Margaret Tudor: Scotland's forgotten queen
Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII and aunt of Elizabeth I, was the first Tudor woman to rule a kingdom and caused scandal with her divorce, but her legacy was the eventual union of England and Scotland.
In 1502 the kings of England and Scotland signed a Treaty of Perpetual Peace. A marriage treaty was signed on the same day.Marriage of Convenience
The family of Margaret Tudor
- Margaret was the daughter of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York.
- Margaret married King James IV of Scotland in 1503 when she was thirteen.
- Her younger brother Henry VIII became king of England after their father's death when she was nineteen.
- Margaret's son was James V of Scotland. James' daughter ruled as Mary Queen of Scots. Mary's son was James VI, the first king to rule both Scotland and England. He was Margaret's great grandson.
Henry VII wanted to consolidate Tudor legitimacy to the English throne by marrying into one of the long established European royal families, the Stewarts.
He knew that the marriage could lead to a Scottish king in England, but reckoned that England would be the dominant partner in these circumstances.
James too would have "considered that an English royal marriage would place his own bloodline close to the English succession," says Dr Jackson Armstrong, lecturer in history at the University of Aberdeen.
"The advantages of the treaty and marriage were that the dynastic fortunes of Scotland and England were to be firmly linked. This was an ambivalent prospect, but Scotland would become more than a mere neighbour to the north.
"English cooperation offered potential advantages to the king for the governance of the Borders and the South of his realm. The alliance was a display of international independence, demonstrating that Scotland could steer away from France," Scotland's traditional ally against the English.The Thistle and The Rose
The marriage took place on 8 August 1503 in Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh.
Effusive poems were written in Margaret's honour. Scottish poet William Dunbar wrote: "Welcum the Rose bothe rede and whyte, Welcum the floure of our delyte!"
Margaret was aged just 13 when she married the 30-year-old King James IV.
In deference to her age, James kept his existing mistress. Margaret's first pregnancy was not for several years. They had six children together, but only one survived infancy, the future James V.
The marriage was supposed to seal the perpetual peace, but a decade later it was put to the test.
Margaret's brother Henry VIII was now the English king. When France went to war with England, James picked the French side and invaded Northumberland.
"The pattern of Scotland's position throughout the 16th Century was confirmed, a satellite pulled between France and England," says Dr Armstrong.
James IV's decision led to disaster. His army was defeated at Flodden Field in 1513 and James was killed.
Margaret's young son was not old enough to be king, so she became regent of Scotland, and the first Tudor woman to rule a kingdom.
The Scottish nobles wanted the powerful Duke of Albany to rule. He was next in line to the throne but "Margaret feared that meant he might dispose of her sons and become king," says de Lisle.
"Margaret needed powerful backing to oppose Albany's return and planned to marry to get it.
She chose the Earl of Angus. "He had a strong following, but when the news emerged of Margaret's marriage she lost her popularity as the King's widow, and under the terms of her late husband's will, her remarriage meant she also lost the regency."Flight to England
Her brother Henry VIII advised her to flee Scotland. She remained in England under his protection before making peace with Albany and returning to Scotland in 1517.
But her marriage with Angus broke down when she found he had taken a mistress while living off her Scottish income.
Albany's rule as regent ended in 1524 when Margaret staged a coup d'état putting her 12-year-old son on the throne. The Scottish parliament removed Albany from power, and recognised Margaret as chief councillor to the boy king.
Restored to power, she was able to secure a divorce, despite strong criticism from her brother Henry VIII - who would later get his own divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
In 1527, she married again, to Henry Stewart her former treasurer.
Margaret was criticised for her second and third marriages, says de Lisle. "Sexual prejudices contributed to her being underestimated and misunderstood,"
"Angus was very handsome, and since it was believed women had difficulties controlling their sex drive it was also assumed she was marrying Angus, 'for her plesour' - the same was said of her last marriage.
"She has also suffered as an English Queen in Scotland, forgotten by the English, who aren't that interested in Scottish history, and viewed in Scotland as a foreigner from an unpopular rival kingdom."Union of the Crowns
Throughout her life she "worked in her son's interests," according to de Lisle, trying to improve relations between Scotland and England and bring her Tudor and Stewart relatives closer together.
She tried to arrange a meeting between James V and Henry VIII in 1534, but the king's council and the clergy blocked it, to her frustration.
Margaret's ongoing correspondence with Henry VIII led to her being accused of being an English spy, and caused her son to distance himself from her in her later years.
Margaret died of a stroke in 1541, aged 51. Without her influence, war broke out once again between England and Scotland.
But her legacy endured through her bloodline.
In 1603, when Margaret's niece Elizabeth I died childless, Margaret's great grandson James VI of Scotland claimed the English throne and became James I of England thanks to her. Scotland and England have shared a monarch ever since.