Tag Archives: Margaret Tudor

On this day in 1541 – Margaret Tudor died

Margaret Tudor was born on 28th November 1489 at Westminster Palace she was the oldest surviving daughter of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Margaret was baptised in St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster.
As Margaret approached the age of six her father began to consider a marriage match between Margaret and the King James IV of Scotland in an attempt to secure a Scottish alliance and end the support that James had been giving Perkin Warbeck, pretender to the English throne. The union was unpopular and the Italian historian, Polydore Vergil recorded that some of the council were concerned that it would bring the Scottish into the English succession. King Henry VII replied;
“What then? Should anything of the kind happen (and God avert the omen), I foresee that our realm would suffer no harm, since England would not be absorbed by Scotland, but rather Scotland by England, being the noblest head of the entire island, since there is always less glory and honour in being joined to that which is far the greater, just as Normandy once came under the rule and power of our ancestors the English.”
On 24th January 1502 the Treaty of Perpetual Peace was signed between the two countries and the marriage treaty was concluded on the same day. On 25th January 1503 the marriage was completed by proxy in the Queen’s great chamber at Richmond Palace with the Earl of Bothwell standing in for the Scottish King. Bothwell wore a gown made of cloth of gold and was accompanied by the Archbishop of Glasgow and the Postulate of Moray, Andrew Forman. Margaret was now considered the Queen of Scotland.
Now the Queen of Scotland, Margaret was provided a large wardrobe of clothes befitting her new status as well as state bed curtains made of crimson Italian silk embroidered with the Lancastrian red rose. In May 1503 King James confirmed that Margaret’s lands in Scotland would comprise of; Methven Castle, Doune Castle, Newark Castle, Linlithgow Palace and Stirling Castle as well as any income from the Earldom and Lordships of her land.
Margaret set of for her new life in Scotland on 27th June 1503 and was accompanied by an impressive progress that was led by King Henry VII until Collyweston. On 1st August Margaret was met by the Scottish court at Lamberton. On 4th August Margaret was comforted by her new husband after a fire broke out in the stables at Dalkeith Palace, which resulted in the death of some of her favourite horses. Just three days later on 7th August Margaret was carried in a litter from Dalkeith to Edinburgh.
The following day the marriage was celebrated in Holyrood Abbey with both Margaret and James present. The ceremony was presided over by the Archbishop of Glasgow and the Archbishop of York. Now officially married to James, Margaret undertook her first public engagement just two days later when she went to mass at St. Giles’ Cathedral. The couple would go on to have six children although only one survived infancy, the future King James V.

