Margaret Beaufort: The Pain, Piety, and Politics of a Medieval Mother, Part 3


Things aren’t looking great for Margaret Beaufort and her new baby Henry Tudor, as seen in the last installment of this series following a young noblewoman on her path through the politics of medieval England. Find out what happens in this last installment of “Margaret Beaufort: The Pain, Piety, and Politics of a Medieval Mother.”

Margaret and infant Henry spent the next couple of years at Pembroke Castle with Jasper Tudor. Henry was reportedly a weak baby, but Margaret’s attention and care allowed for him to grow stronger. She didn’t allow herself to rest for long after Henry’s birth, however. She knew, in order to secure safety for herself and her son, she would need to take action.

Jasper Tudor; Image: Creative Commons

Only two months after Henry was born, just after her return to society but before her official period of mourning for her husband was over, Margaret Beaufort traveled with Jasper Tudor as her guardian to the home of the Duke of Buckingham. Now that she had a precious son that meant more to her than anything, she would need to protect him. In order to do that, she would need to marry again and marry well. This time, the arrangement was for Henry Stafford, a son of the Duke of Buckingham. He was twenty years older than Margaret but was politically well-situated. Margaret not only had her own inheritance to bring with her to this new marriage but the inheritance and title she gained from her marriage to Edmund Tudor. This match was made none too soon, for Margaret’s world would change, and every trial she had faced to this point would indeed have served to strengthen her and mold her into the savvy and ruthless woman she would need to be to not only survive but raise her son to the highest seat in England, that of the throne itself.

In 1461, Edward of York took the throne to become Edward IV. His forces took over Pembroke Castle, Jasper Tudor was forced to flee, and Henry Tudor was placed under the guardianship of a York man, William Herbert, who took Henry to live with him at Raglan Castle. Then after Herbert was killed, Henry fled the country with his uncle Jasper Tudor. Margaret Beaufort’s life would be turned upside down as it never was before. Yet the combination of her strong personality, her pious nature that gave her actions confidence, and her stalwart heart, fortified by hardships of her youth, put her in a position to rise above them. When the opportunity arose, she and Stafford made amends with Edward IV and improved their situation with him in order to help bring Henry home from exile. When Stafford died from injuries he suffered in battle, Margaret didn’t seem to take time to grieve, though there was evidence that she and Stafford had a happy marriage. After her period of mourning, she immediately married Thomas, Lord Stanley in order to attain protection, security, and improved standing in the York court. This decision on her part would save her life in a future conflict with Richard III.

Henry VII (Henry Tudor); Image: Public Domain

Her life went up and down like a roller coaster of pain and opportunity, with sometimes the two going hand-in-hand. After years of working to make herself invaluable in court, as soon as it was very likely Edward IV would return Henry’s lands and allow him to return, Edward died from a sudden illness. The harder things became for Margaret and her son, the more ruthless and cunning she became, forming alliances with past enemies like Elizabeth Gray, making plots to take the throne from Richard III. All the while she clung to her faith in God, that he would give her signs, that he would protect her son when she could not. Whether she had something to do with the murder of young Edward V and his brother in the Tower of London may never be discovered; she had the grit to do it, yet doubt arises when one thinks about her Christian virtues. Her devotion as a mother might have caused her to do such a thing to further Henry’s cause, yet could she have done such a thing to children, to another mother?

All of these events and opportunities culminated in the crowning of her son Henry as Henry VII of England, something that would have been unthinkable at many points in her life. Yet Margaret Beaufort never lost faith that her son would be great.

No matter what life threw at her, Margaret kept sight of her goal to bring her son to greatness. She may not have been equipped to handle the difficulties she would face later in life, however, had it not been for the strength she earned through pain in her early life, the political connections she fought so hard to forge, and her unerring faith that what she was doing was the right thing in the eyes of God.

Margaret Beaufort’s tomb in Westminster Abbey; Image: Public Domain
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