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- Studies from Court and Cloister - 3/61 -
careful to insinuate to the queen that her brother was her best friend. Finding that Albany had escaped the vigilance of his fleet, Henry wrote a high-handed letter to the Scottish Council requesting that he might be sent back to France forthwith. Their reply was as dignified as Albany's own conduct throughout, and in strong contrast to Margaret's attitude. They have, they say, received Henry's letter, dated 1st July 1516, desiring them to remove John, Duke of Albany, the regent from the person of their king, in order to promote the amity of the two realms. The duke was chosen Protector by the unanimous voice of the Three Estates, and was sent for by them from France; he left his master, his lady, his living; he has taken great pains in the king's service; he has given, and proposes to give, no cause for dissatisfaction, and if he would leave, they would not let him. Moreover, it is in exact conformity with their laws that the nearest in succession should have the governance; security has been taken by the queen and others to remove all cause of suspicion, and they will spend their lives if any attempt be made against his Highness.* This document was signed and sealed by twenty-eight spiritual and temporal lords, whose names are still legible. Ten other names are mutilated beyond recognition, although their seals remain.
* Scottish lords to Henry VIII., 4th July 1516; Record Office.
Albany had meanwhile written to Lord Dacre, denying that he had usurped the king's authority, and declaring that he had done nothing but by order of the Estates of the realm. But Henry was bent on picking a quarrel with him, and Dacre's letter to the King of England's Council shows the part which Dacre was instructed to play in the troubles of Scotland, fomenting feuds between Albany and every member of his government, in the hope of driving him out of the country.* Difficult, however, as Henry's policy made it, the regent was bent on maintaining peace, and would probably have succeeded but for Margaret.**
* Cotton MS., Calig. B 2, 341; Brit. Mus.
** Albany to Dacre,10th August 1515; R.O.
The good understanding between the regent and the queen was first broken by his summons to her to deliver up the royal children into his custody, a cruel but necessary proceeding, since the regency was inseparable from the governorship of the king and the next heir.
A true and tender chord is struck at last, when Margaret, appealing to Henry, exclaims, "God send I were such a woman as might go with my bairns in mine arms. I trow I should not be long fra you!" Nor is it possible to feel aught but sympathy for her, when she allows herself to be stormed in Stirling Castle before she suffers her children to be torn from her. Dacre professed to believe, and perhaps caused Margaret to fear, that they would be destroyed if they fell into the Duke of Albany's power. But the very day on which Dacre wrote to Henry's Council, advising that money should be sent to enable her to hold out, the regent prepared to bombard her, and it was not till her friends had forsaken her, flying for their lives and in terror of Albany's proclamation, that placing the keys of the fortress in her little son's hands, she desired him to give them to the regent, and to beg him to show favour to himself, to his brother, and to her husband. The regent answered that he would be good to the king, to his brother, and to their mother; but that as for Angus, he "would not dalye with no traitor." *
* Cotton MS. Calig. B 2, 369; B.M.
No sooner had Margaret given up her children, than she began to manoeuvre how to steal them back and spirit them over the Border. While pretending to be too ill to leave her palace at Linlithgow, where she gave out she had "taken to her chamber" in anticipation of her approaching confinement, she effected her escape into England, but her plan for capturing the king and his brother failed. Nothing could now exceed her desolate condition, as, wandering from place to place, alone, ill, and worse than friendless, she sought in vain a refuge in all that wild Border region where she might await her hour of peril. Angus, seeing the turn affairs had taken, had thought it prudent to abandon her to her fate, and, after helping her to escape, returned to Scotland in the hope of coming to terms with Albany. His wife was at last thankful to accept Lord Dacre's rough hospitality in his gloomy castle of Harbottle. Here in the midst of a brutal soldiery, with no woman to render her the most needful service, she gave birth to a daughter, the Lady Margaret Douglas, on the 5th October 1515. On the 10th she wrote to Albany to announce her delivery "of a cristen sowle beying a young lady," and miserably ill though she was, did not omit to demand "as tutrix of the young king and prince, her tender children, to have the whole rule and governance of Scotland."
To this letter Margaret received an answer written by the Council, stating that the governance of the realm had expired with the death of her husband, and had devolved to the Estates; that with her consent they had appointed the Duke of Albany; that she had forfeited the tutelage of her children by her second marriage, and that in all temporal matters the realm of Scotland had been immediately subject to Almighty God, not recognising the Pope or any superior upon earth.
