8th August, 1503: The Rose and the Thistle

On 8th August, 1503, Henry VII’s eldest child, Margaret Tudor, married James IV of Scotland – uniting the quarrelling nations of England and Scotland for all of about five minutes, (I say ‘five minutes’, I actually mean ‘ten years’, but still…)

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The decision that the thirty year old Scottish King would marry the fourteen year old Tudor princess came about in 1495, after a bit of a shit storm, and a genius tactical play by the Scottish King.

In 1495 Henry VII had been ruling for a few years; however there were still people who thought his claim to the throne was dubious to say the least, and wanted him gone. This led to a couple of people pretending to be Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York, one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’. If it was found that the Princes were still alive, Henry’s claim to the throne wouldn’t be worth shit, and all that he had fought for would be thrown into question, and the country plunged back into civil war. Queue Perkin Warbeck.

Perkin was a pretender to the throne of England, claiming he was Richard, Duke of York. His claim was supported by Henry’s enemies, especially those in France, Ireland and Scotland, where Henry was hated the most, so when Perkin arrived in Scotland seeking help, King James was only too happy to oblige. James saw it as an opportunity to dangle a threat of uncertainty over the English, so kept Perkin close, gave him a salary of £1200 per annum and married him to Catherine Gordon, the daughter of a noble courtier. James was nobody’s fool, he was one of the brightest Kings in history; I don’t really believe that James thought that Perkin was who he claimed to be, but he was a handy man to have around.

Now that James had a trump card in his pocket, Henry shit himself and decided it might be a good idea to form an alliance with Scotland, by betrothing his then six year old daughter to the Scottish King, and approached the King with the suggestion.  Eventually Perkin used his income to invade England… but fucked it up, like a massive tit, and was finally captured by Henry VII – but the betrothal continued none-the-less. What harm could it do to keep your enemies close? Both kings saw the potential of the marriage, and both had their eyes on the greater prize of picking up another country through any heirs produced.

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Perkin Warbeck: Gobshite

On 24th January, 1502, both James and Henry agreed to sign a contract to confirm that they wouldn’t try and dick each other over anymore, and so the catchily-titled ‘Treaty of Perpetual Peace’ was created… ‘perpetual’ meaning ‘until you piss me off’ in this case. On the same day, after waiting ages for the Pope to decide if the couple were indeed not so incestuously-related that they would produce gompy, inbred heirs, (James and Margaret were distant cousins), the two kings also confirmed that James would marry Margaret in order to cement the friendship, (I use the term ‘friendship’ loosely here), so the plans for a wedding were drawn up.

On 25th January, 1503 Margaret was married by proxy to James IV at Richmond palace. Proxy weddings weren’t unusual at this time, but I don’t believe for one minute that people didn’t find them hysterical and ridiculous even then. Margaret’s proxy marriage basically meant that she had the usual customary wedding ceremony, but with one of James’ pal’s, a bloke called  Patrick Earl of Bothwell, standing in as the groom because James couldn’t make it, while everyone else stands like gormless idiots, pretends this is a normal thing to do, and definitely not fucked up in the slightest. In fact, proxy marriages were so stupid that when Mary Tudor, Henry VII’s other daughter, married the King of France by proxy years later, she had to ‘consummate’ her marriage by touching naked ankles with the pseudo-groom, though Margaret was spared this fucking ridiculous spectacle.

The proxy marriage was treated as a real marriage, and Margaret was known as Queen of Scotland from that day one, a fact that pissed off Margaret’s younger brother, The Prince Henry (later to be Henry VIII), as it now meant that she had greater titles and wealth than him and consequently received greater privileges at court, like being announced first at dinner, and sitting in a higher position to him. The fat little shit hated not being centre of attention, and outshined by his sister, and had to be warned to rein it in by his parents.

NPG D23868; Prince Henry aftwerwards King Henry VIII published by William Richardson

Prince Henry as a pube haired, spoiled brat of a child, with cold, dead eyes; ruining his sisters weird, groomless wedding with his sour fucking temper, like a little moonfaced shithouse.

