Matthew Stuart: Life Story

Chapter 7 : New Plans

Settrington was conveniently placed for correspondence with France. As mentioned above, Lennox’ brother, John, Sieur d’Aubigny, had been imprisoned by François I when Lennox betrayed the French cause and swore allegiance to Henry VIII. He was detained for several years, although François’ son, the Dauphin Henri, was sympathetic to his cause, and had asked Marie of Guise to find out if d’Aubigny had played any part in Lennox’ treachery. The French king, however, would not listen to any mitigation, and it was not until March 1547, when Henri succeeded as Henri II of France, that d’Aubigny was released.

He returned to soldiering, and was captured following the Anglo-Spanish victory at St Quentin in 1557. The presence of his brother in the enemy army must have been embarrassing for Lennox at Queen Mary’s court, and this may explain the derisory 200 crowns that he initally sent to his brother as a contribution to his ransom. Eventually, he bestirred himself to do more, and arranged with King Philip’s envoy, the Count of Feria, for d’Aubigny’s release.

D’Aubigny became a prominent member of the French court, and a warm supporter of Mary, Queen of Scots’ (also Dauphine of France) claim to be the legitimate queen of England. This claim was largely the work of Henri II, but Elizabeth I, and her minister, William Cecil, never forgave Mary for it.

In July 1559, Henri II of France died in a tournament. Mary, Queen of Scots was now Queen-consort of France, and her Guise relatives surrounded her and her young husband, François I. The Lennoxes decided to send Darnley to attend on Queen Mary, who was his half-cousin (Lady Lennox was half-sister to Mary’s father, James V of Scotland).  Well aware that no passport would be granted by Elizabeth I, Darnley travelled without one. Instead, he had a letter from his father, requesting the return of the Lennox lands.

Darnley was received by his uncle, d’Aubigny, now Captain of the Garde Ecossaise, and a close friend of the Duke of Guise. D’Aubigny conducted his nephew to Chambord, where he was presented to King François and Queen Mary. The king and queen received Darnley politely, but declined to enter into the matter of the Lennox lands – nevertheless, the young man was invited to the coronation, and given a generous present, before returning home via a short stay at the d’Aubigny chateau.

Darnley’s identity had remained a secret – the English ambassador, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, merely recorded the visit of a young Englishman or Scotsman, who had no beard. But Throckmorton was not oblivious to the possibility that the Lennoxes might prove a threat. He wrote to Cecil warning that, since the French had fallen out with the Earl of Arran it was likely that they would court Lennox, in order ‘to have a party in Scotland against Arran, to serve their turn’. Whilst he was reluctant to suggest that Lennox had been up to anything untoward, he recommended that Cecil kept an eye on him, ‘and all about him.’

Despite Queen Mary’s refusal to return the Lennox estates, Lennox, with little prospect of favour at Elizabeth’s court, now concentrated his whole mind on them. He sent one of his men, Laurence Nisbet, to Edinburgh with messages to Marie of Guise, and then to London, to the French ambassador de Noailles. Nisbet was intercepted and Cecil was immediately suspicious, sending the man to the Tower. Lennox assured Cecil that the purpose of the visit to de Noailles was to give him Lennox’ family tree, to support his petition to Queen Mary for the return of the Lennox lands and apologised for any offence Nisbet might unwittingly have caused.

The English council believed that no good could come of this, and decided that Lord Darnley needed to be kept in England at all times, rather than being permitted to travel to France.

The Lennox household was infiltrated by spies – although Lady Lennox appeared to be on good terms with Lord Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, he planted an informer in the household. As listeners seldom hear good of themselves, Dudley cannot have been surprised to learn that Lady Lennox, at least, thought he had murdered his wife, found dead in 1560 at the bottom of a staircase.

Two other deaths, more relevant to Lennox, also occurred in 1560. The first was that of Marie of Guise, who had fought to the bitter end to maintain a French-allied, Catholic Scotland for her daughter, and, in December 1560 that of François II. This left Mary, Queen of Scots a widow, and it immediately occurred to the Lennoxes that Darnley would make a suitable second husband. He was dispatched to France, again without Elizabeth I’s consent, to take their letters of condolence, and, hopefully, charm the young widow.

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox

Family Tree