by Susan Flantzer
The highborn and noble princess Lady Margaret, known better as Margaret Tudor, was born at the Palace of Westminster on November 28, 1489. She was the eldest daughter and the second of the eight children of King Henry VII of England, the first Tudor monarch, and Elizabeth of York, the eldest child of King Edward IV of England. Margaret was christened the day after her birth at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster. Her godparents were her paternal grandmother Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, whom she was named after, and John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury. Unlike her older brother Arthur, Prince of Wales, who lived in his own household, Margaret spent most of her childhood with her siblings.
Margaret had six siblings:
- Arthur, Prince of Wales (1486 – 1502), married Catherine of Aragon, no issue
- Henry VIII, King of England (1491 – 1547), married (1) Catherine of Aragon, had daughter Queen Mary I of England; (2) Anne Boleyn, had daughter Queen Elizabeth I of England; (3) Jane Seymour, had son King Edward VI of England; (4) Anne of Cleves, no issue; (5) Catherine Howard, no issue; (6) Catherine Parr, no issue
- Elizabeth Tudor (1492 – 1495)
- Mary Tudor (1496 – 1533), married (1) Louis XII, King of France, no issue; (2) Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, had issue, grandparents of Lady Jane Grey
- Edmund Tudor, Duke of Somerset (1499 – 1500)
- Katherine Tudor (born and died February 1503) her mother, Elizabeth of York, died as a result of Katherine’s birth
On January 24, 1502, England and Scotland concluded the Treaty of Perpetual Peace, agreeing to end the warfare between England and Scotland which had occurred over the previous two hundred years. As part of the treaty, a marriage was arranged between 28-year-old King James IV of Scotland and twelve-year-old Margaret Tudor. A proxy marriage was held on January 25, 1503 at Richmond Palace with Patrick Hepburn, 1st Earl of Bothwell standing in for King James IV. Margaret was exactly the same age as her grandmother Margaret Beaufort had been when she married Edmund Tudor. Margaret Beaufort was determined that her granddaughter not consummate her marriage at such an early age and insisted that Margaret must remain in England until she was older. After the proxy marriage, Margaret was officially Queen of Scotland and received the precedence and honor due to a Queen.
In 1501, Margaret’s elder brother Arthur, Prince of Wales had married Catherine of Aragon, the youngest daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. Five months later, on April 2, 1502, 15-year-old Arthur was dead, probably of the sweating sickness, and his family was devastated. Shortly after Arthur’s death, Margaret’s mother Elizabeth became pregnant again and hoped for a son. Elizabeth spent that year preparing her daughter Margaret for her role as Queen of Scotland. In early 1503, Elizabeth spent her confinement at the Tower of London. On February 2, 1503, she gave birth to a daughter, Katherine. Shortly after giving birth, Elizabeth became ill with puerperal fever (childbed fever) and died on February 11, 1503, her 37th birthday. Little Katherine died on February 18, 1503.
In June of 1503, just a few months after her mother’s death, Margaret left London with her father to make the journey to Scotland. Her formal court farewell was held at her paternal grandmother’s home Collyweston Palace near Stamford, Northamptonshire, England. After two weeks of celebrations, Margaret rode out to her new life with only one relative, Sir David Owen, the illegitimate son of her great grandfather Owen Tudor. On August 3, 1503 at Dalkeith Castle in Midlothian, Scotland, Margaret first met King James IV. The couple was married in person on August 8, 1503 at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Margaret and James had four sons and two stillborn daughters. Only one of their children survived infancy.
