Book Review: Margaret Tudor – The Life of Henry VIII’s Sister

Jane Seymour (2)

Margaret Tudor was an English Princess and daughter of the first Tudor monarch, King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York; Margaret was the sister of King Henry VIII and married King James IV of Scotland – did I mention she was also mother of King James V?

I was approached by Pens & Sword History to write a review on the book?Margaret Tudor: The Life of Henry VIII’s Sister?by author and historian Melanie Clegg, and happily accepted the opportunity to learn more about one of the Tudor siblings. I tend to focus on the life of her brother and so I found this as a great opportunity to learn more about this magnificent woman.

Excerpt from

When the thirteen year old Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York, married King James IV of Scotland in a magnificent proxy ceremony held at Richmond Palace in January 1503, no one could have guessed that this pretty, redheaded princess would go on to have a marital career as dramatic and chequered as that of her younger brother Henry VIII.

Left widowed at the age of just twenty three after her husband was killed by her brother?s army at the battle of Flodden, Margaret was made Regent for her young son and was temporarily the most powerful woman in Scotland – until she fell in love with the wrong man, lost everything and was forced to flee the country. In a life that foreshadowed that of her tragic, fascinating granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots, Margaret hurtled from one disaster to the next and ended her life abandoned by virtually everyone: a victim both of her own poor life choices and of the simmering hostility between her son, James V and her brother, Henry VIII.

My Review:

Margaret Tudor, if she had been born male, would have been no different from any other King of England, and if she lived in the modern world may have been a force to be reckoned with. When I read books about royal women who are ruled by men it leaves me frustrated. Frustrated for them, that is. In this book I put myself in Margaret’s shoes and felt the frustration when her conniving husbands stole her money (which, by the way they could because men ruled women) and left her nearly penniless. It was in those moments that you see a Margaret Tudor who was very much like her brother Henry. She was also fiercely protective of her children.

Margaret was not afraid to ask her brother Henry VIII for help when she needed it. It appears that she took her role in Scotland very seriously and wished to keep relations between the two countries stable. Unfortunately for Margaret, both her brother and first husband, King James IV of Scotland were men who did not back down from a fight.

Because of this book I now look at James IV much differently than I used to, and this has piqued my interested to learn more about him. He appears to have been good to his queen consort even though he had mistresses and many illegitimate children. Something Margaret, like her grandmother Elizabeth Woodville, learned to live with because she was treated so well.

When James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden the Regent in England (Katherine of Aragon) contemplated sending the dead king’s body to her husband while he was fighting in France, but instead only sent his blood-stained surcoat. I was very interested in how the author described how Henry VIII would have reacted had she sent the body…but I do not want to ruin the story for you.

This story is a quick and entertaining read and is well-written and researched. At moments I nearly forgot I was reading non-fiction because Clegg did such an amazing job putting together all the pieces and painting a picture of Margaret’s life in detail.

What did I take from this book??Margaret had the Tudor fiery temper and stubbornness. She also ruled with the heart, something her granddaughter (Mary, Queen of Scots) would be claimed of as well.

If you love to learn about the Tudor dynasty I highly recommend buying this book. This book will be released in the US on January 4th.

Amazon – US (discounted pre-order price available now!)

Amazon – UK

FLODDEN: A Tale of Two Queens (Guest Post)

Guest article by Leanda de Lisle

The battle of Flodden, which took place in Northumberland over five hundred years ago, is not only a story of fighting men. It is also a tale of two Queens. Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots, who lost her husband in the battle on 9 September 1513 and Katherine of Aragon, Queen, Captain General of the English army that killed him.  It is a story of a devastating defeat, but also of ultimate triumph.

For Margaret Tudor it began in August 1513, when she bid her husband James IV of Scots, farewell at Linlithgow palace, West Lothian. Legend has it that she begged her husband not to leave her, and was angry that he intended to make war on her brother, Henry VIII.  In reality, her chief concern was for her husband’s life. Born an English princess, she was, as she often asserted, ‘a Scotswoman now’.

The relationship between the royal brothers in law had broken down after Henry VIII had claimed he was the rightful overlord of Scotland. A furious King James was determined to punish him, and when Henry had led his army into France in June 1513, looking for glory in a continental war, James had decided to plan his own invasion – of England.  Having parted from Margaret Tudor, James crossed the border into Northumberland on 24 August at the head of the greatest army ever gathered in Scotland.

