8 August 1503 – Margaret Tudor marries James IV of Scotland

Aug8,2017 #Margaret Tudor

On this day in history, 8th August 1503, the formal wedding of Princess Margaret Tudor and King James IV of Scotland took place in the chapel of Holyroodhouse.

John Leland writes of how thirteen-year-old Margaret, who was the eldest daughter of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, was led from her chamber to the church by the Archbishop of York and the Earl of Surrey, with the Countess of Surrey carrying her train. Margaret wore a robe trimmed and lined with crimson velvet, a collar of gold and pearls around her neck and a crown on her head. Her hair hung loose down her back and she had a “very rich coif hanging down behind the whole length of the body. The thirty-year-old king was dressed in “a gown of white damask, figured with gold and lined with sarcenet. He had on a jacket with sleeves of crimson satin, the lists of black velvet, under that same a doublet of cloth of gold, and a pair of scarlet hose. His shirt embroidered with thread of gold, his bonnet black, with a rich balay, and his sword about him.”

The marriage ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of Glasgow and the papal bulls were read by the Archbishop of York. The trumpets blew “for joy” before the royal couple walked to the high altar for the orations and litany. After that, there was Mass, the gospel and customary offering before the new queen was anointed. Leland records how the king then gave her the sceptre and Te Deums were sung. “Two prelates held the cloth upon them during the Remnant of the Mass” and then the Lords brought in bread and wine “in rich pots and rich cups”. After the service had finished, the king processed with the queen back to her chamber and then went on to his own. Later that day, there was a celebratory banquet of many courses and dishes. The dinner was followed by music and dancing and then the king and queen retired for the night. Edinburgh celebrated with bonfires through the town.

Margaret and James were married until the king’s death at the Battle of Flodden, between England and Scotland, on 9th September 1513. The couple had six children together, but only one survived infancy, their son James who became King James V when he was just one year of age. Click here to read more about Margaret Tudor.

Trivia: There is a link between this royal wedding in Scotland and the Boleyns. Thomas Boleyn was part of the large retinue led by his father-in-law, Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, that escorted Princess Margaret on her journey to Edinburgh in 1503 and he would have attended the wedding and the celebrations. Click here to read more about the journey to Scotland.

Notes and Sources

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6 thoughts on “8 August 1503 – Margaret Tudor marries James IV of Scotland”
  1. Margaret was lucky that her grandmother told her father to hold off the wedding for a couple of years in order to allow her to grow a while, for she had been twelve when she was married and pregnant at thirteen. Margaret was now almost fifteen, still very young, but the right age to begin her new life as a Queen and later as a mother. Margaret would have quite a life up there, six children, her son James would be King very young and his brother Archibald, her other hope but died aged 22 months as their mother was Regent for a time. She would remarry, first the dashing but unfaithful Archibald, Earl of Angus and by him have the famous, English Princess, Margaret Douglas and then the reckless Earl of Albany. Margaret was wrongly condemned by her hypocritical brother, King Henry Viii for her marriage adventures, but she did it because she wished it. In the article linked to this Thomas Boleyn was one of the gentlemen chosen to escort Princess Margaret to Scotland. One thing I would like to see is a modern new biography on Margaret. The last one I know of is from about 1989. There are a few on Margaret Douglas, three in the last few years, but Margaret is ill served.

  2. It was because of Margarets English blood which she passed onto her ill fated granddaughter Mary Queen Of Scots that was the cause of friction between her and Elizabeth 1st in the future, her claim to the English crown came from Margaret and Henry V111’s act in declaring his daughters illegitimate gave the Catholics the reason they wanted in calling Mary the rightful Queen Of England, little did she know that her brothers daughter would one day execute her granddaughter, for now she was preparing for a new life, she was going to a country which had been Englands enemy for centuries, border raids still happened and this marriage was a way of bringing peace between the two nations, as she travelled north she must have felt slightly wary, Scotland was a country not noted for its sophisticated court and genteel manners, the climate was harsh in some regions and she was leaving her beloved parents behind and siblings, she knew she would never see them again, her bridegroom was a handsome womaniser and quite a bit older than she was, he had mistresses and possibly bastard children, at the same time she possibly felt excited, I think Margaret had a wayward spirit in her reminiscent of her brother Henry V111, her marital affairs were certainly full of drama like his, her first marriage left her a widow with a young son, her husband invaded England whilst her King was in France and when he died she was left as regent, it must have been awful for her having her husband and brother at each other’s throats, the marriage had been made in good faith yet Henry seemed to deliberately go out of his way to wind up his brother in law, he refused to send Margarets jewels to her despite many requests from James and the wrangling went on for many months, she was at the mercy of the many chieftens all vying for power and she made two disastrous marriages one after the other, as Bq mentions, Archibald Douglas who was a cheat and later fled to England taking their daughter Margaret with them, the mother of the murdured Darnley, her life was certainly romantic with its fair share of tragedy and drama, yet she must have had many romantic dreams as all young girls do, sadly the reality was very different, Scotland was a very difficult country to rule particularly for a woman, her portrait shows a marked resemblance to her mother and she has the auburn hair of the Tudors, I would love to read a biography of this queen, there are plenty on her tragic granddaughter and on her daughter Margaret Douglas but iv never seen one on her, Jean Plaidys fictional account of her life, ‘The Thistle And The Rose’ was very good and also Elizabeth Byrds ‘ The Flowers Of The Forest ‘ I enjoyed very much, maybe one day there will be one on this interesting woman, I know BQ says there was one but the author appears unknown.

