Margaret Douglas

Margaret Douglas
Lady Margaret Douglas
Margaret Douglas.jpg
Born 8 October 1515(1515-10-08)
Died 7 March 1578(1578-03-07) (aged 62)
Title Countess of Lennox
Spouse(s) Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox
Issue Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
Charles Stuart, 1st Earl of Lennox
Parents Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus
Margaret Tudor

Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (8 October 1515 – 7 March 1578) was the daughter of Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, and Margaret Tudor, Queen Dowager of Scotland. In her youth she was high in the favour of her uncle, King Henry VIII, but was twice incurred the King's anger, first for her unauthorized engagement to Lord Thomas Howard, who died in the Tower of London in 1537 because of his misalliance with her, and again in 1540 for an affair with Thomas Howard's half-nephew Charles Howard, the half-brother of Queen Catherine Howard. On 6 July 1544 she married Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox, one of Scotland's leading noblemen. Her son Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, married Mary, Queen of Scots and was the father of James I of England.


Early life

Margaret was born at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland. Her mother had crossed the border from Scotland. When her father was facing difficulties in Scotland in October 1529, he sent Margaret back into England to Norham Castle[1] the household of her godfather, Cardinal Wolsey. When Wolsey died in 1530, Lady Margaret was invited to Beaulieu, where she resided in the household of Princess Mary.[2] Because of her nearness to the English crown, Lady Margaret Douglas was brought up chiefly at the English court in close association with her first cousin, the future Queen Mary, who remained her fast friend throughout life. She was high in the favour of her uncle, King Henry VIII in her youth, and it was at court that she met Lord Thomas Howard (1511 – 31 October 1537), a younger son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk by his second marriage to Agnes Tilney.[3] By the end of 1535 Lord Howard and Lady Margaret Douglas had fallen in love and become secretly engaged.[4]

Lord Howard's niece, Queen Anne Boleyn, fell from power in May 1536. This undoubtedly contributed to the King's fury when in early July 1536 he learned of the engagement of Lord Howard and Lady Margaret since Lady Margaret was at the time next in the line of succession as a result of the King's bastardization of his daughters Lady Mary and Lady Elizabeth. Both Lord Howard and Lady Margaret were committed to the Tower, and on 18 July 1536 an Act of Attainder accusing Lord Howard of attempting to 'interrupt ympedyte and lett the seid Succession of the Crowne' was passed in both houses of Parliament. The Act sentenced Howard to death, and forbade the marriage of any member of the King's family without his permission.[5] The death sentence was not carried out, and Howard languished in the Tower despite the fact that Lady Margaret had broken off their relationship. While in the Tower Lady Margaret fell ill with a fever, and the King allowed her to be moved to Syon Abbey under the supervision of the abbess. She was released from imprisonment on 29 October 1537. Lord Howard remained in the Tower, where he caught a fatal illness and died on 31 October 1537[6]

In 1539 Margaret Douglas and the Duchess of Richmond were appointed to greet Henry VIII's bride, Anne of Cleves, at Greenwich Palace, join her household and convey her to the King. This would have been a great honour, but instead Henry chose to meet Anne at Rochester.[7]

In 1540 Lady Margaret was again in disgrace with the King when she had an affair with Lord Thomas Howard's half-nephew Sir Charles Howard, the son of Lord Thomas' elder stepbrother Lord Edmund Howard, and a brother of Henry VIII's fifth Queen, Catherine Howard.[8]

In 1543, Margaret was one of the few witnesses of King Henry's final marriage to Catherine Parr, the dowager Lady Latimer, at Hampton Court. Margaret would become one of Queen Catherine's chief ladies.[9] Catherine Parr and Margaret had known each other since they both had come to court in the 1520s.[10]

Marriage and diplomacy

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. During Queen Mary's reign, the Countess had rooms in Westminster Palace. In November 1553, Queen Mary told the ambassador Simon Renard that Margaret was best suited to succeed her to the throne.[11] On the accession of Queen Elizabeth, the Countess moved to Yorkshire, where her home at Temple Newsam became a centre for Roman Catholic intrigue. She succeeded in marrying her son, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, to his cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, thus uniting their claims to the English throne.

