Margaret Douglas: Life Story

Chapter 18 : Success

It soon became apparent to Elizabeth’s government that a marriage between Mary and Darnley might be the lesser of two evils. Queen Mary was still hoping to marry Don Carlos, the son of Philip of Spain - a far more worrying prospect than marriage with Darnley. Nevertheless, Elizabeth came up with a third option – that Mary should marry Lord Robert Dudley, whom she could rely on to protect her own interests. He was very much against the idea, and Mary was frankly disgusted at the idea she might marry Elizabeth’s cast-offs. It is hard to believe that Elizabeth could seriously have thought Mary might agree, even if the pill were sweetened with a promise of the succession to the English Crown.

Darnley was now being paraded at the English court, to encourage Mary to keep in Elizabeth’s good books. But Margaret was still hoping that Darnley would be married to Mary, and succeed to Elizabeth’s crown later. This would tend to suggest that she was not looking to overthrow Elizabeth, or she might have preferred Darnley to stay in England. Whilst Elizabeth was still canvassing Dudley as a husband for Mary, the Lennoxes sent their servant, Thomas Fowler, to Scotland to continue negotiations for a match with Darnley. As Don Carlos’ mental incapacity was now becoming apparent, it appeared that Mary would not be able to marry him.

Fowler claimed his mission was merely to treat with the Scottish government about Lennox’ restoration – to which Queen Mary had finally agreed, supported by her half-brother, the Earl of Moray, who wanted to keepChatelherault and Arran out of power.

Elizabeth now, for some inexplicable reason, allowed Lennox to travel to Scotland. At first, she refused consent for Darnley to accompany him, but then relented. Meanwhile, Dudley, desperate to avoid being forced to marry Mary himself, was happy to work with Margaret to advance Darnley’s hopes.

On 23 September, 1564, Lennox was received in the Scots Parliament, and the sentence of forfeiture that had hung over him for twenty years was rescinded. Over the next couple of months he was reconciled to his old enemies and had his lands restored. Elizabeth continued to show favour to Darnley – he was permitted, as her nearest male relative, to carry the sword of state in front of her. Elizabeth discussed his merits with Mary’s ambassador, and suggested that she was considering putting him forward to Mary as a suitor.

After much vacillation, Elizabeth allowed Darnley to join Lennox in Scotland. She must have known how it would end – was she tired of being badgered on the subject, or had she seen enough of Darnley now to know that Mary would regret marrying him within a very short space of time? The excuse the Lennoxes gave, that Elizabeth professed to accept, was that Darnley was needed about legal matters. He arrived in Scotland in February 1565,

When Mary saw Darnley, now aged twenty, she appears to have liked what she saw, but did not rush into anything. The young man then fell sick, and Mary insisted on visiting him. She was not the first, nor the last, young woman to fall in love with a man lying vulnerable on his sickbed.

In April, Mary wrote to Elizabeth, wishing her to approve a marriage with Darnley, and appoint her as her heir. Elizabeth received the request coldly, and turned on Margaret, ordering her to keep to her rooms. Again the Queen issued conflicting orders, seeming on the one had to encourage the match, and on the other to forbid it.

The Scottish Lords were not thrilled at Mary’s choice – the Protestants disliked Darnley as a Catholic, the Hamiltons hated the Lennoxes, and the Douglases wanted to keep Margaret out of the Earldom of Angus. Neither Lennox nor Darnley were endearing themselves – behaving arrogantly and being ‘saucier than ever’. To buy favour from Moray and the Douglas faction, Margaret agreed to give up her claims to Angus.

On hearing that Darnley had accepted the Earldom of Ross (commonly a title given to the sovereign’s younger brother) and for which he swore allegiance to Mary, Elizabeth ordered Lennox and Darnley to return to England immediately. They failed to do so and Margaret was sent to the Tower of London.

Lady Margaret Douglas

Lady Margaret Douglas

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