Now, that Charlotte had chosen the prince for her, she wished to receive her father’s approval and quickly. Her uncle advised her to wait until November when Parliament would sit so another push would be made. Meanwhile, Charlotte was now at Warwick House with even less freedom while Leopold was on the continent with the Russian army to destroy Napoleon’s army.
Soon, Charlotte had a reason to be overjoyed. Napoleon had been defeated and Leopold was safe since the Russians were too far away to participate in the battles of 1815. So, the Princess wrote to the Prime Minister requesting he represent her with her father and to request him to offer her hand in marriage to the Prince. And if her request was denied, she’d remain a spinster and deny all other offers for her hand.
Luckily, a mutual friend Charlotte and Leopold helped the couple exchange letters since it was improper for an unengaged female to write to an unmarried man. Another lucky break for Charlotte, Slender Billy announced engagement to Tsar’s younger sister, Grand Duchess Anne.
On 6 January 1816, Charlotte along with her grandmother, the Queen and two aunts traveled to Brighton. The next day, her twentieth birthday, her father hosted a party for her at the Brighton Pavilion. With her father cornered, Charlotte pressured her father to agree to the marriage. It seems to have worked because Prinny asked about Leopold and liked what he heard so he summoned Leopold to England with a letter from Lord Castlereagh informing him that the Prince Regent intended to offer the princess’s hand.
Only Have Eyes For You
Near the end of February 1816, Leopold landed at Dover. This time the Prince stayed at Clarendon Hotel on Bond Street, where a suite of rooms had been reserved for him. But the poor prince was ill but he still traveled to Brighton to dine with Charlotte, the Queen, and her aunts. Leopold bewitched everyone with his charm, good looks and grace. Queen Charlotte even forged her after dinner game of cards to talk to the Prince.
Yet, it seemed the young royal couple only had eyes for each other. In Charlotte and Leopold: The True Story of The Original People’s Princess, “Charlotte and he were totally absorbed in each other, anxiously reassuring, eagerly planning,…” Later that night, she wrote to her friend, “I find him quite charming, & I go to bed happier than I have ever done yet in my life…I am certainly a most fortunate creature & have to bless God. A Pss. (Princess) never, I believe, set out in life (or married) with such prospects of happiness, real domestic ones like other people. I’m so very grateful at my lot I cannot express it sufficiently to you. All he said was so very charming & so right & so everything in short I could wish.”
Yet, the royal lovebirds were kept apart so the wooing happened through letters since they met occasionally. “As their wedding day approached, they were still as eager and optimistic as they had been when they first dined together in Brighton, but, as Leopold readily admitted, they hardly knew each other any better.”
A Wedding Plan
While the wedding preparation carried on, Leopold learned English though his health hadn’t improved. Leopold also was made “naturalized as a British subject”. The Prince Regent even offered him a dukedom, which Leopold refused. “He acquiesced in everything when the marriage contract was drawn up, and he took no part in the financial discussions.” Parliament provided the royal couple two houses. The London residence, Camelford House, a very unroyal building located on the corner of Park Lane and Oxford Street. Their country residence was in Surrey, which Charlotte though the most beautiful house.” The previous owner, Charles Rose Ellis, had put it up for sale because his wife died in childbirth within its walls. The couple also received a single payment of 60,000 and for living expenses, Leopold was granted 50,000 and Charlotte 10,000.
For the new household, Charlotte settled on “six footmen, not eight as her father suggested, and their state livery was to be a simple green, not gaudy crimson and green like the Prince Regent’s house. She was also loyal and kept on many of the people who had been closest to her at Windsor and Warwick House.”
The Queen ordered Charlotte’s dress from Mrs Triand of Bolton Street even though, a few alterations were required, it didn’t delay the wedding. The Prince Regent’s gout did that.
Royal marriages rarely include love instead duty is the other four-letter word used. Most royal couples hope for some form of compatibility between the prospective bride and bridegroom. And for Princess Charlotte and the Prince of Orange, such an outcome was hoped for as well. The first meeting between the royal pair was to happen over a dinner party her father was throwing.
For the party, Charlotte donned a “violet satin, trimmed with black lace.” The gown didn’t help hide how pale she was or her agitation. At dinner, Lord Liverpool sat on her left and to her right was the Prince of Orange.
Charlotte described the future King William III of Netherlands as “very plain but he was so lively and animated that it quite went off…”
After dinner and allowing the two strolling in the gallery, an impatient Prinny drew his daughter to a corner to learn her opinion of Slender Billy. Charlotte said, “I like his manner very well, as much as I have seen it.” All her father heard was her agreement to wed the prince so he summoned the Prime Minister (actually entitled First Lord of the Treasury) Lord Liverpool and his wife who offered their felicitations, which was followed by the surprised Prince of Orange.
It seems Slender Billy was smart than Prinny since in truth he didn’t think he impressed her much. And he hadn’t. She “thought him particularly plain and sickly in his look, his figure very slender, his manner rather hearty and boyish, but not unpleasant in a young soldier.” Not words of affection not even a stir of such feeling. In fact, Charlotte wrote, “I am persuaded I shall have a very great regard and opinion of him which perhaps is better to begin with and more likely to last than love.”
The next day, Prince William called upon her. It wasn’t a success. He informed Charlotte that she would have to spend two or three months a year in Holland when he visited his home country.
She was devastated. The prince promised that she wouldn’t have to accompany him on his every visit and when she did, she could bring her ladies with her.
Such a concession had to be enough for her though. That didn’t stop her anger with her father. Slender Billy was chance at freedom from her father nevertheless, the government held the position that the Princess never leave England’s shores.
On January 7 1814, Charlotte spent her eighteenth birthday by visiting her mother during the day and the evening, at a concert with her uncles, the royal dukes.
The next two months the marriage negotiations raged. Charlotte kept informed of every detail of the negotiations by having them put in writing. Her father was a feckless man who would change anything to suit his whims and that included sending his daughter to Holland.
A Peace Party
While the talks continued, Napoleon was defeated and all of Europe (except France of course since they lost) and their sovereigns journeyed to England, including the Tsar’s favorite sister, the Grand Duchess Catherine, to celebrate. Much like everyone else, the Grand Duchess was impressed by the Princess. She described her as “the most interesting member of the family…She is blonde, has a handsome nose, a delicious mouth and fine teeth…She is full of spirit and positive in character. She seems to have an iron will in the smallest things…Her manners are so extraordinary that they take one’s breath away… She walks up to any man, young or old, especially takes them by the hand, and shakes it with all her strength… She looks like a boy, or rather a ragamuffin.”
That strong will the duchess noticed in Charlotte stood firm against her father and his demands of her to visit Holland after her marriage. The princess refused to give in. To irritate her father even more the Prince of Orange didn’t want her to do anything against her will. In the end, the marriage contract specified that Charlotte would not have to leave England against her will.
While Charlotte signed the marriage contract, Prince of Orange was at Ascot, getting rip roaring drunk. He had to be sent back to London in a coach. Two days later, Charlotte attended a great banquet at Carlton House (the only state occasion she was permitted to attend). Prince William also attended and as was his habit, he got drunk.
