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

  Apart from making her position clear in regard to Katherine Grey, there was another reason why it now pleased Elizabeth to show favor to the Lennoxes. For four years now she had been carrying on a very public affair with her Master of Horse, Lord Robert Dudley, and there had been endless speculation as to whether they would marry. But Elizabeth had now conceived the idea of proposing Dudley as a husband for the Queen of Scots. His loyalty was undoubted, and he could be trusted to promote England’s interests in Scotland; he would be a link between the two queens, a means of smoothing relations between them. As Elizabeth did not wish to marry at all, she was giving him the opportunity of making another royal marriage and fathering an heir to both kingdoms.6 But this was also part of a strategy to deflect Mary from pursuing a marriage with Don Carlos, the son and heir of Philip of Spain. It was not yet public knowledge that Don Carlos was insane.

  Dudley was against the plan from the first, and horrified at the prospect of having to abandon his ambition to be king consort of England. But Elizabeth was adamant, and told Maitland that if Mary would allow her to choose a husband for her, she might proclaim her her heir. The astute Maitland soon guessed that she was referring to Dudley, but could hardly believe it, since Dudley was so far below Mary in rank and had a dubious reputation. Even Randolph, who had been instructed to pave the way for public acceptance of Dudley in Scotland, was praying that he would not have to disclose to Mary the identity of the husband Elizabeth was proposing for her. Elizabeth wanted to keep Mary guessing; it was all apiece with her plan to delay her rival marrying as long as possible. Marriage to Dudley was to be the price of Elizabeth naming Mary her heir, and to demonstrate that she was looking favorably upon the Scottish line, she was happy to show a smiling face to the Lennoxes.

  Margaret misread the signs. She had every reason to think that the husband intended for Mary was Darnley. On June 19, Quadra wrote that “Lady Margaret is now in the palace, apparently in high favour and entertains some hope, as I believe, that the Queen of Scotland will marry her son with the Queen of England’s consent.”7

  A week later he reported: “Many people think that if the Queen of Scotland does marry a person unacceptable to this Queen, the latter will declare as her successor the son of Lady Margaret, whom she now keeps in the palace and shows such favour to as to make this appear probable.”8

  On July 19, Sir John Mason informed Sir Thomas Challoner that “Lord and Lady Lennox are continual courtiers, and much made of.” Darnley was waiting daily on the Queen and often played on the lute before her, “wherein it should seem she taketh pleasure, as indeed he plays very well.”9 It pleased Elizabeth to make Darnley welcome at court and to treat him like a prince; he was, after all, not yet sixteen, and her nearest male relation. That might well keep his mother sweet, but beyond that he was useful to the Queen, and no doubt she wanted him under her eye. Above all it would do no harm for Queen Mary to realize that there was one with a prior claim to the English throne who stood well with Elizabeth.

  In August the Queen went on progress to Northampton, and on September 9 it was reported that “the Lady Lennox, her husband and son, have waited [on her] all this progress, and now have leave to go into the north.”10 Doubtless Elizabeth hoped that the favor shown to the Lennoxes would earn her credit with the Catholics and preempt any further intrigues in Yorkshire. Unknown to her, on September 27, Pope Pius IV wrote to Lennox and other Scottish lords congratulating them on their loyalty to Queen Mary, and exhorting them to persevere.11 This may well have given impetus and weight to Margaret’s ambitions.

  Despite the oath that she had made to Elizabeth, she had not given up on her ambitions for Darnley, and her hopes were riding high. Sometime in the latter half of 1563 she commissioned from Hans Eworth a smaller, wood-panel version of the double portrait of her sons, which bears a similar legend but a different date: These be the sons of the right honourables the Earl of Lennox and of the Lady Margaret’s Grace, Countess of Lennox and Angus. 1563: Charles Stewart/his brother/aetatis 6. Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley and Douglas, aetatis 17—meaning that the boys were in their sixth and seventeenth years. In this version they are shown standing in the long gallery of a great house, probably Temple Newsam. Presumably the picture was intended for Queen Mary.12

