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


  On March 28, Elizabeth declared that she had “just cause to defer the delivery of the Queen of Scots and her restitution to the crown of Scotland.” Among other reasons, she could not

  with honour or conscience show any favour to her that in former times the proximity of blood or the equality of her state, having been born to be a queen, might have required, for that she has been so notoriously charged, and never probably purged of the devising, working, and consenting to the horrible strange murder of her husband, who was the next kinsman of the royal blood of England that her Majesty had, and also her Majesty’s born subject, yea he was also the next kinsman of the Queen of Scots of the father’s side; the avenge of whose death, upon the complaint of the Earl of Lennox, the father, and the mother, the Lady Margaret, to her Majesty, did and doth belong to her Majesty by the law of God and the laws of the realm of England.51

  On April 18, thanks to Mar, the earldom of Lennox was settled upon Charles Stuart and his heirs in perpetuity, and without restriction, and this was afterward ratified by the Scottish Parliament.52 On May 2 a grateful Elizabeth, spared the need to help Margaret financially, wrote to Mar:

  Right trusty and well-beloved cousin, whereas we understand by our dear cousin the Countess of Lennox the favour and goodwill you bear towards her and all such as belong to her house, and her late husband, and especially towards her second son, our cousin Charles, unto whom we hear that by your good means the title, name, and livelihood of the earldom of Lennox is granted to him, like as we cannot but very much commend this your favourable dealing towards the only son of the said Lady Lennox, manifesting thereby plainly the good regard you have of the father, who spent his blood and life in the service of the King and that realm, so have we thought good to give you our most hearty thanks for your benefits bestowed on them.53

  Charles was tardy in expressing his own thanks to the lords of the Scottish Council. It was not until May 20 that—prodded perhaps by his mother or his tutor—he sent them an apologetic letter:

  Having received advertisement of your lordships’ friendly dealings in procuring, or so willingly consenting, to my advancement to honour, it had been my duty ere this to have showed myself thankful. I shall, therefore, right effectuously desire your lordships’ pardon my long silence, and to receive by these my lines my most hearty commendations, and condign thanks for your good deeds towards me, unknown to you—or to the most number of you. For which benefit received, I shall not be, God willing, ungrateful; but shall endeavour to requite your lordships, or any of you, in what I possibly can do.

  From my chamber at Gray’s Inn.

  Charles Lennox.54

  Margaret still had a significant role to play in Scottish politics, for her grandson was king and she was known to have influence with Queen Elizabeth. She remained in correspondence with Mar. On July 6 he prayed her “not to take in evil part my delay in writing nor my present shortness. The order of our late proceedings and present state I have sent to Mr. Randolph, whereby you will perceive the true report of things.” He trusted “to write more at length soon.”55 His letter of August 6 to Randolph reveals that Margaret was kept abreast of affairs and sent copies of important letters.56

  On September 4, Mar wrote at length “to the right honourable and my very good lady, the Countess of Lennox, her Grace”:

  Madame,

  Since the receipt of your last letter I never found a proper commodity to write unto your Grace, saving a very short letter, which I trust come to your Grace’s hands by the means of Master Randolph, and the discourse of things then past. Since which time matters have proceeded here in reasonable quietness.

  He recounted in depth how Queen Mary’s partisans in Edinburgh Castle had reneged on a two-month abstinence of hostilities that he had agreed with them, his discovery of proofs that Drury was in league with them, and their machinations to have Randolph recalled. It was clear that he wanted Margaret to make plain to Elizabeth his opinion of her servants.

