Royal Splendour

Chapter 6 : Meeting James IV

It was at Dalkeith that Margaret first met the man who was already her husband by proxy. James arrived, sporting a long beard, which was probably rather a surprise to Margaret, as it was the fashion of the English court to be clean-shaven. They bowed and curtseyed and made polite conversation, before James departed, leaving her to sleep.

Sadly, that first night, Margaret sustained a loss which must have upset her greatly – there was a fire in the stables, and the palfries that had taken turns in carrying her all the way from Collyweston were killed. The next day, James came to comfort her, and they had a more informal meeting, improved by the almost immediate discovery of a common taste for music.

Margaret remained at Dalkeith several days, with James visiting her regularly. In a demonstration of his eagerness to be kind to the young girl, who, although a rich matrimonial prize, was barely more than a child far from home, James attended to her every need – even giving her his chair (the symbol of his status) in place of her stool, when the latter proved uncomfortable for her.

The days passed pleasantly in music, dancing, cards and games, before it was time for the next stage in Margaret’s great journey – the entry to her new capital city, Edinburgh.

Robed again in cloth of gold with a hood of black velvet and a collar of pearls and other jewels, she entered the litter and the long procession again formed up, with the Earl of Surrey to the fore. She was met by James, also dressed in cloth-of-gold jacket with purple velvet and black lamb-skin trimmings, a violet satin doublet, scarlet hose, and his shirt embroidered with pearls. His horse too, was clothed in cloth of gold, with gilded stirrups and harness. (Ed. Sounds like a box of Christmas Crackers!)

The King dismounted and kissed his fiancé, before remounting, and riding on with the sword of state, studded with pearls reading ‘God My Defender’ carried ahead of him.

James then decided that Margaret should ride with him. He was an exceptionally skilled horseman, and could leap into the saddle without touching the stirrups (something he obviously did quite frequently to the oohs and aahs of the audience.) He chose another horse and caused one of his pages to mount up behind to see if it would bear a pillion. The horse objected strenuously, so James decided that Margaret’s palfrey was likelier to be more docile. He mounted it, and she took the pillion behind him, and thus they entered Edinburgh.

Their destination was Holyrood, but en route they stopped to see the various spectacles that had been prepared to welcome Margaret. The first was a short play showing a knight errant rescuing a lady, which involved the Good Knight and the Bad Knight undertaking a mock-joust. The second was at the gates of the Greyfriars, where the relics were brought to be reverently kissed by king and queen – he letting her make her reverence first.

There was then a chorus of angels, at the city gates, one of whom handed Margaret the keys of the city. At St Giles Kirk, the Cathedral dignitaries met them with another relic – the arm-bone of St Giles himself while a Te Deum was sung.

At the Mercat Cross, the fountain had been filled with wine for all to drink. Not far off, there was a tableau of Paris and the golden apple, which he presented to Venus. From the profane to the sacred – the next show was the Annunciation by Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, then a rendition of the Virgin’s marriage to Joseph.

Back to classical virtues, with Justice triumphing over Nero, the tyrant; Force triumphing over Holofernes; Temperance trouncing Epicurus; and Prudence beating the ancient king Sardanapolus. Heraldry was everywhere – the Unicorn of Scotland, with the Greyhound of Tudor, and entrellised red roses.

Finally, they arrived at Holyrood Abbey. Entering the church, they knelt at the altar, James again allowing his bride to take precedence as the Te Deum was sung. Numerous lords were present – the Earls of Errol, Argyll, Lennox, Caithness, Lennox and Huntly (whose sister, Katherine had been married to Perkin Warbeck) as well as dozens of lesser ranks, who all bowed to the Queen, as she politely curtsied to them.

Following their thanksgiving, James took Margaret, with his arm around her waist into his newly furbished palace of Holyrood, directly adjoining the abbey. On entering her chamber, Margaret saw that it was full of the ladies of the court. James let go of her at this point and kissed them all – something he rather seems to have enjoyed. The Bishop of Murray then introduced them to her, after which James kissed her again and left her to rest. After supper, he visited her again, before finally kissing her goodnight.