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

  Thus leaving to trouble you no further, I commit you, good Master Secretary, to God’s holy protection.

  From the Queen’s Majesty’s house of Somerset Place this Candlemas Day. Your assured loving friend, Margaret, Countess.14

  On February 25, 1570, an outraged Pope Pius V, learning of the harsh suppression of the Northern Rebellion, excommunicated Elizabeth and charged all true Catholics “and all and singular the nobles, subjects, peoples and others aforesaid that they do not dare obey her orders, mandates and laws. Those who shall act to the contrary we include in the like sentence of excommunication.”15 Soon afterward the Pope made it clear that anyone who assassinated the English Queen would not only receive absolution but would find favor in Heaven. Thereafter the English government would be suspicious of Catholics and treat them as potential enemies of the state rather than religious dissidents. The implications for Margaret were serious.

  On February 25, Spes told King Philip that it had been suggested that the English and Scots should agree to the appointment of Lennox as regent, but he feared that might not happen as “the Queen of England does not like him.”16 However, there was no other obvious candidate to serve as Moray’s successor, and on February 26, Elizabeth let Randolph know that “if the Earl of Lennox’s coming be generally liked by her friends, she will then condescend to it.”17 Lennox was her subject, and could be expected to look to her interests in Scotland.18

  Again the Lennoxes faced an indefinite separation, but they had the interests of their grandson at heart, and Lennox wanted to seize the opportunity of putting paid once and for all to the Hamiltons’ pretensions. He bade farewell to Margaret and traveled north, but on April 16 he wrote to Cecil from Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, to say he understood “that the remains of his living in Scotland is gone.” He would “do any service he can for her Majesty in that country, but cannot proceed any further unless he has some relief of money.”19 He nevertheless pressed on to Berwick, where, on April 22, he asked Cecil to forward a letter to his wife.20

  It has been stated that Lennox rode north with Margaret,21 who was supportive of his playing an active role in Scottish politics, and that at Berwick, Margaret was detained in England, and Lennox had to go on to Scotland without her.22 But it is quite clear from his letters that Margaret had had to remain at court with Charles, probably as sureties that Lennox would be amenable to Elizabeth’s policies. Nevertheless this would work to his advantage, as Margaret very ably continued to represent his interests at Elizabeth’s court.23

  On April 27, Lennox reported that he had fallen extremely ill “with sickness and hot fevers, and was never so near death as in his last fit, so can neither do service or help his friends, save by a small portion of money, being half the little store he had, which he has sent to Morton and the others for keeping together two hundred soldiers who have done [him] such good service at Glasgow.”24 In another dispatch to Cecil he wrote: “I send a letter herewith to my wife to let her understand of my sickness, but not the extremity thereof.”25 He enclosed another letter for Margaret two days later.26

  On May 1, still at Berwick, Lennox informed Cecil: “Having escaped my fits of this most hot and dangerous fever, I have thought good to advertise my wife thereof by this other letter, which I pray you send to her. It shall not want in me, God willing, to perform that which I have taken in hand as soon as I am able to travel.”27

  On May 11, before departing from Berwick, Lennox wrote to the Queen:

  I am presently entering into this troublesome country where my fortune heretofore has been very hard. I leave behind me within your Majesty’s realm your poor kinswoman my wife, and only son, whom I recommend to your goodness and protection. Although she and I have given but small cause to any to bear us evil will, yet, I know we are not without some back friends, and what cause they have to be so I know not, unless it be in doing your Majesty service, which we do not repent us of, nor ever will so long as your Majesty stands our good lady.