  Whom her Majesty’s pleasure is to employ, must be to us acceptable; yet, having such cause and interest, I cannot dissemble to your Grace our misliking, which we wish might come to the knowledge of her Majesty’s self and such of her Council as might help to amend it. For surely we all think, if her Highness—as we doubt not—would have matters to proceed here well and sincerely to her Majesty’s satisfaction and the continuance of the amity betwixt the realms, some better affected minister, in our opinion, were meet to be employed. The greater that the credit, gravity, and experience of the personage were, the better should all things succeed. Further, may it please your Grace to understand that we have not yet accorded upon any place of the general meeting of the whole Estates for deliberating upon the pacification, but what falls out thereupon, your Grace shall shortly hear. The King’s Majesty, our sovereign, your Grace’s nephew [sic], praised be God, is in good health and like shortly to speak for himself.57

  We do not know if Margaret conveyed to Elizabeth Mar’s dissatisfaction with Drury. What is more important is that he thought she had sufficient influence to persuade the Queen to replace him.

  Drury soon got wind that something was up. On October 1 he told Burghley he perceived “that something concerning him has been written by Lord Morton to Lady Lennox,” and prayed “that his doings may have trial.”58

  Margaret lost a good friend in Scotland when, on October 29, 1572, the Regent Mar died unexpectedly, having suffered only a short illness. Her cousin Morton felt that he should be given the governorship in Mar’s place. On November 6, Killigrew informed Sir Thomas Smith that Morton

  has written his mind to Lady Lennox touching the state of this country, and what he supposes fit to be done by the Queen’s Majesty. [He] has named great personages in this letter, which may peradventure move him to think that it will be hard to establish a Regent, for though the voices of the King’s party are three to one of the other, yet no honest and worthy nobleman of that party will take the charge unless encouraged by the Queen. There is a proposal to appoint four nobles to guard the King.59

  Morton was elected regent on November 24. He proved a competent administrator, even if he did take advantage of his position to enrich himself. Like Mar, he recognized Margaret’s importance, and continued to keep her apprised of events at the highest level.

  —

  In May 1578, Mary, Queen of Scots, was to write of Margaret to James Boyd, Archbishop of Glasgow:

  This good lady was, thanks to God, in very good correspondence with me these five or six years bygone, and has confessed to me, by sundry letters under her hand, which I carefully preserve, the injury she did me by the unjust pursuits, which she allowed to go out against me in her name, through bad information, but principally, she said, through the express orders of the Queen of England and the persuasion of her Council, who also took much solicitude that she and I might never come to good understanding together. But how soon she came to know of my innocence, she desisted from any further suit against me; nay, went so far as to refuse her consent to anything they should act against me in her name.60

  It was politic for Margaret to blame Elizabeth and her Council for coercing her in her efforts to bring Mary to justice, but it was a blatant manipulation of the truth.61

  Mary’s letter places the reconciliation between her and Margaret in 1572–73. It has been said that in the wake of the notorious Ridolfi plot to put Mary on Elizabeth’s throne—a plot in which Mary was complicit—Margaret began to realize what the consequences would be for herself if Mary succeeded in England, and that from early 1573, increasingly concerned that Mary might be restored to power in Scotland,62 she decided that the safest course was to ally herself with her daughter-in-law. Yet the likelihood of Mary becoming queen of either country was fairly remote; as an alien, she had no legal claim under the Act of Succession or Henry VIII’s will; and because she was a Catholic she could command only limited support. Indeed, in the wake of the plot, there were many to revile her. Above all, Margaret’s hatred
of Mary had been such that it is inconceivable that, believing that she had colluded in Darnley’s murder, she would have contemplated lending her any support.

  It has been suggested63 that it was not until 1575 that Margaret became convinced of Mary’s innocence of the murder of Darnley, after she had read a testament supposedly written that year by Bothwell, in which he stated that Mary “did never know nor consent to the death of the King; but he and his friends by his appointment and device” had brought it about. Said to have been made when Bothwell was “sick unto death in the castle of Malmö” in Denmark, this “confession” was almost certainly a forgery; it was “signed” by witnesses who were already dead, and states that he had died at Malmö, when in fact he had left that place in 1573 and would die at Dragsholm Castle in 1578; it also asserts, incorrectly, that Kirkcaldy of Grange, Lord Boyd and Lennox’s brother, the Bishop of Caithness, were among Darnley’s murderers, which Bothwell is hardly likely to have alleged, since he would have known they were not. Probably it was written by an adherent of Mary.64

