Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII and his peculiarly enigmatic queen, the flaxen haired and pulchritudinous Elizabeth of York and the elder sister of Henry VIII was born in Richmond Palace on 28th November 1489. She was married by proxy to James IV, King of Scotland on 24th January 1502, aged just twelve then packed off away from her family and everything that she knew to Scotland and a husband who, although reputedly very good looking and charming, was sixteen years her senior and well known for his philandering ways.
Let’s make it clear though that young Margaret, although reportedly comely, spirited and more than capable of handling herself in her new husband’s debauched court, did not really look like this:
She was probably more like:
Yes, quite so.
The marriage was happy in its own way and they had six children, although only one, a son called James who would eventually succeed his father to the throne, survived to adulthood. Sadly, it was to be relatively short lived and when England and France went to war, the monarchs of Scotland found themselves in an awkward situation thanks to The Auld Alliance which meant that France and Scotland had always been allies against their common enemy, the English. It must have been a difficult time for Margaret as her husband and brother, Henry VIII found themselves at loggerheads.
When Henry VIII invaded France in 1513, James was forced into action and in return invaded England, clashing with the English troops at the field of Flodden on 9th September and dying in the process. Henry’s wife, Catherine of Aragon, proving herself a true daughter of Isabel of Castille, was to send his bloodstained shirt to her husband, then on campaign in France. One can only wonder how Henry, on one hand so petulant and on the other so ridiculously sentimental took such an offering.
Margaret was devastated by her husband’s death, but quickly took charge of his affairs, becoming regent of Scotland for her young son, James V. Her subsequent career was a sad echo of that of her granddaughter, James’ daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots as she spent the next few years protecting herself and her son from the scheming of the hostile Scottish nobility. Things only got worse when she fell in love with and then secretly married the Duke of Angus, which effectively alienated pretty much everyone and also ended her Regency, as it was only supposed to last while she was a widow.
Things started to go downhill when the Duke of Albany seized control of the young King and the Regency and Margaret was forced to flee first to Edinburgh and then to the north of England, where she gave birth to her daughter, Margaret, who was to become mother of Henry, Lord Darnley, later husband to her granddaughter Mary, Queen of Scots. Her husband, the Duke of Angus remained in Scotland ostensibly to make peace with the new Regent but really to protect his own interests.
The next few years were difficult for Margaret as her marriage floundered amidst mortifying public scrutiny and culminated with a divorce in March 1527. A year later, she married again to Lord Methven, another unhappy marriage punctuated with rows, infidelity and distrust that continued until her eventual death on 18th October 1541.
It is hard not to read Margaret’s story and not see the parallels between her and her unfortunate granddaughter. Both women were born beautiful and adored, with the whole world at their feet and yet after a brief period of happiness, ironically within a state marriage that was arranged for them, both found themselves spiraling down a path of misery and intrigue, beset on all sides by the Scottish nobility, desperately desirous of the trappings of a normal woman’s life and yet unable to reconcile their own personal desires with the expectations of others and the requirements of their rank.
You can almost imagine people later trying in vain to warn the young Queen Mary by tactfully reminding her of her grandmother’s troubles and trying to make her understand that she too was on the same slippery slope where the Scottish nobles were concerned, while the pretty Queen tossed her auburn head and proudly proclaimed that she was different and would soon have the Scots eating from her hands…