  Cecil and the authorities were not so naïve as to think that Margaret had given up hope of marrying Darnley to Mary. On February 21, 1564, Randolph expressed to Cecil doubts that Mary would take Darnley’s suit seriously, although some Scots saw him as the obvious choice on account of the earldoms of Lennox and Angus that might, through him, become vested in the Scottish Crown. Predictably Châtelherault was against the idea, hating the prospect of his enemy’s son becoming king.13

  In March 1564, Elizabeth formally offered Dudley as a husband for the Queen of Scots,14 and Mary immediately refused, saying that it could not be compatible with her honor to take such a subject.15 Indeed, she was much offended at the notion that she should wed the Queen’s “horse-master,” yet she did not want to jeopardize her chances of being named Elizabeth’s successor, so she instructed her lords to arrange a meeting to discuss the proposal.16

  Margaret seized her chance. She sent Thomas Fowler, now her secretary, to Scotland on the pretext of looking into Lennox’s affairs there in preparation for his return.17 That may indeed have been part of his remit, but he almost certainly had further instructions. In 1573 it would be observed in a report from Scotland that the full circumstances of the negotiations for the marriage of Mary and Darnley “are not fully known, and of all those involved left alive only Margaret could best explain them.”18 Obviously she was deeply involved.

  Fowler’s movements did not go unnoticed. On April 6 a concerned Randolph reported to Cecil “that there came and is gone to Scotland a servant of my lord of Lennox; I believe he will be an evil welcome guest. Pardon me, though somewhat suspicious. I have a favourable letter by him from my lady’s Grace.”19 It appears that Margaret was doing her best to keep everything aboveboard, but Randolph was still not convinced.

  Until now Mary had evaded the issue of Lennox’s restoration, but that month, leaning at last toward the idea of taking Darnley as a husband, and perhaps persuaded thereto by Margaret, through Fowler (who had not gone home, as Randolph thought), she agreed to restore his father’s honors and invited Lennox to return to Scotland to be reinstated in his estates and property. She did this with the full backing of Moray and Maitland, who remained desirous of countering the influence of the Hamiltons.20

  Ten months earlier Elizabeth had asked Mary to look kindly on Lennox’s plea, but since then she may have heard rumors of Don Carlos’s insanity, and realized that Mary would see Darnley as a viable alternative. Elizabeth may have guessed from Randolph’s reports that there was more to the Lennoxes’ interests in Scotland than they were giving her to believe, so she was now suspicious of Lennox’s going there, and initially refused to allow it; she raged at him for wanting to return to Scotland, to which he protested that he was merely “travelling for his right.”21

  Fowler may have been awaiting an opportunity formally to offer Darnley as a husband for the Queen. It has been suggested that he did so, on Margaret’s instructions, on or shortly before April 14, 1564,22 because on that day Randolph reported to Cecil that “a friend of good knowledge and judgement wrote unto me [that Mary] will at length let fall her anchor between Dover and Berwick, though perchance not in that port, haven or road that you wish she should.”23 Around April 30, Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange warned Randolph that Mary had agreed to Lennox’s restoration because she was thinking of marrying Darnley. Much disconcerted, Randolph immediately relayed this information to Cecil.24 On May 3, Knox—who was at one with the Lords of the Congregation in opposing the marriage—informed Randolph that “the Earl of Lennox’s servant is familiar in Court, and it is supposed that it is not without knowledge, yea, and labour of the English Court. Some in this country look for the lady [Margaret] and the young Earl [Darnley] ere it be lo
ng. It is whispered to me licence is already given to them [i.e. Margaret and her son]. God’s providence is inscrutable to man, but, to be plain with you, that journey and progress I like not.”25

  By May 5, Randolph had learned that Elizabeth had agreed to allow Lennox to return to Scotland and make his own appeal to Queen Mary. “Some suspect she shall at length be persuaded to favour his son.”26 Elizabeth also authorized Margaret to accompany her husband.27

  Early in June rumors were rampant that Elizabeth was “to meet the Queen of Scots to arrange for her to marry the son of Lady Margaret.”28 That was credible in view of the favor now being shown to Darnley, as on June 22 a Spanish envoy, Diego Guzman de Silva, arrived at Richmond Palace to find that young man in high favor, and delegated to receive Silva. “Presently there came to me, on behalf of the Queen, Lord Darnley, the son of Lady Margaret Lennox, who led me to the door of the presence chamber, where I was met by the Lord Chamberlain, who entered with me and accompanied me to the Queen.” When Silva took his leave of Elizabeth, the Lord Chamberlain conducted him “to the door of the antechamber, and thence Lady Margaret’s son,” and two other gentlemen accompanied him to the jetty where his barge awaited.29 In July the Queen and Margaret both acted as sponsors at the baptism of Cecil’s newborn daughter, Elizabeth, and attended the celebratory feast at Cecil House on London’s Strand, which rather gave the impression that the Queen considered Margaret to be the second lady in the land and her likely successor.30


  In July, Fowler returned to face an interrogation by Cecil about his visit to Scotland. Which of the Scottish lords were friends or enemies to England? Did he know the names of any English informers who were passing on information to them? No mention was made of Darnley, and it has been suggested that Cecil was not yet aware that secret negotiations for his marriage were afoot.31 However, he cannot but have inferred as much from Randolph’s letters.

  Elizabeth remained uneasy about Lennox going to Scotland, fearing that he might stir up religious strife by reviving his old feud with the Hamiltons. When the Lennoxes “asked leave to take with them a son of theirs, who is an amiable youth, the Queen was angry at this and revoked the licence she had given them.” This was on July 5.32 That day she wrote secretly to Mary, urging her to forbid Lennox entry to her kingdom.

  Moray reported to Cecil on July 13 that “some of Queen Elizabeth’s best friends here mislike the home-coming of the Earl of Lennox, and would have me persuade my mistress that Lennox might be stayed for this year”; but Moray was not overly concerned “as to the factions that the coming of Lennox might make for the matters of religion”; he thanked God that “their foundation is not so weak that they have cause to fear.”33 Mary (who had found it hard work persuading Châtelherault that Lennox would not pose a threat to him)34 was of the same mind, and refused to retract her invitation. She had no wish to offend the man whose son she was thinking of marrying.

  That same day Maitland, having received a protest from Cecil about Moray’s support for Lennox, expressed surprise, seeing how earnestly Elizabeth had “recommended Lennox’s cause and his lady’s to me at my being in the court of England. I never had acquaintance or intelligence with the lord of Lennox or his lady before the time that Queen Elizabeth spoke unto me in their favour.” It was Elizabeth’s recommendation that had moved Moray—and, as Moray thought, Mary—to favor Lennox. If Mary was now to prevent Lennox from coming, it “would somewhat touch her honour, having permitted him licence. To be short, she sees no danger in this matter.”35

  On August 3, Bedford, the Governor of Berwick, had heard that “Lady Margaret shall come into Scotland with the Earl her husband,” and asked for Cecil’s advice, “or rather Her Majesty’s pleasure, herein, as peradventure some gentlemen of Yorkshire would accompany them into Scotland.”36 This must have set alarms ringing in Cecil’s head.

  Elizabeth knew that Mary, averse to marrying Dudley and aware that a match with Don Carlos was no longer viable because of his insanity, was now seriously considering marrying the seventeen-year-old Darnley. She was well aware that the Lennoxes had plotted to bring about the match, and she must have known that, once in Scotland, Lennox would be well placed to negotiate it. Yet by August 12, in response to a bitter complaint from Mary, and fat bribes offered by Lennox,37 Elizabeth had relented and agreed that he might return there, but only on condition that he did nothing prejudicial to England’s interests. Dudley, a reluctant suitor, hoping that Mary would choose Darnley over himself, had added his persuasions. He told Maitland later that month that he had upheld Lennox’s pleas. “No man more wished his going than I, or furthered it more at her Majesty’s hands.”38 But did Elizabeth really believe that such an ambitious man as Lennox would not seek to marry his son to the Queen of Scots?

  Lennox departed without further delay, doubtless lest Elizabeth repent of her decision, but Margaret did not go with him. On August 12, Silva reported that the Queen had “given leave for the husband alone to go, and he is already on the road with his licence, if they do not take it away again. I know it has cost him a good deal of money to get it.”39 It is likely that Elizabeth had insisted on Margaret remaining at the English court with her son as sureties for her husband’s loyalty, and although after Lennox had ridden north there were rumors that she was to follow him with Darnley, she remained in England.

