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

  On October 4, John Moon was interrogated and tortured at Doune Castle. He revealed a conspiracy involving several persons, and mentioned that at the persuasion of one Andrew Abercrombie, Margaret had secretly urged Lennox “to hinder nothing that might hinder the Queen of Scots’ cause.” “After further pains,” Moon revealed that Thomas Bishop had been “the first trafficker” between him and John Leslie, Bishop of Ross. Another conspirator had told Moon that, during the hearings of the commission, Queen Mary had written to the Bishop of Ross, enclosing a letter to Margaret, and asked him to present it to her and work for a reconciliation between them.62 This is the first evidence of Mary trying to win over Margaret to her cause.


  Margaret was now with the court at Windsor, and from there, on October 5, she wrote once more to the absent Cecil, revealing how much she had been missing her husband, and showing how friendly and confidential her relations with the Queen had become:

  Good Master Secretary,

  Being now in court I sought the way how I might visit you with these few lines, not for any fear ye should be won, which, as her Majesty tells me, she did speak to you at your departing, but to let you understand how her Majesty hath had some talks to me touching my lord. She said fault was found for [his] executing those of the Queen of Scots’ part [i.e. the Hamilton adherents], howbeit my lord was holden excused and all laid upon the Earl of Morton. The Bishop of Ross did much commend my lord’s good nature.

  Her Majesty said she remembered how I wept and wished my lord at home when she was at Oatlands. I answered that since that time he had a great burden laid upon him, which made me not to do so now. Her Majesty said that, if it were not for that little one [James], she thought he [Lennox] could not like her [probably a reference to Margaret] being here. Her Majesty says that Queen [Mary] works many worse.

  She meant that others had suffered worse than Margaret on Mary’s account.

  I ensured [assured] her Majesty [that she] was good lady to her [Mary], and better I thought than any other prince would have been if they were in her cause, for she had stayed publishing abroad her ill use, which was manifestly known. More talks there was, but this was the chief.

  I long much till your coming home. Much ado I had to get a lodging here, for that I had first was taken from my man.

  This I unburden my mind to you as to him whom I trust hath most care of the good estate of the realm and the preservation of the Queen’s Majesty, and a friend to me and mine, which is to my power ye shall find, as knoweth God, who send you good return.

  From the court at Windsor. Margaret Lennox.63

  Margaret’s letters to Cecil show that over time there had developed a genuine affection between them, and a satisfactory professional relationship. On October 10 she sent him another letter:

  Master Secretary,

  I can not but visit you with some lines, my lord’s man coming there. I beseech you to remember, next to our sovereign lady, that innocent King of Scotland, that he and her may not be the worse for any treaty. I pray you to make my hearty commendations to Master [Sir Walter] Mildmay,64 whom I do request for the same. I assure you I find her Majesty well minded for the preservation of him [King James], and those that belongs to him. I travail as I can. God speed me well, and inspire her Majesty’s heart to do for her own surety, and then I know the rest shall fare the better. I will not trouble you with a longer letter, but send you my hearty commendations.

  From the court at Windsor, this x of October. Your assured friend, Margaret Lennox.

  I pray you, good Master Secretary, certify my lord my husband of his request declared to you by this bearer.65

  Lennox’s regency was marred by strife and internecine warfare in Scotland. Yet it did smooth relations between Scotland and England, for he ruled as a stout Protestant and a loving guardian of his grandson the King; and Margaret’s handling of his affairs in London must have helped in no small measure. Lennox was too busy to see James as often as he would have wished, but he had the little boy with him whenever possible, and in 1570, when the King was five, he appointed the brilliant Calvinist scholar George Buchanan, one of his own affinity, as his tutor. Inevitably Buchanan, in line with his master’s prejudices, would poison James’s mind against his mother, the Queen of Scots, and bring him up to regard her as an adulteress and murderess. Margaret would have been gratified to hear that, but saddened that her grandson was being brought up in the reformed faith. However, she would have applauded Lennox ordering the demolition of the ruinous choir of Holyrood Abbey and the construction of a new royal vault for the remains of Darnley, James V and other kings and queens who had been buried there.

