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

  Lennox was referring to the supplication that he had given Elizabeth several weeks earlier, of which he was now writing an updated version, A Brief Discourse of the Usage [handling] of Henry, the King of Scots, son to me, the Earl of Lennox, by the Queen his wife. Internal evidence in the surviving draft suggests that Moray had communicated to Lennox the content of the most damning of what were to become notorious as “the Casket Letters.”94 The Scottish lords were to allege that they had fortuitously discovered this silver casket of letters, which they claimed had been sent by Mary to Bothwell and contained proof not only of their adultery, but also of their complicity in the murder of Darnley. On August 25 the French ambassador reported that Lennox had new evidence against Mary, and that Moray was going to reward him by reestablishing the Lennoxes in Scotland.95 But that same day the Queen denied Lennox leave to be present at the hearing.

  Mary refused to acknowledge the legality of the commission on the grounds that she was a sovereign queen born out of the realm and not subject to English law, but after much discussion she consented to appear. Moray and other lords who were her enemies attended, and produced a casket of letters. The originals were destroyed in 1584, probably by order of James VI, and the copies that survive contain evidence that genuine letters of Mary’s were tampered with or taken out of context, but at the time they caused a sensation, and turned the tide of public opinion against her.


  Cecil had written to tell Margaret that he had had Riccarton apprehended and brought south, and then prevailed on the Queen to have him “stayed.” The Lennoxes were now back at Coldharbour, and it was from there, on October 3, that Margaret replied:

  Good Master Secretary,

  I have received your letter touching the Laird of Riccarton’s [arrest], and hath learned what I can of a Scottishman who is, and was, my lord’s servant at his being in Scotland, and he says that such report then was that the said Laird was cleared by an assize, but how true it is he cannot tell, and says also that the whole bruit in Scotland was that he carried letters to Bothwell from the Queen since her coming out of Lochleven. This man of my lord’s was presently at the last battle between her and the Regent. This is all that I can learn.

  I would to God I knew the truth to certify you, but my hope is in God that all those which were guilty there shall be known. If Master John Wood be at court, he can best declare [them]. If he be at London, I shall speak to him. And with my most hearty thanks in this and all other your friendships showed to my lord and me, I commit you to God’s protection.

  From Cold Harbor, the iii of October.

  Your assured loving friend, Margaret Lennox.96

  Lennox had gone north to York for the trial. He too thought, mistakenly, that Riccarton had been cleared of Darnley’s murder. On October 9 he informed Cecil that he had “received this day by the hands of Mr. John Wood, the Regent’s servant, a letter from my wife, whereby I see your affectionate mind against all thought guilty of the murder of my son, the late King of Scots, in moving her Majesty to stay the Laird of Riccarton: for though cleansed by an assize, yet he is much to be suspected.” There was an enclosure for Margaret, in which Lennox outlined the grounds of his suspicions of Riccarton, who had been Darnley’s “first household man and familiar servant” and was suspected of the murder, or of being “at least privy in the counsel” of Bothwell, because he had “accompanied Bothwell in his enterprises,” including his trial, until Bothwell had eventually fled from Scotland to Denmark, and was trying to secure the Earl’s release.97

  On October 9, Guerau de Spes, the ambassador who had replaced Silva, informed King Philip that Margaret had sent to tell him that she thought Riccarton was guilty. He added that Elizabeth wanted to make use of Margaret “to injure the queen of Scotland.” But Spes had been assured by one Beaton that Riccarton was not involved in the murder.98 That was the Council’s opinion too, and Riccarton was allowed to return to Scotland, although he was apprehended by Moray in Hawick. However, at an assize held on October 28 he was finally “cleansed of the death of the King.”99


  When the hearing at York proved inconclusive and was adjourned to Westminster, the Lennoxes hastened south. Mary, for all her protests, was obliged to remain in the north, and would not be allowed to appear in person to defend herself.

