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

  On July 1, Lennox sent his servant William Mompesson to Cecil with a letter begging for leave—and money—to go to Scotland. He began by praising Elizabeth’s magnanimity:

  The Queen’s Majesty hath been so gracious unto my wife and me, as not only to take us into her favour again, after our long troubles, but also, at my wife’s last being with her Highness, to grant her our living. Mr. Secretary, it is not unknown how just cause I have with all expedition to be in Scotland, what dishonour I receive by my absence there, and how unable I am to furnish myself to go as behoveth me, being in such poverty, as my wife and I are in debt [to] the sum of £3,000 [£521,670] or more.

  It is evident that the Crown’s officers had not husbanded the Lennox estates efficiently. Lennox complained: “Our cattle and our provisions on our land [have been] sold and dispersed, in a manner, for nothing; our jewels, with plate, already at gage pawned.” He begged that “there may be wherewithal for my wife and child to be maintained,” and asked for a loan of £1,000 (£173,890).66

  Elizabeth had no intention of allowing Lennox to go to Scotland at this time; he might upset everything. So he and Margaret remained in the south, working for Mary’s abdication. It did not help that no one was being brought to justice for Darnley’s murder. It clearly ate at both of them that the killers had gotten away with the murder of their son, and they were ceaseless in their efforts to bring them to justice.

  On July 12 it was reported in France that Lennox supported the rebel Scottish lords, “having been urged to do so by Queen Elizabeth; thus she secretly promotes disturbances in Scotland in order to revenge the death of the late King her relative, or perhaps, as some think, with an ulterior object; and already many think she desires to obtain possession of the youthful Prince, who is in the power of the party which she favours and assists.”67 That month, when Moray was in London, he described to Lennox a letter written by Mary to Bothwell proving her complicity in Darnley’s death.

  At Lochleven, around the third week in July, Mary was delivered of premature stillborn twins, probably conceived at Dunbar, and on the 24th, lying in bed weak from loss of blood, she was forced to abdicate in favor of her thirteen-month-old son, who was crowned five days later as James VI of Scots at the Church of the Holy Rood at Stirling. Margaret had now realized her ambition of being grandmother to a king, although not in the happy circumstances she had envisaged, and she was to dedicate herself to young James’s interests for the rest of her life.

  Elizabeth was outraged at the Scottish lords’ treatment of their Queen. In deposing their anointed sovereign, they had gone too far. She refused to recognize James as king and demanded that he be made her ward and brought to England, ostensibly to be raised by his grandmother, Margaret. Probably Margaret was not too hopeful, for she would have known that the Protestant lords of Scotland would never agree to their King being brought up by a Catholic.

  By August 2, Elizabeth was expressing “a desire to help in [Mary’s] liberation, and this is the cause it is believed that she does not treat Lady Margaret so well as she had begun to do.” Margaret, evidently, wanted Mary kept in prison, at the very least. At this time “she and her husband and son are staying five miles from here [London], and as the Queen has not restored their estates they are in great need.” The Lennoxes had probably moved to Chiswick, where they are recorded as lodging in May 1568. There is no record of their owning or leasing property there, so possibly they stayed at Corney House as guests of the Earl of Bedford, who returned from his northern tour of duty in October 1567.68 Moray visited Margaret at Chiswick “and showed a desire to help her, but she is very dissatisfied as she thinks she can never trust heretics.”69

  At last Elizabeth took pity on the Lennoxes’ plight. On August 6, Leicester informed Cecil:

  Her Majesty, understanding the needful state of my Lady Margaret Lennox, and of my lord her husband, would that you should confer with the Lord Treasurer and let him understand her Majesty’s pleasure is that he should take order that the yearly rents of their living should be from henceforth paid unto my said lady and lord, which her will is in any wise to have performed; and that which her Highness would have said more than before is that the order and government of the whole lands remain in her Majesty’s officers’ hands, and that all the rents and profits be paid to my lady and my lord’s use from time to time.70

  It was a most unsatisfactory solution from the Lennoxes’ point of view, given how inefficiently royal officials had administered their estates over the past two years, and indeed it would be some time before the couple actually received any revenues.

