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

  Quadra had also heard that there was to be a meeting in Lancaster, under the pretext of a hare hunt, of gentlemen “who are not favourable to the Catholics, the duke of Norfolk amongst others.” Norfolk, who had been ordered to keep watch on Margaret, was to take with him William Parr, Marquess of Northampton, the Earls of Huntingdon (the former Lord Hastings) and Rutland, and the Queen’s cousin, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon. Quadra was not deceived. “It is suspected that this meeting may be to fall unawares on some of the Catholics who are most feared, but whom they dare not arrest without some such precaution, for fear of a disaster.” He was almost certainly referring to Margaret and, worried that her arrest was imminent, warned that “it is quite certain that five or six ships are being fitted out which are to be dispatched next week in the direction of Scotland, and which will very soon cause trouble there.”74

  Norfolk and his colleagues did not make for Lancaster—that had probably been false information fed to Quadra—but instead for York, “to ensure the province against any rising that might take place.”75 Norfolk’s purpose was almost certainly to close in on Margaret and her associates. It may have been he who arrested “four gentlemen neighbours” of Lennox’s in York—among them Sir Richard Cholmeley, Sir William of Malton, and George Chamberlain (probably a kinsman of Sir Richard, the keeper of Scarborough Castle)—and sent them to London. Shortly before March 13, Lennox and these men were questioned.76

  Lennox, who had not been informed of the reason for his imprisonment, rashly said the one thing calculated to alarm his interrogators and increase their severity. “Before the Council, being examined, he said his wife was the next heir to the crown.”77 Quadra told King Philip that he did not think there was much against Lennox, “but although they gave him hope of speedy liberation, they sent him to the Tower the day before yesterday [March 11].” Yet still no charges had been laid against him. The real target of the government’s campaign was his wife.

  Given what had befallen Lord Thomas Howard in the Tower, and her memories of her own long durance there, Margaret must have been horrified when she heard that Lennox was now a prisoner in that same place, and to realize that she herself might very soon be joining him. Quadra continued:

  They have sent for Lady Margaret and her sons, and will treat them in the same way as the Earl, and will then declare Lady Margaret a bastard on the ground that her father was already secretly married when he wedded Queen Margaret. It appears that this evidence was obtained two years ago, at the time the last war began between this Queen and the King of France in Scotland. These heretics both here and in Scotland are much afraid that, if this Queen and the Queen of Scots were to die, Lady Margaret would succeed, and in view of the illness of the Queen of Scots at the time they ordered certain proceedings to be taken to prove the illegitimacy. However this may be, the inclination of the people of this country is strongly in favor of Lady Margaret’s son, both amongst Catholics and others of the highest standing. Two of them recently asked me if your Majesty would be willing for this lad to take refuge in Flanders or in some place in this country where help could be given to him. I could only say that your Majesty was not yet aware of what was going on here, and I did not know what your answer would be in such case, but I was convinced of the goodwill your Majesty bore to Lady Margaret on account of her virtue and goodness.78

  On March 13, Quadra complained, “This business of Lady Margaret will doubtless do harm to some and is not harmless to me, as the heretics have spread amongst the common people that I had a hand in it, although to me personally they dissemble. The imprisonment of this good lady cannot fail to trouble many Catholics and others.”79 A week later he wrote:

  I have much greater reason to complain of the suspicion with which I am treated. Not a man dares to enter my house because of the distrust that is publicly shown of all those who associate with me, and not a person is arrested for state reasons without his being asked whether he has any conversation with me. They have done this in Lady Margaret Douglas’s affair, but have never found what they seek.80

  In fact Quadra was involved up to his neck, having been often in contact with Margaret herself and her servants and friends. Moreover, the evidence—even without the damning testimony of Thomas Bishop—proves that Margaret had intrigued to marry Darnley to Queen Mary. She had admitted it herself to Quadra in November.