  On November 21 Cecil drafted a memorandum suggesting ways in which the Queen of Scots might be dealt with. As he saw it, “the best way for England, but not easiest,” was for her to “remain deprived of her crown, and the State continue as it is.” The second way, which was “for England profitable and not so hard,” was that Mary be induced to accept joint sovereignty of Scotland with James VI, with the government of Scotland entrusted to a council selected by Elizabeth from a list of putative councilors, half to be put forward by Mary, “and the other half by the Earl of Lennox and the Lady Lennox, [grand]parents to the child: and out of those the Queen’s Majesty of England to make choice.”100

  Elizabeth had relented in regard to Lennox giving evidence, and on November 29 he was permitted to appear at the Westminster tribunal. When Moray and his colleagues departed, Lennox, “after declaring his grief, and hope of justice only at the hand of God and her Majesty, and his inability to express his cause in words, presented a writing with his charges against the Queen [Mary] for the murder of his son, which he exhibited upon his oath.”101 That was the extent of his involvement in the proceedings, yet he continued to seek justice, pursuing those persons—chiefly Bothwell’s associates, since Bothwell himself was in Denmark—whom he suspected of being involved in Darnley’s murder.

  On December 10, Elizabeth announced that nothing had been proved against Mary or the lords who had deposed her. But Mary had not been cleared of the charge of murder, and that gave Elizabeth a pretext to keep her in captivity. From the Lennoxes’ point of view it was justice of a sort, although not what they had hoped for. Nevertheless Margaret now felt that they could move on: “Time at the last my cares did exile,” she later recalled, “and Fortune prepared afresh for to smile”—but “her pleasant looks did last but small while.”102


  “Business Most Vile”

  Queen Elizabeth, wishing to avoid offending the lords of Scotland, now put an end to speculation that the young James VI was to be brought up in England. On January 22, 1569, she issued a proclamation in which she stated “that there has never been any secret practice betwixt her and [Moray] that the Queen of Scots’ son should be delivered to her to be nourished in England. It is true that some motion has been made by the Earl and Countess of Lennox that in case the Prince could not continue in safety in Scotland he might be nourished in England under the custody of such as now have the charge of him.”1 This must have been a crushing blow for the Lennoxes. In the early weeks of 1569, embarrassed by their creditors in London, they sought and obtained leave to go to Yorkshire.2 They were now ready to lead a quieter life, spending time on their estates, and venturing when invited to court.


  With the Queen of Scots neutralized—or so Elizabeth hoped—the way was now clear for the Protestant government in Scotland to consolidate its rule and make common cause with England. Religion, the need to unite against Catholic Europe, and the increasingly realistic prospect of a united succession had drawn the two kingdoms together as never before. Both Moray and Elizabeth were concerned to preserve the status quo.

  To do this Moray needed to destroy Maitland, who had come out in support of the deposed Mary and was working for her restoration. Maitland was arrested at Stirling on September 2 for Darnley’s murder, in which he may well have been involved; but he was rescued from his captors by Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange, who carried him off to Edinburgh Castle, which Grange was holding for Mary. This coalition between Scotland’s greatest politician and its greatest soldier was a blow to Moray, who lacked the artillery to take the mighty fortress.

  On October 26, 1569, Elizabeth wrote to Sir Henry Norris, her ambas
sador in Paris. She had no need, she said, to tell him of “the misfortune of the Queen of Scots to have her husband foully murdered, who indeed was our nearest kinsman on our father’s side,” or how the “principal murderer was by her also married and maintained in certain tyranny against the estates of her realm, who sought, as they allege, to have her delivered from such an abominable husband and the country from such a tyrant.” Norris was to impress upon King Charles and anyone else who favored Mary “that, by our own means only, her life was saved in her captivity,” and that Mary had been treated honorably ever since. Elizabeth had been urged to bring her to justice “by the father and mother of her husband murdered, whose mother, namely the Lady Margaret, attending upon us in our court, was daughter to our aunt, the Scottish Queen, and sister also to the King of Scots; such circumstances were produced to argue her guilty,” but the result of the ensuing inquiry had pleased neither herself nor Mary.3

  The Lennoxes were back at court by October, when Throckmorton had “a few words” with Lennox at Greenwich. Lennox said he “marvelled that the Queen of Scots, a woman so ill thought of heretofore, began now to find friends and to be favoured in England and Scotland.” Throckmorton replied that “three things moved that; first, her misery; second, her entertainment of such as came to her; and third, the opinion that some had of her title in succession. Both he and the Earl then said that they prayed God to preserve the Queen’s Majesty, for neither of them would be glad to live under the Queen of Scots.”4

  Elizabeth had need of such prayers, for in November the northern earls, Northumberland and Westmorland, and their Catholic adherents rose in rebellion with the aim of deposing her and setting up the Queen of Scots in her place. It was the most dangerous and challenging threat to her rule that she had yet faced, and the rising was ruthlessly suppressed, with more than six hundred men suffering execution and others being forced to flee into exile. The Lennoxes, like many Catholic peers, had not been involved, but they were known to have been friendly with the rebel earls, and this must have been a tense time for them.5

  Maitland’s trial was scheduled for November 21. On the 13th, Drury reported that Moray had forbidden large numbers of Maitland’s friends to attend. “Lord and Lady Lennox and their son have been summoned to compère that day.”6 But when it came, Maitland, from the safety of Edinburgh Castle, declared he would not “proceed with the trial at that time,”7 and there was nothing that Moray could do about it.

  The ever-present problem of the succession was never far from the minds of those with a vested interest in England’s future. On January 18, 1570, Guerau de Spes informed King Philip that, although Elizabeth would not declare a successor, she was “bringing up with much more state [panoply of rank] than formerly” the two sons of Katherine Grey and the Earl of Hertford. Huntingdon’s claim was “greatly damaged by having no children, and but little following, whilst Lady Margaret, who deserves every good thing, has less still.”8 The murder of Darnley had left the Lennoxes looking like yesterday’s news, but there was still an important part for them to play on the political stage.


  On January 23, 1570, the Regent Moray was assassinated at Linlithgow. Whatever else the Lennoxes might have thought of him, they recognized that he had been a strong protector of the young James VI. Shocked and alarmed at the news, their first fear was that Elizabeth might now set Mary free, or James fall prey to the rivalry of the noble factions in Scotland. The only remedy, they felt, was that he be brought to safety in England, to be raised by his loving grandparents.9

  Five days after Moray’s murder the Earl of Mar, James’s governor, asked Cecil to forward a letter to Queen Elizabeth, “firmly looking to your good means to receive her Majesty’s favourable answer with some taste of that comfort which this realm and I shall receive at her Highness’ hands in this difficult and sorrowful time. I also pray you to deliver this other packet to my Lord or Lady Lennox.”10

  On January 30, Lord Hunsdon wrote to the Queen, from Berwick, that Morton and other Lords of the Congregation had made it plain that “the Queen of England would find them ready to run the same course that [Moray] did, so that they might be sure that she would stand with them, and help them in the preservation of their laws. If she will send the Earl of Lennox into Scotland they will make him the head of their faction.”11 Elizabeth, however, would not commit to recommending Lennox or allow him to go to Scotland.

  Margaret was worried about Lennox. The news of Moray’s assassination had deeply shocked him at a time when he was not in good health and feeling every one of his fifty-three years. He was not looking to be regent, but to support whoever the Scots might choose. He was even prepared fervently to embrace the Protestant faith. However, his foremost concern, and Margaret’s, was the welfare and upbringing of King James, and they hurried south to London to press for him to be brought to England, petitioning Elizabeth, as “her poor orators and suppliants,” that “she would consider the great danger, Moray being murdered, that your Majesty’s fatherless and desolate poor orphan and kinsman remaineth presently in, and take in hand the protection and defence of the said King and his realm, so that his enemies, both those at liberty and those in captivity, may not prevail against him.” They beseeched the Queen, “of her goodness and pity, to take measures for the safety of that little innocent, that he may be delivered into her Majesty’s hands.”12