Charlotte was becoming disheartened by the arrangement. She learned Slender Billy’s true nature. Her impression of him changed. To her, he was a “callow, scruffy boy who could not even hold his liquor.”
Charlotte’s yearning for freedom wasn’t enough to marry Prince William and for three solid reasons. The first was that she wished to marry another prince since Slender Billy was a “dismal prospect”. The second reason was another prince had caught her eye, a certain handsome Prince August. The third was her duty to stand by her mother who would protect her own position as heir presumptive.
Back Away Not So Slowly
On June 16 1814, Charlotte and Prince of Orange met at Warwick House where she informed him that she’d marry him only if her mother would always be welcome in their home. William wouldn’t agree to that (the two parties hated each other thanks to European politics). She couldn’t marry him without it.
A shocked William plead for her to think over her decision. Of course, the Whigs and her mother were happy. Prinny not so much.
The Princess didn’t know what awaited her. Soon after her meeting with Billy, she and a companion called upon the Tsar and his sister, who happened to be staying at the same hotel as the Prince of Orange. During the visit, the Tsar attempted to persuade Charlotte to change her mind. She wouldn’t budge. When Charlotte was departing, the Grand Duchess Catherine sent her to the back stairs to avoid William.
She took the stairs where a small group lingered at the foot of them. Charlotte spotted “A tall, dark, handsome officer wearing the all-white uniform of the Russian heavy cavalry. The officer turned. He was not more than twenty-four years old, but his badges signified that he was already a Lieutenant-General.”
The handsome Lieutenant-General asked if he could assist the ladies and the princess’s companion informed him of Charlotte’s identity and asked him to see them to her carriage. He did.
The drop-dead gorgeous officer was the General Officer Commanding Cavalry of the Tsar, Prince Leopold Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
It’s 1811 and George III is mad and his son, George has gone from the Prince of Wales to the Prince Regent. And George did as George loved to do—he decided to throw a grand fête at Carlton House. As the invites went out, Charlotte waited for her own to appear on her table. She waited in vain. Public favor and attention couldn’t be ripped off the Prince Regent and set upon his daughter or worse, her mother. Charlotte wasn’t his daughter and heir but his rival. Yet, the people expected her attendance at the June 5 occasion. The public favored the young princess and the Prince Regent believed a glimpse of Charlotte would increase the unpopularity even more than it was. According to one lady, the Prince Regent was “avoiding everything which could look like a recognition of her as the heir presumptive to the crown.”
If she had attended, society would have seen the young Princess changed. Now, fifteen-years-old, Charlotte was described as “…grown and improved in looks.” Charlotte was described as “very graceful” as well as “forward, dogmatic on all subjects, puckish about horses, and full of exclamations very like swearing.” Even in a letter, Charlotte wrote, she described her temperament as Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. This young lady also was very aware of her political position. She was a Whig who was “sincere, committed, and above all radical.”
Life As Before
Sadly, for the lively Charlotte, life continued much as it had before, being watched by her father’s household spies and hidden away from the outside but for few moments of freedom. In November when she visited Oatlands and experienced her first whirlwind of society. Two balls were given and even her father was in attendance. He welcomed her with great joy and warmth then, proceeded to ignore her until she was learning the dance entitled Highland Flurry, the Prince Regent forced himself into the instruction.
The Princess’s social world was expanding beyond her rooms. At the end of the year, the Prince Regent opened Parliament and invited his daughter. The only reason he issued the offer was because otherwise her absence would reflect badly on him. On his return to Carlton House, the crowds chanted, “Down with the Regent” while Charlotte received cheers and shouts of her name. That must have riled the narcissistic Prinny.
In February 1812, she attended the opera and with youthful enthusiasm, she waved at everyone she knew. So, people that was improper but most loved her freshness. And her open demeanor endeared her even more to the people.
January 1813, the Princess turned seventeen and her gift was a new governess. At this age, the proper protocol was for her to have ladies-in-waiting. When she raised her objections, her father responded with “Depend upon it, as long as I live you shall never have an establishment, unless you marry.” Her only route to freedom started at a church’s aisle.
At least, Charlotte began to have more of a social life even attending the February 5, 1813 ball at Carlton House. She had hoped to dance with the Duke of Devonshire. She had enjoyed his company when she met him before and even got the shy duke (who was deaf so isolated himself) to “talk a great deal.” Instead, she danced with her uncles and older men but she was free of her apartments.
While all this was happening, the nation was at war—The Peninsula War—and she was still dealing with the war between her parents. Her mother’s letter to her father was published by the Morning Chronicle, which stated the curtailment of the visits with her daughter. This letter started The Delicate Investigation. This hoopla had Charlotte all but locked away since it wouldn’t be proper for her to be seen and her social life only included events that occurred in her father or uncle’s homes or strolls or drives in her carriage. The Prince Regent even prohibited Charlotte from sitting for a painting.
Meanwhile, the Prince Regent was seeking to arrange a marriage between Charlotte and the Hereditary Prince of Orange.
The lone child of the Prince of Wales and his utterly unwanted wife resided above her parent’s apartments in the nursery of Carlton House. When Charlotte was a year old, her mother moved out of Carlton House and to a place five miles away in Blackheath.
Not that either parent could be describe as tentative yet, she saw more of her father than her mother since she lived at Carlton House, the Prince’s residence though his attendance there was spotty at best. Charlotte’s staff raised her. When she was an eight-year-girl, Charlotte left behind that place and moved into Warwick House. With this move as well, the staff that had been with her since her first days were replaced. Warwick House was east of Carlton House and nothing more than a crumbling old brick building.
Her new governess was dowager Lady de Clifford. This fifty plus woman was in charge of the “…temperamental tomboy…” The good-natured woman couldn’t discipline her effectively since the princess who may not behave as a princess yet she knew her position and used it to her benefit. Like children everywhere still do.
Nevertheless, the two ladies grew fond of each other and Lady de Clifford did all to make Charlotte’s life less lonely. She had one of her grandsons, the Honorable George Keppe befriend her, a friendship that would last through her lifetime. These two kids got up to much trouble. Later in Keppe’s life when he became the Earl of Albemarle, he wrote a memoir of their childhood. In his memoir, he shared stories which include stories of “..fisticuffs, bolting horses and tears.” He even shared the time that when Charlotte and George visited his parents at their home named Earl’s Court. She slipped through a side gate and joined in the back of the crowd that had gathered outside the house to see the princess.
Yet, it was all fun. Children especially Princess’s must be educated. That task fell to Retired Reverend Dr. John Fisher, Bishop of Exeter. The man had tutored the Duke of Kent and had a long list of court positions. “He was sincerely pious and a connoisseur of painting and drawing. But he was pompous, homourless, dogmatic, willful and absurdly old-fashioned.” The man “…still wore a wig and spoke affectedly.” That man pronounced bishop as “bishup”. At nine, Charlotte graced him with the nickname “the Great UP.”