  At Windsor, in the beginning of these late troubles, I told your Highness that my wife and I had gotten some enemies in serving you, and if they be such as may hinder us at your hand, I beseech you graciously to consider of it. I am forced at this present to be so bold as to beseech your Majesty that these reports may not take place in your sight, but as the just proof of my doings may bear witness for me, so I trust my proceedings shall be such that, if I mislike the country where I now go, I shall not fear to return to your Majesty’s presence again.28

  Furnished by Drury with an armed escort, Lennox crossed the border into Scotland.29 Reporting his progress to Cecil, he enclosed his letter for the Queen and one for Margaret.30 On May 5, Morton and a host of other lords wrote to Elizabeth to say that they would choose anyone she nominated as regent.31 Her candidate was already on their doorstep. Spes believed she had had an ulterior motive in recommending Lennox to the Scottish lords:

  She wishes to make him and his wife, Lady Margaret, her creatures by the appointment, [although] she has kept them always imprisoned and in disgrace for the cause of religion and other reasons. She can do no more against them, and is forwarding his appointment as governor to disarm any future enmity from him. She thinks that because he has his wife, son, and estate in this country, she can be assured that he will govern as her instrument.32

  On May 13, Lennox entered Edinburgh, as he reported, “much to the comfort of the nobility here, who are very thankful to the Queen for her supply and aid in this time of need.”33 On May 17 he was at Stirling, and able to tell Cecil that, at his coming, his adversaries—“the King’s rebels”—had fled. He added, “As I have no letter to write unto my wife, I desire you to impart the effect of this letter unto her, and let her understand that I have seen the King her oye [grandson], greatly to my comfort.”34


  The Lennoxes had not supported the aims of the northern rebels, and are not known to have been questioned by the Council, but it appears that at least two of Margaret’s gentlemen had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the rising. Thomas Bishop, who had now allied himself with Queen Mary’s supporters, had been questioned several times about his part in it. In March his second son, another Thomas, had been beheaded at York for his part in the rebellion. On May 22, Bishop wrote a deposition for the Council concerning his “knowledge of the late rebellion.” In September 1569, in London, he had been approached by a servant of the Earl of Northumberland, who had informed him that the Earl was about to take up arms, and asked Bishop to warn them of the anticipated advance of the Queen’s forces under the duplicitous Duke of Norfolk. Bishop had left London in October and traveled north. At Topcliffe he met with Northumberland and told him he had heard that Norfolk had been imprisoned in the Tower. One of Northumberland’s companions asked Bishop, “I am sure you have heard by the Earl [Lennox] or his lady since your coming, that there was aid promised us by Spain, what think ye thereof?” Bishop said nothing to that, but advised delaying the rising.

  When the north rose in revolt, Bishop had given the earls advice on assaulting York. Now he protested that his concern had been for “the safety of York,” and that, for “disclosing of the conspiracy of rebellion, and this last saving of York, I ought to have some favour for life at least.” His enmity toward Margaret still festered. He claimed to have one of her gentlemen with him, as well as a servant of the Queen, and stated that, “as for my knowledge from that lady [Margaret],” he affirmed and stood by what he had said about her.35 It seems he was somehow trying to implicate her in the rebellion.

  His protests and slurs availed him nothing. Bishop spent seven years in the Tower for his dealings with Mary’s adherents. After his release in 1576 he returned to Scotland, and died before 1611.36


  In June, Lennox was appointed lieutenant general of Scotland, which gave him overall military command. He wrote from Stirling that he had found “the nobility and State here very well bent to the Queen of England’s devotion, and promises for his part to set
forward all that may tend to her service to the uttermost of his power.”37

  He was in frequent touch with Margaret. On June 13 and 22 he sent further letters to her.38 On July 7 he thanked Randolph for “your gentle letter, and the other ye sent from my wife—of no great importance, but I look to hear from her ere long.”39 The next day he desired Randolph “that a packet of letters may be forwarded to his wife.”40 On July 13, Randolph sent on more letters from Lennox to Margaret,41 and on August 5, Lennox asked Thomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex, to “send this packet to my wife with the first post.”42

