Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drummond, Margaret

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DRUMMOND, MARGARET (1472?–1501), mistress of James IV of Scotland, was probably the youngest of the five daughters of John, first lord Drummond [q. v.] by his wife, Lady Elizabeth Lindsay, daughter of Alexander, fourth earl of Crawford. The period at which her intimacy with James IV commenced has been very generally misapprehended. It is represented by Tytler, Burton, Strickland, and other writers on the history of Scotland that in 1488, immediately on his accession, the boy-king lived at Linlithgow in splendour and constant festivity with his girl-mistress. But these statements are based only on the frequent payments for dress and other things, as recorded in the ‘Treasury Accounts of Scotland,’ made to the ‘Lady Margaret,’ who was not, as these authors have supposed, Margaret Drummond, but was without doubt the king's aunt, Lady Margaret Stewart. The first entry in the accounts referring to ‘M. D.’ (under which initials, or as ‘Lady Margaret of D.,’ Margaret Drummond is invariably mentioned) occurs in May 1496, and there is no evidence that her connection with the king was of earlier date. From that time onwards entries concerning her are frequent. On 9 June 1496 she was placed under the care of Sir John and Lady Lindsay at Stirling Castle, where she remained till the end of October, when she was transferred to the charge of Sir David Kinghorn at Linlithgow. In March of the following year further payments were made to Lady Lindsay ‘for M. D.'s expenses, eleven days she was in Stirling when she passit hame.’ In this same year Margaret bore the king a daughter, who was known by the name of Lady Margaret Stewart, and who was married successively to Lord Huntly, the Duke of Albany, and her cousin, Sir John Drummond. The intercourse of Margaret Drummond with James IV, who was passionately attached to her, probably continued to her death, which occurred in 1501 under circumstances of grave suspicion. It is commonly said that a poisoned dish was served to her at breakfast, and that she and her two sisters—Eupheme, wife of Lord Fleming, and Sybilla—who happened to be at table with her, all ate of it and died of the effects. Another tradition is that the poison was administered to them at a morning celebration of the holy communion. That the three sisters died together from poisoning is tolerably certain, but the authorship of the crime remains unknown. It has been variously attributed to the jealousy of certain noble families (in Hist. of Noble British Families, 1846, vol. ii. pt. xvii., the Kennedys are named) and to the designs of the courtiers, who believed that while Margaret lived the king would refuse to marry; but this latter story is falsified by a deed preserved in the ‘Fœdera’ (xii. 707), which shows that before Margaret's death James IV had bound himself to marry Margaret Tudor. In a letter addressed many years afterwards by this queen to Lord Surrey (Cotton. MS. Calig. B. 1, fol. 281) she incidentally speaks of ‘Lord Fleming [who] for evil will he had to his wife [Eupheme Drummond] caused poison three sisters, and one was his wife; and this is known as truth in all Scotland.’ The bodies of the three ladies Drummond were buried in Dunblane cathedral, in a vault the position of which was marked by three blue-marble stones; these stones, though more than once removed, still remain in the choir of the cathedral, but there is now no trace of any inscription on them. The child of Margaret Drummond was brought up at the king's expense, and in the ‘Treasury Accounts’ appear payments made at regular intervals for several years to priests to sing masses for the mother's soul. It has been sometimes supposed that the ballad of ‘Tay's Bank’ alludes to Margaret and was possibly written by James IV.

There is no sufficient foundation for the story, repeated, among others, by Don Pedro de Ayala (Cal. of Letters and State Papers relating to England and Spain, ed. Bergenroth, i. 170), Moreri (Grand Dictionnaire, 1740), and Agnes Strickland (Lives of the Queens of Scotland, ed. 1850, i. 20), that James IV was privately married to Margaret Drummond, but was compelled to wait for a dispensation from the pope before he could make the fact public, since he and his wife were within the degrees of consanguinity prohibited by the canon law. The relationship between the two was most remote, they being cousins in the fifth degree, through their common ancestor Sir John Drummond, whose daughter, Annabella [q. v.], was married to Robert III of Scotland.

[Harl. MS. 4238, fol. 312; David Malcolm's Genealogical Memoir of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Drummond, Edinburgh, 1808; Accounts of Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, ed. T. Dickson, vol. i. pref. p. cxxxii and passim; Tytler's History of Scotland, 3rd ed., iii. 444, 519. The story of Margaret Drummond and her sisters has been embodied, with a greater admixture of romance than fact, in the Yellow Frigate, a novel by James Grant.]

A. V.