Margaret Tudor, Regent Dowager, Queen of Scotland, English princess, sister of Henry VIII, wife of James IV, and mother of James V, died on the 18th of October, 1541.
Margaret Tudor was Mary, Queen of Scots’ granny and in some respects there are parallels between their lives, particularly as regards their second marriages. After the deaths of their first husbands, both women remarried to handsome, younger Earls and became embroiled in conflicts with the notoriously fractious Scottish Nobility over who had real control of the Monarch. Mary, in relation to her son James VI and Margaret, over Mary’s father, who was James V. There was also a parallel in the sense that both women married those Earls for love, without regard for the effect that might have had upon the nation and, more personally, their reputation. Inevitably, both women also came to regret those decisions.
It all began well for Margaret Tudor, who was the eldest daughter and second child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York; herself the daughter of a King, namely Edward IV. Margaret was born on the 28th of November, 1489, at the Palace of Westminster, a year and a half before her famous brother. Margaret was born English, but in a portent to her later role as Queen of Scots, she was christened on St. Andrew's Day, the 30th of November. After she was betrothed to King James IV of Scotland, she was regarded as the Queen of Scots, which caused her wee brother, the Duke of York, later to be Henry VIII, when he realised she outranked him, to throw his toys out of the pram. In fact, for long periods, she was also Heiress Presumptive to the English throne, until her stout brother produced his daughters. Margaret was the link that ultimately connected the Thrones of Scotland and England and led to the Union of the Crowns in 1606. Margaret was a paternal great-grandmother (through Henry, Lord Darnley), and a maternal great-grandmother (through Mary, Queen of Scots), to James VI, upon which facts he based his claim to the throne of England following the death of the daughter of Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I.
James IV wasn’t the only Scottish King to have an English wife and indeed, the succession of James VI, who became James VI & I in 1606, looked more and more inevitable as the habit prevailed. Malcolm III (Malcolm Canmore) was the first to take an English wife, once he set aside his first wife that is. He married another Margaret, the sister of Edgar Ætheling, who became Saint Margaret of Scotland. One of Malcolm’s sons, Duncan II, married Uchtreda of Northumbria, daughter of Gospatric, Earl of Dunbar and Northumbria (if you want to class Northumbria as part of England in those days). Another of the Margaretsons, Alexander I, married Sybilla de Normandy, the illegitimate daughter of Henry I. Then David I, also a Margaretson, was wed to Matilda of Huntingdon, daughter and heiress of Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland.
Later, as per the terms of the Treaty of Falaise, Henry II caused William the Lion to take as his bride, Ermengarde de Beaumont, a granddaughter of King Henry I of England. Alexander II then married Joan of England, taking the sister of Henry III as his first wife (Alexander’s second wife was Marie de Coucy). Alexander III carried on the tradition when he married Margaret of England, the daughter of Henry III. Not to be outdone, John Balliol married Isabella de Warenne, daughter of John de Warenne, the 7th Earl of Surrey and Robert the Bruce’s son, David II was married to Joan of the Tower, the daughter of Edward II of England. Later, the first of the Jameses, funnily enough known as James I, married Joan Beaufort, a cousin of Henry VI and the daughter of John Beaufort, the 1st Earl of Somerset. Then, skipping a couple of continentally inclined Jameses, James IV married Margaret Tudor on the 8th of August, 1503, at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh.
In preparation for a future as a royal consort, Margaret Tudor was taught to play the lute and clavichord. She also learned French and some Latin, and she was skilled at archery. Her betrothal to James IV, sixteen years her senior, was made official by the Treaty of Perpetual Peace in 1502, even though discussions had been underway since 1496. There was a delay prior to the marriage, primarily due to having to wait for a papal dispensation because James’ great-grandmother was Joan Beaufort, sister of John Beaufort, who was the great-grandfather of Margaret Tudor. That made James IV and Margaret Tudor fourth cousins, which was within the prohibited degree. However, all was sorted out by the time Patrick Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell, was sent south to act as a proxy for James IV in a ceremony that took place at Richmond, in January 1502.
Margaret’s marriage vows were taken at the age of twelve, when she spoke these words, “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.”
Margaret left for Scotland on the 2nd of July, 1503 and she was officially crowned Queen in March, 1504, the year following her marriage proper in Holyrood Abbey, an occasion celebrated by the poet, William Dunbar, in ‘The Thistle and the Rose’, which contains these lines:
“Sweet lusty lovesome lady clear
Most mighty Kinges daughter dear,
Born of a Princess most serene,
Welcome to Scotland to be Queen.”
Margaret Tudor died at Methven Castle on the 18th of October, 1541, and she was buried at the Carthusian Priory of St. John in Perth, but her tomb was demolished during the Reformation.