Margaret Drummond, The Love of James IV of Scotland

James IV is probably best known for being the Scottish king who fought at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, and was married to Margaret Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII. But did you know that before his marriage to Margaret, he had a long-term relationship with a woman named Margaret Drummond? 

Erythrean Sibyl, 1530. The Metropoilitan Museum, Public Domain.

Margaret Drummond was the daughter of Lord John Drummond and Elizabeth Lindsay. John Drummond sat in James IV's first parliament in 1488, and served as constable of Stirling Castle. The couple had six daughters; Margaret, Sybella, Euphemia, Annabella, Beatrix and Elizabeth. George Cokayne traced the marriage of Elizabeth to George Douglas Earl of Angus to another, future dynastic line. Their son, Archibald, would be the father of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, who lived into the Elizabethan Age and was grandmother to James VI and I. John Drummond lived until 1519, when he died at the age of 81, at Drummond Castle.

Drummond Castle. Martin Addison, Creative Commons. 

The relationship between Margaret Drummond and James IV pre-dated his accession to the throne, beginning, says Strickland, while he was Duke of Rothesay. He intended to marry her in secret, without the assent of his advisors, much in the same way Edward IV had done in England with Elizabeth Woodville in 1464.

However, advisors of Scottish and English governments were hatching a plan to unite the nations in marriage. Margaret Drummond's existing position at the king's side threatened this union. She stood in the way of those who supported the king's marriage with Margaret Tudor, while others argued the couple were related within the 'prohibited degrees'. This meant that James needed a Papal dispensation to go ahead with any marriage to Drummond. All of this led to suspicions swirling when Margaret suddenly and unexpectedly died.

Drummond was eating breakfast with her sisters Euphemia and Sybella at Drummond Castle when all three of them fell ill and died and were presumed to have been murdered. The finger of blame was said to have fallen on Drummond's brother in law, Lord Fleming, wife of her sister Euphemia. Margaret Tudor, later James IV's wife, wrote believing that Fleming had in fact murdered his wife and her sisters at that breakfast in 1501. 'For evil will that he had to his wife [Euphemia]', wrote Margaret, 'caused poison three sisters, one of them his wife; and this is known as truth throughout all Scotland'. Margaret Drummond and her sisters were buried in Dunblane.

After Drummond's death, James cared for their daughter, who was also named Margaret. She was raised at Edinburgh Castle and recognised as the king's daughter. The death of James' 'wife' in all but name meant that now the union with Margaret Tudor could progress uninterrupted, and she travelled to Scotland to meet her husband-to-be two years later, in September 1503.

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Notes and Sources

Cokayne, George. The Complete Peerage, Volume 3. 1890

Strickland, Agnes. Queens of Scotland and English Princesses Connected with the Regal Succesion of Great Britain, volume 1. 1850.