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

  When, on September 29, Elizabeth created Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester at St. James’s Palace, with a view to befitting him to marry the Queen of Scots, Darnley was conspicuous in the ceremonies, carrying the sword of state before the Queen as she went in procession to the presence chamber. After the ceremony Elizabeth asked Melville, “How do you like my new creation?” He gave a courteous answer but she pointed at Darnley, declaring, “And yet ye like better of yonder long lad!”

  Melville evidently thought Darnley effeminate. “No woman of spirit would make choice of such a man, that was liker a woman than a man, for he is very lusty, beardless and lady-faced,” he wrote later. “I had no will that the Queen of England should think I liked Lord Darnley or had any eye or dealing that way.”50 Elizabeth told him that Darnley “was one of two that she had in her head to offer our Queen, as born within the realm of England,”51 which no doubt raised Margaret’s hopes when it was reported to her.

  When Melville returned to Scotland, “my Lady Lennox sent many good advices to the Queen [Mary], to be followed according as occasion offered,” and “tokens,” including “a ring with a fair diamond.” Margaret also sent inducements to win over Mary’s chief lords: a diamond for Moray and a watch set with diamonds and rubies for Maitland. There was a ruby ring for Melville’s brother Robert, and for Lennox an emerald, a stone then believed to be a powerful talisman against the lures of the Devil, and symbolizing purity, faith, and immortality. These gifts must have come out of Margaret’s own jewel casket, for it is unlikely that she could have afforded to buy such costly pieces. She was no doubt happy to sacrifice them, “for she was still in good hope that her son, my Lord Darnley, would come better speed concerning the marriage of our Queen than the Earl of Leicester.”52 But in sending these tokens, she was again breaking her oath to Elizabeth.


  It has been suggested that it was around this time that Margaret sent her husband the famous Lennox, or Darnley, Jewel, a richly enameled, intricate pendant locket in the shape of a heart, which survives in the Royal Collection.53 This jewel is mired in controversy. Some have postulated that it was of considerable significance in the Darnley marriage negotiations, and even that it contained coded symbols that would convey to Lennox plans that were too dangerous for Margaret to entrust to a letter or messenger. It has also been asserted that it was commissioned by Margaret as a memento mori of her husband, and dates from after his death.54 But two historians have cast credible doubt on that, as the Jewel contains no memorials to him or any reference to events in his life.55

  The Lennox Jewel has been dated to the 1560s.56 The complex symbols that adorn it suggest that it was commissioned by Lennox around 1564–65. It has also been suggested that it is to be identified with a “marvelous fair and rich jewel” he gave to Queen Mary, which was much admired at court,57 yet its imagery relates very personally to the union between himself and his wife and their dynastic aspirations, and the likeliest theory is that it was commissioned by Lennox for Margaret to mark the imminent fruition of their hopes. The imagery in the Jewel is as much of a key to understanding their relationship as the letters they exchanged. Heart jewels, it has been pointed out, were invariably gifts between lovers or married couples.58 It is not known where the Jewel was made, but it has been suggested that it came from Edinburgh.59

  The Lennox Jewel is of fine workmanship, three inches in length, and decorated with translucent enamel over a textured gold base (basse taille). On the outer face is a crown set with Burmese rubies, an Indian emerald and other precious stones, and surmounted by three fleurs-de-lis, the royal arms of France, which appear on an azure shield in the first quarter of Lennox’s arms; the right to bear these arms had been granted to his forebear, Sir John Stewart of Darnley, by Charles VII.

  Beneath the crown is a heart made of a single great sapphire, Lennox’s birthstone, which symbolized wisdom, purity and steadfastness; its feathered wings are enameled in ruby, emerald, and gold. The crown and the heart together were the ancient emblems of the Douglases, and the protective wings symbolize the soaring aspirations of the family; they may also represent Lennox’s love winging its way to Margaret.

  Supporting the crown and the heart are four allegorical figures: Faith, with a cross and a lamb, for Christ, the Lamb of God; Hope, with her symbol, the anchor, which also stood for constancy and fidelity, and again for Christ, the soul’s anchor; Victory, with an olive branch; and Truth, with a mirror. These symbols, like others in the Jewel, embody not only the love and fidelity between Margaret and Matthew and her deep Catholic faith, but their dynastic ambitions and their hopes for their son Darnley.

