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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would do more for her than any other. She had answered that her deeds
had shown otherwise, and that she could prove the malice of such an

* Ibid. 159.

** Ibid. B 2, 268.

*** State Papers, iv. 60, 26th Nov. 1523; R.O.

**** Queen Margaret to the Earl of Surrey, Dec. 1523; R.O.

The next scene in the comedy is Margaret's anger on hearing that Albany
is treating with Henry for peace, without her intervention. "It is
hard," she complains, "to be out with the governor here, and not to
know what the king will do for me!" If she had flattered Albany, she
asserts, she might have had "great profits," but she will not take them
till she knows Henry's mind. She has not spoken with Albany since
Surrey left, and would not do so as long as he remained in Scotland, so
discontented were they with each other.* Upon this follows an
astounding revelation. Surrey had received a dispatch from the queen
containing another document, the seals of which had been broken and
closed again. It was a copy of an agreement between Margaret and the
Duke of Albany, but the manner in which it came to be enclosed in her
letter never transpired, though it was thought that the packet had been
opened by a spy, and the paper inserted, in order to ruin her prospects
with her brother.

* Calig. B 1, 209, 21st April 1524.

The enclosed document ran thus: -

The queen promises that during the minority of her son, she will never
suffer anything contrary to the duke's authority, and will inform him
of it, and hinder as much as she can any wrong intended against him;
she will not consent to a truce or peace with England without the
comprehension of her son's allies; she will assist to keep him
securely, according to the decree of the last Parliament; she will do
all she can to hinder any practice against him of which she may hear,
and will inform the governor of it if he be in the country, and if not,
those who have charge of the king; she will not consent to anything
contrary to the alliance with France, or to the treaty of Rouen, and
will further a marriage between her son and one of the daughters of the
King of France. The governor promises to do the like, and to obtain for
her an honourable reception by the King of France, if she incurs the
enmity of her brother, and is forced to quit the country in consequence
of the assistance he may give to Angus, or other evil-disposed persons
who may interfere with her goods and conjunct feoffment; he will if she
requests, send some of his servants with her, and will maintain her
against everyone except the king her son. Both parties swear to keep
these promises upon the Holy Gospels.*

* Add. MS. 24, 965, ff. 231 and 234; B.M.

Wolsey, upon receipt of this information, at once addressed
instructions to Dacre, charging him to find out whether such an
agreement had really been made, and if so, how the copy of it had found
its way into the queen's letter.

Dacre therefore wrote to tell her of the discovery, and recapitulating
the contents of the enclosed document, added that the king desired to
know whether she had consented to it of her own free will, why it was
done, whether she herself sent the copy, or if not who did send it, and
with what intent.

Margaret replied by an indignant but weak denial. The instrument in
question was one, she averred, which the duke had DESIRED her to
execute, but which she had declined at all costs to meddle with.

This explanation was too improbable for Wolsey to accept, the whole
course of Margaret's actions tending to show that had Albany tried and
failed to draw her into such a compact, she would unhesitatingly have
disclosed the negotiation in order to make capital out of her refusal.
The opportunity for demanding large sums as a reward for her fidelity
to Henry's interests would have proved irresistible; while as a matter
of fact the transaction had never been so much as hinted at in any of
her letters. Vague allusions, to the effect that Albany was continually
outbidding Henry, had been her refrain for years; but whereas she sent
minute and circumstantial details of every other secret likely to
prejudice the country and the regent, she had been silent as to any
definite overtures such as those contained in the document referred to.

The alternative was to believe that, while pretending to be false, for
once she was true to Scotland; and yet she stands so deeply "rooted in
dishonour," that her acquittal puts but little to her credit. Her only
resource, when Dacre persisted in his accusation, was a feeble
complaint of the bad treatment she was receiving at her brother's
hands, pleading that he neither regarded herself nor her writing; that
she had not failed, and did not mean to fail, but that if others had
been in her place they would have acted very differently.*

* Add. MS. 24, 965, f. 223, 19th May 1524; B.M.

