Margaret Tudor: Gateway to the United Kingdom, Part I – Sweet Tudor Rose

Posted By on August 13, 2015

Margaret Tudor Thank you so much to Heather R. Darsie for writing this article, which is the first in a series of three. I’m late in posting it due to being on holiday but I’m sure you’ll enjoy finding out a bit more about Margaret.

Over to Heather…

In celebration of Margaret Tudor’s marriages – first to King James IV of Scotland on 8 August 1503 and then to Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus on 6 August 1514 – we are going to take a look at the three phases of Margaret’s life, beginning with her time as a Tudor princess.

Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots, was born on 28 November 1489 at the Palace of Westminster. Margaret was the eldest surviving daughter of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York, and a mere eighteen months older than her infamous brother, Henry VIII of England. Margaret spent the first thirteen years of her life in England, where she was surrounded by luxury and by beautiful gothic architecture, to which she became accustomed. Margaret was immediately treated to the very best life had to offer as a Tudor princess – Her cradle was made of oak, which was lined with ermine (the fur from a white stoat, which is a weasel-like animal) and adorned with cloth-of-gold. Her education was led by her formidable, Lancastrian paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. Margaret appears to have possessed a solid intellect and zest for life.

As a young lady at the English court, Margaret participated in the newly-created Tudor pageantry. She was known to enjoy dancing, card games, and archery. Margaret learned to play the lute and clavichord. The clavichord is a stringed instrument with a keyboard, not unlike a piano. Here is a link to a piece by Bach, played on a clavichord: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WuVVE2t-Vk

Margaret spoke Latin and French, as well. This combination of skills and her relationship with Lady Margaret Beaufort helped shape Margaret as not only an engaging princess, but also a strong future queen.

Margaret was betrothed to James IV of Scotland in an effort to bring peace and security to the bordering countries. James IV was a brilliant and charismatic man, whose country boasted three universities at a time when England had only two. James IV also had several poets attending his court, such as William Dunbar, David Lindsay and Gavin Douglas. Like Margaret’s brother Henry VIII, James IV idolized the legendary King Arthur and his chivalric ways.

James IV of Scotland

James IV of Scotland

Following quickly after the marriage of Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur of England, the betrothal between Margaret Tudor and James IV was celebrated at Richmond Palace. Shortly thereafter, Margaret married James IV by proxy, declaring upon the exchange of vows:  

“I, Margaret, the first begotten daughter of the right excellent, right high and mighty prince and princess, Henry by the Grace of God king of England, and Elizabeth queen of the same, wittingly and of deliberate mind, having twelve years complete in age in the month of November last past, contract matrimony with the right excellent, right high and mighty prince, James king of Scotland, and the person of whom, Patrick earl of Bothwell, procurator of the said prince, represents, and take the said James king of Scotland into and for my husband and spouse, and all other for him forsake, during his and mine lives natural, and thereto I plight and give to him, in your person as procurator aforesaid, my faith and troth.”

Considering that Margaret was only twelve years old at the time, this speech shows that Margaret had an excellent capacity for public speaking. Although not known for her love of scholarship, it would appear that Margaret had a sharp mind and a talent for eloquence, both excellent traits for a queen of the stalwart country of Scotland. After the wedding ceremony, Margaret and her mother, Queen Elizabeth of York, sat next to each other on the royal English dais and enjoyed feasting for the next several days.

Margaret Tudor set out for her new home on July 2, 1503. She briefly visited with her presumed namesake and paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, at Collyweston. An account of Margaret’s progress north is given by Tudor citizen Richard Grafton, who recalled that:

“[…] this fair lady was conveyed with a great company of lords, ladies, knights, esquires and gentlemen until she came to Berwick and from there to a village called Lambton Kirk in Scotland where the king with the flower of Scotland was ready to receive her, to whom the earl of Northumberland according to his commission delivered her…
“Then this lady was taken to the town of Edinburgh, and there the day after King James IV in the presence of all his nobility married the said princess, and feasted the English lords, and showed them jousts and other pastimes, very honourably, after the fashion of this rude country. When all things were done and finished according to their commission the earl of Surrey with all the English lords and ladies returned to their country, giving more praise to the manhood than to the good manner and nature of Scotland.”

After arriving in Scotland, Margaret and James IV were officially wed on 8 August 1503. Their nuptials took place at the chapel of Holyroodhouse. Margaret wore a beautiful gown trimmed in satin, and James IV wore a coordinating outfit of white damask with crimson sleeves. A brief coronation for Margaret was held quickly after the wedding. James IV, affectionate from the start, held a magnificent feast until he and Margaret retired for the night.

Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland even inspired a bit of poesy by the resident poets of her new husband’s court. A song written about her includes the lyrics:

“Sweet lusty lusum (fair) lady clere (bright),
Most myghty kyngis dochter dere,
Borne of a princess most serene,
Welcum of Scotlond to be queen.”

Margaret enjoyed an affectionate marriage with James IV and went on to bear six children. Sadly, only one survived to adulthood; namely, James V. However, life was not to be all easiness and joy for Queen Margaret.

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Sources and Further Reading

  • Hanson, Marilee. Margaret Tudor Queen of Scotland Facts, Biography & Information. http://englishhistory.net/tudor/relative/margaret-tudor/ Retrieved 02 August 2015.
  • Margaret Tudor Queen of Scotland. http://tudorhistory.org/people/margaret/ Retrieved 03 August 2015.
  • Cavendish, Richard. Marriage of James IV of Scots and Margaret Tudor. History Today, vol. 53 issue 8. August 2003.
  • Tasioulas, J. A., ed. The Makars, Caongate (1999).
  • Marshall, Rosalind K. Scottish Queens. Tuckwell Press (2003).
  • Bain, Joseph, ed. Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, 1357-1509, vol. 4, HM Register House, Edinburgh (1888).
  • Lenz, Harvey Nancy. The Rose and the Thorn: The Lives of Mary and Margaret Tudor, Macmillan (1975).

11 thoughts on “Margaret Tudor: Gateway to the United Kingdom, Part I – Sweet Tudor Rose”

  1. Anne Barnhill says:

    Great article! Thank you. I’ve always been interested in Margaret’s rather tumultuous life…and the relationship between her and Henry. It’s sort of strange and I’m looking forward to reading the other articles!

  2. Banditqueen says:

    Hello Heather, many thanks for a great article and giving attention to this much forgotten Tudor Princess. I am waiting with hope for the new upcoming bio of Margaret in October, but few books have been written outside romantic historical fiction about her. I am pleased you have taken a look at the life of this lady who had an interesting and active, if somewhat sad life. I think that she was lucky in that she married a renaissance Prince, maligned that he was by the Tudor Henrican propaganda machine, that had he not been killed at Flodden, she would have had a great life. With James she had several children, a few happy years, she was regent for her son until her second marriage and her escape back to England. Because of Angus adultery her second marriage ended in divorce and her third husband was a colourful person too. Margaret Tudor was a fiesty, clever determined to do her own thing and a typical Tudor family rebel. She was a survivor, did what she had to for her own protection, to protect her kids and her rights. Henry, the great super moralistic hypocrite wrote to upbride Margaret about her matrimonial adventures, but in truth he could not talk. I love Margaret Tudor because she did appear to have a keen mind and to express herself well. I think people are not aware of her talents and patronage, more books on this forgotten Tudor Rose please. Again, a very informative and detailed article, thankyou.

  3. Star says:

    I really do not need another Tudor persona in my life .
    King Henry , Anne Boleyn , Thomas Moore etc…. They take up all of my space on my bookshelves . It seems now I will have to make room for Margaret Tudar as well .
    The article was so good I wish it were a book .

  4. Star says:

    Tudor not Tudar . Forgive me .

  5. Star says:

    Tudor not Tudar . Forgive me . I have made a terrible mistake and did not read my comment. The site will not let me post the correct spelling .

  6. Hannele says:

    Thank you for your article! I am a great fan of Scotland.

    However, I think you overvalue Margaret. She did not make a public speech on her words, but simply spoke the marriage vow she had learned by heart and that is quite easy in her age.

    Most of all, although in our time a twelve year old girl is young for marriage, she can know much about other matters. F.ex. I knew then more about the US politics than I do today.

    1. BanditQueen says:

      Hello, Hannele, you are quite right twelve was not young for marriage, it was may-be not normal, but it was certainly an age that royal and noble women were often married at then; but the Church dd encourage husbands and parents to wait and to only allow the couple to have sex when the girl was fully mature in a physical sense; able to have children; soon after the turn of womanhood, around the age of fourteen. This, sadly was not always followed and Margaret Beaufort, her grandmother wanted the marriage held off for a year or two before she went to Scotland as she herself had been married to Edmund Tudor at this age. He did not wait, and poor Margaret was pregnant before the age of 13 with Henry Tudor. She had a difficult birth, was a widow at the time and it was feared that as she was very sight of build that she and her son would not live. They both did but it is believed that Margaret was so damaged inside that she could not conceive again. She did not recover from this; but she grew into a fiesty and proud and strong woman.

