The Tudor Society

Lady Margaret Beaufort

Margaret_Beaufort_from_NPGLady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, and matriarch of the Tudor dynasty, was born at Bletsoe Castle in Bedfordshire on 31st May 1443. She was the daughter of Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe and John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, grandson of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress (and eventual wife) Katherine Swynford. Margaret was their only child. Although a 1397 act of Parliament legitimized the children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, Henry IV declared that they could never inherit the throne.

Margaret was married four times: c.1450 to John de la Pole, a marriage which was dissolved in 1453 (some say that the marriage never happened and was just a betrothal); 1453 to Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, eldest son of Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois and half-brother of Henry VI; 1462 to Henry Stafford, son of the 1st Duke of Buckingham; and finally in 1472 to Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby and the Lord High Constable and King of Mann. Margaret had just one child, Henry VII. She gave birth to him at the age of thirteen, and his father was Edmund Tudor.

Margaret was a powerful lady, and was a key figure in the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster. She actively supported her son Henry Tudor’s claim to the throne, and was able to persuade her then husband, Thomas Stanley, and his brother to swap sides and support Henry at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Henry defeated Richard III and became Henry VII of England. Margaret and Elizabeth Woodville co-plotted the marriage of Henry, Margaret’s son, and Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter by Edward IV.

Margaret was the Countess of Richmond and Derby but, after her son’s victory at Bosworth, was referred to as “My Lady the King’s Mother”, and refused to accept a lower status than the queen consort, Elizabeth of York.

She took an active interest in education and established the Lady Margaret’s Professorship of Divinity at Cambridge University, refounded and added to God’s House, Cambridge, turning it into Christ’s College, and her estate founded St John’s College, Cambridge. The Queen Elizabeth’s School, formally Wimborne Grammar School, came about as a result of her intention to build a free school in Wimborne, Dorset.

Lady Margaret Beaufort died 29th June 1509, aged sixty-six. She died just four days after enjoying the coronation celebrations of her grandson, Henry VIII, and Henry Parker, Lord Morley, who acted as her cupbearer at the coronation ceremonies, reported that “she took her infirmity with eating of a cygnet”. Margaret was buried at Westminster Abbey in London, in the south aisle of Henry VII’s Chapel. Her tomb was sculpted by Pietro Torrigiano and features a portrait effigy of Margaret dressed in traditional widow’s dress, her head resting on two pillows decorated with the Tudor badge, her hands raised in prayer and the Beaufort family crest at her feet. The Latin inscription, written by Erasmus, translates as “Margaret of Richmond, mother of Henry VII, grandmother of Henry VIII, who gave a salary to three monks of this convent and founded a grammar school at Wimborne, and to a preacher throughout England, and to two interpreters of Scripture, one at Oxford, the other at Cambridge, where she likewise founded two colleges, one to Christ, and the other to St John, his disciple. Died A.D.1509, III Kalends of July [29 June]”.

Extract taken from On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway.

There are 15 comments Go To Comment

  1. M

    Married at the age of ten years old. In Plantagenet/Tudor times, when marriages were between a very young girl and an adult man, the man usually allowed the girl to remain chaste until she was of an age more appropriate to the consummation of a marriage. None of that for Edmund Tutor, though – my heart breaks to think of the very young Margaret Beaufort enduring his advances as a child. Nasty old goat; she must have been so traumatized.
    She grew to have such strength of character and was 150% behind her son; I’ve found her to be so worthy of admiration for her sheer survival mentality.

    1. R

      She was 12 when she married Edmund Tudor, not 10, but you are correct it was normal and in fact encouraged to wait a couple more years, even though 12_was the legal age for marriage proper. He was in too much of a hurry for an heir. The birth of Henry at just thirteen is thought to have caused internal injuries and Margaret was unable to have other children.

    2. D

      Edmund Tudor was 25 years old at the time of the marriage, which hardly makes him an old goat. I agree that consummating the marriage right away was wrong, but these people were in a hurry for that son they could use in their power struggle. If he had waited there would have been no Henry VII, as Edmund Tudor died before his son was born, scarcely a year after the marriage. I admire Margaret Beaufort as a survivor, but I do not admire her as a person and would certainly not want to meet her!

  2. d

    has anyone heard of her having a child with Sir Henry Hand?

    1. C - Post Author

      I’ve never come across a “Henry Hand” in relation to Margaret Beaufort. I just googled the two names together to see what could be linking them and found mention of them being married on a site called Family Search: “SIR HENRY HAND was born about 1440 of Kent, England, to Sir Hand of Benenden (1420-) and Unknown. He married Lady Margaret Beaufort.” but in its biography of her, it then doesn’t mention him at all! The trouble with these types of sites is that they are only as accurate as the information provided by other users. I know that when I was researching my family tree, the hints that came up were often incorrect. While I was digging, I also found mention of him in a book “Campbell Tree” that also mentioned John Beaufort marrying Margaret Beauchamp with Margaret Beaufort being one of their children, so perhaps someone has put two and two together and got 5! They’re both mentioned within a few lines of each other and so must be married! I don’t know, but there certainly is no evidence for Margaret having been married to a Henry Hand. I hope that helps.

      1. D

        Could Henry Hand and Henry Stafford be the same person?

        Henry Stafford is thought to have suffered from “St. Anthony’s Fire”, a condition resuting from alkaline poisoning and presenting as a rash to the HANDs and a severe burning sensation, possibly giving rise to the nickname SIr ‘Hand’ de Benenden.

  3. L

    Did Margaret beau champ kill her husband as it shows in the series

  4. L

    Did Margaret Beaufort kill her husband as it shows in White Princess

    1. C - Post Author

      No, she didn’t, that’s just fictional.

      1. B

        No. She didn’t kill anyone and to answer your other question, the White Queen is a load of rubbish. It’s also fiction and so entertainment. I would recommend Nicola Tallis biography and that of Michael Jones. Elizabeth Norton also wrote a biography.

    2. A

      Of course not

  5. S

    Sharon to Claire—Did I understand correctly that she got sick after eating a Swan?

    1. S

      According to Webster’s dictionary Ya, but after her over all nastiness maybe the cook decided to give her the swan flu (cygnet: a young swan)🤔😂Sorry if you were looking for a serious reply I just couldn’t resist.

  6. J

    Certainly different times In medieval England (14th/15th Cent.
    if you look at it with 20th Century eyes logically she was hell bent on power, a evil and manipulative self serving person who really only looked out for her own needs. Greed.Murder. to name a few of the deadly sins.

  7. N

    Does anyone know whether a list exists of the members of Margaret Beaufort’s household, particularly at Woking?
    A Christopher Sands was certainly working for her in the 1480s nd I want to know moreabout him.

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Lady Margaret Beaufort