  3. The book I remember is from 1985 by Patricia Buchanan Margaret Tudor Queen of Scots which I have just looked up on Amazon and it’s some ridiculous price. I got it for £8.99.

    There are two old joint biographies The Rose and the Thorne by Nanzy Lenz Harvey 1975 and Marie Perry 1980s Sisters of Henry Viii

    There is also a new biography coming in December 2017 in paperback by Sarah Beth Watkins Margaret Tudor Queen of Scots. The Life of King Henry Viii’s Sister.

    Other than that there are the wonderful fiction accounts mentioned by Christine. My favourite is Jean Plaidy.

    There have of course been at least four major biographies of Margaret Douglas in the last few years, the huge tome by Alison Weir The Lost Tudor Princess Margaret Douglas , So High a Blood, The True Story of Margaret Douglas, the Tudor that Time Forget by Morgan Peny 2017, The Other Tudor Princess, M.Douglas Henry Viii Niece Mary McGriger 2015 and the older but scholarly study by Kim Schutte 2002, A Bio of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (1515 to 1578) Niece of Henry Viii and Mother in Law of Mary Q of Scots. The last one is hard to get hold of and the last price I saw was mortgage territory.

    Margaret Tudor I agree had a beautiful and free spirit, doing life her way, but it didn’t bring all the happiness marriage to bad boys appeared to bring. Margaret Douglas was kept into the English line of succession because of her life at the English Court and her birth and being raised here. The Scottish succession had a complex twist with Margaret because two grandchildren of hers married from two marriages, Mary Queen of Scots and Henry Lord Darnley. By both threads Mary had a good claim to the throne. Had England not turned Protestant that claim may have been fulfilled. Elizabeth I probably should have nominated a successor earlier, but then again she was surrounded by genuine cousins and claims. Philip II even had an old claim as a male descendant of the House of Lancaster. Mary was probably the most obvious candidate as she was related to the older sister of Henry Viii but then we have that will. The Scotland line was excluded via Henry Viii’s famous will and Act of Succession, but the next monarch could change these and make their own succession. Mary always believed her better claim and her letters to Elizabeth, even the friendly ones ask and then insist on her recognition of Mary’s English claim to the crown. Of course Margaret had no idea how England and Scotland would work out and in the normal course of things with Mary having a son, had she not married such a nut she could expect the Scottish line to go on as usual. The Margaret Douglas connection meant that Mary married her mad bad cousin and get herself caught up in a crazy marriage which was the first step to her downfall. Darnley turned out to be a killer and drunk. His own murder made it impossible that Mary could be considered for Elizabeth’s heir because she then married his killer. Now if this sounds like a modern day crime drama, it was to have deadly consequences for Mary. It was a scandal. The Earl of Bothwell, her third husband was married and he divorced his wife to abduct, rape and marry Mary. I know this aspect is disputed because from s modern point of view you don’t marry your rapist, well it did happen in the sixteenth century and Bothwell was also s violent man. Unfortunately for Mary because later on she didn’t seek to accuse him as Darnley’s killer and because she was implicated as well, Mary lost her support, was taken prisoner and forced to abdicate for her son, James. Once Mary was the guest of Elizabeth in England, her claim to neither throne was ever going to be taken seriously again. Mary had one problem which Elizabeth would not sanction in an heir, she like her ancestors had remained Catholic. Mary was under ever increasing house arrest then a close prisoner and with an unmarried English Queen with no heir she was seen as an alternative to Elizabeth by some of her large number of Catholic subjects and the best heir by even some Protestant nobles. Whether her royal Tudor blood or her Catholic faith were the causes, Mary Queen of Scots was one big headache for Elizabeth and the focus of plots to replace her. However, Margaret Tudors blood did have a positive result as James, the son of both of her grandchildren united the Kingdom of England and Scotland, becoming James Vi of Scotland in 1567 and I of England on Elizabeth’s death in 1603. James wasn’t the most obvious candidate, but he was the one that made the most sense.

