*Note: This episode may include curse words or statements that may offend you, but let’s be honest, that’s what makes this one the most fun!
This episode is my final episode before I take a brief break from recording – don’t worry, I’ll be back in September. When I made the announcement that I would be switching to seasons in order to be able to spend more time with my family I figured I needed my final episode to be a big one – one to hold you over for two months. I am pleased to announce that (in my opinion) I was able to do that by booking Dan Jones as a guest.
Dan Jones is a historian and author who many of you may recognize without needing an introduction. For those who are not as familiar with Dan you may recognize him as the host of Secrets of Great British Castles on Netflix, or Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty as well as a plethora of Tudor themed programs. Dan has eight books under his belt with his most recent one, Crusaders due out in the US his Fall.
In this episode we really cover a WIDE variety of topics and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed recording it.
At Farleigh Castle on the 14th of August 1473, a daughter was born to the Duke and Duchess of Clarence. They called her Margaret, most likely after the Duke’s sister’s Margaret of Burgundy. Margaret was born during the brutal and bloody time of the Wars of the Rose – a powerful family divided by the House of York and House of Lancaster, and each believed the throne of England belonged to them. Margaret Plantagenet was born in the middle of this English chaos. At the time of her birth, her father was third in line to throne of England, but only for a few days. On the 17th of August 1473 was born a son to Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. They called him Richard, presumably after Richard, Duke of Gloucester and future Richard III.
If you’d prefer to listen to the podcast that went along with this please click the image below to be directed to it:
George, Duke of Clarence was the troubled middle brother of King Edward IV and Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Like his brothers and father he was an excellent warrior but was easily swayed by power. His wife Isabel Neville, Duchess of Clarence was the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, or the “Kingmaker” as he is generally referred to. Warwick was instrumental in placing Edward Plantagenet (Edward IV) on the throne. When the new king, Edward IV chose to secretly wed the widowed Elizabeth Woodville, Warwick was not happy. All the hard work to put together treaties and alliances was all wasted. To make matters worse, Elizabeth Woodville was the widow of John Grey – who fought and died for the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses. She was from the enemy’s side.
Warwick’s anger towards his sovereign grew and grew until he took action – once again to prove that he deserved to be called the “Kingmaker”. The King’s brother George appeared to have been a jealous man, and maybe a paranoid man. Of the three brothers, he was the middle brother. Using that to his advantage, Warwick and George plotted to join their two families in marriage. Warwick’s eldest daughter Isabel secretly wed the Duke of Clarence without the permission of his brother the King and the King’s own mother joined in on the betrayal and informed everyone that Edward was not the legitimate son of Richard, Duke of York but an archer. The plan was to disgrace and remove Edward IV and replace him with George and Isabel at the helm. This plan, too, would fail.
Long story short, the Earl of Warwick was killed in battle, Isabel Neville died and George, Duke of Clarence was executed. By 1478 Margaret Plantagenet and her brother Edward were both orphans.
Life After Death
Life for Margaret and her brother would never be the same. They were taken in by the royal household and by 1485 their uncle Edward IV was dead , as were his two sons the princes in the Tower, not to mention their paternal uncle Richard III and maternal aunt and queen consort Anne Neville. The only people remaining were Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters.
When Henry Tudor became King of England in 1485, some believed that Margaret and her brother Edward had a stronger claim to the throne than Henry – who had won the crown on the battlefield. This resulted in Lambert Simnel being touted as the young Edward, Earl of Warwick as claimant to the throne by means of the House of York. Their plan was to get people to join an army against the Tudor king. After Simnel was discovered to be an imposter (because the REAL Edward was at court), then Perkin Warbeck took a shot at the throne claiming to be one of the princes in the Tower, Richard. Warbeck was eventually arrested and in 1499 both he and the real Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick were executed for plotting treason. Margaret Plantagenet was now the only member of her family alive, but she was not alone.
At the age of 14, Margaret was married to Richard Pole, a loyal subject of the king and relative of Margaret Beaufort. The marriage was a good match in the eyes of Henry VII because there was a serious threat of Margaret being a figurehead for further uprisings. A marriage to Pole would make it more difficult for plotters to use Margaret as a figurehead for their Yorkist cause.
Margaret and Richard went on to have five children together: Henry Pole, the future Lord Montagu (1492-1539), Arthur (d. c.1527/8), Ursula (d. 1570), Reginald (1500-1558), and Geoffrey Pole (d. 1558).
At the age of 28 Margaret spent five months in the household of Katherine of Aragon, until the death of the Prince of Wales in April 1502.
Sir Richard Pole died in October 1504. After his death, Margaret was left to raise five children in the difficult financial situation she was left in after her husband’s death. Her jointure was not sufficient for the circumstances she inherited. Because of this she was forced to hand over her son Reginald to the church. She had no other choice.
Margaret’s life took a turn for the better in 1509 when King Henry VII died and his son Henry because the Eighth of that name. Margaret found herself once again in the household of Katherine of Aragon, only this time she was queen consort and not Princess of Wales.
In 1512, at the petition of Margaret, Henry VIII granted her the earldom of Salisbury, making her Countess of Salisbury in her own right. Things were beginning to look up for not only Margaret but also her children as they were in favor of the king.
The fact that Margaret held the peerage title in her own right was a big deal and something rarely heard of in 16th century England. The next notable name to do so was Anne Boleyn in 1532.
The relationship between the King and Margaret wavered a bit in 1518 when Henry repossessed some of her Salisbury lands saying they belonged to the duchy of Somerset.
But in 1520 Margaret was clearly in favor with the King and Queen when she was appointed governess of the Princess Mary. However, in 1521 she was removed from her position when her sons were implicated the Duke of Buckingham’s treason. Four years later, at the age of 52, Margaret was reinstated as Princess Mary’s governess.
Margaret was very fond of the Princess Mary and protected her like a mother would. Margaret even offered to remain on as Mary’s governess after her household was dissolved in 1533. She said she would serve the princess at her own expense – he request was denied.
It should come as no surprise that after the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536 Margaret was once again back in favor, but it would not last long. The son who she had given to the church denounced, in writing, King Henry’s royal supremacy. By his letter, Reginald Pole had put his entire family in danger. When Margaret was informed of her son’s letter she wrote him and admonished his letter to the king.
The dissolution of the monasteries, as well as the king claiming royal supremacy, led to what was called The Pilgrimage of Grace.
