Margaret Douglas: Life Story

Chapter 11 : Countess of Lennox

On 26th June, 1544, Henry and Lennox entered a treaty for the marriage. In return for Lennox abandoning his claims to the Scots throne in favour of Henry, his French estates, and betraying Dumbarton and Bute to the English, he was to receive Lady Margaret Douglas in marriage, and a handsome estate. Also listed in the treaty were the lands that Margaret was to have from Lennox as her jointure, which were part of the Lennox earldom and amounted to 500 marks Scots per annum. When Henry achieved his fantasy of overlordship of Scotland, Lennox would be Governor under him, and could take any revenue over the cost of running the country and maintaining Margaret. He was also to cause the ‘Word of God’ to be preached in Scotland. As Henry was still firmly Catholic in doctrine, we may suppose that this was merely to reiterate Catholic teaching, with the rejection of Papal authority.

The signing of the treaty was celebrated with a feast at which Henry, Lennox, Prince Edward and the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth were present. Margaret herself is not named, although she may have been there.

Three days later, on 29 th June 1544, at St James Palace, Margaret married Lennox after Mass, with the King and Queen in attendance. There is no record of Margaret’s initial reaction to the marriage, but we can assume that she would have been pleased, for a number of reasons, not least the fact that she was close to thirty in an age which considered the appropriate age for women of her class to be married was about twenty. The fact that Lennox himself was the same age as her, and by all accounts a personable man, was unlikely to have escaped her.

Margaret was a strong supporter of Henry’s policy, still being pursued by her father, Angus, of the marriage of Edward and Mary, Queen of Scots. Such a match would have made her aunt-by-marriage to the next King of England, as well as cousin – never a bad idea to be closely allied to the Crown, provided that one’s loyalty was not suspect.

Henry’s motives for keeping Margaret single so long are likely to have been similar to his reasons for keeping his daughter, Mary, single. Apart from wanting to hang on to his bargaining chips as long as possible, he was reluctant to provide either woman with a husband who might challenge either Henry himself, or more likely, the young Edward, should Henry die before Edward was able to hold his throne firmly.

He must have been strongly convinced either that Lennox would be loyal, although a talent for loyalty had not been conspicuously demonstrated by Lennox’ behaviour to date, or that the English would be so solidly against a Scottish King that he would not pose a threat. Lennox became a ‘denizen’ of England – that is, he swore allegiance to the English King.

On her wedding, Margaret received a generous gift of jewellery from the Lady Mary consisting of several gold brooches with diamonds, sapphires and emeralds.

Henry granted Margaret and Lennox vast swathes of land in Yorkshire. To fulfil the marriage treaty, their value had to be at least 6,800 marks Scots, or 1,700 marks English – about £1,100 English. The lands were made up of property from the Percy Earldom of Northumberland, the lands of dissolved monasteries, including that of Jervaulx, and land confiscated from rebels after the Pilgrimage of Grace.

The lands were granted to the couple jointly, and entailed on their joint heirs – ensuring that, in the event of Margaret’s death without heirs, they would not pass to the children of any subsequent wife of Lennox. The extent of their lands made them the second largest landowners (excluding the Crown) in the whole of the north, next only to Henry Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, married to Margaret’s cousin Eleanor Brandon.

Lady Margaret Douglas

Lady Margaret Douglas

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