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


  On September 20, Spes sent King Philip what he described as “a true relation of the death of the Earl of Lennox, which certainly has been a most successful enterprise. The only one who paid the penalty of his bad government was Lennox. They have appointed in the meanwhile for governor the Earl of Mar, who has the Prince in his possession, and holds the castle of Stirling. This Earl is bringing up the Prince without any religion, or rather with the bad instead of the good one. One of the worst evils connected with such a bringing up is that the Prince should be fed upon such vile milk as this.”24

  Margaret had to accept that she now had little prospect of ever being involved in the rearing of her grandson.

  On September 29, Spes informed his master of “a letter which was found in Scotland, written by the Queen of England to the Earl of Lennox, directing him and his party to demand the surrender to them of the Queen of Scotland in the interests of peace, to which demand the Queen of England promised she would accede if she were asked, and almost commanded him to have the Queen of Scotland killed when they got possession of her; but Lennox himself was killed on the very day that he received the letter.”25 Delivering Mary into the hands of Lennox would have been one way for Elizabeth to get rid of her, and of course she could not be held responsible for what the Scottish Regent decided to do with her. But Spes’s information may not have been reliable, and all Elizabeth’s efforts so far had been made to protect Mary from execution at the hands of her enemies.

  On October 2, Elizabeth wrote to Mar recommending “the Lady Lennox’s causes to his favor,” and saying she thought it “reasonable to remind him that all who have been parties to the death of Lennox may be punished with all severity.”26 Neither she nor Margaret was satisfied that the true culprits had been brought to justice.

  Margaret herself wrote to Mar two days later:

  Though perversed fortune has been such towards me in that realm that I have lost my choicest comforts, having cause sufficient thereby that the remembrance of the country should be grievous unto me, yet the natural love that I bear to the young King, with your lordship’s friendly dealings and last letter—of which I am informed, though I saw it not—are some comfort to me. I will do all I can in the advancement of the King’s actions. Whereas your lordship offers to advance the House [of Lennox] again to the ancient estate, whensoever I hear that the same is done, it will be to my comfort. There is money owing to servants and poor men, which I wish you to discharge. The Earl of Lennox meant to recompense such gentlemen and others who served him, but had not time. I commend them to your lordship to be good unto them, and especially the bearer. Hackney.27

  She was keeping herself busy with hawking, a sport much favored by aristocrats of both sexes. On October 15 she asked Mar that “a cast of falcons may be sent to Berwick, where a man from me tarries to receive them.”28

  On October 23, Mar replied to Margaret, thanking her for the letter she had sent on the 4th:

  None can marvel that you take the remembrance of this country grievously, having lost your chiefest earthly comforts therein, and for my own part I find nothing but cares, restless business and daily danger to such as occupy this charge of government which now is laid upon my shoulder, and which no respect would have caused me to take on hand were it not for the preservation of the innocent person of the King, your nephew [sic], being subject to such present danger after the murders of his goodsire and others his dear friends, if some present remedy had not been found by placing another in the regiment.

  I understand that your travails, nothwithstanding this dolorous season, have greatly furthered the King’s actions, wherein he beseeches you to continue your earnestness and former affection, for that the troubles here still last and it has no appearance of sudden end.

  The only remedy would be the intervention of Queen Elizabeth, with English aid.

  Mar explained that there was no money to pay the debts and outstanding wages of Lennox’s servants; “the same inability remains as in the life of his Grace.” However, when the time was right, that would be “considered and remembered.”29

  —

  Margaret was now lodging at Islington, then a village north of London. In Tudor times, like Stepney and Hackney, it was a rural place favored by the nobility for country residences. Many were built on former monastic land, and it was probably in one of these, Canonbury Place (or Canonbury House, now called Canonbury Tower), that Margaret was staying30 as the guest of a wealthy merchant, Sir John Spencer, the future Lord Mayor of London, who had acquired the house and its surrounding land in 1570. A difficult and truculent, even cruel, man, he was no friend to Catholics, but had apparently been willing to offer a grieving widow a refuge at this sad time.

