it clear that in the first half of January she had sent a messenger to the Queen asking if she could visit her.56 She had no doubt been worrying how Lennox was faring at court.

  On January 17, Quadra reported that William Rastell,

  one of the judges at Westminster, has secretly gone to Flanders, which has caused great sensation here. The cause of his going, although it is publicly said to be on account of religion, I am told by some of his friends is to avoid signing an opinion which seven or eight lawyers are to give on the succession to the crown, declaring as it is suspected that there is no certain heir. All this is to exclude the Scotch Queen and Lady Margaret and declare that the selection of a king devolves upon the nation itself. I do not know whether it be true that Rastell has fled for this reason, but I am quite sure that it is a scheme of Cecil and his friends, as he himself has told me several times. The plan of getting these lawyers to sign the opinion is to make sure of them at a time when they will not dare to say what they think so as not to appear attached to the cause of the Queen of Scotland, Lady Margaret, or the Catholic religion.

  What Quadra had to report next was ominous:

  Notwithstanding Lady Margaret’s message recently to the Queen that she wished to visit her, to which a very civil answer was sent, they have arrested a servant of her husband, and have commenced proceedings against them [the Lennoxes]. I think this must be in order to make sure of my lady’s son one way or another, as they certainly have reason to fear him seeing the large number of adherents the youth has in this country.57

  On January 28, Arran asked Randolph—hopefully, one imagines—if it was true “that the Earl of Lennox and his lady are both put in ward.”58 It was not. Two days later Randolph asked Cecil “what he had heard of the Earl of Lennox, of whom it was reported that he was sent for to court.” Cecil told him that Lennox had come of his own accord as soon as he heard that Barr had been arrested. He added that the Council were taking “no great account” of Lennox, for Maitland believed that Mary would not marry anyone of Darnley’s age.59 Mary was then nineteen, four years older than Darnley.

  Soon Margaret had devastating news. On January 31, Quadra reported talk “that Lady Margaret wants to marry her son to the Queen of Scotland, which has given rise to much suspicion here, and the Earl her husband has been arrested with three or four of his servants and others.”60 Lennox was being held under house arrest in Rolls House, Chancery Lane, the official residence of Sir William Cordell, Master of the Rolls.61 When state prisoners were being investigated or under house arrest, the Crown often asked loyal, high-ranking subjects to take charge of them.

  At the end of January, Margaret was expected in London daily with her sons. Elizabeth and her government recognized her as a greater threat than Lennox. Quadra reported:

  The Queen wishes to take this opportunity of getting Parliament to declare that there is no certain heir to the crown, and giving her the power of nominating whom she pleases to succeed her. This would have the effect, they tell her, of making her more respected in and out of the country, and would ensure her living more securely; but Cecil’s scheme, and he rules all, is only to exclude the Queen of Scotland and Lady Margaret, who are Catholics, and keep the kingdom in the hands of heretics.62

  Quadra added that his letter “did not go as the post was stopped at Dover. The ports were closed as it was suspected Lady Margaret’s son wished to escape, and the Queen herself gave me to understand that it was for reasons of great importance.” She did not, however, say what these were, for she did not trust Quadra, who was intriguing with too many of her enemies. However, he did not put much weight on her words, explaining that many people had expressed the opinion that the closure of the ports

  was only an artifice to give them time to raise a sum of money in Antwerp on exchange here, the exchanges having risen greatly as they believed there that the value of money had fallen.

  The statement that Lady Margaret’s son has fled to Scotland is thought to be false. If it were true the Queen would not be so calm as she is, and the young man may be expected here with his mother any day. I hear they have sent to arrest two or three of the principal gentlemen in the country on suspicion of their favouring the cause of this youngster.

  They have thought well also to inquire whether I have any understanding with Lady Margaret, and have asked all those who have been arrested on this account if I know anything of the matters they confess.

  But Quadra had covered his tracks.

  The truth is they can hear nothing of me but what the Queen should be pleased at, but these heretics so dislike my stay here that they cease not to plot how they can place me in her bad graces. What they are doing with me now in Lady Margaret’s affair they did last year when the Abbé Martinengo’s coming was under discussion, but they have never dared to go so far as this before, not even the Queen herself.