Herewith the queen was forced to content herself; further words would have proved as unavailing as reeds against the tempest, and even words were soon beyond her power to write, for the birth of her daughter was succeeded by a long and painful illness which nearly proved fatal to the unhappy woman. To add to the bitterness of her trials, at the moment when she was beginning slowly to recover, came the news of the illness and death of the little Duke of Rothesay. Grief, anger, and anxiety for the safety of the king served naturally to increase the gravity of her condition, and for months she lay hovering between life and death, loudly accusing Albany of having murdered her child.
This accusation was reiterated to Albany himself as soon as her unsteady hand could grasp a pen; but the regent took no heed of her stinging words, continued to invite her to return to Scotland, in spite of her persistent refusal, and apparently succeeded at last in convincing her of his innocence.
On her recovery she wrote to him from Morpeth, to announce her departure for the south, Henry having invited her to his court, accompanying his invitation with presents of costly stuffs, and money, and clothing for the baby.
A letter from Margaret to the regent at this moment is significant of a sudden change in her demeanour towards him, and to judge by her subsequent behaviour, the change meant treachery. Instead of the fierce denunciations she had lately indulged in, she acknowledged that she had often received goodly and pleasant words as well as letters from him, and "though his conduct has not always corresponded to them, yet as matters are being accommodated" she hopes he will reform it. The meaning of this change of tactics became clear to all but the regent himself---who seems to have been of a singularly unsuspicious nature--as soon as Margaret reached London.
Albany was still hoping for a permanent peace with Henry, and more than once expressed a wish to pay him a friendly visit. This both Henry and Margaret encouraged him to do, and writing to Wolsey about this time, the Scottish queen expressed the most fervent hope that the regent would come, counterbalanced by the fears that he would not.* Had the matter rested entirely with himself, the visit would certainly have taken place, but his Council having some reason to doubt Henry's fair and plausible words, were urgent in dissuading him. All things considered, it is probable that the duke would have repented of his temerity if he had placed his head within the lion's jaws.
* Cotton MS., Vesp. F 3, 36; B.M.
Having failed to inveigle the regent into their power, the brother and sister instructed Dacre to "sow debate" between him and his Council, but this scheme failed also. Dacre wrote, however, to show that he was not wanting in zeal in this behalf, saying that, being unable to interfere with Scottish affairs in any other way, he had given rewards to four hundred outlaws for burnings in various parts of the kingdom.* No means proved too vile, no instrument unworthy, to be employed in the work of destroying the regent and advancing Tudor interests. The queen even condescended to use her truant husband, and the part played by Angus is scarcely less reprehensible than Margaret's own, for while he pretended to be loyal to Albany and to Scotland, he possessed himself of every important State secret and transmitted it to his wife, in the hope of appeasing her for his desertion. She, of course, passed on all that she thus learned to Henry and Wolsey.
* Dacre to Wolsey; Calig. B 1, 150; B.M.
Margaret was entertained for a whole year in pomp and splendour at the English court, feasts and revels succeeding each other in bewildering magnificence-- luxury in vivid contrast to the misery which she had undergone during the first months after her flight from Scotland. Pageants, tournaments, and banquets now took the place of privation and suffering; all that met the eye was changed, but the dark and treacherous under-currents known to but few of her contemporaries remained the same, and were the realities that shaped her course. In spite, however, of plots and intrigues, Margaret's position was not improving. Her visit to England could not be prolonged indefinitely, and as the queen was evidently not to return to Scotland in triumph, it was desirable to make as good terms for herself as she possibly could.
The regent promised that her jointure should be paid, and that Angus should be allowed to join her if he were willing to do so--a somewhat doubtful alternative, as he had not availed himself of the leave that had already been given him. As for Albany himself, he declared that it had always been his desire to gratify the queen, and to advise the best for her and for her son.* Reluctantly, therefore, she at last prepared to turn her face northwards, having obtained permission to take with her a suite befitting her station, safe-conduct being granted, except in the case of any person among them plotting harm to the kingdom; and to these conditions Henry set his great seal.
* Calig. B 2, 262; B.M.
A letter from the Venetian envoy to the Doge, dated 13th April 1517, says: "The truce between England and Scotland has been arranged. The queen is to return, but is not to be admitted to the administration of the kingdom. She may take with her twenty-four Englishmen, and as many Scotch as she pleases, provided they be not rebels"; and he adds that he has been assured of these facts by Albany's secretary.
All was done to make her journey as easy as possible; but when Margaret arrived at Berwick, it needed all Dacre's powers of persuasion to induce her to enter Scotland. At Lamberton Kirk, contrary to the regent's expectation, she was met by Angus, accompanied by Morton and others of the Scottish nobility, with three hundred men, chiefly Borderers. Albany had left for France, taking with him as hostages the heirs or younger brothers of the principal men in the country, whom he
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