Margaret Tudor’s Progress to Scotland to Marry James IV

Margaret Tudor and her husband James IV, King of Scots

During the early sixteenth century, relations between Scotland and England remained tense with intermittent raids and attacks along the borders. James IV even went so far as to support the pretender to the English throne Perkin Warbeck, backing his invasion of England. But their relationship soured after Warbeck’s uprising failed and James never followed up with a full-throttled invasion.

The Perkin Warbeck incident was disturbing to Henry VII but James IV also had reason to fear an uprising at home. He had gained the throne by supporting a group of rebellious nobles who captured his father, James III. At the same time, an English army invaded Scotland and tried to force James III to abdicate. In 1488, the rebels, with Prince James in their midst, fought the Battle of Sauchieburn against James III, both sides flying the Scottish flag of the Lion Rampant. James III lost his life, either during or after the battle and James IV was crowned at Scone. But when he realized he had been used as a pawn to depose his father, he did penance by wearing an iron chain around his waist for the rest of his life.

These events left an opening for a peace agreement. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain’s diplomat to England and Scotland, Pedro de Ayala, brokered the Treaty of Ayton in 1497, which sought to outline various rules and processes for administering the shared border to prevent local conflicts from escalating into war. During the negotiations for the Treaty of Ayton, the idea of a marriage between Henry VII’s eldest daughter Margaret and James IV, King of Scots. Margaret was nine years old and not sufficiently mature so the discussions went no further. It took several years before the new Anglo-Scottish relationship would reach conclusive stability.

As a follow-up to the Treaty of Ayton, the Treaty of Perpetual Peace between England and Scotland was finalized in early 1502. Henry’s most senior ministers met with their Scottish counterparts at the palace of Richmond. The English negotiators included Henry Deane, Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester, and Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. The Scots were Robert Blackadder, Archbishop of Glasgow, Patrick Hepburn, 1st Earl of Bothwell, and Andrew Forman. This pact between Henry VII of England and James IV, King of Scots incorporated the participation of Pope Alexander VI, (Rodrigo Borgia). It was binding not only on the kings who signed it, but also on their successors in perpetuity.

The agreement actually consisted of three parts. One was a practical, administrative measure for the extradition of robbers and murderers on the Anglo-Scottish border, an obvious effort to contain the raids of the bothersome Border Reivers. The second was a treaty of perpetual peace, the first permanent peace treaty between England and Scotland since 1328. The terms provided England would not make war on Scotland and Scotland would not attack England. The third treaty was the solemnization of the agreement with a marriage between James and Henry VII’s eldest daughter, Margaret. According to historian Polydore Virgil, it was James who brought up the possibility of marrying Margaret.

King Henry provided a generous dowry for his daughter of ten thousand pounds. Other terms guaranteed Margaret would have sufficient assets to provide her with an income and stipulations regarding her clothing. For James, this agreement enabled his long-sought definitive recognition of Scotland’s independent kingship. For Henry VII, it sealed the permanence of the Tudor dynasty. They hoped the years of war and skirmishes between the two countries would now cease.

The Pope was mentioned in the treaty. Terms required his sanction be obtained before July 1, 1503 for the treaty and that he excommunicate any party who failed to uphold the terms. The Pope was also obliged to give formal permission for James and Margaret’s marriage due to their shared ancestry. James was within four degrees of consanguinity and Margaret was within five degrees and this authorization was easily obtained.

At the time the treaty was ratified, Margaret was thirteen and James was twenty-nine. Although Margaret was of canonical age for marriage, her mother and grandmother petitioned the king to delay her journey to Scotland. As Margaret Beaufort knew full well, thirteen was too young to withstand the rigors of sexual intercourse, let alone childbirth and James IV had a reputation as a known womanizer with several illegitimate children. King Henry took their pleas under advisement, promising James Margaret would arrive in Scotland sometime before September 1503, when she would be nearly fourteen.

The betrothal ceremony took place the day after the completion of the treaty. With the Earl of Bothwell acting as proxy for James IV, a solemn High Mass was celebrated at Richmond Palace. Three archbishops, Blackadder, Deane and Thomas Savage of York, along with three bishops officiated the ceremony. All those who signed the treaty were in attendance along with the King and Queen of England, their children (except Arthur), the greater nobility, the higher clergy and the ambassadors of Europe. After the celebration of Mass, a procession went to Queen Elizabeth’s Great Chamber where the vows of betrothal were spoken.

Margaret was asked by the Archbishop of Glasgow: “Are you content without compulsion, and of your own free will?”

Margaret answered: “I, Margaret, the first begotten daughter of the right excellent, right high and mighty Prince and Princess, Henry by the Grace of God, King of England and Elizabeth, Queen of the same, wittingly and of deliberate mind having twelve years complete in age in the month of November last past, contract matrimony with the high and mighty Prince, James, King of Scotland unto and for my husband and spouse and all other for him forsake.”

A state banquet followed the vows. It was a magnificent occasion, meant to bolster the image of the Tudor dynasty. From this point forward, Margaret was addressed as Queen of Scots, much to the chagrin to her younger brother, Prince Henry. It would be seventeen months before Margaret left for Scotland. During the interim, Arthur Prince of Wales died in April 1502 and in February 1503, Queen Elizabeth died. The Queen’s account books demonstrate Margaret was very close to her mother during the last year of her life.

