The Thistle and the Rose: English Princess, Scottish Queen



Part 3: Margaret Tudor, 2nd child and first daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (written October 2015)

Three Children of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York Wellcome L0021667
Henry, Arthur & Margaret – Credit: Wellcome Library, London

On 28 November 1489, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York welcomed their first daughter, Princess Margaret. Margaret was named after her paternal grandmother Margaret Beaufort and was baptized at St. Margaret’s Church in Westminster.

As a princess, Margaret would play a pivotal role in political alliances. By Margaret’s sixth birthday her father had already considered a marriage to James IV of Scotland as a way of ending his support for Perkin Warbeck.

by Frank Cadogen Cowper
Margaret & Henry – by Frank Cadogen Cowper

On 24 January 1502, England and Scotland completed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace – the first time a peace treaty was agreed upon between the two countries in nearly two centuries. The treaty included the betrothal of  Princess Margaret to James IV. With this arrangement there would be peace between the two countries.

The marriage of the thistle and the rose was finalized by proxy on 25 January 1503, at Richmond Palace. Patrick, Earl of Bothwell was proxy for the Scottish king, James IV. When the ceremony was concluded Margaret was hence forth called Queen of Scots.

The Thistle and the Rose 

The thistle is the symbol of Scotland, while the rose is the symbol of England.

Dimidiated Rose and Thistle Badge
Image Courtesy: Sodacan
It wasn’t until August of that year that their marriage was celebrated in person at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh.

The couple was married nearly a decade and even though it was a political match Margaret grew to love her husband, just as her mother did her father.

Margaret gave James IV six children, but only one of the six children would survive — he became James V of Scotland when he was only 17 months old.

(Information via Wikipedia)

  • James, Duke of Rothesay (21 February 1507, Holyrood Palace – 27 February 1508, Stirling Castle).
  • Daughter (died shortly after birth 15 July 1508, Holyrood Palace).
  • Arthur Stewart, Duke of Rothesay (20 October 1509, Holyrood Palace – 14 July 1510, Edinburgh Castle).
  • James V (10 April 1512, Linlithgow Palace – 14 December 1542, Falkland Palace).
  • Daughter (died shortly after birth November 1512, Holyrood Palace).
  • Alexander Stewart, Duke of Ross (30 April 1514, Stirling Castle – 18 December 1515, Stirling Castle).

James IV was killed during the Battle of Flodden in 1513 when Scotland took advantage of the absent Henry VIII and entered England. Margaret’s sister-in-law, Katherine of Aragon was ruling as regent in England during the absence of her husband, Henry VIII in France. Katherine celebrated the death of the Scottish King by sending her husband the bloody surcoat of James IV to prove his death. Katherine also suggested that Henry use the coat as a battle banner while at the siege of Thérouanne in France to show his conquest.

Death of the Thistle

At the time of James IV’s death, Queen Margaret was only twenty-three years old. Their son James was crowned King of Scotland  on 21 September 1513, and Margaret was allowed to act as regent, per her late husband’s will – as long as she did not remarry. At the time of the king’s death Margaret was pregnant with his child, Alexander.

When Margaret was appointed regent over her young son it caused a riff among the Scottish people since Margaret was English and a woman. England was the enemy. They had just murdered the King of Scotland.

A faction of pro-French nobles wanted Margaret removed as regent and replaced with John Stewart, 2nd Duke of Albany. John was the closest male relative to the infant prince, and now third in line to the throne.

By June 1514, Margaret had managed to reconcile with the parties, and Scotland and France agreed upon peace that same month. In Margaret’s quest for political alliances she found herself drawn toward the House of Douglas, and in particular Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, to whom she was attracted.

Regent No More

Margaret made a fateful decision, on 6 August 1514, she secretly wed the Earl of Angus. By marrying Angus she defied the conditions of her late husband’s will and forfeited her right to be regent over her infant son. The Privy Council declared she could no longer hold the position, and in addition, she lost her rights to supervision of her sons (James & Alexander). Had she obtained permission to remarry things may have turned out differently. In defiance of the Privy Council, Margaret fled with her sons to Stirling Castle.

Margaret tries to keep her sons from Angus.
Painting of Margaret, refusing to hand over custody of her sons to John Stewart, Duke of Albany, by John Faed, 1859.

Eventually, Margaret returned her sons to the new regent. She was now pregnant with the Earl of Angus’ child and they fled to England. The two settled at Harbottle Castle in the north of England in September 1515. It was there on 8 October 1515, that Margaret gave birth to their daughter, Margaret Douglas.

Margaret’s marriage with Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus had fallen apart – Margaret fought for a divorce, asking her brother Henry VIII for help obtaining one –  the English King would not oblige.

In October 1518, Margaret wrote to her brother (Henry VIII):

“I am sore troubled with my Lord of Angus since my last coming into Scotland, and every day more and more, so that we have not been together this half year… I am so minded that, an I may by law of God and to my honour, to part with him, for I wit well he loves me not, as he shows me daily.”

Margaret Tudor, dated c. 1520-1538, by Daniel Mytens.
Margaret Tudor, dated c. 1520-1538, by Daniel Mytens.

By March 1527, Margaret was finally obtained an annulment of her second marriage to the Earl of Angus, and the following April she married Henry Steward. Without obtaining permission to marry Margaret and doing so in secret, Henry Steward was arrested by the Earl of Angus.

In 1528, James V turned 16 years old and proclaimed his majority as king and removed his former step-father Angus from power. James V in turn titled his new step-father, James Steward — Lord Methven.

Margaret was once again in the good graces of her son, and hoped to convince him to improve Scotland’s relationship with England — James had other plans. He wanted an alliance with France, and so he married the daughter of Francis I – Princess Madeleine.

Unfortunately James’ marriage to Madeleine was short-lived and she passed away in July of the same year. After the death of his new bride, James V sought a second french bride.  He married Marie de Guise.  Marie and James would go on to have Mary, Queen of Scots.

Margaret’s third marriage came to the same end as her second. She wished to divorce Lord Methven, but her son would not agree to it.

Death of the Rose

On 18 October 1541, Margaret Tudor died in Methven Castle in Scotland, probably from a stroke. She was buried at the Carthusian Abbey of St. John’s in Perth, Scotland.

You just read Part 3 of the Series:

Read Part 1: The Redemption of Elizabeth of York
Read Part 2: Arthur, The Man Who Would Be King

Mary, Queen of Scots (Guest Article)

Mary, Queen of Scots  
by Susan Abernethy
The Freelance History Writer

Many know the story of Mary, Queen of Scots. While telling the story of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland I was struck by the similarities between her and her granddaughter, Mary. They both had three husbands and had a child named James who became King of Scotland when they were just babies. Both women allowed their private lives to influence their public life contributing to a loss of political credibility. It’s time to revisit all the incredible and memorable adventures of Mary, Queen of Scots.

There are a few things to keep in mind when recounting the story of Mary. The first is Mary started at a young age to consider herself the Queen of England and even had the symbol of England quartered on her coat of arms. Queen Elizabeth I would never forgive her for this affront. Mary felt Henry VIII had made a mistake in naming the heirs of his sister Mary Tudor ahead of those of her grandmother. Elizabeth I of England didn’t want to name her successor until she was on her deathbed. These things drive the story of these two Queens.

Mary was born at Linlithgow on December 8, 1542, the daughter of King James V of Scotland and Marie of Guise. Her father had been ailing for some time, possibly of a complete physical and mental breakdown and finally died six days after Mary was born. Mary was crowned Queen on September 9, 1543 at Stirling Castle. Mary’s great uncle, King Henry VIII of England made it clear he wanted her to marry his young son Edward and come to England to be brought up. The Scots wouldn’t let her out of the country but did sign the Treaty of Greenwich confirming the marriage.

