Born: 31st May 1443
Died: 29th June 1509
Margaret was the daughter and heir of John Beaufort 1st Duke of Somerset and great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt a son of Edward III. As a child of nobility she was like many girls of her time, used politically and for advantageous marriages. During her life, Margaret would marry 4 times, however only having one child.
At the age of six she was married to John de la Pole, the heir to the Dukedom of Suffolk. He was only one year older and their union was not officially recognised by the Pope until 1450. Nevertheless neither were bound by the marriage contract as they both entered into the union before the age of 12.
Her second husband was decided by the King, Henry VI, as Edmund Tudor, his half-brother. They were wed in November 1455 just after the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses. He was 24 and she still only 12. Sadly Edmund died only a year later while in captivity by Yorkist forces. Poor Margaret was left a 13-year old widow while seven months pregnant. She gave birth at Pembroke Castle in January 1457 to a son, Henry Tudor. Her labour was horrendous for her and the baby, owing to a small and young body. She was never to carry a baby again.
Her third husband was her second cousin, Henry Stafford. As cousins they had to recieve a dispensation to marry. From 1458 to 1471 they enjoyed a harmonious marriage, until Stafford’s death at the Battle of Barnet on the Yorkist side. Mere months after Stafford’s death Margaret wed again for the 4th and final time. Thomas Stanley was part of the wealthy landholding family in the North of England who owned vasts estates and therefore held influence and power. This marriage meant Margaret was able to return to Court where she came into contact with Elizabeth Woodville, the Queen Consort to Edward IV. Together these two powerful mothers plotted how to not only end the Wars of the Roses but also make sure their own positions were prominent.
The Battle of Bosworth in 1485 was the key moment for Margaret’s son Henry Tudor to claim his throne and with the help of the Stanley family, he was able to defeat Richard III. He then married Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter Elizabeth of York and together united the two waring houses.
As the Mother of the King she was regraded in the highest esteem. She played a instrumental role in helping Henry establish his government and he even made her the chief executor of his will when he died. Margaret died two months late and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
Margaret Beaufort’s legacy is very apparent in educations. She was determined to provide education to the poor and many schools have since been established in her name. Lady Margaret Hall, the first women’s college at the University of Oxford which was founded in 1878 was named after her.
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