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

  Charles appears not to have remained long in the care of the Vaughans in Yorkshire, for at some point he was brought south to London, where he was placed in the charge of Gabriel Goodman, the Dean of Westminster, at Cheyneygates, the former Abbot’s house, now the Deanery, within the abbey precincts.

  “Lady Margaret is still in prison and has been unwell,” Silva wrote to King Philip on September 10. “They have refused permission for a doctor to visit her, and have taken away and sequestered all her property. She sends me word that her only hope now is in God and your Majesty. I have not ventured to speak to the Queen about her business as I thought it might cause some inconvenience, as will be understood.”51

  When Silva saw Elizabeth on September 17, he would have spoken of “certain things about these Scotch matters if I had not noticed her stiffness to me on the subject.” He had wanted to say that

  not only foreigners but her own people blamed her for three things. The first was that, considering that the Queen of Scotland had married one of her subjects and relatives brought up in her own house, she ought rather to be thankful to her for it than angry and offended. The second was the imprisonment and harsh treatment of a person of such high position as Lady Margaret, simply because she had wished to marry her son well, which was only natural for a mother to desire. The third was the help she [Elizabeth] gave to the Scottish rebels against their Queen, a most pernicious example for other kings and for her.

  But these reproofs went unsaid. “The news was flying about the world, and I had been much astonished that she had not mentioned the matter to me, as it was of the utmost importance that what she was doing and negotiating should be known.”

  Elizabeth herself raised the matter of Margaret’s offenses.

  During this period, she said, Lady Margaret deceitfully asked leave for her son to go to Scotland to take possession of his father’s estates. She had given her this licence, telling her at the same time to take care she did not deceive her and let her son do anything else, or she would find herself the person deceived; and then as soon as he arrived the Queen of Scotland made up her mind to marry him, and sent to ask her advice about it when the thing was as good as done, demanding at the same time the declaration of the succession, this being the first information she had received of it all. She was therefore justly indignant with the Queen, and especially with Lady Margaret, as they had both deceived her. She then again returned to Margaret’s imprisonment, greatly exaggerating the deceit she had practiced on her, although she had formerly released her from prison and entertained her in her house, and had given her leave for the son to go, so that she could not avoid being very angry with her and exacting ample reparation. She asked me what I thought of it. I said I should have expected quite the reverse from her great and customary clemency. She had always shown a valiant spirit, and only the timid were cruel. She replied that I was right and spoke the truth, giving me to understand that in the end she would do as I suggested.52

  Elizabeth did take Silva’s remonstrations seriously, and kept her word. That September the Council drew up “A note of such things as the Lady Margaret Lennox hath great need of for her apparel and furniture in the Tower, and of the wages of her attendants.” Several items were supplied to her from the Royal Wardrobe: two petticoats, of scarlet and crimson silk; a gown of black velvet and a nightgown of satin, both lined with coney fur; a round kirtle of black velvet; Holland cloth for kerchiefs, smocks and partlets; a French hood; a cornette53 or white cap, and a habiliment; twelve pairs of hose; six pairs of velvet shoes; two pairs of slippers; two pairs of mules and a farthingale.54

  For furnishing her chamber Margaret was provided with a rug, a quilt, “a pair of fustians,”55 two pairs of sheets, a dining table, a chair for herself, six joint stools and two small covered stools for her attendants, a side cupboard, four cupboard cloths,56 a table on which to brush clothing, a green table cover, four tablecloths, two dozen napkins, eight platters, eight dishes, eight saucers, four porringers,57 a saltcellar, two silver spoons, a cup for drinking, a basin for washing hands at table, a ewer, “a great basin for the chamber, a pair of creepers,”58 a fire-pan, a pair of tongs, a pair of bellows and candle snuffers.59

  The three female servants who lodged with Margaret were paid livery and wages of £12 (£2,040) each, due at Michaelmas 1565, and “Christian, my lady’s woman,” who had lodgings outside the Tower, received the same. Margaret herself paid the gentleman waiting upon her wages of 53s.4d. (£455), while her yeoman got 26s.8d. (£227). Her servant William Robinson was paid more than £13 (£2,214) at Michaelmas.60