Margaret Tudor

Margaret Tudor

With Margaret’s brother, King Henry VIII, now on the throne of England the Treaty of Perpetual Peace soon broke down and with Henry away fighting in France, Scotland invaded England resulting in the death of King James IV. In his will he named Margaret as regent for their son, for as long as she remained a widow.
Margaret, now in charge of the country ruling in her infant son’s name soon came up against opposition, not only was she a women she was also the sister to their enemy and cries for her replacement soon began. The figurehead of their campaign was John Stewart, 2nd Duke of Albany, the closest living male relative to the young King. Margaret was able to calm the calls for her to stand down and reunited the Scottish council; however, as she was doing that she turned to the House of Douglas for support and secretly married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus near Perth on 6th August 1514.Margaret refuses to hand her son over
Now no longer a widow by the end of August 1514 Margaret consented to the appointment of the Duke of Albany as the new regent of the country. The Scottish council also declared that with her new marriage she had also given up the rights to supervise her sons. In defiance to the ruling Margaret gathered her sons and fled to Stirling Castle. Margaret eventually surrendered her sons the following August to Albany, by now she was expecting another child with Douglas and they retired to Edinburgh.
Margaret obtained permission from the council to travel to Linlithgow and from there she fled back into England where she was greeted by Lord Dacre and was escorted to Harbottle Castle where she gave birth to her daughter, Lady Margaret Douglas. During her time at Harbottle Margaret was informed of the death of her youngest son, Alexander. It was also during this time that the relationship between Margaret and Douglas began to break down with Douglas returning to Scotland in an attempt to make peace with Albany and protect his lands, as outside of Scotland he had no real power.
Margaret, with her new born child, travelled on to London and the court of her brother, King Henry VIII, she was housed in Scotland Yard, the London residence of Scottish kings. A year later, in 1517, Margaret returned to Scotland following a new treaty between Albany, Henry and Cardinal Wolsey. The Dowager Queen of Scotland was met at the border by Sieur de la Bastie, Albany’s deputy and her husband. Shortly after returning to Scotland Margaret had discovered that her husband had been living with a former mistress, Lady Jane Stewart, in her home and using her money. In October 1518 Margaret wrote to her brother regarding the possibility of a divorce. Henry was strongly against the divorce on religious beliefs (this was before his own divorce to Katherine of Aragon) as well as the fact that Angus was an ally worth holding on to.
Margaret began to work closely with Albany and when Albany returned to Scotland in November 1521 they set about restoring order to Scotland. Angus by now had gone into exile and began to spread rumours regarding the relationship between Margaret and the Regent. However, in 1524, Margaret showed that her alliance with Albany was just political when she formed a party that set about removing the Regent altogether with the help of Arran and the Hamiltons, Margaret brought her son, King James V, to her in Edinburgh and it was declared that now James was 12 years of age he was able to rule in his own name and was granted full powers. In November of the same year Margaret was recognised by Parliament as the chief councillor to the King.
Angus returned from exile and the relationship broke down between Margaret and Angus so much that upon entering Edinburgh Margaret ordered cannons to be fired at him from both Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House. He was finally admitted to the council in February 1525 where he seized custody of the King and held him for three years.
Margaret did all she could to resist the Angus’ attempts to rule through James and despite her previous coup remained in friendly contact with Albany who was in Rome working on achieving her divorce from Angus. Pope Clement VII granted the divorce in March 1527 but she was unaware of this until December of that year.
On 3rd March 1528 Margaret married for a third time to Henry Stewart. In June 1528 Margaret’s son, King James, was finally able to free himself from Angus and began ruling in his own name. James created his new step father Lord Methven and they became some of the leading advisors to the King. One of Margaret’s main aims was to bring about a stronger relationship between Scotland and England and attempted to arrange a meeting between James and Henry. Margaret wanted an event similar to the Field of Cloth of Gold but it never came to fruition as James refused to be ruled by others and was suspicious of Henry.
Margaret once again sought divorce from her latest husband and even attempted to flee back to England before she was intercepted and escorted back to Edinburgh. She would write to Henry complaining of poverty and sought his protection against her husband. In June 1538 Margaret welcomed her daughter in law, Mary of Guise, to Scotland. The two would have a good relationship and Mary ensured her mother in law was more comfortable making regular appearances at court with her husband, with whom she had reconciled.
Margaret died at Methven Castle, Perthshire on 18th October 1541. It was reported that she suffered a palsy but expected to recover and therefore made no will. She did send for her son who was at Falkirk Palace but he failed to arrive on time. She was buried at the Carthusian Priory of St John in Perth.

Methven CastleMethven Castle, place of Margaret Tudors death

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On this day in 1515 – Lady Margaret Douglas was born

Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox was born on 8th October 1515 and was the daughter of Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus and Margaret Tudor, Queen Dowager of Scotland and sister to King Henry VIII. Margaret was born at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland after her mother, Margaret Tudor, fled Scotland after her second husband was threatened by her son King James V.

After Lady Douglas stayed briefly at Berwick Castle with her nurse, Isobel Hoppar, Margaret joined the household of her godfather, Cardinal Wolsey. Following the death of Cardinal Wolsey Margaret was sent to the royal palace of Beaulieu where she lived with King Henry VIII’s daughter, Princess Mary. Margaret and her cousin Mary would be brought up together. Margaret was present at Christmastime at Greenwich Palace in 1530, 1531 and 1532 and King Henry presented his niece each year with a gift of £6 13s 4d.

Following the King’s divorce to Katherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn, Margaret was appointed as a lady-in-waiting to the new queen. It was during this time that Margaret met Lord Thomas Howard and they began a relationship, however by 1535 the couple were secretly engaged. By July 1536 Henry had learnt about his niece’s secret engagement and was furious, he had recently declared that Princess Elizabeth like her elder sister, Mary, was now illegitimate and this left Margaret as next in line to the throne therefore she was expected to seek the King’s permission for any potential marriage. As a result both Margaret and Thomas Howard were imprisoned in the Tower of London and on 18th July 1536 an Act of Attainder was passed in Parliament that sentenced Howard to death for his attempt to ‘interrupt ympedyte and let the seid Succession of the Crowne’. Parliament also included in the Act that it was forbidden that any member of the King’s family could not marry without his permission. Margaret remained in the Tower until she fell ill and the King granted permission for her to be moved to Syon Abbey under the supervision of the abbess. Margaret stayed here until she was released on 29th October 1537, Lord Howard was spared from being executed but remained in the Tower of London until his death two days after Margaret’s release on 31st October 1537.

