8 October 1515 – Birth of Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox

Margaret DouglasLady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, was born on this day in 1515. Margaret was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, Queen Dowager of Scotland and sister of Henry VIII, and Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. She was born at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland, home of Thomas, 2nd Lord Dacre, because her mother went into labour as she fled Scotland to go to Henry VIII’s court in London. Margaret was baptised on 9th October, but her mother was ill after the birth and wasn’t well enough to travel onward to London until spring 1516. Mother and baby stayed in England until June 1517, when Henry VIII sent his sister and niece back to Scotland.

Margaret became the focus of a custody battle when her parents argued over Archibald keeping a mistress. Archibald took custody of Margaret for many years, but in 1530 she joined the household of Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary, at Beaulieu. The two, being close in age, became close friends, and the friendship stayed strong even when Margaret became Henry VIII’s heir presumptive, when he made his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, illegitimate.

Margaret was said to be a beauty, and when she was acting as lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn, she fell in love with Lord Thomas Howard, son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. The couple became secretly betrothed, but were split up by a furious Henry VIII, who threw them both in the Tower. Margaret was released when she became ill, but was sent to Syon Abbey and kept there under house arrest. She was released on 29th October 1537, but her beloved died in the Tower on 31st October.

Margaret went on to serve as a lady to Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard, but was sent back to Syon for a while when she fell in love with Catherine Howard’s brother. She acted as a bridesmaid at the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine Parr in July 1543 and then, in 1544 she married Matthew Stewart, 13th or 4th Earl of Lennox, a descendant of James I of Scotland and an influential man. The couple’s first child, Henry, Lord Darnley, died in infancy in 1545, but his namesake, Henry Stuart (Stewart), Lord Darnley, who was born just a week after his brother’s death, survived and is known for his marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots and his murder in 1567. In total, the couple had eight children.

Margaret was cut out of Henry VIII’s will after an argument, and kept to herself during the Protestant Edward VI’s reign. However, she was treated well during the Catholic Mary I’s reign, and attended Mary’s marriage to Philip of Spain as Mary’s chief lady. Margaret viewed Elizabeth I as illegitimate and supported Mary, Queen of Scot’s claim to the throne, so was ecstatic when her son became betrothed to Mary. Elizabeth was not happy, and as she could not get at Darnley to punish him, she threw his mother into the Tower. On 19th February 1567, the imprisoned Margaret was told that her husband and son had been killed. It was actually a mistake. Her son had been killed, but Lennox was still alive. Margaret was in such a state that a royal physician had to be fetched, and she was released to Sheen. Lennox joined her there after the acquittal of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, for their son’s murder. They then moved to Coldharbour, a property given to them by Elizabeth.

Lennox was killed on 4th September 1571, when he was shot at Stirling Castle, and in 1574 Margaret was allowed to visit Scotland accompanied by her only living child, Charles. On the way, Charles met and fell in love with Elizabeth Cavendish, daughter of Lady Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick). The couple married and had a daughter, Arabella, in 1575. On hearing of the news of the marriage match, Elizabeth I had thrown Bess and Margaret into the Tower, but Margaret was released in autumn 1574, and went to live with her son and his new wife in Stepney. Unfortunately, Charles died of tuberculosis in 1576, and his mother was griefstricken. She died on 9th March 1578, after being taken ill at a dinner party attended by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Margaret was buried in Westminster Abbey, in the Henry VII Chapel.

Extract taken from On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway.

You can read more about Margaret Douglas in The King’s Niece and the Fall of Anne Boleyn – Guest Article by Leanda de Lisle

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12 thoughts on “8 October 1515 – Birth of Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox”
  1. Gosh, that read like a daytime soapie script! :-)). All that drama and sadness and tribulation. Being of royal blood was no guarantee of a happy life – it seems to guarantee a life of apprehension and misery. I think the serfs might have been happier.

  2. Poor lady but I guess she enjoyed her life to the fullest for she lived passed her sixtiesonly god knows how much she suffered in her lifetime may god bless her soul for she died 1578 A.D. Maritza

  3. My step fathers name was Stewart, and I used it went going through school, as I did a lot of my schooling in Scotland some times some of your peers used to say that’s a tinkers name, (a tinker is what the Scottish call travellers/Gypsies, tinks, tinkie) so it was used as an insult/tease, as the Tinkers were much maligned through time (nothing changed much then!!).

