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Tudor Minute October 8: Happy Birthday Lady Margaret Douglas

Today is the birthday, in 1515, of Henry VIII’s niece, Lady Margaret Douglas. 

Margaret was the daughter of the Scottish queen dowager Margaret Tudor and her second husband Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus after Margaret remarried for love, losing her regency in the bargain. Margaret was born at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland. Her mother, Henry’s sister Margaret, had crossed the border from Scotland when her father was facing threats. In October 1528, Angus was threatened by James V of Scotland and sent Margaret back over the River Tweed into England at Norham Castle. After a brief stay at Berwick Castle accompanied by her nurse, Margaret joined the household of her godfather, Cardinal Wolsey. When Wolsey died in 1530, Lady Margaret was invited to the household of Princess Mary, who became her lifelong friend. She was in high standing with her uncle, Henry VIII, who gave her very generous gifts when she was  younger.

When Anne Boleyn's court was established, Margaret was appointed as a lady-in-waiting. There she met Anne Boleyn's uncle, Lord Thomas Howard, and they began their courtship. After Henry turned on Anne, he heard of the secret engagement, and was furious. He had his daughters Elizabeth and Mary declared bastards, which left Margaret very high in the succession, and it wasn’t a good idea for her to have contracted an unauthorized marriage. Both Lord Thomas and Lady Margaret were committed to the Tower. On 18 July 1536, Parliament, by an Act of Attainder, condemned Thomas to death for attempting to 'interrupt ympedyte the Succession of the Crowne'. The Act also forbade the marriage of any member of the King's family without his permission. Thomas was spared execution, but remained in the Tower even after Margaret broke off their relationship. He died there on 31 October 1537.
Margaret also fell ill in the Tower, and the King allowed her to move to Syon Abbey under the supervision of the abbess. She was released from imprisonment on 29 October 1537.

In 1544, Lady Margaret married a Scottish exile, Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox (1516–1571), who later became regent of Scotland in 1570–1571. Their children were: Henry Stuart (1545-1567), born in 1545 at Temple Newsam; and Charles Stuart (1555-1576), who later married Elizabeth Cavendish in 1574. Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick.

Margaret succeeded in marrying her elder son, Lord Darnley, to his first cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, thus uniting their claims to the English throne, and it would be their son James who would eventually fulfill that union.

That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com.