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- Studies from Court and Cloister - 4/61 -
had bound over to keep the peace during his absence, which he then did not intend to prolong beyond five months.
There was now an excellent opportunity for beginning a new and better life, had the queen been so minded; but events proved her to be in a more querulous, treacherous, and discontented mood than ever. "Her Grace considereth now, the honour of England, and the poverty and wretchedness of Scotland," wrote Magnus to Wolsey, "which she did not afore, but in her opinion esteemed Scotland equal with England,"* and her complaints to Henry were frequent and loud.
* June 19, 1517; Calig. B 2, 253; B.M.
She complained of her husband, of her poverty, of the bad faith of the Scottish nation who still left her jointure unpaid, of not being allowed free access to her son. She had, she said, been obliged to lay in wed (pawn) the plate given to her by Henry, and was likely to be driven to extreme want, as Wolsey would learn by her messenger. She would have been still worse off, she caused her friends to write, had not Magnus and Dacre drawn up a book at Berwick, the day before her entry into Scotland, by which Angus, signing it, renounced all claim to her "conjunct feoffment."*
* Dacre to Wolsey, Harbottle, 5th March, 1518; R.O.
But Margaret did not stop at complaints; Henry must begin the war again. He may, she declares, reasonably cause Scottish ships to be taken; for she has suffered long and forborne to do evil, although she knew she would never get good from Scotland by fair means.
When by dint of constant urging to renewed contests the Borders had become one vast battlefield in her quarrel, she wrote to the Marquis of Dorset to beg him to spare the convent of Coldstream, whose abbess had done her good service in times past.* The motive for this intercession was no mere charitable one, the abbess being "one of the best spies for England."
* Thomas, Marquis of Dorset, to Henry VIII.; Calig. B 3, 255.
And now, for the first time, Margaret ventures to express the wish that has for long been forming itself in her mind. She has been much troubled by Angus since her coming to Scotland, and is so more and more daily. They have not met this half year, and--after some hovering of the word on her lips, she pronounces it boldly--she will part with him, if she may by God's law, and with honour to herself, for he loves her not. Unlike Henry, when seeking a pretext to divorce his first wife, Margaret was at no pains to disguise the motive which inspired her, and a possibility of a flaw in the marriage is openly but a pretext for getting rid of a husband of whom she was weary. We are at least spared the nausea caused by Henry's conscientious scruples. She first puts forward frankly her wish to be free from Angus, and then her determination to divorce him if she may lawfully. But it was the only piece of honesty in the whole business, for the suit itself was one long, dreary series of misrepresentation and falsehood, without which her cause could by no possibility have been gained.
The usual plea of pre-contracts was brought forward, but as these were of too flimsy a nature to bear investigation, Margaret declared that the late King of Scots, her husband, was still living three years after the battle of Flodden, and that consequently he was alive when she was married to the Earl of Angus.* As the king's body had never been found, this assertion could not be disproved, though there was no reasonable doubt as to James having fallen on that calamitous day.
* Magnus to Wolsey; State Papers, vol. iv., p. 385; R.O.
However, in spite of her bold swearing, Margaret was not so certain of success, but that she was anxious for Henry's support, and she not only entreated her brother to befriend her, but promised him that she would consult only his wishes in taking another husband, and that this time she would not part from him.* If she thought that a fellow-feeling would make him wondrous kind in this matter, she was disappointed. It was no part of Henry's policy that his sister should put Angus away, for although she had not consulted him in the choice of her second husband, Henry was very well satisfied with him. He could to a certain extent control him, and at all events, while married to him the queen could not contribute by any foreign alliance to the power and greatness of Scotland.
* Calig. B 1, 232; B.M.
But Angus was making himself obnoxious to his wife beyond her very limited capacity for endurance. Not only had he proved a faithless husband, but what was infinitely worse to her mind, he refused to give up the income of her Ettrick Forest estate, which she had made over to him in the days when his handsome face and figure had first struck her fancy, and when she thought nothing too costly to lavish upon him. She had made him great, to her own and the country's misfortune, and it was a difficult matter to make him small again; but all Scotland felt the evil effects of his power, of his ascendancy over the young king, and of the feuds which resulted therefrom. So great was the scourge felt to be, that the Council appealed to Margaret to recall the Regent Albany, that he might restore order.