    When I asked my step-dad why this was he said, that the Royals used the spelling Stewart to begin with, then took on the French way of spelling it, ‘Stuart’.
    As there were ‘Tinks’ that also had the family name Stewart, quite a large number of them, the Royals took to using the French version, so not to be associated to the Tinkers. Whether this is a 100% true I don’t know, but I have heard this said by others too.
    The term Tinker is still used today in every day language where I live, I hear it often usually when a child has got dirty playing, Mum will say ‘Look at you, you little tink ‘ or if they are up to mischief it would be ‘You little tinker’. It is also applied in gossip, when the woman down the road is seen not as clean about the house as she should be, she would be said to be ‘a bit tinkie’.
    Language is a very interesting isn’t it!!

  4. Tragic.
    I would like to read a book about her life. And as Kerry said we have a lot of script in this life. It would be great to watch a movie with her history, don’t you think so ?
    Can you imagine something so terrible as being imprisioned only because you feel in love for someone ? Oh Henry bad uncle! haha
    I am curious now. How much did Margaret know Elizabeth ? Because even being against her , she then was pardonade. Was margaret also at the sucession line ? Didn’t Elizabeth feel threaten ?
    And about Anne. Is there any records showing her feelings about her ? I’d love to know this as she was lady-in-waiting.

    And that’s why I love Tudor history; I am always discovering something new. That’s amazing.

    1. When Mary 1 was Queen, Elizabeth, who suffered from headaches, had apartments directly under Margaret’s. Now, Margaret would allow her servants in the kitchen (which was above Elizabeth’s bedroom) to make loud banging noises., And, in spite of the trips to the Tower, which Margaret would later take -courtesay of Elizabeth, I still get the feeling that Elizabeth wanted Margaret’s approval. Elizabeth was a hard woman, and yet Margaret was forgiven and taken back into the royal fold on several occasions.

      In spite of the harsh treatment Elizabeth was subjected to under Mary’s reign, which Margaret was a willing participant, she took part in Elizabeth’s coronation and was honored as the 1st Lady at Court until the business of the plotting in her household with other Catholics and allowing her fool to make fun of Elizabeth She was put under house arrest, Then came the reconciliation with the Queen which lasted till the plotting to have her son marry the Scottish Queen was discovered. She went to the Tower for that, but was released when Darnley was killed and treated by Elizabeth’s own physican as Margaret took Darnley’s death very hard. When she returned to Court , Margaret got sympathy from the Queen.. On another earlier occasion when Elizabeth heard Lennox was suffering from nightmares, she sent a letter to Margaret ,and advised her elder cousin to comfort her husband. No wonder he had nightmares-they were in response to the children’s murders he sanctioned. But Margaret would go to the Tower yet again for arranging her son Charles’s marriage without Elizabeth’s consent. (She had Queen Mary of Scots consent, whom she reconciled with). Margaret had a change of heart after Lennox died, and was convinced that Mary didn’t have anything to do with Darnley’s murder, which I can understand, but how did she get past Mary’s marriage to Bothwell? I would love to know how Mary explained that to her former mother in-law/aunt. Margaret was released yet again, and died rather poor. Elizabeth, however, saw that she had a fitting funeral for a person in the Royal Family. King James later had a fitting monument for his grandmother when he became King of England. So yea, I’d say Elizabeth was in awe of her older cousin in spite of everything

      Anne Boleyn, on the other hand seemed to get along very good with Margaret, according to all accounts I’ve read. I’m supposing there could of been self serving. motives on both sides but there appears to be mutual affection. between them. Margaret’s mother, Queen Margaret of Scotland and Anne had a friendly correspondence where they called each other ‘sister’, and that probably played a part in her taking young Margaret under her wing. Anne didn’t have the support of Henry’s younger sister Mary, and was open to friendship with the other one, and consequently her daughter. She needed allies! But , Margaret was very good friends with Henry’s daughter Mary. They were living together until Henry summoned Margaret to Court, (The would resume their friendship later, and Margaret would shine at Mary’s Court.).It is possible, that Ann may be not have been above using ‘Conqueror and Divide’ tactics with the girls. It was surprising to read that Margaret got along so well with Anne, since she was close with her cousin Mary.

