The Duke of Albany, Regent of Scotland, returned after a four-year absence in France, on the 19th of November, 1521.
John Stewart, the Duke of Albany and Earl of March, was the grandson of one King of Scots, nephew of another and a Regent on behalf of yet another. For much of his life, he was pretty much either the heir presumptive or second in line to the Throne of Scotland. That was because either there was no heir apparent, in which case he was the man who would be King if the King died, or there was an heir apparent and he was ‘Plan B’. For most of the time when there was an heir, that heir was underage, which is why John Stewart became a Regent. The Duke could’ve been excused for having a fit of the “will he, won’t he?” blues as various members of the Royal Family proved to have had short lives, but there was always one of the litter who survived to thwart any ambitions he might have had. Nevertheless, he became a Regent and was able to exercise power as if he were indeed a King.
John Stewart had a bit of an up and down career, alternately being in and out of favour at the top table in Scotland. He was born in France and spent a considerable length of time in that country even after becoming Regent. Some of that time spent in France was enforced and some of it was through choice; some folks might say neglect. At any rate, there was a lot of maneuvering and in-fighting going on, which was just about par for the course. Scotland was used to such things as it had had several infant Monarchs needing Guardians or Regents to rule on their behalf. After James IV was killed at the Battle of Branxton Moor, otherwise known as Flodden Field, his wife, the Dowager Queen Margaret, assumed the rule as Regent on behalf of her son, the minor, James V. But not for long. She made the mistake of taking up with Archibald Douglas, the 6th Earl of Angus; to the extent of marrying him. That act of union caused a rift between various factions of Nobles who between them controlled much of Scotland at the time. As it happened, the will of James IV had stipulated that Margaret should rule as Regent unless she remarried. Poor Margaret needed a strong shoulder to lean on after having had her husband killed at the hands of the army of her brother, Henry VIII of England. But in remarrying, she seemed to have made two mistakes.
After Margaret married the Douglas Earl of Angus, the Stewart Duke of Albany was called upon, by the Privy Council, to return from France and assume the Regency or Guardianship as a counter to the power Angus would have been able to wield as the husband of the Dowager Queen. At that point, it was a joint Guardianship, with an uneasy peace concealing the trouble that bubbled under the surface. Albany had tried to oust Margaret previously, but she had resisted successfully with the support of other Nobles. However, her marriage to the “young, witless fool”, a.k.a. the 6th Earl of Angus, was her downfall in terms of hanging onto power. When he got back from France, Albany mobilised the Scottish Nobility’s innate distrust of Margaret, who was after all English, and went so far as to mount a “genteel siege” of Stirling Castle and take possession of the Royal children, including particularly the King, wee Jamsie, formally James V.
In August, 1515, Margaret was forced to flee to England, leaving her kids behind, and Albany succeeded in making himself the sole Regent. Queen Margaret’s other son, Alexander, Earl of Ross, died in 1516, most likely from natural causes, but Angus, devious despite being a “fool”, tried to convince her that Albany had had a hand in that death. It’s unlikely that Albany would have had Alexander killed and not James if he’d had serious ambitions of taking up the Throne. The Regency was sufficient and control of the young King was the key to power. He was de facto ruler of Scotland, but in any case, he’d buggered off to France and left the day to day governance to his mates and minions.
Margaret returned to Scotland in 1517, while Albany remained abroad in France. She soon discovered for herself what Angus was really like as he had been shacked up with Lady Jane Stewart and in the meantime spending Margaret’s money. What a costume drama all that would make! It wasn’t until the 19th of November, 1521, that Albany himself came back ‘home’ to Scotland. Margaret promptly changed tack and cosy’d up to Albany and set things in motion to get a divorce from Angus. To help things along, in December 1521, Albany placed Angus under charges of high treason and later on, sent him packing, off to France. To complicate matters, the English interfered, as usual, and Henry VIII even accused Albany of having seduced his sister, the Dowager Queen Margaret. Henry VIII and his Rottweiler Wolsey accused Albany of intending to marry Margaret and also resurrected the idea of his having designs against the life of the young James V, but that was all just baloney.
Events resulted in a bit more than hot air in 1522 as in September, Albany led an invasion force into England. He got as far as four miles north of Carlisle, but then Albany agreed to a truce and the Scots withdrew. The following year, after a sojourn in France, Albany returned to Scotland with French troops in tow and in the November, he made a notable attack on Wark Castle, before retreating hastily under pressure from English reinforcements. That lack of success was the beginning of the end for Albany as it led to Margaret being able to organise a coup d'état and depose him as Regent. That coup involved guys like Albany’s first cousin, James Hamilton, the 1st Earl of Arran. So there was very little family loyalty around with the stakes so high. Albany quit Scotland for good and on the 20th of May, 1524, fled back to France.
The successful putsch left Margaret in control of her son James, who was by then twelve years old and able to take up personal rule under the guidance of his mother, which he so did on the 30th of July, 1524. However, they hadn’t counted on Angus as he refused to disappear quietly with his strumpet, the Lady Jane. Angus came back from France in 1524 and gained control of the young King after taking Edinburgh. Angus was made Lord of the Articles and included in a Council of Regents and, along with Archbishop Beaton, held the power behind the throne for the next three years. That was until March of 1527, when Pope Clement VII granted Margaret's request for a divorce from the rampant and randy Earl of Angus. By June of 1528, James V was finally able to exercise real power on his own behalf. Queen Margaret continued to play an active part in affairs at the Royal Court until her death, at Methven Castle, on the 18th of October, 1541.