Margaret was aware that Albany's return was the thing of all others that Henry wished to avoid, but it suited her for the nonce to act the part of a good Scotswoman, and she wrote an imploring letter to the duke, begging him to come back and take pity on his unhappy country.* Notwithstanding this, her complaints to Henry through Lord Dacre of her bad treatment, and her supplications to be allowed to return to England, did not cease. She had "liever be dead than live among the Scots," and she entreats that no peace may be renewed, unless "some good may be taken," that she may live at ease.**
* Calig. B 1, 232.
** Ibid. B 2, 195.
Wolsey was not sparing in his remarks on the queen's double-dealing, the facts of which had all been disclosed to him by spies. He has, he says, represented to the king her brother "the folly of Queen Margaret in leaning to her enemies, and departing from her husband," notwithstanding what Dacre has already written to her. Dacre, by the king's desire, is to tell her that if she persists in her dishonourable course she can expect no favour.*
* Ibid. B 3, 106
Meanwhile the Earl of Surrey had been dispatched with an army to the Borders, and threatened to invade Scotland, unless the Duke of Albany were abandoned, and Margaret reinstated as regent. On the 16th September 1523, he wrote two letters to the queen, one intended for her eyes alone, the other to be shown to her son's Council. In the first he says that the King of England would approve of her son's "coming forth," and shaking off all tutelage but his mother's, for Surrey is about to waste Scotland, and the young king's plea for emancipating himself should be that he cannot suffer his realm to be laid waste. Margaret is to summon the lords to take up arms in her son's defence, and she will then be in a position to command Surrey to retire. She will thus form a party for her son, and be enabled to send Albany and his Frenchmen back to France. Then Surrey will turn his arms against her enemies.
If Margaret keeps her promise, money will be forthcoming. In the event of her causing James V, to "come forth" to Edinburgh, he has no doubt that if the king will command his subjects on their allegiance to take his part, the most of them will do so, especially the Commons, who must be roused to drive the French to Dunbar. The Earl of Surrey will be ready to give assistance.*
* Calig. B 4, 196.
The second letter was to the same effect, though more cautiously worded. The King of England would be glad to hear of his nephew's prosperous estate, but would certainly be dissatisfied that his nobles suffered their monarch and themselves to be kept in subjection by Albany. Surrey was ready to help with men and money all who would come forward to protect their natural sovereign; but peace could never be between the two realms, if the Scots did not give up the duke. As for Margaret's hope that Henry would be a better friend to Scotland on her account, Surrey had been ordered to desist from doing any more hurt at her request. He had now waited along time, he wrote, hoping that the Scottish lords would have shown themselves more natural loving subjects than they now appeared, seeing that the day appointed for the Duke of Albany's arrival had passed, and that their king was in no greater safety than he was before. All the world would see that the fault was not Henry's, but that of the Scots, who refused to put HIM out of the realm who meant to destroy the king and usurp the crown. Henry would never refrain from making war upon Scotland until they forsook. Albany, and sued to him for peace. On their doing this, Surrey had full authority to treat with them, and to assist them with money and troops.*
* State Papers, iv. 21--"Copy of my letter to be showed to the lords of Scotland; in Surrey's hand"; R.O.
This advice produced no effect whatever on the Scottish lords, whose loyalty to the regent remained unshaken. But Margaret did not consider herself hampered by any pledges given to Albany, and two days after the receipt of the letters, she urged Surrey to come to Edinburgh, or somewhere near it, at once, declaring that the lords would certainly do as she desired. As for the threatened laying waste, however, "they laughed at injuries done only to the poor people." A thousand men with artillery would have Edinburgh at their mercy if they came suddenly. Surrey must go at it at once, or let it be. Failing this, she desired leave to come to England with her true servants, adding, "for I will come away and I should steal out of it."*
* Ibid. 26.
The truth was, that, far from being certain that the lords would agree to any part of the scheme, Margaret knew well that she had but a handful of friends in Scotland, and that her sole hope of regaining the regency lay in Henry's power of coercion. Trusting that Surrey would really march on Edinburgh, she did all she could to persuade the Council to allow the young king to be brought to that place, and to appoint new guardians, friendly to her interests. In both these endeavours she failed, and James remained at Stirling.
"The lords are all fallen away from the queen, and adhere to the governor," wrote the Abbess of Coldstream to Sir John Bulmer, and
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