Who was Margaret Beaufort?
Margaret Beaufort was the mother of King Henry VII of England, the founder of the Tudor dynasty. She was also a powerful and influential figure in the Wars of the Roses, the civil war that plagued England in the 15th century. She was the daughter and sole heiress of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, a descendant of King Edward III through his third son John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford. She was born on 31 May 1443 at Bletsoe Castle, Bedfordshire
How did she become the mother of a king?
Margaret Beaufort was married four times in her life, but only had one child, Henry Tudor, from her first marriage to Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Edmund was the half-brother of King Henry VI, who was the leader of the Lancastrian faction in the Wars of the Roses. Edmund died in 1456, shortly after their marriage, leaving Margaret a widow and a pregnant teenager. She gave birth to Henry in January 1457, at the age of 13
Margaret’s son Henry inherited a claim to the throne through his father, who was a descendant of King Edward III’s fourth son Edmund of Langley, Duke of York. However, this claim was weak and disputed by the Yorkist faction, who had a stronger claim through Edward III’s second son Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence. The Yorkists, led by Edward IV and later by his brother Richard III, were the rivals of the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses
Margaret Beaufort was determined to see her son become king and worked tirelessly to secure his position. She married her second husband, Sir Henry Stafford, in 1458, and remained loyal to the Lancastrian cause. She supported Henry VI’s brief restoration in 1470, but had to flee to Wales with her son when Edward IV regained the throne in 1471. She married her third husband, Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby, in 1472, and used his influence and connections to protect her son from the Yorkist regime. She also maintained a secret correspondence with the exiled Lancastrian nobles and the French court, who supported Henry’s claim
In 1483, Edward IV died and was succeeded by his young son Edward V. However, Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, were declared illegitimate by their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who usurped the throne as Richard III. Margaret Beaufort saw this as an opportunity to overthrow Richard III and restore the Lancastrian line. She conspired with Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of Edward IV and the mother of the princes in the Tower, to arrange a marriage between Henry Tudor and Elizabeth’s daughter Elizabeth of York, who was the heiress of the Yorkist claim. She also persuaded her husband Thomas Stanley and his brother William Stanley to support her son’s cause
In August 1485, Henry Tudor landed in Wales with a small army of French and Scottish mercenaries and Welsh supporters. He marched towards England, gathering more forces along the way. He met Richard III’s army at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. The battle was a decisive victory for Henry, thanks to the defection of the Stanleys, who switched sides at the crucial moment and attacked Richard’s flank. Richard III was killed in the battle, and Henry Tudor was crowned as King Henry VII on the same day
What did she do as the king’s mother?
Margaret Beaufort was a prominent and influential figure in her son’s reign. She was given the title of “My Lady the King’s Mother” and enjoyed a high status and respect at court. She was also a major patron of learning, culture, and religion. She founded two colleges at Cambridge University: Christ’s College in 1505 and St John’s College in 1511. She also endowed the Lady Margaret professorships of divinity at Oxford and Cambridge. She translated several devotional books from French and Latin into English and supported the printing industry by patronizing William Caxton and Wynkyn de Worde. She was also involved in charitable works, such as founding hospitals, almshouses, and schools
How did she die?
Margaret Beaufort died on 29 June 1509, at the age of 66. She had been ill since the beginning of the year and her condition worsened after attending the coronation of her grandson Henry VIII and his wife Catherine of Aragon on 24 June 1509. According to some sources, the immediate cause of her death was eating a cygnet, a young swan, which disagreed with her stomach. She was given some medicines, but they did not help. She died peacefully in her bed at Westminster Abbey, surrounded by her family and friends
She was buried in the Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey, next to her son Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York. Her tomb was designed by Pietro Torrigiano, an Italian sculptor who also worked on Henry VII’s tomb. Her effigy depicts her as a pious and humble woman, wearing a nun’s habit and holding a book. Her epitaph praises her as “a great mother of a great king”
Margaret Beaufort was a remarkable woman who lived through turbulent times and played a key role in shaping the history of England. She was the mother of the first Tudor king and the grandmother of the most famous Tudor monarchs. She was a loyal and ambitious supporter of her son’s claim to the throne and a generous and devout patron of education and religion. She was also a survivor and a leader, who overcame many challenges and hardships in her life. She died as one of the most respected and powerful women in the realm, leaving behind a lasting legacy for her descendants and the nation