  Abbé Ascanio Martinengo, the Papal Nuncio, had been sent to England to establish friendly relations between the Vatican and Elizabeth I, but she would not allow him to enter England, and had indeed ordered the arrest of several prominent Catholics. Quadra himself had once been accused of complicity in a Papist plot—and now he was under suspicion aga
in. He told Elizabeth he “was very tired of these inquiries and investigations every year about me and their taking note of those who went in and out of my house, which was so notorious that I could not avoid advising your Majesty about it. She answered me with all the amiability in the world.”63

  On February 7, John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, reported the gossip about Darnley marrying the Queen of Scots in a letter to the Italian theologian Pietro Martire Vermigli:

  There is a certain noble lady called the Lady Margaret, a niece of Henry VIII, and one who is beyond measure hostile to [the Protestant] religion, more violent even than Queen Mary herself. The crown, it is surmised, will descend to her son, a young man of about eighteen, should anything unhappily happen to Elizabeth, which God forbid. The husband of this woman has within these few days been committed to the Tower. The son, they say, is either spirited away by his mother, or has taken refuge in Scotland. There are, as is usually the case, various reports concerning him. The Queen of Scotland is, as you know, unmarried, so that a matrimonial alliance may possibly be formed between them.64

  Jewel’s letter shows that people were taking the prospect seriously.


  On February 9, 1562, as part of the mounting investigation into the Lennoxes’ activities, Thomas Bishop was examined by Cecil. Knowing him to be their enemy, one who either knew their secrets or would act out of sheer malice, both Margaret and Lennox had laid complaints against him, accusing him of bearing false witness against them. In retaliation, Bishop made an extraordinary self-aggrandizing statement, which makes very clear the enmity between him and Margaret, and shows him to have been cunning and manipulative. He told Cecil that, having been charged by her “with slanderous and untrue instructions against the rule of honesty,” he had sent one of his servants to Settrington to retrieve letters that would “answer that infamy.” He said he would consider himself well rewarded if Cecil and “one or two of the Council” would hear his answer, “not for my vain glory, but to declare my demeanor.” He would then “study” to serve the Queen without fear of reprisals from Margaret.

  Manifesting astonishment that anyone should suspect him of intriguing on behalf of the Lennoxes, Bishop proceeded to enumerate, in many points, how he had served the Queen, under the heading “My special services in England.” He was prepared to go back a long way to disparage the Lennoxes and show himself loyal beyond the ordinary to the Crown. During the fighting at Dumbarton Castle in the 1540s, “openly I willed the Earl of Lennox take a pike and fight rather than return with shame.” Bishop’s “good policy” after that “betrayal” had been to preserve Henry VIII’s power on land, for which the King had been suitably grateful. After Bishop had showed bravery at the siege of Boulogne in 1544, he had been “embraced in the King’s Majesty’s arms, with words of comfort, before his whole Privy Council in his privy chamber,” and been given many rewards including a £25 annuity. In 1544, in gratitude for Bishop’s efforts in negotiating Margaret’s marriage treaty, Henry had granted this “well-beloved servant” the manor of Pocklington, and in 1546 “his Majesty, besides all this (a little before his death), and after the breach with my Lady Lennox, gave me and my heirs 20 marks [of] land.” But all that Bishop had received since the King’s death “had been but trifles.”

  He gave a long account of his exceptional service and “notable exploits” under Edward VI, Somerset and Northumberland, and the paltry rewards he had received. Somerset had “understood my knowledge and intelligence” and “to his dying day ever used me in all affairs for Scotland, like a counselor.” The advice Bishop had given to Somerset and the Duke of Northumberland had stopped Lord Grey entering Scotland at a dangerous moment with six thousand men, “the flower of England.” Bishop recalled how Queen Mary had restored his pension, despite Margaret telling her that he was a heretic, and how Mary had trusted him in regard to Scottish affairs, whereas she had not trusted Lennox.

  Bishop reminded Cecil that he and some of the Privy Councilors had in their possession plans, books and speeches of his, all written in support of “suppressing the French in Scotland”; these had been sent to Marie de Guise “to damage me,” and possibly he was implying that Margaret had done that. As for his allegiance to England, he had been “most earnest, most inventive, most cruel and careful to subvert that realm of Scotland [and] let our trumpet be blown upon the Marches, requiring any Scot or Frenchman to charge me!” Whenever Lennox, in return for intelligence, had given a crown to a spy, Bishop had given fourscore. He had been out of pocket “above a thousand pound” protecting himself because of Margaret’s enmity, and he knew that lately Lennox had planned to have him slaughtered in Scotland, “where he knows I dare not go and no money will save me,” and had heard that the Earl had laid a similar trap in England. And now, “with infamy,” Lennox “by his wife’s procurement” had lied about Bishop and tried to compass his ruin by complaining to the Council about him. In an injured tone he trusted that “in my honest trial the Queen’s Majesty will be as good sovereign to me as her gracious father my master was, and her predecessors have been: whom without fear of my Lady Lennox or others I shall truly serve.”