After Edward became King of England, his uncle Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset was his Protector and ran his government. His regime was to harass the Scots unmercifully with the object of capturing the Queen. The government of Scotland decided the young Queen must be spirited out of the country and negotiated a treaty for her to marry the Dauphin of France breaking the Treaty of Greenwich. She left Scotland for France where she grew up with the French royal children in the Catholic Faith. She and the Dauphin Francis were married in April of 1558. Henry II, King of France died from a grisly jousting accident and Francis and Mary became King and Queen of France on July 10, 1559.

Francis suffered acutely from an abscess in his inner ear and he was to die on December 5, 1560. Mary had been Queen of France for less than two years. It was decided her best option was to return to Scotland and take over her government. Before leaving she asked permission from Elizabeth to have safe passage through England if she was blown off course. Elizabeth was to refuse permission. In response, Mary was to say that if Elizabeth would have in her hands to do her will of her and if she was so hard hearted as to desire her end, she might then do her pleasure and make sacrifice of her. “In this matter, God’s will be done”. Little did she know she was predicting her own denouement.

Without going to England, Mary made it to Scotland where she arrived in August of 1561. At first the teenaged Mary made a good impression. She had learned statecraft at the side of her uncles, Henry, Duke of Guise and Charles Guise, Cardinal of Lorraine while in France. She was capable of acting with poise and discretion and could also turn on considerable, almost siren like charm. When needed, she could act bravely in the face of adversity. She needed all this and more to deal with the many factions among the Scottish Lairds. A momentous meeting was being negotiated with Elizabeth in the summer of 1562 but somehow it just never materialized. However, Elizabeth was adamant she was the one to negotiate a new marriage for the Queen of Scots.

Mary had considered marrying a Catholic but there were few choices. She rejected Archduke Charles Hapsburg. Don Carlos, the son of King Phillip of Spain, was misshapen and mentally deranged. Elizabeth put forth as her candidate, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, her own dearest, most esteemed beloved. This was an insult to the Scottish Queen. No one really knows why Elizabeth did this but it did serve to make Henry, Lord Darnley more attractive when he showed up on the scene. Darnley was Mary’s cousin, the son of Lady Margaret Douglas, who was the daughter of Margaret Tudor by her second husband, the Earl of Angus. 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.

Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley

Mary and Darnley began spending much time together and she fell in love. They were married in July 1565. Even before the marriage things had turned sour. Darnley was a drunk. He insisted on being King and Mary gave in. Mary made the best of the union in hopes of having a child. The worse Darnley’s behavior, the more Mary came to rely on her secretary, the Italian David Riccio for help in governing and for companionship. There was probably nothing untoward about the relationship but Darnley and other lairds were resentful of Riccio’s influence on Mary.

On March 9, 1566 the Queen who was six months pregnant was with a few friends and Riccio in her cabinet at Holyrood Palace when the King and some lairds burst into the room. They dragged off Riccio and stabbed him to death within earshot of the Queen while, Mary insisted, a gun was held to her belly. Mary’s response was courageous and resolute. She took Darnley aside and convinced him the lairds would come after them as soon as their child was born and a few days later they escaped to Dunbar Castle.

A week later, at the head of a small army led by James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, Mary returned to Edinburgh and was back in charge. Mary’s son James was born in Edinburgh Castle on June 19, 1566. By the fall of 1566, Bothwell had control of the Queen and almost all the lairds were united in their desire to get rid of Darnley. A conspiracy was born. On February 10, 1567, a huge explosion of gunpowder erupted at Kirk o’Field in Edinburgh where Darnley was recovering from an attack of syphilis. His body was discovered in the garden so he didn’t die in the explosion. While we will never know the truth of what happened, the circumstantial evidence is very strong against Mary and Bothwell.

