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

  This anonymous informant sent Cecil a list of complaints about Bishop, although since most of them concerned the Lennoxes it was not difficult to deduce who had sent it. Possibly Lennox feared that Bishop would make more mischief for him and Margaret, and that it was imperative that the man be discredited once and for all. It may well be that Margaret had secretly communicated with Lennox, reminding him of matters he ought to raise.20

  On February 5, Bishop was called to answer the charges laid against him, going back over many years. He was accused, among other things, of betraying William Stirling, the Captain of Dumbarton, who was murdered in 1534, by running away “like a coward, leaving his master to be slain.” Henry VIII had given him “his present living” for his “supposed service” to Lennox, but the King had “repented it, hearing that he set up dissension between the Earl and his lady. While in great misery in Edward VI[’s] time, by his unthriftiness and whoredom, the Earl and Countess leased him a farm worth £500 [£100,250], provided he lived thereon: but he drew another lease to defraud them, counterfeiting their hands and seals. He had tried to get the Earl to slay his own brother, the Bishop of Caithness, in Stepney.” He had also “cheated Henry VIII of £400 [£80,200] sent to the Captain of Dumbarton, and persuaded the Earl to open his secrets to Bothwell, then in England.”21

  In his defense Bishop made a statement:

  Albeit the Earl of Lennox and my lady, for my truth to my sovereign and her commonwealth, seek my life: they are not to be credited, and I answer him as follows: [I] being a bareheaded boy of 16 or 17, the Captain of Dumbarton was slain by a band of men laid in wait for him. I so behaved myself, being a child, gave and received strokes, that the Captain on his deathbed declared it before his wife, and left me in his will as he did his children, trusting me with all his evidence, money and keys. This was 31 years since, as I can prove—my age not yet 48. I deny stealing money sent to the Captain of Dumbarton.

  The Lennoxes had apparently brought Bishop to trial for this “at Guildford,” but they had withdrawn the charge, and Bishop’s enemy David Murray was sent to the Tower, and his brother Tullibardine to the Fleet for half a year. Bishop protested that Lennox’s brother, Robert Stewart, had “cowardly surrendered Dumbarton. I deny the charge of getting a false lease, but had £500 from the Lennox tenants for my charges fortifying the town of Ayr.”

  He accused Margaret of unkindness:

  As for the Earl’s cruel charity at London: when my wife died after coming with her to court, I asked Lady Lennox to let her gentlewomen attend the burial: she would not let a boy come! For the burial my Lord Paget, like a father, took order by his steward and receiver. As for disinheriting my son: I know not his meaning. I bring him up in the fear of God at Cambridge, and he has by my Lord Paget all by law, I being but a pensioner to my living. Finally, for rule of my body: I live under two discreet magistrates, my lord President and my lord Archbishop of York. Two noblemen have kept with me one trust and one love these eighteen years—my lords Paget and Wharton, by whom I will be judged.

  Signed: Thomas Bishop.22

  Bishop did not comment on Henry VIII repenting of his generosity because of Bishop sowing dissension between Lennox and Margaret, which suggests that the accusation was true. He failed to address the charge that he had tried to persuade Lennox to kill his brother, apart from hinting that Caithness had deserved it. Nothing came of Bishop’s examination, and of course he never served the Lennoxes again.23


  On February 11, Silva wrote: “Lady Margaret is kept closer in prison than ever, which she feels greatly. She would like me to speak to the Queen about it, which she thinks would benefit her, and that I might do it, as her ill-treatment is publicly known. I have asked her to have patience, and I will do what is fitting.” Margaret had evidently been kept informed of affairs, for she had heard that Queen Mary, despite having obtained Châtelherault’s restoration to his French dukedom, had banished him from Scotland for five years. Margaret was “greatly surprised” to hear of his restoration, as Mary had written to her “that she would not return the Duke’s rank as he was so great a heretic.”24

  Having heard that Margaret was ill and in pain, Mary herself wrote to Elizabeth on her behalf on February 12, charging the messenger “to move her for her belle mère [mother-in-law], who suffers much from her strait imprisonment, which she surely did not merit for merely wishing well to her son.” She also begged Elizabeth “to have pity on her husband’s [Lennox’s] servant, Fowler, and defer his execution, whose only offense has been pressing his master’s interest.”25 Elizabeth was graciously pleased to set Fowler at liberty, but she was not in the mood to show mercy to Margaret.