  4. Thanks Bq I’m actually thinking of buying Weirs book on her daughter Margaret Douglas, yes indeed poor Mary made some disastrous choices when she was queen but i believe she did try to do well by her kingdom, her very friendly letters to Elizabeth where she kept mentioning the succession in fact did her no good, Elizabeth once famously said ‘people are more apt to worship the rising than the setting son’, as when she was heiress apparent to her sister Mary Tudor, there were plots to oust Mary, notably the Wyatt plot where he intended to put Elizabeth on the throne, another event which irked her was when Mary died and the French King ordered his son and daughter in law to display the arms of England, something which Elizabeth never forgave her for, she knew her catholic subjects would rather have Mary on the throne instead of this bastard daughter of the most notorious concubine in Christendom, as one contemporary called her, when Mary met her handsome cousin Darnley she was besotted with him but his charm and good looks hid a vicious cowardly nature and a hopeless drunk ,Elizabeth was furious when she heard of their marriage as Darnley as you mention was near to the throne also, his union with Mary strengthened both their claims and only sought to make Elizabeths hold on the throne look very shaky indeed, the so called abduction by Bothwell I think was just a ruse between the two of them so Mary could claim that her honour had been sullied therefore she had to marry him,this in fact is what happened between the nobility down the ages, in fact it’s what happened between Eleanor De Clare the daughter of Joan Of Acre, she was abducted by William La Zouche who she promptly married and her neice Margaret De Audley was abducted by Ralph De Stafford again, she married him, as you mention Mary refused to condemn Bothwell, that was her first mistake and of course the whole of Scotland rose up against her, Eleanor and Margaret were nobility descended from Edward 1st, they were not Queens and Marys behaviour was totally unacceptable, she well have been blinded by love he was a strong character and Mary needed some one to turn to, she was totally unprepared to rule in a savage country like Scotland where life was cheap, all she had known was France, her mothers country, she had been surrounded by fawning French gallants and the warm balmy air of the Loire valley, poor Mary had not the erudition or the strength of will which Elizabeth had, she had not the cunning or the ability to rule which her mother Marie De Guise had, but what she did possess was great courage though, this trait in her character was something observers noted on throughout her bleak reign in Scotland when her musician Rizzio was butchered in front of her and when she was captured and forced to renounce her crown to her baby son, it was evident in the daring escape she made to England and years later, at her trial and execution, as she walked to the scaffold she mentioned that it had always been her dearest wish to see England and Scotland United and she had that wish when in 1603, Elizabeth left her crown to her son James, the first Stuart monarch of England and of whom through him, helped forge the union of the two kingdoms, which became known as Great Britain, Mary didn’t do so bad after all.

    1. Yes, Mary did alright for a time, but from what I have seen and read about Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, if looks could kill, he had them. From a union point of view it was a good idea, but he had the personality of a spoilt child on a wild acid trip. She probably should have given it more thought, but he seems to have been charming to begin with, then his brain exploded with demands. Once she actually made him King, that was it, he was a loose canon. Mary couldn’t do anything after he murdered David Rizzio either, because she was heavily pregnant and her own life was threatened. Her half brother and the Lords wanted to move to get rid of Darnley and Mary was forced to flee with her husband. She gave birth to James and for she pardoned the rebels and reconciliation was made with the two sides. It all went down hill after that with all the above mistakes and Elizabeth who couldn’t let a Catholic rival be her heir took the appropriate action, no matter how distasteful it was or paranoid it seemed. Mary had to show she had nothing to do with the murder of Darnley but even then Mary was locked up because Walsingham and Cecil persuaded her that Mary and all Catholics were dangerous, so she didn’t take the chance. Elizabeth did have some reason to be paranoid as she was regarded by the rest of Catholic Europe as an upstart, illegitimate and heretic. She was excommunicated within three years of her cousin’s arrival in the country, and although the Bull does not specifically contain a death sentence, it did free her subjects from allegiance and protection was given if she was removed and killed. She was now in danger from every fanatic around and took harsh measures, including closer watching of Mary. It would all lead to a very tragic end.

      There is one bit of irony in all of this. Elizabeth, although seen as an alternative for some Protestant malcontent factions like Wyatt was not an obvious heir apparent to Queen Mary I. Although Henry Viii’ s will said Elizabeth was next and Mary honoured that to begin with, with the Wyatt plot and her own marriage she had other ideas about the succession. She, of course believed she would have a baby and was pregnant twice, but she was ill instead, but she kept Elizabeth on stand by until she had an heir. However, as her health deteriorated and she grew older, she saw Elizabeth less as her heir and she became suspicious of her. As Mary became ill during 1558 she was very concerned as she needed a Catholic heir and the majority of her subjects were still Catholic and the world was divided into factions. Mary thought about other candidates, including the Catholic Margaret Douglas. Margaret for a moment was almost Queen of England. She was English, legitimate and Catholic, but Mary was advised and persuaded to name Elizabeth, if for no other reason but peace and to avoid the Jane Grey situation. It made sense as she was still a daughter of Henry Viii, a Tudor and she had public support. She did promise to keep the Catholic faith and Mary honoured her father’s wish. Even if many hated her mother, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth had something which attracted people and Mary was practical about the whole thing. She was advised to name Elizabeth as her heir and she agreed. The rivers of fate are odd, but Margaret Tudor had a legacy which shaped two nations for 300 years in the Stuart and Georgian heirs who ruled both Scotland and England.

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