Margaret DOUGLAS

(C. Lennox)

Born: 6 Oct 1515, Harbottle

Died: 9 Mar 1577/8, Hackney

Buried: 3 Apr 1577/8, Westminster Abbey, London, England

Notes: The Complete Peerage vol.I,p.158,note b. See The Complete Peerage vol.XIV,p.432 for corrected birth date.

Father: Archibald DOUGLAS (6 E. Angus)

Mother: Margaret TUDOR (Queen of Scotland)

Married 1: Thomas HOWARD

Associated with: Charles HOWARD (Sir Knight)

Married 2: Matthew STUART (4 E. Lennox) 6 Jul 1544


1. Henry STUART

2. Henry STUART (B. Darnley)


4. Dau. STUART

5. Dau. STUART


7. Charles STUART (5 E. Lennox)




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Margaret, Countess of Lennox

in the 1570s

by an unknown artist (detail)

Royal Collection Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Daughter of Archibald Douglas, 6 Earl of Angus, and Margaret Tudor. Her mother was fleeing from Scotland, seeking shelter with her brother, Henry VIII, when Margaret was born at Harbottle, on the English side of the border.

Margaret of Scotland visited England the summer of 1516, bringing her six-month-old daughter, Margaret. Widely reputed to be one of the most beautiful women of her generation, she lived at English Court since 1530, and Henry VIII treated her almost as if she was his own daughter. She was one of Anne Boleyn's ladies.

Young Lady Margaret was thrown into the Tower of London on 8 Jun 1536, when Henry VIII came to know that she was engaged to Sir Thomas Howard, half-brother of the Duke of Norfolk, since Easter 1536. There had been an exchange of gifts; she had given him her miniature and ha had given her a cramp ring. Mary Howard, the wife of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, and Norfolk daughter, was suspected of having known about the match and it emerged that "divers times" she had been her only chaperone. It is entirely probable that Norfolk was self-serving enough to betray his half brother to the King. Not only would Margaret's arrest and imprisionment make Fitzroy's position stronger, but also it was the only way to ensure that neither Norfolk, nor indeed his daughter Mary, were implicated in the couple's guilt. The Duchess of Richmond in particular was fortunate that her role was not more strictly examined. Both Thomas and Margaret maintained that she had not been told of their marriage, but she was clearly a close friend and confidante. Their "circle" had a literary bent and they all wrote poetry, although only the sonnets of Mary's brother, the Earl of Surrey, achieved renown. From Nov 1536 until Oct or Nov 1537, Margaret was confined at Syon. In a letter written to Thomas Cromwell, Abbess Agnes Jordan complained about the number of manservants Margaret had with her and the possibility that she might use them to send messages to Lord Thomas in the Tower of London. Margaret apparently had both her own servants and Howard's with her until Cromwell intervened. 

Lady Margaret was not one to cry over spilt milk; knowing that she was in mortal danger, she made it clear to the Council in a letter to Cromwell in 1537 that she had abandoned Lord Thomas Howard:

"My Lord, what cause have I to give you thanks, and how much bound am I unto you, that by your means hath gotten me, as I trust, the King's grace his favor again, and besides that that it pleaseth you to write and to give me knowledge wherein I might have his Grace's displeasure again, which I pray our Lord sooner to send me death than that; I assure you, my Lord, I will never do that thing willingly that should offend his Grace.

And my Lord, whereas it is informed you that I do charge the house with a greater number that is convenient, I assure you I have but two more than I had in the Court, which indeed were my Lord Thomas' servants; and the cause that I took them for was for the poverty that I saw them in, and for no cause else. But seeing, my Lord, that it is your pleasure that I shall keep none that did belong unto my Lord Thomas, I will put them from me.

