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Biography of Margarita Beaufort: the origin of the Tudor dynasty

The childhood of Margaret Beaufort

Marguerite Beaufort was born in 1443, the same year that Henry VI became King of England. Her father, John Beaufort, was the second son of another John Beaufort, the 1st Earl of Somerset, who was in turn the son of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford. Juan Beaufort had been captured and held prisoner by the French for 13 years and, although he was appointed commander after his liberation, he was not a brilliant military man. He married the heiress Marguerite Beauchamp in 1439, and from 1440 to 1444 he participated in various military defeats, in which he often had trouble with the Duke of York. He fathered Marguerite Beaufort, and he, too, is said to have had two illegitimate children before her death in 1444. He may have committed suicide, as he was about to be accused of treason.

Juan Beaufort tried at all times for his wife to maintain guardianship of their daughter, but King Henry VI handed her over as a ward to William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, whose influence had displaced that of the Beauforts due to the military failures of John.

Guillermo de la Pole married his ward to his own son, Juan de la Pole, who was approximately the same age as Margarita. The marriage contract, which could be dissolved before the bride’s 12th birthday, is believed to have taken place in 1444. There appears to have been a formal ceremony in February 1450, when the children were seven and eight years old, but because they were related the pope’s dispensation was needed, which was obtained in August 1450.

However, Henry VI transferred guardianship of Margaret to Edmund Tudor and Jasper Tudor, her two younger maternal half-brothers. Her mother, Catherine of Valois, had married Owen Tudor after the death of her first husband, Henry V. Catherine was the daughter of Charles VI of France.

Enrique thought at that moment of marrying the young Margarita Beaufort to a member of his family. Marguerite later recounted that she had a vision in which Saint Nicholas approved her marriage to Edmund Tudor, instead of the one agreed upon with John de la Pole. Thus, the marriage contract with de la Pole was dissolved in 1453.

Marriage to Edmund Tudor

Marguerite Beaufort and Edmund Tudor were married in 1455, probably in the month of May. She was only twelve years old and he was 13 years older than her. They went to live on Edmund’s estate in Wales. It was common practice to wait to consummate a marriage, especially at such a young age, but Edmund disregarded that custom, and Margaret became pregnant quickly after the marriage. Once she had procreated, Edmund would have more rights to his estate in case he died.

Then, unexpectedly and suddenly, it was Edmund who fell ill with the plague and died in November 1456, while Margaret was about six months pregnant. Margarita then went to Pembroke Castle to take refuge in the protection of her former co-tutor, Jasper Tudor.

The birth of Henry Tudor

Marguerite Beaufort gave birth on January 28, 1457 to a small, sickly child whom she named Henry, probably from the name of her half-uncle Henry VI. That boy would one day become king, would be Henry VII, but that was still in the far future and it was by no means thought at the time that it could happen.

Pregnancy and childbirth at such an early age were dangerous, hence the custom of delaying the consummation of marriage. Marguerite never had another child, and she devoted all her efforts from that day to the survival of her sickly baby, and later to the fight for the crown of England.

another marriage

As a wealthy young widow, Marguerite Beaufort’s destiny was a quick marriage, though it is likely that she was also actively seeking it, for it was customary for a single woman, or a single mother with a dependent child, to seek the protection of a husband. . She traveled from Wales with Jasper to gain that protection, and found it in a young son of Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Humphrey was a descendant of Edward III of England, through his son, Thomas of Woodstock. His wife, Anne Neville, was also descended from Edward III through their son John of Gaunt and daughter Joan Beaufort, the great-aunt of Margaret Beaufort, who was also the mother of Cecilia de Neville, mother of Edward IV and Richard III. . Therefore they needed a papal dispensation to get married.

Apparently Margarita Beaufort and Enrique Stafford got along as a couple. Records from the time show that they shared a genuine affection.

York’s victory

Although she was linked to York’s bannermen in the succession wars, which have gone down in history as the Wars of the Roses, Margaret was also closely associated and aligned with Lancastrians. Henry VI was her brother-in-law due to her marriage to Edmund Tudor. Her son could be considered Henry VI’s heir, after Henry’s own son Edward, then Prince of Wales.

When Edward VI, who assumed leadership of the Yorkists after his father’s death, defeated Henry VI’s supporters in battle and seized the crown, Marguerite and her son became valuable players in the political situation.

Edward arranged for Margaret’s son, the young Henry Tudor, to become a ward of one of his key supporters, William Lord Herbert, who also became the new Earl of Pembroke in February 1462, paying the parents of Henry for the privilege. Enrique was only five years old when he separated from his mother to live with his new official guardian.

Edward also married an heir of Henry Stafford, another Henry Stafford, to Calalina Woodville, sister of Edward’s consort Isabel Woodville, thus bringing the families closer together.

Margarita and Enrique Stafford accepted the arrangement without protest and thus were able to keep in touch with the young Enrique Tudor. They did not actively or publicly oppose the new king, and even welcomed the king in 1468. In 1470, Henry Stafford joined the king’s forces to put down a rebellion by several of Margaret’s relatives from her mother’s first marriage.

power changes hands

When Henry VI was restored to power in 1470, Margaret was able to visit her son more freely again. She had a personal appointment with the restored Henry VI, dining with the king alongside young Henry Tudor and his uncle Jasper Tudor, making her alliance with Lancaster very clear. When Eduardo IV returned to power the following year, that appointment became dangerous.

