Saturday, March 9, 2013

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Death of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox

A 16th century portrait of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox. By an unknown artist. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history in 1578, Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox died. She was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey in the Chapel of Henry VII.

Margaret was the daughter of Margaret Tudor and her second husband, Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. Therefore, Margaret was the niece of King Henry VIII. Her royal blood and proximity to the throne was problematic, and her scheming and plotting on behalf of her relatives made her a great irritant to Queen Elizabeth I during her early reign.

A detail from The Family Tree of James I, circa 1603, showing Margaret's parents, Margaret Tudor and Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Margaret's two surviving sons with her husband Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lennox, hold an important place in history. Her ambitious and haughty son, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley wed Mary, Queen of Scots, becoming her second husband and the father of her only child, James. Their marriage ended in Lord Darnley's suspicious death at Kirk o'Field.

A dual portrait of Margaret's children, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and his younger brother Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

 Margaret arranged the marriage of her other son, Charles Stuart, the 1st Earl of Lennox to Elizabeth Cavendish in 1574; Elizabeth was the daughter of Elizabeth of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, and the step-daughter of the powerful Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot. This covert marriage was seen as a machination by Margaret Tudor to get her line one step closer to the English throne; Queen Elizabeth did not take kindly to such an affront, and the Countess was imprisoned in the Tower for the second time. She was pardoned after Charles' death in 1576. 

Charles left behind a daughter, Arbella Stuart; Arbella was raised by her grandmother Margaret after the death of her father, and later by her other grandmother, Bess of Hardwick. Both grandmothers had hoped that their grandchild would succeed to the throne of England, but in fact it was Margaret's other grandchild who did; James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603 upon the death of Queen Elizabeth.

A portrait of a young Arbella Stuart, clutching her doll. The portrait hangs at Hardwick Hall. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

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