The Rise and Fall of Archibald Douglas

While waiting for Albany's return the Scottish parliament agreed to continue the war with the English to the best of their abilities. Margaret however advocated peace and entered into negotiations with her sister in law Catherine who was acting as regent while Henry was in France. Lord Home was sent south to the borders to prosecute a guerilla war against the English army and bring some lawa and order to the land. Lord Fleming was sent to France as ambassador with the objective to secure funds and raise more French troops.

But Albany's return and the fabled French support never materialised. By early 1514 Margaret was sueing for peace with her brother, something that many of the Scottish lairds disaaproved of. Here was Henry's sister negotiating away their lands and privaleges. The nobles began to two parties; anglophiles supporting the queen and the francophiles encouraging the return of Albany.

However the threatened English invasion was postponed. Henry whose futile campaign in France had led to little more than the capture of some provisional towns and the grossly exagerated victory at Guingates had emptied the coffers. Without the money and soldiers promised by his allies in the Holy League the campaigns in France ground to a halt and Henry sued for peace.

Henry did take time to claim rightful guardianship over the young King James and called upon his wardens in the north not to antagonise the scottish lairds hoping they would agree to a more permement custodianship. Lord Dacre, hero of Flodden was in no mood to be consilatory and launched raids against Jedburgh that not only caused a growing fear of new invasion but pushed more of the scottish lairds into the francophile camp.

The English peace agreement with France once again pushed the Scots to the sidelines despite their sacrifice at Flodden. Albany was detained by the Dauphin and the Scots were left to their own devices 

To compound matters Margaret had taken to her bed to give birth to her second son, Alexander Duke of Ross. The Scottish francophiles took the opportunity to take control of the garrisons of a number of Scottish fortesses. This was a deliberate attempt to undermine the authority of the queen. Margaret's fortunes were running low and her status was slowly ebbing away. She had only one choice left open to her and that was to remarry.

The New Husband and Albany's Return  

Archibald Douglas the 6th Earl of Angus was the first to act to fill the role of suitor. In August, not even before the ink was dry on the Anglo – French treaty he wooed and married Queen Margaret.

Angus was an eligible bachelor, medium height and build, reddish hair and piercing dark eyes. He sported a closely trimmed beard and hard set features, which asserted a sense of aggression and ruthlessness. He was a great sportsman, keen hunter and renowned courtier. He too had lost his father and uncle at Flodden. Indeed he would be a fitting father figure for the boys.

Both had more than romance in mind in the union. Margaret was grasping at the opportunity to raise her profile and since the death of his grandfather, Archibald ‘Bell the Cat’ Douglas, this Archibald was now Earl of Angus, head of the most powerful family in Scotland, the Red Douglases. This liaison would bring Margaret the money, troops and perhaps most importantly, the blessing of Henry her brother.

Angus however realised that those who had regular access to the King would ultimately control the country. What better way to seize the initiative than to assume the role of stepfather to the King of Scotland and brother in law to King of England. They were married secretly at Kinnoul near Perth on 6th August 1514.

Not all was going well for the pro-anglo newly weds. News came from the borders that Lord Home had succeeded in beating off the ill conceived raid by Lord Dacre at Belling Hill and was now launching retaliatory strikes himself. So successful was this campaign that Dacre fell from grace with his English paymasters. But Margaret needed a strong pro English faction in the country to support her and Home’s actions were seriously threatening her power base. In court those Lords disgruntled over the choice of Margaret’s husband and bitter about not being invited to the wedding, plotted to return Albany. Margaret once again called upon her brother Henry to send troops north to booster her flagging support but Henry refused her aid. He did however persuade the French to retain Albany. But the pendulum of power was about to swing again in the continent

In January 1515, Louis XII died and Francis I became the new King of France. Despite his young age (20 at the time of his coronation) he was a very astute monarch and immediately brought pressure on Henry by releasing Albany. In May Albany, escorted by a French and Scottish fleet, arrived off Dumbarton. But it was a measured response, as Albany did not return with the arms and equipment the Francophile Scots longed for, but instead he invited them to renegotiate the peace so rudely broken by Home’s raids. The council had no other option but to agree and a new treaty was signed. This time around the pro French faction was content with the new terms. It appeared the ghost of Flodden had finally been appeased.

By July Albany had won over the Lords and the parliament confirmed him as Regent. Even Angus agreed to support him, much to Margaret’s disbelief. Disbelief turned to dismay when the parliament declared Margaret’s stint as the King’s guardian was over. She was to choose four out of eight candidates, nominated by them, to be the new guardians and allow the King to be taken to Edinburgh. Margaret refused and called upon her husband to protect her. Angus was forced to decide where his loyalties lay and in turn he retired to his fortress at Tantallon to let his wife deal with the issue. John Stewart 3rd Earl of Lennox and Gilbert Kennedy, 2nd Earl of Cassillis were sent to besiege Stirling and return the children to Edinburgh but Margaret, without her husband’s support, bravely closed the gates on  the besieging troops and sent word to Henry for help. None came and Margaret finally conceded to release the King to Albany’s custodianship, notably getting James to hand the keys over to Albany in person. Albany was back and in charge. 

Albany took to the task of governorship well, settling the borders and guiding the Scottish lords to some form of consensus. But he was constantly walking a political tightrope between the French backed lairds such as the Hamiltons and the Stewarts and the pro English Queen and her Douglas husband. The English looked upon his successes as a threat despite his adherence to the treaty and desperately tried to undermine his control through political intrigue. But the greatest problem Albany faced was striking a balance between Francis and his loyalty to James. So much so that he even threatened to break the ties altogether with France and look elsewhere for his Scottish allies. By 1516 his luck had run out and Albany found himself detained in France for almost 4 years. He had gone abroad to arrange the marriage of James into the French royal household and it was agreed under the Treaty of Rouen. But Francis and Henry were still on good enough terms for Francis to detain Albany at his pleasure.

In January 1518 Margaret found out about Angus’s infidelities with his ex fiancée, Lady Jane Stewart of Tranquair. It was the last straw in their relationship and she severed all connection with him and his family. Instead she turned to James Hamilton the 1st Earl of Arran, sworn enemy to the Douglases and current Regent, for support. Arran acted fast in an attempt to deliver a knock out blow on the Douglases. He convened parliament and demanded that Angus attend to face accusations of treason. Angus refused to attend and to make matters worst, he seized Margaret’s estates and in turn, the rent. Margaret found herself penniless again and looked to the Council to fund her court. But then Henry stepped in and, not wanting to see his sister dependent on the Scottish parliament, prevented her from going cap in hand. Margaret pleaded with her brother for help suggesting if she were to divorce, he could choose her next groom. Ironically, Henry was horrified at the thought of a divorce that was, in his eyes, totally immoral and demanded that she returned to her husband’s side. Margaret had no other option but to obey and return to Edinburgh, a recently acquired Douglas stronghold. She was met by Angus who escorted her into the city, accompanied by a salvo from the castle artillery and the sound of pipes and drums. Two months later Angus had returned to his mistress in Tranquair and seized the Queen’s remaining estates.

In 1519 the deadlock in Europe was to be broken by the emergence of Charles V, the grandson of Maximilian and now heir of the Holy Roman Empire. On Maximilian’s death, Charles added the Empire to an already impressive real estate; Spain, Northern Italy and the Netherlands all came under his control. He was also reaping the benefits from the wealth and prosperity found in the New World. A more disturbing aspect to Francis was that the Empire now surrounded France. Henry immediately responded by forming an alliance with Charles in 1521 on what was to become known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, so ornate was the pomp and ceremony. 

Francis once again turned to Scotland for an ally and set about appeasing the council by releasing Albany and despatching with him instructions to prepare for a new war with England. But Albany returned to a very different Scotland to the one he had left. Angus held Margaret and the King in virtual captivity and the Douglases and Hamiltons had been at each other’s throats since the previous year’s debacle in the capital, commonly known as ‘Cleanse the Causeway.