Matthew Stuart: Life Story

Chapter 3 : Shifting Loyalties

Lennox began to look about for other means of advancement – he would never be able to work with Arran. He made it clear that he was open to a rapprochement with the Earl of Angus, who had been the ringleader at Linlithgow Bridge, although not responsible for the death of Lennox’ father. Lennox attended the Governor at Edinburgh, was publicly reconciled to Angus and was ‘embraced after the French fashion’ by Sir Ralph Sadleir.

After this, he presented his credentials from King François. The gist of the French king’s message was to urge the Scots to renew the Auld Alliance – if this resulted in English retaliation, he would support them with men and money.

The English still saw Lennox as a threat – they encouraged Arran to demand that he surrender Dumbarton Castle, so that it could be given to one of Henry’s allies, Lord Glencairn. Angus’ brother, Sir George Douglas, wrote to Henry that Lennox would ally with Beaton and the other Catholic clergy, and solicit French help – this would once again make Arran, who had been wavering, the willing tool of English policy.

Arran and the other Scottish lords appear to have been unimpressed by Lennox’ assurances of French help – he did not have concrete proposals from François – certainly nothing for which it would be worth breaking the truce with England.  Arran was also angered by Lennox’ refusal to sign the Parliamentary Act which named Arran as Governor, despite promises to do so. Instead, Lennox withdrew from the court, and planned to return to France without confirming Arran’s title.

In response, Arran swore that he would wrest Dumbarton from the recalcitrant earl and hoped that English ships would intercept Lennox, who had only two ships, en route to France. He also considered sending an envoy to François to tell him of his ambassador’s dereliction of duty.

Lennox did not return to France. Instead, he withdrew to Dumbarton. On receiving a demand via an official herald to surrender it, he agreed for himself, but pointed out that it was not in his hands but in those of Sir George Stirling, as a condition of James V’s grant, and Stirling utterly refused to surrender it. Nevertheless, Lennox promised that he would talk to Angus and be guided by him. The two talked together, and Lennox apparently agreed that the following day, the castle would be surrendered, and he would accept Arran as Governor. But he had no such intention -  instead, he slipped away from the castle and headed for the Highlands – perhaps on receipt of a letter from Cardinal Beaton, promising support.

Stirling again refused to surrender, and, despite Angus boasting that he would capture Dumbarton, if he only had the necessary artillery, Arran thought the castle impregnable, and returned to Edinburgh, to decide his next move. Whilst Arran contemplated having Lennox accused of treason, Lennox lay low, although he had already arranged for a messenger to return to France on his behalf.

By June, it was reported that Lennox was raising a force of men and that he, together with the earls of Argyll, Huntley and Moray, had control of Scotland north of the Firth of Forth, and were in opposition to Arran and Angus. Despite this threat to his governership, the English thought that Arran ‘waxed cold’ in his pursuit of either Lennox or Cardinal Beaton.

At the end of that month, French ships arrived off Aberdeen, with messages for Lennox, Queen Marie and the Cardinal. The ships also contained a considerable force of soldiers and armaments as well as money.  Arran was still reluctant to proceed against Lennox and Beaton – informing Sadleir that he did not want to create any unrest until the treaty with England that would formalise the Anglo-Scots peace, and the marriage of Queen Mary and Prince Edward, had been signed.

Another marriage was being hinted at – Lennox had informed the Earl of Angus that he would be glad to marry Angus’ daughter by Queen Margaret, the Lady Margaret Douglas. As the niece of Henry VIII, Lady Margaret Douglas had a claim to the English crown, and her uncle was attached to her – she was a prominent figure at the English court. This suggestion was a clear hint that Lennox could be tempted away from his French allegiance, but Sadleir was not convinced that Lennox could be brought to abandon France merely for the sake of marriage to Lady Margaret Douglas.

Arran’s failure to control Beaton was weakening the inclination of the other Scots lords towards the English alliance. The Cardinal was a more impressive man than Arran, with greater determination and fixity of purpose, and he was pushing a renewal of the French alliance. He was also hoping to protect the Catholic Church – alliance with England would undermine the Church and allow Reform to cross the border.  

Arran was considered weak of purpose and changeable – he inspired little respect in his fellow nobles, and had few allies other than Angus and his brother, Sir George Douglas.  As the summer of 1543 progressed, it became apparent that the Scots as a whole were turning away from an English alliance, and back towards France. Lennox revived his hopes of marrying the queen-dowager and being appointed governor.

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox

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