Margaret Beaufort

Female 1443 - 1509  (66 years)

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  • Name Margaret Beaufort 
    Born 31 May 1443  Bletsoe Castle Bletsoe, Bedfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Died 29 Jun 1509  Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Westminster Abbey Cemetery, Westminster, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I732  King of Scots
    Last Modified 13 Feb 2009 

    Family Edmund Tudor (1st Earl of Richmond),   b. 1431, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 01 Nov 1456, Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire, Wales Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 25 years) 
    Married 01 Nov 1455 
    +1. Henry VII King of England (Lord of Ireland),   b. 28 Jan 1457, Pembroke Castle Pembroke, Wales Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 21 Apr 1509, Richmond Palace Richmond, Surrey, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 52 years)
    Last Modified 13 Feb 2009 
    Family ID F296  Group Sheet

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 31 May 1443 - Bletsoe Castle Bletsoe, Bedfordshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 29 Jun 1509 - Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Westminster Abbey Cemetery, Westminster, London, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Maps 
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    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    Margaret Beaufort
    Margaret Beaufort
    Personal Collection

  • Notes 
    • Lady Margaret Beaufort (May 31, 1443 ? June 29, 1509) of the House of Lancaster was the mother of King Henry VII of England and grandmother of Henry VIII. She was a key figure in the Wars of the Roses.

      Margaret was born at Bletsoe Castle, Bedfordshire, the daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset and Margaret Beauchamp of Bletso. Her mother was the widow of Sir Oliver St John and daughter of John, 3rd Beauchamp of Bletso and Edith, daughter of Sir John Stourton.

      Through her father, Lady Margaret Beaufort was a granddaughter of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, and a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and his mistress and third wife Katherine Swynford.

      Following Gaunt's marriage to Katherine, their children (the Beauforts) were legitimized, but the legitimation carried a condition: their descendants were barred from ever inheriting the throne. Despite this, Lady Margaret's own son King Henry VII (and several English, British, and UK sovereigns who followed) are descended from Gaunt and Swynford.

      Edward IV and his younger brother Richard III of England were sons of Cecily Neville, grandsons to Joan Beaufort, great-grandsons to John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.
      Lady Margaret Beaufort's only son Henry, through her a great-great-grandson of the Gaunt-Swynford liaison, became King Henry VII.

      Margaret, less than two years old when her father died, was brought up by her mother until the age of six when the powerful Duke of Suffolk obtained her wardship and betrothed her to his seven-year-old son and heir. However, Suffolk was executed soon after, and the match was dissolved by Henry VI (who was her second cousin).

      Henry chose her as a suitable bride for his half-brother, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Edmund was the eldest son of the king's mother, Dowager Queen Catherine (the widow of Henry V), by her second marriage to Owen Tudor. Queen Catherine had been born Catherine of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France.

      Thus, in what is sometimes considered one of the great ironies of history, Margaret's son Henry, the Lancastrian claimant to the throne at the end of the Wars of the Roses ? who stabilised the kingdom and united the two houses by marrying the Yorkist princess Elizabeth of York ? had plenty of royal blood but no legal claim to the English throne. In fact, were it not for the Salic Law barring women from inheriting the French throne, he would have had a greater claim to the crown of France than that of England, through his paternal line, because his father Edmund's mother, Queen Catherine of England, was a princess of France.

      However, it was his maternal line on which his English claim relied. In addition, as Henry derived his claim to the English throne from his mother Margaret, and England did not bar women from inheriting the kingship, it is arguably she and not her son who should have claimed the crown. Margaret did not contest Henry's right to rule; however, she occasionally used the signature Margaret R, a form limited to queens regnant. (See discussion below.)

      Margaret was twelve when she married Edmund on 1 November 1455. Edmund died the following November, leaving a thirteen year old widow who was seven months pregnant with their child, Henry. Margaret and her son retired to Pembroke when the wars between Lancaster and York broke out and remained there until the Yorkist triumphs of 1461. The readeption of 1470 saw her return to court but her son fled to Brittany with his uncle, Jasper Tudor.[1]

      Margaret married twice more after Edmund's death:

      Sir Henry Stafford (c. 1447 - 4 October 1471), son of Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham.
      Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby
      She had no children with either, and it has been suggested by historians that the birth of her son Henry when she was only thirteen years old was difficult enough to render her infertile.