  On August 30, Margaret told Silva about the meeting Moray had had with Mary after he arrived back in Scotland: “He spoke with the Queen, who admitted to her brother that she knew the conspiracy for her husband’s murder.” Moray had left Mary “in hope of nothing but God’s mercy, willing her to seek to that as her chiefest refuge,”71 which could only be interpreted as meaning that the lords meant to execute her.

  That month Moray was elected regent of Scotland, and the measures he now took to neutralize the Hamiltons, who had opposed Mary’s deposition, would have earned Lennox’s approval.72


  In October 1567, when—according to the inscription—James VI was sixteen months old, Margaret and Lennox commissioned a large painting for him, The Memorial [or Cenotaph] of Lord Darnley, from the artist Livinius de Vogelaare of Antwerp,73 which they intended as “a witness to God’s punishment of Mary’s complicity in Darnley’s murder.” It is a powerful piece of political propaganda, and it has been described as a “vendetta picture.”74 According to one of the inscriptions, the Lennoxes had commissioned it because they were now advanced in years: If they did not live to see their grandson and exhort him to bring Darnley’s murderers to justice, the picture would serve in their place as a reminder of “the barbarous murder of the late King, his father, till it should please God to permit him to avenge it.”75 It was painted on canvas to facilitate easy transportation, and there can be little doubt that every detail was executed according to the Lennoxes’ instructions, as a searing testimony to their terrible and vengeful grief.

  Finished, according to the inscription, in January 1568 in London, the painting shows the couple—believed to have been sketched from life—with their ten-year-old son, Charles, all clad in black mourning, kneeling behind the young crowned and robed James VI on a marble floor before a Catholic altar in a dark church. This was probably meant to be Holyrood Abbey, where Darnley was buried; Margaret would have seen it in childhood and remembered it being adorned with Catholic images, as in the painting, but since the picture was painted in London, the setting is probably to a large extent imaginary.76 Behind the Lennoxes is a tomb chest on which lies Darnley’s painted effigy in golden armor, guarded by the statues of Fame and Justice, with his head supported by two unicorns, and his emblem of a wolf at his feet. Inset into a corner is a scene showing Mary’s defeat at Carberry Hill, with a banner portraying Darnley’s corpse, and the arms of all the lords present clearly visible.

  This was also a dynastic portrait, linking the Lennoxes to their grandson, King James, and underlining their greatness. The inscriptions proclaim that Lennox was of the royal blood of Scotland and Margaret the only daughter of Henry VII’s eldest (sic) child, and the mother and grandmother of kings. Their arms adorn Darnley’s tomb and the banners on the chapel wall.

  Scenes inset in the tomb showed Darnley and his valet being dragged from bed by their murderers, and lying dead beneath a bare tree near the ruins of Kirk O’Field. A lengthy inscription on a plaque on the chapel wall told how Darnley was “cut off, O hard fate!, inhumanly murdered, Queen Mary, his wife, also conspiring his death.” Latin scrolls issued from the mouths of the mourners, driving home the meaning of the picture, including a cry from the young James, “Arise, Lord, and avenge the innocent blood of the King my father; and me, I entreat Thee, defend with Thy right hand!” His uncle, Charles Stuart, prayed that he may be the instr
ument of divine vengeance.

  A copy of the painting was sent to Lennox’s brother, Aubigny; it was probably through Charles Stuart that it later came into the possession of the dukes of Lennox and Richmond, who brought it to Goodwood House in Sussex.77 In this version several inscriptions accuse Mary of adultery with Bothwell and complicity in the “ferocious and cruel” murder of her “affectionate” husband, so that she could marry her lover. In the original these have been scored out and are illegible, and the scenes portrayed on the tomb have also been defaced. It is possible that this was done after 1572, on Margaret’s orders, or later, at the instance of James VI.78

  Around the same time Vogelaare painted a portrait of Lennox wearing mourning, now at Hardwick Hall.79 A portrait of Margaret is listed in the Hardwick inventory, and may have been a companion piece to the one of Lennox, but it cannot now be identified, and may be lost.


