Margaret Douglas: Life Story

Chapter 13 : Quarrel with Angus

As noted earlier, on Angus’ return to Scotland he had married Margaret Maxwell, and had at least three children by her, although only one, James Douglas, survived childhood. In August, 1547, Angus arranged for transfer of his lands to James, retaining only a life-interest, but young James died early the following year.

Angus continued in Henry’s pay until June 1546, when the Scots Parliament rejected the Treaty of Edinburgh which had been agreed by Arran for the marriage of Queen Mary and Prince Edward. On 22 nd August 1546, Angus, and his brother, Sir George Douglas, swore allegiance to Arran as Governor. Margaret’s father and husband were now on opposing sides. There can be no doubt that Margaret’s loyalties lay with Lennox and the pro-English party.

Henry, as may be imagined, was beside himself with the loss of the Scots marriage, and continued to try to bring it about by force. After his death, Edward’s Lord Protector, the Duke of Somerset, maintained the war, during which Lennox burned Annan on 8 th September 1547, a raid that was swiftly followed by the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Pinkie, at which Angus fought for Scotland, was a disastrous defeat for Scotland, but Somerset was unable to follow it up with any long term control.

Later that year, Angus wrote to Margaret, asking her to plead with the English government for kind treatment for his illegitimate son (another George) and other hostages who had been taken by the English. The Lennoxes were not inclined to help, and did not intervene to any effect. Despite his efforts, Lennox was not a successful commander, and the English never managed to gain mastery of Scotland. Eventually, the young Mary, Queen of Scots was sent in secret to France, and the pro-French party continued to rule the country until the crisis of 1559-1560 (more here).

Angus was hoping to improve his relationship with Margaret and Lennox, promising the latter some hawks, and sending letters that were loving and affectionate – dwelling on his love for Margaret and his desire to see her, and, by implication, her son, young Lord Darnley.

Margaret was not impressed. She was furious with her father, both for his perceived disloyalty to the pro-English party, and, more importantly, his actions with regard to her inheritance. In the land arrangement mentioned above, Angus had entailed the Earldom of Angus to ‘tail male’ – that is, in default of sons of his own line, the earldom would pass to his next male heir – at that time his brother, Sir George Douglas. This disinherited Margaret, as the Earldom of Angus had previously been heritable by women. On 15th March 1549, she wrote one of the sternest letters of the period from a child to a parent. In it, she points out that George Douglas couldn’t wait for Angus to die, so that he could inherit, but that if Angus had no more sons and she were passed over, ‘many a man shall smart for it’.

The full text of the letter is set out below, as it is very illustrative of Margaret’s character.

In April 1552, there is a mention in the Privy Council of her as wishing to return home, as she is pregnant, although whether home means Scotland or Temple Newsam is not specified. Margaret does seem to have visited Scotland in 1552, perhaps for the first time since leaving back in 1528, and she probably visited Angus at Tantallon. Even if they were reconciled during this visit, Angus did not change the entail on his lands, and a dispute over inheritance flared up after his death.

Whilst the exact dates of Margaret’s visit are unknown, what is clear is that Lennox and her children were retained in England. Ms Weir postulates that the visit was advantageous to the English government as it kept Margaret out of the way during the summer of 1553, when an attempt was made to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne in place of the Lady Mary.

​Letter from Margaret to Angus

15 March 1549

My Lorde, after my humble commendacions and desiring of your blessing, this shalbe to signeffye unto you the gret unnaturalnes wiche ye showe me daylye, being to longe to reherse in all poyntes, butt in some I wyll declare nowe laste of all, my Lorde, being nere you, and so desirows to have spoken with you, yet ye refused it and wolde not, where in ye showed your selfe not to be so loving as ye ought to be, or elles so unstable that every body maye turne you, for diverse tymes ye have said you wolde be glad to speyke with your sonne my lorde.

Remember he bathe maryd your owne doughter, and the best chylde to you that ever ye had, if ye call to remembrance j'our being here in Englande. How be hit, your dedys showethe the forgetfulnes thereof, in so myche as ye ar so contrary to the Kynges majesties affayres, that nowe ys, hys father being so goode and so lyberall a prynce to you, wyche ought neyer to be forgotton ; butt nowe, my lorde, I here saye that ye have professed never to agree with Englande, for so myche as the moost parte of your frendes are slayne. Butt whome can you blame for that butt only youre selfewylles (selfwill), for if ye wolde agre to this godly maryage, (between Mary Queen of Scots and King Edward VI) there nedyd no Crjsten blode to be shed.

For Godes sake remember your selfe nowe in your olde age, and seke to have an honorable pease, wiche can not be withowte this marjiage. And what a memoryall shulde that be to you for ever, if ye colde be an instrument for that. If I should wryte so longe a letter as I colde fynde matter with the wrong of your part and the right of myne, hit were to tedyowse for you to rede ; butt for as myche as I purpose, God wylling, to comme to Carlyll shortly after Ester, I wyll kepe it in store to tell you my selfe, for I am sure ye wyll nott refuse commyng to me, all thow my uncle George and the Laide of Dromlaneryk speyke agaynst it, whome I knowe wolde be glad to se you in your grave, all thowe they flatter you to your face.

My uncle George hathe seid, as dyverse Skottesmen have tolde me, that thowe you had sones he wolde be eyre, and make them all bastardis; butt, my Lorde, if God sende you no moo sons, and I lyffe after you, he shall have leste parte thereof, or elles many a man shall smarte for it. This leyvinge to declare forther of my mynde tell I maye speyke with you my selfe, I commytte you to the kepinge off All myghty God whoo sende you longe liffe withe myche honour.

Frome the Kynges magestyes castell of Wreyssell, the xvth daye of Marche,

Be your humble doughter,

Margrett Lennox.

Lady Margaret Douglas

Lady Margaret Douglas

Family Tree