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

  he had conversed with the Queen [Elizabeth] on the subject of the marriage of his Queen with Lord Darnley, and that she flew into a rage directly the subject was introduced. She said she was greatly displeased at the match because it had been arranged without her consent, and for other reasons, and he asked her that these reasons might be handed to him in writing, that he might show them to his Queen, but she refused.

  He asked permission to visit Lady Margaret and handed her a letter which he had from the Queen for her, and another from her husband, to which the Queen replied that she was greatly astonished that the Queen of Scotland should think she would allow Lady Margaret to receive visits, seeing that she was imprisoned for so grave a crime. When she was in prison before, she was let out by her on her solemn oath that she would not allow her son to marry without her consent, and she had deceived her. The letters, [Elizabeth] said, might be handed to her, but she must see them first.

  [Maitland] asked permission to hand to her Majesty a letter from the Earl of Lennox, but she refused to receive it, saying that she would not accept letters from a traitor, as she should very soon proclaim him to be, and his son as well.

  Maitland concluded that there was nothing more he could do but return to Scotland.13

  On June 23 the Privy Council sent instructions to Thomas Young, Archbishop of York, who was president of the Council of the North and active in trying to reconcile the north of England to the Protestant religion. He was to draw up a list of names of “the Friends and Servants to the Earl of Lennox and the lady his wife.”14 Margaret’s younger son, eight-year-old Charles, was still at Settrington, and there had been some talk of the Archbishop removing him, it being hoped that he would wean young Charles from the Catholic faith instilled in him by his mother; but Cecil had not wanted that because Charles was reputed to be sickly, so Young let him be, reporting: “Here he is in health and at Settrington, where he has thirty servants.” He expressed doubts as to the wisdom of leaving Charles there, as some of those servants had been selling the Lennoxes’ corn, sheep and other commodities, presumably to pay for their living expenses in their mistress’s absence, and it was “uncertain how long they intend to stay.” Furthermore, “the house is in the open country, ten or twelve miles from the sea, where the Earl and Sir Richard Chamberlain have boats, by which Charles could easily be carried to Scotland, so this is not the place to keep him safely.”15 Cecil took heed, and the boy was taken into the Archbishop’s household at Bishopthorpe Palace near York.


  Elizabeth expressed fury against Mary. She raged that the Queen of Scots had “so manifestly broken the treaty in maintaining and keeping the Earl of Lennox, Lord Darnley, and other of her subjects there contrary to her will.”16 She voiced her determination that “steps should be taken to bring back both the Earl of Lennox and his son to this country, and if this was not effected they should be proceeded against as rebels.”17

  Lennox was incensed to hear of his wife’s imprisonment, and told Randolph bluntly that he would not return to face similar ill treatment.18 Both he and Darnley sent letters protesting that Margaret had been ignorant of developments in Scotland, and was wholly innocent.19 But on July 2, Randolph reported that some people there “that already have heard of my lady[’s] Grace’s imprisonment like very well thereof, and wish both her husband and son to keep her company.”20

  By July 2, Silva told King Philip that he had been able to arrange a channel of communication with Margaret, who had “been advised by secret and suitable means in the Tower of your Majesty’s interest in her affairs.”21 A week later he reported that “Lady Margaret is still confined in the Tower, well guarded, but I have means of learning how she is, and of conveying words of encouragement to her. Her son Charles is in the keeping of the Archbishop of York.”22 Silva’s was not the only channel of communication open to Margaret. On July 13 she informed him “that the French ambassador makes her many offers of service on behalf of his master, and makes similar offers to the Queen of Scotland. I tell her to thank him and beware.”23 But Margaret, indomitable as ever, was to use any means she could to keep in touch with the outside world. Heedless of the possible consequences, she would continue intriguing for the benefit of Darnley and herself, difficult and dangerous though it must have been.

  On July 23, Margaret wrote to Cecil and Knollys:

  I have earnestly desired the Lieutenant [of the Tower] that I might write to those that first I was committed to in my trouble, who, with much ado and persuasion, hath given me leave. I beseech you, my Lord Chamberlain, and you, Master Secretary, to be means to the Queen’s Majesty not to continue my heavy [severe] lady, having not deserved it: indeed, my greatest imprisonment is her Highness’ displeasure.