Evidence remains from the imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys that in 1534 there was already whispers of something big happening in England. Margaret’s youngest son, Geoffrey had been in contact with him. Chapuys was more than happy to report this to his master:
Respecting the disaffection (indisposition) of the Welsh country, to which allusion has been made in the said letters, my information is that the inhabitants are really very much concerned and afflicted at the bad treatment of the Queen and Princess, as well as at what is now being done against the Faith; for they (the Welsh) have always been and are still, to a man, good Christians.
…I am informed from a good quarter, this King is exceedingly annoyed. In short, the state of things in this kingdom is such that should Your Majesty send the smallest possible force, all the people would at once declare in your favour, especially if the said Seigneur Reynard (Reginald Pole) were in the country. (fn. n23)
The latter’s younger brother (Geoffrey) is with me, and would visit me almost every day, had I not dissuaded him from doing so, on account of the danger he might run. He, however, ceases not, like many others, to importune and beg me to write to Your Majesty, and explain how very easy the conquest of this kingdom would be, and that the inhabitants are only waiting for a signal. (fn. n24) I have never spoken to him about his brother (Reginald), except warning him that the latter had much better remain where he is now, and beg his daily bread in the streets, than attempt returning here in these troubled times, for fear he should be treated as the poor bishop of Rochester, or worse still. This he assures me he has done, having written to him many a time, and made his mother also write and warn him not to come here. (8 Nov 1534, Wien, Rep. P.C., Fasc.228, No.62)
At the end of 1536, after Anne Boleyn was executed and King Henry married Jane Seymour, Reginald Pole was made a cardinal, this only heightened the tension between the cardinal and the king.
With the Lady Mary back in favor surely those who backed her with the Pilgrimage of Grace were satisfied.
The Beginning of the End
In the summer of 1538 it all began to unravel for Margaret Pole and her children. A servant of her son Geoffrey called Hugh Holland was arrested. Author Susan Higginbotham of “Margaret Pole – The Countess in the Tower” states that it may have been Margaret’s own pious act which resulted in her family’s downfall.
Margaret maintained a ‘surgeon house’ in Warblington and the house surgeon called Richard Ayer claimed that Margaret kept ‘a company of priests [in her] house which did her much harm and kept her [from] the true knowledge of God’s word’. It appeared to Ayer that Margaret was of the old faith and not the new faith like himself. Word had reached Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal and he sent a spy to collect info for him. The man was Gervase Tyndall and he was a school master. Tyndall lodged at the hospital and Richard Ayer was more than willing to ‘give up the goods’ on Margaret and her family. Ayer told the spy that a servant of Geoffrey Pole called Holland was conveying letters to Reginald Pole and that ‘all the secrets of the realm of England [were] known to the bishop of Rome as well as though he were here.’
Allegedly, when Margaret figured out this Tyndall was of the new religion order Ayer to send him away. Had she been receiving reports that Ayer was spilling the beans? When Tyndall refused to go due to his supposed ‘poor health’ she order Ayer to send all the patients away, but not before it was revealed that Margaret’s council refused to allow her tenants to own an English language bible.
Holland was but a servant and once can assume the man, upon his arrest, was terrified of being tortured. He gave evidence against Geoffrey, which in turn also damned Margaret. Holland stated that he went to Flanders to sell some meat for his master, Geoffrey Pole. While there he was asked to deliver a message to Pole’s brother Reginald. In that letter Geoffrey offered to join his brother – he said, ‘the world in England waxes all crooked, God’s law is turned upside down, abbey and churches overthrown and he [Reginald] is taken for a traiter’, and he also claimed in the letter that assassins had been sent to dispatch Reginald.
In Showtime’s The Tudors, those assassins were Sir Francis Bryan and Sir Thomas Seymour. We don’t know who these assassins but it makes for an interesting story, doesn’t it?
After Reginald read the letter from his younger brother he sent a letter back to his mother, Margaret saying that ‘my hope is in God’ and that he desired her blessing. For his brother Geoffrey he said, ‘meddle little and let all things alone’. But Geoffrey wouldn’t take no for an answer, he clearing wanted to be part of this movement against the King of England. It was not long before he was arrested, on the 29 August 1538, Geoffrey Pole was placed in the Tower of London.
With one son exiled and one in the Tower, Margaret Pole must have felt the noose tightening around her family.
Two months after his arrest Geoffrey Pole was finally interrogated and asked for names of others involved. He named several people, including his own brother Lord Montagu. Pole insisted his brother only wanted change as far as religious matters and that he did not wish harm to the king. By that time it was already too late – he listed his brother, regardless of any disclaimer and it appears that his was so guilt ridden by it all that John Hussee reported to Lord Lisle that Geoffrey was ‘so in despair that he would have murdered himself and, as it was told me, hurt himself sore’. Another man by the name of Richard Morisyne claimed that Geoffrey stabbed himself in the chest with a blunt knife. Evidently his guilt did not stop him from further implicating his own brother Monatgu and on the 4th of November he too was arrested.
During all of this Margaret was at Warblington. Those around her worried that her loose-lipped son would take her down with him just like he did with his brother, Lord Montagu – to that Margaret said, ‘I trow he is not so unhappy that he will hurt his mother, and yet I care neither for him, nor for any other, for I am true to my Prince.’
Eight days after the arrest of her son Lord Montagu, Margaret was visited by the Earl of Southampton, Thomas Goodrich and the Bishop of Ely for questioning at Warblington. For two days they questioned the stoic Countess. Margaret claimed that her son Reginald had not told her that he went abroad because he disliked the way the kingdom was governed. In addition, she had not received any letter concerning him except one from the king. She also did not know about Hugh Holland being sent to deliver letters to her son.
The plot to assassinate Reginald was something that Margaret was aware of, she stated that her son Geoffrey had told her of the King’s plan and she had hoped to change His Majesty’s mind.
Margaret was asked if she knew that her son Geoffrey and Lord Montagu wished to join their brother and she responded that she ‘prayed God she may be torn in pieces if ever she heard such a thing of her sons’. She also denied in questioning that she wished for Reginald to be made Pope.
Margaret admitted that she was sorry for the destruction of the abbey and religious houses where her ancestors were buried.
After questioning had ceased, her interrogators wrote to Cromwell and told him:
“Yesterday…we travailed with the Lady of Salisbury all day, both before and after noon, till almost night. Albeit for all we could do, though we used her diversely, she would utter and convess little or nothing more than the first day, and that she ‘utterly denieds all that is objected unto her; and that with most stiff and earnest words’.”
Her interrogators believed that either Margaret was a marvelous liar or that her sons did not make her privy to their plans.