Charlotte, described as blue-eyed and with peculiarly blonde hair with beautifully shaped hands and feet, had a great talent for acting and mimicry. So, when Lady de Clifford and the “Great Up” argued about Charlotte’s lessons, the Princess would stand behind the bishop and mock him. Lady de Clifford struggled to hold back her laughter while trying to best the man. She would stand behind him, “…jutting out her lower lip, waving her arms and generally ridiculing his expressions and mannerisms in an exaggerated mime.”
This young Princess was educated in religious studies, English, Latin, ancient history, and religious instruction as well as reading, writing, French, German, modern history, and music, dancing, drawing, and writing. For her excellent education, the young princess was much like other children. If in trouble, she wasn’t about a little lie to get out of trouble or her studies.
In 1806, Charlotte saw one of her household writing and asked her what she was doing and was told that she was making her will. The Princess declared that she would too. She left many of her belonging to various staff and her birds to a Mrs. Gagrin and her dog or dogs to Mrs. Anna Hatton, her chambermaid.
In 1809, Charlotte’s tutor was replaced because Dr. Nott, tutor to the Princess had written to Princess Caroline. And no pleading save him, the man who was an “adoptive parent” and Charlotte wrote, “If we never meet again, keep for me your regard and affection.”
Yet, she met another who would love her–the Duke of Brunswick, her uncle William. He is describe as “bluff but dignified and patient.” The loving uncle listened to Charlotte’s “lisping chatter” and never tired of hearing it. The princess loved him so that she returned home and “painted a black moustache on her face and marched up and down in military manner barking guttural expletives, which she hoped very much sounded like German swear words.” Just like her uncle.
Also came the Honorable Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, a companion and confidante for the Princess.
As she grew older, Charlotte learned that she would have to be careful in deed and word, whether written or spoken. Now fifteen, her life would change. In January 1811, the government presented the Regency Bill. On February 6, the Prince of Wales was sworn in as Prince Regent.
In May 1499, months after the birth of the Tudor’s sixth child, Prince Arthur married by proxy Katherine of Aragon, Infanta to King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella. Henry, now, had his connection to the powerful Spanish nation. Katherine would arrive in England when she reached fourteen in December along with ladies who were beautiful in order to make “English” connections.
Those connections were endangered with the arrival of another pretender appeared on the scene and though, Henry took care of him quickly, the Spanish King and Queen’s faith on Henry’s hold on the English throne. Especially since there was a very true threat to Henry’s crown, that threat was the Earl of Warwick.
Henry had to rid himself of the claimant to the throne, one who had a better claim than Henry since he was the son of the Duke of Clarence (brother to Edward IV and uncle to Elizabeth of York). Alison Weir writes in Elizabeth of York, “the likelihood is that Ferdinand warned Henry VII that while Warwick lived, the Infanta would not be coming to England.”
How was Henry to accomplish this when Warwick committed no crime and was locked up in the Tower of London? But Henry needed the Spanish alliance and wasn’t the king the law? He just had to find a way.
Robert Cleymound met with Lord Warwick in his cell and plotted to “fire and seize the Tower, thus facilitating his escape to Flanders, whence he would make war upon Henry VII.” Then contact was made with Warbeck who was locked in the Tower and just below Warwick’s own cell. The plot was that Warbeck and Warwick would escape from the tower and Warbeck was told that Warwick would make him king whereas Warwick was told he would be king. But Cleymound claimed Warbeck informed the king of the plot.
Warwick was tried on November 19 in Westminster Hall. He plead guilty perhaps because he did not understand since he was considered simple-minded (as his contemporaries called him). He was sentenced to a traitor’s death.
On November 29, Warwick was beheaded on Tower Hill. He was twenty-four years old. He was buried in Bisham Priory beside his grandfather, Warwick the Kingmaker. Years later, Katherine was said to say, that her marriage to Prince Arthur had been made in blood.
After the executions, Henry fell ill and recovered by the middle of December. That same year, the plague so to over the pandemic the King and Queen traveled to Calais. This was the first and last time Elizabeth had traveled abroad. While in English-held territory in France, Elizabeth and Henry met with the Archduke Phillip and his Archduchess Juana of Castile, sister to Katherine of Aragon. Forty days after departing England, Elizabeth and Henry returned to the realm.
Upon the arrival at Greenwich, they received distressing news. Prince Andrew’s health was a concern yet the worse was the death of their infant son Prince Edmund at fifteen months. The baby prince was given a state funeral, provisions which Henry VII had laid down.
During this time, Katherine departed Spain. She arrived in England on October 2, 1501. Prince Arthur and the King traveled to with the future Queen of England.
Preparations for the marriage began. On November 9, Katherine met Prince Henry. Then on the 12th, Katherine entered the city of London to bells ringing, banners fluttering about and crowded streets where music played and wine ran free. The next day, Elizabeth met her future daughter-in-law. “During her audience, she and Elizabeth both spoke in Latin, and they enjoyed ‘pleasant and goodly communication, dancing, and disports. Thus, with honor and mirth, this Saturday was expired and done,’ and it was late when Katherine departed for Lambeth Palace to make ready for her wedding day.”
On November 14, 1501, Arthur and Katherine were married in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Their wedding night would play an importance years later when Henry VIII sought a divorce.
The young royal couple departed for Ludlow Castle on December 21, 1501. That royal marriage wasn’t the only one being arranged. In January 1502, Henry arranged a treaty of marriage with James IV of Scotland. His daughter, Margaret would become Queen of Scots but would not travel across the border until September 1503.
The good cheer of the wedding wouldn’t last. In February, Prince Arthur sickened. And another threat reared up. Henry dealt with the menace but the King’s power meant nothing with his son’s health. Prayers were said, pilgrimage was made by two priests Elizabeth hired, and offers were given to the church.
Arthur’s health improved enough that he was well enough to wash the feet of fifteen men on Maundy Thursday on March 24.
Four days into April, the worse happened. Arthur, Prince of Wales and future King, died. The fifteen-year-old was buried at Worcester and not Westminster Abbey. According to Weir, it has been suggested that Arthur died of something contagious since his body had to be buried as swiftly as possible.
Alison Weir says of forty-five-year-old Henry’s reaction, “‘When the King understood these sorrowful, heavy tidings, he sent for the Queen, saying that he and his wife would take their powerful sorrow together.’ Thus it was the Elizabeth heard the shattering news every parent dreads to hear, that her child was dead in the flower of his youth.”
Elizabeth reacted as any mother would. She collapsed. Henry rushed to her and comforted her. Her son’s death impacted her health. There are reports of the Queen’s health taking a turn for the worse.
Katherine, widow of Arthur afterward stayed with the King and Queen then went on to reside at Croydon Palace. The young Prince Henry Tudor was now being groomed as the heir to the English and Irish throne. But that’s another story.
Dressed in her mourning attire that Henry set down in his ordinances, the royal couple decided they were still capable of bearing more children. Elizabeth and Henry had always lived together. She accompanied him on his journeys yet on 1502 Elizabeth departed from Windsor and Henry’s side. By the end of September, Henry reunited with his wife.
