Seeing as 8th March marks International Women’s Day, there is only one woman that I can commemorate on this blog, and that has to be Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. She was the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty; true. But, in her own right was a woman well worthy of commemoration. Although, this post has been very hastily thrown together, and is by no means a comprehensive look at Lady Margaret’s life and times. It is, however, a very brief introduction to a very formidable woman.
Lady Margaret was the daughter of John Beaufort, first duke of Somerset and his wife, Lady Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. She was born on 31st May, 1441-43, with there being some dispute about the precise year. A descendant of John of Gaunt and his third wife, Katherine Swynford; Lady Margaret had her own (albeit weak) claim to the throne. Also, following the death of her father on 27th May, 1444, Margaret was one of the wealthiest heiress’ in the country, and a valuable match in the marriage market.
Her first marital match was to John de la Pole, the son of the Duke of Suffolk. Margaret was around nine years old, and he around seven. However, this match was soon annulled, and the wardship passed back to King Henry VI, who lined up his step-brother, Edmund Tudor for her. He was twenty-four, and she was just twelve. By thirteen, Lady Margaret was heavily pregnant and widowed. But not to be defeated, she delivered a healthy son on 28th January, 1457. Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond (and future King, lest we forget).
Her third marriage was to Henry Stafford, the son of the Duke of Buckingham. Theirs seemed to be a happy marriage. Although inevitably marred by the dynastic warring that was happening all around her, and of course her son’s flight into exile in 1471.
Her third and final marriage was to Sir Thomas Stanley, earl of Derby. Most commentators have this down as a purely political match, and Lady Margaret’s main intention of the union to win support for her exiled son. However, little evidence seems to exist to shed much light on the true nature of the match.
What is true, however, Lady Margaret planned and worked tirelessly on behalf of her son. She put her name to Buckingham’s spectacularly failed rebellion against Richard III, and still plotted to get him to the top spot. Despite her four marriages, also, she had only one child (leading many to speculate that she had been permanently damaged by Henry’s birth).
From 1485, the Countess was also Queen Mother. However, according to her chaplain (John Fisher): at her son’s coronation, wept tears of grief, rather than joy, because she knew that Henry’s crown would soon be challenged (she was not wrong). So although she planned her son’s coronation, she was well aware of it’s attendant dangers.
It was possibly with this in mind that she set about securing her dynasty through great marriages. It was said to be her that planned and pushed for both the Spanish, and Scottish marriages for her two eldest grandchildren (Prince Arthur, and Princess Margaret).
In the end, she survived her son, and died shortly after the coronation of her grandson, Henry VIII. A long life, lived rather well.