Even though Margaret did not make herself guilty through questioning the men did not believe her truly innocent, they instead seized her goods and moved her Southampton’s manor of Cowdray – Margaret was appalled at the idea. They hoped that moving her to a less friendly location would get her to open up and confess.
Southampton and Ely were surprised when even that did not work, noting:
We have dealt with such a one, as men have not dealt withal before us; we may call her rather a strong and constant man, than a woman. For in all behaviour howsoever we have used her, she has showed herself so earnest, vehement, and precise, that more could not be.”
Merely two weeks after Margaret was questioned, her eldest son, Lord Montague was tried before a jury of his peers at Westminster. He was followed by the Marquess of Exeter, Geoffrey Pole, Edward Neville, Hugh Holland, George Croftes and John Collins. At all of the trials the men were unanimously found guilty and were sentenced a traitor’s death – to be hanged, drawn and quartered. But since Margaret’s son, Lord Montagu was of a higher ranking he (along with Exeter and Neville) had his sentence commuted to beheading. The other men were not so lucky – after their execution their heads were placed on London Bridge and their quarters were placed ‘on divers gates about London’ – as a reminder to the King’s subjects what happens when you are involved in treason.
Margaret’s son Geoffrey was more fortunate, he was pardoned – something he clearly could not live with as he attempted to take his life in the Tower for a second time since his arrest. Eustace Chapuys reported that he tried ‘to suffocate himself with a cushion’.
By May 1539, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury was attainded on treason. This meant she would not receive a trial. Higginbotham states in her book that ‘the evidence against her appears to have been quite vague, which was undoubtedly why the government chose this means of proceeding.
Her attainder reads:
“And where also Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, and Hugh Vaughan, late of Beckener, in the County of Monmouth, yeoman, by instigation of the devil, putting apart the dread of Almighty God, their duty of allegiance, and the excellent benefit received of his Highness, have not only traitorously confederated themselves with the false and abominable traitors Henry Pole, Lord Montagu, and Reginald Pole, sons to the said countess, knowing them to be false traitors, but also have maliciously aided, abetted, maintianed, and comforted them in their said false and abominable treason, to the most fearful peril of hi Highness, the commonwealth of this realm, &c., the said marchioness and the said countess be declared attained, and shall suffer the pains and penalties of high treason.”
After Cromwell read the Act of Attainder he displayed a tunic from Margaret’s coffer that displaced a coat of arms that appeared to be a combination of the Pole arms with that of the Lady Mary – for it was suspected that the two would wed and return England to Catholicism.
We don’t know for the date for certain but we know that by the 20th of November 1539 Margaret was a prisoner in the Tower of London. The following month Thomas Cromwell was informed that additional clothing was needed for two ladies and their attendants in the Tower, who were under the charge of Thomas Phillips. Margaret apparently made quite a fuss stating that she was in need of proper clothing to keep her warm and to change. Was this why the order was approved by the King to have clothing made for the Countess? The clothing that Katheryn Howard is often given credit for.
Margaret would stay in the Tower for as long as her son Reginald was still a threat.
Margaret Pole was executed on the 27th of May 1541.
French ambassador Marillac said this of Margaret’s execution:
‘yesterday morning, about 7 o’clock, beheaded in a corner of the Tower, in presence of so few people that until evening the truth was still doubted. It was the more difficult to believe as she had been long prisoner, was of noble lineage, above 80 years old, and had been punished but the loss of one son and banishment of the other, and the total ruin of her house.’
Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys had this to say:
The very strange and lamentable execution of Mme. de Salisbury, the daughter of the duke of Clarence, and mother of Cardinal Pole, took place at the Tower in the presence of the Lord Mayor of London and about 150 persons more. At first, when the sentence of death was made known to her, she found the thing very strange, not knowing of what crime she was accused, nor how she had been sentenced; but at last, perceiving that there was no remedy, and that die she must, she went out of the dungeon where she was detained and walked towards the midst of the space in front of the Tower, where there was no scaffold erected nor anything except a small block. Arrived there, after commending her soul to her Creator, she asked those present to pray for the King, the Queen, the Prince (Edward) and the Princess, to all of whom she wished to be particularly commended, and more especially to the latter, whose god-mother she had been. She sent her blessing to her, and begged also for hers. After which words she was told to make haste and place her neck on the block, which she did. But as the ordinary executor of justice was absent doing his work in the North, a wretched and blundering youth … was chosen, who literally hacked her head and shoulders to pieces in the most pitiful manner. May God in His high grace pardon her soul, for certainly she was a most virtuous and honorable lady, and there was no need or haste to bring so ignominious a death upon her, considering that as she was then nearly ninety years old, she could not in the ordinary course of nature live long. When her death had been resolved upon, her nephew [sic], the son of Mr. Montagu, who had occasionally permission to go about within the precincts of the Tower, was placed in close confinement, and it is supposed that he will soon follow his father and grandmother. May God help him!”
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury was laid to rest at St. Peter ad Vincula – the same place where many of our Tudor favorites lay.
Higginbotham, Susan. Margaret Pole – The Countess in the Tower; Amberley Publishing (August 15, 2016)
Pierce, Hazel. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Pole, Margaret, suo jure countess of Salisbury. (28 May 2015)
The day was February 11, 1503. The bells of Saint Paul’s Cathedral tolled while London’s wearied masses collected in assured astonishment of the news. The Queen was dead. Queen Elizabeth of York had been introduced to the realm 37 years to the day of her death in an England much different from the one she left. She was the first child of King Edward IV and her namesake, Elizabeth Woodville. Born amidst the turmoil of the dynastic wars; her formative years were spotted with war, instability, death and betrayal. Narrowly escaping the grasp of her Kingly uncle who stood in place of her misfortunate brothers, the succession of a Lancastrian incumbent would change her fortunes. Following the defeat of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, Elizabeth married the freshly crowned King Henry VII. By uniting their houses formally, the Tudor dynasty sought to establish itself as the premier royal house at all means necessary. England’s new Queen would play an essential part in her country’s security by providing the necessary heirs to its future. She would hardly disappoint. Nine months and one day after her wedding, she gave birth to the golden prince meant to be the first King to receive the crown by means of natural inheritance since the days of Henry VI; Prince Arthur.