Fortress after fortress fell to the Scottish king. But Henry VIII was certain his wife, Katherine of Aragon, would be a match for James. She was the daughter of Queen Isabella of Castile, who had thrown the Moors out of Spain. He had made her Captain General of his armies in England his absence, and Katherine, busy organizing artillery and gunners, wrote to re-assure him that she was ready for a fight and, ‘My heart is very good to it’.

Not that Katherine underestimated James. The French had trained large numbers of his men in the use of the Swiss pike: fearsome weapons, eighteen to twenty-two feet long, that could stop a cavalry charge in its tracks. When her battlefield commander, the Earl of Surrey, reached James’s army at Flodden, Katherine was already preparing a defensive line further south, in case Surrey lost to the Scottish king.

The battle of Flodden began after days of appalling weather, with the Scots pikemen advancing down Branxton hill. The wind and rain battered them and the soft ground broke up their formation, but they remained in good order, walking in eerie silence. The English described them as ‘Germanic’.

At Linlithgow palace Margaret Tudor could only await news from the battlefield. A room in the northwest Tower, with sweeping views across open countryside, is that, at which, in romantic tradition, Margaret scanned the horizon for the expected messengers.  Rumours of many dead reached Edinburgh on 10 September and it was not long before Margaret learned the full, and terrible, story.

The English had counter attacked the pikemen on foot, using the bill, a simple hook on the end of a pole. This allowed them to strike the Scots at close quarters. But, one Englishman complained, the Scots were ‘such large and strong men, they would not fall when four or five bills struck them’.  A desperate struggle had been fought ‘with great slaughter, sweating and travail’ on both sides before the battle had ended in defeat for the Scots. Ten thousand of them lay slain: ‘The prime o’ our land.. cauld in the clay..’ is how they are remembered in the pipers lament ‘The Flowers of the Forest’,  played today at the funerals of fallen servicemen.

The dead included earls, lords and even bishops. But the most significant was Margaret’s husband. His body had fallen near the royal Scottish banner of the red lion rampant. King James’s left hand was almost severed, his throat gashed, and an arrow was shot through his lower jaw. The English commander, Surrey, was rewarded for the English victory over James with the restoration of the family title, Duke of Norfolk and chose a new augmentation to his heraldic arms. Still used by the family, it recalls the spectacle of James’s corpse: a red lion rampant, with an arrow though its head.

That night the English soldiers, who had lost 4000 of their countrymen, toasted their victory with Scottish beer – which they commented was surprisingly good. Katherine of Aragon, meanwhile, wrote to her sister in law to assure her, ‘The Queen of England for the love she bears the Queen of Scots would gladly send a servant to comfort her’ in her grief.  But to Henry, Katherine expressed a rather different emotion – pride that she had helped to kill a king.

Katherine had wanted to send James’s head to France, ‘but’ she complained, ‘our Englishmen’s hearts would not suffer it’. Instead she sent Henry the chequered surcoat taken from James’s body, which she suggested he use as his banner. Looking at it, ‘rent and torn with blood’ Henry said James had, ‘paid a heavier penalty for his perfidy than we would have wished’. And years later, when Henry planned to divorce Katherine and marry Anne Boleyn, he still recalled with trepidation her ability to ‘carry on a war’ as ‘fiercely as her mother had done in Spain’.

James’s body was brought to London from Flodden and paraded through the streets slung over a horse.  Katherine received it at the Carthusian Monastery at Sheen, and later, at Henry’s request, the Pope gave permission for it to be buried at St Paul’s. But, for whatever reason, Henry never buried James, and in the reign of Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth I, the body was still at Sheen, where it was found cast, ‘ into an old waste room, amongst old timber, stone, lead, and other rubble’.

Later some Elizabethan workmen cut off James’s head ‘for their foolish pleasure’. It still had his red beard when a Londoner rescued it, keeping it in his house, saying it smelled nice. Eventually he had it buried at St Michael’s Church, Wood Street, in the City of London. The Church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666 and today a pub marks the burial spot of the last king to die in battle on British soil.

Margaret Tudor’s life after her husband’s death was not to be an easy one. Under the terms of James’s will his ‘most dearest spouse’, became regent of Scotland for their infant son, making her the first Tudor woman to rule a kingdom. But it was a position from which she was soon ousted. The Scots never really forgave her for being English born. It was through Margaret, however, that the Scottish crown would eventually triumph over that of England, for in dynastic matters having children was still more important than winning battles.