And I beseech you not think that any fancy doth remain in me touching him; but that all my study and care is how to please the King's grace and to continue in his favour. And my Lord, where it is your pleasure that I shall keep but a few here with me, I trust ye will think that I can have no fewer than I have; for I have but a gentleman and a groom that keeps my apparel, and another that keeps my chamber, and a chaplain that was with me always in the Court. Now, my Lord, I beseech you that I may know your pleasure if you would that I should keep any fewer. Howbeit, my Lord, my servants hath put the house to small charge, for they have nothing but the reversion of my board; nor i do call for nothing but that that is given me; howbeit I am very well intreated. And my Lord, as for resort, I promise you I have none, except it be gentlewomen that comes to see me, nor never had since I came hither; for if any resort of men had come it should neither have become me to have seen them, nor yet to have kept them company, being a maid as I am. Now my Lord, I beseech you to be so good as to get my poor servants thier wages; and thus I pray our Lord to preserve you both soul and body.

by her that has her trust in you,

Margaret Douglas

Thomas was attainted by Act of parliament and sentenced to be executed; and, technically, lady Margaret was liable for the same punishment. Lord Thomas died in the Tower some months after. The poet Earl of Surrey recalls his uncle's in a poem. Commenting to the Emperor Carlos V on the severity of the measures, Ambassador Chapuys observed that Margaret was blameless, since in her case "copulation had not taken place". Even if it had, he went on drily, the "princess of Scotland" could scarcely be blamed, "seeing the number of domestic examples she has seen and sees daily".

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Margaret, Countess of Lennox

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Henry Stuart, Baron Darnley, at age 17, and his younger brother Charles, after Earl of Lennox, at age 6

by Hans Eworth

Royal Collection Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

After this, she had an affair with another Howard, this time Sir Charles, brother of Queen Catherine Howard. Finally unmarried, he died in France Lady Margaret lived some time at the former convent of Syon for this offence, and in Nov 1541, when she was released, she was summarily ordered to remove to Kenninghall, the house of the Duke of Norfolk, and Mary, Duchess of Richmond, politely requested to accompany her "if my lord her father and she be so contented". Margaret must have taken some pleasure in having the company and society of her friend.

In 1544 Margaret Douglas married Mathew Stuart, 4 Earl of Lennox, was a Scottish nobleman. Lennox and his wife, had several sons, but only two survived, Henry and Charles. They were in great favor in England until the accession of Elizabeth I, who did not trust them.

During Mary's reign, after Wyatt Rebellion, when Princess Elizabeth was summoned to Court in order to answer about her invovement in the conspiracy, the room above her bedchamber in Whitehall belonged to her Scots cousin, Lady Lennox, who deliberately turned it into a kitchen, so that the princess would be continually disturbed by the noisy "casting down of logs, pots and vessels". There were rumours that Mary would set aside Henry VIII's will and name the Countess her successor, and - with her eye on the crown - Margaret Douglas seized every opportunity to denigrate Elizabeth to Mary and report every snippet of gossip that tended to confirm her guilt.

On Wednesday 25 Jul 1554, Lady Margaret borne the Queen's train, with the Marchioness of Winchester, at her wedding with Felipe II of Spain. On 14 Dec 1558, she was Chief Mourner of the Queen's funeral at Westminster Abbey, a full Roman Catholic ceremonial.

After Elizabeth's accesion, the Lennox became leaders among the Catholic nobility. During the summer of 1561, the secret wedding of Catherine Grey with Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, the privy Council difficulties were enhanced by the sustained claims of the Scotish Queen and the intrigues of her cousin, Lady Lennox. Margaret considered she had a better claim to the english throne than Mary Stuart, Catherine or Mary Grey, or any other Plantagenet descendant. She was now plotting against Elizabeth, with the result that plans were made to arrest her and her husband as soon as the necessary evidence could be collected. Lady Lennox was put in the tower for a year. Then, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who was no longer in favour of Catherine Grey claim, suggests that lady Lennox was set free in order to lower Catherine's chances by providing a competitor. The Lennox's succeeded in 1565 marrying their son, Lord Darnley, to Mary Stuart. After Darnley's murder, Lennox formally accused the Earl of Bothwell of the deed but failed to appear at his farcical trial.

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The memorial of Lord Darnley.