In the course of her life, Elizabeth would provide seven additional children as adornments to the Tudor tapestry. By all accounts, Elizabeth would prove herself to be a figurehead for the ideal late medieval Queen. It is even suggested that through her, The Tudors earned their trademark coloring. Erasmus described her in singularity as “brilliant.” A Venetian report detailed Elizabeth as “a very handsome woman of great ability, and in conduct very able,” while commenting personally on her “charity and humanity”. She may have even conducted some power herself from underneath of her husband’s iron first in forms of rebuking letters sent to members of the peerage. Yet, despite all of her glories and characteristics, she too proved to be made of clay. Succumbing to postpartum infection following the birth of a short-lived daughter just over a week later. Her distraught and notoriously thrifty husband spent lavish sums on a funeral fit for her importance in a sum estimated at 721,270 in modern terms. A London lawyer delivered an elegy which effectively summed up the realms opinions of their lately departed Queen:
“If worship might have kept me, I had not gone,
If wit might have me saved, I needed not fear,”
That same lawyers name was to return to the chronicles of history again and again; Thomas More. Specifically when he served under the son of Elizabeth; Henry VIII. Ironically, it was from the death of Henry’s mother that one of the most prolific influences would enter his life stage. Henry, described as Elizabeth’s “loving son”, was a mere eleven years old at the time. His entire life had been turned on its axis the previous year following the death of his eldest brother. This left him as his father’s sole male heir. Gone was the Tudor’s golden egg and in its place, a scarcely known boy whose life had predetermined towards the church prior. As one could only imagine, the events of the past two years would prove to be traumatic for the pubescent Harry but how affected was he by the passing of his mother?
The Vaux Passional is an illuminated manuscript dated from the late 15th or early 16th century. In its rare, original binding lays some means to answer this question. The books first miniature depicts the same manuscript being presented to a regent that is thought to be Henry VII. Yet, just past that lays its true peculiarity. The background of the illustration contains two young girls before a fireplace in colors of mourning. Besides them, a young man seeming to weep into a bed of black cloth. His face hidden despite his full head of reddish-golden hair. It is almost with complete certainty that one can suggest these three children represent Margaret, Mary and Henry following the death of the Queen. Given it is likely a contemporary source, this manuscript seems to know better than we may about the reaction of the young Prince. Be it of her death of the events that had transpired in such quick succession. The miniature depicts not the Kingly man who Henry was to become but a small, broken boy. In a letter to Erasmus in 1507, Henry would later reflect following the death of Philip the Handsome that “never since the death of my dearest mother hath there come to me more hateful intelligence. And to speak truth, I was the scanter well-disposed toward your letter than its singular grace demanded, because it seemed to tear open the wounds to which time had brought insensibility. But indeed those things which are decreed by Heaven are so to be accepted by mortal men.” Henry was particularly fond of the archduke who was married to his wife’s sister and who had visited him in 1506. In many ways, Henry saw Philip as the ideal man of his era against the advisement of Henry’s own father. This death seemed to shake the Prince to his core. Another death so close to home as his life seemed virtually full of them.
Henry (by this time Harry) was no doubt profoundly upset by the lost of his mother which, to a modern audience, should come as no great surprise. Yet, by the contemporary standards of the day, it should be noted with some air of curiosity. Royal mothers were notoriously aloof in their parenting style and often too busy with matters of Queenship to be much concerned over their children. The job of caring for royal children was often shuffled off to high-ranking members of society who saw it not as a burden but as a rare honor and privilege. From virtually the moment of birth, Queens of medieval society vacated their responsibilities. To breastfeed one’s own child was unbecoming of their station and thus, the honor was passed to a wet-nurse and a number of attendants. From royal cradle rockers and beyond, A queen’s place was by the side of her husband and within her court. Children would be established in their own residences where their education and upbringing was monitored by those appointed to do so. That is not to say that a Queen did not care greatly for her children but it was merely the way of it. As best stated in Virtuous or Villainess? The Image of the Royal Mother from the Early Medieval to the Early Modern Era: “On the one hand, the royal mother is expected to produce and nurture future heirs who will ensure dynastic and political security, but on the other, a woman who appeared to have too much influence was seen as meddling, overwhelming in her authority, and a threat to the stability of the realm.” Due to this, Elizabeth of York would be expected to do much the same.
However, it is worth noting that Elizabeth’s own childhood was less than traditional by standards of the day. Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth of Woodville, had stolen herself and her family to the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey twice. First when Edward IV was forced to flee England due to the rebellion of his once allies; George, Duke of Clarence and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. It was there that she’d give birth to her son and heir, Edward. The second time would be when her brother-in-law took possession of that same Edward and seized the title of Lord Protector. Rife with instability, Elizabeth would have likely spent vast amounts of time with her mother and her siblings. It is reasonable to suggest that her bond would have been more familial than most of her station due to this. Additionally, Elizabeth Woodville was a commoner before her royal marriage and was likely to have a much more hands on approach to parenting due to this. Thus, it is not difficult to suggest that Elizabeth of York’s relationship with her children would be reflective of her own childhood.
Little is known about Henry’s early life before the death of Arthur. It seemed almost not worth recording to contemporary scholars at the time. Incredulously, Henry’s grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, would incorrectly label his birth in her Book of Hours and seemed to amend it at a later date. However, it is within his obscurity that we may better understand Henry’s relationship with his mother. The evidence of deviation in royal protocol lays in an unexpected yet obvious place; Henry’s handwriting. As noted in David Starkey’s Mind Of A Tyrant series, Henry’s handwriting is uniquely his own and nothing like that of his tutor. Instead, it is much like his Queenly mother’s which suggests that she was the one to teach him in the first place. Though there is little known evidence of Elizabeth’s handwriting that remains, what we do have shows staunch similarities even to the untrained eye. Furthermore, Starkey recalls “it’s characteristic enough in weight, rhythm and letter forms to prove conclusively, I think, that Elizabeth was the first teacher of her daughters and her second son, Henry.”
Though we may never know the true extent of the bond between the two, the mere suggestion that the future King would be tutored firstly by his own mother allows us to better understand the man himself. Be it his devastation in the face of her death which smacks of modern maternal bonds, or how it later shaped him. All of this provides modern audiences with the early operative pieces of what was to be a Freudian daydream. In so many ways, the new age idealism that Henry aspired to can be traced back to Elizabeth of York and the marriage that begot him. His desire to love the woman he married was in homage to his father who was thought to never stray from his marital bed. The traits of loyalty, fidelity and humility which he sought most in a wife, was a mold first cast by his mother. A mold that had not had time to be broken due to her early and untimely death. Freudian theory tells us that his mother would have become something of an idolatrous figure for him. Aspiring to a flawless and immortal figure which could never belong to this life. All of this and more proves that while Elizabeth’s body may have been laid to rest in ceremony and pomp in the luxury of Westminster Abbey, her presence was very much there in Henry. All of his decisions regarding love, loss, standard and ultimately what it was to be King was due in part to her. That figure of the old world who died in the new. She who heralded the dynasty which would become the stuff of speculation for centuries to come; Elizabeth of York.
