The Death of Margaret Tudor

Posted By on October 18, 2010

On this day in history, 18th October 1541, Margaret Tudor died of a stroke at Methven Castle, Perthshire, Scotland. She was laid to rest at the Carthusian Priory of St John in Perth, which was later destroyed.

Margaret Tudor was born on the 28th November 1489. She was the eldest surviving daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and was the sister of Henry VIII. After lengthy negotiations, Margaret was promised in marriage to James IV of Scotland in the Treaty of Perpetual Peace between England and Scotland on the 24th January 1502. The couple were married by proxy and in 1503 Margaret travelled to Scotland, stopping at various places, including York, on the way. James and Margaret married properly at Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, on the 8th August, and poet William Dunbar wrote of the occasion in his poem “The Thistle and the Rose”.

James IV and Margaret Tudor went on to have six children, including the future James V of Scotland, father of Mary Queen of Scots. James died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, a battle between Scotland and Margaret’s brother’s forces. For a time, Margaret acted as Regent and although she had opposition, being the enemy’s sister, she managed to reconcile Scotland and England.

On the 6th August 1514 Margaret secretly married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, a member of the powerful Scottish House of Douglas. When news of the marriage got out, it was opposed by the nobles and in September 1514 the Privy Council ruled that she had acted against the terms of James IV’s will and could no longer act as Regent. She was replaced by John Stewart, 2nd Duke of Albany, who took custody of her sons, James and Alexander.

In 1515, Margaret and her husband fled across the border and was taken to Harbottle Castle by Lord Dacre, Warden of the Marches. There, on 8th October 1515, she gave birth to a daughter, Lady Margaret Douglas, the future mother of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. A couple of months later, Margaret received news that her son, Alexander, had died at Stirling Castle. It was also around this time that Margaret’s husband, Angus, abandoned his wife to return to Scotland and make peace with Albany and escape a charge of treason. Margaret, on the other hand, continued her journey on to London where her brother, Henry VIII, arranged lodgings for her at Scotland Yard in Whitehall.

After a treaty was negotiated between Albany, Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII, Margaret returned to Scotland in 1517, only to find out that her husband had been living with Lady Jane Stewart in her absence. Margaret decided that she wanted a divorce and sought her brother’s help. However, Henry VIII did not believe in divorce (at this time anyway!) and was also unwilling to make an enemy of his brother-in-law. Margaret carried on fighting for her divorce, even enlisting the help of Albany, who even spread rumours that he and Margaret were lovers. In March 1527, Albany finally convinced Pope Clement VII to grant Margaret’s petition and Margaret went on to marry Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven, on 3rd March 1528. However, the marriage was not happy for long. Margaret had managed to pick another unfaithful husband, so she again fought for a divorce, although this was not supported by her son, King James V. Margaret was later able to reconcile with Methven.

On the 12th June 1538, Margaret’s son, James V, married Mary of Guise by proxy, and when Mary arrived in Scotland she became good friends with her mother-in-law. Margaret died on the 18th October 1541 and it was to her great-grandson, King James VI of Scotland, that the Tudor crown passed on the death of her niece, Elizabeth I, in 1603. On the 24th March 1603, James VI became King James I, uniting Scotland and England, and beginning a new dynasty, the House of Stuart.

54 thoughts on “The Death of Margaret Tudor”

  1. AngelinaBoleyn says:

    I may descend from her!

    1. Hope Chalcraft says:

      Me too

    2. Dennis Sherman Dougherty says:

      Hello Angelina Boleyn, If you can trace yourself to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VI of France (her first husband) there is a connection with Anne Boleyn through Louis VI’s great grandfather Robert II (France) and his wife Constance of Arles. The line continues from their granddaughter Maud of Flanders; the wife of William I of England (Wm. the Conqueror) and down to Eleanor of Aquitaine’s 2nd Husband Henry II of England (my own ancestors). They connect through King John (Robin Hood stories) and the First Earl of Cornwall, Richard, to the Sir John Howard family and seven generations of Howards when Elizabeth Howard marries Thomas Boleyn (Annes’ father). This gives you a connection through Annes’ mother. I am also a descendant from the first Queen Margaret of Scotland who was born in exile in Kiev in 1045: Moved to Hungary the next year and was the sister of Edgar Ætheling, the short reigned and uncrowned Anglo-Saxon King of England. This Margaret married Malcolm III of Scotland (star of the Shakespeare play MacBeth).