Margaret wrote to Thomas Cromwell in 1537 shortly before her release to make it known that she had abandoned Howard, she wrote;

My Lord, what cause have I to give you thanks, and how much bound am I unto you, that by your means hath gotten me, as I trust, the King’s grace his favour again, and besides that that it pleaseth you to write and to give me knowledge wherein I might have his Grace’s displeasure again, which I pray our Lord sooner to send me death than that; I assure you, my Lord, I will never do that thing willingly that should offend his Grace.

And my Lord, whereas it is informed you that I do charge the house with a greater number that is convenient, I assure you I have but two more than I had in the Court, which indeed were my Lord Thomas’ servants; and the cause that I took them for was for the poverty that I saw them in, and for no cause else. Be seeing, my Lord, that it is your pleasure that I shall keep none that did belong unto my Lord Thomas, I will put them from me.

And I beseech you not think that any fancy doth remain in me touching him; but that all my study and care is how to please the King’s grace and to continue in his favour. And my Lord, where it is our pleasure that I shall keep but a few here with me, I trust ye will think that I can have no fewer than I have; for I have but a gentleman and a groom that keeps my apparel, and another that keeps my chamber, and a chaplain that was with me always in the Court. Now, my Lord, I beseech you that I may know your pleasure if you would that I should keep any fewer. Howbeit, my Lord, my servants hath put the house to small charge, for they have nothing but the reversion of my board; nor I do call for nothing but that that is given me; howbeit I am very well intreated. And my Lord, as for resort, I promise you I have none, except it be gentlewomen that comes to see me, nor never had since I came hither; for if any resort of men had come it should neither have become me to have seen them, nor yet to have kept them company, being a maid as I am. Now my Lord, I beseech you to be so good as to get my poor servants their wages; and thus I pray to our Lord to preserve you both soul and body.

By her that has her trust in you,
Margaret Douglas”

Margaret returned to court and in 1539 along with the Duchess of Richmond was appointed to greet Anne of Cleves at Greenwich Palace before joining her household staff, however, Henry decided to ride out to meet Anne at Rochester and Anne was put aside just months later. Margaret fell out of favour with the King once more in 1540 after she embarked on a secret affair with Sir Charles Howard, the half nephew of her previous fiancé, Lord Howard, and brother to the King’s new wife, Catherine Howard. Margaret was back at court to be one of the few witnesses to Henry’s final marriage to Catherine Parr. Margaret was appointed as one of Catherine’s chief ladies as they had known each other since they came to court around the same time in the 1520’s.

Margaret DouglasMargaret Douglas

In 1544 Margaret married Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, a Scottish exile who had been involved in the fight for control of Scotland with the Earl of Arran and also the prospect of marriage with Mary of Guise, but it was an offer of marriage to Margaret that Lennox could not refuse. They would go on to have two children Charles Stewart and Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley and second husband to Mary Queen of Scots.

Whilst her childhood friend and cousin, Queen Mary I, was on the throne of England Margaret was assigned rooms in Westminster Palace and in November 1553 Mary told Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard, that she thought Margaret, now Lady Lennox, was best suited to be her successor. Margaret took every opportunity to report gossip to Mary regarding Elizabeth, when Elizabeth was ordered to court after the Wyatt rebellion she was placed in a room in Whitehall that was directly below Margaret’s who turned her room into a kitchen so the noise would disturb the young Princess.

Margaret was integral to Mary and upon her wedding to Philip of Spain she granted Margaret the honour of carrying her train into the ceremony. When Mary died in 1558, Margaret was the chief mourner at her funeral. Following Mary’s death Margaret moved to Yorkshire where she lived at Temple Newsam and was the centre of Roman Catholic activity, which caused issues with her cousin and the new queen, Elizabeth. Whilst in Yorkshire Margaret successfully married her son, Lord Darnley, to Mary Queen of Scots causing a rival claim to the throne of England.

