James IV: His Wife & Four Mistresses

Chapter 9 : The Wedding

Eventually, Princess Margaret left Richmond Palace with her father on 27 th June 1503 to be married to the 30 year old King James IV.

On her progress to her new kingdom, Margaret lacked nothing in the way of material comfort and splendour. Her father had fitted her out with a huge wardrobe, jewellery and horses. More personally, in a rare survival of evidence of personal affection from the time, he gave her a Book of Hours, inscribed, in his own handwriting, in two places:

"Remember yr kynde and loving fader in yr prayers – Henry R"


"Pray for yr lowving fader that gave you this boke and I gyve you at alle tymes godd's blessyng and myne. Henry R"

Book of Hours belonging to Margaret, Queen of Scots

Henry accompanied Margaret as far as Northamptonshire, then on 8 th July she parted from her family to head north, accompanied by a great train of ladies and gentlemen, including her grandmother's husband, the Earl of Derby. The leader of her entourage was Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, but his was a short term role, just to take her to Scotland and see her safely married. Her permanent household was to be led by Sir Ralph Verney, her Chamberlain, and his wife, Eleanor Pole.

1 Thomas Howard 2nd Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, who accompanied Margaret to her marriage with James IV

Despite all of this splendour one can imagine the fear and trepidation in Margaret's heart as she processed grandly through all of the cities on the Great North Road, greeting dignitaries and being royally entertained. She had just lost her mother in childbirth, an ordeal that could not be too far away for her, and she was to be married to a man she had never seen, much older and more experienced than herself. She is likely to have known that James, unlike her faithful father, was a womaniser.

Margaret finally arrived at the border at Berwick on 30 th July 1503. She was met by the Archbishop of Glasgow and a host of her new subjects, including a clutch of trumpeters to blow her a fanfare. At Dalkeith, two days before her official entrance to Edinburgh, in keeping with tales of chivalry, James "accidentally" met Margaret whilst purporting to be on a hunting trip. Fortunately, he was wearing a smart crimson velvet jacket, rather than anything more workaday.

James greeted his bride warmly and spent the two days putting her at her ease, quickly discovering a shared interest in, and aptitude for, music. On departing from her, he could not resist the opportunity to impress her with his favourite party trick – the ability to leap into the saddle of his horse.

Feeling safe in his masterful horseman-ship, on the 7 th August Margaret made her official entry into her new city riding pillion behind James, to the delight of the crowds. He had first tried his own horse with a pillion on which was mounted a servant, to check whether it was safe for Margaret. The horse objected, so he had his saddle put on her gentler palfrey and took her up behind him.

James and Margaret were married at Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh on 8 th August 1503 and Margaret was crowned following the nuptial mass, James holding her around the waist for much of the ceremony.

Remains of Holyrood Abbey, where James IV married Margaret of England on 8 August 1503

As a wedding present for Margaret, a Book of Hours was created, perhaps commissioned by James himself. It was the work of several hands, probably made in Ghent, with the most famous contributor likely to have been Gerard Horenbout, court painter to Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Low Countries. There is a portrait of James, perhaps taken from a known likeness, but Margaret is a more stylised figure.

Wedding chest of James IV and Margaret of England