  2. Désirée St. Paul says:

    @ Angelina Boleyn – I think it’s really neat that you might be able to trace your ancestry to Margaret Tudor. My grandmother died before I was able to get the full story, which is the archives of Tulane University (New Orleans), but somehow we descend from Eleanore of Acquitaine…. which means I might be related some way to Anne Boleyn. I’m a descendant of Louis VI of France and somehow I think it’s all tied in. The connection would be on Anne’s father’s side.

    1. Dennis Dougherty, New York says:

      Désirée. Yes, Louis VI of France was Eleanore of Aquitaine’s first husband while Henry II of England was her second (my own ancestors). We could be related but Louis VI did have more children after Eleanore. Funny thing is…I am also descendant from Henry II through his illegitimate son Sir William Longspee whose descendant Sir Hugh Shirley (Ida DeTony/Henry II) married Beatrce Brewes (Eleanor of Aquitaine/Henry II). Sir Hugh Shirley is mentioned in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV when he was killed in the battle of Shrewsbury (1403) dressed as Henry IV’s decoy. Henry II always said his “illegitimate children turned out OK and that his Royal children are his real ‘bastards'”.
      A connection from Eleanore to Anne Boleyn can be made through Beatrice Brewes’ father Sir Peter de Brewes II and Joan Howard, who’s brother, Sir Robert Howard, is the second great grandfather of Elizabeth Howard: Anne Boleyn’s mother.
      My long time unanswered question is: My grandparents on the first Mayflower voyage to America had a daughter, and a continuing ancestor to myself, named Desire. In early 17th C English tradition would she be known as Désirée (like yourself) or simply Desire?

  3. Kim Kloes says:

    So Margaret’s resting place was destroyed? Was her body lost? How and when was it destroyed?

    Thanks for another wonderful article. I truly enjoy reading the Anne Boleyn Files.

  4. Anne Barnhill says:

    Interesting about ancestors. My ancestors descended from Sir John Shelton, married to Lady Anne (Boleyn) Shelton, sister to Thomas Boleyn. Their daughter, Margaret, Pretty Madge, was one of Henry VIII’s lovers (don’t know if it was ever really consumated) My novel, AT THE MERCY OF THE QUEEN, is Lady Margaret’s story-well, at least the way I imagine it–coming out Jan, 2012. I love all the hidden stories that have been passed down in families. Maybe that’s where a lot of the real history can be found, who knows?
    Thanks for this piece on Margaret Tudor. Claire, do you know why Henry banned her children from the succesion? I have no idea about that. Unless he just was still angry with her for her marriage escapades (pot calling kettle black!!)

  5. boleynfan says:

    Always found Margaret a compelling character. She and Henry did not get along that well, probably as they were too much alike.

    Thanks for a wonderful article.

  6. Yesenia Maria says:

    Dear Claire,

    Thank you for this very informative report , I am not
    English neither I am of Royal descent , however I enjoy everything about Royalty in particular the history in Medieval Europe I have read all the books from Philipa Gregory but I think that I enjoyed more reading reality facts about the Royal Houses of Eusrope ,
    Thank you again , can you write something about Mary Tudor, ( Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII ‘s daughter,

  7. Marie says:

    I really need to read up on this remarkable Princess, and Queen. I had no idea how involved her life was. Thank you Claire.

  8. Claire says:

    Yesenia Maria,
    I have written quite a few articles on Mary Tudor (Mary I) over at The Elizabeth Files, see Hope that helps x

  9. Yesenia Maria says:

    Thank you Claire,
    I have just discovered the other sites and enjoying every minute of it , Thank you again

  10. Savannah Harris says:

    Amazing! I love English History! I wish I descended from Margaret Tudor 🙂 This was a very interesting article to read and Margaret Tudor sounds like a very interesting lady of her time.

  11. Claire says:

    The Carthusian Priory of St John in Perth was destroyed during the Scottish Reformation which began in 1560. Sadly, Margaret’s tomb was destroyed along with the priory.