Margaret was sent to the Tower of London in 1566 by Elizabeth but following the murder of her son the following year she was released. Elizabeth wanted to send a clear message that Margaret’s family had no claims to the throne despite the fact she was grandmother to the son of Mary Queen of Scots and Darnley, the future King James. Following her release Margaret cut all association with her daughter in law, especially as she was implicated in the murder of her husband, however, Margaret did reconcile with Mary. With Mary overthrown from the Scottish throne and her infant son chosen over her, Margaret’s husband, Earl of Lennox, acted as regency until his assassination in 1571.

In 1574 Margaret was sent once again to the Tower of London after she arranged the marriage of her youngest son, Charles, to Elizabeth Cavendish – the stepdaughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Margaret was eventually pardoned after her son’s death in 1576. Following her youngest son’s death Margaret cared for his daughter, Lady Arbella Stewart. However, Margaret died shortly after her son on 7th March 1578. Margaret died in deep debt however, Queen Elizabeth I paid for a grand funeral alongside her young son in the south aisle of Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Margaret_Douglas_tombMargaret Douglas’ tomb

On this day in 1513 – the Battle of Flodden began

On 9th September 1513 the Battle of Flodden took place between England and Scotland in Northumberland, England. King James IV led the Scottish army against the defending English that was led by the Earl of Surrey who was acting on orders of the Regent of England, Katherine of Aragon who had been left in charge of the country whilst her husband, King Henry VIII, was leading the army in France.

King James IV declared his intentions for war upon England in order to support France and the alliance that they held together. However, his declaration was in breach of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace a treaty signed between England and Scotland in 1502. King James IV sent a letter via the Lyon King of Arms to Henry on 26th July asking him to stop his attack on France. Henry responded to the Lyon Arms by saying that James had no right to ask this of him and if anything James should be England’s ally as he was married to Henry’s sister, Margaret. Henry said;

And now, for a conclusion, recommend me to your master and tell him if he be so hardy to invade my realm or cause to enter one foot of my ground I shall make him as weary of his part as ever was man that began any such business. And one thing I ensure him by the faith that I have to the Crownof England and by the word of a King, there shall never King nor Prince make peace with me that ever his part shall be in it. Moreover, fellow, I care for nothing but for misentreating of my sister, that would God she were in England on a condition she cost the Schottes King not a penny.”

King James IV used the pretext of the murder of his Warden of the Scottish East March, Robert Kerr, five years previously in 1503 at the hands of John ‘The Bastard’ Heron to begin his invasion of England. However, England was not completely unprepared before Henry left for France he left an army and artillery in the north of the country and he also appointed Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey as Lieutenant General of the army in the north in 1512.

King James IV sent notice to England a month in advance regarding his intention to invade this gave England enough time to collect the banner of Saint Cuthbert from Durham Cathedral, a banner that had been at the front of the English army in past victories over the Scottish.

On 18th August 1513 the Scottish transported five cannons from Edinburgh Castle to Netherbow Gate at St Mary’s Wynd with the King setting off that night to join the army as well. As a result on 27th August 1513 Katherine of Aragon acting as Regent of the country issued warrants for all property belonging to any Scots to be seized instantly. Upon hearing of the invasion preparations Katherine sent an order on 3rd September to Thomas Lovell to gather an army from the Midlands.

The Scottish army moved closer to England before taking Norham Castle on 29th August and moving further south capturing the castles of Etal and Ford. James kept the army at Ford Castle for a while enjoying the hospitality of Lady Heron and her daughter. It was here that the English Herald, Rouge Croix arrived to negotiate a place of battle for the 4th September and gave instructions that if James sent any heralds to speak with the Earl of Surrey should be met away from where the English army was camped. It was at Ford Castle that the Earl of Angus spoke out in favour of returning to Scotland as he felt they had done everything for France; James sent the Earl of Angus home and wanted to push on with the invasion.

On 7th September the Earl of Surrey recorded that James had sent his Islay Herald and agreed that they would commence battle on the 9th between midday and 3pm he returned the Herald asking for the battle to take place at Milfield as previously agreed.

With the time and place agreed Surrey moved his troops to block the Scottish route north so it would force them towards Branxton Hill. When the Scottish and English armies were three miles apart Surrey sent to Rouge Croix to King James to confirm the time of battle, James replied that he would wait until noon.