  “Indignation and Punishment”

  Around the middle of March 1562, Margaret was arrested at Settrington. It is likely that Norfolk and his lordly colleagues came to apprehend her, for she was, after all, of the blood royal. They would have brought with them the Queen’s warrant, issued by the Court of Star Chamber, and been accompanied by armed guards, who would escort Margaret, her children and her principal servants to London.1 At this nerve-racking time Margaret focused on practicalities. “Money was needed for on all sides, for the travelling expenses of my family and servants, and for their maintenance as prisoners.”2

  Taking with her Darnley, Charles and at least two of her daughters, Margaret set out, no doubt full of apprehension. It was her intention to leave her sons in a safe place and to take the younger children with her, for she had no idea how long she would be away. It was not long since the Queen had sent Katherine Grey to the Tower for marrying without her permission, and that knowledge must have haunted Margaret on her way south.

  In a list of “Intelligences” compiled on April 2, 1562, Quadra wrote, prematurely, that “Madame Margaret, wife of the Earl of Lennox, has been sent here to prison, her husband being likewise imprisoned; it is suspected that they desired to marry their son to the Queen of Scotland. The prison will soon be full of the nearest relations of the Crown.”3 But on April 3 he corrected himself, saying that “Lady Margaret will arrive here during the week, a prisoner, with her two sons.4 It is thought that after they have examined her she will be cast into the Tower like her husband. The Tower is already full of prisoners, and the suspicions of the Queen increase daily.”5

  Later that day Quadra received fresh news.

  Lady Margaret will arrive here to-day or to-morrow. Her sons remain at York in safe hands, and the going of the Duke of Norfolk with the other hunters in that direction was only to ensure the province against any rising that might take place on this account. The lawyers here are still busy about the question of the succession, and I hear they are much in favor of Lady Margaret. When they have made up their mind who is the rightful heir they will discuss how they shall publish it or if at all. I am sure it will all end by the Queen obtaining power to select her own successor or leave the crown by will, and that Lady Margaret will thus be excluded, and the succession fall into the hands of some heretic, such as the Earl of Huntingdon or the Earl of Hertford.6

  It may have been with Margaret’s connivance that Darnley escaped from his lodging at York, then circumvented the security measures in place at the ports and stole abroad. As a consequence of his brother’s flight, Charles was made to stay in York while Margaret was escorted on to London; parting from her sons, leaving one in the hands of strangers, the other facing exile, only added to her anxieties. On arriving at Whitehall, her servants were lodged in the Gatehouse prison at Westminster Abbey, where Lennox’s servants were probably already being held, and Margaret and her daughters were confined to apartments in the palace.7

  Here, almost immediately, she was apprehended on the very serious charges of treason and witchcraft, and conveyed with her daughters to the former Charterhouse at Sheen in Surrey,8 where she was to remain under house arrest in the custody of the Queen’s cousin, the wealthy lawyer and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Richard Sackville, and his wife, Winifred Bridges. Sackville was a first cousin of Anne Boleyn, and therefore related to the Queen; the great scholar Roger Ascham, in The Schoolmaster, describing him as “that worthy gentleman of worthy memory,” praised his enlightened views about education,9 and he was a capable man who would surely have proved a cordial and fair jailer.

  The C
arthusian monastery of Sheen had been established by Henry V in 1413. After its dissolution in 1539 it had been granted by the Crown to Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Frances Brandon,10 Margaret’s cousin; they had converted the priory buildings into a mansion. After Suffolk was executed in 1554, the property had been declared forfeit. In 1557, Mary I had restored Sheen to the Carthusians, but after Elizabeth’s accession they had been evicted and it reverted to the Crown. Sir Richard Sackville had leased a suite of rooms there from 1559. The house lay on the south bank of the River Thames, opposite Syon Abbey and half a mile from Richmond Palace.11 Here Margaret was allowed to keep a small household of servants, among whom was the faithful Thomas Fowler, now back in her service, having probably been cleared of murder.12

  On April 7, Randolph informed Cecil: “It is bruited here that the Lord Darnley is conveyed into France.”13 How relieved Margaret must have been to hear that.


