Friday, November 15, 2019

Dangerous to Be an Heir

Margaret Clifford, another red-headed Tudor heiress
Everyone knows about Frances Brandon and her daughters the Grey sisters, but how many know about Eleanor Brandon and her daughter Margaret Clifford. From Stephanie Mann:
Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby, who died on September 28, 1596, is another example of an heir to Elizabeth I who found out how dangerous that position was. Like the Grey sisters, Catherine and Mary (and Jane before them), she was an heir because her grandmother (on her mother's side) was Mary Tudor, former Queen of France, wife of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and Henry VIII's younger sister. Her father was Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland and her mother Lady Eleanor Brandon, the Brandon's second daughter.

Because she was a possible successor, whom she would marry was an important decision. John Dudley, the 1st Duke of Northumberland suggested in 1552 that she should marry his son Guildford, but Edward VI was opposed to that alliance (thus Dudley had that son available to marry Lady Jane Grey); then Dudley's brother Andrew was mentioned. Finally, when Mary I came to the throne, Margaret Clifford married Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby. As this blog explains her situation:
She was the great granddaughter of Henry VII and according to Henry VIII’s will if anything happened to Elizabeth she would become queen of England. She therefore became Elizabeth’s heir presumptive. It was not a good place to be.

Before then she’d managed to avoid becoming a pawn in the game of crowns through her father’s forethought and then through her own lack of popularity. In 1553 the Duke of Northumberland had proposed to marry her to either his son, Guildford, or his brother, Sir Andrew Dudley, but Cumberland refused the match on his daughter’s behalf and took no part in the attempt to make Lady Jane Grey queen (sensible man).

Instead, Margaret was married with Queen Mary’s blessing in Westminster Abbey in February 1555 to Henry Stanley, Lord Strange. He was descended from the Woodvilles, Howards, Nevilles and a certain Thomas Stanley who happened to be married to Margaret Beaufort and who sat around on hillsides during key battles of the Wars of the Roses waiting to see how it would all pan out – landing the title Earl of Derby for his pains.

By 1557 Margaret was recorded as saying that Lady Jane Grey’s treason had excluded her sisters, Catherine and Mary Grey, from the succession, thus making Margaret, Queen Mary’s heiress presumptive…yes I know there was Elizabeth to take into consideration but Mary’s relationship with her sister was fraught by 1557. Mary was fond of stating that Elizabeth had the look of lute player Mark Smeaton. There was also the fact that Elizabeth was notably not Catholic whereas Margaret was. . . .
But Mary I was more obedient to the wishes of her father and the decisions of Parliament to interfere with the line of succession. Her great hope was to have a son to displace Elizabeth, not contravene the settled succession. Nevertheless, Margaret's troubles continued apace as she speculated on her opportunity to succeed Elizabeth I during her reign:
Lady Strange developed a dangerous interest in alchemy, to which she had been introduced by her father. An interest in the occult, although widespread among Elizabethans, could be a dangerous hobby; an interest in fortune-telling especially so for one in Margaret's position on the periphery of the succession dispute. From 1572, Margaret was countess of Derby. She consulted with wizards "with a vain credulity, and out of I know not what ambitious hope”, according to William Camden, and lost the Queen’s favor. In 1578 she was accused of employing a "magician", actually a well-known physician named Dr. Randall, to cast spells to discover how long Queen Elizabeth would live. According to one source, Randall was hanged and Margaret was banished from court and spent the rest of her life, eighteen years, in the custody of her kinsman, Thomas Seckford (d.1587), Master of Requests, to whom she was related through his mother, Margaret (d. 1557), the daughter of Sir John Wingfield (d. 1509) of Letheringham, and aunt of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Later she had a series of keepers, although she was allowed to live in her own house at Isleworth. (Read more.)

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