  On July 12, at the urging of Queen Elizabeth, Morton and Mar elected Lennox regent, and on the 17th he was sworn and proclaimed.43 Lennox knew he owed his office to Elizabeth and that maintaining her support would be crucial in the face of opposition to his rule. Soon afterward he wrote to Cecil:

  the Queen’s Majesty’s advice anent [concerning] the establishment of the regiment [rule] of this realm was to us right comfortable. And although the burden which is laid on my shoulders is weighty and dangerous, yet could I not refuse it, in respect of his [James’s] preservation, that is so dear to me. Whereunto I am the more encouraged, and the less fear all perils, by reason of her Majesty’s gracious advice given.44

  Lennox’s appointment was bitterly opposed by his foes the Hamiltons, whose enmity was fatally to overshadow his regency, and by Bothwell’s adherents and others who feared his determination to avenge Darnley’s murder. There were many in Scotland who still remembered and resented his treachery in deserting to the English during the Rough Wooing. He also faced opposition from the Marian party, who were appealing to Elizabeth to have the deposed Queen Mary restored and refused to acknowledge Lennox as regent. One of their leaders, Kirkcaldy of Grange, resolved to hold Edinburgh Castle on her behalf, and did so for three years. Maitland, whose house Lennox despoiled in the conviction that the former secretary had been instrumental in the murder of Darnley, stood staunchly beside Grange and Mary’s other supporters.45

  On August 6, Lennox was warned of a conspiracy “made for his slaughter” by Châtelherault’s younger son, Lord Claud Hamilton, who had planned to ambush Lennox as he rode from Edinburgh to Stirling.46 In retaliation, Lennox summarily hanged more than thirty men, provoking howls of outrage from his enemies.47 On August 17, Spes observed, “Lennox is not obeyed in Scotland.”48 But when Queen Mary’s ardent supporter and commissioner at the York conference, John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, complained to Elizabeth of the new Regent’s brutality, she answered that “she never heard anything before of Lennox’s cruelty, which she affirmed to be cruelty indeed, but judged the same to proceed rather of the counsel of others than of his own nature, who was but a simple man, and therefore suspected Morton’s counsel.”49

  That August, Lennox, “having some suspicion of his servant, John Moon,” had “caused him to be searched at his departure from Edinburgh, when there was found on him above twenty letters in cipher” from Maitland and others to the Queen of Scots.50 The defection of Moon meant that Lennox now decided to rely on Margaret to relay his official dispatches and letters to the English government and maintain support for his regency.51 He sent her a letter via Sussex on August 26,52 and thereafter they were in frequent communication. Margaret’s opinions carried much weight with Lennox; he trusted her entirely. It could not be said that she was ruling Scotland at one remove, but her influence was undoubtedly felt there.

  On September 8, alarmed to hear that Lennox was perturbed by a report that Elizabeth was thinking of returning Mary to Scotland, Margaret wrote to Cecil from Somerset Place:

  Good Master Secretary,

  You shall understand that I have heard of some commissioners that shall go to the Queen of Scotland to treat with her of matters tending to her liberty to go hither, of which she herself doth already make assured account; the knowledge whereof being to me of no small discomfort, considering that, notwithstanding the grievous murder which, by her means only, was upon my dear son, her husband, executed, divers persons in this realm doth yet doubt, and a great many doth credit, that since her coming hither she is found clear and not to be culpable of that fact; because, as they say, that since all the conferences had between the nobility touching that matter, it has not been made known that the said Queen was found any way guilty therein. Much more so when they, already displeased, shall see her released to go home at her pleasure, though on some devised conditions to serve the present, their former conceits shall be verified, and they being satisfied, it may appear that she has sustained insufferable wrongs in being restrained so long for no offense. The rest I refer to your wisdom.

  My husband being there, whither if she do come, he cannot so well serve the Queen’s Majesty’s turn as now. Just as nature binds me respecting the state of the young King in his minority, I am enforced to crave your friendship herein, and to impart this my meaning to her Majesty, whose Highness, I trust, will hold me excused, considering whereon I ground my desire for the stay of her who otherwise, I doubt, will stir up such ill as hereafter—all too late—may be repented. If the Queen and her Council think it right that she be delivered, I trust my lord and the nobility there shall be made privy to that order before its conclusion.