  When, on November 8, Margaret was summoned before Elizabeth, she must have been astonished to be given a letter from the Queen of Scots, addressed “To my Lady Lennox, my mother-in-law.” It had been sent from Chatsworth, Derbyshire, on July 10 and intercepted. Mary had been concerned about James’s safety in Scotland, but she was worried about the consequences if he was brought into England, and would have preferred that he be spirited away to Spain so that he could be brought up a Catholic. Fearing that there was a very real prospect of her son ending up in the Lennox household, Mary had thought it best to court her mother-in-law’s support. Her tone, however, was injured, and not likely to arouse Margaret’s sympathy.


  If the wrong and false reports of rebels, enemies well known for traitors to you, and, alas! too much trusted of me, by your advice, had not so far stirred you against my innocency, and I must say against all kindness, that you have not only, as it were, condemned me wrongfully, but so hated me, as some words and open deeds has testified to all the world a manifest misliking in you against your own blood, I would not have omitted thus long my duty in writing to you, excusing me of these untrue reports made of me. But hoping, with God’s grace, and time, to have my innocency known to you, as I trust it is already to the most part of all indifferent persons. I thought best not to trouble you for a time, till now that such a matter is moved that toucheth us both, which is the transporting of your little [grand]son, and my only child, into this country; to the which, albeit I were never so willing, yet I would be glad to have your advice therein, as in all other matters touching him.

  I have borne him, and God knoweth with what danger to him and to me both, and of you he is descended, so I mean not to forget my duty to you in showing herein any unkindness to you, how unkindly soever ye have dealt by me, but will love you as my aunt, and respect you as my mother-in-law. And if ye please to know farther of my mind in that and all other things betwixt us, my ambassador, the Bishop of Ross, shall be ready to confer with you.

  And so, after my hearty commendations, remitting me to my said ambassador, and your better consideration, I commit you to the protection of Almighty God, whom I pray to preserve you and my brother Charles and cause you to know my part better nor ye now do. Your natural good niece and loving daughter-in-law.66

  Margaret must have seen this extending of the olive branch for the pragmatic move it was. She did not send a reply, probably on the instructions of the Queen or Cecil, which accorded with her own inclinations, but forwarded the letter to Lennox. His response was unequivocal: He reminded Margaret that he had evidence of Mary’s guilt “by her own hand writ, as well as by the confessions of two men gone to the death,” henchmen of Bothwell’s.

  What can I say but that I do not marvel to see her write the best [she] can for herself. It will be long time that is able to put a matter so notorious in oblivion, to make black white, or innocency to appear where the contrary is so well known. The most indifferent, I trust, doubts not of the equity of your and my cause, and of the just occasion of our misliking. Her right duty to you and me were her true confession and unfeigned repentance of that lamentable fact, odious for her to be reported, and sorrowful for us to think of. God is just and will not in the end be abused; but as He has manifested the truth, so will He punish the iniquity.67

  In De
cember, Lennox was unwell.68 Margaret must have worried constantly about her husband’s health and what was happening to him in Scotland. In January 1571, Drury reported that “the Regent’s party decays daily and great weakness is found in him.”69 On January 22, 1571, Spes reported that the English government was urgently trying “to find means of assuring the safety of the Earl of Lennox, whose life is in great danger by reason of the executions which he has carried out.”70 In February, Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s ambassador in Paris, informed Cecil that “one of those who have the government of the young King of Scots has promised to kill the Earl of Lennox, and prepare an army if they will furnish him with money.”71

  That month Margaret received £800 (£140,000) “of the Queen’s Majesty’s gift,”72 probably in recognition of her good services. On February 7, Kirkcaldy of Grange was informed that “the Lady Lennox [was] most busy of all” in working against Mary.73

