Monday, 6 January 2014

Tudors: The real Margaret Tudor a Scottish Queen

 Now fayre, fayrest of every fayre,
Princes most plesant and preclare,
The lustyest one alyve that byne,
Welcum of Scotlond to be Quene!

 Younge tender plant of pulcritud,
Descendyd of Imperyalle blude;
Fresche fragrant floure of fayrehede shene,
Welcum of Scotlond to be Quene!

 Swet lusty lusum lady clere,
Most myghty kyngis dochter dere,
Borne of a princes most serene,
Welcum of Scotlond to be Quene! 

 Welcum the Rose bothe rede and whyte,
Welcum the floure of our delyte!
Rejoysyng frome the sone beme,
Welcum of Scotlond to be quene;
Welcum of Scotlonde to be quene!


- William Dunbar (1503)

Margaret Tudor, the eldest of Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor VII’s children was actually quite a different person in real life, when compared to Showtime’s “The Tudors” portrayal.   She was a woman who fought for her family, herself and for her crown.  She did not marry the King of Portugal, as depicted in the show and she definitely was not a strumpet nor trollop which is shown either. At times media, or shows temp to teach one thing, but get history and its people wrong. This is a definite case of misrepresentation.  The real Margaret was quite a different person as described below.

Margaret Tudor was born on the 28th of November in 1489. She is presumably named after her grandmother who interestingly was also her godmother; Margaret Beaufort.  By this time, the royal household had separate quarters for raising their children.  She grew up in a separate home from the palace at Westminster, in Eltham. It was here she was brought up as a princess. While at Eltham it is noted that she learned to play the lute and clavichord (all musical instruments period to the time).  She was also tutored in French and Latin. Surprisingly, she was skilled in archery and she knew how to ride horses, in particular sidesaddle. She was also fond of horses.

In 1502 under a treaty with Scotland, she was betrothed to James IV. Preparations for this betrothal had been underway since 1496.  Because James great grandmother was Joan Beaufort, sister to John Beaufort who was great grandfather to Margaret Tudor, they had to wait for papal dispensation. Margaret Tudor was a forth cousin with James IV, which was within the prohibited degree.  Hence approval from the pope was necessary.  The same year her brother Arthur, died on the border of England and Wales. A year later in 1503, her mother Elizabeth of York died in childbirth and the child, named Katherine died a year later. She left for Scotland in 1503 to be with her husband James IV. Her travel to Scotland was a strenuous one and one that tested her will as a future queen. Noted:

"Her first night in Scotland was spent at Fast Castle; the next at the nunnery at Haddington on the third night, at 'Acquik' or 'Dacquik' Castle, Dalkeith Palace, James came to kiss her goodnight. He came again to console her on 4 August, after a stable fire had killed some of her favourite horses. Her riding gear was burnt and a new sumpter cloth or pallion of cloth-of-gold with a velvet cushion cost £127. On the 7 August 1503, Margaret was carried from Dalkeith to Edinburgh on a litter."

(Source: Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer, vol. 2 (1900), 214-215.)

Margaret, 13 wed James, 30 on August 8, 1503 at Holyrood Abbey. This isn’t the king of Portugal that “The Tudors” speak of, and the actress who portrays Margaret isn’t 13.  At this time, Henry had just been married that June to Catherine of Aragon.  It is rumored he had a fit when he found out his sister was going to be “Queen” and he was still a duke, for how could she be of higher rank than him.  Lovely Tudor temper. Margaret and Henry for sure were not living in the same court as the show portrays and the age of both is questionable, as he was 12, and not king at the time she left for Scotland.  

Margaret at first was not happy in Scotland. Her writings to her father Henry VII suggest this. Despite her unhappiness in Scotland her arrival spurred the poet William Dunbar to write The Thrisseil and The Rois (Thistle and the Rose), one of the most famous poems to date.  The poem also honors the joining of the houses of York and Lancastrian of her parents. 

She had a total of 5 children with James. Only one, James V survived to adulthood, born in 1512.  I do not know if she suffered the same genetic blood disorder as it is suggested that Henry VIII suffered from (Carrier of Kell’s positive blood and McLeod syndrome) but it is interesting how many of her children, barely survived infancy. 

Due to strained relations between Scotland and Henry VIII, Margaret’s brother, the country broke out in war in 1513.  September 9th of that same year (1512) after James IV marched to the border, he died in battle at Flodden Field.  James V, her son became king, and Margaret became regent and was to stay regent as long as she did not remarry.  In 1514 she remarried again.  This did not help her to stay as regent.  She married Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus the 6th of August 1514. Meanwhile John Stuart, Duke of Albany, who was a cousin to the king, also next in line for the throne if something happened to Alexander, was voted by Scottish lords to be regent.  The position of Regent was passed to him.  He arrived from France in May 1515.

