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

  Morton was one who had good reason to fear Margaret, as did the Lords of the Congregation and those who were enemies of the Douglases. Randolph continued: “To think that Lord Darnley should marry with this Queen, and his mother bear that stroke [influence] with her that she bore with Queen Mary, which she is like to do, as you can conjecture the causes why, this would alienate as many minds from the Queen’s Majesty, my sovereign, by sending home as great a plague into this country, as that which, to her honour, and perpetual love of the faithful and godly, she drove out of the same when the French were forced to retire themselves.” The plague to which Randolph referred was the Catholic religion, and anyone could have foreseen that Queen Mary, being of that faith, would be susceptible to the influence of a strong-willed mother-in-law. Yet it looked as if the marriage really would come about. “Within these four days Lord Darnley’s father told Mr. John Leslie, Lord of the Session, that his son should marry this Queen.”71

  It is not surprising that the Lennoxes were keeping closely in touch at this time. On December 16, Bedford forwarded to Cecil a letter from Lennox to Margaret,72 and another was dispatched on February 4;73 given the couple’s ability to facilitate secret communications, there would almost certainly have been more that bypassed official scrutiny.

  There was cause for Margaret to feel triumphal elation when, in January 1565, Queen Elizabeth, ostensibly at her request and Mary’s, finally gave Darnley permission to go to Scotland. Again she had bowed to Leicester’s persuasions, and to Cecil’s.74 Darnley was granted license to stay in Scotland for three months. Possibly Elizabeth thought that sufficient time for him to woo Mary but not to marry her,75 yet surely she must have guessed that Darnley would seize the golden opportunity now presented to him. She must have been aware that, encouraged by his parents, he was greedy for a crown, and that all that was required for him to achieve that was permission to go to Scotland.

  Melville thought that Elizabeth allowed Darnley to go to Scotland because she and Cecil believed that he would not risk his English inheritance by marrying Mary without her permission.76 It has been stated that she and her advisers made a grave error of misjudgment,77 but she may have calculated that the benefits of sending Darnley north might well outweigh the risks. The Protestant lords were unlikely to accept him, and if Mary married him in the face of their opposition, she might be overthrown or neutralized. Crucially, the marriage would prevent Mary allying herself with a great Catholic power. Furthermore, Elizabeth probably had the measure of Darnley, and knew him to be weak, vicious and arrogant; given enough rope, Mary might hang herself by marrying such a liability.

  As well as Randolph’s letter quoted above, there is good evidence to support the theory that Elizabeth favored the marriage. A French ambassador, Michel de Castelnau, Sieur de la Mauvissière, asserted that Elizabeth had “cast her eyes on the young Lord Darnley to make a present of him to the Scottish Queen, and found means to persuade the Queen of Scots that there was not a marriage in Christendom which could bring her [Mary] more certain advantages.” That was true, but the uniting of two claims to the English throne would be very much to Elizabeth’s disadvantage—and peril. Castelnau was adamant, however: “Her Majesty did outwardly show the joy and pleasure which was in her heart when I told her that this marriage was advancing apace,” yet “she affected not to approve it, which did rather hasten than retard it. And yet I am assured she used all her efforts and spared nothing to get this marriage a-going.”78

  He was not alone in his view. Margaret herself had written to Mary that “the Queen of England’s displeasure against the marriage was full of affectations.”79 Silva was to report that “there is a suspicion that the match has been arranged with the concurrence of some of the great people here” in England.80 In March 1565, Cecil was to tell the French ambassador, Paul de Foix, that the marriage of the Queen of Scots was an affair in the hands of his mistress.81 In April, Randolph would report from Scotland that it was “here spoken to my face that the sending him [Lennox] home was done of purpose to match the Queen meanly and poorly, rather than live long in amity.”82

  It was probably with highly mixed emotions that Margaret bade Darnley farewell as he left on the journey that was to end with the fulfillment of all her hopes. Forced to remain in England with young Charles, she was doubtless well aware that her movements were closely watched, while separation from her husband and beloved elder son for an indefinite period must have been hard to bear. Yet it was in the best of causes, and hopefully it would not last long.