The Earl and the Countess of Lennox kneel with his younger son Charles and his grndson James of Scotland,

demanding vengeance for Darnley death in front of his tomb

by Livinus De Vogelaare

When Mary was imprisoned, Lennox again became prominent and, through Elizabeth's intervention, was chosen regent to succeed (1570) the 1st Earl of Murray. Mary's party, led by the Hamiltons and William Maitland, at once declared war against him. Lennox was stabbed to death in a raid during this war. His surviving son, Charles, was created Earl of Lennox.

Physically a weakling and given to outbursts of petulant temper, Charles Stuart infuriated his mother by slouching about, constantly unsettled and fidgety. With his self-centred arrogance he strongly resembled his elder brother, Lord Darnley. And, as had his celebrated brother, he possessed great superficial charm; a quality inherent in most of the Stuarts.

Lady Lennox had almost despaired of Charles and lamented, to anyone who cared to listen, that he lacked the control of a father. By the time Charles was fifteen years old, he was well on the way to becoming a delinquent. In desperation, Lady Lennox had earlier appealed to Lord Burghley to take the boy into his household and exercise a measure of discipline upon the headstrong youth. She claimed he was her 'greatest dolour', and in her letter to Burghley, she went on to say:

'At these years he is somewhat unfurnished of qualities needful and I being a lone woman am less like to have him well reformed at home than before'

Lord Burghley, servant of a Tudor, shied at having a Stuart under his roof but did promise to provide a Swiss tutor for the boy. Unfortunately, Peter Malliet, the appointed tutor, albeit a good teacher, failed to furnish the boy with the 'qualities needful'. Charles remained a trial to his mother.

The movements of the Countess of Lennox had been watched the more carefully for the past six years; since, in fact, her dangerous daughter-in-law, Mary Stuart had arrived, uninvited, in England.

In the Autumm of 1574 Margaret asked the Council if she might be allowed to go to Chatsworth to visit the Queen of Scots who was being held there in the charge of Lord Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess. Mary had recently been removed from Wingfield because security measures proved difficult to maintain at the manor. The request was refused point-blank. The Enlish Council were suspicious of anything or anybody connected with Mary and they feared that some plot was afoot between Lady Lennox and the Queen of Scots. The Council were increasingly nervous of this lady's motives for it appeared that Lady Lennox had undergone a complete change of heart. Hitherto, she had been loud and vehement in her denunciation of her royal daughter-in-law, swearing that Mary had connived at the murder of her son, Henry Darnley. Suddenly, here she was, prepared to face the rigours of a northern winter in order to make a courtesy visit to the one person whose head, she declared, she would like to see struck from her shoulders. The Council concluded, wrongly, that the Queen of Scots sought to appease her mother-in-law by offering some advantageous marriage for her remaining son, Charles. Permission, however, was given for the Countess to travel north on the condition that she stayed away from Chatsworth and made no attempt to communicate with Mary.

When Fenelon, the French ambassador, learned that the Countess was leaving London, he wrote at once to his master, observing: 'I greatly suspect that she has no other purpose than to transfer the little Prince into England'. Lady Lennox had decided on the wholly ill-conceived idea to continue her journey beyond Yorkshire and into Scotland, gain possession of the infant James, and bring him back to England with her. Just how she would have wrested the child from the protection of the Regent Moray is difficult to understand. It was probably the dream of an ageing lady, with no thought of the danger she courted.

Lady Lennox broke her journey at Huntingdon, where she was invited to stay with Catherine, Dowager Duchess of Suffolk. It was while Lady Lennox and her supercilious son were house guests at Huntingdon that a third lady arrived, seemingly on a casual visit to her old friend the Duchess. It was Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, who was staying at Rufford Abbey, one of the Shrewsbury estates, but a few miles from Huntingdon. Of the three aristocratic ladies assembled, the Countess of Shrewsbury was undoubtedly the wealthiest, the most ambitious, and the only one who, at present, stood well in the Queen's favour. Cordially, Bess proposed that the other two ladies should come and stay with her at Rufford Abbey, in repayment of the hospitality shown her by the Duchess. The Abbey was not far distant and the elderly Duchess could manage the journey quite well. The return visit was arranged for mid-October.

