Hidden historical heroine: (#24: Margaret Drummond(s))

Our first Margaret Drummond (c.1340 – c.1375) was the second wife and queen of David II of Scotland.

A member of the Scottish gentry, the young Margaret caught the eye of her king whilst he was married to Joan of the Tower, an English Princess – daughter of Edward II and Isabella of France. David and Joan’s marriage was loveless, to say the least. When David was released in 1357 after a spell imprisoned in the Tower of London by his brother-in-law, Edward III, Joan decided to stay in London. She died in late 1362, leaving David a widower.

On 20 February 1364, David took the Lady Margaret Drummond to be his new queen; her first husband, one Sir John Logie, had conveniently shuffled off this mortal coil by this point. By marrying his mistress, David raised the whole of Clan Drummond dangerously high, creating great resentment towards them. His “love match” was unseemly, unprecedented; whilst Scotland was not the world power that say England or France could claim to be, David could still have picked his bride from a pool of European royal virgins.

David II

However, it didn’t turn out to be that much of a “love match” after all. Barely five years after their formal marriage, David filed for divorce from Margaret, on the grounds of her infertility. This was rather rich coming from a man whose 37-year-long first marriage had also resulted in no children, whilst dear Margaret had had a son with her first husband – I think we’re all in agreement that if there was any fertility issue at play here, it was at David’s door!

Margaret certainly seemed to think so and, rather admirably, wasn’t about to take the divorce lying down. She escaped the control of the king’s men and travelled, incognito, to Avignon in Southern France, where the current Pope was staying. Said Pope agreed that there was no reason to consider she was infertile, and promptly reversed the divorce.

David was scuppered. He was stuck legally married to a queen who was now estranged from him and had no heir other than his sister’s son. By 1369 he’d taken a new mistress, Agnes Dunbar, but Margaret’s appeal to the Pope left him unable to marry her. As it turns out, it was all moot, as David died unexpectedly in February 1371, outlived by the queen he had embarrassed and scorned.

Our second Margaret Drummond,  (c. 1475 – 1501) was the great-great-great-great-niece of the first. Like her ancestor, she was the mistress of a king of Scotland – perhaps, secretly, his queen? – and her death originated one of the most lasting legends of medieval Scotland. The pair had a daughter – Margaret Stuart – who James adored and supported throughout his life.

Margaret seems to have been involved with James IV from as early as 1495. James had had many mistresses, but he truly seemed to dote on Margaret, installing her “in great state” in his castle at Stirling and palace in Linlithgow over 1496 and 1497. James was a bit of a wanderer, an everyman, who regularly journeyed his realm incognito, revealing himself now and then to improve the dispensation of justice and to settle feuds. On his wanderings, he was said to have encountered and bedded numerous women – his recorded bastards number half a dozen – but it seems that during his relationship with Margaret, he sought the attentions of no other woman.

James IV

In 1501, Margaret was residing in the house of her father, Lord Drummond, along with her younger sisters, Eupheme and Sibylla. So legend would have it – and the inscription on her grave plaque! – Margaret was at this time already privately married to James. Whether or not this was true, James was neck-deep in peace negotiations with Henry VII of England, a large component of which would be marriage to his teenaged daughter, another Margaret. If he was already married to another – a commoner! – then this longed for political union could never come to pass. If he was already married, something needed to be done.

And so, the legend persists that pro-English (or perhaps, simply, anti-Drummond!) Scots arranged for the breakfast porridge of Margaret Drummond to be poisoned. The two younger sisters, eating from the same pot, were collateral damage. The three ladies are buried together in the chancel of Dunblane Cathedral, under three navy tombstones. On the middle stone there is a brass plaque with the inscription:

“To the glory of God, in memory of Margaret, eldest daughter of John, 1st Lord Drummond, by tradition privately married to King James 4th and poisoned at Drummond Castle by some of the nobles who desired the King’s marriage with Princess Margaret of England. The three sisters were buried underneath these slabs in the choir of the Cathedral of which their uncle Walter Drummond was Dean AD 1501.”

The plaque over Margaret's grave

Although it’s quite likely given the hygiene standards of the time that what appears to be a politically motivated assassination was just a fatal case of food poisoning, many – most prominently Clan Drummond – perpetuated the tale that Margaret had been married to James and therefore murdered for centuries, trumpeting the fact – of course – that they were the only clan to have ever given two daughters to become queens of Scotland.



3 thoughts on “Hidden historical heroine: (#24: Margaret Drummond(s))

  1. Where was “Forensic Files” when you needed it?? Whether she was poisoned or not, her liaison with James IV was a love match. Their daughter, Margaret, is my 12th g-grandmother. Have you ever seen an image of either Margaret Drummond or Margaret Stuart?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: