England,  ER,  Western Europe

Margaret Tudor- Part II – Madcap Marriages

Painting of Margaret, refusing to hand over custody of her sons to John Stuart, Duke of Albany, by John Faed, 1859.
Painting of Margaret, refusing to hand over custody of her sons to John Stuart, Duke of Albany, by John Faed, 1859.

So when we last left Margaret, she was in a pickle.  Her sister-in-law, Catherine of Aragon, just led an army, which killed her husband and made her infant son James V.  She was allowed to be his regent per her husband’s will as long as she did not remarry.  Margaret was not a popular choice for regent.  She was the sister of Henry VIII, whose armies under his wife had decimated the Scottish forces.  She was also a reminder of the attempt to patch things over with England, and its failure and the return of Scotland to the Auld Alliance with France, England’s enemy.  It was a precarious situation at best.

Margaret had lived a very conventional life up to now, however, once her husband was killed her behavior started to look more like a Tudor.  Her regency was contested by members on the counsel who said she should be replaced by James Stuart, Duke of Albany.  He was the closest living male relative to the young prince.  Margaret needed some allies and quickly.  She cast about and found the Douglas family, but happened to marry one of the worst.  Not long after her husband’s death, Margaret married Archibald Douglas, the 6th Earl of Angus.  No one was happy about this.  The marriage was a secret, and did not have anyone’s approval.  Even the Earl’s uncle, Gavin Douglas, called him a “witless fool”.  All Margaret did was alienate the pro-French lords at court and lose the regency as well as the right to raise her sons.  The marriage she made to strengthen her hand had done nothing but weakened it.  She retreated with her allies and her children to Stirling Castle, but was unable to defend it against Stuart.  Eventually she was forced to give up her children into the custody of their uncle.  From there she escaped to England.  Henry VIII had urged her to take her sons with her, but Margaret feared if she did James would lose the crown.

By this time, she was pregnant with his child, and gave birth to Lady Margaret Douglas.  Then she heard of the death of her son Alexander and was grieving sorely.  Even in her vulnerable state, she did not believe the rumors that the Duke of Albany had killed his young charge.  Her new husband, however, left England to make peace with the regent.  Margaret returned from England a year later after a deal was worked out between her brother, Cardinal Wolsey and Albany.  Soon after her return, Margaret found her husband the Earl was living openly with a mistress on Margaret’s dime.  She wrote to her brother hinting at divorce, ““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.”  Though Henry had numerous marital troubles of his own as well as a few divorces, he was opposed to divorce on principal and advised her to stay with Angus as a counterbalance to Albany.  Pius Henry said in his testy note marriage was “divinely ordained.”  A tune he would be changing very soon. 

Margaret was not going to play ball after having been treated like that.  She petitioned the Pope for a divorce, and grew closer to the Albany faction at court.  Angus was not happy with this, and kidnapped the young King James and held him hostage for three years.  He also put out that Margaret changed her tune about Albany because she was sleeping with him.  Nice guy.  The Stuart who had caught her eye was Henry Stuart, younger brother to Lord Avondale.  Albany had influence in Rome and helped convince the Pope to annul her marriage to Angus on a flimsy pretext.  Months later she married Henry Stuart, much to the chagrin of everyone.  James V escaped from his erstwhile stepfather, and declared he was done with regency.  For the time being, this was good for Margaret as he seemed fond of her new husband, making him Lord Methven.

However, Margaret couldn’t pick them.  Methven was as unreliable as Angus was as a husband.  He had numerous lovers and ran through his wife’s money like water.  Their only child, a daughter, died in infancy.  Compared to him, Angus started to look good again and Margaret toyed with divorcing Methven and remarrying Angus.  In any case, before she could do either, Margaret was stricken with a “palsy” on October 18, 1541.  She did not make a will as she did not think her illness was fatal.  However, by the time James was called from Falkland Palace it was too late.  She was buried in the Carthusian Monastery in Perth.


Sources available on request