  Built before 1373 by the canons of St. Bartholomew’s Priory, Smithfield, after whom it was named, Canonbury Place was reconstructed by Prior William Bolton between 1509 and 1532, and after the Dissolution was owned in succession by Thomas Cromwell, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and Thomas, Lord Wentworth. Margaret stayed there until at least January 1572.31

  She was now coming to terms with widowhood, and realizing that she had a problem on her hands. As she had done with Darnley, she had over-indulged her fourteen-year-old son Charles—probably all the more so recently, as he had lost his father and she had been trying to cope with her grief. He was now proving a great trial to her and was in need of a firm hand, as she had lost any authority over him. Had he been the son of an English peer, he would, upon his father’s death, being a minor, have become subject to the Court of Wards, but Charles was the son of a Scottish lord, so he had remained under his mother’s jurisdiction.

  Lord Burghley was Master of the Court of Wards. He had in his own household a number of royal wards and noblemen’s sons, for whom he had taken on the responsibility for their upbringing and education. He looked after his charges well, and personally saw to it that they were well taught. Places in his household were therefore sought after, and Margaret wanted one for Charles. On October 4, in some desperation, she dictated a letter to Burghley:

  My very good lord,

  Entering into considerations with myself of the many ways I have approvedly found your lordship most friendly to me and mine, I could not long delay to betray unto you a special grief which long time, but chiefly of late, hath grown upon me through the bringing up of my only son, Charles, whose well-doing and prosperity in all things comely for his calling should be my greatest comfort, so the contrary I might not avoid to my greatest dolour. And having awakened myself lately, I have found that his father’s absence so long time in his riper years hath made him lack to be in divers ways that were answerable in his brother, whose education and bringing up, living only at home with his father and me, at his coming to court I suppose was not misliked of.

  Burghley may have paused here to reflect that there was much in Darnley that had been misliked of by many people, and that, had he been better disciplined in youth, he might not have come to such a grim end. And now here was Charles, seemingly set to turn out in the same mold. Margaret went on:

  And though the good hap of this Lord Charles hath not been to have had that help of his father’s company that his brother had, whereby at these years he is somewhat unfurnished in qualities needful, and I, being now a lone widow, am less able to have him well reformed at home than before. Yet the especial care I have that he might be able to continue a worthy member of his father’s House and to serve his Prince and country hereafter (to my joy, if God lend me life) hath enforced me for redress to desire your good lordship, above all the pleasures that ever you did me, to accept my said son into your house, to be brought up and instructed as the wards be, so long time as shall be needful, in which doing you shall not only bind me but him and his friends to pray for your lordship and be yours assured during life, as knoweth the Almighty, to Whose protection I commit your lordship. From Islington, this 4 of November.

  Your lordship’s assured loving friend, Margaret Lennox.32

  Mar
garet must have accepted that in Burghley’s household Charles would have been brought up in the Protestant religion. Her amenability to that, and the hospitality shown to her by the Puritan Sir John Spencer, suggests that she had reverted to her former pragmatism in regard to religion. Given her reduced circumstances, she had probably had no choice. As Spes had said, she dared not speak openly of her faith.33

  Burghley, probably loath to take into his household a difficult young man with such contentious royal blood, and possibly fearing that Charles might act as a spy for Margaret,34 replied that already there were twenty young gentlemen being educated in his house. Instead he recommended a Swiss tutor, Peter Malliet, for Charles. Malliet had recently come to England from Paris, and although he was a follower of the Protestant reformer Huldrych Zwingli, Margaret did not demur. She duly engaged him, and Charles was sent to live with Malliet in his “hostel” at Gray’s Inn, London.35 Gray’s Inn was then flourishing as the largest of London’s Inns of Court and enjoyed the special patronage of the Queen, which is probably how Burghley had secured lodgings there for Malliet. A portrait dated 157336 shows Charles to have been a handsome, fair-haired youth, in whom the resemblance to his dead brother is striking.