Royal duties resumed but Elizabeth was with child again. She wasn’t due until February and preparations being made for her confinement.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, celebrated the Christmas season. Meanwhile, Henry was consumed with the construction of the new Lady Chapel. In January 1503, Elizabeth came by river to Westminster to reunite with the King. They, then, traveled onto the Tower.
On February 2, 1503, Elizabeth was still at the Tower (her father’s favorite residence) when the baby arrived ten days early. After the difficult birth, the daughter was christened Katherine on the Saturday after her birth at the parish church of the Tower.
That same time, Elizabeth fell ill. She worsened swiftly. The king sent a man for the physician and paid a boatman to wait for the doctor along with horses and guides to get him to the queen’s side through the dark night.
Elizabeth of York–the Bloom of the House of York–died in the early morning of Saturday, February 11. Her thirty-seventh birthday. Henry was at her side along with priests for last rites and her attendants and servants.
Henry was heartbroken. He traveled to Richmond to mourn his wife alone. For six weeks he was so low with grief that he sickened and was said near death. Tradition decreed that he would not attend her funeral. He ordered a new velvet cloth of estate of blue, the color of royal mourning. Books were bound in this fabric and mourning attire in black and blue. He slowly came out of mourning ten months later. He also abandoned the Tower, which led to the decline as a royal residence. Future royals only stay there for their coronations as tradition had set.
In London, six-hundred and six masses were offered by the king and fifty-six pounds of wax candles burned at Walsingham for the monks while they prayed for her.
Henry now the lone king became even more of a miser than he was before along with being suspicious and harsh since Elizabeth’s influence was now absent. He never married again.
Henry VII died on April 21, 1509 at Richmond Palace of tuberculosis.
Yet the blood of Elizabeth flowed through Stuart monarchs, Hanoverians monarch and the House of Windsor and her namesake, Queen Elizabeth II, her sixteenth generation descendant.
With the heir born, time had come for Elizabeth to be crowned Queen of England, Wales, and Ireland. However, the royal couple’s joy diminished during the Christmas season when rumors rang about Elizabeth’s cousin, the Earl of Warwick, the York heir to the English throne who was locked away in the Tower of London. The English whispered and roared that the young earl had escaped while others professed that he met the same fate as the young York Princes.
In January 1487, the first pretender to the throne appeared on the scene. Lambert Simnel was in Ireland, claiming to be the escaped Earl of Warwick. The next month, Henry displayed the twelve-year-old Earl in a procession through London to St. Paul’s Cathedral then brought Warwick to the Queen at Sheen Palace. Warwick was a threat to Henry but he had the mental capacity of a one-year-old yet Henry couldn’t kill the child.
With that rumor squashed, other threats continued to haunt the royal couple. The Earl of Lincoln, nephew to Richard III and the Queen’s cousin, fled to Flanders where his aunt, Margaret of York, Duchess if Burgundy resided. She hated Henry since he killed her brother Richard at Bosworth and did all within her power to undermine Henry. Margaret acknowledged Simnel and the Yorkist sailed to Ireland where the Anglo-Irish lords crowned Simnel. Lincoln was the force behind this plot and was the leader of the Yorkists faction.
All came to a head when on May 5, 1487 when word of the invasion reached Henry. The king set up his headquarters at Kenilworth, “a strongly built, centrally located fortress.” He sent word to Elizabeth and along with Arthur they joined him on May 29. In June, the Earl of Lincoln landed in Lancashire. Henry marched to Conventry to protect England and his reign.
June 16th arrived and the two sides clashed. This was the Battle of Stoke. Henry was victorious. Lincoln was killed and Lambert Simnel was taken prisoner and put in Henry’s household from working in the kitchens, he advanced to become trainer of the King’s hawks and died in 1525.
“The Battle of Stoke, which Andrè called ‘the second triumph of Henry VII,’ finally brought the Wars of the Roses to an end…” as Alison Weir states in her biography entitled Elizabeth of York.
The Wars of the Roses came to an end but Elizabeth still hadn’t been crowned. She was the first uncrowned queen to birth an heir since William the Conqueror in 1066. That fact was one of the complaint of the rebels as well as the English people.
In September 1487 summonses were sent out to the nobility to the attend Elizabeth’s coronation in November. On the twenty-third day of the month, Elizabeth departed from Greenwich with her mother-in-law and attended by lords and ladies and rode the royal barge to the Tower of London. The next day, England’s princess made her state entry into London.
On the 25th, which happened to be St. Katherine’s Day, Elizabeth journeyed to her coronation, decked out in gold, jewels, and ermine. Though, no tradition existed that prohibited kings from attending their wives’ coronation, Henry did not attend instead allowing the Elizabeth to enjoy the ceremony. Henry did watch the ceremony that dated to 1399, hidden behind a screen.
On the 25th, which happened to be St. Katherine’s Day, Elizabeth journeyed to her coronation, decked out in gold, jewels, and ermine. Though, no tradition existed that prohibited kings from attending their wives’ coronation, Henry did not attend instead allowing the Elizabeth to enjoy the ceremony. Henry did watch the ceremony that dated to 1399, hidden behind a screen.
With the crown on the queen’s head, it was time to celebrate. The banquet was in Westminster Hall. “Elizabeth, wearing her crown, sat alone at the high table at the top of a flight of steps.” Once again, the king did not attend. Much like most occasions, there was sumptuous food, dancing and verses composed to honor Elizabeth. The next day, Elizabeth traveled to Greenwich and received her dower. With her own household and administrators, Elizabeth took up her role as Queen of England, Wales, and Ireland.
For Elizabeth, family was her center. According to Weir’s Elizabeth of York, “She gave ‘unbounded love’ and support to her children, her sisters, and other relations, and always interested herself in their affairs. She kept her sisters with her at court before they wed, and sometimes after, and they were usually included in the royal celebrations of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun.”
That March, Henry reached an agreement that raised the Tudor dynasty to the top echelons of the continent’s monarchies—the agreement of marriage between Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon. Katherine was bringing an estimated 20 million pounds (today’s currency) to the isle nation.
That same month, Elizabeth was pregnant with her second child. This was three years after the birth of Arthur. Henry was overjoyed and bestowed lavish gifts upon Elizabeth. On November 29, 1489, Elizabeth gave birth to her first daughter—Margaret Tudor. The next day—the feast day of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, was baptized. Margaret Tudor would go on to marry James IV of Scotland and birth James V, father of Mary, Queen of Scots.
That Christmas was a solemn affair as a measles epidemic spread through Elizabeth’s court and had taken the lives of some ladies. And Elizabeth hadn’t been churched and the hard recovery Elizabeth experience with Arthur caused the queen to flee to Greenwich.
That Christmas was a solemn affair as a measles epidemic spread through Elizabeth’s court and had taken the lives of some ladies. And Elizabeth hadn’t been churched and the hard recovery Elizabeth experience with Arthur caused the queen to flee to Greenwich.