      Yes, I agree it is terrible to be imprisoned for falling in love. And Margaret did it twice-both Howard men! And she did it twice when she was older-her son’s marriages. Although Darnley probably only married Mary for the Crown, but Mary certainly thought it was a love match at the time. At least Henry, when he decided to get a husband for Margaret- he chose Matthew Stuart, the Earl of Lennox, he urged the 2 of them to correspond, so they could get to know each other. And he made it clear that if Margaret wasn’t agreeable, the marriage wouldn’t happen. As it turned out Margaret was smitten, when she saw the Earl and they were married. The rest is history..

      Now Elizabeth was the Queen of Mean when it came to love matches. She imprisoned a lot of female relatives for love matches. Probably paranoid about the throne issues, but I think she had deep issues about her mother’s marriage and death.

      Hope this helps!

      My question is if Anne Boleyn was so kind to Margaret and they got along, why was she so mean to Elizabeth? We first hear of it in Mary’s reign when Elizabeth was a teenager. Any thoughts?

    2. Recommended reading I am doing that just now on Lady Margaret Douglas.
      Title is- The Lost Tudor Princess: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas
      By Alison Weir
      A well researched and most interesting read. I have the talking books version.


  5. I must say that was a wonderful read. I find so many things that
    Are still in common in todays society. Language for example.
    And the ” nit pickie” ways people did and do treat each other.
    Thank you Claire, for bringing this wonderful information to
    Us every day.

  6. There is a remarkable painting of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox at Harwick Hall which I visited in a rain storm last year on way home from Lincolnshire via Derbyshire. She looks like the remarkable and strong willed, strong headed person that she was. As the eldest niece of Henry VIII she made a royal prize and she had love affairs with two Howard brothers, one Charles was said to be the love of her life and she was sort of married to him or at least very betrothed which was the same thing. The couple were attained and seperated, Charles dying in the Tower and it was all very sad. Henry of course found a suitable husband in the Earl of Lennox and Margaret should have lived happily ever after, but for the continued meddling of the Tudors in her life via Elizabeth sending Darley her son to Scoltand. As in the very good article above Henry Stuart Lord Darnley married Mary queen of Scots and enraged Elizabeth as it moved both his mother and his wife closer to the English crown. It was said that Queen Mary Tudor even considered her cousin as an alternative to Elizabeth as her heir but made better of it as she did not want a repeat of Lady Jane Grey.

    Margaret must have been terrified when her son was killed and she had been in the Tower. Her family had strong wills and did not always make good decisions as affairs of the heart came first. Her grandchild was Arabella Stuart who made a marriage with William Seymour and made James VI and I think she wanted the crown. Both were placed in custody and the Tower and made a daring escape. William made it to France or Holland and safety and Arbella was intercepted at sea. She was placed back in the Tower where she died after a mysterious illness. Poor Arbella, repeating her mothers affairs of the heart.

    Great article and a remarkable lady.

    1. ‘Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall’ a magnificent building,
      I used to live but 30 miles from it for many years and visited it many times.
      Built by another strong and formidable woman Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury the 2nd wealthiest woman in England to Elizabeth I, some say richer!! The Hall holds a wonderful collection of embroideries and tapestries mainly from the 16th century, some by Bess herself.
      It is built next to the old Hardwick Hall which is a ruin now, I never went in that part maybe it wasn’t open to the public when I last visited, but it is now. Back in Bess’s day it was used to house guests and service accommodation after the new hall had been built.
      I hope you enjoyed your visit BanditQueen.

  7. I had always wanted to know more about Margaret Tudor and now, through your articles, I get to know her, and also her relatives and descendants. What a complicated life she had! Thank you so much for this opportunity to discover Margaret Tudor and those who surrounded her in life and death.

  8. The more research that is done the more questions that arise. I am doing ancestry research and have come up to the point where Robert Howard born 1537 in Syon House is an ancestor. Reports list him as the son of Thomas Howard and Margaret (Tudor) Douglas though nothing known documentation is there to substantiate those claims. Being Margaret and Thomas were “betrothed” to each other and paid for their so called crimes to the crown even though that crime Henry VIII proclaimed as rule was invoked after the fact, it is curious that Robert was supposedly born in Syon House during the time Margaret was ordered there.

    DNA would substantiate or disprove many myths out there yet I have not come across any tests conducted that would do so. Perhaps the royal family and historians of English ancestry would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie rather than discover the truths. And as has been proven over the years, history is only as factual as the one’s writing it.

  9. Hmmmm… She died after falling ill at a party given by Robert Dudley. Wasn’t Dudley known for poisoning people?

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