      The vow, surely is at the point of the formal betrothal or proxy marriage and not from her actual wedding in Scotland as this was more important than the religious service. This formed the basis of the contract and the alliance. Whether or not she is just reciting the words as written or has rehearsed them, I think that she did very well for her age not to fumble them under the close pressure of being in public. It may not have been a speech as such, but it was a long declaration of her awowal and commitment.

      We don’t appreciate I feel today, just how big a step dynastic marriage was. In Tudor times you could still merely have a couple of witnesses, or even just you two and promise to live as husband and wife for a marriage to be lawfu;. you don’t need the public declarations and so on; you don’t even need a priest although one as witness would be better. Noble families and merchant families of course are looking to make an alliance and to strenthen their standing in society. People with property gave part of this to the wife as her dower lands and the other family paid for her dowry; business people may have married as part of a contract to expand their holdings; and of course the royal families made alliances to agree to live in peace or to aid each other if attacked and to grow in power and so on. The main bit of the marriage was the marriage bedding; the consumation and the hope of male heirs; It was this part of course that Margaret should only take part in when it was agreed she was ready; this normally being at the age of 14 or so. It was also quite acceptable and normal for a younger woman in her teens to marry an older man in his 40s or 50s or even older as they looked for children as soon as possible and widowers particularly may marry a younger woman, as they were running out of time. Catherine Willoughby married Charles Brandon as his forth wife when he was 49 and she 14 or 15; they got on o.k and so thankfully did Margaret, with James she was reasonably happy.

      1. Hannele says:

        We as modern people may be sorry for Margaret Beaufort who had to give birth to Henry Tudor in an young age, but there would be no Tudor dynasty without if Margaret had not been pregnant when her husband died.

        Of course Edmund Tudor could not predict that and actually he had taken a huge risk to bed Margaret so early for there was a huge risk that she and her baby would die – and then goodbye to her lands and the possibility of succession via Beaufort line (although it was then still unlikely but on the hand mortality could change everything).

        James IV seemed to understand fully how important it was to let Margaret to grow up in peace, for her children were, besides heirs to the Scottish crown, potentially heirs to Henry VIII as long he had no children. Margaret was “already” seventeen when she gave birth to her first child.

        PS. Now I came to think that if Margaret had not given birth to Henry Tudor, she could have had children in her later marriages. Would her son by Stafford become a supporter of York like his father?

        1. Banditqueen says:

          Interesting scenario. Maybe a loyal Yorkist, or given his mother’s Lancastrian connection, even though her Beaufort line was barred from the throne, maybe a Stafford line of Kings, they also having a claim to the throne? Of course as the son of Edmund Tudor Henry was the ztep nephew of Henry Vi, as a Stafford that line has gone. His maternal grandmother was also Catherine de Valois, daughter of the mad French King, Charles Vi of France, so his pedigree would be completely different, if not even more watered down. But either way, he would still have a connection with the royal family, whether now as a Yorkist or Lancastrian. With Margaret Beaufort less bound to the House of Lancaster, by obligations, a loyal Yorkist son is a real possibility. With no Tudor threat, save from Jasper as Queen Margaret of Anjou supporter, the Lancastrian House would end with the death of Edward Prince of Wales in 1471 and his father in the Tower. Loyally supporting the House of York would now mean no Bosworth, as you say, no Tudor Dynasty, and Richard lll, widowed in March 1485 will complete the alliance with Portugal he was planning at the time, or at the alternative, a Princess of Castile, go on to most likely have more sons, be remembered for his enlightened laws and equitable justice reforms, and lauded as a great King. However, the downside is, we would also have nothing to talk about, the Tudors have at least given us entertainment value and this excellent blog. Not sure I would have it any other way lol.

  7. Christine says:

    I’m looking forward to reading Alison Weirs new biography of her daughter Margaret Douglas Countess Of Lennox and mother of the ill fated Darnley, but yes we don’t have many biographys of Margaret and she seems quite a resilient woman for the times she lived in, Scotland was a harsh country to rule and most of it’s citizens unruly her granddaughter Mary Queen Of Scots seems to have inherited Margaret’s reckless streak when it came to men, what iv never understood is why King Henry cut out Margaret’s offspring in the line of succession, maybe he just hated the Scots and didn’t want his sister to marry them, but she had to do Henry V11s bidding, Mary was his favourite sister and she was included which led to problems for Lady Jane Grey but iv never understood why Henry cut Margaret out, in the end it was to no avail as Elizabeth left the crown to James therefore Margaret is the direct ancestor of our present Queen.

  8. Christine says:

    It is great to hear more about Henry’s sister Margaret!
    I have found more information about their sister, Mary.
    So thank you.

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