In 1566 she was sent to the Tower, but after the murder of Darnley in 1567 she was released. She denounced Mary, Queen of Scots, but was eventually reconciled with her daughter-in-law. Her husband assumed the government of Scotland as Regent, but was assassinated in 1571. In 1574 she again aroused Queen Elizabeth's anger by marrying her younger son, Charles Stuart, 1st Earl of Lennox, to Elizabeth Cavendish, the stepdaughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. She was sent to the Tower, unlike Lady Shrewsbury, but was pardoned after her son's death in 1576.

Margaret's diplomacy largely contributed to the future succession of her grandson, James VI of Scotland, to the English throne. After the death of her son, Charles, she helped care for his daughter, Arbella Stuart. However, she did not outlive him by very long. A few days before her death, she dined with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and this led to rumours that she had been poisoned. There is no historical evidence for this.

Although she died in debt, she was given a grand funeral in Westminster Abbey, at the expense of Queen Elizabeth I. She was buried in the same grave as her son Charles in the south aisle of Henry VII's chapel in the Abbey. Her grandson James VI of Scotland (who later became James I of England) is said to have erected the fine monument. Her recumbent effigy, made of alabaster, wears a French cap and ruff with a red fur-lined cloak, over a dress of blue and gold. On either side of the tomb chest are weepers of her four sons and four daughters.

The Lennox Jewel, was most likely made for Lady Lennox. Theories vary as to when the jewel was made and for what occasion. In 1842, the jewel was bought by Queen Victoria.[12]


Margaret Douglas is known for her poetry. Many of her works are written to her lover, Lord Thomas Howard, and are preserved in the Devonshire MS. Her close friends, Mary Shelton and the Duchess of Richmond, were the main contributors, as well as Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and Thomas Wyatt.

Representation in fiction

Margaret Douglas plays a significant role in the historical fiction series the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. She also appears in two of Philippa Gregory's Tudor court novels, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance. A historical fiction The Green Salamander by Pamela Hill describes a biography as seen from Margaret Douglas's perspective.



  1. ^ State Papers Henry VIII, vol. 4 part 4 (1836), 518, Northumberland to Wolsey, 9 October 1529.
  2. ^ Marshall 2006
  3. ^ Head 2008; Davies 2008; Richardson 2004, pp. 236–237.
  4. ^ Riordan 2004; Marshall 2006.
  5. ^ Riordan 2004.
  6. ^ Riordan 2004; Marshall 2006.
  7. ^ Nichols 1846, p. 170.
  8. ^ Marshall 2006; Weir 1991, p. 437.
  9. ^ Linda Porter. Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII, Macmillan, 2010. pg 207-8.
  10. ^ Kimberly Schutte. A Biography of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, 1515-1578, Edwin Mellen Press, 2002.
  11. ^ Calendar of State Papers Spanish 1916, p. 393.
  12. ^ Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, London, 2008. The Royal Collection


  • Calendar of State Papers Spanish. 11. London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office. 1916. 
  • Davies, Catherine (2008). Howard [née Tilney], Agnes, duchess of Norfolk (b. in or before 1477, d. 1545), noblewoman. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
  • Denny, Joanna. Katherine Howard. p. 8. 
  • Head, David M. (2008). Howard, Thomas, second duke of Norfolk (1443–1524), magnate and soldier. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
  • Marshall, Rosalind K. (2006). Douglas, Lady Margaret, countess of Lennox (1515–1578), noblewoman. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
  • Nichols, John Gough, ed. (1846). The Chronicle of Calais in the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. London: Camden Society. Retrieved 9 March 2011. 
  • Riordan, Michael (2004). Howard, Lord Thomas (c.1512–1537), courtier. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
  • Stevenson, Jane (2001). Early Modern Women Poets (1520-1700): An Anthology. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199242577, 9780199242573. 
  • Weir, Alison (2001). Henry VIII: The King and His Court. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-43659-8. 
  • Weir, Alison (1991). The Six Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Grove Weidenfeld. 

External links

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