    1. Marc says:

      Another unfortunate tragedy of the Tudor era.

  12. Marc says:

    I would like to know if Margaret Tudor and her brother, Henry VIII met in person while she was staying at Scotland Yard’s Palace during those couple of years? Do you know if they did or not. I had no idea until I read your article that Margaret ever returned to England or more particularly London after her marriage to James IV. Marc

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Marc,
      I would assume that she did meet and spend time with her brother during that period, although I can’t find record of an actual meeting between them.

    2. Claire says:

      The following references in Letters and Papers are regarding Margaret’s journey from the Borders to London:-
      L&P ii. 27 15th January 1515
      L&P ii. 1380 2nd January 1516 Margaret is ill after childbirth
      L&P ii. 1598 viii Margaret is travelling to London to her brother, Henry VIII
      L&P ii. 1672 Margaret’s complaints against Albany
      L&P ii. 1828 27th April 1516 – Margaret has reached Stony Stratford
      L&P ii.1852 May 1516 Margaret’s letter to Wolsey re “Bayners Castle”
      L&P ii. 2233 July 1516 Margaret to Wolsey re a loan Henry VIII has promised her
      L&P ii. 2400 September Letter from Margaret to Wolsey referring to letter from Lord of the Council of Scotland (2398)
      L&P ii. 2476 Margaret to Wolsey
      L&P ii. 2482 October Wolsey to Margaret, reassuring her about matters in Scotland
      L&P ii. 2701 December, Margaret to Wolsey re money for New Year’s gifts
      L&P ii. 2729 Margaret to Wolsey regarding money and apologising for needing to ask
      L&P ii. 2845 Dacre and Magnus to Wolsey re Margaret’s return to Scotland

      and lots more! Wolsey seems to have been her contact but I’m sure that Henry would have seen her at court during her stay.

      1. Marc says:

        Fantastic. There is so much information there. You’re right though. I bet that if Wolsey was in such close contact with Margaret then Henry was right behind!

  13. Ashley says:

    Poor Margaret! From what I read about her she didn’t have a an easy life in Scotland. When she came to Scotland to marry James IV she had to accept that he was unfaithful and had to accept his many illiegitamite children, when she married Archibald Douglas for love she was forced to give up her son the little King James V. After being in England for a year trying to get her brother to help gain custody of James she went back to Scotland only to find her husband living with another women and living off her money and when she married for the third time her was just the same living with other women and spending her money she must have been heartbroken to be betrayed time and again by her husbands.

    1. FabNayNay says:

      A lot of women, in those days, fought fire, with fire, and took on lovers of their own. I don’t mean any disrespect but, if I couldn’t seem to be able to obtain a husband who would be faithful to me, then I’d probably find myself straying else where. Who knows? Perhaps Margaret did this. I just can’t see someone sitting around, pining away for a mate who, they know is being unfaithful. What a waste! Better to be able to look back on your life with fond memories.
      But, I know. . .I’m thinking like someone who was raised in our generation and time, not theirs.

      1. Tera Gee says:

        This is me as I know of.

  14. Anita says:

    On ancestry, my maiden name is McDaniel, and am told they were something else.

  15. Gayle says:

    Didn’t believe in divorce. Amazing that Henry VIII changed his mind with the prevailing wind. I have less and less sympath for him and his predicament the more I read.

    1. Gail Marion says:

      Henry got what Henry wanted and God help anyone who stood in his way. Horrible man.

  16. I really enjoyed reading your article. Margaret’s life seemed very hard and loveless. And then in the end to have her resting place and body destroyed, how tragic.

    1. Gail Marion says:

      The Carthusian Priory of St John was destroyed but I can’t imagine Margaret’s tomb would have been desecrated at that time. Perhaps like those of Richard III her remains will one day be discovered.

  17. joshua king says:

    I’ am all so a decendent or magarat tudor
    its pretty cool knowing that I am of royalty blood

    1. Dennis Dougherty says:

      Well, my family is not quite so recent: My last Scottish King was William I, brother of Malcolm IV both descendants of King Malcolm III and Queen Saint Margaret (1/2 Russian: 1/2 English) of the Shakespeare MacBeth fame.

