Margaret Tudor of "The Spanish Princess" Deserves Her Own Period Drama

Elena Nicolaou
·5 min read
Photo credit: Nick Briggs
Photo credit: Nick Briggs

From Oprah Magazine

  • Season 2 of The Spanish Princess follows Margaret "Meg" Tudor's life after her husband, King James IV of Scotland, is killed during the Battle of Flodden.

  • Margaret ruled as regent Queen of Scotland for two years—but her secret marriage to the Duke of Angus caused problems.

  • Here's the true story of Margaret's fascinating life, including what The Spanish Princess leaves out.

It may be called The Spanish Princess, but episode three of the Starz period drama's second season is all about the Scottish Queen. In fact, the true story of Margaret Tudor's (Georgie Henley) two years as regent queen of Scotland, and her secret marriage to Angus Douglas (Andrew Rothney), are worthy of their own period drama, if you ask us.

"Grief" follows what happens when the life of Margaret Tudor (or Meg, as they call her in the show), the younger sister of King Henry VIII, is thrown into turmoil—precisely because of her relatives back in England. Last episode, Meg's sister-in-law, Catherine of Aragon, donned armor and commanded English troops that ultimately killed Meg's husband, King James IV of Scotland, in the Battle of Flodden.

Margaret's marriage to 30-year-old James IV at the age of 14 was meant to broker peace between England and Scotland. But the Battle of Flodden, the largest ever fought between the two nations in terms of troop number, broke that peace. It also left Margaret in a difficult situation, once again torn between her country of origin and her adopted country.

When James IV died in 1513, Margaret became a 24-year-old widow and James, their son, became the 17-month-old King of Scotland. Obviously, James couldn't rule—he was a baby! James IV's will designated that, in the event of his death, Margaret would rule as regent queen of Scotland until James V came of age.

Photo credit: Nick Briggs
Photo credit: Nick Briggs

There was only one catch: Margaret, while regent, couldn't remarry. In walked Archibald Douglas, the Sixth Earl of Angus, and Margaret's time ruling Scotland was placed in jeopardy. Margaret, at the age of 25, married 24-year-old Angus in a secret ceremony in 1514 (The Spanish Princess glides over the fact that Angus was already engaged to Lady Janet Stewart of Traquair—and that they continued their relationship).

A month later, the Privy Council decided that, by marrying, Margaret violated James IV's will and could no longer act as regent. Despite Margaret practically begging for help in a letter, Henry VIII did not help Margaret reclaim the throne, according to Undiscovered Scotland. The Privy Council swiftly appointed the second Duke of Albany to rule in Margaret's place.

While waiting for the Duke of Albany to arrive to Scotland from France, Margaret was held, practically prisoner, in Stirling Castle with her two sons. Ultimately, Margaret had no choice but to retreat to England. Scotland, the place she had lived since 1503, was no longer safe.

But Margaret couldn't take everything, or everyone, with her on the journey home. Tragically, she was forced to hand over both her sons to Albany. When she departed for England, she was pregnant with her daughter, Margaret Douglas. Margaret later learned that her younger son, Alexander, died in the Duke's care.

Photo credit: Print Collector - Getty Images
Photo credit: Print Collector - Getty Images

Future episodes of The Spanish Princess may explore the rest of Margaret's extremely eventful life, including her on-again, off-again—and consistently tumultuous—relationship with her second husband. When Margaret returned to Scotland in 1517, for example, Angus literally snatched his young daughter out of her hands, and took her to live in his castle, according to History Press. (Margaret Douglas had a fascinating life.)

Margaret Tudor's priority was still her son, the King of Scotland. In 1524, Margaret managed to plan a coup d'etat to depose the Duke of Albany and get James, then 12, on the throne, with Margaret advising him, according to History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth. At the same time, Margaret's estranged husband was living in France with his lover. Angus returned to Scotland, convinced he had a right to guide his step-son's time as king (he was supported in this belief by King Henry VIII).

What happened next is, well, Starz drama-worthy. Margaret greeted Angus by ordering the cannons at Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House to fire at him. Angus retaliated by kidnapping James V in 1526 and holding him as a virtual prisoner for nearly three years, Undiscovered Scotland recounts.

Photo credit: Nick Briggs
Photo credit: Nick Briggs

In 1528, Angus and Margaret finally had their marriage annulled by the Pope. In the same year, 16-year-old James escaped from his step-father's clutches by dressing as a servant and riding to his mother at Stirling Castle (we can practically hear the Western-themed music).

The Spanish Princess may even get as far as Margaret's third marriage (her brother, Henry VIII, married twice as many times). Margaret married Henry Stewart, the first Lord Methven, in 1528. The marriage was just as tumultuous—in fact, when Henry moved in with a mistress, Margaret tried to get the marriage annulled so she could return to Angus. James prevented the divorce.

In 1541, Margaret died of a palsy-related illness at the age of 52 (the same year Margaret Pole, also in The Spanish Princess, was executed by King Henry VIII). According to historians, Margaret remained fixated on Angus until her dying day. Her last words were about him. "I desire you...to beseech the King to be gracious to the Earl of Angus. I beg God for mercy that I have so offended the Earl," she said.

Margaret spent her life straddling two countries, and was unable to broker a peace between her brother, King Henry VIII, and her son, King James V. However, years later, her her great-grandson James VI would be the first monarch to be called the King of Great Britain, and rule both England and Scotland.

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