Matthew Stuart: Life Story

Chapter 5 : War

The embarrassing failure to take Dumbarton was not Lennox’ only problem – the Earl of Glencairn, who had been the most faithful of Henry VIII’s ‘assured lords’ had remembered his loyalty to his country and was no longer willing to play Henry’s game.  Unable to achieve his aims, Lennox sailed back through the Irish Sea, to Bristol.

The internecine feuds in Scotland seemed to be largely composed – Queen-dowager Marie and Arran were more-or-less in harmony, and Angus and Glencairn had received pardons for their previous treachery from the December Parliament. Although Angus had been in contact with his new son-in-law, and Henry hoped that the fragile accord in Edinburgh could be upset, Angus now remained true to his native land, and scored a victory in February 1545 at Ancrum Moor, although it was not of sufficient size to deter English aggression under Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford.  

Lennox was back in London to see his new son, born in February 1545. The little boy died in November, but Margaret bore a second son, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, on 7th December 1545. The timing of these births suggests that the first baby was premature, and that Lennox and his wife resumed marital relations before the usual forty day period of confinement after a birth.  

The earl and countess had little time together – Lennox was ordered north to support the Earl of Hertford, and, later in the year, he crossed to Dublin to mount a further attack on the west of Scotland and Dumbarton via the sea-route. It was hoped that Domnhall Dubh, the heir to the ancient Lordship of the Isles (which had been effectively subsumed by James IV) would be able to raise support in the west – he would be willing to accept the overlordship of England in return for the restoration of his semi-autonomous province.

But, once again, Lennox failed ignominiously to obtain control of Dumbarton. This latest assault drew revenge from the Scottish government. Lennox was declared a traitor, and his lands confiscated.

Henry was undaunted, and another expedition under Lennox went ahead in February 1546, and yet a third was planned in July 1546, with Lennox sailing from Chester. The purpose was still to take Dumbarton, but news came that Sir George Stirling had finally surrendered it to Arran, who, it was rumoured, would once again be willing to come to terms with Henry. Subsequently, Lennox’ expedition was called off.

Lennox seems to have spent the final six months of Henry VIII’s reign at Temple Newsam, the most sumptuous of the many houses that he and Lady Lennox had been granted on their marriage. There, in the countryside outside the town of Leeds, they lived life in the formal style of great nobles, surrounded with wealth and privilege.

In January 1547, Henry VIII died. His son, Edward VI, was a minor, and power was swiftly concentrated in the hands of the boy’s maternal uncle, Edward Seymour – Earl of Hertford at Henry’s death, but soon self-promoted to be Duke of Somerset.

Somerset, along with his second, John Dudley, Lord Lisle, now Earl of Warwick, had been Henry’s chief lieutenant in the Scottish Wars, and he was eager to pull off a final victory and force the marriage of King Edward to Queen Mary. Despite Somerset’s government having initiated a more Protestant settlement, whilst Lennox and his wife were widely viewed as traditionalists, the earl was summoned to take part in fresh campaigns. 

By August 1547, Lennox and Lord Wharton, Deputy Warden of the West March, were at Carlisle. They distributed proclamations, both sides of the border, demanding attendance of men, armed for war, on specified muster date. They reported back to Somerset that Arran was also preparing for war, and mustering men.  Shortly after, Lennox was in communication with his father-in-law, Angus, who promised to help Lennox to have his lands restored, recommending that Lennox attack the territories of Lords Hume and Scott, Angus’ enemies, rather than the west of Scotland, the hereditary territories of Lennox and Angus.  

Over the following weeks, Lennox reported to the English Privy Council, that Huntly and Argyll would be unlikely to join Arran in defending Scotland.  Having mustered 2,000 or so men, Lennox and Wharton crossed the border, and besieged Castlemilk. The captain agreed to surrender, if he could do so personally to Lennox. Lennox sent his gloves to the captain to prove his presence, and the keep was handed over.

Lennox was still in the west when Somerset won his notable victory at Pinkie Cleugh, so was spared the risks of open battle. He requested permission to return his wife, which Somerset granted. It can only have been a short visit, as throughout the remainder of the year, other than for a brief Christmas visit to the Lennoxes’ castle of Wressell in Yorkshire, Lennox was in and about the borders with Lord Wharton, corresponding with the Earl of Glencairn, who now professed loyalty to England once again, and planning various modes of attack to obtain control of Mary, Queen of Scots.   

In late February 1548 Lennox was once again heading for the west of Scotland, alongside Wharton, the essence of the plan being to capture Angus, and create a diversion from Somerset’s attack on the east. Lennox and Wharton reached an agreement with the Master of Maxwell (the title Master is used for the heir to a Scottish title), that he would join them with at least 2,000 men, giving ten hostages as a pledge.

Lord Wharton’s son, Henry, was sent ahead, to burn Drumlanrig and Durisdeer, but the Master of Maxwell’s men suddenly turned coat and joined Angus, chasing Henry Wharton into the mountains, and the Scots force advanced towards Lennox, who fell back from Dumfries. He and Wharton withdrew to Carlisle.

The question arose as to what to do with the Master of Maxwell’s hostages. Wharton wrote to Somerset that he believed they deserved ‘sharp punishment’, but remitted the matter to the Duke for a decision. It is not clear who gave the final order for four of the ten hostages to be hanged. The ODNB attributes it to Wharton, Caroline Bingham, in her biography of Lennox’ son, Lord Darnley, to Lennox, as does Agnes Strickland, who pictures the earl as later racked with remorse. Lennox returned to Wressell Castle, whence he wrote to Somerset of his gratitude for having been permitted to serve King Edward

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox

Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox

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