The new year rang in with running of the realm and on 27 February 1490, Arthur was conveyed to Westminster where he was endowed with the titles of Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. The boy prince had he had his own celebrations.
The two Tudor children were joined by a third child on June 28, 1491. The child was named Henry. His household was established at Eltham Palace in Kent. “Although, Prince Arthur was brought up away from the court, Elizabeth’s younger children were largely reared in close proximity to their parents, at Eltham, or at Sheen (where she herself had spent part of her early childhood), Greenwich, or the Archbishop of Canterbury’s palace at Croydon, Surrey—all well away from the unhealthy air of London.”
Even though, the Tudor family were happy, they were still dogged by the rumors that one of the princes survived. And in the autumn of 1491, those rumors centered around a “handsome stranger” who claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger son, who would have been sixteen in August of 1491 and this boy was around that age. Margaret of Burgundy recognized him as her nephew. This boy was Perkin Warbeck.
First, the nation had to mourning. On June 8, 1492, Elizabeth Wydeville (mother to Elizabeth of York and Queen of England) died. Elizabeth couldn’t be with her mother at the time since she was once again pregnant and near to birth.
Less than a month later, July 2 to be exact, Elizabeth birth her second daughter—Elizabeth—named for her mother and grandmother.
By this time, Henry had tried to rid himself of this pretender who he called the “feigned lad” and made a protest to the rulers of Flanders but the diplomatic route failed and so did relations between England and Flanders.
To dismiss the claims of the new pretender, Henry created his three-year-old Henry the Duke of York. Edward VI bestowed the title onto his second son, Richard, so until the eighteenth century the second sons would bear the title.
Time passed and in October 1495, Elizabeth was pregnant again. The joyous occasion was marred by the death of her three-year daughter Elizabeth.
Then the next month Perkin Warbeck was in Scotland where he was received at Stirling Castle. James IV liked him, clothing the boy in finery, granting him a pension and took him on a progress through Scotland. The Scottish king held a tournament for him and even married him to a distant relation—Katherine, daughter of George Gordon, Earl of Huntly.
The time passed and Elizabeth birthed her third daughter—Mary Tudor on March 18, 1496 at Sheen Palace. Mary would marry the King of France who was an old man who then died and she went on to marry Duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon.
Less than six months later, James IV invaded England with Warbeck who promised to return Berwick, a dispute area in the north of England that had once belong to Scotland. But the Scots looted so James had to retreat back to Scotland when Henry’s army appeared.
Henry was dealing with rebels and trying to raise money to fight against Warbeck and the Scots and soon, 1497 arrived and was half way through when a new treaty was agreed with Spain. It stated for Katherine to come to England when she was fourteen, which she would reach in 1499. And a month later, Arthur and Katherine were formally betrothed.
The joy of the agreement didn’t last long since Warbeck landed in Cornwall on September 7, 1497. About a fortnight later, Warbeck fled south to Southampton and took sanctuary in Beaulieu Abbey. Henry surrounded the abbey and promised “the pretender a pardon if he surrendered to the King and threw himself on his ‘grace and pity.’ Warbeck took up the offer.
Warbeck was paraded through London then imprisoned in the Tower. That same year (1497), Henry brought the young pretender to court where he was followed by two guards and confined to the palace. It was reported that Henry treated them well but did not allow Katherine and Warbeck to sleep together.
A year later on June 9, 1498 Perkin escaped from the Palace of Westminster. Henry didn’t execute him but he did put him in stocks and made him read aloud his confession then returned to the Tower.
Henry and Elizabeth now focused on the wedding of Arthur and Katherine. And Henry was also negotiated a marriage between Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland so to bring peace to the nations and his put his bloodline on the Scottish throne. Elizabeth, though, demanded that her daughter not marry before September 1503 when Margaret would be fourteen.
But the royal couple had another reason to celebrate. Elizabeth bore a third son and her sixth child on February 21, 1499 at Greenwich. The young prince was named Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. It was a difficult pregnancy for the queen.
For Henry and Elizabeth much was changing. Those changes would bring happiness and grief.
Henry Tudor won the English crown at Bosworth and rode to London. A new dynasty reigned in England. For Tudor to hold the crown, a marriage was necessary. Elizabeth of York could transfer her claim to the crown to the man she married. Because there was another who could claim the throne, Elizabeth’s young cousin, the Earl of Warwick. The Earl was the son of Elizabeth’s uncle, the Duke of Clarence and his wife who were both dead, and the nobles could support this boy instead of Henry.
So Henry had to act. He had Elizabeth with the young Earl to be brought south to London. Henry entered the city on September 3, 1485 and proclaimed to the Privy Council “his intention of marrying Elizabeth of York.”
Now, Parliament had to act. They repealed the act that made Elizabeth and her siblings illegitimate and restored her royal status. She was also declared Duchess of York. With that seen to now a dispensation for marriage had to be obtained since Elizabeth and Henry had a “fourth degree of kinship.”
In the meantime, Henry claimed the throne by “right of conquest.” He “declared it was the true judgment of God, expressed in his victory at Bosworth. That gave him the crown by divine right.” No matter what he said, his support from the nobles would only come with the marriage and bring peace between the two house of York and Lancaster.
So, who was this man who brought the two houses together. Alison Weir writes in Elizabeth of York that Spanish ambassador described Henry Tudor as “there is nothing purely English in the English king’s face.”
Yet, noted in the same book, Henry was describe with more detail. “His body was slender but well-built and strong; his height above average. His appearance was remarkably attractive; his eyes were small and blue.” This king stood over six feet tall.
During the wait for the dispensation, Henry courted his royal betrothed with private meetings between the couple. But the courting didn’t stop Henry’s plans for his coronation.
On October 30, 1485, the coronation ceremony took place at Westminster Abbey. This displeased some nobles who believed that Henry should have only been king through his marriage to Elizabeth. The crown could be trasmit through the female line but would not wield sovereign power. This had happened since the royal houses of Plantagenet, York and now Tudor all possessed a claim through the female line.
No matter, this political marriage became a love match. Nobles spoke of the love between the couple and in December of 1485, the marriage date was set for January 18, 1486. It was reported that Henry held a “singular love” for Elizabeth.
From December 10 onward, Elizabeth was treated as the Queen of England as the royal preparations began.
With the wedding only four days away, Henry and Elizabeth presented a petition to the legate in chapel of Westiminster Abbey since the papal dispensation hadn’t reached the shores of England and a marriage was being demanded by the people. With their ordinary dispensation was granted to the couple.
The wedding day arrived and the royal couple were married at Westminster. Henry was 29 and Elizabeth 19.
The bride wore “a gown of silk damask and crimson satin.” It had a “kirtle of white cloth of gold damask and a mantle of the same suit, furred with ermine.” Her blonde hair hung loose and was “threaded with jewels, not the color of her clothes, that proclaimed her virginity.”
The groom was “attired in cloth of gold. Henry gave the queen a wedding ring of gold, that he purchased in December.
Return for the third part of Elizabeth and Henry’s love story and learn more about the marriage that was the only successful union of the Tudor dynasty .