  In March 1571, Lennox sent Buchanan’s brother Thomas to Frederick II, King of Denmark and Norway, to ask that Bothwell be extradited back to Scotland to face interrogation. This, naturally, caused bad blood between him and Morton, who had good reason not to want Bothwell—who had protested Mary’s innocence throughout—giving evidence as to who had actually been responsible for Darnley’s murder. And what Lennox learned from King Frederick only fed that enmity.74

  In February, Lennox, encouraged by Queen Elizabeth, had gone to war with the Hamiltons. He emerged triumphant, and on April 2 recaptured Dumbarton Castle,75 which had been held by Mary’s supporters. There he found evidence of Mary’s treacherous dealings with Spain, of which he immediately informed Queen Elizabeth. Lurking in the castle was John Hamilton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, who had been hiding there ever since Langside, when he had supported Queen Mary’s bid to regain her throne and been condemned as a traitor for it. Lennox now took him prisoner and sent him to Stirling, where he was indicted for being “art and part” of the murders of Darnley and the Regent Moray. On April 6 the Archbishop was hanged in his vestments and quartered.76

  Lennox fought his way on to Leith, then entered Edinburgh, where in the Canongate he held what became known as “the Creeping Parliament,” because its members had to creep about under fire from Edinburgh Castle, which Grange, Maitland and Mary’s other supporters occupied.77 Lennox had to reconvene Parliament at Stirling, and send one of his English captains to London “to beg for ten thousand crowns and some artillery and ammunition to batter the castle of Edinburgh.”78

  Scotland was in turmoil, and there are now fewer references in the beleaguered Lennox’s letters to enclosures for Margaret, yet it is clear that the couple were in constant touch, and that Margaret was kept fully informed about affairs in Scotland, and did what she could to further Lennox’s interests and aid his supporters. On May 11 payment was made to a boy “passing the post to Stirling with one mass of close writing that came from my Lady Lennox.”79 On May 26, Lennox wrote to Cecil, newly ennobled as Lord Burghley, asking him to credit Margaret and the messenger.80 On June 1, from Stirling, he sent to Margaret a letter of recommendation for an old acquaintance, the Laird of Galston, who was now in Lennox’s service and needed an English passport so that he could travel to France to attend to his private interests there.81 On June 30, Drury informed Burghley: “Yesterday letters came hither to the Regent from Lady Lennox.”82 In September, John Case, who appears to have been an English spy, would reveal to Drury that Margaret got to see most of his (Drury’s) reports.83

  On June 25, Margaret’s nephew, William, Lord Ruthven,84 wrote to her from Leith, saying that he “desires to hear of the welfare of herself and Mr. Charles, her son, and wishes that there were such quietness here that she might arrive in this realm. His Majesty (God save him) increases so daily both in growth of person and judgement, that it is a great comfort to all his faithful subjects, and displeasant to the enemies, whom, he doubts not, God will consume in a short time.” Ruthven could not “half express in writing the good qualities appearing in his Majesty, and the good success that God of his mercy gives to my lord’s Grace [Lennox] daily in all his proceedings.”85

  On July 1, Drury wrote again to Burghley to say that “the misliking of the Regent of both parties increases, and if he tarries he will find neither surety or quietness.”86 A letter sent by Drury to Burghley on July 8 reveals that Margaret was regarded by some as a formidable force in Scottish politics. It contained an enclosure written by one of Mary’s supporters, who had warned his correspondent that “if he writes anything hereof to the court, to be wise that Lady Lennox gets no knowledge thereof.”87 He was clearly aware that Margaret took care to keep well informed of events, and feared that she might get wind of a plot to restore Mary to liberty and alert Lennox. That the Lennoxes’ correspondence was scrutinized is clear from another letter, written by Drury to Burghley on July 24: “I received this packet from the Regent for Lady Lennox, accompanied with this letter to me. May it please you to hold the contents of the letter to yourself till you hear from me again.”88

  For Margaret, the most welcome news from Lennox was of their grandson. On July 27, for example, a friend of Margaret, Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, was informed that Lennox had written to his wife that the young King had a birthmark shaped like a lion on his side.89