  On February 3 an English intelligence report—drawn up at Cecil’s behest for Sir Nicholas Throckmorton (who was now ambassador to Scotland), and written in a Scottish hand, probably that of Thomas Bishop—listed Lennox’s enemies and friends in Scotland, showing that the enemies outnumbered the friends. Among them were the Douglases, but only “if my Lady Lennox do not relinquish her title to the earldom of Angus, which I suppose in respect of their greater advancement she hath already promised.” The report also revealed that Queen Mary intended to discountenance Châtelherault by advancing Lennox as her heir apparent. “If Darnley hit the mark, then careth my lady [Margaret] neither for the earldoms of Lennox, Angus nor lands in England, having enough that way.” If the Queen married Darnley, division would follow and “the overthrow of religion.” Once the Lennoxes and their son were in Scotland, whatever “flourishing words” they used, in their hearts they had only enmity to Elizabeth and wished division to her realm. It appears that Bishop had been sent to Scotland by Cecil to spy on Lennox.83


  The last poem to be copied into the Devonshire Manuscript, number 82, was a love poem composed by Darnley, probably for Mary, Queen of Scots, and he may have sent it to her at this time, in advance of his arrival:84

  My hope is you for to obtain,

  Let not my hope be lost in vain.

  Forget not my pains manifold,

  Nor my meaning to you untold.

  And eke with deeds I did you crave,

  With sweet words for you to have.

  To my hap and hope condescend,

  Let not Cupido in vain his bow to bend,

  Nor us two lovers, faithful, true,

  Like a bow made of bowing yew.

  But now receive by your industry and art

  Your humble servant, Harry Stuart.

  Darnley arrived in Edinburgh on February 13. When Mary, now twenty-two, saw this tall, fair youth of eighteen, she pronounced him “the lustiest and best-proportioned long man that she had seen.”85 On February 21, Lennox wrote to Queen Elizabeth, acknowledging “her goodness in furthering his cause here, and the comfort he has by the proof of the continuance thereof by her licencing his son to come to him.”86

  Darnley made a good beginning in Edinburgh. “His behaviour is liked, and there is great praise of him.”87 “There resorted divers unto him,” Randolph reported. “They like well of his personage.”88 Around this time Margaret assured Mary that she would have the allegiance of both the English and Scottish Catholics if she and Darnley would unite their claims in marriage and come forward as the King and Queen of Great Britain. Elizabeth would have regarded this as treason.

  On March 8, Lennox wrote to Elizabeth asking for “licence to abide here [in Scotland] for three months more, in order to proceed in the assurance of my lands to my son, the laws here requiring three or four months at the least.”89 That was not the only reason. Nine days earlier Randolph had reported that there was “now less talk of anything intended by the Queen” toward Darnley,90 and Lennox needed time to revive Mary’s interest in the marriage project. Two more letters for Margaret were forwarded by Bedford on March 15,91 and on April 6, Bedford would pray Cecil “to desire the Lady of Lennox’s pardon for the slack conveyance of letters to her.”92

  On March 24, Elizabeth told Silva “that Margaret’s son had been very well received and treated in Scotland, and that he and his father would return in May.” But Silva had been told—po
ssibly by Margaret—“that he has no such intention.”93 A week later Silva wrote to Philip II that Margaret had informed him

  of the kind treatment her son has received at the hands of the Queen of Scotland and that the French ambassador here sent to her in great secrecy to offer and promise all his support for the marriage of her son and anything he might require. She says she knows the French way of dealing and thinks this is for the purpose of discovering whether there is anything afoot, and, perhaps even on the advice of this Queen [Elizabeth].

  She repeats that she and her children have no other refuge but your Majesty, to whom she and they will always remain faithful, and begs me address your Majesty in their favour so that in case the Queen of Scotland should choose to negotiate about her son, or in the event of the death of this Queen [Elizabeth], they may look to your Majesty.