The Cousins’ War started in 1399. We know it as The War of the Roses. The House of Lancaster battle the House of York—the red rose and the white rose. By the fifteenth century, Edward Plantagenet claimed the throne from Henry VI. Edward became King Edward IV.
Edward IV married Elizabeth Wydeville, Lady Grey, an impoverished Lancastarian widow. The king and queen’s first child was born on 11 February 1466 at Westminster. That child was Elizabeth Plantagenet, Princess of England, or Elizabeth of York. She was the first born princess in more than a century.
She grew up in “the most splendid court that could be found in all Christendom.”
Meanwhile, Margaret Beaufort was born in 1443 to John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, a descendent from King Edward III through the illegitimate blood line. Though the four Beaufort children were legitimated by Richard II, there was an added provision to act that stated the Beauforts could not inherit the crown. At twelve, Margaret who was a very desired heiress was married to Edmund Tudor—a man with royal blood as well. His mother was Queen Katherine of Valois, the widowed French wife of Henry V of England (and Agincourt fame), and a lowly Welsh squire Owen Tudor. Though, Edmund Tudor was fourteen years older than his wife. Such marriages were not uncommon among the nobility. Most bridegrooms waited until the young bride had reached an appropriate age. Not Edmund Tudor.
Margaret became pregnant and bore her son, Henry, on January 28, 1457. She had a traumatic birth and never bore any more children. As for Edmund Tudor, he died of plague before the birth of this future king. Now, Margaret was thirteen, a mother and a widow for twelve weeks. And a Lancastrian in a Yorkist time.
While Elizabeth grew up in “the most splendid court that could be found in all Christendom”, Henry, the Earl of Richmond, and his mother, a mother and son on the wrong side, were placed under the guardianship of William Herbert, an equally staunch Yorkist, after their home, Pembroke Castle fell.
In time to come, Margaret married her second husband, Sir Henry Strafford, a Yorkist, in order to have her son’s earldom returned to him especially since Edward IV didn’t like Margaret.
But in these turmoil times peace never last long. The Earl of Warwick—known as the Kingmaker and the man who helped Edward win the crown—along with the king’s brother George, Duke of Clarence, rebelled against Edward and set the feeble Henry VI back on the throne. With the Yorkist fleeing, Jasper Tudor, Henry’s uncle, claimed custody of his nephew while, Elizabeth, her mother, and siblings sought out sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.
But the tender peace shatters when Edward VI returns and reclaims his throne. Jasper and Henry flee England and become fugitives. Henry Tudor is fourteen. His life would be one of penury and danger, meanwhile, Elizabeth was reared a Princess. She received an education of a princess, which was lacking, and by our modern eyes not much of an education. Her granddaughter and namesake would receive a better one.
Elizabeth loved books so she possessed the capability of reading and writing. Yet, the princess struggled to speak French, knew no Latin (that was a male’s subject) and as was schooled to run a household—even a royal household—and entertain. She was raised to be a Queen, wife, and mother.
During this time, it might appear as if this royal couple would never find their way to each other. Elizabeth’s father saw Henry Tudor as a threat to his throne and wanted Henry to be returned to England, offering a grand amount of gold to Francis II, Duke of Brittany, where Henry was living. Yet, Edward didn’t plan to kill Henry but marry him to his daughter, Elizabeth in order to unite the two rival houses.
Henry though, not trusting the king, feigned illness and received sanctuary in a church in St. Malo.
In 1482, the king made one more offer to Henry. He granted the lands of his maternal grandmother, heiress to manors in three English counties, as long as he returned from “exile to be in the grace and favor of the King’s highness.” Henry didn’t sail to England.
With his life as a fugitive, Henry trusted a scant number of people. His mother and his uncle and no more beyond those two. This way of life would increase during his lifetime.
On April 9, 1483, both Henry and Elizabeth’s lives changed. Edward IV died at forty-one with his oldest child aged seventeen and his heir, Edward, a mere boy. Now, Richard III, Elizabeth’s uncle, would claim the throne for himself and take control of Edward (the rightful king— Edward V) and his brother Richard. Elizabeth and her mother and siblings would once again seek sanctuary in Westminster again.
During this time, Richard III through machinations was able to prove (more like scheme) that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville invalid and his nephews and nieces, including Elizabeth, bastards and legally unable to inherit the throne.
This acts upset powerful Englishmen who sailed to Henry Tudor’s side. Henry’s opportunity was drawing nearer thanks to Richard’s action and his mother. By this time, she had married Thomas Stanley. Stanley was a rich and powerful man and Richard couldn’t alienate him. So, Margaret waited and plotted with Elizabeth Wydeville to marry their children. Henry Tudor would be king and Elizabeth would be queen. Then the Princes in the Tower disappeared and all accused Richard III of killing the young brothers. Whether Richard killed them or not, I cannot say. That truth is lost to history.
But the accusatory talk ate away at more of Richard’s support. The proposed marriage had much support and brought more people to Henry’s side though his claim was dubious even according to the act impossible. Then Richard’s trust man, the Duke of Buckingham, switched sides. The duke informed Henry that on “St. Luke’s Day, October 18, and that he himself would raise the men of Wales. A proclamation was then made to the confederacies that Buckingham ‘had repented of his former conduct and would be the chief mover’ in the planned risings.”
Henry Tudor joined in with Buckingham’s rebellion. But Richard had already learned of the conspiracy. So when Henry sailed on October 31, the rebellion had failed yet Henry was unaware. Bad weather had blown Henry off course and he was just off Plymouth’s coast when he learned of Buckingham’s death and the army roused by the dead duke had fled. Henry sailed back to Brittany—crownless.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth stepped out of sanctuary and went to her uncle Richard and joined the Queen Anne’s household. In January, Parliament labeled Henry Tudor a traitor and if he returned to England, he would executed.
Much happened around Elizabeth and Henry. Politics and intrigue that affected this young couple. Both just had to wait for their moment. Richard had control of Elizabeth and hunted for Henry. There is talk about Richard wanting to marry his niece. But two problems stood in his way. She was a bastard as he had declared and was his reason for claiming the English throne. The second was that she was his niece which was a close blood relation and would need a dispensation for a marriage. Richard denied that he wished to marry Elizabeth. And with the reputation that the Tudor concocted of him, it is easy to believe that’s denial was a lie.
But this was the year were much changed. Charles VIII of France recognized Henry Tudor as King of England “and gave him money, ships and French troops for an invasion, with the aim—as Henry put it—of ‘the just depriving of that homicide and unnatural tyrant.’”
This recognition brought more Englishmen to Henry’s side and Henry had to act soon.
On August 1, Henry Tudor sail from Harfleur in Normandy. Six days later, he landed at Milford Haven near Pembroke. The Welshman set his foot on Welsh soil and fell to his knees and said, “’Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an unworthy nation’”—and kissed the ground. Then, calling on the aid of God and St. George, he urged his men onward, marching under a white and green banner proudly displaying the red dragon traditionally attributed to Cadwaladr. He came, as he was at pains to make clear, to reconcile the warring factions.”
