Margaret Douglas, the daughter of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret, dowager queen of Scotland and Archibald Douglas, had been appointed as a lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn. It is while serving Anne that she met Lord Thomas Howard. He was the younger son of Anne Boleyn’s great-uncle, Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. Near the end of 1535, Margaret and Thomas had fallen in love and became secretly engaged.
It was in July, after the downfall of Anne Boleyn, that Henry VIII learned of the couple’s engagement — He was enraged by the news. The King had recently declared his Elizabeth a bastard, while his other daughter, Mary had already been named one. This left Margaret Douglas, next to Henry Fitzroy in the line of succession. Her unauthorized engagement to Lord Howard did not fit into Henry’s politics.
Both Margaret Douglas and Lord Howard were imprisoned in the Tower of London for their offenses.
On 18 July 1536, Parliament, by an Act of Attainder, condemned Thomas to death for attempting to ‘interrupt ympedyte and lett the seid Succession of the Crowne’. The Act also forbade the marriage of any member of the King’s family without his permission. Thomas was spared execution, but remained in the Tower even after Margaret broke off their relationship.
While in the Tower, Margaret Douglas fell ill — her mother, Margaret Tudor, dowager queen of Scotland, wrote her brother King Henry to request she be sent back to Scotland and never return to England.
Margaret Tudor, dowager queen of Scotland to Henry VIII:
In our most hearty manner we recommend us unto your grace. Please you understand we are informed lately that our daughter Margaret Douglas should, by your grace’s advice, promise to marry Thomas Howard, and that your grace is displeased that she should promise or desire such thing; and that your grace is resolved to punish my daughter and your near cousin to extreme rigour, which we no way can believe, considering she is our natural daughter, your niece, and sister natural unto the king our dearest son, your nephew; who will not believe that you will do such extremity upon your own, ours, and his, being so tender to us all three as our natural daughter is. Dearest brother, we beseech your grace, of sisterly kindness and natural love we bear, and that you owe to us your only sister, to have compassion and pity of us your sister and of our natural daughter and sister to the king our only natural son and your dearest nephew; and to grant our said daughter Margaret your grace’s pardon, grace, and favour, and remit of such as your grace has put to her charge. And, if it please your grace, to be content she come in Scotland, so that in time coming she shall never come in your grace’s presence. And this, dearest brother, we, in our most hearty, affectionate, tender manner, most specially and most humbly beseech your grace to do, as we doubt not your wisdom will think to your honour, since this our request is dear and tender to us, the gentlewoman’s natural mother, and we your natural sister, that makes this piteous and most humble request. Farther, please your grace, this bearer will inform. And the Eternal God conserve your grace, as we would be ourself.
Written of Perth, this 12th day of August (1536), by your grace’s most loving sister,
The King allowed Margaret Douglas to be moved from the Tower of London to Syon Abbey, she was supervised there by Abbess Agnes Jordan.
While she was kept at Syon Abbey, Margaret Douglas received a letter from Cromwell after it had been said she had too large a train of servants and had too many visitors. Here is her reply to Cromwell’s accusations:
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’s favour again! and, besides that, that it pleaseth you to write and to give me knowledge wherein I might have his grace’s displeasure, against which I pray our Lord sooner to send me death than that; and 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 than 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 to 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 you will think that I can have no fewer than I have, for I have but a gentleman and a grooms 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 have 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 (company), 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 their wages; and thus I pray our Lord to preserve you, both soul and body.
By her that has her trust in you,
She was eventually released from imprisonment on 29 October 1537 — two days later, the man she had loved died.
Margaret Douglas went on to live a full life — she was the mother of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley who was the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. That’s another story, for another day.
The Forgotten Tudor Women by Sylvia Barbara Soberton
Wikipedia – Margaret Douglas
Wikipedia – Syon Abbey