The ceremony itself was followed by an enormous banquet and several days of celebrations, including jousting, dancing and pageantry. Margaret, although only fourteen, was the life and soul of the court. She rocked being a princess, she loved to dance and play music, and was fucking obsessed with fine clothes. Both Margaret and the Earl wore cloth of gold to the ceremony, and she was given a new wardrobe to match her new status.

Due to her young age, Margaret wasn’t allowed to travel to Scotland to meet James for the best part of a year. Her Grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, had been forced to marry a man when she was twelve, and was so completely and utterly fucked up by her own experienced of marriage and child birth at such a young age, that she advised against a proper shagging consummation until Margaret was a little older.

Margaret set off for Scotland in June 1503, with a 30000 gold noble dowry; chaperoned by the Earl of Surrey and his wife, and a procession of well-dressed courtiers. Her carriage was kitted out in blue velvet and cloth of gold, and draped in bear skin. Margaret eventually arrived in Scotland on 1st August after three weeks of travelling, and was greeted by the Scottish Lords and the Archbishops of Glasgow, before being escorted to Dalkeith Castle, where she met James IV for the first time, (there had been a stable fire which had killed some of Margaret’s horses, so James had come to console his new wife like a proper sweetheart).

On 7th August, James and Margaret rode into Edinburgh, and Margaret was introduced to the people as their new Queen. Despite hating the English, the people of Scotland were made up to meet their new Queen. James was now thirty and despite being a complete womaniser, had never shown any signs of wanting to marry, which caused uncertainty as to who would inherit the throne upon his death. Now that worry was over, though this may also have something to do with the shit-tonne of wine that James supplied to the city in honour of his wife’s arrival.

James IV & Margaret Tudor-marriage procession

Margaret and James’ wedding procession through the streets of Edinburgh.

Both James and Margaret upped their spouse game by wearing matching outfits of cloth of gold trimmed with black fur, and trotting into the city ahead of a train of horsemen, trumpeters, minstrels and dancers. James kept his arm around his young bride’s waist for most of the day and Edinburgh was in its element. The next day the pair had a proper ceremony at Holyrood Castle to officiate their marriage. Once again, they wore matching ‘his and hers’ outfits, both made from white damask with crimson trimmings, and James, who was known for having the best beard in the kingdom, shaved it off for the event, as Margaret wasn’t a fan and he wanted to win her over big time.

The celebrations went on and on. James had spent a quarter of his annual living allowance on wine for the wedding and was desperate to show the visiting English nobles how rich the Scottish were. The English tried to pass it off as if it was nothing, but were obviously secretly impressed. James’ court was the place to be, and James was one fucking amazing King.

James IV became King after his father was murdered by a man pretending to be a priest as he fled from battle. James was then brought up by and groomed to be King by the very men who had defeated his father. He lived with this guilt all his life, and wore an iron chain around his waist at lent as penance for his dad’s death.

James was incredibly intellectual, and very generous. He spoke fluently in seven languages, including Celtic and had travelled far and wide. He met regularly with his people (including the Celts), and was a much loved King. In those times it was almost expected that kings would have mistresses, and James was no exception, only James seemed to treat his mistresses better than most monarchs, and seemingly never did the dirty on them. He was a womaniser, there is no doubt, but the women who were taken as mistresses by him were treated as queens, and of the several bastard children he had by these women, all were acknowledged and raised as princes and princesses, accessing the best education money could buy.

Shortly after arriving in Scotland, James took Margaret on a tour of his country, there she met all of his children who were being raised and taught together as a family and children of the king. Margaret wrote to her father to tell him about her time with James and commended him being such a fucking good Dad to his illegitimate kids, and whilst initially Margaret told her family that she was homesick, over time the couple came to love each other greatly.

However, Margaret Tudor was not the great love of James’ life. Prior to marrying her, James took a mistress, also called Margaret just to cause confusion, and apparently married her in secret. The problem was, or so the theories go, that James wouldn’t agree to his marriage with Margaret Tudor because of his love for Margaret Drummond, his favourite mistress. The Pro-English noblemen of the Scottish court apparently were having none of this shit, after all a king should marry a princess and stop pretending a mistress in anything more than a bit of fanny, and so decided to bump off Margaret Drummond in order to clear the way for James to marry the Tudor princess.

