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

  Margaret was at Hackney when Lennox’s messenger, Captain Robert Cunningham, arrived from Scotland on August 19. Aware that Lennox’s need for English support was now urgent, she wrote to Burghley:

  This Saturday Cunningham returned from my lord with writings to her Majesty and my lords of the Council, sufficiently instructed to declare the state of my lord and that country, praying your lordship to solicit the Queen’s Majesty that he may present his letter and declare his credit to her Highness conformed to her instructions, for now I must trouble your lordship, seeing I am not present with her Majesty; and to the end your lordship may know further hereafter, you shall receive such letters as my lord and others of the Council there have written to me, which I pray you to move her Majesty to peruse, and to consider thereby that the bruits past or otherwise nor was spoken of, as her Majesty will perceive as well by my letters as by the bearer hereof, whom I desire you to credit, and that her Majesty may believe him, for he is instructed to resolve her Highness in anything that is doubted of in that country.

  Last of all, I beseech your lordship to be a means that the actions which my lord has in hand be no longer without resolution of sure and speedy comfort, with the bearer to be hasted again to my lord, for the necessity of the time may bide no longer delay, as your lordship shall perceive as well by the letters sent to me as by the bearer’s instructions.


  Margaret Lennox.97

  Drury informed Burghley on August 22 that “Cunningham has brought Lady Lennox divers letters, disproving such reports as have been sent out of Scotland of doubtfulness in friendship betwixt the Regent and others of the nobility of the King’s party, which are but raised to diminish his credit.”98 Thus Margaret was lulled into a sense of false security.

  Her cousin Morton had not been well disposed toward Lennox, but now he was assuring Elizabeth that he was willing to work with him, though only for a price, for on August 24, Drury told Burghley that “Lady Lennox has advertised the Regent that Morton requires a pension, whereof he is very desirous to know.”99 The next day Lennox informed Elizabeth that “Morton and his are at his devotion, though he finds in him some haughtiness and self-liking more than needs.” He protested that he himself had “given no cause to be misliked of the nobility, as most of they have tasted of his liberality,” but “unless he finds the Queen’s goodness in helping him to maintain his force of waged men he will have to leave this place shortly.”100 A letter from Margaret to Lennox reached Drury on September 1, 1571.101 It was probably the last one she ever sent him.

  On September 4, Drury asked Burghley to keep some of John Case’s reports from Margaret, “otherwise I shall not receive such knowledge as I have done.” The reason for this, as Case himself revealed in the enclosure, written at Stirling, was that “Lady Lennox gets most of your advertisements and writes them to him, which makes him mislike you so much.”102

  On September 5, Maitland wrote to Mary, Queen of Scots, about Lord Ruthven’s younger brother Archibald,103 Margaret’s nephew, who had “behaved himself very favourably towards us and all your causes.” Maitland had hopes of Ruthven. “If he can obtain credit with Lady Lennox, indeed he might be steadable to your cause that way.” But he did not hold out much hope of that.104


  Standing next to his grandfather, the five-year-old King opened Parliament at Stirling Castle on September 3. Noticing a gap in the slates that roofed the great hall, he piped up, “This Parliament has got one hole in it.” This was received by the assembled lords not with amusement, but as a sinister omen.105

  Margaret was at court when, early in September, “some Scots, continuing their business most vile, did yield me to drink a cup of new care, wherein of sorrow I tasted my share.” For “traitors, through treason,” did beset her “dear” with violence.106

  On Tuesday, September 4, 1571, Parliament sat again, but during the previous night a force of Mary’s supporters, led by Kirkcaldy of Grange and including the vengeful Hamiltons, had marched on Stirling with the intention of ousting Lennox and his party from power. He was lodging in a house on the marketplace when, around 4 A.M., “the Earl of Huntly and the Lairds of Ferniehurst and Buccleuch, accompanied with 280 horsemen, and sixty arquebusiers on horseback, came to Stirling and took the Regent and the earls of Glencairn and Eglington, and a great number of others out of their beds before they could be armed.”107

  By then, according to Grange, “our party were masters of the town.” Even though there were in Stirling twenty earls and lords spiritual and temporal, and two thousand men, there was no resistance. As soon as Morton surrendered, Lord Claud Hamilton and others advanced on him with drawn swords, intent on killing him because he had allied with Lennox. Morton was placed under house arrest, but his house was soon besieged and set on fire, as the undisciplined soldiers “fell to spoiling of the town.” But the Hamiltons were bent on avenging the Archbishop’s execution. Lennox and the other noblemen were herded into an assembly, “that all might be carried away together.”

