Chapter 20 : Last Years
Unfortunately for Margaret, Methven turned out to be no better as a husband than Angus had been. He too took up with a mistress whom he maintained at Margaret’s expense, and during James’ absence in France, Margaret decided that a second annulment was the only answer. She would, she announced, return to Angus.
On his return, James was mortified. He would not permit his mother to make a laughing-stock of herself and him, and put an immediate stop to any talk of divorce. Margaret, furious, attempted to leave Scotland, and was ignominiously escorted back to court by Lord Maxwell, who had caught up with her just at the border. Throughout this period, she continually wrote to Henry, complaining of neglect on the part of her son, and, once again, of poverty. Henry paid no attention.
Matters improved in 1537 when James married a second time, Queen Madeleine having died within a few months of their marriage. The new queen, Marie of Guise, was a kind and tactful daughter-in-law, and Margaret was treated once again as an honoured Queen-Dowager, being invited to be godmother to James and Marie’s first son, another James. She wrote to Henry, boasting of her new daughter-in-law’s affection and attention. A reconciliation with Methven was also effected.
In April 1541, tragedy struck the royal family as both of James and Marie’s sons died within twenty-four hours. In this moment of grief, James and his wife turned to Margaret for comfort, and she spent every moment she could with them. Later in the year, she retired to Methven, but perhaps the strain of grief and sleeplessness had been too much for the fifty-two year old Margaret. She suffered what was probably a stroke and died on 18th October. James was summoned, but did not reach her bedside in time to say goodbye.
Margaret’s last wishes were for James to treat Angus well, and to beg Angus’ forgiveness for what she described as her offences against him. She left her moveable goods to her daughter, Lady Margaret Douglas.
James ignored both the injunction to forgive Angus and appropriated Margaret’s goods for himself. He paid for a splendid funeral, and she was interred at the Carthusian Abbey in Perth, near James I and Queen Joan Beaufort. Her tomb was later desecrated by Calvinist iconoclasts in the late 1550s.
Margaret lived a troubled life – in many ways her own worst enemy as she sought to play one faction against another, in a way that left few trusting her. Unhappy in her second and third marriages, deprived of her daughter and often on poor terms with her son, it is hard not to feel she was the author of many of her own misfortunes.