As many of you may already know, King Henry VIII is my favorite monarch of the Tudor dynasty. If it wasn’t for his reign I do not believe the Tudors would be as popular as they are today.
With the creation of Showtime’s THE TUDORS, many of us were aware of the name Henry VIII but really didn’t know much about him. In the show we were able to see that there was more to the man than the execution of two of his six wives. While I understand that THE TUDORS tv program had a bunch of historical inaccuracies, it also got people (like myself) to look deeper into the history by reading and absorbing as much as we possibly could. Over a decade later I feel like I have a fairly good grasp on the infamous king and would like to share my understanding of him with you all. Henry VIII was a man, well…maybe a man-child, but he wasn’t just the tyrannical ruler that many see him as today. There was much more to him than most understand. I hope with this series on his life that you will look at Henry in through new eyes.
Understanding the Man: Henry VIII
As stated previously, many of you may already know that Henry VIII is my favorite of the Tudor monarchs. My opinion isn’t always in the majority and I’m okay with that. Henry ruled England from 1509 until his death on the 28th of January 1547 and has helped to make the Tudors as popular as they are today.
As the second son of King Henry VII, young Henry was not expected to become King of England and so he was sent to Eltham Palace to be raised with his sisters. While at Eltham, Henry would have most likely had constant contact with his mother, Elizabeth of York.
When you consider Henry’s relationship with women in his life one must wonder if he was constantly on the search for a woman like his own mother. Elizabeth of York had a great influence on her son and may have helped educate her children during her lifetime.
Born at Greenwich Palace on the 28th of June 1491, Henry Tudor was the third child and second son of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. His parents marriage had put an end to decades of fighting between the Yorks and Lancasters in what we know as the Wars of the Roses.
For the most part, Henry’s childhood would have been idyllic, but not without occasional bits of drama. The fact that Henry’s father claimed the throne on the battlefield against Richard III did not sit well with supporters of the Lancasters…and for that matter the Yorks were not pleased either.
In 1487, a young man named Lambert Simnel was coerced to play the part of Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick to raise arms against the new Tudor king, Henry VII. At the same time, the real Edward Plantagenet was sitting in the Tower of London. It did not take long before Simnel was discovered as a pretender.
At some point around 1494, Perkin Warbeck came on the scene. The reason I say 1494 is because in 1494, young Prince Henry was given (by his father) the title of Lieutenant of Ireland.
This would not be the last time that Henry VII gave a title to his second son in an attempt to show control.
In July 1495, Warbeck took fourteen ships, funded by his supposed aunt, Margaret of York, along with 6000 men across the channel to England in hope that he could claim the throne of England. Things didn’t quite turn out the way he had planned and he and his men fled to Ireland. Before long they had moved to Scotland where Warbeck gained the assistance of King James IV of Scotland.
Warbeck was claiming to be one of the lost princes in the Tower, the younger of the two brothers, Richard, Duke of York. Many believed he was truly the young prince and that the throne of England should be his by right.
Henry VII would not have another pretender using a title that was meant for his son, and in 1494, three-year old Prince Henry was titled as Duke of York. There could not be two and Henry, at the moment, was the true title holder, not Warbeck.
At a young age Henry would have known that a monarch’s throne is never 100% secure. It also must have been a bit confusing for him and his sisters to understand that some of their mother’s family wanted to remove their father.
Everything changed in April 1502 when Henry’s older brother, Arthur, died unexpectedly at Ludlow Castle. Henry went from a mostly carefree childhood to a life that led to him being overly protected as sole heir to the throne of England. Gone were the days when he could run “freely” and have unrestricted fun – to feeling like a prisoner of his father’s.
Henry had been betrothed to Katherine Aragon in 1503, he was twelve years old. As stated previously, Henry’s life, once Prince of Wales, was thoroughly controlled by his father, the King. The betrothal to the dowager princess of Wales was something that would evolve with the ever-changing politics of the day.
While his brother Arthur had been, practically from birth, trained in the ways of kingship, Henry’s training did not begin until he was eleven years old. The young Prince of Wales was not used to the rigorous training he received to prepare him for the throne and he only had seven-year to cram for the biggest role of his life.
At Richmond Palace, on the 21st of April 1509, King Henry VII died. He was fifty-two years old. His son, who was only eighteen years old was now King of England.
When he came to the throne, Henry VIII was described as exceptionally tall, well-proportioned, had the features of a Greek god and moved gracefully. His complexion was fair, had auburn hair and a rounded face with the features so delicately formed that they ‘would become a pretty woman’. This new, young king naturally commanded attention and authority by appearance alone.
Henry had always been fascinated by Katherine. She was beautiful and he was enchanted by her. After the death of his father, Henry decided that he would marry Katherine of Aragon. And he would claim it was his father’s wish, on his deathbed. The couple was married six weeks after Henry accession at the chapel of the Franciscan Observants at Greenwich. Henry would also be quoted as writing to her father, Ferdinand of Aragon that, “If I were still free, I would still choose her for wife before all other”. They would have a double coronation, or crowning, thirteen days later, on Midsummer Day, 24th of June 1509.
It was the coronation that set the tone for Henry’s reign – it was the beginning of the Renaissance period in England. It had also been a long time since a King came to throne with such approval and adoration. It was a new era – one of education, music, jousting and overall fun. The court was full of young people, which was the opposite of the reign of his father. Henry was eager to open his father’s coffers (which were overflowing) to celebrate his new role.
If you could see how everyone here rejoices in having so great a prince, how his life is all their desire, you would not contain yourself for sheer joy. Extortion is put down, liberality scatters riches with a bountiful hand, yet our King does not set his heart on gold or jewels, but on virtue, glory and immortality. The other day he told me ‘I wish I were more learned’. ‘But learning is not what we expect of a King’, I answered, ‘merely that he should encourage scholars’. ‘Most certainly’, he rejoined, ‘as without them we should scarcely live at all’. Now what more splendid remark could a prince make?
William Roper, the son-in-law of Thomas More also remembered how the young King was eager to learn. He recalled how More and the King would discuss astronomy, geometry, divinity and other worldly affairs all hours of the night. Henry truly enjoyed conversing with More and enjoyed learning from him and having discussions with him as well.
