Another story of the relentless striving for power of 16th-century England.
Novelist and biographer of Tudor and Elizabethan royalty, Weir (The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I, 2015, etc.) turns to Margaret Douglas (1515-1578), granddaughter of Henry VII, niece of Henry VIII, and wife of Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lennox. Even as a young woman, Margaret was ambitious, willful, and sometimes reckless, with “an alarming talent for dangerous intrigue” that emerged repeatedly during her tumultuous life. At the age of 20, she was imprisoned and sentenced to death by Henry VIII for the crime of falling in love with the wrong man. The king spared her, but it was not the last time that she was incarcerated in the Tower of London, mostly on charges of treason but once on witchcraft. Besides fearing for her life, Margaret incurred severe debts from these imprisonments, since prisoners had to pay for their upkeep “and any comforts they required” while being held. When Henry VIII died in 1547, the Catholic Margaret was “cast adrift” into a dangerous world ruled by her adversary, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, whom Weir portrays as vengeful and paranoid. For Margaret and her husband, “a cold draught” emanated from the throne. Elizabeth distrusted Margaret, fearful that a repeal of the Act of Succession could identify the Scottish line as having “prior right to the English succession.” Indeed, Margaret—like other Catholics—did see Elizabeth “as a bastard, a heretic and a usurper.” But with no hope of ousting her, Margaret schemed instead to see her son marry Mary, Queen of Scots, and reign as King of Scotland. Weir provides copious evidence and minute documentation of the betrayals, plots, incendiary gossip, and shifting alliances that characterized Elizabethan England. Excerpts from Margaret’s letters show her to be politically savvy, manipulative, and fierce.
An abundantly detailed history from an author steeped in England’s past.