To this Dacre replied ruthlessly, that it was well known both in
Scotland and in England, not only that she had assented to the bond
found in her letter, but that it had passed her sign manual and seal,
in return for which, the Duke of Albany had given her the wardship and
marriage of the young Earl of Huntly and of others, together with other
gifts and rewards - -a proceeding which, declared Dacre, was a great
dishonour to her brother, and would perhaps after all avail her but
little. He marvelled also greatly at her pretended ignorance of the
negotiations pending between Albany and himself, because in his last
letter he had informed her of all the proceedings.*

* Ibid. 965, f. 244, 27th May 1524.

For some time, Margaret continued to deny feebly having formally allied
herself with the regent, murmuring at Dacre's "sharpness" towards her,
notwithstanding which Dacre continued to bring fresh proofs of her
duplicity before her, till Henry at last ordered him to let the matter
drop, whereupon she was willing to do the same.*

* Add. MS. 24, 965, f. 253; B.M.

Having failed in the past to secure Margaret's undivided favour, Henry
now took a more persuasive line, and sought to convince his sister how
much good might in future accrue to her if she would but "go the
fruitful way." The unfortunate Angus, who had taken refuge in England,
was now sent back, in the hope that a possible reconciliation with her
husband might detach her from Albany. But this was far from succeeding.
Margaret could with difficulty be induced to receive him, and all the
money that Henry sent to her went to strengthen the hands of her
husband's enemies, so that Angus was obliged to entreat that no further
supplies might be provided. Margaret then veered round, and said that
Albany had sent to her with great offers if she would join his party,
adding that perhaps the duke would marry her after getting her
divorced. How this could be possible, considering that Albany had a
wife already, might puzzle a mind more fettered by the logic of facts
than was the queen's.

That she was seriously anxious to be agreeable to the duke is seen by
the instructions which she delivered to John Cantely, who was to tell
the regent of her goodwill towards him and the kingdom of France. And
lest he should interpret unfavourably the circumstance of her having
sent ambassadors to England, she assured him that she would do nothing
without including France. Finally, she wished to know his intentions
towards her and what he would give her. In the event of her taking his
part against England, which she will certainly do if Henry continues to
help Angus, Albany must secure for her the protection of the French
king. If this king desires to have her and her son on his side, he must
support them.

But Albany must keep the matter secret, and not allow her letters to be
sent into England, as has been done formerly, and she will take his
part against everyone except her son.*

* Double de la credence de la Royne et memoire de Mr. John Cantely; R.O.

This was written on the 22nd February 1525, but on the 31st March
following, Margaret, in a stormy interview with Angus, angrily denied
having negotiated with Albany at all. She swore that she had always
sought to please Henry, and complained of his letters being "sore and
sharp." She had taken a great matter on hand at his request, and had
had much trouble with the duke for his sake, yet now that she had
plainly told the regent that she followed Henry's pleasure, Henry would
have no more to do with her. If he will not be kind to her, she hopes
at least that he will not cause Angus to trouble her in her living. She
has a plea against Angus before the Pope, and he cannot interfere with
her by law.*

* Calig. B 7, 3.

It was clearly to Henry's interest to persuade Margaret to take her
husband back, for Angus belonged with the whole Douglas family to
Albany's bitterest enemies. The reconciliation between him and the
regent had been but a short interlude brought about solely from
self-interest on the part of Angus, and followed by a deep and lasting
feud. Added to this claim on Henry's friendship was the fact that he
possessed a powerful influence over the young King James. But with the
page of Henry's own domestic history open before us, it is not possible
to repress a smile at the arguments against her divorce which Henry put
before Margaret, at the very moment when he was trying to force the
Pope's hand, in order to obtain from him a sentence against his own
marriage. The following substance of a letter, written it is true by
Wolsey, but dictated by his master, applies in every detail as well to
Henry's own case as to Margaret's. If we change the pronoun, substitute
London for Rome, king for queen, Katharine for Angus, all that he
causes Wolsey to say becomes as applicable to himself as to his sister.