  The Lennoxes lodged at Somerset Place, the great Renaissance mansion that Protector Somerset had built on the Strand between 1547 and 1551. It had passed to the Crown on his execution in 1552, and was still unfinished. Elizabeth I had lived here during Mary I’s reign; after her accession she had allowed various ambassadors to use the house, and she had made it available to the Lennoxes while they were in London. They remained there until at least the following September, when Margaret dated a letter at Somerset Place.13

  On February 2, Margaret wrote a long letter to Cecil succinctly outlining her fears for her husband and grandson, and the couple’s position in regard to Lennox’s role in Scotland and James’s welfare:

  After my most hearty commendations to you, good Master Secretary, I doubt not but you know partly how many sorrowful griefs I have passed. I thank God of all besides this late chance that hath appeared by the dea[th] of the Lord Regent of Scotland, being not one of the least, but chiefly it toucheth me nearest to see my lord my husband, who and I have been together this twenty-six years, fall into such an extreme heaviness, being very evil at ease since this discomfortable news of Scotland came, so that if he continue any time in the same, I fear he cannot long endure, his inward grief is such, and I am not able by any means to comfort him—saying that, only [unless] God of His great mercy and pity put to his helping hand, he sees plainly the destruction of that little innocent King near at hand, wishing of God, that before that day should come, seeing that he cannot be suffered to be there in place, and now in time of need to have been a helper and a strengthening to the said innocent King against his enemies, that God would take him out of this miserable life.

  The two principal causes that chiefly grieve and feareth my lord is, that the principal enemies of the said King, and guilty of his father’s death, as he is informed, are put to liberty, and he, being the grandfather, to his great grief absent from him, who of right must needs have been the chiefest pillar and strength to the said King in that realm.

  Lennox feared that his past record in Scotland had counted against his being considered for a role in the regency council.

  My lord sayeth further, that he thinketh two causes have been, and are the let [prevention] of his going thither—the one for religious cause, and the other for bearing of rule, which, if he had been suffered to have gone [to Scotland], he would have put all that hath such an opinion of him out of that error. As for religion, it should never have fared the worse for him, but rather the better; and for the bearing of rule there as a regent or governor, his mind was never so to do, nor to have troubled himself withal, being of the years wh
ich he is of, but to have been an assistant to such noblemen as the Queen’s Majesty here, and the state there, should have thought meet to have taken the government of that realm, and my lord to have had but only the keeping of the said King’s person, and the nobleman that is in possession thereof already to have joined with him, and thus should the Queen have had good proof of his good service both to the King and state there, and also to the Queen’s Majesty here, ere it had been long. But he sayeth that, seeing he cannot perceive that her Highness is willing that he go into that realm, his most humble suit unto her Majesty is to be a means that the said King may be brought into this her Highness’ realm, and so to be nourished here under her Majesty’s protection and keeping, for the better safety of his person, wherein he most heartily desireth you to be a means unto her Majesty for.

  Otherwise my lord most humbly craveth and beseecheth her Majesty, for God’s cause, to be a mean that the said King may be delivered into his hands, and with her Majesty’s favour he may depart with him to some foreign country for the safety in that realm; otherwise, whosoever bears authority in that realm, as long as he tarries within the same, makes no account of that young innocent’s life.

  My lord sayeth that he doth not blame her Majesty of his stay here, for he knows right well it is not long of her Highness, knowing the godly and good nature her Majesty is of, but such as have been this long time his back [former] friends, not having deserved it at their hands, wishing of God that they may mean truly and faithfully towards her Majesty as he doth.

  Now, good Master Secretary, after I have made the discourse of this my grief unto you as touching my lord, and although her Majesty were willing that he should go into Scotland, and in health and strength of body, as presently he is not yet in, I cannot see how his purse can be able to take that chargeable journey in hand, being in such poor state as presently we are; for lately I have been forced to lay my jewels in gage [pawn] for money to bear the ordinary charges of our house.

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