  Margaret and Lennox spent the rest of the year 1567 struggling with their finances, and may have traveled north to inspect their properties in Yorkshire. The income that had been restored to them was depleted because some of their lands and goods had been sold off by the government. On November 9, Margaret wrote to Cecil “touching the great loss which she and her lord have sustained in their estate” and seeking “to have our own again.” She begged him to “acquaint the Queen therewith.”80 That month Cecil ordered the compilation of a list of lands given to Margaret by Lennox before their marriage for her dowry in Scotland, which had a yearly value of 500 marks sterling (£57,960).81 On December 21, Sir Thomas Gargrave reported to Cecil that “Lord and Lady Lennox find themselves aggrieved with the late commissioners for the sale of their corn and cattle.”82

  On January 27, 1568, Margaret, who was ill again, was once more obliged to appeal to Cecil for help in regaining control of her lands:

  Good Master Secretary,

  I am sorry my hap [fortune] was not to meet you at my last being at court, and although I was not well in health at that time, I am worse at this present of my old colic, or else I had been come in place of my letters, to have spoken with you.

  “Colic” was a name given then to severe lower abdominal pain, and may in Margaret’s case have resulted from stress, or a chronic disorder of the womb, such as a fibroid, cyst or polyp, common in women of her age.

  Margaret wanted to talk to Cecil “concerning my lord’s great loss and mine in the sale of all our goods, and the increase that should have arisen thereof; our grounds also unstored [unplanted] at this time. All which your wisdom will consider, I trust, and how far behindhand it hath brought us, and unable to keep house in many years.” Her servant had told her that Cecil had been examining the evidence for this mismanagement, where he would have seen that the Queen had authorized the sales. Margaret was sure that Elizabeth had meant the land and goods to realize their proper value; she herself had even offered to buy them back at the price for which they had been sold, if that were possible, and she enclosed for Cecil “a note of the sale of our goods, and as they were appraised.” She concluded:

  Good Master Secretary, as my trust is in you, show me favour in my reasonable suit, and that her Majesty may understand our wrongs and great loss, and I shall think myself, as I have done always, bound unto you. And thus scribbled in haste, and so ill I doubt ye can not read it without the help of my man, to whom I have read it.

  Your assured friend, Margaret Lennox.83

  Early in May 1568, Queen Mary made a dramatic escape from Lochleven. The Hamiltons and others rallied to her cause, but on May 12, Moray’s forces overcame hers at the Battle of Langside, forcing her to flee south to England with just a handful of supporters and the clothes on her back.

  On May 22, Cecil visited Lennox at Chiswick and asked him to supply further details of Darnley’s murder. Lennox instructed his servant John Wood to write to Moray in the hope of gaining information about the possible involvement of Archbishop Hamilton.84 It was inevitable that Lennox would suspect his long-standing enemies of abetting Mary and Bothwell.

  News of Queen Mary’s escape into England arrived at court on May 28. The Lennoxes heard it too and hastened to see the Queen, fearful that if Mary came to the English court, she would exercise her charm on Elizabeth and persuade her to help her regain her kingdom, which they could never allow. Conspicuous in their deep mourning, they fell to their knees before the Queen and demanded justice on Mary for the death of their son.85 Margaret, racked with passionate grief, her face “all swelled and stained with tears,” “grievously complained to Queen Elizabeth in her own and her husband’s name, and besought that [Mary] might be called to trial for the murder of her son.” But Elizabeth, “graciously comforting her, admonished her that she should not charge a crime upon so great a princess, her near kinswoman, which could not be proved by certain evidence, saying that the times were partial, malign and malice blind, which forget crimes against the innocent, but justice clear-sighted, which, being the avenger of wicked facts, is to be expected from God.” She added that “such accusations must not rest against the good name of a princess without further proof,” and that she herself would not condemn Mary without a hearing.86

