Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (7 October 1515 – 7 March 1578), was the daughter of the Scottish queen dowager Margaret Tudor . In her youth she was high in the favour of her uncle, Henry VIII of England, but twice incurred the King's anger, first for her unauthorised engagement to Lord Thomas Howard, who died in the Tower of London in 1537 because of his misalliance with her, and again in 1540 for an affair with Thomas Howard's nephew Sir Charles Howard, the brother of Henry's wife Katherine Howard. On 6 July 1544, she married Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, one of Scotland's leading noblemen. Her son Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, married Mary, Queen of Scots, and was the father of James VI and I.
Margaret was born at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland on 7 October 1515 the same year as her cousin Mary Tudor.
Marriage and diplomacy
In 1544, Lady Margaret married a Scottish exile, Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox (1516–1571), who later became regent of Scotland in 1570–1571. In total the couple had eight or nine children, though only two - Henry Stuart (1545-1567), and Charles Stuart (1555-1576), survived to manhood.
King Henry turned against Anne Boleyn in May 1536. When in early July 1536 he learned of Margaret's engagement to Thomas Howard (Anne's uncle), he was furious. Henry had declared his daughters Mary and Elizabeth bastards, leaving Margaret very high in the line of succession; for her to contract an unauthorised marriage was politically outrageous, especially with the son of a powerful nobleman and near kin of the disgraced queen. Both Lord Thomas and Lady Margaret were committed to the Tower. On 18 July 1536, Parliament, by an Act of Attainder, condemned Thomas to death for attempting to 'interrupt the Succession of the Crown. The Act also forbade the marriage of any member of the King's family without his permission.Thomas was spared execution, but remained in the Tower even after Margaret broke off their relationship. He died there on 31 October 1537.
Margaret also fell ill in the Tower, and the King allowed her to move to Syon Abbey under the supervision of the abbess. She was released from imprisonment on 29 October 1537.
Reign of Queen Mary I
During the reign of Queen Mary I of England, Lady Margaret had rooms in Westminster Palace. In November 1553, the Queen told the ambassador, Simon Renard, that Margaret was best suited to succeed her to the throne. Margaret was the chief mourner at Queen Mary's funeral in December 1558. On the accession of Queen Elizabeth I of England, Margaret moved to Yorkshire, where her home at Temple Newsam became a centre for Roman Catholic intrigue.
Margaret succeeded in marrying her elder son, Lord Darnley, to his first cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, thus uniting their claims to the English throne. Queen Elizabeth I disapproved of this marriage and had Lady Margaret sent to the Tower of London in 1566, but after the murder of Margaret's son Darnley in 1567, she was released. Margaret denounced her daughter-in-law, but was eventually later reconciled with her. Her husband assumed the government of Scotland as regent, but was assassinated in 1571. In 1574, she again aroused Queen Elizabeth's anger by marrying her younger son Charles to Elizabeth Cavendish, the stepdaughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. She was again sent to the Tower, unlike the Countess of Shrewsbury, but was pardoned after her son Charles' death in 1576.
Lady Margaret's diplomacy largely contributed to the future succession of her grandson, James VI of Scotland, to the English throne.
Speculation on cause of death
After the death of her younger son, she helped care for his daughter, Lady Arbella. However, she did not outlive him by very long. A few days before her death, she dined with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and this led to rumours that she had been poisoned. There is no historical evidence to substantiate this.