  The Jewel bears twenty-eight emblems, some of which can only be seen properly with a magnifying glass, and six inscriptions in old Scots. On the white enamel border is an inscription: “Who hopes still constantly with patience shall obtain victory in their pretence [claim],” which refers to the couple’s pursuit of crowns for themselves and their offspring, and their confident conviction that their hopes will be realized.

  The crown on the Jewel opens up to reveal two hearts joined by a blue buckle—buckles featured in both the Lennox and Douglas arms—and a gold true love’s knot pierced by two feathered arrows with gold barbs, presumably shot by Cupid. Below are the initials M. S. L. for Matthew (or perhaps Margaret) Stuart Lennox; these devices represent the couple’s marriage and Lennox’s deep and enduring love for his wife, and they are crowned with a chaplet of leaves, the symbol of victory, and also of Christ, whom St. Paul called the “wreath that will never die.”

  The winged heart opens to reveal two joined hands holding by a ruby fillet a green hunting horn, then a symbol of aristocratic status. Underneath this device is a memento mori, a skull and crossbones, a reminder of mortality. This links to a motto in the crown compartment, “What we resolve,” which is completed by that in the heart compartment: “Only death shall dissolve.” This inscription also refers to the undying love between Margaret and Matthew. Another inscription in the inner heart, “Tym gares al leir,” is an anagram of “Margaret is leil,” which means true and affectionate.

  Partially encircling the reverse of the Jewel is the inscription: “My state to these I may compare for you, who are of rare goodness.” Again, it is probably a tribute from Lennox to Margaret. The words surround the sun in splendor—a symbol of royalty and glory—amid azure clouds (symbolizing the unseen Divine Presence) studded with stars (spiritual light piercing the darkness), with a crescent moon to one corner, having a man’s face in profile: the moon symbolizes humanity, the Roman Catholic Church, and, in its monthly rebirth, the Resurrection.

  Beneath the sun is a “pelican in its piety,” a crowned bird feeding its young with blood from its own breast until it dies, a symbol of the sacrificial maternal love felt by Margaret for her children. The pelican was also a symbol of charity and of the Eucharist, symbolizing Christ’s sacrificial love for mankind.

  Under the moon is a salamander—Margaret’s emblem—ascending unburned from the fire, reflecting her determination to rise above the difficulties that had befallen her and triumph in the end. Generally a salamander represents a righteous soul who remains calm when beset by enemies. Some accounts of the Jewel describe it as a phoenix, in which case it may allude to Margaret’s protectiveness of her son. The phoenix was one of Elizabeth I’s devices.

  In the lower corner of the heart is the figure of a man lying on the grass, who has been identified as Lord Darnley but is more likely to have symbolized Lennox. The image probably refers to a line in Psalm 23: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” Beside him lies a crown, a symbol both of royal authority and of Christ, and from it sprouts a sunflower, which stands for God’s love and for a soul directing its thoughts and feelings to the Deity; the sunflower opens up its radial petals to the sun, which also symbolizes divine love. On the flower rests a lizard, a symbol closely associated with light and sun, and often representing a soul longing for Christ. Behind the recumbent ma
n stands a laurel tree, a symbol of victory and immortality, in which a gaudy little bird is perched; he stands for a saved soul. In these symbols we see Lennox’s ambition on the way to being fulfilled, justified and sanctified by his faith.

  The back of the Jewel also opens, to reveal martyrs burning at the stake, with roses in the flames, probably representing how much Margaret had suffered for her religion. Nearby a crowned queen is enthroned with the motto “Cause tell my release.” She may represent Margaret having been released from prison and the machinations of her enemies, and triumphing in the end—or the prospect of Queen Mary being freed from the tutelage of the Protestant lords through her marriage to the Catholic Darnley.

