I can never wait to get my hands on new Alison Weir nonfiction! And look, a Tudor who hasn’t already been done to death. Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Margaret Tudor (Queen of Scotland); granddaughter of Henry VII; niece of Henry VIII; cousin to Elizabeth I; mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots; and grandmother of James I. And despite all that, she managed to avoid execution!
THE COVERAGE: The book begins before Margaret’s birth. It covers how Margaret Tudor was widowed, then remarried Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus (although that seems to be somewhat disputed).
At various times throughout her life, Margaret is endorsed as possible heir to the English throne, which surprisingly doesn’t cost her life. She’s in high favor with her Uncle Henry VIII until a love affair with Thomas Howard—just as Howards are falling from favor (i.e., Anne Boleyn)—lands her in the Tower. During this period, Margaret wrote a great deal of poetry that survives today. After another romance with a different Howard at another bad time (thanks, Katherine Howard), Margaret finally makes a happy, approved match with the Scottish Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lennox, but only two of their eight children survive. The Catholic Margaret and Lennox are in high favor During Mary I’s reign, but that changes under Elizabeth I. Margaret campaigns heavily for the older surviving son, Henry, Lord Darnley, to marry the widowed Mary, Queen of Scots. Not surprisingly, Elizabeth I is not thrilled by this prospect. Catholics are already calling for Mary to dethrone her, and allowing another Catholic with a claim to the throne to marry her is risky. The risk pays off for Elizabeth when the marriage is a failure. Margaret is devastated when Darnley is murdered at age 20. The marriage does produce a royal grandson for Margaret….the future James VI of Scotland and James I of England. After Mary is forced to abdicate, Lennox serves as regent for his grandson until he, too, is murdered.
MY TWO CENTS: Alison Weir’s nonfiction is always excellent, and this is no exception. Even though Margaret Douglas may be a lesser-known Tudor, there are MANY primary sources about her life. All that research provides great validity to the story presented here, which is pretty wild. It’s actually shocking that Margaret wasn’t imprisoned for life or executed at almost any point during her life, since royal cousins did not tend to fair well, dating back…well, forever. And since she displeased Henry VIII, was strongly Catholic, and actively campaigned for her son to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, she was always in danger of royal wrath.
While the book covers many events of Margaret’s life, it doesn’t go into great depth on Darnley’s possible involvement in the murder of Mary’s secretary Rizzio, or the details of Darnley’s murder. It focuses on Margaret’s reaction to these events and the consequences that affected her. Also note that this is definitely not a book about Henry VIII or Elizabeth I. The repercussions of their actions on Margaret are discussed, but they are supporting characters here.
BOTTOM LINE: The story of a woman who lived through royal favor and disfavor, imprisonment, poverty, and murder. Enjoyable nonfiction based on many, many primary sources. Now I really want to read Weir’s Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley, one of the only Weir books I haven’t yet read.
TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available now in hardcover, e-book formats, and audio.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.