  18. Natalie Mullen says:

    The eldest daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, she was married to James IV of Scotland in August, 1503. After the death of James IV, she married two more times: Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus in 1514 and Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven in 1528. Margaret died at Methven Castle on 18 October 1541. She was buried at the nearby Carthusian Priory of Perth. Her tomb was destroyed and her remains were burned on 11 May 1559 when a mob of Calvinists attacked the Priory.

    1. Sandra Bryner says:

      I am always puzzled when someone comments exactly what the article states. Summarizing the life of this incredible woman to just dates does not give her justice.

  19. Belinda Pearce says:

    Well I come from Adam and Eve…. I love reading true stories special about royalty. One thing that aggravates me is all of the senseless killing that was done for power. Also it would have been nice if they didn’t name their children after themselves for it gets confusing trying to keep up with who is who.

  20. ALambert says:

    Amazing! She is my 17th great-grandmother through my 17th great grandfather James IV). So it turns out my 23rd great grandfather is Robert the Bruce. I came to discover this AFTER I had an obsession with the stewarts, tudors and so on. I actually chose to do an essay in college about the movie “The Other Boelyn Girl” before I knew that I had any connection to them! The facts are intriguing….better than the movie.

  21. Lisa Mathis says:

    Margaret Tudor is my 12th great-grandmother which makes her brother King Henry the 8th my 12th great-uncle. Seeing more facts really show the realities of history.

  22. Linda Mofflin says:

    I did my ancestry and am a descendant of William the Conqueror and Isabella of Angouleme and her second husband Hugh x of Lusignan. It is a little overwhelming that your ancestors were great influences of history.

    1. Deb says:

      How do you manage to trace your family back so far? What sources do yo use.

      1. Marj says:

        Hi Deb, we are all related to royalty in one way or another, not many records of surnames written down, but I can get as far as 1600, really need to pay to research further.

        1. Christine says:

          I don’t think that’s quite true, whilst we all have bloodlines going back to antiquity we cannot say in all certainty we are related, after all we possess different DNA which we only share with our close blood relations, and whilst many thousands of years ago in different communities there possibly was a lot of inter marrying, there not being as much population as now, I believe the great time span between then and now, and after all I’m talking about pre history cancels out any closeness in the people alive today, only if you actually have on record your ancestors can you claim them as your blood kin, anyone can say their related to someone, it’s proving it that’s the difficult part.

  23. Belinda says:

    I am also related to William the Conquer. tree has been fairly easy to trace…I guess the Nobles had better paper trails…so many Lords , Ladies, and the like…one of my Ancestors lost his head…Nicholas Carews I belive was his name…and another was burned at the steak… my Mother’s line has been very interesting indeed…I am somehow related to Ann Bolyen. ..but forget the connection…as I was getting blown away by the titles…one of my Relatives took care of one of the Kings children…again names escape me…lol…I also remember a Kings Consort…but I had no idea what that was until I watched the Netflix series Reign…loved that…just finished the last one this past weekend…next will be the one about Spain rulers…I forget their names…lol

  24. Shannon Kay Moore Faddis says:

    I thought she married Charles Brandon as well. I wrong? I studied history in college.

    1. Claire says:

      Her sister, Mary Tudor, was married to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

  25. Amy says:

    Hi, Claire, just a question….I’m reading a book published in 1851 by Agnes Strickland called “Lives of the Queens of Scotland and English Princesses Volume 1”. I just finished reading the part about Margaret Tudor. Agnes states that “Queen Margaret was struck with palsy, Friday afternoon, November 20 (1941), at Methven Castle. She had no idea that her sickness was unto death until a few hours before her decease. She was not under any alarm until Tuesday noon, when she sent for her son, who was at Falkland Palace”. The footnote at the bottom states: “Letter of Harry Ray. All historians place Queen Margaret’s death a year earlier; but this letter from the State Papers is decisive. Bishop Lesley falls into the mistake of others.”
    So, I’m thinking this puts her date of death on November 24 or 25, not October 18. What are your thoughts? I wasn’t sure where your information came from. I’m not saying this book is correct, I just wanted to address the inconsistency.
    Please let me know what you think!