  This list provides interesting insights into how a lady of Margaret’s rank fared in captivity. The clothes provided were appropriate to her high rank. The eight stools and dinner service for eight show that she dined with her servants. There was a fireplace in her room, so she could keep warm—unlike less privileged prisoners—and her bed was adequately made up. Thus she did not lack essential creature comforts. But the Queen was to insist that Margaret pay for all the items provided, and for the expenses incurred during her imprisonment,61 and the cost was ruinous to one who was already burdened by debt and had no income.


  Scotland was now in turmoil. Darnley was alienating people with his posturing and his insolence, and it was clear that Lennox, reportedly his “master in all things,” actually had no control over him.62 Margaret had been the dominant influence in Darnley’s life, and after that influence was removed there was no one to curb his behavior.

  Determined to settle old scores, Lennox had used the rising as a pretext to “ruin” the Hamiltons, but in the end it was his lands in western Scotland that were plundered by Châtelherault’s ally Argyll.63 Eventually Mary’s forces routed her rebel lords, and Moray and his adherents were outlawed and forced to take flight into England. On September 19, Bedford informed Cecil that Moray’s pregnant countess, Agnes Keith, had been arrested by the royal forces and kept prisoner in similar conditions to Margaret’s,64 but the next day Randolph reported that “Lady Moray has been sought and cannot be found. Some say she has been imprisoned for the relief of Lady Lennox, whose husband leaves no man unspoiled of whom he likes to take.”65 Both Bedford and Randolph had been misled by rumors, for the Countess proved to have been at St. Andrew’s Priory, her own home, all the time.

  On October 7, Margaret turned fifty. Nothing more had been done to ease her plight, and on October 20, King Philip wrote to Silva: “We have been much grieved at the imprisonment and ill-treatment of Lady Margaret, and the reason for it, and I shall therefore be glad if you will encourage her and tell her what is best to be done on all occasions as you have hitherto, and you will try to keep on good terms of understanding with her, but always in such a way as to give no cause for the Queen to take offence.”66

  In instructions issued to her ambassadors in Scotland on October 24, Elizabeth commanded them “to endeavour to restore the amity, to complain of the strange conduct of the Queen of Scots regarding her marriage” and to “do what they can to procure the restitution of the lords, particularly the Earl of Moray,” by promising an “inquisition into Mary’s title” to the English succession. “As it is certain that she will require Lady Lennox to be released [and] the Earl restored to his lands in England, Elizabeth will agree, if in other things Mary accords with her.”67 But when, soon afterward, Mary wrote a long letter to Paul de Foix, the French ambassador in London, begging him to secure Margaret’s liberty, Elizabeth remained deaf to his appeal.

  On October 24, Francis Yaxley arrived at Philip’s court at Segovia with letters of accreditation from Mary and Darnley, informing Philip of “their zealous desire to establish and reform their kingdom under the Christian religion,” and begging him for aid. They also asked him “to be pleased to write affectionate letters to the Queen of England with two very necessary objects; first the release of Lady Margaret, and secondly that the said Queen should desist from helping the Scottish rebels either publicly or privately.”

  Philip was reluctant to provoke Elizabeth. He wrote to Silva that his intervention “would do harm rather than good, but when an opportunity arrived we would not miss it and would send instructions to you.” He added that he approved of the way Silva had “introduced the subject of Lady Margaret” to Elizabeth. “You will continue in the same style whenever you see a chance, taking care however, not to arouse the suspicion or jealousy of the Queen.”68

  Silva thought that Philip’s caution was prudent and his answer “the most fitting, as your Majesty’s intercession would do [Margaret] no good, but would rather arouse greater suspicion against her, even if there were not other reasons against it.”69 And Mary would not agree to pardon Moray, so Margaret had to remain in prison.