Margret had her children taken from her and in September of the same year. As a result, she and new her husband fled to England in September 1515. With the help from her brother, Henry VIII, she was able to stay at Harbottle Castle in the north of England. Here she gave birth to her daughter, Margaret Douglas. After she was born, Margaret became very ill and almost died. Alexander her son, died in December that year, but news was delayed due to her poor health. Margaret stayed in England and went to London until 1517. It was then she discovered that her husband Angus had been unfaithful and had taken a mistress. He had also been living off her Scottish revenue. She spent the next few years in a dreadful marriage, no money, and little to no contact with her son James.  Letters written between her and Henry VIII beg of needing money and wanting to leave Scotland.

In 1524, with the help from the Earl of Arran, she was able to overthrow Albany’s regency, as her son was 12, and could now finally rule on his own. But this was short lived, as her husband, Angus returned and took control of the government and control of James V authority from 1525-1528.  She promptly applied for an annulment of her marriage to Angus in March of 1527 and Pope Clement VII issued the final decree.

Margret got married a third and final time.  In April of 1528, Margaret married Henry Stewart, Lord Methven. Angus who still had influence in Scottish court, had Lord Methven arrested on the grounds that he married the Queen without any approval. Margaret’s son, James who removed Angus and his family from power, overturned this. James was able to have Lord Methven as his stepfather and had parliament proclaim Angus and his followers “traitors.” Angus escaped to England and did not return until James V death.

Over the years Margaret had a good relation with her son James. She preferred to have closer relations with England, but her son favored France. On October 18, 1541 Margaret died in Methven Castle, Scotland.  She did not die due to foul play like “The Tudors” suggests.  Sad to note, her third marriage unfortunately went like her second.  Methven took a mistress and lived off her money. It is theorized that she died from a stroke. Like her brother and her a few others in her family, her weight later became an issue and more than likely impacted her health.

In watching the Tudors, the image of Margret is defiantly tainted and quite inaccurate.  She wasn’t the trollop or strumpet that is shown in the show nor did she marry any of the characters they portray her to.  She wasn’t defiantly was not brunette. Nor did she have raging fistfights with her husbands. That is a complete historical inaccuracy. Women never hit their husbands, especially if you were of nobility. It was just not done. Now she was known to have been a bit of an actress and spoiled, but it might have been because her brother Henry seemed to cater to many of her request. But she was Queen of Scotland for sometime and she was the eldest child to a victorious king, Henry VII. 

At times media representation of historical individuals sometimes is catered not to us historians, but to the masses, as I think was the reasoning behind “The Tudors” being scripted as it was. The show has its good points, yet it has its flaws. The depiction of Margaret Tudor is one of them.  Interestingly, the character of the show was based off both Mary and Margaret Tudor, for reasons I am not too sure why, but maybe to simplify the script and playing of the show and not to confuse audiences.  Tudor history is vast and complex and can be a demon within itself.  For whatever reason, it paints a very flawed and confusing image of a queen.  I am glad I re-watched the show and picked this up and found out who the real Margaret Tudor was and more.  



  1. As someone whose research has labeled her a Marian scholar of sorts, it delights me when I see others who are interested in setting the record straight on Margaret Tudor. I have some very educated friends, albeit not in British history, who still ask me why I got Margaret so wrong in my First Marie and the Queen of Scots, when everyone knows she married 1) the King of Portugal, and 2) Henry Cavill.

  2. Hello, thank you for the kind words. I re-watched the show on new years and was like OMG they got this so wrong. Margaret Tudor is a relative/ancestor of mine. Time to set some stuff straight:) I have been finding some wonderful articles on her as well. It has been intersting though, so many of them fond of horses.. and its trickled down 17/18 gen later still going strong.

  3. I really enjoyed your post, and before watching the tudors I knew only Margaret's name and than researched her throughout watching the show. I love Tudor history and prefer it to remain as faithful to the person they are portraying as possible (though I know in film and in television that is difficult sometimes) so I wasnt entirely happy with how Margaret was portrayed (or the exclusion of Mary Tudor) but I did enjoy reading your post :)

  4. Thank you I am glad you enjoyed the article:)

  5. I don't know if this will make a difference but in the Tudors they called Henry's Sister Mary, Margaret so the audience would not become confused with the too Mary's.
    So therefore Margaret is Mary and the real Margaret I don't think was mentioned in the Tudors. But its been a while.