Bess went to Rufford with her daughter, Elizabeth Cavendish, nine-teen years old and of gentle disposition. They had invited the Countess of Lennox and her son, Charles, to stay at Rufford Abbey, which Bess had renovated to her taste. Charles's mother admitted that she indeed felt ill, and promptly took to her bed for five days. Bess nursed her to health and Elizabeth and Charles were left to entertain each other. The young couple fell madly in love. The Countess Lennox wished her son happiness and Bess wanted her family wedded into the Royal Family with or without Queen Elizabeth's consent. Queen Mary advised them to be married and face the consequences after, which is exactly what happened. As the Queen of England was furious, she sent for both women. The Countess of Lennox was sent to the Tower, Bess was seriously warned of her actions and Mary Stuart stayed at Sheffield Castle. The atmosphere changed as soon as she entered it, "it was as though a sharp wind blows through the house". Bess was not happy about her experience and ridicule of being in the Tower, the only revenge she could muster was to spread gossip and slander she had heard regarding the Queen.

The Countess of Lennox showered Burghley with letters indignantly stating that, as a woman alone, she had merely looked to the interests of her son. Subtly she pointed out that had Burghley done more for Charles, the reprehensible affair need never have come about. She did not hesitate either to name Lady Shrewsbury as the chief mischief-maker. Carefully she wrote:

'... Touching my going to Rufford to my Lady of Shrewsbury, both being thereunto very earnestly requested and the place not one mile distant out of my way, yea and a much fairer way as it well proved to be, and my Lady meeting me herself upon the way, I could not refuse, it being near thirty miles from Sheffield. Now my Lord, for the hasty marriage of my son after he had entangled himself so that he could have none other, I refer the same to your Lordship's good consideration, whether it was not most fitting for me to marry them, he being mine only son and comfort that is left to me. [And here Lady Lennox could not refrain from a sly dig at Burghley] Your Lordship can bear me witness how desirous I have been to have had a match for him other than this...'

As the Queen of England was furious, she sent for both women, together with the young bride and groom. After a dreadful journey in the worst of the winter weather, shivering in sleeting gales and held up by floods in the Midlands, the disconsolate party limped into London in Dec 1574. The Countesses were told to go to their respective houses and given strict instructions to stay there. Bess probably went to Shrewsbury House in Chelsea; Margaret Lennox to her house in Hackney. The two offending ladies were summoned to the presence of the Queen Elizabeth, and when the interview ended, as Bess had expected and Lady Lennox feared, with both ladies being consigned to the Tower. Charles and Elizabeth Lennox were placed under house arrest at their house at Hackney and ordered, on pain of close imprisonment, neither to communicate by letter nor to converse with any persons unless authorized by the Council. A commission of enquiry was set up under Francis Walsingham to elicit where, when and by whom the marriage negotiations were started in the first place. Both the Shrewsbury and Lennox households were examined minutely. The Earl of Huntingdon was instructed to question both ladies as well as every servant in their employ. Even the humblest kitchenmaids did not escape the probing examination of the commission. Lady Lennox's steward, Thomas Fowler, came in for special attention. There is no extant record of Fowler's statements but it is apparent that, if he had known anything about it, he managed to keep it from the commission, for by Jan 1575, the Countess of Shrewsbury was back at her home in Sheffield. Having been for many years regarded by the Council with a jaundiced eye, and lacking any influential friends, the Countess of Lennox was kept under lock and key until the Queen was pleased to free her. It was not until Oct 1575 that Lady Lennox was grudgingly allowed to return to her home at Hackney. Her homecoming was brightened with the discovery that she had become a grandmother. Her son's wife had given birth to a daughter, Arabella.