  “In Great Trouble”

  Within five months the marriage of Mary and Darnley had broken down. Lennox dated the rift to the collapse of the rebellion,1 and whatever had gone wrong was made worse by the Queen pardoning Châtelherault on December 1, arousing Darnley’s fury.2 Mary was beginning to realize how shallow and vicious he could be, and he grew even more so when she continued to deny him the crown matrimonial, which would have given him the right to rule autonomously, and to succeed to the throne if she died without issue. Moreover the marriage had failed in its political objective, for the English Catholics had not risen to place Mary and Darnley on Elizabeth’s throne.

  Mary had lost faith in Darnley, and in Lennox too. She openly wished that her father-in-law “had not set his foot in Scotland.”3 Lennox’s influence there was now in a steady decline, and henceforth he would spend more and more time on his estates in Glasgow.4

  In the absence of the exiled lords, Mary was relying more and more on her Italian secretary, David Rizzio, for advice as well as congenial company, and Darnley soon realized that Rizzio was supplanting him in the Queen’s counsels—and, some said, in her bed. Bedford would not, for the sake of Mary’s honor, write in detail to Cecil of the favor she was showing to the Italian. “This David, [Thomas] Fowler, and one [Sir James] Balfour rule all.”5 Balfour was a member of the Scottish Privy Council. Formerly a Protestant, he had reverted to the Catholic faith, prompting Knox to castigate him as an apostate and traitor, and indeed he was a treacherous character, but adept at covering his tracks. It was Darnley who had persuaded Mary to appoint him a councilor.

  Fowler’s undue influence had been censured by the Scottish Parliament and by John Knox,6 and in December, Darnley made a show of dismissing him from his household.7 But it was a bluff to provide cover for Fowler, in disguise, to make his way into England on a secret mission carrying letters to Margaret.

  By December 19, 1565, Margaret had learned from Randolph that she was to become a grandmother, for Mary and Darnley were expecting a child in the summer. This was the fruition of all her hopes: If God was merciful, one of her blood would sit on the thrones of Scotland and England. Mary was delighted, but the birth of a son would put paid to Darnley’s hopes of the crown matrimonial, so he was not rejoicing.8

  That month a jubilant Lennox wrote a letter addressed “To my wife, my Lady Margaret”; it was one of those entrusted to Fowler, and it reveals that after twenty years of marriage the couple remained touchingly devoted and close. “God send us a comfortable meeting,” Lennox began hopefully.

  My sweet Madge,

  After my most hearty commendations: if ye should take unkindly my slowness in writing to you all this while, as I can not blame you to do, God and this bearer, our old servant Fowler, can best witness th’occasion thereof, it being not a little to my grief now to be debarred, and want the commodity and comfort of intelligence by letters, that we were wont to have passage between us during our absence. But what then? God send us patience in taking all things accordingly, and send us a comfortable meeting, and then we shall talk farther of the matter.

  My Madge, we have to give God most hearty thanks for that the King our son continues in good health, and the Queen great with child, God save them all, for the which we have great cause to rejoice more. Yet, of my part, I confess I want and find a lack of my chiefest comfort, which is you, whom I have no cause to forget for any great felicity or wealth that I am in, but I trust it will amend. Although I do not doubt but their Majesties forgetteth you not, yet I am still remembering [reminding] them for your deliverance, to work therein as much as they can, as I doubt not but their Majesties will, else, ere ye should tarry there any longer, I shall wish of God that I may be with you, our life being safe.

  Thus, being forced to make no longer letter for want of time, as this bearer knoweth, who will declare unto you all things at more length, being most sorry at his departing out of the King his Majesty’s service for sundry respects, I bid mine own sweet Madge most heartily farewell, beseeching Almighty God to preserve you in health and long life, and send us with our children a merry meeting.

  From Glasgow, the 19 day of December.

  Your own Mathieu, and most loving husband.9

  Sadly this touching letter never reached Margaret.