  Lennox’s ambition was to see Darnley given the crown matrimonial. Offended by Mary’s restoration of Châtelherault’s title, he encouraged and abetted his son to this end.26 Randolph informed Cecil on February 25 that Queen Mary had “knowledge out of England by means of the French Ambassador, [Sir Robert] Melville, and Lady Lennox’s friends. I can assure you the chief cause of Melville’s being there was to entertain that faction [Margaret’s] the most he can.” He added, “The suspicion of this King towards David [Rizzio] is so great that it must shortly grow unto a scab among them.”27

  In mid-March, Silva reported:

  Lady Margaret still remains in prison. From what I hear, this Queen would like the King of Scotland and his father to write to her, asking for Lady Margaret’s release. I know that the Queen of Scotland has done so, and a Scotchman named Melville is here to negotiate on the matter. I believe the Queen of Scotland has entrusted this matter to him, as she thinks he will be the most acceptable person, although they will not trust him in other things.28

  After much deliberation, Mary had made the controversial decision to recall her exiled rebel lords, much to the anger of Lennox and Darnley, who had no wish to see their enemies restored to power.29 This widened the rift between Mary and Darnley, and further alienated Lennox from the Queen. He, like his son and many nobles, deeply resented the influence of Rizzio. These lords were ready to join forces with the despised Darnley to get rid of the Italian, and they played on his jealousy. In March 1565, Darnley entered into a bond with the lords and willingly undertook to support the establishment of the Protestant faith in Scotland. In return, they promised that they would procure him the crown matrimonial, which brought with it the right of succession, and “also they will labor with the Queen of England for the relief of the Countess of Lennox and her son”30 and “for favor to be shown both to himself and to his mother.”31

  Lennox signed the bond,32 thus becoming “art and part”—as the Scots called it—of a conspiracy to murder Rizzio. Silva was to inform King Philip: “A good Catholic here tells me that the plot for the murder of the secretary was ordered from here [England], and the Queen helped the conspiracy to the extent of 8,000 crowns [£347,780]. Others have the same suspicion, and believe that the rebels who had fled to this country knew of it, but these are things hard to prove.” Silva also revealed that on March 8, Cecil informed Lady Margaret of Rizzio’s murder as an event that had already occurred.33

  There were a number of reasons why Elizabeth would have wanted Rizzio killed. There was a body of opinion that held that women were weak creatures and unsuited to wielding power over men, and by her suspect relations with Rizzio, Mary was undermining the whole edifice of female sovereignty. Furthermore Elizabeth may have feared that Rizzio, as a Catholic, exerted a subversive influence on Mary. But she may also have meant to upset Mary’s standing in Scotland and England in the interests of preserving the Protestant settlements and preempting a Catholic succession. Yet it has never been proved that the English government was behind the conspiracy.

  On March 9, as Mary was dining with Rizzio and friends in her closet at Holyrood, Darnley arrived and joined them at table. He was affable enough, and even put his arm around Mary, who was now six months’ pregnant. Immediately several lords burst in on them, Lennox among th
em; all were armed.34 Lord Ruthven, who came in first, told Mary not to be afraid and manhandled her into Darnley’s arms. He held her tightly as the intruders engaged in a violent struggle to seize Rizzio. The table was overturned, candles went flying, and the horrified Queen was sure that she herself was being targeted in the assault, and was in great fear that her own life was in danger. Rizzio was clutching at her skirts and crying to her to save him, but he was dragged out and murdered, suffering fifty-six dagger wounds. Darnley had taken no part in the attack, but the lords took care to leave his dagger in Rizzio’s side.

