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- Studies from Court and Cloister - 5/61 -
Surrey passed on the information to Wolsey, telling him that Margaret had no credit with the Scotch, and that they looked hourly for Albany's arrival.
As for Lord Surrey, even if he had been willing to besiege Edinburgh, he would have been frustrated by the want of sufficient means of transport for his victuals. Had he not caused his soldiers to carry their food in wallets, and their drink in bottles, it would not have been possible for him to have reached the North, and a raid into the enemy's country necessitated a far ampler stock of provisions than could be carried in this way. The queen's desire that he should take Edinburgh, arose, he thought, from her anxiety to provide herself with a way of escape from her difficulties.*
* Surrey to Wolsey, Berwick, 21st Sept. 1523; R.O.
In England it was commonly believed that the Scottish lords were in so great a fear of Albany, who was hourly expected to arrive, that they would break their covenant with him even though they had each given him four of the best of their sons as hostages. But Surrey declared vehemently that although they might deceive Margaret, they should not deceive him.
The suspense was ended at last, and Margaret wrote to inform him of the regent's arrival. Surrey replied at once, desiring to know further what number of horse and foot soldiers had come with him, and what countrymen they were. He could give her no advice about coming away, but would meet her in any given part of the Marches, and at whatever time she pleased. Margaret in return was to let him know when the Duke of Albany intended to invade England. In conclusion, hoping to prevent any rapprochement between her and the regent, he warned her that Albany would most certainly be king if the king were not well guarded, "for the Frenchmen can empoison one, and yet he shall not die for a year after."*
* Surrey's Letterbook; Tanner MS. 90, f. 47; Bodleian Library.
The slippery nature of Margaret's friendship was well known to Surrey, and he kept up the fiction of Albany's nefarious intentions, in the hope of making her faithful to English interests. Unluckily for his schemes, he did not sufficiently study the springs of her actions, which would have taught him to be more lavish with his bribes. The end of her next letter ought to have opened his eyes to the necessity of striking a bargain with her if he would hope to draw her into the English net. After telling him that the duke has held a council at Glasgow, and that he means to march into England in a fortnight, she goes on to warn him that Scotland was never before made so strong, and says that it is still a secret whether Albany intends to attack the east or west Border, but she thinks both. She gives him a detailed account of the numbers and condition of his soldiers, and estimates his French contingent at 6000 men, adding that German reinforcements are expected by the first fair wind. They trust to win Berwick, and if they succeed, she and her son are undone. Then she begs to know how she is to get away, and have some money. If Henry will not help her, she must perforce ask help of Albany; and she declares significantly, "and he will cause me to do as he will, or else he will give me nothing." He has not yet come to her, but he writes "very good writings of his own hand, and as many fair words as can be devised," to which however she professes to give no credence.*
*Calig. B 6, 379; State Papers, iv. 40.
Surrey was of the opinion that Margaret should remain in Scotland, as her coming to England would cause embarrassment and expense. Two thousand marks would hardly satisfy her in England, whereas she would be content with three or four hundred pounds a year in Scotland, to say nothing of the loss Henry would incur if she came away, in being deprived of the information she sent.
But it was just this haggling over bribes that prevented Margaret from being altogether on Henry's side, and threw her into the arms of the more generous Albany whenever there was the least hope of gain. Thus, a month later, after the somewhat hasty retreat from Wark, she told Surrey that she had been obliged to take what money the duke would give her; that she would do her best to keep her son, but that she could not displease Albany without Henry's support. She implored Surrey to plead with the king for her, and in return for his help she would inform him of all she knew; but he must keep it secret.*
* Calig. B 1, 281.
