Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (1443 – 1509)

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Margaret Beaufort

There were not many mothers as devoted to their child as Margaret Beaufort was to hers. Not only did she give birth to the first Tudor King, but she played the game of thrones so well. It was due much to her political shrewdness and never ending ambition, that enabled her son, whom had minimal noble blood and even less royal blood, obtain a Kingdom. This woman, like many English noble women, had the cunning of a serpent, and a cold steely will. I really enjoy doing pieces on the ladies of the British nobility, for they are very fascinating to me. They are some of the most ruthless and astute characters throughout history. The interesting thing is, is that the men around them helped make them the dangerous creatures they usually proved to be. It all boiled down to women determined to protect their children and to keep their inheritances.

Lady Margaret Beaufort was the daughter of John Beaufort, the first Duke of Somerset who was the great Grandson of King Edward III, through his third son John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. It was her ancestry that gave her son the most claim to the throne to England; though, technically speaking, it was a very weak claim considering how many generations were between her and the crown. Also, she was female descendent at that.

Margaret’s father died when she was a baby and as she was his only surviving child, she was his sole heir to a considerable fortune. John requested the King allow Margaret’s mother to be in control of her wardship, however this did not happen. Giving away wardships was a King’s right and a way for him to award/bribe the powerful Lords of the Kingdom. Even though she was allowed to remain with her mother, control over her life and fortune were given to William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk.

When Margaret was a year old, or maybe six, de la Pole Married her to his own son, John de la Pole. This was the best way to keep her fortune after all. Soon, King Henry VI had the marriage dissolved when de la Pole fell out of favor. The King gave Margaret and her fortune to his half brother Edmund Tudor, the son of the Dowager Queen, Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor, a commoner. By this time the King had declared all his half siblings legitimate, stating that Catherine and Owen had married, though in secret. The King loved his half siblings very much and he gave them many favors. Margaret was a great favor indeed.

Despite the way Margaret was just given away to those the King favored so easily, Margaret accepted her role as a Renaissance English noble lady. Her duty was to serve God who commanded she serve her King, and in turn serve her husband. There was no doubt that Margaret was a dutiful subject and a very pious woman. In fact, she was known for her piety all her life. Margaret married Edmund Tudor possibly when she was eleven or twelve years old and he was twenty-four. She never recognized her marriage to de la Pole. Anyway, it was never consummated as they were children. Without consummation marriage is null and void. She consider Edmund her first husband and she became with child immediately.

After her marriage to Edmund the famous “War of the Roses” had already been going on. Although Edmund, a Lancastrian was captured by the Yorkist and held prisoner, he met his untimely demise at the hands of Death. The plague took him before Margaret even gave birth to his child. Jasper Tudor, Edmund’s brother took her under his protection.

Margaret gave birth to a son she named Henry. Because of her age and very petite size, the birth nearly killed her and the baby. They both survived the most dangerous ordeal a woman and baby went through during this period. Childbirth was the main killer of women and infants. Even though they beat Death, Margaret would never have another child again. The birth had caused too much trauma. This brought mother and son very close together. Margaret would live for her child, and he would always respect and listen to his mother.

Margaret married two more times. Her fourth and final husband, Lord Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, was purely a marriage of convenience for both parties. She even took a vow of chastity during this marriage and her husband did not object. They appeared to be partners and friends. It was Lord Stanley who would make it possible for her son to obtain the crown. In secret he plotted and turned key nobles against Richard III, who possibly usurped the crown by ordering the murder of the two princes while they were held in the tower prisoner shortly after the King Henry VI, their father, was murdered.

While Stanley planned a mutiny in secret along with other nobles against Richard III, Margaret was working her magic on the Dowager Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. She was arranging the betrothal of her son, Henry Earl of Richmond, to the Queen Dowager’s daughter, Elizabeth of York. The marriage would unite the Lancasters and the Yorkists (the red and white roses) and hopefully end the War of the Roses for good. The Dowager Queen was desperate for her remaining children’s lives and her own. In the end she decided that it was best that her daughter be the Queen Consort and to get rid of Richard III, rather than possibly end up dead like her two princes in the tower.

During the Battle of Bosworth Field, several Lords and their armies switched sides suddenly and destroyed Richard III. Henry VII was proclaimed King of England and was the last King of England to win the crown in battle. Henry VII married Elizabeth of York as promised. Margaret lived to see all her grand-children born, and she helped advise her son as King. She was even by his side when he died of tuberculosis, after which she arranged the coronation of her grandson Henry VIII. Henry VIII, was not as attentive to her advice as his father. He was a young excited boy of eighteen who had his own agenda in mind. Her work done, she died peacefully in her sleep of old age.

During her lifetime Margaret built several schools, churches, and provided and contributed to the improvement of culture and education in England.

Margaret Beaufort2

Although only the first episode of the cable mini series “The White Queen,” based upon Philippa Gergory’s novel by the same title, is available to view for free on YouTube, you can see Margaret Beaufort and the part she played in this historical drama if you watch the whole series.

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