Margaret Beaufort, was a truly remarkable woman in every sense of the word. Although the Tudor Family Tree shows them to be descended from King Edward III through his son John of Gaunt and Gaunt's mistress Katherine Swynford, it is Margaret who must be considered the true matriarch of the House of Tudor.
At twelve years of age, she had already been married twice and conceived
her only child Henry, who would grow up to defeat, at the Battle of
Bosworth Field, the forces of King Richard III, the fifteenth and last
monarch from the House of Plantagenet. He would claim the crown for his
own, to become King Henry VII.
A dynasty which had ruled England for three hundred and thirty one years, from the beginning of the reign of King Henry II in 1154 until Richard's defeat in 1485, the legitimate line of the House of Plantagenet became extinct in 1499 when, charged with treason, Edward, Earl of Warwick, nephew of the slain king Richard III, was executed.
Although seperated from her son Henry for twenty four years, Margaret Beaufort devoted her whole life to his cause, conspiring with senior members among the supporters of the House of York. She succeeded in persuading them to switch their support to Henry, which ultimately led to Henry's victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field and a new ruling dynasty, the House of Tudor.
ABOVE MARGARET BEAUFORT, THE MOTHER OF KING HENRY VII
Margaret Beaufort, must rank as the most important member of all, in the Tudor Family Tree order of merit, for without her solid devotion to her son's cause, it is difficult to see how he could have overcome the odds to become King Henry VII.
Lady Margaret Beaufort, was the daughter of John Beaufort, the 1st Duke of Somerset, and Margaret Beauchamp of Bletso. She was born at Bletso Castle, Bedfordshire on 31st May, probably in the year 1443.
Her father, John Beaufort, was the grandson of John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford, which made it an illegitimate line. It was later legitimized by Papal Bull, followed by an Act of Parliament and also legitimized by two English kings, Richard II and Henry IV. The legitimization carried with it a condition though: their descendants could never succeed to the throne.
ABOVE: KING RICHARD III
However, despite this condition, from Henry VII, who won the crown when he defeated King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, right down to the present day, every sovereign, be they English, British and U.K. who followed him, can trace their ancestry back to John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.
ABOVE: KING HENRY VII
Several biographers of Lady Margaret Beaufort, taking their evidence from investigations which were carried out at the death of her father, have given their opinion that she may have been born in 1441.
However, 1443 does appear to be the most likely year of her birth. For as she was about to be born and wanting to ensure that the rights of the child's wardship belonged only to his wife in the case of his death, John Beaufort, negotiated the wardship of his unborn child with King Henry VI, prior to leading an imminent military campaign for the king, to France.
On his return, his military campaign having been a failure, John Beaufort fell out with the king. He was subsequently banished from court amid rumours that he had been forbidden to appear in the King's presence and was about to be charged with treason. Before the charge could be brought against him, he died.
According to the French Bishop of Lisieux Thomas Basin, both a historian and contemporary of John Beaufort's, he died from natural causes. The Crowland or Croyland Chronicle on the other hand, which is a primary source for the history of medieval England, though not always considered to be accurate, reports his death as suicide. Being his only child, Margaret Beaufort inherited the whole of his considerable fortune.
King Henry VI on the first birthday of Lady Margaret, broke the promise he gave to her father and made her the ward of William de Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Despite this, she remained with her mother.
The First Marriage Of Margaret Beaufort:
On 7th February 1450, at the ripe old age of seven, (or thereabouts), Margaret was married to John de la Pole, who was approximately the same age as her, a Papal dispensation having been obtained, due to the closeness of their blood relationship (consanguinity).
Margaret, would not have been bound by this marriage contract under canon law, as it had been entered into before she had reached the age of twelve. However, it was dissolved three years later and was never recognised as a marriage by Margaret herself, for in her will, which she made in 1472, she refers to her marriage to Edmund Tudor as her first marriage.
The Second Marriage Of Margaret Beaufort:
With the marriage now dissolved Lady Margaret Beaufort's wardship was transferred by King Henry VI, to his half brothers, Jasper and Edmund Tudor, with the intention that she would make a suitable bride for Edmund. She was married, at the age of twelve, to the twenty four year old Edmund, on 1st November 1455.
The marriage took place not long after the First Battle of St. Albans on 22nd May 1455. It was the culmination of a series of armed clashes over many years, between two rival branches of the House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster and the House of York.
ABOVE: A 19TH CENTURY ENGRAVING OF THE APOCRYPHAL SCENE IN THE TEMPLE CHURCH GARDEN IN LONDON, FROM SHAKESPEARE'S PLAY "HENRY VI PART 1". IT SHOWS SUPPORTERS OF THE RIVAL FACTIONS PICKING SIDES BY CHOOSING EITHER A RED OR WHITE ROSE
It was the first open battle of what beacame known as the Wars of the Roses, a series of bloody Civil Wars between cousins attached to these two Houses.
