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

  As Silva ended his long dispatch, Margaret sent to say that “she considers her son’s affair an accomplished fact that admits of no doubt.”106 Two days later he reported that “Lady Margaret looks upon the business as done.” Silva discovered that during the previous twenty-four hours, Elizabeth had sent “secret orders that no one is to be allowed to pass the Scotch frontier without being searched to see whether he bears letters. So far as I can gather from conversation and observation, I believe this marriage with Darnley must already have been effected.”

  Margaret had remained under house arrest in the palace of Whitehall, and on April 28, Silva asked Maitland “if he had spoken to the Queen respecting the imprisonment of Lady Margaret, and he told me he had done so, and believed they would release her from her confinement to her rooms today to the extent of allowing her to go all over the palace so long as she did not see the Queen.”107 That day Bedford forwarded to Cecil “a letter from the Earl of Lennox to his wife. It cannot be but there is some news therein; you may use your wisdom in retaining or delivering thereof.”108 Probably he suspected that it concerned the Darnley marriage.

  On April 29, Randolph reported that he had “stayed” the Queen’s orders for the recall of Darnley and Lennox. But he expressed the opinion that, if she had thought it good to have them implemented, “she might have been void of that suspicion that is now almost universal of her, that the sending of Darnley [north] was done of purpose to worse end than he is willing to write.”109 It was what people in Scotland, who had now had time to learn more of Darnley, were increasingly beginning to suspect.

  On May 3, Randolph informed Cecil that Moray and other Lords of the Congregation were bitterly opposed to Mary’s marriage plans, not least because Darnley had claimed that the wealthy Moray was over-endowed in landed estates. “The speech of this marriage to any of them is so contrary to their desires that they think their nation dishonoured, the Queen’s Majesty shamed, and their country undone. A greater plague to her there cannot be, a greater benefit to the Queen’s Majesty [Elizabeth] could not have chanced than to see this dishonour fall upon her. Such pride is noted in the father and son that there is almost no society or company amongst them.” Lennox was “saucier than ever,” and “the young lord, being sick on his bed, boasted that he would knock the Duke’s [Châtelherault’s] pate when he is whole.” Morton, however, was hedging his bets: he was “more in hopes that the lady’s Grace [Margaret] will give over her right of Angus, and so will he become a friend to her side.”110

  On May 4, Bedford informed Cecil that Thomas Fowler, now back in Scotland, “has filled the court full of talk of Lady Lennox’s disgrace.”111 Fowler had recently traveled north on sufficient occasions on his employers’ business for Randolph to nickname him “the Flying Post.” He was now to stay at the Scottish court in Darnley’s service, and his growing influence would come to be resented by Scots and English alike.

  On May 15, the day Throckmorton arrived at Stirling, Mary created Darnley the Earl of Ross, a title he unhesitatingly accepted without seeking Elizabeth’s consent, which, as her subject, he was bound to do; worse still, he swore fealty to Mary, despite owing allegiance to Elizabeth. “The Queen in her love is transported,” Randolph wrote on May 21, “and Darnley grown so proud that to all honest men he is intolerable.”112

  Elizabeth may not have intended that things would have progressed so far so soon. She might have been hoping that Darnley and Lennox would make sufficient trouble in Scotland to discredit Mary and the Catholics before any marriage took place. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that she did feel it was worth the risk to herself to let Mary go ahead and marry Darnley, then face a backlash that could well be to her own advantage. A memo written by Throckmorton to Cecil and Leicester on May 21 makes it plain that Elizabeth and her Council were resolved to “make it appear to all folks that the proceedings of the Queen of Scotland with Darnley are so misliked that she must chasten the arrogance of her subjects, and avenge the indignity offered by the Queen of Scotland.” Darnley, who had behaved treacherously to Elizabeth, was out of reach, so it was upon his mother that Elizabeth’s wrath would be vented.

