James IV: His Wife & Four Mistresses

Chapter 10 : Married Life

James treated his young wife both courteously and kindly, granting her Kilmarnock as her morning gift and buying her clothes and jewels. However he did not feel the need to break off his relationship with Lady Janet Kennedy. He may have continued the relationship partly because he seems to have been considerate enough to spare Margaret immediate consummation (although the accounts of their wedding state that they retired to bed together.) Her first pregnancy was not until 1506, resulting in the birth of a son, named James, on 21st January 1507 and christened on the 23rd of that month at Holyrood.

James was generous in his joy, giving £90 to the "Lady Maistres" who had given him the news, £7 to Margaret's mid-wife and £14 to the baby's nurse. The rapid christening may suggest that the baby was not strong and after the birth, both Margaret and baby James were dangerously ill. King James was genuinely fond of his wife and her dangerous illness:

"grevit him sa sair that he wald not be comforted: nouther of man wald receive ony consolatione."

He determined to make a pilgrimage, on foot, to the shrine of Saint Ninian, some 120 miles from Edinburgh, to pray for her recovery; giving alms at the outer kirk, the rood, the altar, the high altar, the altar of Our Lady and the relics. The walk was sufficiently hard for him to need his shoes resoling, at a cost of 16d.

Perhaps through divine intercession or perhaps on account of her own youth and strength, Queen Margaret recovered, but, after initial improvement, the baby died within a year. She went on to have four more pregnancies by James; two prior to the birth of James V on 15th April 1512 ended in still birth, with her final child by James being Alexander, Duke of Ross.

During his marriage, although James does not seem to have replaced Lady Janet Kennedy with an official mistress, there are quite a few payments to a woman named as Jane "bare-arse" in his accounts – we can probably guess what services were being provided!

After the succession of Queen Margaret's brother as Henry VIII of England, relations between the two royal families deteriorated. Henry withheld money due to Margaret under her father's will, and generally behaved in a way calculated to annoy James. Margaret supported her husband throughout the dispute, but she must have suffered when it became apparent that the nation of her birth and the country of which she was queen were heading for war. There were stories later that Margaret begged James not to fight, and that she retired to the tower of Linlithgow Palace, to watch and wait for the husband who never returned from the battlefield of Flodden.

This article is part of a Profile on James IV available for Kindle, for purchase from Amazon US and Amazon UK.