Both mother and daughter shared a mutual interest in music. Account books show the Queen paid Giles the luter for strings for the Queen of Scots lute and she bought a pair of clavicles, an early form of keyboard instrument. Shortly before her death, the Queen paid 10s to Margaret’s minstrels. One of the Queen’s last presents to Margaret consisted of the trimming of a crimson velvet gown with pampilyon, a costly black fur resembling Persian lamb’s wool. This type of fur was exceedingly rare and only worn by the very rich or royalty. Their time spent together probably consisted of lessons in queenship for Margaret. When her mother was gone, her paternal grandmother, Margaret Beaufort took over these motherly duties.

The English court set out on June 27, 1503 for Margaret Beaufort’s house of Collyweston in northern Northamptonshire where they arrived on July 5. The house had recently been renovated to accommodate the royal guests. After resting for a few days, Margaret bid farewell to her father and grandmother, departing with a cavalcade of English courtiers led by the Earl and Countess of Surrey who acted as her chaperones. It would be a thirty-three-day trek and the journey was not to be just a matter of delivering Queen Margaret to her new kingdom. This was a royal progress through England and southern Scotland, planned with military precision, at enormous cost to the king’s treasury.

Deliberately choreographed according to the king’s orders, the cavalcade was intended to be a clear show of magnificence, to demonstrate the permanence and power of the Tudor dynasty. Nobles would join the procession and then leave as the group made its way along the Great North Road. Sheriffs provided a ceremonial escort through their entire county right up to the northern border where the entourage would be handed over to the neighboring sheriff. The plans for the journey called for a mixture of administrative pomp as well as religious ritual at every place Margaret stopped.

Margaret appeared astride a ‘fair palfrey’ for most of the journey. A litter accompanied her which she could use for grand entrances to towns or if she was tired. Her clothes and those of her attendants were embroidered with the Beaufort portcullis. There were heralds, sergeants at arms, banners and trappings for the horses. It must have been the most sumptuous display imaginable.

The baggage wagons came first in the parade, followed by Margaret’s litter which was covered in the Tudor colors of green and white, decorated with the arms of Scotland and England combined with the red roses of Lancaster and the Beaufort portcullis. The lords and ladies escorting her had their own coats of arms displayed. Many of the people along the way lined the road to see the new Queen of Scots. It was a must-see spectacle for all of the king’s subjects. Bells were rung as she passed by. Minstrels, drummers and trumpeters added music to the visual display.

As she rode, every few miles, there were equestrian displays for her enjoyment. The route went from Collyweston to Grantham, on to Newark and then to Tuxford, followed by a night stop in a country manor owned by the archbishop of York. Next up was Doncaster, then Pontefract and Tadcaster, finally arriving at York, at the time was the second largest city in England. There is an arch still standing in York called ‘Queen Margaret’s Arch’ where she entered the city.

Queen Margaret’s Arch, York. (Photo credit: Michael Jagger, Wikimedia Commons)

She was greeted by the mayor who was dressed in crimson satin. His aldermen wore scarlet gowns with their chains of office around their necks. After welcoming the Queen, they made their way to the Minster as the respectful crowd watched from the street and from the windows. The streets were so packed, it took Margaret two hours to make her way from the gateway to the Minster. Then she took a short ride to the Archbishop’s palace for a rest.

The next day was a Sunday. She attended High Mass at the Minster followed by a procession. First came the Archbishop and bishops, earls and lords, heralds and sergeants at arms. Margaret appeared next, dressed in a gown of cloth of gold with a collar of precious stones and a girdle made of spun gold that reached to the ground. The Countess of Surrey carried her train with a gentleman usher to help her.

Following the Countess were the ladies and gentlewomen who were dressed in rich gowns, great collars, burnished chains, girdles of gold and other riches. No effort was spared in creating an impression in York. The city had been the primary powerbase for Richard, Duke of Gloucester and later when he became King Richard III. Henry Tudor had captured the throne from Richard and his life had been taken at the Battle of Bosworth. Henry VII’s intention was to signal his dynasty was here to stay.

After the procession, Margaret attended a banquet at the Archbishop’s Palace. The officials of York accompanied Margaret the next day as she returned to the road north. They rested at Newburgh Priory that night, then moved on to Northallerton, then Darlington and on to Durham. She spent three days in Durham lodged in the castle, hosted by the bishop. Her journey had been coordinated to coincide with the formal enthronement of the new bishop, William Senhouse so she could attend the event. Among the festivities was a double dinner and a double supper for all worthy attendees.

She moved on to Newcastle. At the gates of the city, children sang cheerful hymns and she was welcomed by immense crowds. She spent the night at the Augustinian monastery. The next day the Earl of Northumberland gave a banquet which lasted until midnight and consisted of games, dances, songs and sports. The journey continued to Morpeth and then Alnwick, where she hunted in the park and killed a buck with her own bow.

The next night was spent in Belford and then she finally arrived in Berwick. To announce her entrance, there was gunfire and two days of festivities and sports, including bear baiting. She was joined by Thomas, Baron Dacre, the Warden of the West March and on August 1, the entire party of between eighteen hundred and two thousand crossed the border into Margaret’s new country and home. The Archbishop of Glasgow welcomed Margaret and her entire party on behalf of the king at Lamberton Kirk, attended by a huge company of Scottish lords and gentlemen. On Monday August 7th, Margaret and James made a state entry into Edinburgh, both of them dressed in cloth of gold trimmed with black velvet or black fur. The wedding ceremony took place on August 8 in the chapel of the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Further reading: “Fatal Rivalry: Flodden 1513- Henry VIII, James IV and the Battle for Renaissance Britain” by George Goodwin, “The Sisters of Henry VIII” by Maria Perry, “Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World” by Alison Weir