  Margaret had “many favourers” in England,113 and on May 27, Throckmorton, having realized that Mary was bent on marrying Darnley, and fearing the consequences, warned that a vigilant watch should now be kept on the Catholics in the north of England. The Catholic Earl of Northumberland should be kept in London and orders should be sent to the Council of the North at York to “have good eye to the doings of Northumberland and the Lady Lennox faction, by no means suffering the Papists through the realm, either in or out of court, to think themselves in credit or estimation.” To that end Throckmorton urged the Privy Council “to put greater restraint upon Lady Lennox, and harder sequestration than now, that she may have no conference but with those appointed to her, nor any means left for intelligence with the French ambassador, but chiefly none with the Spanish—which imports most.” He advised “that the Queen’s Majesty lie in good wait that Lady Lennox directly or indirectly have no intelligence of her doings or speech other than that severity is intended. It shall be to very good purpose, that both from her Majesty and [Cecil and Leicester], cunningly, Lady Lennox shall know they all marvel that Lethington [Maitland]—a man of judgment—can be so blinded as to further this marriage so earnestly, which they did so well espy by his last legation.” Throckmorton concluded by suggesting that more favour be shown to Lady Katherine Grey.114

  Margaret had continued to maneuver on her son’s behalf. She knew that the Scottish lords were hostile to his coming marriage, and was determined to enlist support for him. In the middle of May she finally renounced her claim to the earldom of Angus. As a married woman she did not herself sign the contract, but endorsed it on the back, “To the Earl of Lennox, my husband.”115 As she had anticipated, conceding the victory to Archibald Douglas persuaded Morton to abandon Moray and support Darnley’s marriage to Mary; and it removed the risk of Margaret being declared a bastard, which would prejudice her hopes for her son.


  Elizabeth now took steps that would seemingly limit the damage resulting from what must have begun to look to many like a serious error of judgment. On May 27 she commanded the immediate return of Lennox and Darnley to England. Neither obeyed her summons, and Mary gave them leave to remain safely in Scotland. Elizabeth was enraged when she learned that Darnley had allowed himself to be betrothed to Mary without asking leave of herself, and had sworn allegiance to the Scottish Queen. “The Queen, finding the intended marriage of Queen Mary with Lord Darnley strange, has communicated the same to certain of her Council, who with one assent thought that it would be unmeet and directly prejudicial to the sincere amity between both the queens.”116 On June 4 the Privy Council held a conference to debate “what perils might ensue to the Queen or this realm of the marriage” and “what were meet to remedy the same.” There were two main causes for alarm:

  The first, that a great number in this realm might be alienated from Queen Elizabeth to depend upon the success of this marriage as a means to establish the succession of both crowns in the issue of the marriage, and so favour all devices that should tend to the advancement of the Queen of Scots. There was a plain intention to further the pretended title of the Queen of Scots, not only to succeed to the Queen’s Majesty, but to occupy her estate, as when she was in power she did declare. The second was that hereby the Romish religion should be erected and increased daily in this realm.

  It was exactly what Margaret had schemed for.

  The Council devised a list of remedies, but three were of prime importance: “it was necessary that the Queen [Elizabeth] should marry with no long delay”; action must be taken “to advance the profession of [the Protestant] religion in Scotland and in England, and to diminish and weaken the contrary”; and the English government must “proceed in sundry ways either to break the intended marriage, or at least thereby to procure the same not to be hurtful to thi
s realm.” It was agreed “that Lady Lennox be committed to some place where she may be kept from giving or receiving intelligence”; that “the Earl of Lennox and his son be sent for, and required to be sent home by the Queen of Scots according to the treaty, failing which, his English estates to be forfeited”; and that “Master Charles, the younger son of the Earl of Lennox, be removed [from Settrington] to where he may be forthcoming.”117 It was not thought unusual that a child of eight could be questioned about the activities of his parents.