  Lennox’s position remained perilous. On August 12, Drury noted, “If the Queen [Elizabeth] do not further countenance the Regent, he must of force leave either Scotland or his life.” He also noted “my Lady Lennox’s advertisements touching Captain Brickwell and John Case,” who were shortly to go to Scotland to discover the intentions of Mary’s supporters in Edinburgh Castle. Margaret had written warning Lennox that she had heard how deeply resented he was in Scotland, and that Morton was ready to oust him from the regency.90 That month, clearly concerned about his safety, and hoping that Elizabeth would offer armed support, Margaret wrote to “the right honourable my good lord and friend, my Lord Burghley,” beseeching him “to move her Majesty for such comfort as my lord looks for, that the action may not quail. Like as I have always made you privy to my letters, so I do now.”91


  Margaret was now, quite evidently, an influential force in English politics. Even the Queen listened to her. That summer saw the French pressing for a marriage between Elizabeth and King Charles IX’s brother, Henry, Duke of Anjou (the future Henry III), but the Queen, as usual, was blowing hot and cold. In some perplexity, the French ambassador, Bertrand de Salignac de la Mothe Fénélon, sought Margaret’s support. He reported their conversation to Catherine de’ Medici, the Queen Mother of France:

  I have entered into some intelligence with the Countess of Lennox by pretending to promise her much on the part of your Majesty for her infant grandson, James of Scotland, if she and the Earl, her husband, would agree with the Queen of Scots; and I have demonstrated to her that the marriage with Monsieur [Anjou] can not be otherwise than advantageous to her; for if the Queen of England should ever have children, the said Lady Lennox ought to wish them to be French, because of the perfect union there would always be between them and her grandson; and if her Majesty should have no issue, still Monsieur would always be found ready to advance the right of her grandson’s right to this crown, against all the others who are now pretending to it.

  On this the Countess sent to me, that she entreated your Majesty to take her grandson under your protection, and to believe that her husband was as devoted and affectionate a servant to the [French] Crown as any of his predecessors had been; that she, on her part, desired the marriage of Monsieur with her mistress more than any thing in the world; and that, holding the place nearest to her of any one in this realm, she had already counselled and persuaded to it with all affection.

  She had given me all the information on this head that she could, but up to the present hour she could only tell me this, that by all the appearances she could observe in the Queen, she seemed to be not only well-disposed, but very affectionately inclined to the marriage
; and that she generally talked of nothing but of Monsieur’s virtues and perfections; that she dressed herself better, rejoicing herself, and assuming more beauty and sprightliness, on his account; but that she did not communicate much on this subject with her ladies, and seemed as if she reserved it entirely between herself and the Earl of Leicester and Lord Burghley, whom I should consult to be further enlightened.92

  It was the right, the only diplomatic advice Margaret could have given, but privately she was probably praying that Elizabeth never would bear children, because they would displace James from the succession.


  As she was often required to be at court, Margaret had rented Barber’s Barn, an old house on Mare Street in Hackney, five miles northeast of London.93 Hackney was then a country village, and since the thirteenth century had been much sought after by the well-born and the wealthy. It was a rural area distinguished by its red-brick aristocratic residences and pretty gardens with ancient fruit trees and flowering shrubs. Then, as now, gentrified areas ran side by side with less salubrious parts of the urban sprawl, and nearby Hackney Mead (now Hackney Marsh) was the haunt of thieves and highwaymen. Hackney Wick was then a dairy farm.94

  Once a property of the Knights Templar, and then the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem, Barber’s Barn had been built on land known as Barbour Berns; in Henry VIII’s reign it had been granted to Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, on whose death in 1537 it had reverted to the Crown and been known as the King’s Hold, before being granted to William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.95 In 1549 he sold it to Edward Carew, whose family held it until 1578 and leased it to Margaret. It was described in 1547 as “a fair house, all of brick, with a fair hall and parlour, a large gallery, a proper chapel, and a proper library to lay books in.”96

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