  Standing on a celestial sphere representing the heavens (on which appear the words “You seem all my pleasure”) is the figure of Time, his upper body shown with a forelock, wings and an hourglass, his feet cloven like those of the Devil. In the sixteenth century Time was regarded as a malevolent figure: Since ancient times he had been associated with the god Saturn, who in turn had become identified with Satan, hence the cloven hooves. Here the phrase “take time by the forelock” seems apposite, for the Lennoxes now needed to act quickly and decisively, being aware that time flew on wings, and that life was finite, according to Time’s hourglass.

  But Time was not all bad. To one side he pulls the naked figure of Truth out of a well; the concept of “the naked truth” was prevalent in Renaissance culture, and a well represented a womb; thus the fruit of Margaret’s womb was the true Catholic heir who would prevail in time. On the other side of Time two black jaws representing the gates of Hell vomit flames and demons. Above is the legend “Time causes all to learn.” It may be an observation on what would befall those who persisted in heresy and did not acknowledge their rightful ruler.

  In the lower section of the Jewel is a soldier, perhaps Lennox, about to kill his opponent—Châtelherault?—who points to a red shield bearing a face, possibly Darnley’s, surmounted by a crown; and a crowned warrior—who may again be Darnley—with a drawn sword, holding a lady by the hair. Possibly she symbolizes Mary, whom Darnley will capture and defend, or more likely Queen Elizabeth deposed, loose hair being symbolic of virginity and a virgin queen.

  This reading of the iconography of the Lennox Jewel strongly suggests that it was made after Lennox’s restitution and before Darnley’s marriage. It is a moving testimony to Lennox’s love for his absent wife and his hopes for their son, and to Margaret’s invincible faith.60


  It may have been in consequence of Margaret’s pleas, conveyed by Melville, that soon afterward Mary asked Elizabeth to permit Darnley to join his father. But Elizabeth refused; she was still insisting that Mary should wed Leicester, even though he had no liking for the match. Both Cecil and Leicester knew very well that Mary would never agree, and put pressure on the Queen to allow Darnley to go to Scotland, arguing that he would not risk the confiscation of the Lennox lands in England by outstaying his license or marrying Mary without Elizabeth’s consent.61 Margaret added her pleas, assuring Elizabeth that Darnley would be back within a month, yet to no avail.62

  On October 4, the day on which Queen Mary formally restored Lennox to his lands, Sir Thomas Smith, Elizabeth’s ambassador in Paris, reported that the French believed the Darnley marriage to be a fait accompli.63

  Lennox’s heavy investment in gaining Mary’s favor was paying off. On October 16 his restitution was proclaimed at the market cross in Edinburgh “in presence of the lords.” Then “by blast of trumpet” it was announced that the Parliament that would ratify the Queen’s clemency would sit on December 4. “The lords rode up the gait [road] in pairs, Argyll and Lennox together, and down the gait Lennox and the Chancellor. All the lords dined that day with Lennox.”64

  On October 24, Randolph himself was Lennox’s dinner guest.

  The house where he lodges is well hanged, two chambers very well furnished, one specially rich, and a fair bed, with a passage made through the wall to come into the court when he wills. [Randolph] saw him honourably used of all men. The Queen liked his behaviour. His cheer is great, and his household many. He finds occasions to disburse money very fast, and of his £700 [£119,200] he brought with him is sure that much is not left. He gave the Queen a marvelous fair and rich jewel, whereof there is made no small account, a clock and a dial curiously wrought and set with stones, and a looking glass very richly set with stones. The bruit is here that Lady Lennox and Lord Darnley are coming. There is here a marvellous good liking of the young lord, a fair, jolly young man.65

  On the 27th, to gratify the Queen, Lennox went through a ceremony of reconciliation with Châtelherault, his old foe, although their enmity would continue to simmer.

  Randolph reported on November 3 that Mary had spoken no word about marrying Darnley, “though here it is in the mouths of all men that it is concluded in this Queen’s heart.” Still “Lady Margaret and Lord Darnley are looked for” in Scotland, but Randolph expressed doubts whether Margaret would “be as soon restored unto the earldom of Angus, as her husband was to Lennox, for there depends more matter thereon, which if proved true, will disappoint her farther than anything she looks for here.”66 Morton, acting for his nephew, Archibald Douglas, was doing his utmost to prove Margaret illegitimate.

