Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox

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Matthew Stewart
4th Earl of Lennox
Memorial to Darnley.jpg
Matthew Stewart, his wife Margaret, their son Charles and grandson James mourn their son Henry
Born21 December 1516
Dumbarton Castle, Scotland
Died4 September 1571(1571-09-04) (aged 54)
Stirling Castle, Scotland
Noble familyStewart of Darnley
Spouse(s)Lady Margaret Douglas
FatherJohn Stewart, 3rd Earl of Lennox
MotherLady Elizabeth Stewart

Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox[1] (21 September 1516 – 4 September 1571), was the fourth Earl of Lennox, and a leader of the Catholic nobility in Scotland. He was the son of John Stewart, 3rd Earl of Lennox and Lady Elizabeth Stewart, daughter of John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl. His grandson was King James VI of Scotland and I of England.

Conflict with Regent Arran (1543–1547)[edit]

Matthew Stewart succeeded as Earl of Lennox upon the death of his father on 4 September 1526. He spent most of his youth in England, in exile, but returned to Scotland to assert his claims to the line of succession, when King James V of Scotland died in 1542. At the time of the King's death, Lennox possessed a strong claim to the throne of Scotland, should the King's daughter and heir, the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, pass away childless. Lennox was King James V's second cousin once removed, being a great-grandson of Princess Mary Stewart, the eldest daughter of King James II of Scotland, through her daughter, Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, his paternal grandmother. However, James Hamilton, the Earl of Arran, was the grandson of Princess Mary Stewart, and thus held the stronger claim. As a result, Lennox was, at best, third in the line of succession, and really behind Arran's sons. Arran was subsequently made Regent of Scotland. In 1543, Lennox's supporters challenged Arran's claim and legitimacy, by suggesting that his father's divorce and second marriage to his mother were invalid.[2]

In March 1543, Lennox arrived at Dumbarton Castle, his stronghold, with two ships. He came to Edinburgh, but refused to ratify Arran's position as second in line to the throne and as Regent. Arran was pushing towards an alliance with England, and made the Treaty of Greenwich on 1 July 1543, agreeing to a marriage between Mary, Queen of Scots and Prince Edward Tudor, the son and heir of King Henry VIII of England. Regent Arran began to fortify Linlithgow Palace, where Queen Mary was held with her mother, Mary of Guise, the Dowager Queen of Scotland. The supporters of Lennox and Cardinal Beaton, camped outside the palace, but lacked artillery for an assault. Their representatives parleyed with Arran's men at Kirkliston, near Edinburgh, and a settlement was reached. Henceforth, Arran would rule with the advice of a council, and the infant Queen would be moved to Stirling Castle. Lennox escorted Queen Mary to Stirling on 26 July 1543.[3]

Although Lennox had come to Scotland lured by the prospect of marriage to the widow Mary of Guise, by September, Lennox had been offered the chance to marry Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of the Dowager Queen Margaret Tudor (wife of King James IV of Scotland and sister of King Henry VIII), and half-sister of the deceased King James V. After Lennox had seized the French money and artillery that was sent to Mary of Guise, she even offered the hand of her daughter Queen Mary in marriage.[4] When the Parliament of Scotland rejected the Greenwich treaty, Lennox then changed sides, and supported King Henry VIII's military efforts to secure a marriage between Queen Mary and his son Prince Edward, in the War of the Rough Wooing.

In the summer of 1544, the Earl of Lennox plundered the Isle of Arran, and made himself master of the Isle of Bute and Rothesay Castle, with the support of eighteen ships and 800 men supplied by King Henry VIII. At the Battle of Glasgow Muir, his force of men managed to drive the first rank of the more numerous forces of Arran back into the second rank, and captured their cannon.[5] However, the battle ended more favourably for the Regent Arran.[6] There were about 300 slain on both sides, and Lennox himself withdrew to Dumbarton Castle.[5] After a consultation with his English officers, Lennox attacked Dunoon Castle, as well as burning the nearby village and church. He subsequently then laid waste a large part of Kintyre, but as he had not succeeded in regaining possession of Dumbarton Castle, after it had been seized, Lennox retreated to his ships and sailed for England around 28 May 1544.