  Abstracts of the confession were in circulation in 1575, and it has been suggested that it was after seeing one65 that Margaret wrote to Mary that year: “I can but wish and pray God for your Majesty’s long and happy estate, till time I may do your Majesty better service…I beseech your Highness pardon these rude lines and accept the good heart of the writer, who loves and honours your Majesty unfeignedly.”66 But it is clear from Mary’s letter of March 1578 that the two women had been reconciled at least two years prior to 1575, so it cannot have been the testament that changed Margaret’s mind, although seeing it probably helped to convince her that Bothwell was the guilty party. On January 6, 1577, Mary informed Archbishop Boyd that the King of Denmark had sent Bothwell’s testament to Queen Elizabeth, but that she had secretly suppressed it.67 This document, which does not survive, may have been a different testament from the one allegedly made at Malmö, and Margaret could not have seen it; even if she had, it would not account for her change of heart in 1572–73.

  Possibly Margaret had learned more details of Darnley’s end from members of his household,68 although inquiries would surely have been made of his servants very early on. It is more likely that by 1572–73, through her many contacts in Scotland and England, she had been offered compelling evidence to convince her that Mary was innocent. By the 1570s many people had a shrewd idea of who had murdered Darnley, although there were those in Scotland who had a vested interest in concealing the truth.

  It is clear that Margaret never found out that it was her own kinsmen, the Douglases, who had killed her son. To the end of her days she would believe that Bothwell had murdered him. That is evident in Phillips’s Commemoration:

  But yet remember thou and thy train,

  Offenders most vile, wicked and ill,

  Doth God not traitors hate and disdain?

  We read in His wrath, destroy them He will.

  Esteem that His justice lots them to spill.

  Look with thy consorts from the East to the West,

  Your guile is offended, God doth you detest.

  The initial letters of the first six lines in this verse read “BODWEL.” There follow several lines vehemently damning him for his most cruel crimes, as a person “past grace” who should prepare to face God’s wrath.

  It must have been mortifying for Margaret to realize that she had done her daughter-in-law a great wrong. It may be that it was she herself who gave instructions for the damning inscriptions and scenes in the Darnley Memorial to be obliterated. Morton, who had more reason than most to fear the truth coming out, got wind of the rapprochement early on, and it was possibly because he feared that Margaret would make an alliance with Mary that on August 16, 1574, he asked Killigrew “that he may be certified of the Countess of Lennox’s and her son’s present condition and affairs.”69

  It has been stated too that Margaret continued to make a show of reviling Mary at Elizabeth’s court.70 Mary’s letter appears to contradict this, although there is no evidence of Margaret ever speaking out in Mary’s favor. Yet her reconciliation with the woman she had vilified as her son’s murderess must in time have cast doubt in the minds of many—as indeed it must today—as to the veracity of the official version of what had happened at Kirk O’Field. It is one of the strongest proofs of Mary’s innocence.

  —

  In January 1573 the Scottish Parliament “confirmed the earldom of Lennox to the Lord Charles.”71 On February 5, Killigrew reported that the Regent Morton had desired him “to procure some public witness” who would testify to Queen Elizabeth’s opinion as to who had murdered Lennox and Moray. Failing that, Morton would proceed against the Hamiltons.72

  In the interests of peace and concord, Elizabeth had been maneuvering to bring about a rapprochement between Morton and the lords who had murdered Lennox, although that was not meant to exempt the latter from paying the penalty for it. On February 23, Huntly and the Hamiltons formally submitted “to the King’s obedience and government of his Regent, James Earl of Morton,” and confessed “that all things done or assisted unto by them in name or by color of any other authority has been unlawful”; but the lords conceded that “it shall be decreed by Act of Parliament that all penalties arising therefrom against certain members of the House of Hamilton and others since the 15th June 1567 shall be void and of none effect.” However, this did not extend to the murders of Moray and Lennox, “which is a matter of such weight and importance that the Regent cannot conveniently of himself remit them; yet the matter of the remission of the murders being moved to the Queen of England, whatever she shall advise and counsel the Regent, with consent of Parliament, will perform and observe.”73

