Margaret Douglas was born on 8 October 1515 at Harbottle Castle, Northumberland to parents Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus and Margaret Tudor.
Margaret Tudor was pregnant with her daughter and fleeing Scotland when she was born. She was making her way to the court of her brother Henry VIII of England.
Margaret spent much of her early life at the court of Henry VIII, her uncle, and became great friends with his daughter Mary, later Mary I of England. They built up a friendship that would last throughout their lives.
Margaret became a lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, and it is at the court of Anne Boleyn that she first met Lord Thomas Howard, Anne Boleyn’s uncle, whom she became secretly engaged to in 1535.
When Henry VIII discovered the engagement, he was furious with both Margaret and Thomas Howard. All marriages had to be authorized by the king, and as they hadn’t agreed this they were both placed in the Tower of London.
Henry had previously removed his daughter’s Mary and Elizabeth from the line of succession, by deeming them both to be illegitimate; this decision had moved his niece further up the succession ladder.
Also with the disgrace and later execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536, Margaret being engaged to a close relation of Anne Boleyn was unacceptable.
Thomas Howard was condemned to death, but he was spared execution and kept in the Tower, where he died on 31 October 1537.
Margaret, after falling ill in the Tower was moved to Syon Abbey and later released on 29 October 1537.
In 1540 Margaret was again in trouble with Henry VIII, when she had an affair with Sir Charles Howard, but yet again Henry forgave her.
In 1544 Margaret married Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox and they had many children, but only two survived into adulthood; Henry Steward, Lord Darnley, later to marry Mary, Queen of Scots and Charles Steward, 1st Earl of Lennox.
Margaret had been a lifelong friend of Queen Mary I, and was the chief mourner at Mary’s funeral in December 1558. When Mary’s sister came to the throne as Queen Elizabeth I, Margaret, now Lady Lennox moved to Temple Newsham in Yorkshire.
Margaret was found to be plotting with Roman Catholics against Elizabeth, and again she was sent to the Tower of London in 1566, but later released in 1567, after the death of her son Lord Darnley.
She was imprisoned yet again in 1574, when her younger son the 1st Earl of Lennox married without the queen’s permission, but pardoned in 1576 after her son’s death.
Margaret died on 7 March 1578 and is buried in Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.