  Fowler—who had informed Margaret in December that Darnley had thrice attended Mass10—had to report that her son had failed to attend Mass on Christmas Day. But Margaret did not cease to intrigue for a Catholic triumph in England and Scotland. On January 2, 1566, Bedford warned Cecil that “certain bulls are come into Scotland from Rome. It were very good that a good eye were had to this pursuivant, for he bringeth letters to the Papists and to the lady of Lennox.”11 This is the only hint of any support for Margaret from the Vatican.

  Soon afterward Cecil learned from Bedford that Yaxley’s ship had foundered off the Northumberland coast and that he was believed drowned.12 His death deprived the Lennoxes of a vital link with Spain.

  On January 28, Silva informed King Philip that Cecil had told a French envoy

  that, when the King of Scotland [Darnley], bearing in mind that he had been an English subject, should write modestly to the Queen saying he was sorry she was angry with him and greatly wished that her anger should disappear, he believed everything would be settled, if at the same time the Queen of Scotland would send an ambassador hither to treat of Lady Margaret’s affair. Lady Margaret is still in prison. I have sent a visitor to her to encourage her and urge her to bear her trouble patiently and assure her that God will watch over the affairs of her and her children. She wrote me a letter pressing me much as to her liberation, as her whole trust, after God, is in your Majesty.13

  Thomas Fowler had now set off on his secret mission. On December 26 he had shaved off his beard, assumed the name Forster, gone to Leith, and boarded a ship, The Aid of Pittenweem, bound for England. When he eventually arrived in London he had gone into hiding but was discovered, arrested on suspicion of being a spy, and thrown into the Fleet prison, which is why Lennox’s letter to Margaret never reached her and ended up filed among Cecil’s papers.

  Soon afterward Cecil questioned Fowler, who said he had come “by sea, on the King’s business,” landing in turn at Yarmouth, Harwich, and Ipswich. He had lodged at the Dolphin Inn at Yarmouth, where he burned another letter written by Lennox. At Harwich he changed his name. Asked what persons he had spoken to in London, he said he had met four times with Margaret’s servant William Robinson at Smithfield, Limehouse and the Black Bell Inn near Fish Street Hill. He had delivered letters to the Black Bell, the Dolphin, St. Katherine’s Hospital, Limehouse, and his brother-in-law’s. He also revealed that he had been at the house of Anthony Standen, a Catholic gentleman, adventurer and later an English spy who had served Margaret then gone to Scotland with Darnley and been appointed his Master of Horse.

  Fowler was asked if he had had dealings with “persons belonging to Lady Lennox,” but would name only “Caesar the physician,”14 an old woman and a prisoner called Greville, who were completely insignificant. To further questions he gave away nothing useful.15 Cecil observed drily, “He knows of no intelligence the King and Queen of Scotland have but by their servants sent to
this court.”16 He was not satisfied with Fowler’s answers, and Fowler was sentenced to death.17

  By February 4, Silva had heard of the affair, and informed his master that Fowler had come to London “in order to secretly ascertain the feelings of certain people here towards his Queen. He had lodged in the house of an Italian doctor here called Caesar, and had gone about in disguise to avoid detection, but both he and the doctor and his wife have been taken, the two latter being adherents of Margaret. They have also arrested two of his servants, but released them at once. It is not thought that anything serious will come of it.”18


  The Lennoxes probably never knew the full extent of Thomas Bishop’s treachery, for Bishop had been working undercover for the government, and witness depositions were only revealed if an accused person came to trial. They knew he had passed on some information about them; they must also have had their suspicions that he had been the source of some of the charges laid against them in 1562, but given that other servants and agents of theirs had been questioned, they could not have been certain of that. Bishop had been hostile toward Margaret, yet he had had a long record of service to Lennox, and sometime before February 1566 there had been a rapprochement. But according to an informant of Cecil’s, writing in early February, “though the Earl lately thought [Bishop] had become a new man, yet his lewd behaviour is as bad as ever, grace is past him and no recovery of any goodness in him.” He was “presently going about to disinherit his own son, keeping harlots” and “stealing 200 French crowns of the Earl’s, at Carlisle.”19

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