  On November 4, Silva informed Philip II that Lennox had written to Elizabeth “informing her that, as his relatives and lawyers are of opinion that the presence of his son is necessary for the preservation of these estates, he begs her to give him leave to come and take joint possession with him. The Queen replied to Lady Margaret, congratulating her on the restoration of her husband’s estate, and said she would be pleased to give her son the licence requested. This was repeated to her also by Cecil and Leicester.” But then, Silva went on to explain, Elizabeth’s mood changed.

  After the licence was granted, the next day the Queen said to Margaret that she was very vexed and offended at her husband for having asked for the licence for the son with all this caution, saying that his lawyers had advised him that his son’s presence was necessary to take possession of the estate, when such was not the fact. For this reason she had decided not to give him leave to go, as she would have done willingly if she had been asked in a straightforward way.

  Margaret explained the matter in such a way that the Queen again said she would give the licence and would answer her husband’s letter. Notwithstanding all this it has been decided not to give the licence. This is the way with everything—-absolutely no certainty.

  This Lennox, Margaret and her son are Catholics, and profess attachment to your Majesty. I do what is requisite to entertain them, although with great caution and secrecy. As Margaret is one of the claimants to the succession, and a Catholic, the Queen and her ministers attach a great deal of importance to her and are so suspicious, so excited and so anxious that Margaret says they conduct themselves as if they were frantic, and certainly she is not far wrong.67

  The English and Scottish commissioners had met at Berwick on November 18 to discuss the proposed marriage between Mary and Leicester even though the matter was virtually moribund. But since Elizabeth insisted that she would never willingly consent to any subject save Leicester marrying Mary, an impasse was reached.

  Lennox’s attainder was reversed by the Scottish Parliament on December 9.68 He now set about reestablishing his influence at the heart of Scotland’s political elite, and began by raising a following of lords and lairds, many of whom had been excluded by Moray and the Hamiltons from government. He also set himself to convince Queen Mary of the desirability of marrying his son.

  But now, inexplicably, Elizabeth seemed to be having a change of heart. On December 3 the Scottish lords had pressed her to make concessions to render the Leicester marriage acceptable to Mary,69 but Elizabeth failed to do so, which suggests that the continuing Dudley negotiations were a bluff, and that she had for some time been planning to dangle Darnley as a carrot before Mary.

Berwick, around December 14, Bedford and Randolph met with Moray and Maitland “on behalf of the respective queens.” Astonishingly, Elizabeth had proposed to Mary “that she should choose between the following three Englishmen: the Earl of Leicester, the Duke of Norfolk and the son of Lady Margaret Lennox; and in the event of her marrying either of them she will declare her heiress to the crown.” Mary responded “that she was willing to marry an Englishman if the succession was declared, but not the Earl of Leicester.” Not one word was spoken of Darnley, but Mary wrote to Elizabeth “asking her still to give leave for Lady Margaret’s son to come to his father in Scotland.”70

  It seems strange that Elizabeth should suddenly have offered Darnley as a husband for Mary. She must have anticipated that Mary would see marriage to Darnley as a means of uniting their claims to the English throne and thereby strengthening her own. On the face of it, Elizabeth was courting disaster. If she was hoping, by suggesting suitor after suitor, to prolong negotiations so that Mary remained unmarried for as long as possible, she was taking a perilous risk. On the other hand, as a Catholic king consort, Darnley would be anathema to the Calvinist Scottish lords. If Mary married him she would be summoning up a tempest in her kingdom.

  Certainly the Scots came to believe that Elizabeth’s aim in allowing Darnley to go to Scotland had been to ruin Mary, which was exactly what happened. A dispatch from Randolph to Cecil, written on December 14, reveals an awareness of the likely consequences of a marriage between Mary and Darnley and the influence of the Catholic Margaret. “There has been more thought of Lord Darnley before his father’s coming than is at present. The father is now here well known, the mother more feared a great deal than beloved of any that know her.”

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