  Silva had sent Margaret “as kind an answer as I could.” He told her he had heard that the French were trying to arrange a marriage for Mary with Henry, Duke of Orléans, the younger brother of Charles IX, and asked her to find out through her friends where Elizabeth stood in this, and to advise him of what she heard. He told King Philip he would do the same for her “as a proof of the great affection your Majesty bears her for many reasons and especially for her high Christian character.”94

  Again Margaret was venturing into dangerous waters, for it was treason for an English subject to profess an allegiance to the King of Spain.


  The Lords of the Congregation, under the leadership of Moray, remained opposed to the Darnley marriage, well aware that the Lennoxes were aligned with the English Catholics. Elizabeth appeared to be doing her best to prevent the marriage going ahead. Darnley had been given leave to stay in Scotland for three months, and it was only with a great deal of difficulty that in the middle of April, Margaret finally prevailed upon the Queen to grant him license for three more.

  On April 14 a courier arrived from Scotland with news that “the son of Lady Margaret Lennox has been ill of small-pox.”95 It was actually measles, and on April 18 a scandalized Bedford informed Cecil that “Lord Darnley, all the while he was sick and since, has been almost continually visited by that Queen [Mary], and well near at all hours, few excepted. It appeareth by her tenderness over him that she feared not whether the sickness were infective. This he [Bedford] had of Lennox’s man,” who brought him a letter from Mary to Maitland “and one of her lady’s Grace [Margaret’s].”96 Darnley’s illness had accomplished what months of diplomatic maneuvering had failed to do: Mary was now infatuated with him.

  According to Lennox, Mary was “struck by the dart of love” with the “comeliness of [Darnley’s] sweet behavior, personage and virtuous qualities as well in languages and letters, sciences, music, dancing and playing on instruments, and especially she also considering the blood he was come of both by the father and mother.”97

  On April 15, Randolph had informed Cecil that the matter of Darnley “is now grown to further ripeness. The Queen’s familiarity with him breeds no small suspicion that there is more intended than merely giving him honour for his nobility, or for the Queen’s Majesty’s sake, by whom it is said he was so well recommended. It is now commonly said, and I believe is more than a bruit, that this Queen has already such good liking of him, that she can be content to forsake all other offers and content herself with her own choice.”98

  Margaret was in high favor. When, in March, Leicester had played host to Elizabeth, Margaret, the French ambassador and “other of the principal ladies [had] supped with the Queen, as is usual on similar occasions.”99 On the night of April 17, Elizabeth visited Margaret in her chamber at court, and her manner was kindly and respectful. But the next day everything changed. Maitland arrived in London to seek Elizabeth’s consent to Mary’s marriage to Darnley and to press her to name Mary her heir, requests Elizabeth was adamantly to refuse. Indeed, she was angered by them, for it was up to Darnley, as her subject, to seek her consent for his marriage, and Mary was presuming too much. Elizabeth now seized her chance of exploiting the situation to her own advantage and neutralizing her old adversary. That morning her demeanor toward Margaret suddenly changed, and from then on Margaret was out of favor. Many felt sorry for her.100

  On April 21, Margaret sent to tell Silva of the arrival of Maitland at court, “and that her son was well again.” She asked Silva to inform Maitland that King Philip “desired to favour her, as she believed it would help considerably in her son’s business. She thinks very possibly he may marry the Queen [Mary],” and assured Silva that Mary rested her claim to England more on the support of King Philip “than on anything else, especially as the Queen Mother of France is very much against her.” Silva promised to “try to keep this matter in hand, showing sympathy, as I have done, until I receive orders from your Majesty.”101 Margaret wanted Philip to see Darnley, the putative champion of Catholicism in England and Scotland, as the perfect match for Mary.

  On April 22, Margaret was commanded by the Queen to keep to her chamber at Whitehall.102 Effectively she was under house arrest. Four days later she got word to Silva, who informed Philip II that she

  had gone to the Queen’s chamber and that her Majesty refused to speak to her, and afterwards sent an order that she was not to leave her apartments, giving her to understand that she was to consider herself a prisoner, as she had received letters from a foreign prince without her permission, and without conveying the contents to her.

