Anne of Denmark: Life Story

Chapter 9 : Confrontation

On his departure for England, James sent a very loving letter to Prince Henry, bidding him not to become too proud – he was still a king’s son, as he had been before, and the second crown was likely to prove as much a burden as a pleasure. He was to consider all Englishmen to be his loving subjects, the same as Scots, he was to read the 'Basilikon Doron' carefully, and he was to obey Lord Mar, although shortly afterwards, Mar was sent for to London, leaving Henry with the old Countess.

Almost as soon as James was out of sight, Anne received a touching letter from her son, saying that he would miss his father’s visits and asking her to visit him instead. Rather sadly, the nine year old boy wrote that he hoped ‘your majesty by sight may have, as I hope, the greater matter [cause] to love me’.

It is unclear whether Anne saw Henry at all during the late 1590s. James obviously visited him, and there was nothing to stop Anne seeing the boy, provided she accepted that he would stay at Stirling, but the tone of the letter suggests that she seldom, if ever, did visit. However, touched by this missive, on 7th May she rode with armed soldiers to Stirling and demanded to see Henry.

Lady Mar would not permit the entry of any of the soldiers, only that of Anne and her immediate attendants. Although they were let through the gates, the Queen was still prevented from seeing her son. It is possible Lady Mar was exceeding her instructions, but, as Anne’s attendants were also armed, she erred on the safe side, and, producing James’ instructions, insisted that she could not let anyone see Henry.

Anne was again overcome with rage and distress, which was believed to bring on the miscarriage that she suffered later that day or the next. Messages were sent to James, announcing that the Queen was seriously ill, and that, knowing James’ affection for his wife, his courtiers were trying to calm her as much as possible.

James finally relented on the custody of his son. Perhaps, now he was in England, and also had a second son, he believed that his position was safer, or perhaps he wished to make Anne happy again. He sent instructions that Prince Henry was to be handed over to the Queen at Holyrood by Mar, whom he sent back to Scotland, purely to resolve this problem. Anne, refusing to be satisfied with having triumphed on the main point, was insistent on having her way in everything.

She refused to receive Mar, or to allow him to hand over Henry in person, despite this being James’ direct command. To break the impasse, another letter had to be written to James, asking him to persuade Anne to some semblance of reasonableness.

James wrote to his wife, addressing her as ‘Dear Heart’. In his missive, which reads as a very reasonable response to Anne’s not very reasonable behaviour, James displayed genuine affection for her. In the letter she had written him, which is not extant, she seems to have written that she feared that Mar and others were accusing her of being involved in ‘papish or Spanish’ intrigues. James’ response was to reassure her that, not only had no-one ever breathed such an allegation against her, but that she should know him well enough to understand that no-one would ever dare speak detrimentally of her to him.

He went on to say that she need not draw attention to her high birth as a reason for him to respect her. He had married her because of her royal blood, but, once married, it did not matter if she were a king’s daughter or a cook’s – he loved her as his wife and the mother of his children.

James continued with an explanation of his feelings that seems to hint at the root of ongoing trouble in their marriage. He assured her that he loved her more than anyone, even more than his children, but that if she continued to believe every ‘flattering sycophant’ who sought to persuade her that any favour or friendship James showed to ‘an honest and wise servant for his faithfulness’ meant that he preferred anyone else, or was comparing them Anne, they would never be able to live in peace. He closed the letter ‘praying God, my Heart, to preserve you and all the bairns, and send me a blithe meeting with you and a couple of them. Your own, James R.

Despite these words, Anne still refused to comply with James’ wish and accept custody of Henry directly from Mar, nor would she accept his advice to ‘forget her grudges’ against the Earl, and spend her time being grateful that they had succeeded so smoothly to the English throne. In the end, it was arranged that Mar would hand the boy over to the Council, who would release him to Anne’s care. Finally satisfied, Anne began her preparations to travel south with Prince Henry and Princess Elizabeth. Prince Charles was considered too delicate to travel.