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J.M. Stone.

Studies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries online

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answered that he would be good to the king, to his brother, and to
their mother; but that as for Angus, he "would not dalye with no
traitor." *

* Cotton MS. Calig. B 2, 369; B.M.


No sooner had Margaret given up her children, than she began to
manoeuvre how to steal them back and spirit them over the Border. While
pretending to be too ill to leave her palace at Linlithgow, where she
gave out she had "taken to her chamber" in anticipation of her
approaching confinement, she effected her escape into England, but her
plan for capturing the king and his brother failed. Nothing could now
exceed her desolate condition, as, wandering from place to place,
alone, ill, and worse than friendless, she sought in vain a refuge in
all that wild Border region where she might await her hour of peril.
Angus, seeing the turn affairs had taken, had thought it prudent to
abandon her to her fate, and, after helping her to escape, returned to
Scotland in the hope of coming to terms with Albany. His wife was at
last thankful to accept Lord Dacre's rough hospitality in his gloomy
castle of Harbottle. Here in the midst of a brutal soldiery, with no
woman to render her the most needful service, she gave birth to a
daughter, the Lady Margaret Douglas, on the 5th October 1515. On the
10th she wrote to Albany to announce her delivery "of a cristen sowle
beying a young lady," and miserably ill though she was, did not omit to
demand "as tutrix of the young king and prince, her tender children, to
have the whole rule and governance of Scotland."

To this letter Margaret received an answer written by the Council,
stating that the governance of the realm had expired with the death of
her husband, and had devolved to the Estates; that with her consent
they had appointed the Duke of Albany; that she had forfeited the
tutelage of her children by her second marriage, and that in all
temporal matters the realm of Scotland had been immediately subject to
Almighty God, not recognising the Pope or any superior upon earth.

Herewith the queen was forced to content herself; further words would
have proved as unavailing as reeds against the tempest, and even words
were soon beyond her power to write, for the birth of her daughter was
succeeded by a long and painful illness which nearly proved fatal to
the unhappy woman. To add to the bitterness of her trials, at the
moment when she was beginning slowly to recover, came the news of the
illness and death of the little Duke of Rothesay. Grief, anger, and
anxiety for the safety of the king served naturally to increase the
gravity of her condition, and for months she lay hovering between life
and death, loudly accusing Albany of having murdered her child.

This accusation was reiterated to Albany himself as soon as her
unsteady hand could grasp a pen; but the regent took no heed of her
stinging words, continued to invite her to return to Scotland, in spite
of her persistent refusal, and apparently succeeded at last in
convincing her of his innocence.

On her recovery she wrote to him from Morpeth, to announce her
departure for the south, Henry having invited her to his court,
accompanying his invitation with presents of costly stuffs, and money,
and clothing for the baby.

A letter from Margaret to the regent at this moment is significant of a
sudden change in her demeanour towards him, and to judge by her
subsequent behaviour, the change meant treachery. Instead of the fierce
denunciations she had lately indulged in, she acknowledged that she had
often received goodly and pleasant words as well as letters from him,
and "though his conduct has not always corresponded to them, yet as
matters are being accommodated" she hopes he will reform it. The
meaning of this change of tactics became clear to all but the regent
himself - -who seems to have been of a singularly unsuspicious
nature - as soon as Margaret reached London.

Albany was still hoping for a permanent peace with Henry, and more than
once expressed a wish to pay him a friendly visit. This both Henry and
Margaret encouraged him to do, and writing to Wolsey about this time,
the Scottish queen expressed the most fervent hope that the regent
would come, counterbalanced by the fears that he would not.* Had the
matter rested entirely with himself, the visit would certainly have
taken place, but his Council having some reason to doubt Henry's fair
and plausible words, were urgent in dissuading him. All things
considered, it is probable that the duke would have repented of his
temerity if he had placed his head within the lion's jaws.

* Cotton MS., Vesp. F 3, 36; B.M.