      The King's Mother
      Margaret was instrumental in secretly conspiring against King Richard III with the Dowager Queen Consort, Elizabeth Woodville, whose sons, the Princes in the Tower, were presumed murdered. They were aided by the fact that Margaret's third husband, Thomas Stanley, the Lord High Constable, had switched sides because Richard III held captive his eldest son, George Stanley (styled Lord Strange by marriage to the female holder of that hereditary lordship). George was Thomas Stanley's son by his first wife, Eleanor Neville, whose brother, Richard Neville was very active in the Wars of the Roses. Margaret was Thomas Stanley's second wife.

      At the end of the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, it was Thomas Stanley who placed the crown on his stepson's ? Henry VII's ? head. Stanley was later made Earl of Derby, which made Margaret Countess of Derby, but she was styled "The Countess of Richmond and Derby."

      With her son winning the crown at Bosworth Field, Margaret was now referred to in court as "My Lady the King's Mother." However, Margaret was reluctant to accept a lower status than the dowager queen consort Elizabeth Woodville or even her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth of York, the current queen consort. She wore robes of the same quality as the queen consort and walked only half a pace behind her.

      Margaret sometimes signed herself Margaret R, the form of signature used by English queens regnant to indicate the title "Regina," the feminine form of "Rex." This referenced Margaret's own potential claim to the English throne, which would have had precedence over her son's claim, though she never asserted it. Had she successfully done so, she would have been a queen regnant ? ruling in her own right, not through marriage ? and entitled her to sign documents with the suffix "Regina." (See "Marriages" above for more on Margaret's own right to the English throne.)

      Many historians believe the banishment of Woodville in 1487 by Henry VII of England was partly at the behest of his influential mother. Margaret was known for her education and her piety, and her son is said to have been devoted to her.

      Later life and death
      In 1497 she announced her intention to build a free school for the general public of Wimborne, Dorset. With her death in 1509, Wimborne Grammar School, now Queen Elizabeth's School, came into existence.

      In 1502 she established the Lady Margaret's Professorship of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.

      In 1505, following the accession of her son Henry VII to the throne, she refounded and enlarged God's House, Cambridge as Christ's College with a royal charter from the King. She has been honoured ever since as the Foundress of the College. A copy of her signature can be found carved on one of the buildings (4 staircase, 1994) within the College. In 1511, St John's College, Cambridge was founded by her estate, either at her direct behest or at the suggestion of her chaplain. Land that she owned around Great Bradley in Suffolk was bequeathed to St John's upon its foundation. Her portrait hangs in the Great Hall at St John's, and the college boat club is called the Lady Margaret Boat Club (LMBC).

      Lady Margaret Hall, the first women's college at the University of Oxford, was named in her honour.

      Margaret died on 29 June 1509 in the Deanery of Westminster Abbey. She is buried in a black marble tomb topped with a bronze gilded effigy and canopy, between the graves of William and Mary and the tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots, in the Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

      Her portrait, at prayer in her richly furnished private closet behind her chamber, is a rare contemporary glimpse into a late Gothic aristocratic English interior and tells a great deal about her status and lifestyle. The severe black of her widow's weeds contrasts with the splendour of her private apartment, where every surface is patterned, even the floor alternating cream-colored and terracotta tiles. The plain desk at which she kneels is draped with a richly patterned textile that is so densely encrusted with embroidery that its corners stand away stiffly. Her lavishly illuminated Book of Hours is open before her, with its protective cloth wrapper (called a "chemise" binding) spread out around it.

      The walls are patterned with oak leaf designs, perhaps in lozenges, perhaps of stamped and part-gilded leather. Against the wall hangs the dosser of her canopy of estate, with the tester above her head (the Tudor rose at its centre) supported on cords from the ceiling. The coats-of-arms woven into the tapestry are of England (parted as usual with France) and the portcullis badge of the Beauforts, which the early Tudor kings later used in their arms. Small stained glass roundels in the leaded glass of her lancet windows also display elements the arms of both England (cropped away here) and Beaufort.

      [edit] External links
      A short profile of Margaret alongside other influential women of her time
      E.M.G. Routh, Lady Margaret: A Memoir of Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond & Derby, Mother of Henry VII, 1924: e-text
      Catholic Encyclopedia article
      Margaret Beaufort's patronage of theatre and/or music
      The school that was established in honour of Lady Margaret Beaufort's will
      Retrieved from ""
    • Born May 31, 1443(1443-05-31)
      Died June 29, 1509 (aged 66)
      Westminster Abbey
      Title Countess of Richmond; Countess of Derby
      Spouse(s) Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond
      Sir Henry Stafford
      Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby
      Children Henry VII of England
      Parents John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset
      Margaret Beauchamp of Bletso

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