  Beseeching you to impart this my letter to the Earl of Leicester, whose friendship I assure myself of in this behalf. Margaret Lennox.53

  Elizabeth heeded Margaret’s request; it suited her policy to do so.

  On September 16, Lennox sent a letter “to the right honourable the Lady Margaret my wife,” instructing her to act as his representative at Elizabeth’s court. He would henceforth be channeling all information through her, placing her at the very forefront of affairs.

  My good Meg, I have considered the letters brought unto me by this bearer, William Stewart, as well from yourself as from the court, with such other things as he reported by mouth, and in respect of the state of matters, both in that realm and here in this country, I have thought meet to return him again with speed unto you, with such information as for the present is meet to be sent, while as I may have the commodity to send a messenger instructed sufficiently in all behalfs to deal as well with the Queen’s Majesty as with my lords of the Council in the same matters, and such others as shall occur, and unto that time you must sustain a part of my burden to use the place of a solicitor and agent, as well in delivering of my letters to her Majesty and to my lords according to the directions, as also in declarations of such things as are contained in the memoir and notes herewith enclosed, which behoved to be written apart, being so long. I cannot well commit the handling of those matters, being of such weight, to any other than yourself; neither am I assured if other messengers would be so well liked of, nor if the personages with whom you have to deal would be so plain and frank with others, as they will be with you, and so I thought not meet to commit them to this bearer (although I could well trust him), he being so young. I have also sent unto you herewith two letters written in cipher by Lethington [Maitland], and apprehended with John Moon, which you shall deliver to Mr. Secretary, for peradventure he may find the mean to decipher them.

  Your own most loving husband, Matthew, Regent.54

  The enclosures, which Margaret was to hand to Cecil, apparently consisted of lists of noble Scottish partisans of either King James or Queen Mary.55

  That day Lennox informed the Queen that he had “instructed his wife to make known to her the state of affairs in Scotland” and report on the welfare of the young King. He beseeched Elizabeth to “grant her favourable audience” and give credit to what she had to report.56

  Lennox also wrote to Cecil, asking him to give “advice for his wife in certain matters which she will impart to him.”57

  Margaret still enjoyed the friendship of the influential Leicester, who was closer to the Queen than any other. It may have been at her suggestion that on September 16, Lennox wrote to Leicester to say that he meant to serve Elizabeth like “a very natural born subject,” and that his chief reason for ac
cepting the regency was “the preservation of this young King.” He assured Leicester that he would “always direct my proceedings principally by her Majesty’s advice.”58

  On September 21, Margaret wrote to Cecil:

  Good Master Secretary, such letters as I have received from my lord I send you to peruse, and if I had been at the court, as my lord hoped, I would have imparted them to you myself. My hope is only in God and your wisdoms to foresee the dangers that may happen if that realm should understand the parlementing [parleying] with the Queen of Scots, as by these notes you may perceive. I have sent to you my old and trusty servant, Mompesson, with this bearer, to impart to him your good pleasure. Committing you to God’s holy protection. Somerset Place.

  Margaret Lennox.59

  Later that month she wrote again to Cecil, in ironic vein and businesslike fashion:

  I thank you for your commendations by this bearer, and also for your lines sent by Mompesson to me, wherein you wrote my prayer would fight with [i.e. support] my lord in his affairs. I assure you I do what I can in that and all other ways. Such as I receive I send you herewith, which are two copies, although I doubt not but you have the one before, which is the principal suit to my Lord Lieutenant.

  I sent you a packet by the post to London, in which there were two books of written hand, and one letter to yourself, and another to my lord concerning John Moon—which now I perceive God has caused to be opened—to my lord. God doth much for him. I beseech Him so it may continue.

  Margaret Lennox.60

  On September 23, Elizabeth licensed Lennox “to remain in Scotland as long as it shall seem to him convenient, except she shall find any reasonable cause for her service to send for him.”61 Margaret must have been saddened to learn that their separation was to be prolonged, but she would certainly have understood the need for it.

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