After desiring her to accept favourably Henry's message, which, he
says, much concerns the wealth of her son and her own repute, the
cardinal urges her brother's hope that the "undeceivable spirit of God,
which moved him to send to her, will effectually work." Amid the cares
of his government he has never forgotten her, and he hopes she will
turn to God's word, "the vyvely doctrine of Jesus Christ, the only
ground of salvation" (1 Cor. 3). He reminds her of the divine ordinance
of inseparable matrimony, first instituted in Paradise, and hopes her
Grace will perceive how she was seduced by flatterers to an unlawful
divorce from "the right noble Earl of Angus," etc., upon untrue and
insufficient grounds. Furthermore, "the shameless sentence sent from
Rome" plainly showed how unlawfully it was handled, judgment being
given against a party neither present in person nor by proxy. He urges
her further, for the weal of her soul, and to avoid the inevitable
damnation threatened against "advoutrers," to reconcile herself with
Angus as her true husband, or out of mere natural affection for her
daughter, whose excellent beauty and pleasant behaviour, nothing less
godly than goodly, furnished with virtuous and womanly demeanour,
should soften her heart. That she should be reputed baseborn cannot be
avoided, except the queen will relinquish the "advoutrous" company with
him that is not, nor may not be, of right her husband.*

* Calig. B 6, 194.

The individual here mentioned was Harry Stuart, with whom Margaret had
contracted a secret marriage, having by dint of perjury and a tissue of
lies, obtained a declaration of invalidity against her union with
Angus. She does not appear to have been in the least affected by
Henry's hypocritical reasoning, but the manner in which her son
received the news of her third marriage caused her some inconvenience.
In his displeasure, James sent Lord Erskine to besiege his mother and
her new husband in Stirling Castle; but what promised to be a tragedy
had a somewhat ridiculous end, for Margaret, in terror of what might
follow, at once gave up her husband, who after a short imprisonment was
allowed to escape. He promptly rejoined the queen, and James
subsequently forgave him, and created him Lord Methven.

But not even when her son had come to his own did Margaret cease to
plot and intrigue. Henry's suspicious character imperatively demanded
that all that was going on in Scotland should be known without delay at
the English court, and his sister was the only possible agent for the
purpose. It does not appear that her treachery, now doubly odious, ever
cost her the least qualm. The climax was, however, reached, when after
persuading James to confide to her his private instructions to the
Scottish ambassador residing in London, she contrived that the
information thus obtained should be in Henry's hands at the same moment
that it reached its legitimate destination.

Fortunately for the affairs of Scotland, the treasonable correspondence
was discovered; and Margaret narrowly escaped imprisonment. The
immediate result was to put an end to the more friendly intercourse
that had sprung up between the two countries, and to prevent a meeting
between the two sovereigns, in process of negotiation.

At this interview, which was to have taken place at York, Henry hoped
to convert his nephew to his own views regarding the Pope; and in order
to pave the way to, a good understanding between them, he sent Barlow
and Holcroft to Scotland with a lengthy document containing, with much
fulsome flattery of James, all Henry's choice vocabulary of epithets
hurled against the "Bishop of Rome."*

* Hamilton Papers - Instructions to Barlow and Holcroft, 3rd Oct. 1535,
fol. 27.

Margaret, ignorant that her son had discovered her treachery, continued
to urge him to proceed to York; but her eagerness only roused his
suspicions that worse treason lay behind.

"The Queen, your Grace's sister," wrote Lord William Howard to Henry,
"because she hath so earnestly solicited in the cause of meeting, is in
high displeasure with the King, her son, he bearing her in hand that
she received gifts of your Highness to betray him, with many other
unkind and suspicious words."*

*State Papers, iv. 46; R.O.

Enough has been already seen of Margaret's methods to make it quite
clear what her next step would be. Out of favour with James, she of
course threw the whole brunt of her misfortune on Henry, for whose sake
she had incurred so much danger and expense, having lived for the last
six months at court for the sole purpose of advancing his affairs.* But
Henry was beginning to weary of his sister's complaints and appeals for
money. Besides, James would in future guard his secrets better, and
Margaret almost cease to be useful as a spy. So she must not expect him
to disburse notable sums, merely because she is his sister, and must
henceforth learn to be content with the entirely sufficient provision
made for her on her marriage with the King of Scots.**

* Add. MS. 32, 616, f. 87; B.M.

