Margaret Tudor: Life Story

Chapter 8 : Losing the Governorship

For the time being, Margaret and Angus refused Henry’s offer of sanctuary but discord amongst the Scottish Lords erupted in a heated dispute over the Archbishopric of St Andrew’s, during which Angus left Margaret at Stirling to besiege the Castle of St Andrew’s. As soon as Angus was out of sight, Lord Home and the Earl of Arran raced to Stirling to compel Margaret to attend the Council at Edinburgh where she was forced to give up the Governorship in favour of Albany. 

Louis XII had promised that he would not let Albany sail for Scotland without Margaret’s agreement, but Louis was now dead – worn out apparently, by his marriage to Margaret’s sister, and had been succeeded by Francois I. Margaret persuaded Henry to put pressure on Francois to hold Albany back from sailing.  Francois prevaricated for a bit then claimed that as he had already promised the Scots to send Albany over, he could not ‘in honour’ refuse.  Albany, accompanied by a fleet of eight ships, arrived at Dumbarton on 26th May 1515. Almost immediately, he offended Lord Home, probably accidentally, and Home became one of Margaret’s supporters in the wrangle for control.

Albany treated Margaret with great personal respect, but his government made no bones about its hostility to England, to Angus as her husband and to the whole Douglas clan.  Gavin Douglas was imprisoned for attempting to use English influence at the Papal Court in his bid for the Archbishopric. Lord Drummond, Angus’ maternal grandfather and Margaret’s Constable of Stirling Castle, was also imprisoned.  The charge against him seems confused – at first it was said to be for suggesting that Henry should be Protector of Scotland, then he was accused of having struck a Herald who delivered a message from the Government to Margaret and addressed her as ‘My Lady, the King’s Mother’, rather than as Queen

The Council, supported by Parliament, decided that Margaret was no longer to be permitted to keep the children, as it was material to the effective carrying out of the Regency that the King be supervised by the Governor. A body of eight lords was chosen to superintend the children. Margaret determined to hold onto the boys, whether from motives of maternal affection or ambition or a mixture of both, and withdrew again to Stirling Castle. 

Four of the lords who were charged with the care of the children came to Stirling to demand that she hand them over. Margaret, keen to have public opinion on her side, brought James and Alexander to the gates, and requested the lords to deliver their message. On hearing it, she ordered the portcullis to be lowered, and informed the lords that the castle and the custody of her children had been granted to her by her husband. She would take six days to consider her final answer.

At this point, Angus ordered his wife to submit to the Council, for fear of being accused of treason, but Margaret refused to do comply. She suggested a compromise, whereby the boys would be surrendered to lords chosen by herself, to include Angus and Lord Home, but Albany refused. Some sources say this happened at Stirling, and others at Edinburgh. As it seems unlikely that Margaret could have moved between the two locations without handing over the children, we suggest she never left Stirling, given that the next act in the drama was the besieging of Stirling Castle with Margaret and her sons inside.  Angus was conspicuous by his absence, skulking on his estates at Forfar, although he did not go so far in his betrayal of his wife as to join the siege against her, when commanded to do so by Albany.

Meanwhile, Lord Dacre, the English Warden of the Marches, was receiving instructions from the English Council to foment as many quarrels between Angus and Albany, and Albany and Lord Hume, the Chamberlain, as possible, with the motive of driving Albany out of the country. Dacre was to encourage Margaret in her fears for the future of her children. He also began to lay plans for having the children secretly brought to England, although there is no evidence that Margaret knew of any such plot.

By August, Margaret, who was again pregnant, could hold out no longer. In another dramatic scene, she brought James into the courtyard, holding the keys of the fortress, which were probably almost as big as he was, and let him hand them over to the kneeling Albany.

It is not surprising that Margaret dreaded handing over her children. Throughout her childhood, she must have been aware of the mystery surrounding her mother’s brothers, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, who were in the care of their uncle, Richard of Gloucester, before disappearing when Richard took the throne himself as Richard III. In a close parallel with Margaret’s case, her grandmother, Elizabeth Woodville, had been forced to hand her younger child over, despite her protests.

Fortunately for Margaret and her children, Albany had no designs on James’ throne, he was content to be Governor, and would probably have preferred not even to have had that role. It is apparent from all his actions that he could hardly wait to go back to France and his life there. He was formally appointed Governor by Parliament on 12th August 1515 until James should reach the age of eighteen.

Albany wrote to Dacre that Margaret was very happy with the new arrangements, and that he himself had no designs on the crown, but was merely obeying the decrees of the Council and Parliament. He hoped to maintain peace on the border in accordance with the various treaties.