Having failed to inveigle the regent into their power, the brother and
sister instructed Dacre to "sow debate" between him and his Council,
but this scheme failed also. Dacre wrote, however, to show that he was
not wanting in zeal in this behalf, saying that, being unable to
interfere with Scottish affairs in any other way, he had given rewards
to four hundred outlaws for burnings in various parts of the kingdom.*
No means proved too vile, no instrument unworthy, to be employed in the
work of destroying the regent and advancing Tudor interests. The queen
even condescended to use her truant husband, and the part played by
Angus is scarcely less reprehensible than Margaret's own, for while he
pretended to be loyal to Albany and to Scotland, he possessed himself
of every important State secret and transmitted it to his wife, in the
hope of appeasing her for his desertion. She, of course, passed on all
that she thus learned to Henry and Wolsey.

* Dacre to Wolsey; Calig. B 1, 150; B.M.


Margaret was entertained for a whole year in pomp and splendour at the
English court, feasts and revels succeeding each other in bewildering
magnificence - luxury in vivid contrast to the misery which she had
undergone during the first months after her flight from Scotland.
Pageants, tournaments, and banquets now took the place of privation and
suffering; all that met the eye was changed, but the dark and
treacherous under-currents known to but few of her contemporaries
remained the same, and were the realities that shaped her course. In
spite, however, of plots and intrigues, Margaret's position was not
improving. Her visit to England could not be prolonged indefinitely,
and as the queen was evidently not to return to Scotland in triumph, it
was desirable to make as good terms for herself as she possibly could.

The regent promised that her jointure should be paid, and that Angus
should be allowed to join her if he were willing to do so - a somewhat
doubtful alternative, as he had not availed himself of the leave that
had already been given him. As for Albany himself, he declared that it
had always been his desire to gratify the queen, and to advise the best
for her and for her son.* Reluctantly, therefore, she at last prepared
to turn her face northwards, having obtained permission to take with
her a suite befitting her station, safe-conduct being granted, except
in the case of any person among them plotting harm to the kingdom; and
to these conditions Henry set his great seal.

* Calig. B 2, 262; B.M.


A letter from the Venetian envoy to the Doge, dated 13th April 1517,
says: "The truce between England and Scotland has been arranged. The
queen is to return, but is not to be admitted to the administration of
the kingdom. She may take with her twenty-four Englishmen, and as many
Scotch as she pleases, provided they be not rebels"; and he adds that
he has been assured of these facts by Albany's secretary.

All was done to make her journey as easy as possible; but when Margaret
arrived at Berwick, it needed all Dacre's powers of persuasion to
induce her to enter Scotland. At Lamberton Kirk, contrary to the
regent's expectation, she was met by Angus, accompanied by Morton and
others of the Scottish nobility, with three hundred men, chiefly
Borderers. Albany had left for France, taking with him as hostages the
heirs or younger brothers of the principal men in the country, whom he
had bound over to keep the peace during his absence, which he then did
not intend to prolong beyond five months.

There was now an excellent opportunity for beginning a new and better
life, had the queen been so minded; but events proved her to be in a
more querulous, treacherous, and discontented mood than ever. "Her
Grace considereth now, the honour of England, and the poverty and
wretchedness of Scotland," wrote Magnus to Wolsey, "which she did not
afore, but in her opinion esteemed Scotland equal with England,"* and
her complaints to Henry were frequent and loud.

* June 19, 1517; Calig. B 2, 253; B.M.


She complained of her husband, of her poverty, of the bad faith of the
Scottish nation who still left her jointure unpaid, of not being
allowed free access to her son. She had, she said, been obliged to lay
in wed (pawn) the plate given to her by Henry, and was likely to be
driven to extreme want, as Wolsey would learn by her messenger. She
would have been still worse off, she caused her friends to write, had
not Magnus and Dacre drawn up a book at Berwick, the day before her
entry into Scotland, by which Angus, signing it, renounced all claim to
her "conjunct feoffment."*

* Dacre to Wolsey, Harbottle, 5th March, 1518; R.O.


But Margaret did not stop at complaints; Henry must begin the war
again. He may, she declares, reasonably cause Scottish ships to be
taken; for she has suffered long and forborne to do evil, although she
knew she would never get good from Scotland by fair means.

When by dint of constant urging to renewed contests the Borders had
become one vast battlefield in her quarrel, she wrote to the Marquis of
Dorset to beg him to spare the convent of Coldstream, whose abbess had
done her good service in times past.* The motive for this intercession
was no mere charitable one, the abbess being "one of the best spies for
England."