  On June 6, having learned of Mary’s betrothal, King Philip wrote to Silva that he had noted the information passed on by Maitland

  respecting the state of the match of the Queen of Scotland with Lord Darnley, and also the intelligence you obtained from Lady Margaret, and from the Earl of Leicester, to the effect that the marriage had taken place. Your news on this head has been very pleasing to me, and, on the presumption that the marriage of the Queen and Darnley has really gone so far, the bridegroom and his parents being good Catholics and our affectionate servitors, and considering the Queen’s good claims to the crown of England, to which Darnley also pretends, we have arrived at the conclusion that the marriage is one that is favourable to our interests and should be forwarded and supported to the full extent of our power. You may convey to Lady Margaret Lennox the sympathy and goodwill I bear towards her son and the successful accomplishment of the project, in order that they may be satisfied and may know that they can depend upon me in matters concerning this business, and so be able to entertain and encourage the Catholics and their party in England.

  Philip then raised the matter of the English succession.

  The most prudent course will be for the Queen of Scotland not to press the Queen to appoint her, but leave the question of declaration of a successor in suspense for the present, because failing the Queen, there is no doubt that people would all flock to the Queen of Scotland and Lord Darnley, and this must be the object to which all energy must be directed. You will make Lady Margaret understand this, and that not only shall I be glad for her son to be king of Scotland and will help him thereto, but also to be king of England if this marriage is carried through.118

  Margaret could not have hoped for more, but according to Silva,

  the Queen of England and her Council are much troubled and perplexed by the marriage of the Queen of Scots with Lord Darnley, both of them being next heirs to the Crown of England, and their respective claims thus consolidated. The rivalry between them, therefore, ceases, and the Queen of England had always looked for her security to the maintenance of this rivalry by delaying the nomination of her successor. The second cause of anxiety is the dissensions in the country, many people favouring Darnley in the belief that by his means they may get rid of the Queen and her Government.

  “The Queen appears to be daily more annoyed at the Queen of Scotland’s marriage,” Silva reported. “She has summoned Darnley hither under threat of punishment for high treason, and in consequence of his disobedience has thrown his mother, Lady Margaret, into the Tower of London.” In fact Margaret was still under house arrest at Whitehall,119 and the next day, June 9, Silva corrected the information in his previous dispatch: “It was determined yesterday to send Lady Margaret to the Tower, where she is expected to be lodged tonight or tomorrow.”120

  Not only had Margaret broken her oath to the Queen, but she had also “deceitfully asked leave for her son to go to Scotland,” knowing his true intentions. Elizabeth was “justly indignant,”121 but for a few days she stayed her hand. It was not until June 16,122 the night before the arrival of Maitland, who had been commanded by Mary to return to England,123 that the Queen sent Cecil and the Vice Chamberlain, Sir Francis Knollys, to tell Margaret that she had delayed sending her to the Tower “until the coming of the Scotch Ambassador, but seeing that he did not arrive she should not avoid any longer sending her thither, and told her to be ready by the time the tide rose. Lady Margaret asked them to tell the Queen from her that she did not know the cause of such an injury being done her, and begged her to suspend the order at least until the next day. They said they would convey the message, but that she was to be prepared, as they had already told her.”124


  “Strait Imprisonment”

  On the evening of June 16, 1565, “at the hour appointed, the Vice-Chamberlain, with six of the guard,” arrested Margaret and “took her to the Tower in one of the Queen’s barges with two or three women, knowing very well that the Scotch Ambassador was to arrive on the morrow.” Silva observed: “This imprisonment has not given general satisfaction, as Lady Margaret is held in high esteem here, and is very popular. The Protestants, knowing that she is a Catholic still, are strongly attached to her. The affair has been so public and her claims on us are so strong that I should have taken some step in her favour but that I do not want to arouse the suspicion of these people, and I have therefore not said a word.”1 The timing of her imprisonment was finely calculated: Maitland would arrive at the appropriate moment and could be counted on to warn Darnley off.2 Elizabeth probably knew Darnley well enough to guess that he would always put his own interests before those of anyone else, even at the risk of his mother’s well-being and safety.