  On May 26, 1572, Malliet wrote from Gray’s Inn to the reformer Heinrich Bullinger:

  I undertook the office of tutor and governor to the Earl of Lennox, the brother of the King of Scots who was murdered, and uncle of the present one, not without a great deal of trouble and hindrance to my studies. But, induced by the entreaties and promises of the principal personages of this kingdom, I could not decline to undertake this burden for a limited time, since I am at full liberty to leave this place whenever I choose. The youth is just entering upon his sixteenth year, and gives great promise of hope for the future. For in case the present King, his nephew, should die without lawful issue, he is the sole successor by hereditary right to the crown of Scotland, and is entitled to be placed at the head of the kingdom and empire. So also no one is more nearly allied to the royal blood of England, after the death of the present Queen, than his mother, to whom her only son is the heir.37

  Malliet’s assessment of his pupil was encouraging to Margaret. Evidently the tutor continued to give satisfaction, and decided that he liked working for the Lennoxes, as he was to serve in her household for many years.

  Lennox’s death had left Margaret the poorer. She had no right to the properties settled on her and her husband by Henry VIII as they were entailed upon her son Charles. Fortunately the Queen permitted her to continue using them and their revenues during his minority. As for the Scottish lands that Lennox had settled upon her before their marriage, when she responded to Mar on November 20 from Islington, she asked for his help in regard to some of these. She thanked him “for the continuance of your most noble and friendly mind towards me and mine. I am determined ere long to send some [i.e. similar goodwill] to your lordship, with instructions for such affairs as I must be bold to trouble you with.” She asked him to order that officials of the bishopric of Glasgow, which was at the heartland of Lennox territory, “be employed in the redeeming of the earldom of Lennox” out of pledge. She knew that her brother-in-law, the Bishop of Caithness, was struggling to hold on to the priory of St. Andrews, which Lennox had given him, and she asked Mar “earnestly to extend your favour to him that he may enjoy that benefice wholly for his portion, paying all such sums as said is for his brother’s sake, the rather at my request, and for your honourable offer for advancing my son Charles [to] the earldom of Lennox. I request that you will cause the Isle of Inchinnan,38 appointed for my dowry, to be kept by Robert Cunningham to my use. I request you to be good to certain musicians there [and] commend poor Robert Nesbit to you.”39

  On November 24, Elizabeth wrote to Mar in favor of the Countess of Lennox’s suits in Scotland:

  Like as by your own letters we perceive your good inclination to further with your favour all the causes of our right dear cousin, the Lady Margaret, Countess of Lennox, so we understand by herself that she esteems the favour to be the more amply and effectuously offered to her for our sake, and for that purpose we have thought it very convenient both to give you our most hearty thanks, and to require you to continue your goodwill, not only as her causes shall require, but also according to the particular affection which she bears towards her late husband’s kin and family, that you will show favor to the Bishop of Caithness, brother to the said Earl her husband, that he may enjoy still the priory of St. Andrews which was bestowed on him in recompense of another benefice that he left, and that the intention of the late Regent might be fulfilled in the bestowing of the bishopric of Glasgow towards the redemption of the lands of the earldom of Lennox, which were mortgaged by the said Earl by occasion of his service in that realm.40

  On January 31, 1572, Margaret wrote from Islington to tell Mar that she had “received his most friendly letter, and is informed thereby of the King’s prosperous increase. [She] shall be glad to further all things that concern his Majesty’s causes in these parts,” and desired Mar “to continue his good mind toward her.”41