It was Margaret, and not Katherine of Aragon, whose heirs would carry forward the royal bloodlines of England, as well as Scotland. In 1603, on the death of Elizabeth I, Margaret’s great-grandson united the crowns of England and Scotland as James VI & I. The ghosts of the Flodden were laid to rest at last, with peace between the once warring kingdoms, a victory for all.

About the Author:

I was born in Westminster, London and read History at Somerville College, Oxford University, before taking up national newspaper and magazine columns, and later publishing best selling Tudor and Stuart history.

After Elizabeth: The Death of Elizabeth & the Coming of King James, was runner up for the Saltire Society’s First Book of the Year award. My next book, the New York Time best selling biography, The Sisters Who Would be Queen; The tragedy of Mary, Katherine & Lady Jane Grey, provided the non-fiction basis for Phillippa Gregory’s 2017 novel The Last Tudor, and was described by Professor John Guy as ‘gripping’ and ‘an unrivalled account’.

Tudor; The Family Story (1437-1603), was a Sunday Times top ten best-seller and reader reviews average over four stars on both Amazon and Goodreads. My latest book, White King, is a biography of Charles I and his loss of three kingdoms. Based on my new manuscript discoveries, with many never before seen royal letters, it describes the descent of his kingdoms into failed states, and the true role of his remarkable and maligned queen.

I regularly write and speak on matters historical for TV, radio, and a number of publications including the Times, the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, the Daily Express, BBC History magazine, History Today, the Literary Review, the New Criterion and the Spectator.

I have a free podcast on itunes and soundcloud called 10 Minute Tudors, and a website

Books by the Author:

The Relationship Between Mary and Elizabeth Tudor

Princess Mary Tudor was the apple of her father’s eye for many years prior Anne Boleyn returning to England. Freshly back from her duties in France, Anne was unlike most women and Henry VIII noticed.

We don’t know the exact date that Henry noticed Anne but once he did it changed the course of English history.

After Katherine of Aragon’s last unsuccessful pregnancy Henry began to consider that he would never have a male heir. He believed the fact that he had married his brother’s widow was the reason why. That God would not grant them living male sons because of their sin. Henry referenced Leviticus 20: 21 which said: “If a man should take his brother’s wife it is an unclean thing…he shall be without children.” Henry took this as living sons, specifically. This was completely against everything that happened at the beginning of their marriage – Henry made sure to get a papal dispensation so he could wed his brother’s widow. Now it was convenient for the king to turn things around to his advantage.

It was around 1524, when Henry began to aggressively pursue Anne Boleyn, historian Eric Ives believed that this is when Henry began to reject Katherine of Aragon and stopped sleeping with her…it had been seven years since her last pregnancy. When exactly he began to turn away from Katherine is unclear. It may have been in 1522 but most definitely by 1525 when he brought his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, out of the shadows and created him Duke of Richmond. This gave him precedence over everyone except for a legitimate son he may have in the future.

Henry didn’t immediately turn against his daughter Mary, it took time for that to come to fruition. But once he did, poor Mary must have been so confused. As a young woman it must have been heartbreaking to lose the love of your father, and king. No wonder why she disliked Anne so much. Who could blame her – she saw Anne as the woman who took away her father and destroyed her family. While that may be what Mary believed, it’s definitely not the truth – Henry is responsible for this as Anne tried several times to have a relationship with Mary. Mary always refused because she was loyal to her mother.

On the 7th of September 1533, Queen Anne Boleyn gave birth to Princess Elizabeth. She and the King were disappointed that their first child was a daughter but were optimistic their next would be a son. Unfortunately, this is when things began to change for Mary. Soon after, Mary would lose her title of Princess and only be referred to as Lady Mary Tudor. Could you imagine? For seventeen years you are a princess and suddenly you no longer have the prestigious title that goes along with being the legitimate daughter of a king. Her mother had already fallen from grace as the King had ended their marriage, and now Mary was removed from the line of succession and declared illegitimate. One can only imagine the malice Mary held toward Anne because of this. She definitely saw this woman as the one responsible for her misery.

Not only had she lost her title but she also had to serve in the household of Princess Elizabeth. You would think Mary definitely had animosity toward the situation she was in. She was defiant when first placed in Elizabeth’s household at Hatfield – she spent days in her chamber, uncontrollably crying and refusing to acknowledge Elizabeth as Princess. She would, however, call Elizabeth “sister” just as she called Henry Fitzroy, “brother”.

