Scheming to rule Scotland

Here’s a plan I’m not at all sure about. Henry VII, the scheming Tudor who seized the throne of England after the more legitimate claimants all died, some because of him, married his daughter Margaret to King James IV of Scotland on August 8 back in 1503.

The idea, apparently, was that somehow the English monarchs would thus come to rule Scotland. If so it didn’t work. James IV, who is for some reason regarded as the most successful Stuart monarch, died in the disastrous defeat by the English at Flodden a decade later. He had actually signed a treaty of perpetual peace with Henry VII in 1502. But when Henry VIII invaded France on some pretext or another James invaded England and died.

I may seem to digress. But my point is that if that’s the best the Stuarts can do you wouldn’t want to see the worst. You will anyway. Because the dynasty staggers from defeat to murder to execution before producing James VI who, a hundred years after the marriage that started this piece, manages to become king of England as well as Scotland when the Tudor dynasty fizzles out after just five monarchs, two of them reasonably ephemeral, two sinister and one glorious but childless, having failed to take over Scotland though not for want of fairly violent trying under Henry VIII. And James was a pretty lousy king, shrewd but self-destructive and contemptuous of English liberty.

His son Charles I was worse and got beheaded after a civil war that was, per capita, more destructive of English life than World War I. Charles’s son Charles II was charming, cynical and non-disastrous, but his brother James II (or VII depending who’s counting) was a surly catastrophe who was soon chased away.

To be fair to the Stuarts, they then produced two more than decent reigning Queens, Mary II (co-ruler with her husband William of Orange who sailed over from the Netherlands and was thus a naval orange) and then Anne, before they had to plunge deep into the dynastic tangle to come up with the blockheaded Hanovers (George I was in fact the great-great-grandson of James I/VI) who may not have been as bad as the Stuarts but did blunder into the American Revolution which wasn’t that great either.

Now we cannot be sure what might have ensued had the marriage of Margaret Tudor to James IV not happened. But when you look at the general run of English kings, some OK, some very impressive and some wretched idiots or tyrants, I find it hard to rank the Stuarts far above the bottom.

So given that the Tudor scheme to somehow slip their behinds onto the throne above the Stone of Scone failed (OK, technically the Stone of Scone was bagged by Edward I in 1296 and hauled off to Westminster Abbey, unless some monks hid the authentic item in the Tay or Dunsinane Hill and fobbed off a forgery on the English, but in principle it was still a coronation icon for Scotland), and stuck England then the UK with two fairly bad dynasties, I’d have to say that marriage in 1503 was on a par with the general run of Tudor decisions, too clever by half, accomplished by threats wrapped in a thin tissue of flattery, and ultimately unsuccessful.