Margaret Beaufort.

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.

Young Mags B

Margaret Beaufort as a young woman?

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.

 

The Tomb of Margaret Beaufort, Westminster Abbey

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The Tabloid History Of Britain (Introduction).

Hello, and welcome to the “Henry Tudor Experience”. This is a germ of an idea I had several months ago, but for one reason or another, had always been put off, and then put off again. Then to compound matters, I set the blog up, only to be struck down with a blogger’s version of stage fright. Give me a platform, and I can usually be relied upon to suddenly lose my voice! So for want of anything better to kick this blog off, I feel an in depth explanation, (if not justification), is in order.

First up: does Henry Tudor really need, or deserve, such attention? Obviously, I would argue that he does. All too often, Henry Tudor is passed off as nothing more than a usurping King (mostly by Richard III supporters, laughably enough), with almost no claim to the throne, and who had to hide behind the skirts of his Yorkist Queen, Elizabeth of York, to bolster his grip on the Crown. Undoubtedly, Tudor’s claim to the throne was a complicated one. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it an illegitimate one. Although born sixth in line to the throne, a series of extraordinary events led to him being propelled along the line of succession, to being sole heir to the house of Lancaster, thus a genuine contender for the crown by the end of the year 1483.

However, the last thing I would want for this blog, is for it to become mired in the row over the legitimacy of Tudor’s claim. For, whatever the detractors say, or think, about the reign of King Henry VII, the man’s impact on the country was great, and far reaching. This reason alone, I feel that a new voice, indeed, a new perspective is needed, and wholly justifiable.

A second, and altogether different reason, for the existence of a blog such as this, is to try and bring Henry Tudor from out of the long, and ever-darkening shadow of his son, King Henry VIII. Undoubtedly, King Henry VIII’s impact up the country, monarchy, and apparatus of state can never be over-emphasised, it is important to remember that the roots of his reign, in particular his attitude towards the advancement of the arts, and Renaissance, are actually embedded in the reign of King Henry VII. Another consequence of his proximity of that titan of English history, is that they’re often muddled up by the casual observer. Often, when I tell people that Henry VII has always been one of my favourite Kings, people will turn around and ask: “But didn’t he chop his wives’ heads off?” No, he didn’t. In fact, he and Elizabeth of York had a rather happy marriage, and her head remained firmly connected to the rest of her body, for her whole life.

However, and I feel most importantly of all, Henry Tudor emerged from a youth spent in exile, returned to an England still reeling from the effects of a bitter dynastic civil war, and finally brought the whole sorry charade to an end. His victory at Market Bosworth was not only an unlikely, and resounding, victory in the penultimate battle of the Cousin’s War, but it ushered in one of the most dynamic, revolutionary systems of monarchy that England has ever seen. 1485 is taken, by an overwhelming majority of historians, to be the official “end” of the medieval era, and the embryonic start of the “modern” world.

The fact that Henry Tudor came to be King, is wonder enough in itself. The fact that, during that most turbulent century, he managed to hang on to his crown, is an even greater wonder, still. As Bishop John Fisher noted, Margaret Beaufort (Henry’s mother) wept, not for pride at finally having her son in his rightful place, but for fear of how he would survive the ordeal of being King on such in such a volatile realm. Her fears were soon realised, as in 1487, Henry Tudor was riding out to defend his crown, once again (the Battle of Stoke). His extraordinary luck held, and he won the day. However, he then had the Yorkist Pretenders to deal with. First came the laughable Lambert Simnel. However, Perkin Warbecque proved to be a much stickier problem.

So, in the face of the constant threat of a resurgence in Dynastic squabbling, the angry Yorkists skulking in the shadows, and the opportunistic pretenders; Henry succeeded where all others had failed, and did so against extraordinary odds. Furthermore, he made England one of the richest countries in Europe, and through the skilful manoeuvring in the marriage markets, he also made England one of the most important countries in Europe.

So, there are ample reasons to give Henry Tudor a second thought. However, there was also a cast of thousands behind him, who paved the way for him to become what he eventually became. The most dominant figure in his life (certainly after his return from exile in 1485), was his mother, Margaret Beaufort. Before that, came his uncle, Jasper Tudor, among a host of others. It is time for these to looked at also, and that is my ultimate hope with this blog. Continue reading