At the same time, she gave the duke to understand that she had incurred her brother's displeasure for his sake,* and the same legend was repeated to the lords of the Council. Complaining to them of the bad treatment she had received in Scotland, she begged them to bear in mind the loyalty she had always shown to her son, to the lord governor, and to the realm, incurring for the last three or four years her brother's displeasure, for Albany's sake, at whose desire she was always ready to write the best she could.** Immediately upon this remarkable statement came Henry's answer to her last appeal, in the guise of one hundred marks for information received, together with the refusal of the truce which Albany had repeatedly solicited.*** The smallness of the sum prompted Margaret to write a diplomatic letter to the Earl of Surrey, in which she declared that she had promised before the lords to be a good Scotswoman, and to agree to whatever was for the good of her son, with whom she was resolved to bide as long as she might, although the lords were bent on separating them. They cannot, they say, help her to her "conjunct feoffment" while her brother makes war on them, and she knows not where any other help may be got. If she is to live with her son, Henry must contribute to her support, as he has done to a certain extent already. She will do as he commands her, and have as few servants as possible. She had asked the governor and lords in Council why she was "holden suspect," and not allowed to be with her son; and the answer she received was that she was Henry's sister, and would perhaps take the king into England, and they knew well her brother would do more for her than any other. She had answered that her deeds had shown otherwise, and that she could prove the malice of such an accusation! THUS HENRY WOULD SEE HOW SHE SUFFERED FOR HIS SAKE.****
* Ibid. 159.
** Ibid. B 2, 268.
*** State Papers, iv. 60, 26th Nov. 1523; R.O.
**** Queen Margaret to the Earl of Surrey, Dec. 1523; R.O.
The next scene in the comedy is Margaret's anger on hearing that Albany is treating with Henry for peace, without her intervention. "It is hard," she complains, "to be out with the governor here, and not to know what the king will do for me!" If she had flattered Albany, she asserts, she might have had "great profits," but she will not take them till she knows Henry's mind. She has not spoken with Albany since Surrey left, and would not do so as long as he remained in Scotland, so discontented were they with each other.* Upon this follows an astounding revelation. Surrey had received a dispatch from the queen containing another document, the seals of which had been broken and closed again. It was a copy of an agreement between Margaret and the Duke of Albany, but the manner in which it came to be enclosed in her letter never transpired, though it was thought that the packet had been opened by a spy, and the paper inserted, in order to ruin her prospects with her brother.
* Calig. B 1, 209, 21st April 1524.
The enclosed document ran thus:--
The queen promises that during the minority of her son, she will never suffer anything contrary to the duke's authority, and will inform him of it, and hinder as much as she can any wrong intended against him; she will not consent to a truce or peace with England without the comprehension of her son's allies; she will assist to keep him securely, according to the decree of the last Parliament; she will do all she can to hinder any practice against him of which she may hear, and will inform the governor of it if he be in the country, and if not, those who have charge of the king; she will not consent to anything contrary to the alliance with France, or to the treaty of Rouen, and will further a marriage between her son and one of the daughters of the King of France. The governor promises to do the like, and to obtain for her an honourable reception by the King of France, if she incurs the enmity of her brother, and is forced to quit the country in consequence of the assistance he may give to Angus, or other evil-disposed persons who may interfere with her goods and conjunct feoffment; he will if she requests, send some of his servants with her, and will maintain her against everyone except the king her son. Both parties swear to keep these promises upon the Holy Gospels.*
* Add. MS. 24, 965, ff. 231 and 234; B.M.
Wolsey, upon receipt of this information, at once addressed instructions to Dacre, charging him to find out whether such an agreement had really been made, and if so, how the copy of it had found its way into the queen's letter.
Dacre therefore wrote to tell her of the discovery, and recapitulating the contents of the enclosed document, added that the king desired to know whether she had consented to it of her own free will, why it was done, whether she herself sent the copy, or if not who did send it, and with what intent.
Margaret replied by an indignant but weak denial. The instrument in question was one, she averred, which the duke had DESIRED her to execute, but which she had declined at all costs to meddle with.
This explanation was too improbable for Wolsey to accept, the whole course of Margaret's actions tending to show that had Albany tried and failed to draw her into such a compact, she would unhesitatingly have disclosed the negotiation in order to make capital out of her refusal. The opportunity for demanding large sums as a reward for her fidelity to Henry's interests would have proved irresistible; while as a matter of fact the transaction had never been so much as hinted at in any of her letters. Vague allusions, to the effect that Albany was continually outbidding Henry, had been her refrain for years; but whereas she sent minute and circumstantial details of every other secret likely to prejudice the country and the regent, she had been silent as to any definite overtures such as those contained in the document referred to.
The alternative was to believe that, while pretending to be false, for once she was true to Scotland; and yet she stands so deeply "rooted in dishonour," that her acquittal puts but little to her credit. Her only resource, when Dacre persisted in his accusation, was a feeble complaint of the bad treatment she was receiving at her brother's hands, pleading that he neither regarded herself nor her writing; that
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