Matthew Stuart: Life Story

Chapter 6 : Court Favour

The war in Scotland had failed to achieve English objectives. In July 1548, the Scots formally renewed their alliance with France at the Treaty of Haddington, and Queen Mary was sent to France for her upbringing and to be married to the Dauphin. She would not return until 1561. In the intervening period, her mother, Marie of Guise, became a dominant figure in Scottish politics, but the Reformation split the Scots nobles as deeply as the previous dispute over a pro-English or pro-French policy had done.

So far as can be ascertained, Lennox and his wife spent most of the remainder of Edward VI’s reign in Yorkshire. Lady Lennox, at least, rejected the Protestantism that Edward VI and his government espoused, although Lennox himself seems to have been indifferent to religion. They were present in November 1551 when Marie of Guise passed through London on her return from a visit to France. What Lennox made of again seeing the dowager queen he had once hoped to marry, is not recorded.

During these years, Lennox and his wife busied themselves with the education of their only surviving son, Henry, Lord Darnley. As a precious only child, both parents doted on the boy, and gave him a fine impression of his own importance. Their indulgence did Darnley little good – spoiling a child who was intelligent and well-educated in the best Renaissance style, and creating a completely self-centred and ‘entitled’ young man.

In July 1553, Edward VI died, and, having defeated an attempted coup to oust her in favour of her Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary, ascended the throne. Lady Lennox had been one of the new queen’s closest friends since girlhood, and the Lennoxes were soon leading lights at the new court. They had grand apartments in the royal palaces, Lennox was appointed Master of the Queen’s Hawks, and given the pick of Edward VI’s stable, whilst Lady Lennox became the queen’s chief lady-in-waiting.

Lady Lennox had a good claim to be the heir the English throne as the daughter of Henry VIII’s elder sister. Henry VIII had ignored her in his will, preferring the line of his younger sister, Mary the French Queen, but, since the Lennoxes had a son, and Lady Lennox was a good Catholic, there was hope for her to be named as the queen’s heir, if Queen Mary’s half-sister, Elizabeth, were passed over.

Elizabeth’s star was not shining brightly – her legitimacy was questionable, and she was suspected of involvement in Wyatt’s Rebellion. This gave the Lennoxes high hopes for their son, particularly when Queen Mary gave him some of the late king’s sumptuous wardrobe, as well as his musical instruments, but Mary was far more interested in having a child of her own, and soon married Philip of Spain, with Lady Lennox acting as her train-bearer.

In the event, Mary had no children, but, despite Lady Lennox being known as a committed Catholic, Philip did not favour her as his wife’s heir, probably on account of the long-term French associations of the Lennox family in general. He supported Elizabeth, no doubt hoping that her apparent acceptance of the restored Catholic faith was genuine, and that he would be able to count on her gratitude for his protection later.

In 1556,  Lennox once again became a father – another son was born who would survive childhood. He was christened Charles, probably to honour King Philip, son of the Emperor Charles (another son, Philip had also succumbed to an early death).

Queen Mary was prepared to support the Lennoxes in their efforts to regain lands in Scotland: Lady Lennox was hoping that her father’s earldom of Angus would be restored to her, rather than being settled on her uncle, and Lennox sought the return of his estates, confiscated for treason. Mary’s  support was predicated on the agreement that Lennox would, once ensconced in Dumbarton, overthrow Arran, and drive Marie of Guise out of the country. He was encouraged, if possible, to make himself king. If he managed to accomplish all of this, Queen Mary would fund him. The queen wrote to Marie of Guise, recommending the various Lennox suits, but Marie was not helpful – responding that it was a matter for her daughter, the Queen of Scots. Further correspondence in 1557 gave a slightly more promising response, but nothing was settled before the death of Queen Mary of England in November 1558.

Mary had accepted her half-sister, Elizabeth, as her heir, and the Lennoxes were in no position to challenge her. Although Lady Lennox was not as close to Elizabeth as she had been to Mary, it was still advantageous to be the queen’s cousin, and the couple continued to hope that their son would be advanced at the English court as Elizabeth’s nearest male heir. However, Elizabeth soon made it clear that the Lennoxes were no longer to be fixtures at court and they withdrew to their house at Settrington, Yorkshire. 

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox

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