  You both are fathers: consider then in God’s cause what I suffer, besides as not hearing from my lord my husband and son there [in Scotland], nor yet from my child, being in Yorkshire, family nor officers, lacking wherewith to buy my necessaries and to pay some part of the great debt that I am in by many occasions this year past, as seldom being suffered to be at home, whereby I spent, and got little. Yet of that I never complained, so long as I had my prince’s [Elizabeth’s] favour, which God inspire her heart I may have again, beseeching you to be petitioners therefor.

  Thus I cease to trouble you this time, save with my hearty commendations, committing you both to the keeping of Almighty God.

  From the Tower, the xxiii July, your friend to her power,

  Margaret Lennox and Angus.24

  That day saw Margaret interesting herself in the case of a minor aristocrat, Thomas Cobham, who had been condemned to death for piracy, as Elizabeth wished to make a diplomatic example of him for attacking Spanish ships (which she herself was all too willing to plunder). Margaret asked Silva to intercede for him “in order that his family, who are her adherents, may be confirmed in their friendship” to her. Many others were adding their pleas to hers, moving the Queen to show mercy. Her beneficent mood extended to Margaret too, and Silva was pleased to report that her imprisonment had been “somewhat moderated, and her son, who was detained in the keeping of the Archbishop of York, is released.”25 Charles was now back home at Settrington.26

  Silva’s optimism was premature. On June 30, King Charles IX of France had written to Elizabeth, praying that she would be pleased to release Margaret.27 But his letter reinforced Elizabeth’s suspicions that Margaret had intrigued to secure the backing of the great Catholic powers of France and Spain for herself and Darnley. As Silva was writing his dispatch of July 23, he “received advice that Lady Margaret’s imprisonment, which I had just written had been moderated, is now again been made hourly more severe. The changes here are constant.”28

  On July 28 a gentleman sent from Scotland by Queen Mary saw Silva and told him that Moray, “thinking that when she is married he will not have so large a share in the management of affairs as hitherto,” had allied with Châtelherault and demanded that Mary abandon the Mass. “This gentleman says the Queen will be married to-morrow, and that any harm that may happen to her from her subjects will be in consequence of the action of this Queen [Elizabeth] as there are otherwise a good ten Catholics for every heretic in that country. He also begs me from his mistress to try to get Lady Margaret released.”29

  By July 29 the French ambassador had spoken to Elizabeth “respecting Margaret’s imprisonment.” He too “begged that she might be released and that her son should not be proceeded against as was intended.” Elizabeth gave him “an account of the reasons she had to be aggrieved against the Queen of Scotland and Margaret.” She was, however, expecting an envoy from the Queen of Scots, “and when he arrived an answer on the whole matter would be given.”30 But it was soon to be made plain to her that the time for giving answers was past, for between the hours of five and six in the morning, on that very day, July 29, 1565, Mary married Darnley.

  It was Lennox himself who triumphantly entered the chapel of Holyrood Palace with the bride on his arm, then retur
ned with the Earl of Argyll to lead in Darnley, who had been created Duke of Albany for the occasion and was resplendent in a sumptuous suit that glittered with jewels. Mary wore a voluminous black mourning gown and a large white hood and veil—similar to the deuil blanc, the white widow’s garb of French queens that she had donned for the funeral of her first husband, and worn for several portraits. Darnley placed three rings (representing the Trinity) on her finger, kissed her after the nuptials, and left her to hear Mass alone, as he did not wish to offend the Protestant establishment. Presently Mary joined him in her chamber, where she was ceremonially divested of her widow’s weeds and attired in wedding finery. The marriage was consummated that night.

  The next day Mary had Darnley proclaimed “King Henry” by the heralds, without waiting to have his title ratified by Parliament. It was noted that not one Scottish lord said “Amen” apart from Lennox, who cried, “God save his Grace!”31 It has been said that the Darnley marriage was his finest achievement,32 and so it must then have seemed, to him, to Margaret and to others; but ultimately it was an achievement only in terms of its dynastic impact, the fruition of which Lennox would not live to see. In other respects it was a disaster that would rebound horribly on him, Margaret, Mary and many others. But at the time it looked as if he had succeeded in uniting two Catholic claims to the thrones of England and Scotland, and that the issue of this marriage might well bring about a counterreformation in both realms.

