Matthew Stuart: Life Story

Chapter 2 : Return to Scotland

Lennox was now 27 years old and needed to find a role in public life in either France or Scotland. In 1536, James V had granted him the post of Captain of Dumbarton Castle, subject to 'tack and assedation' (right to occupy and hold) granted to Sir William Stirling, but at that time, Lennox had showed no sign of returning home.

In 1542, the political situation in Scotland changed abruptly, with the death of James V, leaving a week-old daughter, Mary, as Queen of Scots, and a country at war with England. The Earl of Arran, claiming seniority as the queen’s nearest male heir, was sworn in as Governor. He initially adopted a pro-English policy and appeared to be in favour of the Reformation. He was challenged politically by James V’s favourite minister, Cardinal Beaton, who favoured continuance of the French alliance.

Arran negotiated a truce with England, but this was not universally popular. François was willing to send men and money to Beaton, along with the Queen-dowager, Marie of Guise’s brother, Claud, and Lennox himself to prevent the English gaining the upper hand.  In particular, the idea that the Queen of Scots should marry Prince Edward of England was anathema to François.

François I appointed Lennox as his envoy to Scotland. Lennox was eager to put forward his own claim to the regency. Arran’s father had had a complicated marital life, and Arran’s legitimacy was questioned. If Arran were illegitimate, then Lennox was the next heir, and entitled to take command during the queen’s minority.

As well as Lennox hoping to claim the regency, it was also claimed that he planned to marry Marie of Guise. Taxed with this by the English ambassador, Sir Ralph Sadleir, Marie denied having any such intention – but Lennox had not yet arrived, so the English could not be certain of her planned actions.

Following the Battle of Solway Moss, a number of captured Scots lords had been persuaded by Henry VIII to support English interests in Scotland – some agreed in return for their freedom, but others genuinely thought a marriage between their queen and Prince Edward had merit, and were also in favour of religious reform.

Amongst Henry’s Scottish allies was Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, and his brother, Sir George Douglas. They had been exiled in England for nearly twenty years, and were only allowed to return on the death of James V. They assured Arran of their loyalty, and that they would repel any attempt made by Lennox to land in Scotland.

If Angus made any effort to keep Lennox from landing, he was unsuccessful. Lennox sailed in March 1543, arriving at the end of the month. The sources differ on when he took control of Dumbarton Castle, but it may have been soon after his arrival – given his official title of Captain of the castle, there would have been no reason for the deputy, Sir George Stirling, to refuse entry.

Lennox soon began to draw a party together, to oppose Arran and support Beaton, with himself to be appointed regent. By mid-April, Lennox had written to Arran, requesting a meeting between himself and the lords of the realm, for him to present his credentials as ambassador of the king of France. He suggested Stirling or Perth, as he feared Edinburgh would be dangerous for him. Arran refused the suggestion. Lennox could come to him, and if Arran thought necessary, he would then assemble the other lords.

Shortly after, Cardinal Beaton escaped from the not-very-onerous house arrest to which he had been subject. The English believed that he and Lennox would conspire to abduct Queen Mary – currently with Marie of Guise at Linlithgow. They advised that Mary be taken to Edinburgh Castle by Arran. Arran, however, was becoming disillusioned with Henry VIII and resisted the notion – Edinburgh was too vulnerable to English attack. He assured Sadleir that Lennox had no evil intentions, and the only thing that kept Lennox from Edinburgh, was fear of Angus.

Lennox now began to pay court to Marie of Guise – a marriage with her would strengthen his claim to be regent, as well as enhancing his status. His rival for her hand was Patrick Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. The two men hung about Marie, who pretended enough interest in each of them to gain their support, but she would not commit herself.

Cardinal Beaton, too, was proving less valuable than Lennox had hoped. Far from pronouncing, as Primate of Scotland, that Arran was illegitimate, he was reconciled to the Governor, and received him back into the Catholic Church.

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox

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