The House Of Tudor
Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII was the daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset and Margaret Beauchamp, and was born at Bletsoe Castle in Bedfordshire on 31 May, 1443. Her father was the son of John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, himself the illegitimate son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, through his liason with Katherine Swynford, who he later took as his third wife, their children then being legitimated, but their descendants barred from the throne. Margaret's royal descent derived through John of Gaunt, who was the fourth son of Edward III.
Her father, the Duke of Somerset, died when she was but one year old, after a failed expedition to France he was accused of treason and forbidden to appear in the king's presence and his death was rumoured at the time to have been suicide. Margaret was appointed the ward of William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk.
At the age of about seven and one of the richest heiresses in England, she was married to her guardian's son, John De La Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk, a union which was later dissolved. In 1455, Henry VI married Margaret, then aged twelve, to his maternal half-brother, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Richmond was the illegitimate child of Henry's mother, Katherine of Valois (the widow of Henry V) and Owen Tudor, her Welsh Clerk of the Wardrobe. At the time of their marriage Edmund was aged twenty-five.
Edmund was captured by Yorkists and imprisoned at Carmarthen Castle, there he contracted the plague and died. Margaret gave birth to his posthumus son, Henry Tudor, at Pembroke Castle, Wales on 28th January, 1457. She had sought refuge there under the protection of her brother-in-law, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke and was but thirteen at the time of her son's birth. She was possibly damaged by the event, for, despite later acquiring two more husbands, Henry, to whom she was extremely attached, was to remain her only child.
Margaret was married for a third time to Sir Henry Stafford (c.1447 - 1471), and fourthly at the age of 40 to Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, whose support was a decisive factor in her son's victory at The Battle of Bosworth Field, by which he acquired England's throne.
During the reign of her son, Lady Margaret was referred to as "My Lady the King's mother", sometimes signing herself Margaret R, she was said to dominate his wife, Elizabeth of York, taking charge of the royal nurseries and arranging the education of her grandchildren. She was an extremely pious woman who is best remembered as a generous patron of learning and philanthropy, who founded Christ's College, Cambridge and patronised the publishers William Caxton and Wynkyn de Worde. She endowed chantries and made frequent gifts to churches and monasteries.
The Earl of Derby's brother, Sir William Stanley, whos timely intervention had saved the king's life at Bosworth, was later suspected of involvement with the pretender, Perkin Warbeck and executed. A fact which Margaret's husband resented. Tradition states that when the King later visited Lord Derby, he was given a tour of the house, ending on the roof, where Henry advanced to the edge of the leads, the Earl's fool, pointed downwards and whispered, "Tom, remember Will!" upon which the King is reported to have retreated with haste. Sir William Stanley's execution was to eventually lead to the estrangement of Lady Margaret and her fourth husband.
Margaret was very fond of all her grandchildren, but her favourite was said to be her namesake, Margaret Tudor, to whom she was also godmother and who later married to James IV, King of Scots. Lady Margaret left her in her will 'a gyrdell of gold conteyning xxix linkes, with a grete pomaunder at oon ende, ponder: xviii unces iii quarters'.
Henry VII died on 21st April, 1509. Lady Margaret survived her son, dying on June 29, 1509 in the Deanery of Westminster Abbey, during the the early months of the reign of her grandson, Henry VIII. She was buried in a marble tomb topped with a bronze gilded effigy by the Renaissance sculptor Pietro Torrigiano, in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey.