Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox

Granddaughter of First Tudor King, Grandmother of First Stuart King

Archibald Douglas
Archibald Douglas, father of Margaret Douglas. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Known for: known for her plotting on behalf of Roman Catholicism in England.  She was the grandmother of James VI of Scotland who became James I of England, and the mother of James' father, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley.. Margaret Douglas was the niece of Tudor King Henry VIII and granddaughter of Henry VII.

Dates: October 8, 1515 - March 7, 1578

Heritage

Margaret Douglas' mother was Margaret Tudor, daughter of England's King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

Margaret Tudor, named for her paternal grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, was the widow of James IV of Scotland.

Margaret Douglas' father was Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus; the marriage of Margaret Tudor and Archibald Douglas in 1514, at first secret, was the second for each, and alienated many of the other Scottish nobles and threatened her supervision of her two sons by James IV, James V (1512-1542) and Alexander (1514-1515).

Margaret Douglas, the only child of her mother's second marriage, was brought up with and was a lifelong friend to King Henry VIII's daughter by Catherine of Aragon, Princess Mary, later England's Queen Mary I.

Scandalous Relations

Margaret Douglas became engaged to Thomas Howard while she was a lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn, the second queen of Margaret's uncle Henry VIII. Howard was sent to the Tower of London in 1537 for their unauthorized relationship, as Margaret was at that time next in line of succession, Henry VIII having declared illegitimate his daughters Mary and Elizabeth.

Love poems she wrote to Thomas Howard were preserved in the Devonshire MS, now in the British Library.

Margaret had reconciled with her uncle by 1539, when he asked her to greet his new bride Anne of Cleves on her arrival in England.

In 1540, Margaret had an affair with Charles Howard, nephew of Thomas Howard and brother of Catherine Howard, the fifth queen of Henry VIII.

But again Henry VIII reconciled with his niece, and Margaret was a witness to his sixth and final marriage, to Catherine Parr, who had known Margaret for many years.

Marriage

In 1544, Margaret Douglas married Matthew Stewart, the 4th Earl of Lennox, who was living in England. Their elder son, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, in 1565 married Mary, Queen of Scots, daughter of James V, Margaret Douglas' half-brother. The Stewart (Stuart) name for a later line of kings of England and Scotland comes from Margaret Douglas' second husband through the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Lord Darnley.

Plotting Against Elizabeth

After Mary's death and the succession of Protestant Queen Elizabeth I in 1558, Margaret Douglas retired to Yorkshire, where she became involved with Roman Catholic plotting.

In 1566 Elizabeth had Lady Lennox sent to the Tower. Margaret Douglas was released after her son, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, was murdered in 1567.

In 1570-71, Matthew Stewart, Margaret's husband, became Regent in Scotland; he was assassinated in 1571.

Margaret was again imprisoned in 1574 when her younger son Charles married without royal permission; she was pardoned in 1577 after he died. She briefly helped care for the daughter of Charles, Arbella Stuart.

Death and Legacy

Margaret Douglas died only a year after she was released. Queen Elizabeth I gave her a large funeral. Her effigy lies in Westminster Abbey, where her son Charles is also buried.

The grandson of Margaret Douglas, James, who was the son of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, and of Mary, Queen of Scots, became King James VI of Scotland and, at the death of Elizabeth I, was crowned King James I of England. He was the first Stewart king.