  No one seems to have paused to think of the possible consequences for Margaret. Lennox and Darnley probably knew that she desired the marriage so greatly that she was willing to suffer in her son’s interests; but while Darnley appears not to have been too concerned about what happened to his mother, Lennox was to endure great anxiety on her behalf, not least because the danger in which she stood was very soon made explicit. On July 30, Elizabeth and her Council—who did not, of course, yet know about the marriage—sent an envoy, John Tamworth (or Thornworth), to Scotland. Chiefly he was to protest against the “craft” used by the Lennoxes in compassing the marriage of their son to Queen Mary. “If the Earl of Lennox or Lord Darnley shall desire to speak with him, he shall in the end not refuse utterly to hear them, without saying anything to them as from [Queen Elizabeth], but shall use them with such strangeness as their cause requires. And yet he may, as of himself, advise them to use themselves otherwise than is reported they do; and to move them the more, he may remember to them the hard case of the Lady Margaret, now in the Tower, whose wellbeing must depend upon their behaviour there.” If Mary required Tamworth “to direct his speech to Lord Darnley as to her husband, he shall refuse so to do.”33 It would be a long time before Elizabeth would acknowledge Darnley as King of Scots.

  The Scottish lords were definitely not rejoicing about the marriage. They hated Darnley because he was a Catholic and an Englishman, and they feared his influence and that of Lennox, whose power, as father to the new King, was now ascendant.34 Roused by Moray, they rose in a rebellion that became known as “the Chaseabout Raid.”

  News of the Darnley marriage provoked fury and alarm in Queen Elizabeth. For Margaret, this should have been a time of rejoicing, since all her years of scheming had paid off, her ambitions had been joyfully fulfilled, and one day, if God willed, her grandson would wear a crown, possibly two; but here she was, shut up in the Tower, with the Queen threatening vengeance. She could take comfort only in the remembrance that Elizabeth had not sent Katherine Grey to the block—but then Katherine had only borne a son with royal blood, not married him to Elizabeth’s rival.

  By August 6 the French ambassador had received a reply “to his remonstrance on behalf of his King in the matter of Lady Margaret.” Elizabeth asked King Charles “to consider, if he had a subject who had left his country under an artful pretext for the purpose of deceiving him, and had married against the King’s will, and had done other similar acts, whether he would be offended with him or not. She therefore requested that the King would not take it amiss if she took further time to consider what she had better do.”35

  On August 12, Mary saw Tamworth and told him “it cannot be found strange for her to detain within her realm that person with whom she is joined in marriage.” She desired “that the Queen will not meddle with any matters within the realm of Scotland,” declared that she did “not mean to make any innovation in religion,” and prayed

  her good sister to consider how moderately she has used herself in a case wherein she had good occasion to have meddled more earnestly: that is, in the cause of her mother-in-law, the Lady Margaret, Countess of Lennox, being also so tender of blood to her Majesty—whom, being induced by her example, she does most earnestly and effectuously request her good sister to relieve forth of captivity and restore her to her lands, &c., and former favour, wherein as she shall neither offend against justice nor her own honour, so she shall do her Majesty most acceptable pleasure.36

  The next day Queen Mary and King Henry assured Elizabeth that they would never do anything to the prejudice of her title, meddle with her subjects, enter into alliances with foreign princes against her, or—if called to the throne of England—make changes to the established religion, on condition that “their good sister,” among other things,

  shall by Act of Parliament establish the succession to her crown, failing herself and the lawful issue of her body, in the Queen’s [Mary’s] person and the lawful issue of her body: failing which, in that of Lady Margaret, Countess of Lennox, mother to the King, her Majesty’s husband, and [the] lawful issue of her body, as the persons by the law of God and nature next inheritable to the crown of England; and that she shall not procure anything prejudicial to her Majesty or Lady Margaret and their heirs aforesaid.37

  Nothing could have been better calculated to arouse Elizabeth’s fury than this high-handed letter with its implicit threat. But by August 13, Silva had cause to hope that she had relented somewhat toward Margaret.