* Thomas, Marquis of Dorset, to Henry VIII.; Calig. B 3, 255.


And now, for the first time, Margaret ventures to express the wish that
has for long been forming itself in her mind. She has been much
troubled by Angus since her coming to Scotland, and is so more and more
daily. They have not met this half year, and - after some hovering of
the word on her lips, she pronounces it boldly - she will part with him,
if she may by God's law, and with honour to herself, for he loves her
not. Unlike Henry, when seeking a pretext to divorce his first wife,
Margaret was at no pains to disguise the motive which inspired her, and
a possibility of a flaw in the marriage is openly but a pretext for
getting rid of a husband of whom she was weary. We are at least spared
the nausea caused by Henry's conscientious scruples. She first puts
forward frankly her wish to be free from Angus, and then her
determination to divorce him if she may lawfully. But it was the only
piece of honesty in the whole business, for the suit itself was one
long, dreary series of misrepresentation and falsehood, without which
her cause could by no possibility have been gained.

The usual plea of pre-contracts was brought forward, but as these were
of too flimsy a nature to bear investigation, Margaret declared that
the late King of Scots, her husband, was still living three years after
the battle of Flodden, and that consequently he was alive when she was
married to the Earl of Angus.* As the king's body had never been found,
this assertion could not be disproved, though there was no reasonable
doubt as to James having fallen on that calamitous day.

* Magnus to Wolsey; State Papers, vol. iv., p. 385; R.O.


However, in spite of her bold swearing, Margaret was not so certain of
success, but that she was anxious for Henry's support, and she not only
entreated her brother to befriend her, but promised him that she would
consult only his wishes in taking another husband, and that this time
she would not part from him.* If she thought that a fellow-feeling
would make him wondrous kind in this matter, she was disappointed. It
was no part of Henry's policy that his sister should put Angus away,
for although she had not consulted him in the choice of her second
husband, Henry was very well satisfied with him. He could to a certain
extent control him, and at all events, while married to him the queen
could not contribute by any foreign alliance to the power and greatness
of Scotland.

* Calig. B 1, 232; B.M.


But Angus was making himself obnoxious to his wife beyond her very
limited capacity for endurance. Not only had he proved a faithless
husband, but what was infinitely worse to her mind, he refused to give
up the income of her Ettrick Forest estate, which she had made over to
him in the days when his handsome face and figure had first struck her
fancy, and when she thought nothing too costly to lavish upon him. She
had made him great, to her own and the country's misfortune, and it was
a difficult matter to make him small again; but all Scotland felt the
evil effects of his power, of his ascendancy over the young king, and
of the feuds which resulted therefrom. So great was the scourge felt to
be, that the Council appealed to Margaret to recall the Regent Albany,
that he might restore order.

Margaret was aware that Albany's return was the thing of all others
that Henry wished to avoid, but it suited her for the nonce to act the
part of a good Scotswoman, and she wrote an imploring letter to the
duke, begging him to come back and take pity on his unhappy country.*
Notwithstanding this, her complaints to Henry through Lord Dacre of her
bad treatment, and her supplications to be allowed to return to
England, did not cease. She had "liever be dead than live among the
Scots," and she entreats that no peace may be renewed, unless "some
good may be taken," that she may live at ease.**

* Calig. B 1, 232.

** Ibid. B 2, 195.


Wolsey was not sparing in his remarks on the queen's double-dealing,
the facts of which had all been disclosed to him by spies. He has, he
says, represented to the king her brother "the folly of Queen Margaret
in leaning to her enemies, and departing from her husband,"
notwithstanding what Dacre has already written to her. Dacre, by the
king's desire, is to tell her that if she persists in her dishonourable
course she can expect no favour.*

* Ibid. B 3, 106


Meanwhile the Earl of Surrey had been dispatched with an army to the
Borders, and threatened to invade Scotland, unless the Duke of Albany
were abandoned, and Margaret reinstated as regent. On the 16th
September 1523, he wrote two letters to the queen, one intended for her
eyes alone, the other to be shown to her son's Council. In the first he
says that the King of England would approve of her son's "coming
forth," and shaking off all tutelage but his mother's, for Surrey is
about to waste Scotland, and the young king's plea for emancipating
himself should be that he cannot suffer his realm to be laid waste.
Margaret is to summon the lords to take up arms in her son's defence,
and she will then be in a position to command Surrey to retire. She
will thus form a party for her son, and be enabled to send Albany and
his Frenchmen back to France. Then Surrey will turn his arms against
her enemies.

