Biography: Margaret Beaufort

(Born May 31, 1443- Died June 29, 1509). Daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somersetdownload (2) and Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. Married to John de la Pole 2nd Duke of Suffolk, Edmund Tudor 1st Earl of Richmond, Sir Henry Stafford, and Thomas Stanley 1st Earl of Derby. Mother of Henry Tudor, later known as Henry VII. Margaret was the mother of the Tudor Dynasty. She never gave up on her son Henry Tudor.

Margaret Beaufort was born on May 31, 1443 to John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset and Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. She had seven half-siblings from her mother’s first marriage to Sir Oliver St John. Her father was the  second son of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, the first son of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. Margaret’s father went to France to fight for King Henry VI, but it went badly, and he either died from illness or committed suicide on May 27, 1444, leaving Margaret his sole heiress.

Under a deal that her father made with Henry VI, the king took wardship of Margaret, but the king broke that deal and passed on the wardship to William de la Pole 1st Duke of Suffolk. At this time, Margaret remained in her mother’s house to receive her education. On January 28, 1450, William de la Pole, who was not popular at all with Parliament, was ordered to be arrested. Between January 28 and February 7, 1450, Margaret and John de la Pole, the eldest son of William de la Pole, were married, yet they never lived together. With this marriage, William de la Pole was seen as reaching too far since Margaret was a potential heir for the throne and was charged with treason. William de la Pole was murdered on May 2, 1450. Margaret never recognized this marriage as she was under twelve when she was married.

In 1453, Margaret and her mother were called to court when Henry VI granted the wardship of Margaret to his half brothers Edmund and Jasper Tudor. With her first marriage annulled, it paved the way for the marriage between Margaret and Edmund. Margaret was 12 and Edmund was 24 at the time of the wedding on November 1, 1455. The marriage was consummated and soon Margaret was pregnant. Unfortunately, Edmund would never meet his son as he died on November 1, 1456 of the plague. Margaret gave birth to her only son Henry Tudor on January 28, 1457 at the age of 13. It was a difficult birth and Margaret was never to have another child after Henry.

Being a single mother and a young widow, Margaret knew that she had to marry again to make sure that she could financially survive. She arranged her own marriage and after the required one year of mourning was over, Margaret married Sir Henry Stafford on January 3, 1458. From what we can tell, it sounds like a happy marriage between Margaret and Sir Henry Stafford. When Henry was two years old, his uncle Jasper was granted wardship over him and so Margaret and Henry were seperated. After the Battle of Towton, Jasper fled to Scotland to help Margaret of Anjou, Edward Duke of York became Edward IV, and Henry Tudor was stripped of his lands and put in the custody of William Herbert. At this time, Margaret was able to keep in contact with her son.

In 1469, the House of Lancaster came back into power, but only for a short amount of time as the House of York came back into power. At the Battle of Barnet on April 14, 1471, Sir Henry Stafford was injured  fighting for the Yorkists and he would die from his wounds on October 4, 1471. Margaret was a widow again at the age of 28. Henry and Jasper fled the country for their own protection, leaving Margaret alone and in need of another husband and protector.

In June 1472, Margaret married her fourth and final husband Thomas, Lord Stanley. This was a marriage of convenience as Margaret was able to enter the court of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville in order to gain favor and secure her son’s return to England. Before this could happen, Edward IV died on April 9, 1483. The crown passed on to the king’s eldest son Edward V, but Edward and his brother Richard went to the tower for their own protection, never to be seen again. Their uncle Richard III became king, and even though Margaret carried the train at Queen Anne’s coronation, Richard stripped Margaret of all of her titles and land. During this time Margaret was plotting with Elizabeth Woodville to arrange a marriage between Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York.

In 1483, Henry and Jasper failed to invade England. Richard found out that Margaret was part of this plot and she was charged with high treason, but instead of being executed, she was placed under house arrest. Margaret’s life changed for the better when her son was able to defeat Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, with the help of Margaret’s husband Thomas, Lord Stanley, and became King Henry VII.  Thomas, Lord Stanley was made Earl of Derby and Margaret was made Countess of Richmond and Derby. Margaret was able to see her son once again after 14 years apart. Margaret became the King Mother and was the second most important woman at court, next to Queen Elizabeth of York, who married Henry VII on January 18, 1486. Margaret was there to help with the births of her grandchildren, and the deaths of a few including Arthur Prince of Wales, who died on April 2, 1502.

Elizabeth of York would die on February 11, 1503, leaving Margaret’s son a widower. Thomas, Lord Stanley would die in 1504, and although she spent most of her son’s reign styling herself as a widow in order to have control over her own properties and finances, it still must have been a hard loss for Margaret. Margaret’s beloved son Henry VII died on April 21, 1509, and she took his death the hardest. Margaret Beaufort was able to see her grandson Henry VIII’s coronation on June 23, 1509, but then she died only six days later on June 29, 1509.

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