On April 12, Bothwell was acquitted of Darnley’s murder. On April 21, Mary went to Stirling to visit her son and four days later was riding back to Edinburgh when Bothwell and four hundred horsemen “kidnapped” Mary and took her to Dunbar where he supposedly “raped” her. On the 15th of May, at Holyrood, Mary was married to Bothwell, a divorced man, in accordance with the Protestant rite. Mary’s bad judgment was the consternation of all Christendom. There was so much feuding, conflict and tension by now that Mary may have felt the only one who could help her was Bothwell, recently named the Duke of Orkney. The lairds banded together to seek revenge for the King’s murder and to separate Mary from Bothwell.

Mary and Bothwell moved to Borthwick Castle to try to raise an army. They were unable to get much support. After a confrontation with the lairds on June 15 at Carberry Hill, Mary surrendered and Bothwell escaped. Mary was taken back to Edinburgh where the crowd yelled at her “Burn the whore!”, “Kill her!”, “Drown her!”, “She is not worthy to live!”. The next day Mary was taken to prison at Lochleven and forced to abdicate in favor of her son James who was crowned King on July 29th at Stirling. Mary had a miscarriage of twins, supposedly Bothwell’s children. Bothwell escaped to Norway and then Denmark where he lived out the rest of his life, mostly in prison.

On Sunday, May 2, 1567, Mary escaped Lochleven. She raised some supporters but was unsuccessful in making any headway at the Battle of Langside on May 13th and she slipped away and crossed the border into England on May 16th. Historians are not sure why she chose to go to England. The fight was not really over and she could have gone to France where she had many supporters. Once again her bad judgment had overtaken her.

From 1568 to 1587, Mary was to be held prisoner by Elizabeth under the watchful eye of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, moving from castle to castle. Mary insisted on a face to face meeting with Elizabeth for the rest of her life and Elizabeth always refused. Her name was brought up many times by Catholics in England and abroad in plots to bring down Elizabeth, put her on the throne of England and to restore Catholicism. Elizabeth’s Principal Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsinghamcultivated a network of spies to intercept Mary’s letters and finally caught her plotting to kill Elizabeth. She was put on trial and found guilty on October 25, 1586. After much hand wringing and agonizing deliberation by Elizabeth, she finally signed Mary’s death warrant on February 1, 1587. Elizabeth was having second thoughts. Her privy council met two days later and decided to carry out the warrant without telling the Queen.

On February 8, 1587, Mary was executed at Fotheringay Castle. She was willing to die as a martyr to her Catholic faith. It took three whacks of the axe to sever her head from her neck. The executioner picked up the head and the skull fell to the floor, leaving a wig in his hand. As her executioners were disrobing the corpse, Mary’s Skye terrier was found hidden in the folds of her skirt. Mary was eventually buried at Peterborough Cathedral near Catherine of Aragon’s grave. Shortly before Elizabeth I was to die in 1603, literally on her deathbed, she named Mary’s son James as her successor. James arranged to have his mother re- buried in Westminster Abbey.

Some historians have examined the evidence of Mary’s medical history. She exhibited some of the symptoms of “the Royal disease”, porphyria, which is the same disease that afflicted George III of England. This is a metabolic hormonal disorder that causes many physical as well as mental disturbances and could explain why Mary exhibited colossal misjudgment. Also, in July of 1588, King Phillip II of Spain sent the Spanish Armada to England, in part to avenge the death of the Catholic Queen Mary. The Spanish suffered a spectacular loss.

Further reading: “The True Life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots” by John Guy, “Mary, Queen of Scots” by Lady Antonia Fraser, “Two Queens in One Isle” by Alison Plowden

About the Author:

purple-susan“Susan Abernethy here. It seems I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love history. At the age of fourteen, I watched “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” on TV and was enthralled. Truth seemed much more strange than fiction. I started reading about Henry VIII and then branched out into many types of history. This even led me to study history in college. Even though I never did anything with the history degree, it’s always been a hobby of mine. I started this blog to write about my thoughts on all kinds of history from Ancient times to mid-20th Century.”

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