If Margaret keeps her promise, money will be forthcoming. In the event
of her causing James V, to "come forth" to Edinburgh, he has no doubt
that if the king will command his subjects on their allegiance to take
his part, the most of them will do so, especially the Commons, who must
be roused to drive the French to Dunbar. The Earl of Surrey will be
ready to give assistance.*

* Calig. B 4, 196.


The second letter was to the same effect, though more cautiously
worded. The King of England would be glad to hear of his nephew's
prosperous estate, but would certainly be dissatisfied that his nobles
suffered their monarch and themselves to be kept in subjection by
Albany. Surrey was ready to help with men and money all who would come
forward to protect their natural sovereign; but peace could never be
between the two realms, if the Scots did not give up the duke. As for
Margaret's hope that Henry would be a better friend to Scotland on her
account, Surrey had been ordered to desist from doing any more hurt at
her request. He had now waited along time, he wrote, hoping that the
Scottish lords would have shown themselves more natural loving subjects
than they now appeared, seeing that the day appointed for the Duke of
Albany's arrival had passed, and that their king was in no greater
safety than he was before. All the world would see that the fault was
not Henry's, but that of the Scots, who refused to put HIM out of the
realm who meant to destroy the king and usurp the crown. Henry would
never refrain from making war upon Scotland until they forsook. Albany,
and sued to him for peace. On their doing this, Surrey had full
authority to treat with them, and to assist them with money and troops.*

* State Papers, iv. 21 - "Copy of my letter to be showed to the lords of
Scotland; in Surrey's hand"; R.O.


This advice produced no effect whatever on the Scottish lords, whose
loyalty to the regent remained unshaken. But Margaret did not consider
herself hampered by any pledges given to Albany, and two days after the
receipt of the letters, she urged Surrey to come to Edinburgh, or
somewhere near it, at once, declaring that the lords would certainly do
as she desired. As for the threatened laying waste, however, "they
laughed at injuries done only to the poor people." A thousand men with
artillery would have Edinburgh at their mercy if they came suddenly.
Surrey must go at it at once, or let it be. Failing this, she desired
leave to come to England with her true servants, adding, "for I will
come away and I should steal out of it."*

* Ibid. 26.


The truth was, that, far from being certain that the lords would agree
to any part of the scheme, Margaret knew well that she had but a
handful of friends in Scotland, and that her sole hope of regaining the
regency lay in Henry's power of coercion. Trusting that Surrey would
really march on Edinburgh, she did all she could to persuade the
Council to allow the young king to be brought to that place, and to
appoint new guardians, friendly to her interests. In both these
endeavours she failed, and James remained at Stirling.

"The lords are all fallen away from the queen, and adhere to the
governor," wrote the Abbess of Coldstream to Sir John Bulmer, and
Surrey passed on the information to Wolsey, telling him that Margaret
had no credit with the Scotch, and that they looked hourly for Albany's
arrival.

As for Lord Surrey, even if he had been willing to besiege Edinburgh,
he would have been frustrated by the want of sufficient means of
transport for his victuals. Had he not caused his soldiers to carry
their food in wallets, and their drink in bottles, it would not have
been possible for him to have reached the North, and a raid into the
enemy's country necessitated a far ampler stock of provisions than
could be carried in this way. The queen's desire that he should take
Edinburgh, arose, he thought, from her anxiety to provide herself with
a way of escape from her difficulties.*

* Surrey to Wolsey, Berwick, 21st Sept. 1523; R.O.


In England it was commonly believed that the Scottish lords were in so
great a fear of Albany, who was hourly expected to arrive, that they
would break their covenant with him even though they had each given him
four of the best of their sons as hostages. But Surrey declared
vehemently that although they might deceive Margaret, they should not
deceive him.