  Margaret had evidently been pressing for the Hamiltons to be brought to justice. On March 14, Killigrew wrote to Burghley “that in his poor opinion the Queen may in honour consent” to spare them “to save the kingdom from shipwreck. If Lady Lennox be not satisfied, it would be asked whether war would make the matter better or worse, and whether it be not more necessary to preserve him that is alive than to continue the danger of his life in seeking a revenge for the dead; yet if she were to persuade the Queen to send the Regent means to win the castle [of Edinburgh], she could not be better revenged, nor do the Queen and this young babe greater service.” In a postscript he recommended that Margaret be persuaded to make John Cunningham, Laird of Drumquhassle and Captain of Dumbarton, “receiver and overseer of the earldom of Lennox during the Earl’s minority, and make yearly account thereof, which will be a small matter by reason that the land is all mortgage, which he must unmortgage with his own money and policy.”74

  On March 29, Killigrew informed Burghley: “The young King and the Countess of Mar write to the Queen of England [and] to the Countess of Lennox, who has the delivery of them; the King’s letter contains thanks, with desire of aid of her as the princess under God whom he most leaneth unto for help.”75 Nesbit was also sending Margaret news from Scotland.76

  Elizabeth had sent a force to aid the regency government against Mary’s supporters, and in June, Morton sent Margaret the momentous news that Edinburgh Castle had fallen to the besiegers. Maitland, “the fountain of all the mischief,” had “departed this life,” probably by his own hand. Morton went on:

  I will require your Grace to give your most hearty thanks to my lord of Leicester and my Lord Treasurer [Burghley] for their great goodwill declared in the advancement of this action by furthering of her Majesty’s aid and forces, whereby this troublesome castle is recovered, and peace restored to our country.

  I might also forewarn your Grace to be wary and circumspect with the Marshal of Berwick’s [Drury’s] information, for that he is undoubtedly a secret friend to our enemies. Yet were it most convenient that he were removed from his charge at Berwick, and that if your Grace’s talk might anywise procure that Mr. Killigrew should be returned hither, who has done notable good service and is able to do further if he were here employed, and that also he we
re made governor of Berwick, which, in my own opinion, would be a great advancement to her Majesty’s service and both the countries, knowing him so well as I do to be faithful to his mistress and his country, and so well beloved here for the good parts found in him, that I think none can travail in the like service that shall acquire greater benevolence and reputation. And in the meantime I will pray your Grace to give him hearty thanks, which assuredly he has well deserved.77

  It is clear from Morton’s letter that Margaret still had influence at the English court.

  On August 5, 1573, he informed her that, two days earlier, Grange had been executed. In the same letter Morton accused Drury of appropriating some of the Scottish crown jewels that had been left in the castle, and asked Margaret, since Drury was now at the English court, to request their return.78 That same day he prayed Killigrew to advise her “in what order it is best to handle the matter.”79 On August 19, Morton thanked Margaret “for the great care and goodwill you show to the furtherance of the King your dearest nephew’s [sic] affairs there” and wished “that you may long continue in good health, and so be able to stand him in good stead there, as you have always heretofore.” He also wanted to know what progress she had made with Drury, “trusting shortly to understand from you what you have done in that behalf.”80 But in the end it was discovered that Drury had been the victim of a malicious allegation, and had not had the jewels at all.81

  Morton had asked Margaret to use her influence to get Killigrew sent back to Scotland, but that did not happen until May 1574; the lapse of nine months suggests that Margaret had not been behind his appointment. In fact she was probably at Settrington, for between January 1573 and February 1574 we find her leasing land, meadows and farms to her tenants there.82 She was also at Temple Newsam in the summer of 1574,83 and it was soon after that that the last great drama of her life would be played out.

 
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