  The plan was to take the captives to Edinburgh, but things went badly awry, as “with his whole company the Earl of Morton rushed down the street towards the port.”108 With their captors diverted, Lennox, John Cockburn, Laird of Ormiston, and others managed to escape. But as Ormiston “and some with him were bringing the Earl of Lennox down another street, in the tumult” both Lennox and Ormiston were wounded by a pistol shot “by some of the adverse faction.” Morton was rescued.

  A Captain George Bell was afterward to claim that he had met Lennox “coming down the gait” and cried to Ormiston, “Gang fast with that man or else ye will not get yourself away nor him, for they are all coming down upon us!” Bell led them to a nearby lodging and there left Lennox to save himself, bidding Ormiston “tarry with him, for he would be the saving of his life.”109 Under torture Bell changed his story, and admitted that he incited his men to shoot Lennox, and indeed took part himself.110 Whatever the truth, Lennox was discovered or ambushed by a Captain James Calder, who had been ordered by Lord Claud Hamilton and the Earl of Huntly to slay him. According to Morton, “the Regent, after he was taken forth of his house and led away more than two flight shots, was shot with a pistol along his bowels.”111 A correspondent of Drury’s informed him that the bullet passed first through Ormiston, then found its mark in Lennox. “Some say he was shot negligently by some of his own side; others that it is the Hamiltons in revenge for the Bishop’s death.”112

  Too late, the Earl of Mar with “forty men came out of the castle there and rescued all the nobility of the Regent’s party, and danged the others out of the town,” but sixteen of Lennox’s men were killed in the skirmish, and thirty-seven were injured. Morton was rescued at the port, and “the lairds of Buccleuch and Ormiston, and Captain Bell, who was the chief adviser of this attempt, are taken. Forty horsemen and arquebusiers of Edinburgh Castle were taken,”113 as was Captain Calder. Lennox, although badly injured, called for Ormiston to be spared.114

  Still on horseback, and probably in agony, Lennox was escorted back into the castle, declaring, “If the bairn’s well, all’s well.”115 Only when he was inside the walls did he dismount.116 James VI, watching in horror, would never forget the sight of his grandfather with his bowels bleeding, and spent the rest of his life in dread of dying violently.

  Lennox was helped to bed and a doctor was summoned, who saw that nothing could be done for him. As he lay dying he looked back over his life, forgave his enemies, and begged the lords gathered around him to protect his grandson. He said to his friend Mar and those around him: “I am now, my lords, to leave you at God’s good pleasure, to go to a world where there is rest and peace. Ye know that it was not my ambition, but your choice, which brought me to the charge I have this while sustained, which I undertook the more willingly because I was assured of your assistance in the defense of the infant King, whose protection, by nature and duty, I could not refuse. And now, being able to do no more, I must commend him to the Al
mighty God and to your care, entreating you to continue in the defense of his cause, wherein, I do assure you, in God’s name, of your victory, and make choice of some worthy person, fearing God and affectionate to the King, to succeed in my place.”117 Another account states that Lennox declared he had urged the lords “to favor the revenge of my son, the late King, his death and murder, [and] the welfare of your natural prince.”118

  As death approached, Lennox’s thoughts were of Margaret; he charged Mar and the rest: “And I must likewise commend unto your favour my servants, who never have received benefit at my hands, and desire you to remember my love to my wife, Meg, whom I beseech God to comfort.” Having commended her to “the goodness of God,”119 he took leave of them all, one by one, and asked them to join him in his prayers, which he continued for some hours.120 “The Regent lived after his hurt till towards night, exhorting all men still to follow the action for maintaining the King.” At four o’clock that afternoon121 he “departed to God very peacefully, exhorting all men to follow still the action for the maintenance of the King.”122