The suspense was ended at last, and Margaret wrote to inform him of the
regent's arrival. Surrey replied at once, desiring to know further what
number of horse and foot soldiers had come with him, and what
countrymen they were. He could give her no advice about coming away,
but would meet her in any given part of the Marches, and at whatever
time she pleased. Margaret in return was to let him know when the Duke
of Albany intended to invade England. In conclusion, hoping to prevent
any rapprochement between her and the regent, he warned her that Albany
would most certainly be king if the king were not well guarded, "for
the Frenchmen can empoison one, and yet he shall not die for a year
after."*

* Surrey's Letterbook; Tanner MS. 90, f. 47; Bodleian Library.


The slippery nature of Margaret's friendship was well known to Surrey,
and he kept up the fiction of Albany's nefarious intentions, in the
hope of making her faithful to English interests. Unluckily for his
schemes, he did not sufficiently study the springs of her actions,
which would have taught him to be more lavish with his bribes. The end
of her next letter ought to have opened his eyes to the necessity of
striking a bargain with her if he would hope to draw her into the
English net. After telling him that the duke has held a council at
Glasgow, and that he means to march into England in a fortnight, she
goes on to warn him that Scotland was never before made so strong, and
says that it is still a secret whether Albany intends to attack the
east or west Border, but she thinks both. She gives him a detailed
account of the numbers and condition of his soldiers, and estimates his
French contingent at 6000 men, adding that German reinforcements are
expected by the first fair wind. They trust to win Berwick, and if they
succeed, she and her son are undone. Then she begs to know how she is
to get away, and have some money. If Henry will not help her, she must
perforce ask help of Albany; and she declares significantly, "and he
will cause me to do as he will, or else he will give me nothing." He
has not yet come to her, but he writes "very good writings of his own
hand, and as many fair words as can be devised," to which however she
professes to give no credence.*

*Calig. B 6, 379; State Papers, iv. 40.


Surrey was of the opinion that Margaret should remain in Scotland, as
her coming to England would cause embarrassment and expense. Two
thousand marks would hardly satisfy her in England, whereas she would
be content with three or four hundred pounds a year in Scotland, to say
nothing of the loss Henry would incur if she came away, in being
deprived of the information she sent.

But it was just this haggling over bribes that prevented Margaret from
being altogether on Henry's side, and threw her into the arms of the
more generous Albany whenever there was the least hope of gain. Thus, a
month later, after the somewhat hasty retreat from Wark, she told
Surrey that she had been obliged to take what money the duke would give
her; that she would do her best to keep her son, but that she could not
displease Albany without Henry's support. She implored Surrey to plead
with the king for her, and in return for his help she would inform him
of all she knew; but he must keep it secret.*

* Calig. B 1, 281.


At the same time, she gave the duke to understand that she had incurred
her brother's displeasure for his sake,* and the same legend was
repeated to the lords of the Council. Complaining to them of the bad
treatment she had received in Scotland, she begged them to bear in mind
the loyalty she had always shown to her son, to the lord governor, and
to the realm, incurring for the last three or four years her brother's
displeasure, for Albany's sake, at whose desire she was always ready to
write the best she could.** Immediately upon this remarkable statement
came Henry's answer to her last appeal, in the guise of one hundred
marks for information received, together with the refusal of the truce
which Albany had repeatedly solicited.*** The smallness of the sum
prompted Margaret to write a diplomatic letter to the Earl of Surrey,
in which she declared that she had promised before the lords to be a
good Scotswoman, and to agree to whatever was for the good of her son,
with whom she was resolved to bide as long as she might, although the
lords were bent on separating them. They cannot, they say, help her to
her "conjunct feoffment" while her brother makes war on them, and she
knows not where any other help may be got. If she is to live with her
son, Henry must contribute to her support, as he has done to a certain
extent already. She will do as he commands her, and have as few
servants as possible. She had asked the governor and lords in Council
why she was "holden suspect," and not allowed to be with her son; and
the answer she received was that she was Henry's sister, and would
perhaps take the king into England, and they knew well her brother



Online LibraryJ.M. StoneStudies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries → online text (page 2 of 28)