Henry and his army marched eastward and on August 15, he crossed into England. Richard rode to confront him. On August 22, 1485, the two armies met. The Battle of Bosworth raged and at the end of the bloody meeting, the Tudor dynasty was born.
In the next installment the young couple meet.
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Now in the Royal Castle, Mary gathered her loyal supporters. Days laters, those men invovled in Rizzio’s death fled. By now, Mary’s army numbered 8000 men, she rode at the head of army into Edinburgh. She regained control of her realm. She pardoned some conspirators who were not directly involved with Rizzio’s murder. Her plan was simple, drive a wedge between these group of men.
Darnley signed a declaration that he was not a part of the murder. This fit Mary’s needs because she couldn’t have doubts about her unborn child’s legitimacy. In April of 1566, the Earl of Moray (Lord James Stewart, bastard half-brother to Mary and Protestant) arrived at Edinburgh Castle, where Mary was residing.
She gave Moray permission to stay at the imposing castle to keep a close watch on him. She knew that Moray held the support of Protestant lords as well as England and had to play it this way to keep support for her. This time Mary wouldn’t trust her half-brother but she knew that she needed him. The Protestants of Scotland looked to him as their leader. And Scottish lords had no problem rebelling against or killing their monarch. They had done so before.
Before the Scottish court, Mary gave the appearance of marital happiness but Darnley had been shut out from her graces and the seat of power. On 19 June 1566, Mary gave birth to James, the Duke of Rothesay (future James VI of Scotland and James I of England). Scotland had an heir to the throne and they rejoiced. Mary soared to great heights.
Darnley, though, was leading “a very disorderly life. Every night, he left the castle and went out vagabonding and drinking heavily with his young male friends in the streets of Edinburgh. He would return at all hours of the night, so that the castle gates had to be unlocked for him, which left Mary feeling ‘there was no safety, either for herself or her son.'”
Mary decided to keep James with her. She was fearful her enemies make steal him away and rule in his name. (Spoiler: That would happen) It didn’t help Mary that Darnley was still plotting to become king. The man was far from Mary’s good graces. He knew nothing of the Queen’s actions, daily life and certainly knew nothing of her affection. Mary seeking someone she could trust, she was turning more and more to the Earl of Bothwell.
Sadly for Mary, the men in her life sucked. And Darnley’s intrigue wasn’t the only on occurring. Moray and Bothwell, both had their own separate plans that would lead to death and the loss of the Scottish crown.
In October 1566, Mary gathered her Border lords for a justice eyre (a circuit court to hear legal cases). Darnley requested to accompany her and he was refused. Not pleased, Darnley starts to throw what I call hissy fits. One fit was his threat to sail away from Scotland. Mary could not allow such a thing. That posed a threat to her, her son and realm.
In the lowlands, during the eyre, Lord Bothwell had been attacked and injured. On 15 October, Mary learned on this and rode from Jedburgh to Hermitage Castle (The Earl of Bothwell’s, James Hepburn, holding) then rode back to Jedburgh. A sixty mile round trip that would be come to bite her in the ass.
The rest of 1566, Mary was ill and rested at Craigmillar Castle. During her recovery, Darnley appears again only to disappear to Mary’s relief. Her husband was a necessary nuisance. Her lords were trying to find a way to divorce her from her wastrel of a husband. He was a danger to her yet she couldn’t risk the standing of her son–a divorce would have James declared illegitmate. Yet, Mary knew that her husband wanted her dead. Her death would lead to a regency and Darnley wanted to be appointed Regent. Scotland had had a regency since 1393 and Mary, Queen of Scots (Scotland would have another under Mary’s son).
But many wanted Darnley dead too.
In 1567, (According to testimony made in 1573) a bond was drawn up to kill Darnley. No record exists and no one saw this written bond. But that didn’t stop the English and Cecil and Walingsham from using this testimony)
At the end of 1566, Darnley became ill with pox, syphillis as the Diurnal of Occurents’ stated. The sixteenth century cure wasn’t an easy one. It was mercury baths. He was at his father’s stronghold near Glasgow. That wasn’t necessary a good thing for Mary.
In the beginning in 1567, Mary had proof of two conspiracies: Lords against Darnely with plans to kill him and Darnley against Mary. With no other choice, Mary rode to Glasgow to confront her husband and bring him to Edinburgh to watch him.
Now the queen had her husband and Bothwell had recovered from his injuries and journeyed to the royal burgh. The plan was to lodge Darnely in Craigmillar. But he feared being locked up and killed so he went to Kirk o’ Field. Later many would say that Mary had set up the house in order to kill him. But that choice was Darnley’s.
The house “lay to the south of Edinburgh, on a hill overlooking the Cowgate; it stood just inside the city wall and three-quarters of a mile from Holyrood Palace, in a semi-rural location, ‘environed with pleasant gardens, and removed from the noise of the people.'”
Mary saw that her husband had all the luxuries the husband of the queen could want or need. As he recovered, the queen “visited her husband daily.” According to Alison Weir’s book, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, she spent two nights at Kirk o’ Field, sleeping in the bedroom below his. They sat up late, sometimes until midnight, talking, playing cards or listening to music, and ‘many nobles’ came with the Queen to divert the convalescent.
Though, Mary might have shown kindess to her husband, she didn’t trust him and continued to learn of all his undermined plans against her.
On 9 February 1567, the last day of Sunday before the beginning of Lent, the queen had a full schedule. She had a wedding of her favorite servants, attended a banquet and around 7, she rode to Kirk o’ Field in the company of Lords Bothwell, Argyll and Huntly. They spent the time playing dice and chatting. The group including the Queen were dressed for the wedding masque that they would be attending later that night.
At midnight, Mary and the lords departed. This night has many stories depending on who you believe and when the story is told. Whatever you believe, Mary returned to Holyrood, attended the masque and took part in the bedding ceremony of the newlyweds then returned to her apartments.
There she held a meeting with the Captain of her Guards and Bothwell. The captain left Bothwell and the queen alone where they talked in private for some time then Bothwell left and Mary went to bed. Another act that would be used against Mary.
Shortly before 2 a.m. Mary was woken by an explosion. She thought it might be cannon fire and sent messengers to learn what was happening. They returned with the news of an explosion of Kirk o’ Field and the belief that Darnley was dead.
Lord Bothwell was the Sheriff of Edinburgh and the duty to investigate fell to him. His servant had to wake him. He sent his men then returned to bed.
Bodies of servants were discovered in the rubble remains of the house but Darnley had not been find. “At last, at 5 a.m., three hours after the explosion, someone thought to look in the south garden and orchard, beyond Flodden Wall, and it was there that they found the bodies of the twenty-year-old king and his valet.” Both men were dressed in short nightshirts and neither body had a mark on their flesh. “Darnley was stretched out on his back, under a pear tree, with one hand draped modestly over his genitals.”
Near the bodies was a chair, rope, and a dagger. The clothing weren’t burned, scorched or black from powder.