  At some point Lennox handed the Queen a “supplication.” It comprised a long “narrative” of Darnley’s murder (“this most dolorous and woeful matter”) that he had written—probably with Margaret’s help—during the past twelve days, which is now known as the “Lennox Narrative.”87 In this tract, which has been described as “rambling and emotional,”88 Lennox asserted that “this tyrant” Mary, “forgetting her duty to God and her husband, and setting apart her honour and good name,” had “brought her faithful and loving husband, that innocent lamb, from his careful and loving father to the place of execution,” having become “addicted and wholly besotted unto Bothwell,” with whom she had first committed adultery in April 1566, just two months before her son’s birth. Clearly Lennox was determined to make Mary look utterly depraved. He wanted a full indictment drawn up against her.

  On June 11, in pursuance of the proof Elizabeth required, Lennox sent to Scotland asking for more detailed information about “the wickedness of that cruel woman, the destroyer of my House and all my friends.”89 Cecil had already enlisted Margaret’s help in tracking down those of Bothwell’s supporters who were suspected of being in communication with Mary, and Margaret now found herself in the novel position of assisting with English intelligence, instead of trying to circumvent it. At the end of May, Alexander Pringle (who had acted as Cecil’s agent three years earlier in trying to prove Margaret illegitimate) wrote to inform her that Bothwell’s cousin, Alexander Hepburn, Laird of Riccarton, whom he described as “the principal deviser of your son’s death,” was still at large and being entertained by the Bishop of Durham. He urged Margaret to persuade the Queen to order Riccarton’s arrest; the Lennoxes’ “special friend,” Sir John Foster,90 was awaiting a commission to take him.91 Margaret passed on this information to Cecil.


  The Queen of Scots’ arrival in the north presented Elizabeth with an impossible dilemma. She would not furnish Mary with the troops she wanted because Mary had long claimed Elizabeth’s crown and might be persuaded to use them against her. She could not receive Mary at court because Mary’s reputation was indelibly stained with suspicions of adultery and murder that would reflect badly on the maiden Elizabeth. She could not allow Mary to remain at large for fear that she would become a focus for Catholic opposition to Elizabeth’s rule. In the end, Elizabeth had no choice but to keep Mary under house arrest in the north, far from the court.

  For all Margaret’s denunciations of Mary, Elizabeth did not trust her. From the time Mary came into England, she had Margaret’s movements watched carefully. Margaret was a Catholic and might yet rally to the Catholic Queen of Scots. From July 1568 to January 1569, Mary was held at Bolton Castle, not far from the Lennox lands in the North Riding of Yorkshire. But Margaret had no intention of helping Mary; on the contrary, she conti
nued to revile her. In a letter probably written in August 1568, Mary complained to Elizabeth that “the Countess of Lennox, her mother-in-law,” had written to “assure her she will be securely kept from ever returning to Scotland.” Mary felt it deeply unreasonable that she should be barred from Elizabeth’s presence, where Lady Lennox and others could accuse her face-to-face. She protested that Margaret’s accusations against her were false, and she would tell Elizabeth so when they met.92

  Mary continued to press Elizabeth to receive her, but Elizabeth insisted that she could not do that until Mary had been declared innocent of Darnley’s murder. At length she determined to have Mary formally tried at York by a special commission, ostensibly to clear her name so that she could come to the English court, but in reality to establish a pretext for keeping her under lock and key.

  Lennox was eager to attend the trial. On August 18 he wrote from Chiswick to Cecil:

  As I understand that by the Queen’s Majesty’s appointment and the estates of Scotland, the murder of the late King my son shall be tried in the beginning of September next: and as my wife and I exhibited a bill of supplication to her Majesty as ye know, requiring justice for that horrible deed, the chief actor thereof being now within her realm: yet being the party whom the matter toucheth nearest, and whose appearance may be thought most necessary, I will no wise determine nor prepare myself for that journey, but as shall stand with her pleasure, which I crave humbly to understand by your mean.93

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