Tension had been simmering between these two rival factions, who had been in contention for the English throne since 1399. It finally exploded at St. Albans, starting the war that tore the whole of England apart from 1455 until his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, placed Henry VII on the throne .
This battle at Bosworth effectively ended the war, although there were challenges to Henry's rule, most noteably two years later, on 16th June 1487, when he was again victorious over the Yorkist supporters at the Battle of Stoke Field.
It was the last battle in which a Lancastrian king faced Yorkist supporters, this time under the pretender Lambert Simnel. It has caused some dispute among historians as to whether the Battle of Stoke Field was the final battle in the Wars of the Roses.
There are a substantial number of historians who consider the Battle of Bosworth Field to be the final battle in which the two rival factions of the House of York and the House of Lancaster really faced each other to bring about an end to the long running civil wars.
Edmund Tudor, who sided with the Lancastrians, was captured by the Yorkist supporter William Herbert in the middle of the following year and was imprisoned at Carmarthen Castle. He died there on 3rd November 1456 as a result of the plague, leaving Margaret Beaufort, who was in the seventh month of her pregnancy, a widow at the age of thirteen.
Henry Tudor, Lady Margaret's only child, was born on 28th January 1457 at Pembroke Castle in Wales, but due to her small size and young age, it proved to be a very difficult birth, both the mother and child being close to death at one point.
Being the father of her only child, Lady Margaret always held dear the name and memory of her late husband Edmund. She specified in her will, which was drawn up in 1472, sixteen years after his death, her wish to be buried alongside him.
This was not to be, for Edmund Tudor was buried in the Grey Friars in Carmarthen, whilst Margaret lies buried in the Henry VII Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey.
ABOVE:TOMB OF EDMUND TUDOR, FATHER OF KING HENRY VII, AT ST. DAVID'S CATHEDRAL
At the widespread destruction, that accompanied the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which was carried out by their grandson Henry VIII, the remains of Edmund Tudor were removed to St. David's Cathedral in 1539.
ABOVE: TOMB EFFIGY OF EDMUND TUDOR
Lady Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry remained at Pembroke for the first four years of Henry's life, under the protection of Henry's uncle, Jasper Tudor, the brother of his father Edmund.
This came to an end in 1461 however, when Edward, Earl of March on being proclaimed King Edward IV, mobilized the Yorkist forces to defeat the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton in what was a crushing victory for the House of York.
With this defeat, Jasper Tudor fled abroad. King Edward IV gave
Pembroke Castle to the Yorkist William Herbert, with the title Earl of Pembroke following soon after. Herbert now took over the guardianship of Henry Tudor, who lived with the Herbert household until 1469, when Herbert was captured fighting for the Yorkists and executed.
In 1471, during the Battle of Tewkesbury, the Lancastrian heir to the throne, the son of King Henry VI, Prince Edward, was killed. Henry himself was imprisoned in the Tower of London where he died on 21st or 22nd of May.
ABOVE:KING HENRY VI
According to the official reports, upon hearing of the disastrous defeat at Tewkesbury and the death of his son, he died of melancholy. It is widely believed however, that he was murdered, in order to bring about the end of all the legitimate Lancastrian claims to the throne.
At fourteen years of age, even though he was from an illegitimate line and was barred from the line of succession, Henry Tudor suddenly became the only surving male from the House of Lancaster.
His life was now in extreme danger. Jasper Tudor again fled to France, along with other Lancastrians, this time taking young Henry with him, where they would spend the next fourteen years in exile in Brittany plotting their return.
Margaret Beaufort who had already been seperated from her son when he was just four years of age and did not see him for ten years, would now have to spend another fourteen years apart from him.
After seeing him for a short period in 1470 when King Henry VI briefly regained his throne, she did not see him again until he became king. A period of twenty four years.
The Third Marriage Of Margaret Beaufort:
Henry Stafford, the son of Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, became the third husband of Lady Margaret on 3rd January 1462.
Due to them being second cousins, they required a dispensation from the Pope which was granted on 6th April. They had no children and she was once again widowed in 1471.
The Fourth Marriage Of Lady Beaufort:
Lady Margaret Beaufort married Thomas Stanley, the King of Mann (the Isle of Man which is located in the Irish Sea) in June 1472. He was the last to use the title King of Mann, his descendants using the title, Lord of Mann instead.
ABOVE: THOMAS 1ST. EARL OF DERBY AND FOURTH HUSBAND OF MARGARET BEAUFORT
It is believed to have been a marriage of convenience at first and recent historians have put forward their beliefs that Margaret never for a moment considered herself to be a member of the Stanley family.
It is well known, that at least in the latter years of her marriage, she preferred to live alone and in 1499, she took a vow of chastity, with the full knowledge and blessing of her husband.<p>
She moved away from their home and lived alone. He visited her often, staying in rooms she had reserved for him.
It was Thomas who allegedly placed the crown on the head of his stepson Henry Tudor after the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 to crown him King Henry VII. Thomas Stanley was later made Earl of Derby, which made the King's mother, Margaret Beaufort the Countess of Derby.
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