  When the barge conveying her to the Tower arrived at Traitor’s Gate (then known as the water gate),3 Margaret must have been thinking of Lennox, who had been immured within the fortress, and, remembering her earlier sojourn here, nearly thirty years ago now, maybe wondering if she would escape with her life this time. It made little difference that, as a prisoner of high rank, she was to be imprisoned in reasonable comfort in the Lieutenant’s Lodging; Anne Boleyn had been held in some splendor in the Queen’s apartments in the royal palace, yet she had lost her head.

  The Lieutenant’s Lodging survives today as the Queen’s House. Located in the corner of the Inner Ward, facing Tower Green, it had been built in 1540 on the site of its decayed medieval predecessor, and was the substantial and well-appointed residence of the Lieutenant of the Tower. The house had a first-floor hall, a dining hall and parlor leading off it, a great kitchen and accommodation for the Lieutenant and his family, his guests and, occasionally, prisoners; Katherine Grey had been held here a couple of years earlier with her infant son and eight servants. There was a fenced garden accessed from the house, but the door to it was locked at night.4 Margaret’s chamber was on the third and top floor of the house, adjoining the Bell Tower, a high-security prison that was part of the Lieutenant’s Lodging and could only be accessed through it.5

  Like so many prisoners in the Tower, Margaret and her servants were to pass the tedious hours in carving an inscription, above the stone fireplace in her chamber: Upon the twenty day of June xx in the year of Our Lord a thousand, five hundred, three score and five, the Right Honourable Countess of Lennox Grace committed prisoner to this lodging for the marrying of her son, my lord Henry Darnley, and the Queen of Scotland. Here is their names that do wait upon her noble Grace this place: Elizabeth Husey [Hussey], John Baily, Elizabeth Chambrlen [Chamberlain], Robert Portynger [Portinger], Edward C. Veyne [Vane]. Anno Domini 1566.6

  The inscription dates Margaret’s imprisonment from June 20, 1565, but it is clear that she was taken to the Tower on the 16th. Either she got the date wrong, or the Tower officials had not had sufficient time to prepare for their important prisoner, and had to accommodate her elsewhere for the first four days.

  Next to this inscription is another: As God preserved Christ His Son in trouble and in thrall, so when we call upon the Lord he will preserve us all. This too has been attributed to Margaret.7 Today this chamber is called the Lennox Room.

  Katherine Grey had been allowed to furnish her prison with tapestries, curtains, Turkey carpets, a handsome bed with a feather mattress and a chair upholstered in cloth of gold and crimson velvet.8 Margaret’s room was specially decorated and furnished for her, probably as splendidly, which might account for the four days’ delay in her occupying it; and she was allowed
a staff of five servants: two ladies, a gentlewoman, a gentleman and a yeoman.9 The Privy Council may have accorded her the special privilege,10 sometimes extended to distinguished prisoners, of dining at the table of the Lieutenant, Sir Francis Jobson, a diligent public servant in his late fifties with a long career in administration and politics behind him; he had been appointed lieutenant in 1564.

  The room in which Margaret was imprisoned may have been at the front of the house and had a view of Tower Green, a sobering and frightening reminder of the fate of royal women who had fallen foul of the Crown, for it was here, in front of the House of Ordnance, that Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey had all been beheaded.


  Margaret had not been abandoned. On June 14, Queen Mary had sent her Master of Requests, John Hay, to Elizabeth’s court with instructions to complain of the severity with which her mother-in-law was being treated. He was to express the hope that Margaret would be relieved of her present troubles, if only to disabuse rumormongers who were spreading the word that she was being badly used on Queen Mary’s account. Hay was also to make representations on behalf of Lennox, whose affairs now required him to spend time in both England and Scotland. Mary was proposing that, as sureties for his loyalty to herself and Elizabeth, Margaret and Charles be kept as hostages in England when he was in Scotland, and in Scotland when he was in England.11

  On June 18, Elizabeth wrote to Mary: “For divers good causes we have expressly commanded the Earl of Lennox and Henry, Lord Darnley, as our subjects, to return hither without delay, and we require you to give your safe-conduct to pass through your countries, for their speedier coming.”12 There was now no question of Mary complying. On June 25, Maitland told Silva that

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