  Elizabeth was now determined to overturn Margaret’s claim to the throne as well as her claim to the earldom of Angus. On April 2, 1562, Alexander Pringle, who had been looking into the matter since February, was examined by the Privy Council “concerning the illegitimacy of Lady Margaret Lennox.” He told Cecil that a servant of Lennox had stated that the priest Dixon had found among Angus’s papers proof that “old Earl Archibald, who died after Flodden Field, broke the [entail], leaving the whole earldom to heirs general,” which included females. Dixon had also discovered a copy of the letter written by Angus to Sir John Bellenden, the Justice Clerk of Scotland, which affirmed that there was no entail. But this letter had been “stopped,” or destroyed, by Dixon, to prevent Margaret’s cousin Morton from succeeding. This sounds suspect, because evidence that there had been no entail would have validated Margaret’s claim. Dixon was her priest, so it is unlikely that he would have deceived and betrayed her so cruelly. One might wonder if Pringle himself had gotten rid of the letter. Whoever it was, the end result was the same: “no right remaineth to my Lady Lennox, but insufficient upon the divorcement of the Queen her mother.”14 In other words, she was a bastard, and barred from inheriting anyway.

  Pringle rehearsed the hoary tale of Angus’s precontract, saying he had seen Margaret Tudor’s bill of divorcement “under seal” at Berwick. He omitted to mention that the Pope had specifically pronounced Margaret legitimate, but told the Council that “my Lady Lennox was openly taken and reputed a bastard in Scotland.”15 However, this was not sufficient evidence to declare Margaret a bastard or overturn her dynastic claims.

  Elizabeth had good cause to be uneasy about that, because it now emerged that Quadra, with the might of Spain behind him, had been plotting on Margaret’s behalf. On April 28 his confidential secretary, an Italian called Borghese Venturini, in return for a bribe from Cecil, revealed that he himself had recently accompanied a priest called Dr. Turner to Flanders to appeal to King Philip to support a bid for the throne by Margaret. Turner had with him a list of the disaffected lords and other Catholics who were ready to back her, and details of their proposed plans to show to Philip. But he had died in Flanders, leaving his papers in Venturini’s hands. Venturini had made copies and given the originals to Bishop de Quadra. Among the papers was a letter in which Quadra strongly recommended Philip to give aid to Lady Lennox and her son, informing him that eight or ten lords would rise in her favor and overthrow Elizabeth.

  Venturini added: “A declaration has been made respecting the succession to the crown, of which the next heir is said to be the Lady Margaret, the Queen of Scotland having been declared to be disqualified as a stranger and an enemy. Lady Margaret has been committed to prison, and the Queen wishes to be enabled to settle the succession.” He anticipated that she would nominate “a heretic like herself,” but if King Philip would agree to help Margaret and Darnley, “the Catholic religion would be restored, and that this could easily be done, the majority of the nobles being of that faith; and eight or ten of the nobility would rise in favour of Lady Margaret and her son. But until he move they must keep quiet, and his long delay has much dismayed them.”16

  It is not clear how far Margaret was involved with this scheme, but Venturini’s evidence gave the government grounds to fear that she was in it up to her neck.


  The Council now had good reason to broaden their inquiries into the activities of the Lennoxes. Thomas Bishop was especially helpful. He had no compunction about throwing Margaret to the wolves, and on May 7 he drew up a list of fifteen articles “to be laid against my Lady Lennox,” which he gave to the Council.17 Whatever ills Margaret had done to him, he was now to repay in full measure in an extraordinary document in which he itemized under numbered headings what he considered to be her crimes.

  First, according to Forbes, Yaxley and Hugh Allen, she had secretly communicated with the ambassadors of France and Spain, “as at the siege of Leith and other places.”18 The former allegation was undeniably true. But had Margaret “practiced” to subvert the siege of Leith in 1560? For twelve years from 1548, French troops had maintained a presence in the port, but in 1560, English forces and those of the Lords of the Congregation had combined to rid the kingdom of this pro-Catholic force and laid siege to Leith, which fell to them that summer after a bitter struggle. Possibly Margaret had assured the French or Spanish ambassadors in England of her support, but it is hard to believe that she actively involved herself. If she had—although there is no proof of that—she would have been guilty of high treason.

  Second, she had corresponded secretly with the Queen of Scots. “The Laird of Barr proveth these, as also will Mr. Forbes.”

