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- Studies from Court and Cloister - 6/61 -
she had not failed, and did not mean to fail, but that if others had been in her place they would have acted very differently.*
* Add. MS. 24, 965, f. 223, 19th May 1524; B.M.
To this Dacre replied ruthlessly, that it was well known both in Scotland and in England, not only that she had assented to the bond found in her letter, but that it had passed her sign manual and seal, in return for which, the Duke of Albany had given her the wardship and marriage of the young Earl of Huntly and of others, together with other gifts and rewards---a proceeding which, declared Dacre, was a great dishonour to her brother, and would perhaps after all avail her but little. He marvelled also greatly at her pretended ignorance of the negotiations pending between Albany and himself, because in his last letter he had informed her of all the proceedings.*
* Ibid. 965, f. 244, 27th May 1524.
For some time, Margaret continued to deny feebly having formally allied herself with the regent, murmuring at Dacre's "sharpness" towards her, notwithstanding which Dacre continued to bring fresh proofs of her duplicity before her, till Henry at last ordered him to let the matter drop, whereupon she was willing to do the same.*
* Add. MS. 24, 965, f. 253; B.M.
Having failed in the past to secure Margaret's undivided favour, Henry now took a more persuasive line, and sought to convince his sister how much good might in future accrue to her if she would but "go the fruitful way." The unfortunate Angus, who had taken refuge in England, was now sent back, in the hope that a possible reconciliation with her husband might detach her from Albany. But this was far from succeeding. Margaret could with difficulty be induced to receive him, and all the money that Henry sent to her went to strengthen the hands of her husband's enemies, so that Angus was obliged to entreat that no further supplies might be provided. Margaret then veered round, and said that Albany had sent to her with great offers if she would join his party, adding that perhaps the duke would marry her after getting her divorced. How this could be possible, considering that Albany had a wife already, might puzzle a mind more fettered by the logic of facts than was the queen's.
That she was seriously anxious to be agreeable to the duke is seen by the instructions which she delivered to John Cantely, who was to tell the regent of her goodwill towards him and the kingdom of France. And lest he should interpret unfavourably the circumstance of her having sent ambassadors to England, she assured him that she would do nothing without including France. Finally, she wished to know his intentions towards her and what he would give her. In the event of her taking his part against England, which she will certainly do if Henry continues to help Angus, Albany must secure for her the protection of the French king. If this king desires to have her and her son on his side, he must support them.
But Albany must keep the matter secret, and not allow her letters to be sent into England, as has been done formerly, and she will take his part against everyone except her son.*
* Double de la credence de la Royne et memoire de Mr. John Cantely; R.O.
This was written on the 22nd February 1525, but on the 31st March following, Margaret, in a stormy interview with Angus, angrily denied having negotiated with Albany at all. She swore that she had always sought to please Henry, and complained of his letters being "sore and sharp." She had taken a great matter on hand at his request, and had had much trouble with the duke for his sake, yet now that she had plainly told the regent that she followed Henry's pleasure, Henry would have no more to do with her. If he will not be kind to her, she hopes at least that he will not cause Angus to trouble her in her living. She has a plea against Angus before the Pope, and he cannot interfere with her by law.*
* Calig. B 7, 3.
It was clearly to Henry's interest to persuade Margaret to take her husband back, for Angus belonged with the whole Douglas family to Albany's bitterest enemies. The reconciliation between him and the regent had been but a short interlude brought about solely from self-interest on the part of Angus, and followed by a deep and lasting feud. Added to this claim on Henry's friendship was the fact that he possessed a powerful influence over the young King James. But with the page of Henry's own domestic history open before us, it is not possible to repress a smile at the arguments against her divorce which Henry put before Margaret, at the very moment when he was trying to force the Pope's hand, in order to obtain from him a sentence against his own marriage. The following substance of a letter, written it is true by Wolsey, but dictated by his master, applies in every detail as well to Henry's own case as to Margaret's. If we change the pronoun, substitute London for Rome, king for queen, Katharine for Angus, all that he causes Wolsey to say becomes as applicable to himself as to his sister.
