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August 2, 1524 – Wolsey Proposes an Alliance to Margaret of Scotland

On September 10, 1515, Thomas Wolsey was made a cardinal. Read about the event and his downfall on
Cardinal Wolsey, Christ Church (Portrait by Sampson Strong)

Back in 1524, Thomas Wolsey was still running Henry VIII’s political show and Margaret of Scotland, Henry VIII’s sister, was acting as regent for her not quite teenaged son, James V. Because of her background, she was naturally sympathetic to England – which put her at odds with most of the Scottish noblemen.

Wolsey wrote to Margaret proposing an amazing opportunity: a marriage between James and Henry’s heir, Mary, that would potentially unite the two countries under a single set of rulers. It was an important plan for the future, essentially a solution to the problem that Henry’s then-wife, Catherine of Aragon, was believed to be beyond childbearing age (her last pregnancy, which ended in miscarriage, was in 1518): this new alliance would provide an existing heir with Tudor blood. It would also change the nature of the Auld Alliance between France and Scotland, which had long presented a security issue to England. Which was of course part of the problem…most Scottish noblemen clung to that alliance as they were highly distrustful of England and its motives. But still Wolsey tried.

[The text is from Letters and Papers, so it is in the format that preserves only some of the original text and summarizes other parts of it]

Perceives by her letters, dated Edinburgh, 31st July, how prudently and virtuously she has acquitted herself in the erection of her son, which has preserved his life from extreme danger. This is much to the King’s comfort, after the charges he has sustained in opposition to Albany. As to her proposal for a marriage by which England “should be sicker of Scotland,” has no doubt such a peace may be had as never was had with Scotland. The King means to proceed as a loving father towards his good son, quite differently from what other kings of England have done, and Scotland will be sure to find more comfort at Henry’s hands than they ever had of France. If the Scots proceed lovingly and nobly with him, it may be that such a marriage may be had for James as never king of Scots had the like. Begs her, therefore, to follow the counsel of the King and my lord of Norfolk, and not allow herself to be beguiled by an untrue persuasion. Norfolk is commissioned to conclude a truce, and whenever the Scots will send ambassadors they shall have a most favorable reception. If difficulties be raised about this, Scotland will never have such another opportunity again.


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August 2, 1524 - Wolsey Proposes an Alliance to Margaret of Scotland
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One Comment

  1. It would not have been the first time that one cousin married another, but it was an admission of defeat regarding the original marriage between Margaret and James IV of Scotland that had been intended to create everlasting peace between the two nations. Wolsey had negotiated that one as well, but no sooner was Henry VIII abroad fighting the French as part of an alliance aimed at preserving Rome than the Scots marched south, and had to be decimated at Flodden by an English army under the Earl of Surrey (later Duke of Norfolk) during the Regency of Catherine. Catherine sent Henry items of blood-soaked clothing from the corpse of James IV , adding that her only regret was that it was not his head. So much for treaties, and Henry should have realised then what a blessing he had in Catherine.

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