Margaret Drummond was poisoned at breakfast, along with her two sisters, in 1501 and died. She was given a tomb bestowing a queen and James mourned her death greatly. A few years later, Margaret Tudor wrote of the incident in letters to her family, condemning the Scottish nobles for their actions. Although Margaret eventually came to enjoy the Scottish court she could never really get her head around the women being so outspoken and liberal, but in spite of this her love for the Scottish people grew all the same.

Since James was the biggest Romeo around, he was well practiced in keeping women happy, and knew exactly what to do to make sure he won Margaret’s heart. He was known country wide for his warmth and generosity, he kept taxes low, spent cash when it needed to be spent and bought shit-hot gifts when they needed to be bought. For Margaret this must have been a bit of a change, as her Dad was a known tight arse and didn’t part with a penny unnecessarily. James lavished Margaret with the finest gifts*, and she was every bit the Scottish Queen he had made her. The pair had six children, though sadly only one that lived through infancy, a boy they called James after his father. Aside from the loss of their children the couple were very affectionate and loving and had ten years of happy marriage.

 

NPG D23905; King James IV of Scotland probably by Isaac Taylor

James Iv: Pulling out all the smooth moves on Madge.

In 1509, Margaret’s father, Henry VII, died and her brother Henry VIII came to power. In true Henry VIII style, he went into his reign like a bull in a china shop and decided that in 1513 he would go and cause some shit in France, after all it had been quiet for a while and the French were only a stone’s throw away over the Chanel. This proved to be a problem for James IV, he had a sworn allegiance with France and now his cock-end brother-in-law had decided to go lay waste to them. James decided that there was only one course of action to take: to break the treaty of Perpetual Peace and invade England whilst Henry was away.

There was one thing that James hadn’t banked on though, and that was the fact that Henry had left his wife, the total BAMF and uber heroine, Queen Katherine of Aragon, in charge. Katherine wasn’t having her sister-in-laws hubby invade on her watch and sent her army to lay waste to James, and that’s exactly what they did.

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Katherine of Aragon looking like butter wouldn’t melt. Well let me tell you, butter very much does melt…

James was killed at Flodden by the troops of the Earl of Surrey, the very man who had brought his Wife to him ten years earlier. His body was sent to Katherine of Aragon as proof of his death, who, like a total bad-ass then decided to send his blood stained clothes to Henry in France to use as a war banner, and not so subtle message, to the French.

Sword and Dagger of James IV, and Two Knights' Banners, used at the Battle of Flodden Field

Margaret was gutted at James’ death, and understandably fucked off with her brother, but then all is fair in love and war, and Margaret had to dust herself off and act as regent to their seventeen month old son, the new King of Scotland, James V. Margaret wasn’t even allowed to bury her husband, as her sister-in-law had his body. Ordinarily he would have been buried in a royal grave, but James had been excommunicated the day he decided to break the Treaty of Perpetual Peace, so to bury him in consecrated ground would be like jizzing in the eye of God. So, instead he was shoved in the woodshed at Sheen Abbey and left to rot.

There has been much speculation over James IV’s body. It is believed that it became detached from his head as it lay rotting in the Abbey until it eventually ended up getting dumped in a charnel pit in London. The exact site of the pit has now gone and a pub sits in its place, it is believed that James’ head is still underneath.

‘And what of Margaret?’ I hear you cry. Well she went on to lead a life of up’s and downs, marrying twice more, holding a coup, being a general mother bear and becoming Great Grandma to the one King that eventually did manage to untie the two countries, James VI.

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James IV and his beautiful wife, Queen Margaret, (though I say beautiful, she looks like a 1980’s headmistress in this painting, which is pretty shit considering she is meant to be fourteen).

 

*Some of the gifts can still be seen. For instance, a kick-ass illustrated bible called ‘The Hours of James IV’, (I say ‘kick-ass’ but if my husband gave me a bible nowadays there would be words, like actual harsh murder words), which can be seen in a museum in Vienna, and also a recently found, monogrammed wedding chest is on public display in Scotland. The monograms on the chest are identical to the ones that James commissioned to be put on the tiled floor at Linlithgow castle.

 

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