Henry Stafford was persuaded to go over to York’s supporters in the fight, and helped them win the Battle of Barnet. Henry VI’s son, Prince Edward, had been killed in the battle that brought victory to Edward IV, the Battle of Tewkesbury, and Henry VI was killed shortly after that battle. This left the young Henry Tudor, aged 14 or 15, as heir to the Lancastrians, putting him in grave danger from harassment by his enemies in the fight for the English throne.

Marguerite Beaufort advised her son Henry to flee to France in September 1471. Jasper arranged for Henry Tudor to sail for France, but the ship veered off course, and he ended up taking refuge in Brittany. He stayed there for 12 years before he was able to meet her mother again.

Henry Stafford died in October 1471, probably from wounds sustained at the Battle of Barnet, which aggravated his already poor health. For a long time he had suffered from a skin disease. With his death, Margarita lost a powerful protector, a friend and a loving companion. She quickly took legal steps to ensure that the property inherited from her father belonged to her son when she returned to England, placing it in trust.

Protecting the interests of Henry Tudor under the rule of Edward IV

With Henry in Brittany, Marguerite tried to protect him further by marrying Thomas Stanley, whom Edward IV had appointed as his administrator. Stanley therefore derived a large income from Margaita’s holdings, in addition to those from his own land. > At that moment, Margarita approached the queen, Isabel Woodville, the queen, and her daughters.

In 1482 Margarita’s mother died. Edward IV agreed to confirm Henry Tudor’s title to the lands Margaret had placed in trust a decade earlier, and also Henry’s rights to a share of the income from his maternal grandmother’s estates, but only upon his return to England.

Richard III

In 1483 Edward died suddenly and his brother acceded to the throne as Richard III, declaring Edward’s marriage to Isabel Woodville invalid and their children illegitimate. He imprisoned the two children of Edward and Elizabeth in the Tower of London.

Some historians believe that Marguerite may have been part of a failed plan to rescue the princes shortly after their imprisonment.

Margaret possibly made some proposals to Richard III to marry Henry Tudor into the royal family. Possibly due to growing suspicions that Richard III had had her nephews murdered in the Tower of London (after some encounters shortly after their imprisonment, they were never seen again), Margaret ended up joining the rebellion against Richard. 

Margarita was in communication with Isabel Woodville and organized the marriage of her son with the eldest daughter of Isabel Woodville and Eduardo IV, Isabel de York. Harsh treatment of Richard III, including the loss of all dowry rights to her when her marriage was declared invalid, Isabel Woodville supported the plan to have Henry Tudor enthroned alongside her daughter Elizabeth.

The rebellion of 1483

Margarita Beaufort was very active in recruiting supporters for the rebellion. Among those she persuaded to join the cause were the Duke of Buckingham, and her late husband’s nephew and heir (also named Henry Stafford), who had been an early supporter of Richard III and had been with Richard when he took over. custody of the son of Edward IV. The Duke of Buckingham began to promote the idea of ​​Henry Tudor becoming king and Elizabeth of York becoming his queen, given their extensive and complex family relationships.

Henry Tudor prepared to return to England in late 1483 with an army, and the Duke of Buckingham organized domestic support for the rebellion. Bad weather meant that Henry Tudor’s voyage was delayed and Richard’s army defeated that of the Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham was captured and beheaded for treason on November 2. His widow soon after married Jasper Tudor, Margaret Beaufort’s brother-in-law.

Despite the failure of the rebellion, Henry Tudor swore in December to take Richard’s crown and marry Elizabeth of York.

After the failure of the rebellion and the execution of her ally the Duke of Buckingham, it was marriage to Stanley that saved Marguerite Beaufort. Parliament, at the behest of Richard III, took control of her property and awarded it to her husband. She also revoked all agreements and trusts that had protected her son’s estate. Marguerite was placed in Stanley’s custody, with no servants for her. But Stanley did not strictly enforce the edict, and Margaret was able to remain in contact with her son.

The victory of 1485

Enrique continued to organize, probably with Margarita’s continued and silent support, despite his supposed isolation. Finally, in 1485, Henry set out again and landed in Wales. He immediately sent a message to his mother.

Margaret’s husband, Lord Stanley, deserted Richard III’s side and joined Henry Tudor’s, which was decisive for Henry’s chances of success. His forces defeated those of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, and Richard III died on the battlefield (William Shakespeare would immortalize that defeat and the moments before his death in his play with the line: “My kingdom for a horse!”, which he put into Ricardo’s mouth when he saw himself defeated and probably died shortly). Henry declared himself king by right of battle, not claiming the feeble hereditary right of the Lancastrian line.

Henry Tudor was crowned Henry VII on 30 October 1485 and declared his reign retroactive to the day before the Battle of Bosworth, allowing him to charge anyone who had fought with Richard III with treason and seize their estates and possessions. their titles.