  The Queen is not at all pleased with Scotch affairs. I told her I had heard that the King of France had written to her about Margaret’s imprisonment, which she said was true, and told me her answer. She said the King had written at the request of the Queen of Scotland and he had not been able to refuse, giving me to understand that he had done it simply out of compliment. I told her it was a thing in which I thought she might show clemency if rightly considered, as I had heard that the Queen of Scotland had always obeyed her as if she was her younger sister and had married one of her subjects. The Queen seems more pliable in this matter than I was led to expect.38

  Again Silva’s hopes were premature. On August 27 he had to report: “They have sequestrated Lady Margaret’s property in addition to her imprisonment, and she will now suffer need.”39 Lennox’s auditor was ordered to make an inventory of the contents of Temple Newsam as well as a record of the rents from all the couple’s estates.40 On September 23 letters were issued to the Crown’s commissioners, Sir Thomas Gargrave, Henry Gates and a Justice of the Peace, John Vaughan of Sutton-on-Derwent, Yorkshire, “for seizure and management of the Earl of Lennox’s lands.”41 That day Gargrave reported to the Lord Treasurer, William Paulet, Marquess of Winchester, that Lennox had taken half of his plate to Scotland, while the rest was either with Lady Lennox or “here at Settrington, where Mr. Charles, the Earl’s son, lives, and the house is kept for him by the servants; but it is only a little salt, two bowls and certain spoons.” If these items were to be sold, what was to be done about Mr. Charles and the housekeeper? Gargrave awaited the Queen’s pleasure in the matter.42

  Burdensome debts were often the punishment of those who offended the Crown. With the income generated from rents and other dues suddenly cut off, Margaret found herself with no money at all, and of that she had immediate need, since prisoners in the Tower had to pay for their food, servants and comforts. However, the Lennoxes were not in fact formally dispossessed of all their lands. It has been pointed out that the sequestration was merely a pretext to search their property for incriminati
ng evidence. Some of the estates were sold off by the Crown in 1567, but most, including Temple Newsam and Settrington, were allowed to remain in the couple’s possession, and continued to be called the Lennox lands until long after Margaret’s death.43 But it would be some time before it became clear that the Lennoxes were not to be dispossessed and impoverished after all.

  Hugh Allen, who had resumed his duties as courier after the couple’s release from Sheen in 1563, was now imprisoned in the Gatehouse at Westminster. He was to languish there for two years before pleading with Cecil for his release. Margaret would do nothing for him, for she believed that he had betrayed her, but the government’s treatment of him gives the lie to that.44

  It was probably Margaret who, late in August, arranged for Francis Yaxley to travel to Scotland from Flanders, to be welcomed by Darnley and appointed ambassador to Spain. Yaxley’s role was to be a bridge between Darnley and the English Catholics.45 He furnished Darnley with a list of persons who were ready to assist Philip II in “the alteration of religion” in Britain. At the top was Jane Dormer, Countess of Feria.46

  On September 1 the French ambassador, Michel de Castelnau, informed Queen Mary that he had “asked for the deliverance of the Countess of Lennox, but the Queen refused, though she is well treated, which is all he can say.”47 That same day Elizabeth wrote to her commissioner, Judge John Vaughan, and his wife, commanding

  that the second son to the Earl of Lennox, named Charles Stuart, now remaining at Settrington, near to you,48 should be looked unto, as well for his health, being of tender years, as for his surety, considering that the said Earl, his father, remaineth in Scotland, and his mother in our Tower of London; and because we know none thereabouts meeter than yourself, and the Lady Knyvett, your wife,49 to take charge of him. We require you to make your repair to the said house of Settrington, or else where the said Charles is, and, declaring this our pleasure to such as have charge of him, to receive him into the custody of you and your wife; and that such care be taken of him as be meet and agreeable for his health and safety; and that which shall be convenient for the charges of him, and one or two to attend upon him, as his years shall require, shall be allowed unto you, as reason is. If cause shall require to have more to attend upon him than two, it is left to your discretion.50

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