When the English army approached Edinburgh, before the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, far to the west, a diversionary invasion of 5000 men was led by Thomas Wharton and Lennox on 8 September 1547. They took Castlemilk and burnt Annan, after a bitter struggle to capture its fortified church.[7]

Marriage and later life[edit]

In 1544, Matthew Stewart married Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus and the Dowager Queen Margaret Tudor, who had a claim to the English throne. Their children were:

Lennox's grandchildren were:

For a time, Lennox and his family resided at Whorlton Castle which had been granted, with the estate, to him by King Henry VIII. Later, at some point in the late 16th century, a house was built there by the Lennox family adjoining the northwest end of the castle's gatehouse.

In August 1548, Lennox made four promises to Mary of Guise in order for her assent to her daughter Queen Mary's marriage to Francis II of France. These were: that he and his friends and retainers would preserve the Catholic faith in Scotland; they would guard the Auld Alliance; Guise would remain guardian of the Queen; and he would punish all who supported the King of England.[10]

Lennox returned to Scotland upon the urging of Queen Elizabeth I of England, during the marriage negotiations of Queen Mary of Scots in 1564. He quickly took up his position as the most powerful lord in the Glasgow area and was later instrumental in the marriage of his elder son, Lord Darnley, to Queen Mary. Whether Queen Elizabeth I had intended this (in order to eliminate the threat of a continental marriage), as is sometimes conjectured, remains doubtful. The Queen of England reacted with disapproval and had Lennox's wife Margaret confined in the Tower of London. By August 1565, William Cecil had heard that, the insolence of his son Darnley, had driven Lennox from the Scottish court.[11]

After his elder son Darnley was murdered early in 1567, Lennox was the most ardent pursuant of justice against the lords who had conspired in the murder. He also became the main witness against Queen Mary, though her involvement in the murder, thought to have been carried out by her later husband, Lord Bothwell, is controversial.

In 1570, Lennox became regent for his grandson, King James VI of Scotland, but Queen Elizabeth's party declared war against him. He was shot dead next year in a skirmish, when the Queen's party attacked Stirling. The raid on Stirling on 4 September 1571 was led by the Earl of Huntly, Claude Hamilton, and the lairds of Buccleuch and Ferniehurst. Early reports said he was killed by his own party. William Kirkcaldy of Grange said the shot was fired by the Queen's party, and another account names David Bochinant as the assassin.[12]



  1. ^ "Oxford DNB login". Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  2. ^ Dickinson, Gladys, ed., Two Missions of de la Brosse, Scottish History Society (1942), 7-8, 19: Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol, 1 (1898), 691-694.
  3. ^ Marshall, R. K., Mary of Guise, Collins (1977), 126-130: Merriman, Marcus, The Rough Wooing, Tuckwell (2000), 124-126: Furgol, Edward M., The Scottish Itinerary of Mary Queen of Scots, PSAS, vol. 107, (1989), 119-231.
  4. ^ Marshall, R. K., Mary of Guise, Collins (1977), 139-140.
  5. ^ a b Cleland 1816, p. 10.
  6. ^ Paterson 1852, p. 174.
  7. ^ Tytler, Patrick Fraser, History of Scotland, vol. 3,(1879), 63: Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 1, (1898), p.19 no.42, Lennox & Wharton to Somerset, 16 September 1547.
  8. ^ The Lost Tudor Princess: A Life of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox - page 157: "given the fact the Lennoxes' second son had been given the same name as their deceased first son.
  9. ^ The Lost Tudor Princess: A Life of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox – page 157: "which suggests that his brother, Philip born the previous year, was still alive."
  10. ^ HMC, 9th report part 2, Alfred Morrison, (1884), 414-5.
  11. ^ Ellis, Henry, Original Letters, second series, vol. 2, (1827), 303, Cecil to Thomas Smith, 1 September 1565.
  12. ^ Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 3 (1903), 679-687.
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
John Stewart
Earl of Lennox
Succeeded by
King James VI
(merged with the Crown)