Mary learned of the news. She fell into deep grief and stayed in her chamber all day. Weir writes, “There is no doubt that Darnley’s murder left Mary grief-stricken, emotionally shattered and fearful for her own safety. For several months afterwards, she seems not to have functioned normally, and her judgment, never very good at the best of times, utterly failed her.”
This was the beginning in the end for her as Scotland’s queen and her life.
Mary’s second marriage held all of Europe enthralled. Many European countries had a political interest in the man Mary would walk down the aisle with. No country more than England and its queen, Elizabeth I and her most trusted advisor, Sir William Cecil.
Elizabeth even offered her favorite, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. But Mary refused her cousin’s rumored lover. But Mary did marry an Englishman. The Englishman that Elizabeth and Cecil didn’t want her to bind herself to.
Her second husband was Henry Stuart known as Lord Darnley, his courtesy title from his Scottish father, the Earl of Lennox. Now this is a crazy intersecting blood line.
So here we go: Lord Darnley’s mother was Lady Margaret Douglas. Her mother was Margaret Tudor who was Henry VIII sister. Mother Margaret (let’s call her to distinguish her from her daughter) had married the King of Scotland James IV (Mary, Queen of Scots grandfather) who died. Mother Margaret then married the Earl of Angus, Margaret’s father. Lady Margaret Douglas had a claim to the English throne as the granddaughter of Henry VII and as niece of Henry VIII. Both Margarets ended up in England and Henry VIII’s court because of some very crazy Scottish in-fighting (too long and soap opera-esque to explain here).
Now Lord Darnley’s father was the Scottish lord, Matthew Stuart, the 4th Earl of Lennox. His estates were located near Glasgow. He fled Scotland in 1534 then married Margaret Douglas.
Both mother and father had grand plans for their son and that plan was to wear a crown and the Scottish crown would do nicely.
Lord Darnley was the second of eight children (the eldest had died). He was born in December of 1545 or 1546. He was reared a Roman Catholic but would follow any religion if it gained him what he wanted.
Darnley was considered handsome even being described as “most handsome”. He stood between 6’1 to 6’3 so he was taller than Mary’s 5’10 to 5’11. He had a slim, strong and athletic physique that was desirable. He had fair, close-cropped curly hair. Darnley was the perfect courtier. He played instruments like the lute, played games and danced. Yet, this boy had his faults. He was spoiled, immature, and a drunk.
In 1565, Darnley was presented to Mary at Wemyss Castle then they parted ways. But they were soon reunited. Darnley charmed all the Scottish lords whose support he needed to marry Mary. He attended church with Lord James Stewart, a Protestant, as well as Mary. As stated before, anything to get the crown.
During this time, Mary’s talks with Elizabeth to be named as her heir fell apart. This was Darnley’s chance to gain Mary’s hand and Mary’s chance to get back at Elizabeth.
In April of that year, Darnley fell ill and Mary rushed to his side and cared for him herself. After that, Mary lavished him with gifts. She decided to wed Lord Henry Darnley. She believed herself in love but it was most certainly infatuation. As an English subject, he was required to gain Elizabeth’s consent. She did not give it but that didn’t stop the marriage from occurring.
Lord James Stewart, now Earl of Moray, was against this union and refused to sign a document in support of the marriage. This is the start when Lord James turned against his half-sister. Yet, the wedding date was set for July 29, 1565. The day before, Mary proclaimed Darnley King of Scots.
In August, Lord James and some other lords rebelled. It is called The Chaseabout Raid. This rebellion got its name because both sides just rode about, chasing (in Mary’s case) and fleeing (Lord James’ case). It ended because Lord James fled to England.
As Mary was at the height of her reign, her marriage was at its lowest. Darnley was a drunk. He spent his time carousing in taverns and brothels. Worse, the so-called King believed the hype (when he was king in name only). Meanwhile, Mary began spending time with Rizzio, her Italian secretary. Naturally this sparked talk of an affair between the queen and the upstart who came to Mary’s court as a musician and rose to secretary and close confidant of the queen.
People have said that she was foolish to do this but Henry VIII liked to appoint “lower classes” to high positions because they would know where their lives hung. After all Cromwell and Worsley were sons of a blacksmith and a butcher.
Now, this royal couple lived very separate lives. During this time, a conspiracy began with Darnley being played by the lords. It is believed that this started so the rebel lords could return to Scotland. The Earl of Ruthven played a part along with the Earl of Morton, the Earl of Lennox and other Scottish nobles along with Sir William Cecil. It was decided that Rizzio had to die and the now pregnant queen must be detained until her child was born and Darnley given the Crown Matrimonal (which would have made him King of Scotland).
The plan to murder Rizzio happened as Darnley wished. In March 1566, the pregnant Mary hosted a few close courtiers for supper in her closet (a small room). During the night, Darnley made an appearance, playing the charming husband, when Lord Ruthven burst in, demanding Rizzio be handed over to him. Rizzio cowered behind the queen.
The other conspirators rushed in to the small room that could hold a dozen and was now crammed with at least thirty people. The men grabbed at Rizzio. Mary was thrown into Darnley’s arms and he was told to take his wife away. Darnley pulled Mary from the closet into the large space and Rizzio chased after her. Just then the men attacked, stabbing Rizzio. He cried out and clutched at the queen’s skirts as they stabbed him. Darnley bent back his fingers and the assassins dragged Rizzio away.
If you visit Holyrood Palace in Scotland, there is a plaque that states that this is the spot Rizzio died. People claim that they can see the blood stain on the wooden floorboards but those board had been replaced. Rizzio laid died in the queen’s rooms and Darnley’s dagger was demanded. His dagger was “embedded in Rizzio’s side to proclaim the King’s invovlement in the deed.”
The queen proclaimed that these lords planned to kill her and her unborn child. According to Alison Weir in Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, “that Fawdonside (a member of the conspiracy) had held a loaded pistol to her womb and would have killed her had not his gun refused to give fire.”
She could be right because “one of Ruthven’s followers…told James I (Of England and James VI of Scotland and son of Mary and Henry) that he had saved his life and that of his mother.”
That night, the queen was locked in her rooms with “Dowager Countess of Huntly and a few female servants with eighty Douglas men standing guard outside the palace gates and her bedchamber door, preventing her from communciating with the rest of her household.”
The next day, Darnley went to the queen in terror and begging her forgiveness. He swore that Rizzio’s murder was not his plan.
Mary replied, “Sire, within the last 24 hours you have done me such a wrong that neither the recollection of our early friendship nor all the hope you can give me of the future can ever make me forget it. I think you may never be able to undo what you have done. You say you are sorry, and this gives me some comfort. Yet I cannot but think that you are driven to it rather by necessity than led by any sentiment of true and sincere affection.”
She demanded Darnley reveal all and he did. He told of the plan to imprison her in Stirling Castle until she died. Mary can up with a plan.
Together, the royal couple escaped through the back stairs and through the wine cellar. They had to make their way through the cemetery and there two men waited with four horses. Mary heavily pregnant mounted her horse and rode away to Seton Castle then onto Dunbar Castle. After five hours in the saddle, Mary arrived safely.