    1. Amy says:

      Sorry, there’s also another footnote that states the information is taken from “State Papers vol. v. Nov. 1941

    2. Claire says:

      Hi Amy,

      Henry Ray’s letter is catalogued in Letters and Papers for October 1541 and this is the record:

      “Reports that, as commanded, he has been in Scotland to inquire of the death of the Queen, and whether she died intestate. She took a palsy upon the Friday before night, at Meffen, and died on the Tuesday following before night, but, as she doubted no danger of death, omitted to make her will until past remembrance for that purpose. She sent to Falkland for the King, her son, who came not till after she was departed. Seeing death approach, she desired the Friars, her confessors, on their knees, to beseech the King to be gracious to the earl of Angus, and asked God mercy that she had so offended the Earl. She also asked that lady Margaret Douglas, her daughter, might have her goods. The same day, after her decease, the King came to Mephen and commanded Oliver Sinkler and John Tenant, of his Privy Chamber, to lock up her goods to his use. She left in money but 2,500 mks. Scots. Signed: By me, Barweck Porsovant.
      Hol. Headed as to my lords of the Council.”

      The editor’s note is that the date of her death was Tuesday 18th October 1541. You can read the full letter in State Papers V. 194 – see
      I’m assuming that historians have put together Henry Ray’s letter along with James being recorded as going to Methven and his instructions to Margaret’s privy chamber, I really don’t know. Interestingly, Strickland dates Margaret’s death to November 1541, basing it on Ray’s letter in State Papers, the footnote saying “State Papers, vol. v. Nov. 1541” but State Papers does not date the letter. I agree with her regarding 1541, not 1540, but all modern historians date her death to the October. Strickland is brilliant in so many ways, but she did make mistakes.

      1. Amy says:

        Thanks for sending that link! Interestingly, the footnote at the bottom of page 193 of the state papers that you sent states “the diurnal states that Queen Margaret died on 24th of November and was buried in St. Johnston”. I guess it’s easy to get things wrong when there are different accounts of the same occurrence!! Either way, it’s an interesting read!
        Thanks again!

        1. Claire says:

          I adore Agnes Strickland. It’s hard work for me researching Tudor history today and I live in a world where archives can be visited, there are courses on how to read medieval/Tudor handwriting, a multitude of documents have been transcribed and digitised, there are lots of well-referenced books out there and historians can be reached by email…. so Strickland did an incredible job researching and writing her books in a world without all that. I applaud her.

      2. Dennis Dougherty, New York says:

        This information is good to ponder, but do not forget a most important event of those times which is: Pope Gregory XIII authorized a correction in the then Julian Calendar in 1582 of 10 days. Thursday 4 October 1582 was followed by Friday 15 October 1582. Are these dates we are debating on the Julian or Gregorian Calendar? If her death was actually recorded in hand writing on October 18th, 1541; we should remember it now on each November 1st to get it right.. In the 21st Century the dates are now off by 14 days. This is why the Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on December 25th Julian Calendar: which is every January 7th today.

  26. Rachelle Arnot says:

    Did Margaret Tudor die from a stroke, or cerebral palsy ? I read stroke in some sites, other sites, cerebral palsy, which is correct??

    1. Sandra Bryner says:

      She developed palsy as a result of her stroke. Cerebral palsy is a different condition, usually diagnosed at birth or in infancy.

  27. Hannah says:

    I’m pretty sure I’m a descendent of her. After researching my family tree last year, I’m fairly certain that I’m a direct descendent of Lady Mary Tudor, illegitimate daughter of Charles II and Moll Davis…who Charles is, of course, a direct descendent of Margaret Tudor.

  28. Bronwyn says:

    Of illegitimate royal decent. Story in the family of a female of royal decent running away with her commoner husband to South Africa. I assume she was illegitimate but I cannot find history with regards.

    1. Sandra Bryner says:

      Margaret Tudor was not illegitimate. Of course, there were/are questions about her grandfather, Edward IV. Are you confusing her with someone else?

      1. Margaret-Ann says:

        I don’t think they meant Margaret herself since I very much doubt South Africa was a recognised area let alone the place to run off to in 1500s! I’m sure they meant they believe they have royal ancestry from an elopement further down the generations!

  29. Amy says:

    I descend from Mary Queen of Scots and some others

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