  Lady Margaret answered that it was true she had received a letter from the Queen of Scotland by her secretary, and had gone to the Queen’s chamber for the purpose of showing it to her Majesty, who had refused to speak to her, and consequently it was not her fault. An answer came from the Queen to the effect that, although she was detained in her apartments, there was no intention of preventing her friends from visiting her, as is usually done here in cases where persons are placed under arrest.

  Lady Margaret also advised me that the negotiations for the marriage of her son with the Queen of Scotland were progressing favourably, and asked me, in case Lethington [Maitland] said anything about it to me, to assure him that your Majesty was favourable to it as they were, and always had been so faithful to your Majesty.103

  Elizabeth had sent orders to Randolph that Lennox and Darnley must now return to England, but on April 23, Cecil informed Bedford that “her Majesty had commanded to stay the order of proceeding for calling home the Earl and his son, whereupon he despatched a post after Randolph.”104 The next day Elizabeth issued instructions to Throckmorton: “After your arrival in Scotland, you shall do all to understand how far forward the intention of marriage is between the Queen and Lord Darnley—how begun, how liked, how to be stayed, with all necessary circumstances thereto belonging. Thereafter you shall proceed (1) for stay or dissolution thereof and (2) to procure the Queen’s acceptance either of Leicester or some foreign prince agreeable to her honour, and meet to nourish the amity betwixt us both, and our two countries.”

  Throckmorton later informed Mary that Elizabeth had heard “fond and strange rumours” that so touched Mary’s honor and reputation that she herself was “grieved and sorry,” and had sent him to Scotland to tell Mary so. He was to inform the Queen of Scots “how it is reported by Darnley’s friends that she has so far proceeded in love of him” that, although he was infectious with measles, she could not stay away from him, and much desired to marry him.

  Elizabeth was “heartily offended” because, despite Maitland’s assurance that these “unseemly tales were false,” she had since heard more of them, “and to show they were not true, we did command the Lady Lennox, to whom we had of late time showed singular favour, to forbear from our presence, and could, but for some other respects, have showed more tokens of our displeasure towards her.” As for marrying Darnley, Throckmorton was to tell Mary that there were “many just causes” why Elizabeth did not think it suitable.105

  On April 26, Silva heard from the French ambassador that Queen Eliza
beth had said that pressure from her subjects, and “the inconvenience” of Mary remaining unmarried, had caused her to listen to “certain proposals and conversations with the son of the Earl of Lennox and Lady Margaret. Besides being related to her on both his father’s and his mother’s side, he was not a foreigner.” It seemed as if Elizabeth was thinking about naming Darnley her successor, in which case, if he married Mary, the two crowns would be united on Elizabeth’s death. It sounds like an inducement, but of course Elizabeth would not commit herself. Later that day Silva told Maitland that Darnley seemed the most suitable match for Mary, “both on account of the promise displayed by himself, and on account of his parents, for whom, and particularly for Lady Margaret, my master has an especial regard.” He impressed this on Maitland “because I knew he would communicate this to Margaret.”

  Silva had heard from various people “that this marriage [of Mary and Darnley] has actually taken place.” Maitland had mentioned a man saying that one of Margaret’s servants had been in Scotland and acted as a witness, but that was not what Margaret herself had said. From what Silva had learned, Elizabeth was “greatly incensed about the affair, as she thinks the Queen of Scotland’s party in this country will be strengthened greatly by it.”

  Elizabeth was playing a double game. Although she had rescinded her order for the return of Lennox and Darnley, Silva had heard that she was endeavoring to get Darnley to come back, and had even written hinting that she would marry him herself if he would do so. But Silva did not think he would “loose his hold” in Scotland.

  Silva had also heard that Throckmorton was to go to Scotland for the purpose of trying to stop the marriage, “which will somewhat console the Catholics,” as they had given up hoping that Mary would marry Don Carlos, “upon which they had set their hearts. They thought that would remedy all evils, but as this gentleman [Darnley] and his parents are held in esteem by them they see in the marriage some glimmer of hope.”

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