At 11am on the morning of 9th September the English vanguard and artillery crossed the Twizel Bridge whilst the Scottish army was in five formations and by the afternoon the Scottish descended into battle. The English had two battle formations each comprising of two wings. The Earl of Surrey combined his vanguard with the soldiers of his father’s rearward. Surrey’s groups fought the Scottish troops led by the Earls of Huntly, Crawford and Erroll with forces that totalled 6000 men.

The King of Scotland then led an attack on Surrey and the son of Lord Darce who bore the brunt of the Scottish armies force. When the battle ended Edward Hall, the chronicler, wrote ‘the battle was cruel, none spared other, and the King himself fought valiantly.’

Post battle the Scottish council sent for help from Christian II of Denmark the Scottish ambassador, Andrew Brounhill, was asked to explain what went wrong in the battle. Brounhill blamed the King for moving downhill to attack the English on marshy ground from a more favourable position and he claimed that the English won purely because of Scottish inexperience.

King James IV was killed close to Surrey after being fatally wounded by an arrow and a bill, a polearm weapon. His body was discovered by Lord Dacre and was taken to Berwick-upon-Tweed where according to Edward Hall the Scottish courtiers William Scott and John Forman who identified the body as the late King. His body was then embalmed and taken to Newcastle upon Tyne. From York the body was taken to Sheen Priory near London.

James’s banner, sword and his thigh armour were taken to the shrine of Saint Cuthbert at Durham Catherdral. Thomas Hawley, the Rouge Croix Herald, was first to take news to London of the English victory. He took the blood stained surcoat of the King to Katherine of Aragon at Woburn Abbey, who instantly sent it to Henry VIII who was still battling the French at Tournai. She had thought about sending the body of the fallen King instead as Henry had sent her the Duke of Longueville, a prisoner from Thérouanne.

Margaret Tudor was informed of her husband’s death and a council met at Stirling to form a committee that would rule Scotland in the name of Margaret Tudor and her infant son the new King James V of Scotland.

battle_of_floddenArtist impression of the Battle of Flodden

On this day in 1514 – Margaret Tudor and Archibald Douglas married

Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of King Henry VII, was the wife of King James IV of Scotland and mother to the future King James V. After King James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden their infant son became King of Scotland, however, as he was just 17 months old a regency was required to rule in his place. It was originally led by Margaret as part of the royal will under the condition that it would last for as long as she remained a widow.

It was unusual for a woman to be in a powerful position and it wasn’t long before some of the nobility began plotting to replace Margaret and looked to John Stewart, 2nd Duke of Albany as their figurehead. Margaret began searching for her own allies in an attempt to keep the regency and looked to the House of Douglas and as a result met Archibald Douglas, 6h Earl of Angus. The couple married in secret on 6th August 1514 in the parish church of Kinnoull, Perth.

The marriage between Margaret and Archibald Douglas meant that the terms of her first husbands will was now violated and she would have to forfeit the regency and guardianship of her son. At this news Margaret took her children to Stirling Castle in defiance. John Stewart would eventually negotiate the handing over of the young King into his care.

Margaret briefly returned to London and stayed at the court of her brother, King Henry VIII, whilst Margaret travelled her husband remained in Scotland. Whilst the couple were separated Douglas had an illegitimate daughter and moved his mistress and daughter into property that belonged to his wife. Margaret returned to Scotland to find that Douglas had been openly living with his new family and refused to support Douglas as he attempted to gain power. Margaret also wrote to her brother in regards to divorcing Douglas. Margaret wrote;

I am sore troubled with my Lord of Angus since my last coming into Scotland, and every day more and more, so that we have not been together this half year…I am so minded that, and I may by law of God and to my honour, to part with him, for I wit well he loves me not, as he shows me daily.”

King Henry VIII did not support his sister, at this time he was still married to Katherine of Aragon. Henry viewed Douglas as an ally against Scotland. Margaret disappointed at the lack of support from her brother began moving her support towards John Stewart and the current regency. With the help of Stewart the couple were eventually divorced on 11th March 1528.

Margaret Tudor Archibald DouglasMargaret Tudor and Archibald Douglas

On this day in 1513 – Edward Howard died

Edward Howard was the second son of Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Surrey and 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his first wife, Elizabeth Tilney.