** State Papers, v. 56; R.O.

This was all the consolation he could afford her for some time to come,
for besides his other reasons for disregarding the letters which she,
nothing daunted by his silence, continued to send him, Henry was too
much occupied with his own concerns to bestow much thought on a sister
whose power of helping him was now small. It was the moment of Anne
Boleyn's fall, and he was engrossed with the list of crimes of which he
was about to accuse the unhappy woman.

On the subject of Margaret's various marriages, her brother had ever
failed to manifest that sympathy which a similarity of tastes would
seem to justify. He had assumed the tone of a moralist on her
separation from Angus, and had treated Lord Methven in his letters with
scant respect, and when in the course of time she began to be weary of
her new spouse, and to complain of him with increasing bitterness, it
was long before Henry could be roused to express any interest in the
subject. At last, however, he found a convenient season for attending
to her. She had written to inform him that whereas she did Lord Meffen
(sic) the honour to take him as her husband, he had spent her lands and
profits upon his own kin, and had brought her into debt, to the sum of
8000 marks Scots, and would give her no account of it. She trusted the
king her son would treat her to his and her own honour; but if not, she
had no refuge but in Henry, and she begged him not to suffer her to be

To this, Henry deigned to reply that he should be sorry if his good
brother and nephew treated her otherwise than a son should treat his
mother. As it appeared from certain evidence, she was well-handled, and
had grown to much wealth and quiet; but according to other reports,
quite the contrary, so that he was in doubt which to believe. "Also,"
he continues, "having heard at other times from you of your
evil-treatment by your son and Lord Muffyn (sic), and as we are sending
the bearer into those parts, on our business, we desire you to show him
the points wherein you note yourself evil-handled, and whether you
desire us to treat of them with your son, or only generally to
recommend your condition." *

* State Papers, v. 63, 65.

Margaret had remained faithful to Lord Methven for about ten years, and
it was not till 1537 that she thought of formally applying for a
divorce, her chief plea being that be wasted her money, although she
said she had "forty famous proofs" against him.*

* Hamilton Papers, 13th Oct. 1537, f. 105.

James was furious, and ordered that the divorce, whether obtained at
the cost of more false oaths, or whether Margaret's so-called third
husband really had a wife living when the union was contracted, should
not be proclaimed in Scotland.

This constituted Margaret's famous grievance against James, his
objection to her divorce being, his mother declared, the fear lest she
should pass into England and remarry the Earl of Angus. "And this Harry
Stuart, Lord of Methven, causes him to believe this of ME!" she
exclaimed contemptuously.* One plea for getting rid of the now despised
Harry Stuart is too amusing to be omitted. James was in France, whither
he had gone to bring home his bride, the young and beautiful Magdalene,
daughter of the French king, and Margaret thought to induce Henry to
interest himself in her divorce through his jealousy of the French.

* State Papers, v. 119.

After begging him to send a special messenger to the king her son, to
know his "utter mind," she says: "For now, dearest brother, your Grace
I trust will consider that now the queen his wife is to come into this
realm soon after Easter, as he hath sent word here, to make ready for
the same, and that being, it will be great dishonour to him that I, his
mother, having a just cause to part, can nought get a final end; and I
trust your Grace will consider I may do your Grace and my son more
honour to be without him (Lord Methven) than to have him, considering
that he is but a sober man, and if the Queen that is to come, see me
not entreated as I should be, she will think it an evil example." *

* Hamilton Papers, f. 109.

But all her efforts were fruitless; Henry could not be persuaded to
take up her quarrel, and James was obdurate. His mother, however, then
in her forty-ninth year, dispensed with legal formality altogether, and
allied herself to a certain John Stuart, who, according to some, is
identical with the adventurous Earl of Arran, so notorious in the reign
of James VI.