Henry VIII wasn’t always the tyrannical monarch who would execute you if you looked at him wrong – at the beginning of his reign he relented to public outcry against his father’s tax collector, Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley. While the public wanted to see the men put away Henry was eager to spend the fruits of their labor.
The mood at Tudor court had changed drastically since the changing of the guard – now there was laughter in the corridors at court and continuous festivals to enjoy. Under the new administration both high-born and low-born men had the same opportunities. While Henry understood the importance of having men of noble birth and experience in key positions he also appreciated men of ambition, like Thomas Wolsey – a man who would soon become pseudo king.
That’s where we’ll end Part One of this series on Henry VIII – next we will continue you on with the story of the life of Henry VIII and understanding him a bit better in Part Two.
When, in August 1485, Henry VII claimed “glorious victorie” at the battle of Bosworth, the Tudors were a family of little importance, their nobility claimed from the second marriage of Henry VI’s mother Katherine of Valois, and through Margaret Beaufort’s descent through John of Gaunt from Edward III. Henry Tudor was one of the “unlikeliest” men ever to ascend the throne of England, having spent most of his life in exile in France without even the experience of running his own household. The chances of Tudor winning the day at Bosworth – his first major battle – were relatively low.
As a result, following the battle the Tudors were keen to impress upon the nation their legitimacy at every opportunity they could. The dynasty was plagued with insecurity; when Henry VII took the crown there were other heirs lingering with much better claims than himself (the earls of Lincoln and Warwick, for example), and the string of pretenders to the throne made it imperative that the first Tudor king stress his legitimacy. For his son, too, legitimacy was an issue always at the forefront of his mind. Even fifty-six years after Bosworth, Henry VIII perceived such a threat from those with royal blood (direct Plantagenet blood especially) that he had Margaret Pole executed in 1541 despite her being a woman of sixty-seven years old.
One of the first major opportunities Henry Tudor had to display his legitimacy was his coronation. Grand public displays were “magnificent vehicles of Tudor state propaganda” and for Henry VII public displays were in “direct relation to his dynastic insecurity”. Henry was “crouned kyng by the whole assent as well of the comons as of the nobilite”, and he was received with “all honour and gladness” on 30th October 1485. Vergil recites how he was widely welcomed, and the overarching theme of his coronation and early days on the throne was that of a country rescued from the throes of civil war and tyranny.
Before the ceremony, according to the French chronicler Jean Molinet, Henry VII proclaimed that if there were any with a better claim than himself to the throne, Henry VII would “himself help to crown him but no-one appeared”. This is interesting as it is most certainly false, but it served Henry’s purpose and reinforced the ideology that the crown was taken by right rather than conquest. He also made sure his coronation was before the first parliamentary meeting on the 7th November by being crowned on 30th October – this removed all need for Parliament to declare him the rightful king and avoided any opportunity for resistance since he was already anointed. It shows his perhaps personal insecurity on the throne in that he felt the need to go above and beyond searching for ways to legitimise the dynasty even though by law of conquest the crown was legitimately his either way.
Particularly of significance to his coronation was the heavy mythological and Arthurian symbolism that was employed. Although other kings before him had exploited the Arthurian legend, Tudor was the first to exploit its full potential to bolster his rule. He traced his lineage back to the mythical Arthur and the last king of the Britons Cadwaladr. At his coronation his horse wore Cadwaladr’s arms, and after the ceremony he created a new pursuivant (office of the college of arms) named Rouge Dragon in reference to both Cadwaladr and Saint George. He emphasised these connections to mythical figures in order to raise himself above the ordinary population. Henry is known for restoring the sacrality of kingship and the use of myths and legends almost suggests that Henry himself is akin to those great mythical figures. The presence of the King’s Champion at the coronation banquet, though used by kings since at least Richard II’s coronation in 1377, only furthered the chivalrous ideals Henry represented. A fully armed knight, usually a member of the Dymoke family of Lincolnshire, would enter Westminster Hall between courses and present a challenge to anyone who disputed the king’s right to rule. The champion’s role was to “validate authority and reinforce arrangements of precedence” and as such lent all kings, but particularly Henry VII and others with shaky claims to the throne, legitimacy. It offered them a chance to reinforce their validity; the lack of challenge (because, of course, it would be madness to dispute the king’s right to rule at his coronation banquet, and you wouldn’t be leaving with your head on your shoulders if you did dispute it) to the Champion renders the king’s reign uncontested and legitimate since the king had offered the challenge. The role had “Arthurian symbolism encoded” within it and it was the first step in the exploitation of the Arthurian legend that would come to form such a huge part of Henry’s later reign.
This ties in seamlessly with the presentation of himself as the unifier of a war-torn nation. He was eager to show his ascent as “as much by lawful title of inheritance as by the true judgement of God in giving him victory”. This perpetuates the idea of chivalry that was so central to the Arthurian myths. The Arthurian cult flourished under Tudor cultivation and Henry VII encouraged the study of ancient Britain, ensuring that the cult of Arthur gained prevalence in the sixteenth century. By linking the dynasty to the mythical kings of old – and encouraging study to make sure their prestigious heritage was known – they tapped into the rudimental English identity. Arthur, the pinnacle of English kings, served as an invaluable link to England’s past and her own sense of self. Since Henry VII had spent most of his life in France, this link to England was priceless. The mythical imagery was first brought out in grand display at the coronation of 1485, and its use as a tool for legitimacy must have been invaluable.
But it was not just the coronation of the first Tudor king that was manipulated to highlight his legitimacy; the coronation of the first Tudor queen got the same treatment. The perfectly stage-managed coronation of Elizabeth of York took place in 1487 and was, like her husband’s, similarly laden with heavy symbolism and was key to the Tudor policy of legitimisation.
The gap between the marriage that was loudly proclaimed to have united all England and her coronation is telling. There could be many reasons why the coronation of the queen was delayed by two years (Elizabeth giving birth to Arthur in September 1486 being one of them) but a convincing stance seems to be that the queen’s coronation was delayed on purpose. Perhaps it was to emphasise that although she had a stronger blood claim to the throne than her husband, she was not a crowned queen until he made her so. Her crown was carried by Jasper Tudor, the very embodiment of the Welsh roots of the Tudors. Since he was half-brother to the deposed Henry VI, Jasper essentially represented a return to the legitimate succession after the Yorkists since Henry VII claimed the throne as heir to Henry VI. The implication is that the crown is bestowed on Elizabeth by the Lancastrian claim from Henry VI, not her own Yorkist claim through her father, Edward IV. It was a way of “proclaiming the legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty to the world” and bolstered the image of Tudor right to rule that her husband had been carefully cultivating since 1485.