  “He might have lived in England with great ease, were not he was sent about by great men of this realm to accept one charge upon him that he was not able to perform or guide,” observed a contemporary.123 But the Scottish divine David Calderwood remembered Lennox as a man with “noble qualities, tried with both fortunes, and if he had enjoyed a longer and more peaceable time, he had doubtless made the kingdom happy by his government.”124


  “Treason Bereft Me”

  On September 5, Drury forwarded to Burghley a report that Lennox had been killed, adding, “If it be true, the Queen’s Majesty hath received a great loss, the like in affection she will never find of a Scottish man born.”1 Elizabeth was at Leez Priory in Essex as the guest of Robert, Lord Rich, when the report arrived three days later. Burghley was with her and immediately informed the Privy Council, but charged them to “otherwise disperse it not, lest it be not true that he is dead; and I would not have knowledge come to Lady Lennox before she shall have it from the Queen’s Majesty.”2

  When confirmation did come, Elizabeth herself undertook the dreadful task of breaking to Margaret the news that her husband had been killed.3 After twenty-six years of marital happiness, tragically marred by the loss of seven children and long separations, Margaret, at fifty-six, now found herself facing a bleak widowhood. She was quite devastated with a grief that was “poignant and perpetual.”4 “My anguish was such as to bear was too great, yet to God, by prayer, I still made my way. Thus treason bereft me of my son and mate.” She longed to ask those “rebels ruthless and falsely forsworn, what meant ye my son and husband to kill? Would God, I wish it, ye had never been born. Woe worth you rebels, chief cause of all my trouble!” She appealed to Heaven that, “for these great injuries unto me done, God’s vengeance in time no doubt will be won.”5

  Lennox had never been popular in Scotland, where he would be remembered disparagingly as “the English Regent.”6 Within twenty hours of his passing it had been agreed that the Earl of Mar should assume the office of regent in his stead.7 It was arranged that Lennox should be buried in the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle, a fitting sepulchre for one with Stewart blood.8 Here Margaret built a “sumptuous sepulchre” to his memory.9 The chronicler Holinshed recorded the epitaph she placed there, and possibly composed herself, and in no sense could it be said to have been written in the spirit of forgiveness:

  Lo here a prince and potentate, whose life to understand,

  Was godly, just, and fortunate, though from his native land

  His enemies thrice did him out thring [throw], he thrice returned again,

  Was lawful tutor to the King, and regent did remain:

  Where he with rigor rebels racked, the right for to defend,

  Till enemies old through tyrants tracked, did work his fatal end.

  Lo thus respects the death no wight,

  When God permits the time,

  Yet shall the vengeance on them light that wrought that cursed crime.

  The tomb also bore “heroical verses” in which Margaret’s love for her husband shines forth. If she had seen no wrong in him in life, in death she was determined to proclaim him a paragon—with just the slightest emphasis on her own royal descent:

  Behold herein interred is Matthew, of Lennox earl,

  Who long of late in Britain’s soil, did live a peerless pearl;

  And as he was of royal blood, by royal progeny,

  From Stewart’s stock of ancient time, princes of Albany,

  His fortune was even so to match, with passing virtuous wight,

  Whose race derived from famous kings, of wide renowned might.

  His mother[-in-law] queen of Scotland was, and eldest daughter dear,

  Of Henry Seventh, English King, a princely mirror clear.

  Her father earl of Angus was, she Lady Margaret hight [named],

  The only heir of Angus lands, and all his father’s right.

  Thus did King Brutus blood conjoin, for both by grace divine

  Are come of North Wales princes hault [high], which were of Trojans’ line.10

  And divers goodlie imps there were, that issued from them twain:

  Charles; James, now king…, of them doth still remain.

  King Henry, father to this King, their first-begotten son:

  Oh cruel fates! the which so soon, his vital thread unspun;

  By whose demise the grandsire came, lord regent in this land:

  And nobly bare the regal sword of justice in his hand,

  Whereby he did, in tender age of the Kings Majesty,

  This realm protect with fortitude, prudence and equity.