I’m not aware of how Mary felt toward Henry Fitzroy but I assume it was similar to her feelings for Elizabeth. However, Fitzroy’s mother had not destroyed everything she ever knew. So it’s possible she liked him as well.

It is clear that Anne did not feel threatened by Fitzroy; She was instrumental in securing the marriage between her cousin Mary Howard and him. This is something that I do not understand. You would think the last thing she wanted was to have him declared legitimate and thus remove her daughter from the line of succession, but it did not seem to be a concern of hers.

The Concubine’s Downfall

Anne’s marriage being declared null and void after she was charged with adultery made their daughter illegitimate along with her sister, Mary – Henry Fitzroy was now presumably the only heir presumptive. Of course, Henry expected to have a son by Jane Seymour but Fitzroy was his steady backup, even though he himself was still considered illegitimate.

According to author Antonia Frasier, after Anne Boleyn’s arrest Henry VIII went to see his son, Henry Fitzroy. In tears he told Fitzroy that Anne was a ‘poisoning whore’ – who had planned to kill both him and his half-sister Mary; what a lucky escape they had had!

In David Starkey’s book titled, “Elizabeth” he says that after the execution of Anne Boleyn that Mary made her peace with Boleyn’s ghost and prayed that ‘that woman’ might be forgiven. He also mentioned that Mary and Elizabeth got along well and lived amiably under the same roof. The sisters became really close.

Two months after Anne’s execution Henry Fitzroy died. This left poor old Henry VIII without Fitzroy as his backup and Jane Seymour was not yet pregnant.

But, in October 1537, Jane Seymour gave birth to a son – Henry was over the moon and great celebrations were had everywhere. From all accounts, both Mary and Elizabeth loved their brother Edward – there is nothing recorded that would tell us they harbored any resentment toward their brother, the prince. The siblings all loved one another – they didn’t care that they had different mothers, they were all children of the king.

King Edward VI

When Edward ascended to the throne in 1547, he would continue with the Reformation process and push it even further than his father had. This was something that truly upset Mary as she was a staunch Catholic. Several times Edward attempted to press Mary to convert and was unsuccessful. He even jokingly suggested that Thomas Seymour wed his sister so he could change her ways. That, of course, never happened as Seymour only wanted Elizabeth or Katherine Parr.

Queen Mary I

Mary’s rise to the throne after the death of her brother, King Edward VI wasn’t without issue. Mary had spent most of her adult life in uncertainty and received no proper training to prepare her for her role as queen. However, by right, she was the heir per her father’s Act of Succession – nonetheless, Edward, on his death-bed attempted to change the succession by naming Lady Jane Grey, a fellow Protestant as his heir (excluding both of his sisters). This devise of succession did not have the Council’s approval. Author Sarah Gristwood states in her book, “Elizabeth & Leicester” that Edward’s justification behind removing his sisters from the line of succession was that they were both bastards of the late king and could both marry abroad. “No wonder Elizabeth saw marriage as a poor consolation prize.

This was a turning point for Mary, she realized that there were people who did not want her on the throne. She also knew that her sister Elizabeth was raised in the Protestant faith and there was concern about others wishing Elizabeth to take her place. Mere months after Mary became queen, Elizabeth felt it necessary to reach out to her sister for a meeting. She understood that her sister was aware of her religion and so pleaded ignorance of, not hostility toward, the Catholic faith. All she knew was how she was raised…as a Protestant.

Not long after Mary’s coronation she had Parliament declare the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon valid – this appears to have brought up old hostilities toward Elizabeth. She even toyed with the idea of removing Elizabeth from the line of succession but found that would not be as easy as she thought, regardless she would not need to worry about that since she’d hope to have a child of her own making it all unnecessary.

Mary’s Council continued to push her to rid herself of Lady Jane Grey, who was sitting in the Tower of London, as they saw her as a threat to her throne. Mary was soft about her dear cousin and kept her locked away instead of executing her. She understood that Jane wanted no part in becoming queen and felt sorry for her. It wasn’t until Wyatt’s Rebellion that her hand was forced and the execution of Jane was ordered.

Wyatt’s Rebellion only cemented Mary’s paranoia against her sister and Jane’s fate. It appears that Mary was concerned about what Elizabeth was doing and who was in her inner circle. Elizabeth, not wanting to be on her sister’s bad sad, made sure by all outward appearances to act the loyal subject by practicing the Catholic faith in public and not associating herself with rebels, hoping her sister would not find reason to arrest her.