After desiring her to accept favourably Henry's message, which, he says, much concerns the wealth of her son and her own repute, the cardinal urges her brother's hope that the "undeceivable spirit of God, which moved him to send to her, will effectually work." Amid the cares of his government he has never forgotten her, and he hopes she will turn to God's word, "the vyvely doctrine of Jesus Christ, the only ground of salvation" (1 Cor. 3). He reminds her of the divine ordinance of inseparable matrimony, first instituted in Paradise, and hopes her Grace will perceive how she was seduced by flatterers to an unlawful divorce from "the right noble Earl of Angus," etc., upon untrue and insufficient grounds. Furthermore, "the shameless sentence sent from Rome" plainly showed how unlawfully it was handled, judgment being given against a party neither present in person nor by proxy. He urges her further, for the weal of her soul, and to avoid the inevitable damnation threatened against "advoutrers," to reconcile herself with Angus as her true husband, or out of mere natural affection for her daughter, whose excellent beauty and pleasant behaviour, nothing less godly than goodly, furnished with virtuous and womanly demeanour, should soften her heart. That she should be reputed baseborn cannot be avoided, except the queen will relinquish the "advoutrous" company with him that is not, nor may not be, of right her husband.*
* Calig. B 6, 194.
The individual here mentioned was Harry Stuart, with whom Margaret had contracted a secret marriage, having by dint of perjury and a tissue of lies, obtained a declaration of invalidity against her union with Angus. She does not appear to have been in the least affected by Henry's hypocritical reasoning, but the manner in which her son received the news of her third marriage caused her some inconvenience. In his displeasure, James sent Lord Erskine to besiege his mother and her new husband in Stirling Castle; but what promised to be a tragedy had a somewhat ridiculous end, for Margaret, in terror of what might follow, at once gave up her husband, who after a short imprisonment was allowed to escape. He promptly rejoined the queen, and James subsequently forgave him, and created him Lord Methven.
But not even when her son had come to his own did Margaret cease to plot and intrigue. Henry's suspicious character imperatively demanded that all that was going on in Scotland should be known without delay at the English court, and his sister was the only possible agent for the purpose. It does not appear that her treachery, now doubly odious, ever cost her the least qualm. The climax was, however, reached, when after persuading James to confide to her his private instructions to the Scottish ambassador residing in London, she contrived that the information thus obtained should be in Henry's hands at the same moment that it reached its legitimate destination.
Fortunately for the affairs of Scotland, the treasonable correspondence was discovered; and Margaret narrowly escaped imprisonment. The immediate result was to put an end to the more friendly intercourse that had sprung up between the two countries, and to prevent a meeting between the two sovereigns, in process of negotiation.
At this interview, which was to have taken place at York, Henry hoped to convert his nephew to his own views regarding the Pope; and in order to pave the way to, a good understanding between them, he sent Barlow and Holcroft to Scotland with a lengthy document containing, with much fulsome flattery of James, all Henry's choice vocabulary of epithets hurled against the "Bishop of Rome."*
* Hamilton Papers--Instructions to Barlow and Holcroft, 3rd Oct. 1535, fol. 27.
Margaret, ignorant that her son had discovered her treachery, continued to urge him to proceed to York; but her eagerness only roused his suspicions that worse treason lay behind.
"The Queen, your Grace's sister," wrote Lord William Howard to Henry, "because she hath so earnestly solicited in the cause of meeting, is in high displeasure with the King, her son, he bearing her in hand that she received gifts of your Highness to betray him, with many other unkind and suspicious words."*
*State Papers, iv. 46; R.O.
Enough has been already seen of Margaret's methods to make it quite clear what her next step would be. Out of favour with James, she of course threw the whole brunt of her misfortune on Henry, for whose sake she had incurred so much danger and expense, having lived for the last six months at court for the sole purpose of advancing his affairs.* But Henry was beginning to weary of his sister's complaints and appeals for money. Besides, James would in future guard his secrets better, and Margaret almost cease to be useful as a spy. So she must not expect him to disburse notable sums, merely because she is his sister, and must henceforth learn to be content with the entirely sufficient provision made for her on her marriage with the King of Scots.**
* Add. MS. 32, 616, f. 87; B.M.
** State Papers, v. 56; R.O.
This was all the consolation he could afford her for some time to come, for besides his other reasons for disregarding the letters which she, nothing daunted by his silence, continued to send him, Henry was too much occupied with his own concerns to bestow much thought on a sister whose power of helping him was now small. It was the moment of Anne Boleyn's fall, and he was engrossed with the list of crimes of which he was about to accuse the unhappy woman.
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