  Shocked and terrified, Mary was confined to her apartments by the lords. By the next morning it had become clear to Darnley that they had no intention of honoring their promise to him. Contrite and frightened, he begged to see Mary, before whom he fell to his knees, weeping, and confessed that the lords had lured him into their plot to remove Rizzio with the assurance of the crown matrimonial. He assured her he had never intended that Rizzio should be murdered and gave her the bond signed by Moray and others, and told her that if the lords found out he had betrayed them, he would be a dead man. Mary told him just what she thought of him, but when he revealed to her that the lords’ plan was to imprison her at Stirling until she died, she persuaded him to help her escape, and soon afterward they managed this with the aid of the loyal and powerful James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, the only Scottish lord who was not in the pay of the English. They fled to the royal castle of Dunbar on the East Lothian coast, one of the mightiest fortresses in Scotland, where Bothwell was custodian and had charge of the kingdom’s arsenal of weaponry and its reserves of gunpowder, and soon afterward, backed by an army he had mustered, Mary was able to reestablish her authority as queen.

  Thereafter, although Mary and Darnley still cohabited as man and wife, relations between them were irrevocably fractured, and on March 21, Randolph reported that “Lennox remains at Dunbar, much offended with his son. The King repents of it, and confesses that he was abused.”35 But it was not Darnley’s behavior toward Mary that had offended Lennox so much as his betrayal of the conspirators.36

  The next day Sir Thomas Smith, the English ambassador, wrote from France to say he had heard “that it is not the Scottish crown which that young King and Queen look for, but a bigger one, and that they have more intelligence and practices in England and in other realms than Cecil thinks for. Both the Pope and the King of Spain’s hands are deeper in that dish than he knows.”

  Being in prison had not prevented Margaret from intriguing on her son’s behalf. A Scottish woman who lived at Westminster and was married to a captain conveyed to her letters that had been brought out of Scotland by trusted messengers.37 Once a fortnight Margaret was able to smuggle out letters to her husband, and he in turn corresponded with her via Bedford.38 In January 1567 an agent of Cecil, William Rogers, reported that “Lady Lennox’s letters were conveyed via Flanders to Scotland by one [William] Mompesson, who got them from her ancient gentlewoman, who had access to her,” although the Council, knowing this all along, were presumably intercepting the letters.39 In March 1566 the Council interrogated a servant of Darnley, and asked him what he knew about Margaret’s covert activities.40 Another man was arrested by Randolph at Berwick as he was attempting to enter Scotland. Sewn into his hose was a message instructing an unknown party to crucify a man for whom hanging was too good. Fowler and Standen were mentioned.41

  By March 23 details of Rizzio’s murder were known in London. Silva reported that Moray and his fellow rebels had returned to Scotland “by order and on the assurance of the King.” Elizabeth was making a show of “great sorrow at what has happened, and shows a desire to assist the Queen of Scotland. Lady Margaret only knows what this Queen has told her, but she is in great trouble at the news.”42 Silva did not yet know that Margaret had been aware of the murder—and no doubt been sworn to secrecy—on the day before it took place.

  The Rizzio plot and the failure of the Queen’s marriage to Darnley irrevocably damaged the Lennoxes’ standing in Scotland. On April 4, Randolph wrote that Mary was “determined the House of Lennox shall be as poor as ever it was.” Lennox, who was still at Holyrood,43 was sick and “sore troubled in mind.” Darnley had paid a single visit to Lennox, and Lennox himself had seen Mary once at Edinburgh Castle. Mary had now seen “all the covenants and bonds that [had] passed between the King and the lords.” She now knew that Darnley had lied to her when he pleaded ignorance of any intention to kill Rizzio, and was “grievously offended” that he should have sought the crown matrimonial by such means.44


  By April 13, Darnley had finally bestirred himself on his mother’s behalf, sending a Scotsman as emissary to Elizabeth “speaking of Lady Margaret’s imprisonment, in which he had assured the Queen that Lady Margaret was not to blame for anything he had done, and knew nothing of his acts. The Queen refused to reply to this, or even to take the King’s letter, although [the emissary] begged her to do so,” but she “asked him if it were true that the King had drawn his dagger in the Queen’s presence to stab the Secretary, and he told her it was not. She said that she had not believed it, because all the time he was in this country he had never put his hand to a knife.” The murder of Rizzio had been “so much condemned by the Scotch people” that it had been necessary to proclaim “very emphatically” that the King had no hand in it.45 Silva heard that Elizabeth had promised not to allow any of those concerned in the conspiracy to remain in England.46


