BLURB: “Royal Tudor blood ran in her veins. Her mother was a Queen, her father an earl, and she herself was the granddaughter, niece, cousin and grandmother of monarchs. Some thought she should be queen of England. She ranked high at the court of her uncle, Henry VIII, and was lady of honour to five of his wives. Beautiful and tempestuous, she created scandal not just once, but twice, by falling in love with unsuitable men. Fortunately, the marriage arranged for her turned into a love match. Throughout her life her dynastic ties to two crowns proved hazardous. A born political intriguer, she was imprisoned in the Tower of London on three occasions, once under sentence of death. She helped to bring about one of the most notorious royal marriages of the sixteenth century, but it brought only tragedy. Her son and her husband were brutally murdered, and there were rumours that she herself was poisoned. She warred with two queen, Mary of Scotland and Elizabeth of England. A brave survivor, she was instrumental in securing the Stuart succession to the throne of England for her grandson.”
REVIEW: As many of you will know, Weir is one of my favourite historians and I have even had the good fortune to meet her and hear her give a talk on one of her previous books. Because of this, as well as because of the subject matter, I was extremely excited to read this book and have in fact been reading it since I got it at Christmas – blame final year of university for my unusually slow pace! As Weir herself states on numerous occasions, and as is made clear by the admiring tone of the blurb (which runs throughout this biography), Margaret Douglas was an extraordinary Tudor woman about whom very little has previously been written. She was related to many of the key figures of the age and played an integral role in history as we know it today, and after reading this book I am all the more upset to know that her story has remained so little known for so long. Margaret’s life was so full and rich with both scandal and heartbreak that it is difficult to summarise, but I shall attempt to do so in order to give you an idea of why this woman is so interesting and why, as Weir thankfully noticed, a biography of this kind has been a long time in coming. Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister, and was born a Princess of Scotland. Her mother fled with her to England, however, and it was in England that Margaret lived her life, though she maintained very close connections with Scotland. One of the most beautiful and intelligent women at Henry VIII’s court, Margaret caused scandals with her brilliant poetry and her passionate love affairs, two of which incurred the wrath of her Uncle Henry and both of which took place with members of the powerful Howard family. Margaret was eventually married to the Earl of Lennox and through this marriage maintained a high level of power in Scotland which she used on several occasions to attempt to influence different monarchs. She appears to have been a Catholic, despite accepting reforms, and was close to Mary I. Her relationship with Elizabeth was much rockier, particularly when she married her son, Darnley, to Mary, Queen of Scots, the most logical heir apparent to the English throne after the death of Elizabeth, which strengthened the claims of both Mary and Darnley. Although the son born of this marriage, James, would later become James VI of Scotland and James I of England, Margaret had to suffer the loss of her beloved son Darnley in a brutal murder that still remains unsolved. Several years prior to this her husband had also been brutally killed, and it seems that after these events Margaret was even more determined to play a political role. She came into conflict with both Mary and Elizabeth and cared for her young granddaughter, Arbella (who was yet another potential heir to the English throne) until her death. Margaret played a huge role in the shaping of English culture, court and politics (particularly in terms of the Elizabethan succession crisis) and appears to have been a truly amazing woman. Throughout this biography we get the real sense of a strong, intelligent and powerful woman who knows her worth and wishes it to be known to others. This is among my favourite Tudor biographies and I would highly encourage you all to read it.