On top of this, the coronation of Elizabeth of York spouted the same rhetoric of union that surrounded her marriage. Henry created fourteen new Knights of the Bath the night before her coronation, and of the 185 that attended the ceremony, 46% had been knighted since Bosworth. Several others had fought for Richard III at Bosworth and their part in Elizabeth’s coronation shows the active effort made to unite the realm under one banner. Though there were several new names at her coronation, old names remained. Suffolk carried her sceptre, also having carried it at all the coronations between 1465 and 1487. His role has an element of tradition to it and he served as a link to previous Yorkist ceremonies. The role of Suffolk combined with the injection of fresh blood into the court illustrates effectively the ideology of the union of the roses, of both Lancaster and York coming together to bring peace. That some former Yorkists found tolerance under Henry VII only emphasises this further.
The Tudor coronations were vast, embracing vehicles for state propaganda declaring the legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty. Though the politics of kingship can be tricky, it should be pointed out that the process of anointing, arguably, erases any unsuitability for the throne since the king has been touched with God’s holy oil. This did not stop the routine efforts for legitimacy made by Henry VII and his successors, though, and so the entire coronation was subjected to elaborate displays of the dynasty’s validity, despite being technically valid the moment the oil touched their skin.
Henry VIII’s smooth accession to the throne and coronation in 1509 is a testament to the strength of Henry VII’s policy of legitimisation. In the words of Geoffrey Elton, Henry VIII’s accession was a “triumph” for his father’s policy, with Henry VII’s efforts at last “mingled into one unquestioned claimant to the throne”.
Hall, E. Hall’s Chronicle (London: J. Johnson, 1809)
Molinet, J. Chroniques 1476-1506, (Paris: Verdiére 1828 Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, http://www.british-history.ac.uk.ezproxy.mmu.ac.uk/no-series/parliament-rolls-medieval/november-1485-pt-1#highlight-first [Accessed 24th February 2017]
Vergil, P. Anglica Historia, http://www.r3.org/links/to-prove-a-villain-the-real-richard-iii/these-supposed-crimes/polydore-vergil/ Secondary Sources:
Anglo, S. Images of Tudor Kingship (London: Batsford Ltd, 1992)
Attreed, L. ‘England’s Official Rose: Tudor Concepts of the Middle Ages’ in Hermeneutics and Medieval Culture, ed. Gallacher, P. J, Damico, H. (New York: State University of New York Press, 1989)
Byrne, A. ‘The King’s Champion: Re-Enacting Arthurian Romance at the English Coronation Banquet’, English Studies, (94), (2013), pp.505-518
Elton, G. England Under the Tudors, (Abingdon: Routledge, 1991)
Hammond, P. W. ‘The Coronation of Elizabeth of York’, The Ricardian, 6(83) (1983)
Hunt, A. ‘The Tudor Coronation Ceremonies in History and Criticism’, Literature Compass, 6(2) (2009) pp.362-372
Hunt, A. The Drama of Coronation, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)
Rex, R. The Tudors (Stroud: Amberley 2012)
Sharpe, K. Selling the Tudor Monarchy: Authority and Image in Sixteenth Century England (London: Yale University Press, 2009)
Weir, A. Elizabeth of York (New York: Vintage, 2014)  Edward Hall, Hall’s Chronicle, (London: J. Johnson, 1809), p.422  Richard Rex, The Tudors, (Stroud: Amberley, 2012) p.9  Alice Hunt, The Drama of Coronation, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p.9  Kevin Sharpe, Selling the Tudor Monarchy: Authority and Image in Sixteenth Century England, (London: Yale University Press, 2009), p.66  Hall, Hall’s Chronicle, p.423  Robert Fabyan, Great Chronicle in English Historical Documents: Volume IV, 1327-1485, ed. A. R. Myers, http://www.englishhistoricaldocuments.com/document/view.html?id=1119 [Accessed 2nd March 2017]  Jean Molinet, Chroniques 1476 – 1506, (Paris: Verdiére, 1828) p.8  Lorraine Attreed, ‘England’s Official Rose: Tudor Concepts of the Middle Ages’ in P. J. Gallagher, H. Damico, Hermeneutics and Medieval Culture, (New York: State University of New York Press, 1989), p.87  A. Byrne, ‘The King’s Champion: Re-Enacting Arthurian Romance at the English Coronation Banquet’ English Studies 94 (2013) p.506  Byrne, ‘The King’s Champion’, English Studies p.515  Byrne, ‘King’s Champion’, p.516  ‘Henry VII, November 1485’ in Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, http://www.british-history.ac.uk.ezproxy.mmu.ac.uk/no-series/parliament-rolls-medieval/november-1485-pt-1#highlight-first [Accessed 24th February 2017]  Alison Weir, Elizabeth of York, (New York: Vintage, 2014) p.252  Hammond, P. W; ‘The Coronation of Elizabeth of York’ The Ricardian 6(83) (1983) p.272  IBID  Hammond, ‘Coronation of Elizabeth of York’, p.270  Geoffrey Elton, England Under the Tudors, (Routledge, 1991) p.70
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Lady Margaret Beaufort was born on 31 May 1443 at Bletso as the daughter of Margaret Beauchamp and John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. Margaret had seven half-siblings from her mother’s first marriage to Sir Oliver St John and would later have another half-brother from her mother’s third marriage to Lionel de Welles, 6th Baron Welles. Her father was the second son of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, the eldest son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster by his mistress and later his wife, Katherine Swynford. Margaret would never know her father. He died on 27 May 1444.
Margaret was now a wealthy heiress, and Margaret’s wardship automatically passed to the King as was usual and he granted it to William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, although Margaret remained with her mother for now. Her mother would have been responsible for her early education. She certainly learned excellent French. By 1450, William de la Pole found himself deeply unpopular and on 28 January the commons in parliament ordered his arrest. Between 28 January and 7 February, he had his eldest son John de la Pole marry Margaret but they probably never lived together as man and wife. They were just eight and six years old. For William, the marriage was the final nail in the coffin. Margaret was, after all, a potential heir to the throne, and William was now accused of treason. He was exiled, but his ship was intercepted, and he was murdered on 2 May 1450.