As soon as the christening of the semi-royal baby was over Margaret Lennox took both parents and child back to London with her. Amicable relations had been established with Mary, Queen of Scots, as evidenced by a letter the Countess wrote to Mary:

'... And now I must yield your Majesty humble thanks for your good remembrance and bounty to our little daughter here, who [will] someday serve your Highness. Almighty God grant unto your Majesty an happy life. Your Majesty's most humble mother and aunt.

Hackney, this l0th November.'

This surge of apparent good will from the Countess of Lennox convinced Mary that, though she was locked up, a prisoner, there were still people who wished her well and who might prove useful to her. Obstinately, she clung to the notion that she was a ruling sovereign. To show the world that it was so, she published her will, defending her right to the Scottish throne and her prerogative to dispose of how she wished. In her will she left the right of succession to Queen Elizabeth, to Charles Lennox, 'or Claude Hamilton whichever shall serve us faithfully and be most constant in religion, should our son, James, persist in his heresy'. In addition she insisted that the Countess of Lennox should be reinstated in the earldom of Angus. The will, of course, was not worth the paper upon which it was written.

Unfortunately, the health of Charles Lennox was a source of worry. The young man spat blood and his cheeks, at times, carried the high flush of the consumptive. When Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox, succumbed to the destruction of his lungs in Apr 1576, he was twenty-one years old and eighteen months married. His death started a wrangle, involving the child Arabella, which was to last for some time.

The Lennox inheritance represented quite a considerable income, and the two Countesses, the Dowager Margaret, and Charles's widow, both needed the money. Arabella was the concern legally, of Margaret Lennox and her daughter-in-law. When Margaret's husband, Matthew, the fourth Earl, had died, the title of Lennox reverted to James VI, as heir to Matthew's elder son, Darnley. Earlier, in Apr 1572, James had re-conferred the honour and the income upon Charles, his younger uncle, and his heirs. Arabella was the only child of Charles therefore the earldom should by right have come to her, making her the Countess of Lennox in her own right.

But James, or the Regent Morton, at Charles's death, disregarded the rightful heir, Arabella, and pronounced the title extinct. To the Dowager's demand, the Regent Morton tartly replied that, as James had been a minor when the title was granted to the child's father, it could be revoked at any time. And because the claimant was a female, this was as good a time to do it as any. The Dowager, who had no influence at all, except her renewed friendship with Mary, Queen of Scots, turned to that unhappy lady to enlist her aid in getting her son to disgorge the title. Mary, who supported the child, drafted a codicil to her will, dated Feb 1577, in which she commanded James to relinquish the title in favour of Arabella. The following year Mary repeated her wishes to the Bishop of Glasgow. This, in turn, had not the slightest effect, and in May 1578 conferred the Earldom of Lennox upon Robert Stuart, Bishop of Caithness, Matthew's brother.

On 9 Mar 1578, the Dowager Countess of Lennox died unexpectedly and, many thought, mysteriously. That same evening Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, had been her guest at dinner and within a few hours of his departure she was dead. Tongues wagged and many were of the opinion that the poor lady's death was no mystery at all; the Earl, with whom she had dined, had simply poisoned her. Of course, not a shred of proof of this was forthcoming. At fifty-two, the Dowager had been in the best of health and actively pursuing Arabella's interests, but no possible motive for such a deed can be connected with the Queen's Favourite. It is more than probable that the eider Countess succumbed to an ailment that Elizabethan doctors knew nothing about; a burst appendix perhaps, followed by peritonitis. Whatever the cause, her grandmother's demise drew Arabella one step nearer the throne and accordingly increased her importance.

Lady Lennox died a poor woman. Her treasurer disclosed the dismal fact that there was not enough money to cover the cost of her funeral. However, for the Queen's cousin, a State funeral was ordered for which Elizabeth, to her chagrin, was obliged to pay. Spending money was not one of the Queen's favourite pastimes so, to recoup the expense of the heralds, the trappings and the elaborate tomb in Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth seized the English estates of the departed Countess.

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Tomb of Margaret, Countess of Lennox

at Westminster Abbey

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