With all the turmoil in the country surrounding religion, many wished Mary to be removed from her throne and Elizabeth to take over as Queen of England. Elizabeth was smart enough to know it was suicide to go along with any plans and seemed comfortable waiting for her turn. She may not have agreed with her sister’s dealings as queen but she knew it was suicide to go against Mary. The queen was paranoid nonetheless and called for her sister to come to London. Allison Weir states in her book, “The Children of Henry VIII” that Elizabeth feigned sickness to save herself. Ambassador Renard suspected that Elizabeth was pregnant with Edward Courtenay’s baby, so Mary’s physicians examined Elizabeth to ensure she was safe for travel and concluded that she was only suffering from ‘watery humours’ or nephritis and was able to travel to court. Renard continued to push for Elizabeth and Edward Courtenay’s execution, going so far to say, When these traitors have been removed “Your Majesty need have no fear for your crown.” Renard is an example of the type of people who were trying to keep the sisters apart. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was probably the one person who understood Mary best.

We will never know for certain whether or not Elizabeth’s ‘illnesses’ were real or not but we can conclude that she was smart enough to know how to manipulate situations to her advantage.

Mary’s concerns were real. As the first Queen regnant of England she was paving a path that was never laid out before. There were enemies around every corner and she had to figure out on her own who was friend and who was foe. It appears that many were convincing her that her sister was foe – so many that there were rumors that Mary would name her Catholic cousin, Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox her heir. Margaret was the daughter of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret Tudor, who had been queen consort of King James IV of Scotland. With this in mind, Margaret Douglas seized the opportunity to besmirch Elizabeth’s reputation by relaying gossip about her to Mary so she would look more favorably on her.

When the queen wed Philip of Spain her subjects and the Council were not pleased with her. She had truly believed that it was God who wished her to marry Philip to help in restore England to Catholicism and Rome. Of course, it had been many years since her father had become the Head of the Church of England so many of her subjects were raised Protestant and happy to continue as such. There were others who were just as happy to return to Catholicism. It was a difficult time to live in England.

Even though Mary locked away her sister in the Tower of London to control the situation, she always had a connection with her sister. She had helped raise Elizabeth years ago and understood her personality better than anyone else. When Elizabeth was first placed in the Tower she requested, no begged, to  write to her sister and plea her case. She was so concerned that other’s would try to change her message that she scored the blank space at the bottom of the letter to ensure nothing could be added.

In her dying days, Queen Mary understood that if God would give her ‘no fruit nor heir of my body’ that England would then go to the person ‘the laws of this realm’ decreed. Mary could not get herself to name Elizabeth as her heir but knew her statement made it so. She made Elizabeth promise that she would not immediately change the country’s religion, and to pay the queen’s debts.

In the end, I truly believe that Mary loved Elizabeth – she was her kin and both were children of a king and his queen consorts. She never executed her sister, only threatened her harm to get her way.

*If you are interested in hearing the recorded version of this article in my podcast, click HERE.


Ives, Eric; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne
Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII
Gristwood, Sarah; Game of Queens – The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe
Gristwood, Sarah; Elizabeth & Leicester – The Truth About the Virgin Queen and the Man She Loved
Gristwood, Sarah; Blood Sisters – The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
Weir, Alison; The Children of Henry VIII

Further Reading (Fiction):

Lawrence, G.; The Bastard Princess
Lawrence, G.; The Heretic Heir

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Margaret Douglas: Forbidden Love

Margaret Douglas, the daughter of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret, dowager queen of Scotland and Archibald Douglas, had been appointed as a lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn. It is while serving Anne that she metLord Thomas Howard. He was the younger son of Anne Boleyn’s great-uncle, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Near the end of 1535, Margaret and Thomas had fallen in love and became secretly engaged.

Forbidden Love

It was in July, after the downfall of Anne Boleyn, that Henry VIII learned of the couple’s engagement — He was enraged by the news. The King had recently declared his Elizabeth a bastard, while his other daughter, Mary had already been named one. This left Margaret Douglas, next to Henry Fitzroy in the line of succession. Her unauthorized engagement to Lord Howard did not fit into Henry’s politics.

Both Margaret Douglas and Lord Howard were imprisoned in the Tower of London for their offenses.