  On May 7, William Paulet, Marquess of Winchester, asked Cecil “if the attendants Lady Lennox has with her in the Tower are to be maintained at the Queen’s charge,” and if her expenses in the Tower were to be borne by herself or the Queen.47

  Margaret had again been ill. By May 18, Silva had heard “that the Queen of Scotland will be confined in the month of June at latest. Lady Margaret has sent her some presents, but from Flanders, as she is still in prison and has been unwell. These people have not done badly for their ends in detaining her, because if she had been in Scotland they are sure her son would not have been led astray, nor would these disputes have taken place, as she is prudent and brave, and the son respects her more than he does his father.”48 That may well have been Elizabeth’s intention, and it would prove a tragedy for Margaret and her family that she was unable to bring some influence to bear on Darnley at this time. But she could see no wrong in her son, and she was clearly not pleased with her daughter-in-law or afraid to say so. On May 23, Randolph reported that Mary had “received a letter from Lady Lennox wherewith she is greatly offended.”49 Three days later she was still upset, “letters late come from Lady Lennox” having “bred great sorrow” in her.50

  On June 8, Elizabeth gave Sir Robert Melville “leave to visit Lady Margaret, but in the presence of the keeper of the Tower.”51 A week later Melville told Silva that he had discussed “Lady Margaret’s business” with the Queen, who had said “it was grave, but she would make the Queen of Scotland the judge thereof. Not so however with the King and his father, as she would judge them herself.” In regard to Margaret, Silva “thought that this was merely talk” and that Melville “should insist upon Lady Margaret’s liberation, which however I think difficult, as the Queen and Council know her to be a woman of courage, and if she were free and went to Scotland, she could greatly aid with her counsel, whilst if she remained in this country they would still be in difficulty about her in consequence of her great intelligence and her many friends.”52

  On June 17, Sir William Drury, Marshal of Berwick, reported that Henry Gwyn, Yaxley’s servant, had arrived from Flanders at Leith with two coffers, which contained Margaret’s gifts to Queen Mary. Drury thought that Melville had been instrumental in arranging for them to be delivered.53 Inside were “dishes of sugar and marmalade,” and “letters from Lady Lennox and Mr. [Arthur] Pole, who has given all his right to the King and Queen of Scotland that he had to the crown of England.”54 Arthur Pole, the grandson of Margaret Pole, wa
s a pretender to Elizabeth’s throne, and had been a prisoner in the Tower since 1563. It is possible that Margaret, anxious to preempt any claim that might prejudice her grandchild’s right to the English succession, had sent a message to Arthur and his brother Edmund, asking them to relinquish their claims to Queen Mary.55 In June, shortly before taking to her chamber for her confinement, Mary made her will, in which she left small bequests to the Lennoxes: a faceted diamond ring for Margaret and an enameled diamond ring for the Earl.

  On June 19, 1566, Mary gave birth to a healthy son in Edinburgh Castle, and named him James after her father. “The birth of the young Prince has bred much joy here in general, the Queen in good state for a woman in her case, and the Prince a very goodly child,” reported Elizabeth’s envoy, Henry Killigrew, from Berwick. Lennox was not invited to greet his grandson, and in September it would emerge that he had not seen Mary since March.56 He was out of favor, in indifferent health, and keeping at a safe distance in Glasgow.

  Margaret was thrilled to hear of the birth of her first grandchild, but still she remained a prisoner with no hope of seeing him in the foreseeable future. She must have been troubled when she learned that Darnley had refused to attend Prince James’s christening, effectively proclaiming to the world his doubts about the child’s paternity, which some imputed to Rizzio. He had also threatened to leave Scotland, and was prevented only by illness.

  It was not until June 23 that Elizabeth consented to receive the letter that Darnley had sent more than two months earlier, “but not that of his father. The letter treats of the liberation of Lady Margaret, and the Queen said that she did not well understand it, but would read it at her leisure. She complained somewhat of the style of the letter in the matter of courtesy.”57 That week a Scottish envoy, come with news of Prince James’s birth, “asked leave to visit Lady Margaret.” Elizabeth told him

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