  The couple had no idea of how long they would be separated, and Margaret may have had concerns as to how her husband would fare without her. Lennox later told the Scottish diplomat Sir James Melville that “my lady his wife, at his coming from her, had willed him” to take counsel of Melville and the latter’s brother Robert “in all he did, as that of her friends and kinsmen.”40

  Margaret lost one of her greatest supporters when Bishop de Quadra succumbed to the plague in August. On the 26th it was reported that he had died “in great grief that he should drop from his work just when he hoped to succeed.” He expired with the words, “I can do no more.”41 Guzman de Silva succeeded him as ambassador.

  Speculation that Elizabeth would marry Dudley was still rife, even though she continued to insist that he wed Queen Mary. Now Dudley, following the Queen’s lead and showing himself friendly to Margaret—in which he was not insincere—made her his confidante, and on September 4, Silva informed King Philip that “Margaret Lennox, one of the pretenders to this crown and a strong Catholic, has sent word to me that I may be sure that the Queen’s [Elizabeth’s] marriage with Lord Robert will not take place. She says he is undeceived and has told her so himself. I should not be at all surprised if it did take place or did not, so constantly are things changing.”42

  Probably Dudley had been instructed to tell Margaret that he would never be able to marry Elizabeth, so that she would believe that the match with Mary was likely to take place. But for their different reasons, both Margaret and Dudley were working to overturn it, and in so doing made common cause together. Dudley had shown himself sufficiently sympathetic and kind to Margaret in the past for her not to think it unusual that he should confide in her; she probably knew that he had urged her release from Sheen the previous year. Thus were laid the foundations of an enduring friendship between them, which argues that Dudley had given little credence to Bishop’s allegations that Margaret had disparaged him. The auguries were in her favor, and Dudley’s. On September 19, Kirkcaldy of Grange informed Randolph that the Scots would not accept Dudley as king, but “if ye will earnestly press it, ye may cause us [to] take the Lord Darnley.”43

  Lennox had arrived in Edinburgh by September 23, and Margaret would have rejoiced to learn that, at Queen Mary’s command, he had been welcomed by the Scottish nobles in Parliament, which had rescinded the sentence of outlawry on him. No longer was he a fugitive traitor but a nobleman in high favor with his Queen, who had promised to reverse the attainder passed on him twenty years earlier. Margaret surely saw this as a strong indication of Mary’s growing resolve to marry Darnley, for the Queen could not contemplate marrying
a man whose father was an attainted traitor. Lennox’s restoration would also alleviate the financial problems that he and Margaret continued to suffer.

  That week there was “nothing but banqueting of Lennox and the ladies.”44 On September 28, Mary wrote to Elizabeth that she perceived how her sister monarch “entirely tendered the causes of him and our right well-beloved cousin, his wife,” and to say that she herself had “shown him her good will in favourably receiving him and hearing his petitions.”45 On September 30, Lennox, now installed in a fine apartment in Holyrood Palace, informed Elizabeth that Mary had “shown him such graciousness that he must think himself bound to her [Elizabeth] more than ever he was” for aiding him. He asked her “to extend the like favour to his wife, your poor kinswoman, who has no refuge in my absence but you only.”46

  The next step was to persuade Queen Elizabeth to allow Darnley to join Lennox in Scotland. That September, Mary sent Sir James Melville, a Lennox adherent, as ambassador to England. He came with “instructions out of the Queen’s own mouth, to deal with the Queen of England, the Spanish ambassador, and with my Lady Margaret Douglas and sundry friends she had in England of different opinions.”47 Mary had entrusted him with “a secret charge to deal with Lady Lennox to procure liberty for [Darnley] to go to Scotland under the pretext of seeing the country and conveying his father back again to England”48—as if Elizabeth would be taken in by that.

  Again we have evidence that Margaret was working behind the scenes to bring the Darnley marriage to fruition—and that Mary was now seriously interested. During the nine days Melville spent at the English court he arranged a covert meeting with Margaret to discuss the possibility of a match, and would later observe, “She was a very wise and discreet matron, and had many favourers in England.”49 Margaret, ignoring her oath to Queen Elizabeth, made it clear that she would do everything in her power to further the project.

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