On 18 July 1536, Parliament, by an Act of Attainder, condemned Thomas to death for attempting to ‘interrupt ympedyte and lett the seid Succession of the Crowne’. The Act also forbade the marriage of any member of the King’s family without his permission.Thomas was spared execution, but remained in the Tower even after Margaret broke off their relationship.

While in the Tower, Margaret Douglas fell ill — her mother, Margaret Tudor, dowager queen of Scotland, wrote her brother King Henry to request she be sent back to Scotland and never return to England.

(c) The Queen's College, University of Oxford; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) The Queen’s College, University of Oxford; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Concerned Mother

Margaret Tudor, dowager queen of Scotland to Henry VIII:

Dearest brother,

In our most hearty manner we recommend us unto your grace. Please you understand we are informed lately that our daughter Margaret Douglas should, by your grace’s advice, promise to marry Thomas Howard, and that your grace is displeased that she should promise or desire such thing; and that your grace is resolved to punish my daughter and your near cousin to extreme rigour, which we no way can believe, considering she is our natural daughter, your niece, and sister natural unto the king our dearest son, your nephew; who will not believe that you will do such extremity upon your own, ours, and his, being so tender to us all three as our natural daughter is. Dearest brother, we beseech your grace, of sisterly kindness and natural love we bear, and that you owe to us your only sister, to have compassion and pity of us your sister and of our natural daughter and sister to the king our only natural son and your dearest nephew; and to grant our said daughter Margaret your grace’s pardon, grace, and favour, and remit of such as your grace has put to her charge. And, if it please your grace, to be content she come in Scotland, so that in time coming she shall never come in your grace’s presence. And this, dearest brother, we, in our most hearty, affectionate, tender manner, most specially and most humbly beseech your grace to do, as we doubt not your wisdom will think to your honour, since this our request is dear and tender to us, the gentlewoman’s natural mother, and we your natural sister, that makes this piteous and most humble request. Farther, please your grace, this bearer will inform. And the Eternal God conserve your grace, as we would be ourself.

Written of Perth, this 12th day of August (1536), by your grace’s most loving sister,

Margaret R.

The King allowed Margaret Douglas to be moved from the Tower of London to Syon Abbey, she was supervised there by Abbess Agnes Jordan.

Funerary Brass of Dame Agnes Jordan
Funerary Brass of Dame Agnes Jordan

Repentant Margaret

While she was kept at Syon Abbey, Margaret Douglas received a letter from Cromwell after it had been said she had too large a train of servants and had too many visitors. Here is her reply to Cromwell’s accusations:

My lord,

What cause have I to give you thanks, and how much bound am I unto you, that by your means hath gotten me, as I trust, the king’s grace’s favour again! and, besides that, that it pleaseth you to write and to give me knowledge wherein I might have his grace’s displeasure, against which I pray our Lord sooner to send me death than that; and I assure you, my lord, I will never do that thing willingly that should offend his grace. And, my lord, whereas it is informed you that I do charge the house with a greater number than is convenient, I assure you I have but two more than I had in the court, which, indeed, were my lord Thomas’ servants; and the cause that I took them for was, for the poverty that I saw them in, and for no cause else. But seeing, my lord, that it is your pleasure that I shall keep none that did belong unto my lord Thomas, I will put them from me. And I beseech you not to think that any fancy doth remain in me touching him; but that all my study and care is how to please the king’s grace, and to continue in his favour. And, my lord, where it is your pleasure that I shall keep but a few here with me, I trust you will think that I can have no fewer than I have, for I have but a gentleman and a grooms that keeps my apparel, and another that keeps my chamber, and a chaplain that was with me always in the court. Now, my lord, I beseech you that I may know your pleasure, if you would that I should keep any fewer howbeit, my lord, my servants have put the house to small charge, for they have nothing but the reversion of my board, nor I do call for nothing but that that is given me; howbeit, I am very well intreated. And, my lord, as for resort (company), I promise you I have none except it be gentlewomen that comes to see me, nor never had since I came hither; for if any resort of men had come, it should neither have become me to have seen them, nor yet to have kept them company, being a maid as I am. Now, my lord, I beseech you to be so good as to get my poor servants their wages; and thus I pray our Lord to preserve you, both soul and body.

By her that has her trust in you,

Margaret Douglas

Portrait thought to be Margaret Douglas; c. 1546

She was eventually released from imprisonment on 29 October 1537 — two days later, the man she had loved died.

