By the late 1530s, Margaret was back in London and a frequent guest of Anne Stanhope, Lady Hertford, who was the wife of Jane Seymour’s brother Edward. With Jane now dead and a new Queen soon arriving in England, the Queen’s household needed to be reestablished. In November 1539, Margaret was appointed chief of the six “great ladies of the household” for Anne of Cleves. Margaret and the other ladies spent Christmas at court, awaiting the new Queen. When she finally did arrive, Henry was not pleased. The marriage was soon annulled and Anne was given a rich settlement.
On 28 July 1540, Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, and once again Margaret joined the new Queen’s household. The following year, Margaret received the news that her mother had died at Methven Castle. They had not seen each other for at least 13 years. Then, as Catherine Howard fell from grace and faced the executioner, Margaret herself was embroiled in another love affair. Charles Howard – a nephew of her former betrothed Lord Thomas Howard – and Margaret probably began their love affair during an earlier progress. When the news came out, Charles was “forbidden the King’s chamber” and banished from court. He fled to Flanders to escape his uncle’s fate. King Henry was remarkably lenient this time as he was probably too busy with the Catherine Howard situation. Margaret was confined to her rooms at Kenninghall for about 17 months, but this was the extent of it.
At the end of 1542, Margaret’s half-brother King James V of Scots died, leaving behind his infant daughter Mary as Queen of Scots. The following year, Margaret was summoned back to court to serve the new Queen, Catherine Parr. She was present when Henry and Catherine were married and went on to serve her as one of the chief ladies-in-waiting. They became good friends despite the differences in religion.
During the summer of 1543, Margaret had a suitor of her own. His name was Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox – a descendant of King James II of Scots, through his daughter Mary Stewart, Countess of Arran. Fortunately, Matthew took the necessary precautions, and he appealed to King Henry for his consent to the match. Henry was unsure if he could trust Matthew and the negotiations dragged on. In 1544, Henry gave assent to a new Act of Succession which excluded Margaret and the Scottish heirs of her mother – meaning Mary, Queen of Scots. Yet, he needed a powerful noble as an ally in Scotland.
In June 1544, Margaret finally met the man who had been wishing to marry her and she was pleased with her appearance. King Henry was now determined to let the wedding go ahead. They were married on 29 June 1544 at St. James’s Palace with King Henry and Queen Catherine present. The marriage was immediately consummated, and Margaret was soon pregnant with her first child. She later wrote, “He was in my power and I his true bride.” The following month, Matthew became a naturalised Englishman, but he soon left her as he was given command of 16 ships and 600 soldiers. Margaret remained in the service of Queen Catherine. When she became aware that she was pregnant, she retired to Stepney Palace. At the end of February 1545, Margaret gave birth to a premature son, and he was given the name Henry. He would die on 28 November that same year.
On 7 December 1546, Margaret gave birth to her second son, who was also named Henry Stuart and he carried the title of Lord Darnley, as his father’s heir. Margaret went on to give birth to at least four daughters, but their names have not been recorded, and they did not survive infancy. One other son named Charles was born in 1557, and he survived infancy. Another son did not, and so six of Margaret’s eight children did not survive. She later wrote, “But Death unto life found daily a foe; six of our children away from us bent; in tender youth, he laid them down low, whose loss with tears we did much lament; but yet with God’s will we stood well content, Whose divine working we could not withstand, Who maketh and killeth in turning a hand.”
On 28 January 1547, Margaret’s uncle King Henry VIII died at Whitehall Palace, leaving the throne to his young son, now King Edward VI. Margaret brought her own young son to court but her reception there was much cooler than expected. Margaret was still a Catholic, and her nephew did not approve of her beliefs. She would spend the six years of Edward’s reign in Yorkshire, running her household and bearing children. In 1553, she ventured to Scotland, with the approval of Mary, Queen of Scots’ mother Mary of Guise, to see her father at Tantallon. She was probably still there when King Edward VI died on 6 July 1553. She, therefore, missed the dramatic nine-day reign of Lady Jane Grey and the subsequent accession of her friend as Queen Mary I.
Margaret was now free to practise her religion openly, and she was in high favour with Queen Mary. She may have been present at Mary’s coronation, but her presence was confirmed at a banquet hosted by the new Queen on 17 October 1553. Queen Mary apparently favoured Margaret as her successor if she should not have children, but it would be difficult. When Mary married Philip of Spain in 1554, Margaret bore the train of her wedding gown. She would continue to serve Mary as her chief gentlewoman and keeper of her privy purse. She probably named a son, who was born around this time, Philip after Mary’s husband, but this son did not survive. Margaret vested her hopes for the future firmly in her eldest son Henry. One ambassador later wrote of him that “it was not possible to see a more beautiful prince.”1