  Third, she, Lennox and Darnley had sent letters to Aubigny in Paris, and to the Count and Countess of Feria in Spain. Forbes, Lallard and Elder could testify to this.

  Fourth, she and Lennox had sent William Forbes with letters to the lords of Scotland to sound them out on the prospect of a marriage between their Queen and Darnley.

  Fifth, they had sent Arthur Lallard to Mary with a letter from Darnley.

  Sixth, at Michaelmas last they had sent the Laird of Galston to Mary to treat of the marriage “by plain and open words.” According to Barr, Margaret had pressed Mary for an answer.

  Seventh, Margaret had reminded Mary of the latter’s claim to the English throne, and pressed upon her the desirability of uniting England and Scotland under one sovereign, and of burning all her letters. Barr had told Bishop that Margaret had set forth her claim to the throne, and Darnley’s, as inducements to Mary.

  Eighth, Margaret had persuaded Mary not to agree to any meetings with Queen Elizabeth. Barr had said that, because the Lennoxes feared Elizabeth, Margaret had undermined the plan for the queens to meet.

  Ninth, she had received by Hugh Allen communications about the Darnley marriage from Francis Yaxley in Spain.

  Tenth, Margaret had spoken many times of her claim to the English throne, and had claimed to be the second person in the realm. Forbes had heard her claiming to be the Queen’s successor, and Bishop had seen for himself that she had “blinded” her adherents in Yorkshire, who were in hope that “their mistress should rule as long, and they should have the ball at their foot.”

  Eleventh, she had called the Queen a bastard, and declared that all the world knew that the Queen of Scots was legitimate, that she, Margaret, looked to have her rights one day, and that the Earl of Pembroke and Lord William Howard had sworn that they had heard her say that she would challenge the Crown one day, with or without an insurrection of Papists. Forbes had declared that she would not have stopped at “an insurrection of Papists,” but would have “usurped if power had served her,” despite being a bastard.

  Twelfth, she had allowed her fool to rail at the Queen without reproach, and encouraged him to mock Elizabeth’s relationship with Robert Dudley; and she had let her servants call Dudley a “pox-ridden wife-murderer.” She had praised God when Mary returned safely to Scotland, claimed that He “had always preferred” Mary to Elizabeth, and
warned Mary that Elizabeth was not to be trusted.

  Thirteenth, she had sent messengers to Scotland, the names of whom Bishop helpfully listed.

  Fourteenth, Nesbit, Yaxley, Allen, Lallard and Fowler were all thought to be concealing more of Margaret’s secrets.

  Fifteenth, Margaret used Catholic practices, soothsayers and witches, and kept one in her house, who had abetted her in her pretensions. Forbes and Barr had testified to this, and Bridget Hussey, Countess of Rutland, had told Bishop that after Easter 1562 she had heard from Lucy Somerset, Lady Latimer—no friend to the Lennoxes—that Margaret had allowed her fool to disparage the Queen. Forbes had recounted how Margaret had given thanks for Mary’s safe return to Scotland, and Bishop thereby managed to raise suspicions that Mary owed her preservation to Margaret’s witchcraft, Margaret having conjured up the mist that had hidden her ships from Elizabeth’s.19

  All these things Bishop knew either by virtue of his privileged position in the Lennox household, or, latterly, from informers. It was all pretty damning, and some of it was evidently true. But it was clear that he had gone even further and conducted his own investigations, questioning everyone he believed to be involved, and no doubt using bullying tactics where necessary. Probably he had feared that he would be dragged down with the Lennoxes, and was making a preemptive strike, but there can be little doubt that he relished having his revenge on his former employers.

  The spy Forbes had furnished Bishop with much of his information. It was he who revealed the names of servants who had been complicit in Margaret’s activities, enabling Bishop to question them. Bishop stated that one of the Lennoxes’ servants had expressed the opinion that Elder “hath wit to play the spy where he listeth.”20 Elder and Yaxley seem to have been intimidated by Bishop into giving away the Lennoxes’ secrets, as both would later return to Darnley’s service, Elder after spending time abroad in Flanders. Lallard too was probably a reluctant witness. Lallard had “confessed” to Bishop that he had gone to Scotland and spoken with Mary.

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