Margaret Douglas went on to live a full life — she was the mother of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley who was the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. That’s another story, for another day.


The Forgotten Tudor Women bySylvia Barbara Soberton
Wikipedia – Margaret Douglas
Wikipedia – Syon Abbey

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Mother Guildford: Joan Vaux

It’s not very often that we take a look behind the scenes to the people who cared for the beloved children of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. I stumbled across Joan Vaux while looking through old translated letters, however, she was mis-labeled as Jane, Lady Guildford – or “Mother Guildford.” In the explanation of this letter it discusses her dismissal from the service of Mary, the French queen, by her husband Louis XII. This, of course, is referring to Mary Tudor – favorite sister of Henry VIII.

With this information I decided to look into ladies-in-waiting to the French queen. This is when I discovered a Joan (not Jane) who had many years earlier been named the Lady Governess to the royal children, Princess Margaret and Princess Mary starting in 1499. Since she was so young Princess Mary became very close to her Governess and relied upon her greatly.

Joan Vaux, Mother Guildford

Lady Guildford
Joan Vaux, Lady Guildford

Joan Vaux was born around 1463 to  Sir William Vaux and Katherine Penyston. Joan’s first station at court was as a lady-in-waiting to Margaret Beaufort after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

In 1489, Joan married Sir Richard Guildford (1455-1506) at the age of 26, which to be honest was rather old for a first marriage; Henry VII and Elizabeth of York were in attendance at their wedding. That same year the couple are reported to have had a son, Sir Henry Guildford.

By 1499, Lady Guildford became Governess to ten-year old Princess Margaret and three-year old Princess Mary Tudor. It’s no surprise that Mary had a close relationship with Joan since she would have had grown up in her care; She was like a second mother.

Upon the arrival of Katherine of Aragon in 1501, Joan was present with Queen Elizabeth. Not long after meeting Arthur, Prince of Wales Katherine and her ladies had danced the pavane:

The pavane’s basic movement, to music in 2/2 or 4/4 time, consisted of forward and backward steps; the dancers rose onto the balls of their feet and swayed from side to side.

Arthur Tudor eventually joined in and Katherine, along with one of her ladies, taught him a dignified Spanish dance after which he danced with Lady Guildford in the English style – “right pleasurably and honourably.”

Unfortunately, in 1506, Joan’s husband Sir Richard Guildford died while on pilgrimage in Jerusalem. Sometime that year she also re-joined the household of Margaret Beaufort until the King’s Mother’s death in 1509, at which time Joan retired from court and moved to a house in Blackfriars, London.

At some point she remarried. The date is unknown. Her second husband was sir Anthony Poyntz, but she retained the name Guildford for the rest of her life. Poyntz was English diplomat and naval commander. He was the son of Sir Robert Poyntz, and Margaret Woodville, who was the illegitimate daughter of Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers. Poyntz died in 1533, leaving Joan as a widow once again.

France 1514

Mary Tudor, Queen of France

Joan remains quiet until 1514, when she is reunited with Princess Mary Tudor upon her forthcoming wedding in France to King Louis XII. Following the wedding, the French king dismissed a majority of Mary’s English attendants, including Joan. Mary was so upset that she wrote a letter to her brother, Henry VIII and Wolsey to voice her displeasure.

Mary, Queen of France to Wolsey: (Letters and Papers: Henry VIII)

Complains of her servants having been discharged the morning after her marriage; among the rest her “mother Guldeford,” whom the King and Wolsey advised her always to consult. No attention was paid to Mary’s urgent request that she should remain. Has many other discomforts besides. Begs Wolsey will find the means to have her sent back. “I had as lief lose the winning I shall have in France as to lose her counsel when I shall lack it; which is not like long to be required, as I am sure the noblemen and gentlemen can show you more than becometh me to write in this matter.” Is dissatisfied with Norfolk

Mary, Queen of France to her brother, Henry VIII: (Mary writes Henry to ask for Joan’s return)

“Begs credence for her, and desires her return.” “I marvel much that my Lord of Norfolk wold at all times so lightly grant everything at their requests here. I am well assured that when ye know the truth of everything, as my mother Guildford can show you, ye wold full little have thought I should have been thus intreated, that would God my Lord of Zorke had come with me in the room of my Lord of Norfolk, for then am I sure I should have been left much more at my heart’s ease than I am now.”

