Margaret Tudor and the politics of her marriage gifts

(public domain)

The material goods given to Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, upon her marriage served as important reminders of her dual identity as both Princess of England and Queen of Scotland. Although she was married to a Scottish king, James IV, she was still an ambassador of the English crown. The success of her marriage was imperative to her father Henry VII who sought to legitimise his own tenuous rule by securing peace with England’s long-term foe Scotland. Peace with Scotland would be an achievement the English kings before him had failed to complete. Also, the Scots had utilised the political turbulence in England to their own advantage by conducting raids across England’s northern borders. Henry’s ability to foster an alliance with the Scots would help secure support for him in the traditionally Yorkist north.   This match was especially important for Henry VII, not only to legitimise his rule but also because Margaret was the first princess to marry into the dynasty of another kingdom since the daughters of Henry IV one hundred years before.

The gifts given to the Princess displayed a clear political message to the Scottish court and symbolised the wealth of the new Tudor court and the status of the royal match. Margaret’s household members were fitted with two liveries to take with them to the Scottish court. The footmen were provided with two sets of livery, ‘one with doublets of black velvet with jackets of green cloth of gold and white cloth of gold, and another with black velvet jackets embroidered with the Tudor portcullis badge and doublets of green damask.’[1] John Young records this in his chronicle, ‘thre Fotemen wer always ny hyr varey honestly appointed, and had in their Jacketts browdered Portecollys.[2] Other members of Margaret’s staff were also required to wear the royal arms and badges, such as her heralds and trumpeters.[3] Her priests also had a crucifix and the English royal arms crowned embroidered onto their vestments.[4] Even when Margaret had become Queen of Scots, there were constant reminders to those at the Scottish court that Margaret was a member of the Tudor dynasty. She held two identities as both a Princess of England and the Queen of Scotland. Not only were her servants dressed to represent this, much of the furniture and gifts that Margaret brought with her into the marriage were a visual representation of the joining together of two family houses. By having the Tudor arms on these items, they proclaimed her royal heritage and by extension, the success and legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty.  Items that would be situated in the Queen’s public spaces were especially careful to portray this dual image of both Tudor and Scot due to their high visibility to the court on a regular basis. For example, the bed of state for Margaret’s chamber was given to her by her father Henry VII, and it was instrumental in projecting the image of the power and wealth of the English court. The bed had cloth of gold coverings, which is important to note as only royals were allowed to wear or decorate with cloth of gold.[5] Therefore it was an innate symbol of Margaret’s royal status. The bed had yellow damask for the valance, which was lined with silk and gold and curtains of crimson satin.[6] The bed was set with the English coat of royal arms and decorated with heraldic beasts.[7]

A multitude of other items brought by Margaret to the marriage and ones that were most often gifted to her by her father featured the image of the English royal arms. For example, Margaret’s cloth of state and altar cloths were also embellished with the Tudor Rose as well as a wooden chair decorated with the royal arms and three gilt candlesticks.[8] These items served as important reminders of the wealth of the English crown but also of Margaret’s heritage and loyalty to her home court. As these items were stationed in the public sphere, they were a political symbol to James IV himself and to his court of the power of the Tudor dynasty.

[1] MS E 101/415/7, no. 122.

[2] John Young, ‘The Fyancells of Margaret, Eldest Daughter of King Henry VIIth to James King of Scotland: Together with her departure from England, Journey into Scotland, Her Reception and marriage there, and the great feasts held on that account; written by John Younge, in Joannis Lelandi Antiqurri De Rebus Britannicis Collectaea, John Leland, ed., London, 1770, p.267.

[3] Joseph Bain, ed., Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland Preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, London, Vol 4, A.D 1357-1509, Edinburgh, 1888, p.1727.

[4] MS E.101/415/7, no. 120; Bain, Calendar of Documents, p.1725.

[5] MS E.101/415/7, no. 120; Bain, Calendar of Documents, p.1725.

[6] ibid.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.






About Hannah 4 Articles
My name is Hannah and I'm from New Zealand but I now live in London. I did my Masters in History at the University of Auckland where my research concerned English medieval princesses. I love all things medieval and have also conducted research on the history of queenship. My first love was the Tudors when I was a teenager inspired by reading historical fiction novels but in my academic career I have slowly moved further back in time and now the majority of my work concerns the fourteenth century, where things are just as dramatic in my opinion!

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