Margaret Douglas: Life Story

Chapter 4 : Exile

After Angus was exiled in 1524, Queen Margaret requested the Pope for an annulment (although the term “divorce” is used) on the grounds of Angus’ prior betrothal to Lady Janet of Traquair. Back in England, Henry, Katharine and Wolsey were scandalised by her action, and exerted themselves to prevent it in every way. Wolsey wrote to Henry explaining his efforts at hindering the matter, as it was feared that the Queen intended to marry Albany, with whom she was rumoured to be having an affair.

In 1524, Queen Margaret persuaded the Scots Estates to declare that the regency of Albany was at an end, and that King James should now rule himself. On this, Angus returned to Scotland where he continued to make trouble for his wife and step-son. He seized the government of King James and for the next three years dominated Scottish government. His daughter’s whereabouts are not known for certain, but she was probably kept close to her father’s side, and thus in near proximity to her half-brother King James in the various royal palaces at Stirling, Linlithgow or Edinburgh Castle. In early 1525 a betrothal between Lady Margaret and the Earl of Moray, the illegitimate half-brother of Margaret’s own half-brother, King James, was suggested, but it came to nothing.

Queen Margaret’s divorce was finally granted by the Pope in 1526 and pronounced in Scotland by Cardinal James Beaton, Archbishop of St Andrew’s with the proviso that, as Queen Margaret had undertaken the marriage in good faith, the daughter of the union was legitimate. The Queen then married Henry Stewart, Lord Methven, described by the French Ambassador, du Bellay, as ‘a still finer fellow than himself (Angus)’. There is no record as to what Margaret thought, if anything, about her step-father. James V treated him with contempt.

In 1528, James escaped from Angus and his brother George, and declared the whole Douglas family as ‘proscribed’ and subject to forfeit of their lands. He apparently excluded his half-sister from this, but Angus chose to interpret it as including her, and took her with him to Tantallon. James, fearful that she would be taken to England, and anxious for her return, sent scouts the length of the border to hunt for her and bring her back to her mother, where an appropriate establishment was being provided for her.

Rumours of further marriage plans arose – this time to an even more inappropriate husband – James Stewart, Captain of Doune, the brother of Queen Margaret’s third husband. The idea that James Stewart had been Queen Margaret’s lover before her marriage to his brother hardly seems credible, but the teller of the tale, Alexander Pringle, was a retainer of the Douglas family and no doubt could not find a good word to say of Queen Margaret. At any rate, he gives this mooted marriage as the reason for Angus being eager to take Lady Margaret out of the country.

James marched south with some 8,000 men to besiege Tantallon, but Angus had already left and proceeded to undertake a series of skirmishes and sieges against his king during the period of October 1528 to May 1529. On 9 th October, having avoided being captured by James at Coldingham Priory, Angus sent Margaret for shelter to King Henry’s border castle of Norham. It is not clear whether she actually went to Norham, and stayed there, or returned to her father. She is next heard of in 1529, at Berwick Castle, in the care of Thomas Strangeways, Captain of Berwick.

Unsure what to do with her, Strangeways sent Carlisle Herald to Wolsey for instructions, keeping her in the meantime in some level of confinement, probably to prevent her being captured by James and Queen Margaret (or rescued, depending on Margaret’s point of view, which we do not have).

Wolsey, no doubt harassed by his own problems of Henry’s annulment, found time to send instructions to Strangeways to keep Lady Margaret and look after her as well as possible, whilst not permitting her to leave. Strangeways replied in July 1529, pointing out that he had already had the lady in his care for three months, without any money to provide for her.

‘Mr. Carlisle the herald hath declared to me that I shall keep still with me, in my house, the Lady Margaret, the daughter of the Earl of Angus; and further, that I should take good heed to be sure of her; but that she might hove as much liberty and recreation, and rather more, than she hath had. Please your Grace, even so according to your commandment sent me by the said herald, rightso I have used her before that commandment came to me. I was warned that if I took not good heed, and looked surely to her, she would be stolen and withdrawn into Scotland, which caused me to take more labor for her sure keeping; and yet I know well she was never merrier or more pleased and content than she is now, as she ofttimes repeats. My Lord of Angus, at the first bringing of her to me, desired that I would take her to my house, and he would content me both for her and for her gentlewomen, with such folk as wait upon her daily or resort to her. And I showed again to my said lord, that forasmuch as I understood that your Grace [Wolsey] was godfather to her, and seeing that my Lord of Angus was not provided with a convenient place for her to be in, I was content to take her, and do her the best service that might lay in my power, till such time as I knew your Grace's pleasure. Since the coming to Berwick of the said herald, I have showed my Lord of Angus that your express commandment to me by the said herald was,that I should keep and retain my lady still; wherewith he was very glad, and joyous that your Grace had his in such remembrance. An' it like your Grace, I have had the said lady and her gentlewomen, and a man-servant, with other of her friends and servants, at certain times, and for the most part the Earl of Angus her father, now by the space of three months, without any manner of costs to my said lord or any of them; and what your Grace shall further command me in this matter, or any other, I shall be ready to accomplish the same by the grace of God.’

The gentlewoman referred to is named as Isobel Hoppar who was married to Angus' uncle, another Archibald Douglas, so was probably more of a governess, than a servant.

Lady Margaret Douglas

Lady Margaret Douglas

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