Howard began a military career in August 1492 when he was just 15 as he served at the siege of Sluis under Sir Edward Poynings. This gave Howard the love of battle and in 1497 he followed his father and brother in battle against Scotland. The Earl of Surrey knighted both of his sons at Ayton Castle once a treaty had been signed with King James IV of Scotland also present at the siege of the castle was Pedro de Ayala the Spanish diplomat who served both Scotland and England on behalf of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.

I 1503 Howard was selected as one of the escorts for King Henry VII’s daughter Margaret as she travelled to Scotland to marry King James IV.

With the ascension of the new King Henry VIII Howard is appointed the King’s standard bearer in 1509 after performing well at the celebratory joust that was held to celebrate to coronation of Henry.

In April 1512 Edward Howard was appointed Admiral of a fleet of 18 ships. With war breaking out against France Howard was to defend the English shores between the Thames estuary and Brest in Brittany, France. Howard stopped many ships entering English waters under suspicion of carrying French supplies.

In June 1512 Howard was required to escort an army to Brittany that were under the command of the Marquess of Dorset. Howard took the opportunity to raid the towns of Le Conquet and Crozon on the Brittany coastline. Howard and his fleet dominated the English Channel and kept England safe. King Henry VIII showed his appreciation of Howard’s work by awarding him a 100 mark annuity.

On 10th March 1513 Howard was made Lord Admiral after the death of the Earl of Oxford. However, his post did not last long on 19th March Howard set out from London for Plymouth reaching his destination on 5th April. Howard did not wait for his supplies to be restocked and set off to find the French fleet. On 22nd April with one ship already lost to a hidden rock Howard’s fleet took a blow when the Prégent de Bidoux attacked the English ships with heavy gunfire, this sank another of Howard’s fleet.

On 25th April Howard decided to strike back and took smaller row boats out to lead an attack and attempt to board the ships. During the fighting Howard was thrown overboard and the weight of his armour meant that he drowned and died. His body and the Lord Admiral’s silver whistle were found three days later and delievered to Bidoux who sent his armour and whistle to Princess Claude and Queen Anne of France respectively.

Edward Howard arms

On this day in 1473 – King James IV was born

On 17th March 1473 the future King James IV of Scotland was born to King James III and Margaret of Denmark. The location of his birth is most likely to be Stirling Castle.

At a young age the heir apparent was proclaimed Duke of Rothesay and was betrothed to marry Princess Cecily of England, the third daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.

King James III of Scotland was killed in the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488 leaving the 15 year old prince the new King of Scotland. The Battle of Sauchieburn saw James III face a rebellion which used the young prince as their figurehead. The new King felt guilty over his indirect role in his father’s death and for the rest of his life at Lent he wore a heavy iron chain cilice around his waist, adding weight every year, as penance.

King James IV was involved in many arguments with the English court, including the backing of Perkin Warbeck, the pretender to the Plantagenet line. James even went as far as invading England in 1496.

In 1502 James signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with King Henry VII in a bid to end warfare between the two countries. As part of the treaty a marriage proposal between James IV and Margaret Tudor, daughter of the King of England, was agreed. Whilst agreeing to peace with England, James also maintained a relationship with France and began building a fleet that would defend Scotland and give them a large maritime presence.

King James IV married Margaret Tudor on 8th August 1503 at Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh. They had four living children including the future King James V. James IV also had eight illegitimate children with four of his mistresses.

The Italian Wars broke out in 1494 and lasted until 1559; it saw many countries involved from Italy and France to England and Scotland. As a result war broke out between England and France. Scotland was tied to both countries through treaties but declared war on England after Henry VIII invaded France. Pope Leo X threatened James with ecclesiastical censure for breaking his treaty with England and was later excommunicated by Cardinal Christopher Bainbridge.

In September 1513 Scottish troops invaded England and headed towards Northumbria where they clashed with English forces on the 9th September. The English troops were under the leadership of Katherine of Aragon who was Regent of England whilst her husband Henry VIII was fighting in France. King James IV was killed in the battle and was the last King of Great Britain to die in battle. His body was taken to London for burial, however due to his excommunication King Henry VIII had to gain permission from the Pope to bury the Scottish King. He was never buried though; his embalmed body lay unburied for many years with his body going missing during the Reformation when Sheen Priory in Surrey, where he was lying, was demolished.

James IV