For now, Margaret remained with her mother but in February 1453 Margaret’s mother was summoned to court, and she brought her daughter with her. In April, they attended the St George’s Day celebrations of the Order of the Garter at Windsor Castle, and young Margaret received money from the King for clothes. He also ordered Margaret’s wardship to be granted to his half-brothers, Edmund and Jasper Tudor. He probably had a marriage between Margaret and one of the Tudor brothers in mind. Edmund was the eldest, and it was he who she married on 1 November 1455. She was just 12 years old, while Edmund was 24. Her first marriage was dissolved, and Margaret would always refer to Edmund as her first husband.
The marriage was consummated straight away, despite contemporaries commenting that Margaret was of small stature and underdeveloped. She fell pregnant in early 1456, but Edmund never lived to see the birth of his child. He died on 1 November 1456 of the plague. On 28 January 15457, still only 13 years old, Margaret gave birth to her only child, a son. It was a long labour, and it could very easily have caused her death and the death of her child. It was a miracle that they both survived. It is believed that Margaret was injured during the birth as she never had another child. At the time, she was living with her brother-in-law, Jasper. She was devoted to her son from the moment he was born.
Within weeks of her son’s birth, Margaret had arranged her third marriage as she was aware that the King might force a third marriage upon her. She would wait out her year of mourning for Edmund and married Sir Henry Stafford on 3 January 1458. It was probably a happy marriage, and Henry referred to her as his “beloved wife” in his will. She may have lost custody of her son when he was about two years old. His wardship was granted to Jasper Tudor and the Earl of Shrewsbury and Margaret and Henry visited him at Pembroke Castle.
Time’s were troubled. As Henry VI descended into his own mind, factions began to fight over the throne. Henry VI’s wife Margaret of Anjou was defeated at the Battle of Towton and driven towards Scotland. Edward, Earl of March, a Yorkist, was now King Edward IV. Jasper Tudor sailed to Scotland to aid Margaret of Anjou. Young Henry was not immediately a threat to the new King, but he was stripped of his lands and taken into the custody of William Herbert. Margaret was not barred from contacting him, and they kept in touch.
A huge part of Margaret’s life was devoted to religion, and even in her old age, she was renowned for fasting. Her daily life was strictly regulated around prayer and devotion, and she prayed so much that she injured her knees and back.
The year 1469 saw the short resurgence of the House of Lancaster, but by 1471 Edward IV was securely back on the throne. At the Battle of Tewkesbury Margaret of Anjou’s son was killed and not much later King Henry VI was quietly murdered. Margaret of Anjou was imprisoned and was allowed to return to France a few years later. Sir Henry Stafford had been wounded in the Battle of Barnet, and he eventually died of his wounds on 4 October 1471. Young Henry Tudor went with his uncle into exile; his Lancastrian blood was now a serious threat. Margaret felt the danger too and wasted no time in finding a new protector and husband.
In June 1472, she married Thomas, Lord Stanley, who was prominent at court. Once she had proven herself loyal, she could one day use that influence to return her son to favour. Margaret gradually came into favour as she attended on King Edward IV’s Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. She was well on her way to securing her son’s return to England when King Edward IV died suddenly on 9 April 1483.
His son and heir, now King Edward V was just 12 years old, and he was intercepted on his way back to London by the Duke of Gloucester (Richard, King Edward IV’s brother) and the Duke of Buckingham. Elizabeth Woodville felt threatened enough to gather up her daughters and the Duke of York to seek the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. The Duke of Gloucester later demanded that she hand over the Duke of York and so she did. Elizabeth Woodville’s and King Edward IV’s marriage was declared null and void, because of a (possible) pre-contract between Edward and Eleonor Butler. King Edward V and his siblings were now considered illegitimate, and The Duke of Gloucester was proclaimed King Richard III. Margaret and her husband attended the new King’s coronation, and Margaret carried the new Queen’s train.
What happened next remains one the greatest mysteries in history. The boy King and his brother disappeared from the Tower, presumably murdered. We do not know who was responsible for this.
Margaret made contact with Elizabeth Woodville, still lodged in Westminster, to discuss the possibility of marriage between Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV and Henry Tudor, if he managed to overthrow Richard III. A conspiracy in 1483 failed, and Margaret found herself attained for high treason. Her death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and she was kept under house arrest.
Her life changed again in August 1485. Henry invaded with an amassed army of around 5,000 men and defeated King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Henry Tudor was now King Henry VII, and Margaret was My Lady, The King’s Mother. She would, at last, see her son again, after 14 years apart. Although she was not a Queen in her own right, she would not take a backseat during her son’s reign. She took a vow of chastity, and an act was passed declaring her a “sole person”, giving her autonomy to act as a widow, despite the fact that her husband was still alive. She was often at court during her son’s reign.
She would gain a reputation as a difficult mother-in-law to Elizabeth of York and she certainly overshadowed Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Henry married on 18 January 1486 and she gave birth to their first child, Prince Arthur, in September 1486. Margaret was present for the birth and also for the birth of her second grandchild, Princess Margaret in November 1489. Elizabeth would go on to bear eight children, though only three survived to adulthood. There were now three Queens at court. Margaret was essentially a Queen Dowager, Elizabeth Woodville was the actual Queen Dowager and Elizabeth of York was the Queen consort. There was bound to be friction. Elizabeth Woodville was eventually forced to retire to Bermondsey Abbey, where she died in 1492. Margaret’s relationship with Elizabeth of York was a complicated one. They were often thrown together and perhaps Henry feared that elevating Elizabeth too much would make it appear as though he only held the crown through marriage.
Margaret often wore the same clothes as Elizabeth, some gifted by Henry and she signed her name Margaret R, which could stand for either Regina (Queen) or Richmond. Margaret was clearly the dominant party, but they also worked together if they shared interests. Elizabeth of York tragically died in childbirth on 11 February 1503. Margaret herself was widowed again in 1504, although they had been living separately for a while, it must still have been a personal loss.
Margaret survived her only son; King Henry VII died on 21 April 1509. Margaret was devastated at his death, and she threw herself into organising his funeral. Margaret herself was also in ill-health, and in the weeks following his death, her health rapidly deteriorated. She lived to see her grandson’s coronation on 23 June 1509 and began to prepare for death. She died just six days later on 29 June 1509.
Read more: Elizabeth Norton – Margaret Beaufort
About the Author:
My name is Moniek (please call me Mo!) and I live in Arnhem in the Netherlands. I have a very British heart and I hope to live there one day. My interest began with Anne Boleyn and the Tudor times, but it greatly expanded over time as I found more and more admirable women in other countries and kingdoms. I enjoy visiting the places where these women lived and died and I love reading about them.