  But now Dame Fame with flickering wings withouten any let,

  Shall spread abroad this worthy man, and through the world him set;

  And tearing time shall not consume, nor wear the same away,

  But with the worthiest reckoned be, until the latter day,

  After which time, eternity doth triumph then by right,

  Where he with angels shall rejoice, in God’s eternal sight.11

  The collegiate chapel at Stirling dated from 1110 and had been beautified by several Scottish monarchs, but it had been neglected during the Reformation of the 1560s and was already in poor structural condition when Lennox’s monument was erected. It was demolished when Margaret’s grandson, James VI, built a new one in 1594 for the baptism of his son, Henry, named for Lord Darnley. At that time Lennox’s tomb was lost, but his bones still rest somewhere beneath the floor.


  On September 5 and 6, Captain Bell was interrogated. He recounted how he had helped Lennox to hide with Ormiston, and admitted that he had been ordered “only to take the Regent and the rest”;12 but his accusers chose to believe that he had deliberately lured Lennox into a trap, and “was the chief deviser of this attempt.”13 Having finally confessed that “he was the special deviser of this enterprise,” he was “put to pains,” or tortured, and declared that he came “running down the gait” crying, “Shoot the Regent, the traitors is coming upon us and ye will not get him away!” Lord Claud Hamilton had commanded him “to follow the Regent and slay him, which he obeyed.”14

  On September 6, Captain Calder was examined and “confessed that he slew the Regent by Huntly’s and Lord Claud’s procurement.”15 He had “shot the Regent (which he has taken upon his soul) with his own hand, also that the Earl of Huntly and the whole of the Hamiltons were utterly bent to have slain them both.” Calder had obviously been tortured too, as his confession was signed “with my hand laid on the pen because I cannot write.”16

  That day Grange and Maitland, the perpetrators of the plot, wrote to Drury from the safety of Edinburgh Castle: “We regret most the slaughter of Lennox, because thereby the adverse faction have obtained what they have long sought by many means—that is, to be rid of him.”17 Mary’s supporters were “very well satisfied at Lennox’s death,” but “th
ey go in great fear that the Queen of England will send an army into this country, under pretext of revenging herself for the death of the said Lennox, to win the country, which is already at her commandment outside this town and castle.”18

  On September 13, Mar, who had been good friends with Lennox, wrote to Elizabeth: “The whole country is troubled.” He told her he had written Margaret a letter, the contents of which she would declare to the Queen.19

  Calder and Bell were to be the scapegoats for their masters and shoulder all the blame. On September 13 they were savagely executed, “Calder after the manner of France, arms and legs broken and set upon a wheel.”20

  Mar sent two letters of condolence to Margaret, neither of which appears to have been the one he had asked her to show Elizabeth. In the first he wrote that he could not but “marvel to hear how dolorously you take the loss of your husband,” having apparently thought her a woman of strong character who would bear her bereavement stoically. He beseeched her “to take the least of evils, and to follow forth the likeliest and best apparent course for the comfort, weal, and safety of yourself, the King, and your only child now living, Mr. Charles, in which last two you may repose your trust.” Mar’s letter was entrusted to Laurence Nesbit, “who served your husband truly, having put some order in the late Regent’s private matters, [and] returns to your Grace, to whose sufficiency I commit the report of all the matters.”21 Evidently Margaret did not know all the details of Lennox’s end, as in the second letter Mar remitted “the manner of the unhappy accident to the report of the bearer, your servant, who, being present, heard and saw the whole. No doubt there was over-little care taken. The chief loss is fallen on your Grace.”

  Mar begged Margaret “not to let your accustomed care and favour un-like toward that cause and action which your husband had in hand.” He “sent some new instructions to be used by your Grace’s advice, and have also written to her Majesty.” He prayed Margaret “to give knowledge of your pleasure as to your husband’s affairs in Scotland, which, to my best, shall be furthered and used to your contentment.”22 This letter, with “a packet,” was forwarded to Margaret by Drury.23

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