  In a postscript Bishop stated that Darnley’s tutor, John Elder, had told him he had in his possession letters from Aubigny to Lennox, Darnley and (Bishop thought) Margaret. “I know the man,” he added, insinuating himself into Cecil’s service, “and have gone no further with him yet.” Elder “might be traited [drawn out] a little” on what he knew.65

  In his postscript Bishop did his best to disparage the Lennox claims to the throne by insisting that, under the terms of her original marriage treaty—the Treaty of Perpetual Peace of 1502—Margaret Tudor’s descendants “should not claim, enjoy nor inherit any patrimony, lands, dignities, honours, titles nor possessions within the realm of England.” Henry VII had indeed been concerned that, failing male heirs in England, the succession would fall to a Scottish ruler, yet the treaty of 1502 had been broken when James IV invaded England in 1513, and in the end did not prevent the succession of Margaret Tudor’s descendants to the throne of England. But Bishop further pointed out that the line of Margaret and her sons had been “corrupted by meaner blood of subjects,” and alleged that, although she had been born in England, she could not be considered English because her mother had not been officially invited into England.66

  In his efforts to ingratiate himself with his interrogators, Bishop had raked up every damning detail that he could to discredit the Lennoxes. But in mentioning the succession he touched a raw nerve, prompting the Council to commission Alexander Pringle, a former adherent of the Douglases, to examine Margaret’s pedigree, and her claim, with a critical eye.67

  By so vigorously stressing his record of loyal service, and by cleverly showing his employers in the worst light, Bishop apparently exonerated himself from the Lennoxes’ complaints. Despite his animosity toward them, he had given little away. But he had not finished with them yet.


  No succor would be forthcoming for the Lennoxes from Scotland. On February 12, Randolph informed Cecil that in Edinburgh “it is not lamented that I can hear of any that the Earl of Lennox is prisoner.” Few knew about Arthur Lallard’s visit to Queen Mary at Stirling, and Lennox’s friends had “little hope that he or his shall get great good here.” Despite all his scheming to marry his son to Mary, she did not like the Lennox Stuarts and had determined never “to match with that race.”68 Not long afterward Randolph again informed Cecil, “The Queen likes not the marriage with the Lord Darnley.”69


  Francis Yaxley was now hauled in for questioning. Bishop had told the Council that if Yaxley was “well handled, he can tell other matters, and at whose back door he hath had recourse.”70 The Queen was informed that Yaxley had been spying on her for the Lennoxes, and that Margaret had also employed him to extract information from the Spanish ambassador and to help further Darnley’s marriage to Queen Mary.

  On February 14, 1562, Yaxley petiti
oned the Queen’s favorite, Robert Dudley, for help, as he had been summoned to appear before the council. Why he thought Dudley would look sympathetically on him seems inexplicable, as he had been imprisoned a year earlier for slandering Dudley, but Dudley had once written to him promising his support if he came to court and saying he would be “very welcome always unto me.” Evidently that was no longer the case, for by February 22, Yaxley was a prisoner in the Tower,71 and at some stage during these proceedings he made a confession that incriminated the Lennoxes. He admitted that Quadra had fed him information about matters at court that would be useful to Margaret, and that Quadra had used him and Hugh Allen to pass on messages and tokens to her. Margaret had deployed him as her agent to further the marriage of Darnley with the Queen of Scots, he declared. She and Yaxley had discussed “the title of my lady and her son” to the throne, and during the past year she had ordered him to canvass her friends in the north and “bring the matter in head,” so that she might learn how much support she could command.72 Upon this testimony the Council resolved to summon Margaret to London to answer for her conduct.

  Around March, Bishop drew up for the government a “note of gifts made to Lady Margaret Lennox and her husband in the days of Queen Mary, and of her ill treatment of Queen Elizabeth, when Princess.”73 Elizabeth, already nursing a sense of grievance against the Lennoxes, was now to be reminded of past wrongs to hold in account against them.

  Quadra reported on March 6 that Elizabeth and her ministers were “full of suspicion,” having heard that many English Catholic gentlemen, “tired of what is going on here,” had offered their services to the Queen of Scots and were in communication with her. They were also suspicious of Margaret, believing her to be somehow involved. “They have not done much against her yet, but perhaps when they have despatched ships and placed them between England and Scotland and occupied the land passes they may lay hands on her and on some others with whom they are now temporising.”

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