- James, Duke of Rothesay (1507 – 1508)
- Stillborn daughter (1508)
- Arthur, Duke of Rothesay (1509 – 1510)
- James V, King of Scots (1512 – 1542), married (1) Madeleine of Valois, no issue; married (2) Mary of Guise, had issue including his successor Mary, Queen of Scots
- Stillborn daughter (1512)
- Alexander, Duke of Ross (1514 – 1515)
In 1509, Margaret’s father King Henry VII of England died and was succeeded by his son as King Henry VIII. Despite the great hopes of peace between England and Scotland as symbolized by the marriage of Margaret and James IV, Margaret’s brother Henry VIII did not have his father’s diplomatic patience and was heading towards a war with France. James IV was committed to his alliance with France and invaded England. Henry VIII was away on campaign in France and Flanders in 1513 and he had made his wife Catherine of Aragon regent in his absence. It was up to Catherine to supervise England’s defense when Scotland invaded. Ultimately, the Scots were defeated at the Battle of Flodden near Branxton, Northumberland, England on September 9, 1513, and 30-year-old King James IV was killed in the battle. Catherine sent Henry VIII the blood-stained coat of his defeated and dead brother-in-law.
Margaret’s seventeen-month-old son succeeded his father as King James V of Scotland. Under the terms of James IV’s will, Margaret was the regent for her son as long as she did not remarry. On April 30, 1514, Margaret gave birth to a son Alexander Stewart, Duke of Ross who died on December 18, 1515. While the Scottish Parliament had confirmed Margaret as regent, many were unhappy with an English female regent and sought to replace Margaret with John Stewart, 2nd Duke of Albany, grandson of King James II of Scotland, the closest male relative to the infant king, and the heir presumptive to the throne after the death of Alexander Stewart, Duke of Ross.
Margaret sought an ally with the pro-English House of Douglas. On August 6, 1514, Margaret secretly married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. The marriage stirred up the jealousy of the nobles and the opposition of the faction supporting French influence in Scotland. Civil war broke out, and Margaret lost the regency to John Stewart, Duke of Albany. Margaret and Douglas escaped to England where she gave birth to their only child at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland, England. It was while in the north of England that Margaret learned of the death of her son Alexander, Duke of Ross.
Daughter of Margaret and Archibald Douglas:
- Lady Margaret Douglas (1515 – 1578), married Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, had issue including Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley who married his first cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. They were the parents of King James VI of Scotland who succeeded to the English throne upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England as King James I of England.
Sometime after the birth of her daughter, Margaret and her husband went to London where they were well treated by her brother Henry VIII and lived in Scotland Yard, the traditional residence of the Scottish diplomats and Scottish kings when they visited English royalty. In 1517, Margaret returned to Scotland hoping to regain her dower (a provision accorded by law, but traditionally by a husband or his family, to a wife for her support in the event that she should survive her husband) and also to regain access to her son James V, but she was unsuccessful in both pursuits. After returning to Scotland, it soon became clear that Margaret’s marriage with Archibald Douglas was on the rocks. He lived openly with his mistresses, gave them gifts paid for with Margaret’s money, and separated Margaret from her daughter. On March 11, 1527, Pope Clement VII granted Margaret a divorce from Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus.
On March 3, 1528, Margaret married Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven to the consternation of her brother King Henry VIII who insisted that marriage was “divinely ordained” and protested against the “shameless sentence sent from Rome.” Ironically, a few years later Henry VIII would seek to end his marriage with Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. Margaret and Stewart had one daughter who died young. Stewart was proving himself to be even worse than Margaret’s second husband in his desire both for other women and for Margaret’s money. Margaret tried to divorce Stewart, but her son James V blocked the proceedings and Margaret felt that Stewart had bribed her son. Margaret often wrote to her brother Henry VIII about her plight, but he never helped her. In 1537, Margaret tried to escape to England, but was brought back to Methven Castle where she lived until her death.
After suffering a stroke, Margaret died at Methven Castle on October 18, 1541, at the age of 51. On her deathbed, Margaret asked her second husband Archibald Douglas to forgive her for having divorced him, telling him that he was her lawful husband and that their marriage was valid. It is not clear whether her motivation was actually regret or an attempt to ensure the legitimacy of her daughter Margaret Douglas to preserve her position in the line of succession to the English throne. Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland was buried at the Carthusian Charterhouse in Perth, Scotland. Her tomb was destroyed and her remains were burned on May 11, 1559 when a mob of Calvinists attacked and destroyed the Charterhouse. When the Tudor line died out with the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603, it was Margaret’s great-grandson King James VI of Scotland who succeeded to the English throne as King James I.
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“Margaret Tudor.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.
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