King Louis did not allow Joan to stay in France. He had a strong dislike of her and how she advised his wife. There was nothing anyone could do on Joan’s behalf. Joan was very upset about this and wrote to Henry VIII who in turn paid her a pension for her past loyalties to her grandmother, his parents and his sisters.

After her return to England in 1514, Joan went rather quiet, and we do not hear much from her again until she makes out her will in 1538.

At the commencement of her will, Joan was said to describe herself as of sound mind, but sick in body — she only survived a few more days. She died on Wednesday, 4th of September 1538, between 11 and 12 am., “very weak and repentant.” She was 75 years old. Joan outlived her charge, Mary, by five years.


Weir, Alison; Six Wives of Henry VIII – page 30

‘Henry VIII: October 1514, 1-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1920), pp. 1401-1417. British History Online [accessed 14 July 2016].

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Was Henry Stuart a Pawn?

Was Henry Stuart a Pawn-
When you think of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley a couple of things come to mind – his tumultuous marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots and his scandalous death that made Mary herself the prime suspect. But what do you know about Darnley prior to his marriage to the Queen of Scots?

Henry Stuart was born the 7th of December 1545 to Margaret Douglas and her husband Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox in England. Named after King Henry VIII, Darnley’s mother was the daughter of Margaret Tudor (Henry VIII’s sister) and her second husband, Archibald Douglas. His father was third in line to the throne of Scotland as a descendant of James II of Scotland – so between his two parents he had a strong claim to both the English and Scottish thrones.


The upbringing of Henry Stuart was much like that of a prince or princess of England. He had tutors and was taught Latin, French and was familiar with Scottish Gaelic as well. As any noble he excelled at singing, playing the lute and dancing. Very similar to his great-uncle Henry VIII, he was strong, athletic, a good horseman and had a passion for hunting and hawking.

From early on it seems that Henry’s mother, Margaret Douglas had a hand in everything that Henry did. She may have also pushed Henry to wed his first cousin, the Queen of Scots. What desire did Margaret have to place her son on the throne of Scotland? Did it have something to do with the fact that Margaret felt she deserved to have a piece of Scotland for herself since her half-brother was James V, or that she felt Scotland owed her something after what it had done to her mother, Margaret Tudor? To learn more about that read: The Thistle and the Rose: English Princess, Scottish QueenHenry-stuart-darnley

King Henry II of France died from a jousting accident in 1559 – Darnley, just 13-years-old, was sent by both his parents (since they were not allowed in the country) to send his condolences and to have a formal audience with the Queen of Scots. Darnley carried a letter from his father in which he pleaded to have his forfeited Scottish estates restored to his family. This would be the first meeting between Darnley and Mary.

In 1561, both Henry Stuart and his mother were imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth, but they were released soon after. This imprisonment probably had something to do with the fact that Margaret wanted her son to take the throne of England after Elizabeth’s death – as we learned from Henry VIII, to even think of the King’s death was treason. After their release Darnley spent time at English court before eventually heading to Scotland.


In February 1565 , the now 19-year-old Darnley traveled to Scotland to meet-up with his father, Earl of Lennox. During this visit Henry fell ill with the measles while staying at Stirling Castle and the Queen of Scots took it upon herself to nurse him back to health. This is when Mary fell in love with the young Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

Darnley was tall and lanky and extremely good looking, making a huge impression on Mary right away. It is believed Elizabeth knew he was difficult and a drinker and sent him to Mary, knowing she would fall for him.”

Most of Mary’s advisers were against the love match, as was Queen Elizabeth – but Mary being the independent love-bird she was, moved forward anyway. Henry Stuart and Mary, Queen of Scots marriedin the chapel of the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on 29 July 1565.

The marriage between Henry Stuart and the Queen of Scots infuriated the Queen of England. By marrying Henry Stuart, Mary strengthened her claim to the English throne and become a bigger threat to Elizabeth’s reign.

By the Fall of 1565 Mary was pregnant with Henry’s child. They would have a boy, named James – who would later become King James VI of Scotland and James I of England.

In February 1567, Henry Stuart (King of Scots) was murdered at Kirk o’ Field.

Whether or not Henry Stuart was a pawn is left up to your interpretation. It is completely possible that Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley fell in love with Mary, Queen of Scots and wanted to marry her, but it’s also possible that he was hungry for power and would do whatever it took to get it – including manipulating a Queen.

What do YOU believe?

Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lennox
Margaret Douglas
Lady Margaret Douglas
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots
Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth of England