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The Birth of Margaret Beaufort: The Beginnings of the Tudor Dynasty
Without Margaret Beaufort there would have been no Tudor dynasty. Not only was she the mother of Henry Tudor, who would become Henry VII of England, she also schemed and sacrificed to get her son on the throne; the throne she believed was his. It all started with her birth on May 31, 1443.
The Illegitimate Line of John of Gaunt
Margaret Beaufort’s great-grandfather was John of Gaunt. While he was the son of Edward III, she and her son had no claim to the throne. The Beaufort line descended from John and his mistress Katherine Swynford. While they later married, Henry IV decided that his half-siblings would never be eligible for the throne. There are debates over whether he could do this, since his cousin Richard II decided they could be, but it passed on that the Beauforts would never become English monarchs.
Margaret whole-heartedly believed that God wanted her son on the throne. She did everything in her power to get him there, with the help of her brother-in-law, Jasper Tudor. However, Henry and Jasper were exiled to France during Edward IV’s reign. He was a favored king, and it seemed like Margaret would never see her son on the throne.
Margaret Beaufort: The Mother of the Tudor Dynasty
Marriages for Power and Not Love
As a woman in Middle Aged England, Margaret Beaufort was a pawn for her family. She was used as young as a year old when she was betrothed to be married to John de la Pole. The marriage took place by the time she was seven, but the date is not certain. However, she never did acknowledge that it was a valid marriage. Considering she was under 12, the marriage was dissolved quickly and easily.
The first marriage she recognized was to Edmund Tudor, the half-brother of Henry VI of England. By this time, Margaret’s father was dead and she was a ward of the crown. She was 12-years-old when she married Edmund, Henry VII’s father, and he quickly made sure the marriage was consummated. It made sense for him since she had many lands and titles that he would want his hands on. She fell pregnant quickly—too quickly. At the age of 13 she gave birth to Henry, although the two nearly didn’t survive. That birthing process led to Margaret choosing against children ever again, and she may not even have been able to conceive.
By Henry’s birth, Edmund had died of the plague. Margaret was a mother and a widow, but luckily had Jasper Tudor’s support. She never hated him for being a young mother, and even stated that she wanted to be buried with him in her will. His memory was always respected.
The next two marriages were more for power than anything else. The first was to Sir Henry Stafford, who was originally a supporter of Henry VI. During the Wars of the Roses, he switched sides to the House of York, but it did mean that his family could remain in favor. The fourth marriage was to Sir Thomas Stanley, who was a member of the House of York. This was certainly more of a marriage of convenience and power than anything else. Margaret knew that marrying into the House of York, and marrying someone close to the king, was the best option to get her son on the throne. The benefit of Stanley was that he and his brother would continually fight on opposite sides to make sure one was on the winning side, so the family would remain in favor.
The Stanleys were conniving and smart. It certainly set it up well for Margaret Beaufort. She realized that early on, made an arrangement with her new husband, and they married. While it was just for power and convenience at first, it was beneficial for both and they did have some level of friendship and caring for each other.
Scheming to Place Henry Tudor on the Throne
After the death of Edward IV, the monarchy was in a state of uncertainty. It seemed certain at first that his son Edward V would take the throne. However, Edward and his brother Richard mysteriously went missing (presumed dead) in the Tower of London. Richard III was to blame, although there are other suspects. Richard III had declared Elizabeth Woodville’s married to Edward IV invalid, and his children were therefore illegitimate. Even if Edward and Richard had survived, they were not eligible for the throne.
Elizabeth Woodville was in sanctuary with her daughters at this time, and Margaret found her way to get her son on the throne. The two unlikely allies worked together. Henry Tudor would take the crown by force, and then marry Elizabeth of York. Margaret knew that without the marriage, Henry would not remain king for long. He was from the illegitimate line, and there were still too many York supporters (they were the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses, while Edward IV and his family were the House of York).
It made sense, also, to bring an end to the Wars of the Roses. The country was struggling financially due to the many wars, and the monarchy needed some stability. Joining the two Houses certainly made sense. The only problem was Elizabeth’s illegitimate standing due to Richard III. Henry Tudor could—and did—take care of that.
The Battle of Bosworth: Richard III's Last Battle
Margaret Beaufort's First Plot Ruined
Margaret was working closely with the Duke of Buckingham too. However, the initial plot was ruined. The Duke of Buckingham and his men agreed to attack from the west while Henry Tudor and his men attacked from France. Henry found himself trapped in France due to a storm, and the Duke of Buckingham was caught.
Richard III knew that Margaret had something to do with it all, and stripped her of her titles and estates. She was saved because she was a woman. Her titles and estates were passed to her husband, Sir Thomas Stanley. One thing that Richard never realized was that Stanley was on Margaret’s side. He was scheming with her to place his step-son on the throne.
Philippa Gregory Talks About Her View of Margaret Beaufort
Margaret Beaufort’s Role in the Battle of Bosworth
Without Margaret, the Battle of Bosworth would not have been the success that it was. She and her husband continued to work together, while Henry Tudor and his men he had recruited in France made their way across the waters.
Henry Tudor’s army was outnumbered at first. He was certain to lose had it not been for Thomas Stanley. Stanley refused to attend when summoned by Richard III, and joined the battle on his step-son’s side. Richard was certainly surprised, considering Stanley’s son was being held hostage in the York camp at the time.
As Richard III was defeated, Stanley had the honor of placing the crown on his step-son’s head. For his loyalty, he was rewarded with the title of Earl of Derby.
Without Margaret, Henry Tudor would never have become King of England. She was his point of contact, and she regularly made sacrifices to make sure he would become Henry VII of England one day. She was lucky to see that happen, her grandchildren born and her grandson, Henry VIII, take the throne after her son’s death.