Henry VIII’s sister & Scotland’s Queen: who was the real princess Margaret? by Natalia Alyukova Pt 1 [write up]

Ok, so I have a confession, that I’m slightly embarrassed about. I’ve been following the Tudors for close to about 15 years now, and for some reason, despite having watched the show The Tudors several times. I DIDN’T REALIZE THEY COMBINED MARY AND MARGARET. This has been remedied thanks to this weeks posts, but come on, Melissa. Get your stuff together!

Anyway! Enjoy today’s part one of two posts from Natalia! She runs a blog called Historica Drama. So if you’re into analyses of period dramas, I highly suggest you check her site out!

Henry VIII’s sister & Scotland’s Queen: who was the real princess Margaret?

One of the biggest historical inaccuracies of The Tudors series was the intentional creation of Princess Margaret character – which was made up of two of Henry’s sisters, princess Margaret and princess Mary.

The fictional Princess Margaret (Gabrielle Anwar) was the only sister of Henry VIII – a feisty woman who dares to argue with her brother and is ruled by her heart, rather than her head. In the tv series, she is forced to marry the elderly king of Portugal, whom she kills shortly after the wedding – and marries Charles Brandon, one of Henry’s closest friends, without his permission. After some time in exile with her new husband she gets sick and dies.

The real sisters of Henry VIII, however, had slightly less dramatic and more politically important lives. What The Tudors fails to recognise is their influence on British history for the next century and how much actually happened for them – if they were deemed as important as their brother, the tv series could have spread over several more seasons and become a proper soap opera – only that the drama wouldn’t have to be made up. Their real lives were just as full of intrigues, politics and marriages as Henry’s.

The real princess Margaret Tudor

Margaret was the second child of Elizabeth of York and Henry VII Tudor who survived infancy – after Arthur, who died at the age of 16. She was named after Margaret Beaufort, her grandmother on her father’s side.

At the age of 14 Margaret was wed by proxy to king James IV of Scotland and became queen of Scotland – with that ensuring the peace treaty that was supposed to last 170 years between England and Scotland since their wedding day. The treaty didn’t last long – as Margaret’s brother Henry VIII ascended the throne, he went to war with France, Scotland’s ally, and caused years of conflicts between England and Scotland. Only Margaret’s great-grandson, king James VI of Scotland and James I of England, brought peace to both countries, becoming the first English and Scottish monarch at the same time.

10 years into Margaret’s marriage, she became a widow and a regent for her son, James V of Scotland. She managed to reconcile pro-English and pro-French parties of the Scottish parliament and stay in power despite some opposition. However, it didn’t last long – her secret marriage to Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus tipped the balance in pro-French party favour and alienated many nobles. As a result she was separated from her children, and John Stewart, 2nd Duke of Albany – the next in line for the Scottish throne – became regent instead of Angus.

Pregnant with her third child and fearing for her own safety, Margaret fled Scotland and moved to Scotland Yard in London, by her brother Henry’s invitation. After a year of living in England, by the time England, France and Scotland made a new alliance, Margaret returned to Scotland. However, her second husband Angus, as it turned out, had been living with his former lover all that time – on Margaret’s money. She asked Henry VIII for a divorce, which he opposed.

Angered by the inability to dissolve her own marriage, Margaret sided with Albany – the two worked cooperatively and ruled Scotland, while her husband was in exile. However, soon Margaret took the reins in her own hands: at the age of twelve her son James V became king of Scotland and ruled the country, advised by his mother above all.

A year later, however, the tables turned once again. Her husband Angus became regent, and James was in his custody. Only in 1527, two years later, Margaret finally obtained the Pope’s permission to divorce Angus and re-married, and in 1528 James V reclaimed his crown. Margaret’s new marriage was not so happy once again because of her new husband’s greed for her money and other women, and she wanted to divorce him as well, yet nothing came of it.

She did not make a will when she died, as she expected to recover from disease. Before her death she sent for her son and wished for him to reconcile with Angus – however, the two never did.

Is princess Margaret from The Tudors similar to the real one?

In some ways, one can definitely draw some parallels between the two – both remarried after their royal husbands’ deaths, and for both the decisions ended with disgrace and exile. They are both strong-willed and ruled by their hearts when it came to marriage.

Was it a wise decision to change her character in the show?

For its complexity in politics, three marriages and attempts to divorce her husbands, Margaret definitely could compete with Henry’s own affairs – and probably outshine him as a scandalous ruler, as in 16th century women in general were frowned upon for seeking divorce, especially royals.

However, when the show is ambitiously called The Tudors, it seems unfair to follow closely only one of them – yes, Henry VIII is the most well-known Tudor in history, followed closely by his daughters, but the show attempted to cover many, many characters – More, Cromwell, Wolsey and Cranmer, Gardiner and Brandon, yet decided to dismiss Henry’s own sisters – whose political and private lives had a major impact on the course of history for England, as it turned out later. The politics and royal connections of that time are hard to crack in one show, of course… However, Margaret Tudor certainly deserved way more than what she received within the tv series restraining plot line. She was a ruler and a politician in her own right, and probably deserves a mini series of her own.

I'm a lover of all things Tudor, and historical - fiction or fact. My aim is to bring together writers of all calibers to share their work with like minded people!

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