A few more miserable years of petty intrigues, it being no longer in
her power to carry on important ones, and Margaret came to the close of
her faithless, undignified life. But before the end, a ray of sorrow
for her mis-spent days brightened the hitherto unrelieved gloom of her
career. Henry's messenger, sent after her death to gather up the
details of her last moments, and above all, to find out whether she had
made a will, wrote to the king as follows: -

"When she did perceive that death did approach, she did desire the
friars that was her confessors, that they should sit on their knees
before the King, and to beseech him that he would be good and gracious
unto the Earl of Angwische, and did extremely lament and ask God mercy
that she had offended unto the said Earl as she had."

The friars were also to plead with her son for the Lady Margaret
Douglas, the daughter whom she had so remorselessly abandoned, and to
beg him that she might have some of her mother's goods. And thus,
making what reparation she could, with penitent words on her lips,
Margaret Tudor passed away.


The history of the first two marriages of Henry VIII. is of such vital
importance, affecting as they did the whole course of religion in
England, from the first whisperings of the divorce down to the present
day, that it is not to be wondered at if the royal Bluebeard's
subsequent matrimonial alliances have been considered negligible
quantities. And yet, at least one of them was of extreme political, and
even religious, importance, and was fraught with so much mystery that
until the most recent investigations, the true inwardness of the matter
has been totally misapprehended. The story of Anne of Cleves' portrait,
and Henry's supposed disappointment when he saw the lady herself for
the first time, is authentic in so far as it was exactly what the king
chose to have circulated about his fourth marriage. But if it contained
half the truth, it was the other half that really mattered.

After the fall of Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell had by his astute policy
succeeded in bringing about a religious state of things in England that
approached very nearly to Lutheranism. Taking advantage of Henry's
pique and anger at the Pope's refusal to grant him a divorce from
Katharine of Arragon, Cromwell set about widening the breach between
England and Rome. After weakening the power of the bishops and lower
clergy, he was able to force the oath of supremacy upon the nation, and
having thus satisfied his master's pride and vanity, his next step was
by the dissolution of the monasteries to pander to Henry's greed, while
at the same time he filled his own pockets.

In pursuit of these ends he had covered the land with gibbets, and
caused the noblest heads in England to fall upon the block. He had
branded the king's own daughter with the stigma of infamy, and to
obtain her consent thereto had kept the axe suspended over her. He had
been able to accomplish all this because thus far he had taken Henry's
measure correctly, working upon his worst passions, and suggesting ever
fresh means of satisfying them. Then came a point at which his
interests and those of the king diverged.

Cromwell was deeply pledged to the Lutheran cause, and his plan was to
throw Henry into the arms of the Lutheran princes of Germany. He had
already flooded the country with foreign heretics, using them as his
tools to protestantise the Church in England.

Jane Seymour died in 1537, and Cromwell at once negotiated a marriage
between Henry and Anne, daughter of the Duke of Cleves, Henry
consenting for the reason that it behoved him to fortify himself by an
alliance that would enable him to make a stand against a possible
combination of forces between the Pope, the Emperor, and the French
King. But at the very moment when Cromwell, believing himself to be at
the point of realising all his desires, was pledging his master to
marry Anne of Cleves, a reaction had set in which he so completely
disregarded as to seem in utter ignorance of it.

Nothing annoyed Henry more than to be twitted with being a heretic, and
whenever Henry was annoyed a blow might be expected. The loathed
epithet was now very frequently used in reference to him by the emperor
and others, and he was bent on showing Europe that he could be a very
good Catholic without the Pope. It irritated him to think that Cromwell
had laid him open to retort in this contention by a formal alliance
with the Lutherans, who were undeniably heretics. It served his purpose
very well to play them off against the emperor and even Francis I., but
it was not his will to be bound irrevocably by any contract. When
Cromwell thought to put the finishing touch to his triumphant scheme,
he only effected his own doom. He boasted to the Lutherans that he
would soon bring England over to their forms of faith, and on this
promise the match between Henry and Anne was concluded; but he failed
to rouse the German princes to a contest with the emperor, which was
all that Henry, apart from his minister's policy, had aimed at from the
beginning. With Henry the whole scheme was tentative, and the proposed
marriage but a detail of that scheme. When it fell through, he desired

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 3 of 28)