  Margaret’s ambition was now vested in her only surviving child, Charles, who was the most viable heir to the Scottish throne until such time as James VI had children. But she was more immediately concerned about Charles inheriting his father’s title, so that they could live off the revenues of the earldom, even though its lands were all mortgaged.42 James VI had succeeded his grandfather as Earl of Lennox, but the Regent was looking into the possibility that Charles “might be rewarded for the loss of his father and brother by having the earldom of Lennox given him, by which means the King hereafter should have a good [main] stay of a near kinsman, and the House [of Lennox] thereby preserved to do more service to the crown.” Mar was also going to “further the Countess of Lennox’s reasonable suits for her dower.”43

  —

  It was probably early in her widowhood that Margaret leased from her landlord, the antiquary Richard Carew,44 another of his properties, the King’s Place in Hackney, and moved there from Barber’s Barn. Better known, from around 1621, as Brooke House, it was part of a two-hundred-acre manor once belonging to Margaret’s great-grandmother, Elizabeth Wydeville, the queen of Edward IV,45 and stood where Lower Clapton Road and Kenninghall Road meet today.

  There had probably been a house on the site since 1439 or earlier—it is first documented in 1476. Henry VIII had acquired it by an exchange of lands with the penurious Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, in 1535. That year Henry granted it to Thomas Cromwell, who never lived there and who in 1536 surrendered it to the King. Henry VIII had come there that summer with Jane Seymour to be reconciled with his daughter Mary. On Henry’s death in 1547 the house had been given to Sir William Herbert (later earl of Pembroke), who sold it that year to Sir Ralph Sadler, the builder of nearby Sutton House. Sadler in turn sold the property to Sir Wymond Carew, whose family owned it until 1578. They did not live there but leased it out.46

  Herbert’s lease of 1547 described the King’s Place as “a fair house,” with a hall, parlor, kitchen, “pastory [patisserie?],” dry larder, buttery, pantry “and all other houses of office necessary and many fair chambers,” including a long gallery, a chapel and a closet, with a great chamber above, and “a proper library to lay books in.” There was a barn in which “to lay hay” and a stable. The house was “enclosed on the back side with a great broad ditch,” and beyond that was a large fenced garden; at the further end of the house were fifty-one acres of orchard “having but few trees of fruit therein,” and in front of it, “coming from London, is a fair large garden ground enclosed with a brick wall.”47

  A survey of the ruined house made in the 1950s reveals that it had been built in the medieval collegiate style around two courtyards; the ground floor was of brick, and the upper was timbered. It had turrets, gables, brick chimney stacks and mullioned windows. Traces of the foundations of the medieval house were found beneath Tudor and later remains. Despite the
rebuilding of Tudor times, the south and west fronts were reminiscent of late-fifteenth-century architectural styles. There was probably a long gallery in the west range in Margaret’s day,48 which may have been the footprint of the 150-foot-long gallery built by Lord Hunsdon, who bought the house in 1578.

  After two hundred years in use as an asylum, little survived of the original interiors, and there were no large rooms, only small ones, with some opening off narrow corridors, suggesting that the original chambers were partitioned at some date. Badly mutilated wall paintings featuring St. Peter, sunbursts, flowers, birds and scrolled foliage were found in a lofty room with the remains of a Purbeck marble floor, which was probably the chapel. Its decorations included a foot-high frieze with armorial shields, Tudor roses, and chevrons, dating from the late fifteenth century.

  —

  Mary, Queen of Scots, had now been a prisoner in England for nearly four years. Infuriated at Elizabeth’s recent assertion that she had enticed Darnley “out of England and married him against the Queen’s Majesty’s goodwill, thereby to nourish division in England,”49 she replied on February 14, 1572, that she would “make the Countess of Lennox, his mother, judge who pursued and caused her [Mary] to be pursued since her return to Scotland,” for it would not be found that she, Mary, had had or sought “practice [action or advice] or greater amity in England” by Darnley’s means or his mother’s.50 In other words, it had been Margaret who had brought about her marriage to Darnley and had been out for Mary’s ruin ever since, and neither Margaret nor her son had helped Mary’s cause in England.

 
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