Beaufort, Margaret, Countess of Richmond and Derby

(1443–1509)
   After RICHARD III’s usurpation of the Crown revived dynastic strife in the mid- 1480s, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, worked secretly to ensure that her son, Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, made good the BEAUFORT FAMILY’s claim to the throne. Margaret was the only child of John Beaufort, first duke of Somerset (1404–1444), who died when his daughter was little more than a year old. A wealthy heiress with a claim to the Crown, Margaret was only twelve when HENRY VI married her to his half brother Edmund TUDOR, earl of Richmond, in 1455. Three months after Richmond’s death in November 1456, Margaret, now under the protection of her brother-in-law, Jasper TUDOR, earl of Pembroke, gave birth to a son named Henry. Seeking a husband who could protect her rights and those of her son, Margaret married Sir Henry Stafford, younger son of Humphrey STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, in early 1458. However, after the Yorkist victory at the Battle of TOWTON in 1461, EDWARD IV granted the wardship of Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, to Sir William HERBERT, Edward’s chief supporter in WALES.
   After the restoration of Henry VI in 1470, Margaret was reunited briefly with her son (see Readeption). However, the deaths at 26 BEAUFORT, MARGARET, COUNTESS OF RICHMOND AND DERBY the Battle of TEWKESBURY of Prince EDWARD OF LANCASTER and Edmund BEAUFORT, fourth duke of Somerset, ended the direct male lines of both LANCASTER and Beaufort, and made Richmond the surviving holder of the Lancastrian claim to the Crown. To save himself from prison or worse, Richmond fled to BRITTANY with Pembroke, his Lancastrian uncle. After her husband died of wounds received at the Battle of BARNET, Margaret made peace with the Yorkists by marrying Thomas STANLEY, Lord Stanley, in 1472. Although she kept in contact with her son, Margaret, as the wife of Stanley, enjoyed the favor of Edward IV. In 1483, when Richard III usurped the throne of his nephew, EDWARD V, Margaret worked with Queen Elizabeth WOODVILLE to plan an uprising that would put their children, Richmond and ELIZABETH OF YORK, on the throne. The rebellion, which eventually encompassed Henry STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, and therefore became known as BUCKINGHAM’S REBELLION, failed, and the PARLIAMENT of 1484 deprived Margaret of her lands, which were given, along with custody of her person, to her husband. Although Stanley maintained a careful neutrality when Richmond invaded England in 1485, his growing sympathy for the earl allowed Margaret the freedom to again involve herself in the planning of her son’s enterprise.
   When Richmond achieved the throne as HENRY VII at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD in August 1485, Margaret withdrew from politics and thereafter came rarely to COURT. She continued, however, to have a strong influence on her son, for Henry never forgot that his right to the Crown came from his mother’s family. Margaret devoted her later years to religion, separating from her husband before his death in 1504 and taking monastic vows. She also became a great patron of the universities, endowing the “Lady Margaret” chairs in divinity at Oxford and Cambridge in 1502. Margaret died in June 1509, two months after the death of Henry VII.
   See also Tudor, House of, and other entries under Beaufort
   Further Reading: Jones, Michael K., and Malcolm G. Underwood, The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Simon, Linda, Of Virtue Rare: Margaret Beaufort, Matriarch of the House of Tudor (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1982).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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