Lady Margaret Beaufort

Posted By on June 29, 2010

Lady Margaret Beaufort

On this day in history, 29th June 1509, the matriarch of the House of Tudor, Lady Margaret Beaufort, died at the age of 66, a great age for a Tudor.

Margaret died just four days after enjoying the coronation celebrations of her grandson, Henry VIII, and Henry Parker, Lord Morley, who acted as her cupbearer at the coronation ceremonies, reported that “she took her infirmity with eating of a cygnet”. His grandmother’s death, just two months after his father’s death, was a blow to the new, young king and David Starkey points out that:-

“In less than two months, Henry had lost the two dominant figures of his youth: his father and his grandmother. He was now not only king but paterfamilias and undisputed head of his family. And all this at the age of only eighteen.”

The woman who had been matriarch of the Tudor court and who had had such a powerful influence on English history was gone.

Facts About Lady Margaret Beaufort

Here are some facts about Lady Margaret Beaufort:-

  • Margaret was born on the 31st May 1443 at Bletsoe Castle in Bedfordshire.
  • Her parents were Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe and John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, grandson of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress (and eventual wife) Katherine Swynford, and Margaret was their only child.
  • Although a 1397 act of Parliament legitimized the children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, but in 1407 Henry IV, while recognising the legitimacy of his Beaufort half-brothers and sisters, declared that they could never inherit the throne.
  • Margaret was married four times: c 1450 to John de la Pole, a marriage which was dissolved in 1453 (some say that the marriage never happened and was just a betrothal); 1453 to Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, eldest son of Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois and half-brother of Henry VI; 1462 to Henry Stafford, son of the 1st Duke of Buckingham; and finally in 1472 to Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby and the Lord High Constable and King of Mann.
  • Margaret had just one child, Henry VII. She gave birth to him at the age of 13 and his father was Edmund Tudor.
  • Margaret was a powerful lady and was a key figure in the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster. She actively supported her son Henry Tudor’s claim to the throne and was able to persuade her then husband, Thomas Stanley, and his brother to swap sides and support Henry at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Henry defeated Richard III and became Henry VII of England.
  • Margaret and Elizabeth Woodville co-plotted the marriage of Henry, Margaret’s son, and Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter by Edward IV.
  • Margaret was the Countess of Richmond and Derby but, after her son’s victory at Bosworth, was referred to as “My Lady the King’s Mother” and refused to accept a lower status than the queen consort, Elizabeth of York.
  • David Starkey writes of how Arthur, Prince of Wales, inherited his grandmother’s Beaufort looks: hooked nose, hooded eyes, bags under the eyes and a slim build.
  • She took an active interest in education and she established the Lady Margaret’s Professorship of Divinity at Cambridge University, refounded and added to God’s House, Cambridge, turning it into Christ’s College, and her estate founded St John’s College, Cambridge. The Queen Elizabeth’s School, formally Wimborne Grammar School, came about as a result of her intention to build a free school in Wimborne, Dorset.
  • John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was Margaret’s friend, political and spiritual adviser, and executor of her estate. He was eventually executed for treason by her grandson, Henry VIII.
  • The Beaufort motto was “Souvent me souviens”, “I remember often”.
  • Lady Margaret Beaufort’s resting place is at Westminster Abbey in London, in the south aisle of Henry VII’s Chapel. Her tomb was sculpted by Pietro Torrigiano and features a portrait effigy of Margaret dressed in traditional widow’s dress, her head resting on two pillows decorated with the Tudor badge, her hands raised in prayer and the Beaufort family crest at her feet. The Latin inscription, written by Erasmus, translates as “Margaret of Richmond, mother of Henry VII, grandmother of Henry VIII, who gave a salary to three monks of this convent and founded a grammar school at Wimborne, and to a preacher throughout England, and to two interpreters of Scripture, one at Oxford, the other at Cambridge, where she likewise founded two colleges, one to Christ, and the other to St John, his disciple. Died A.D.1509, III Kalends of July [29 June]“.

Comments on
"Lady Margaret Beaufort"

40 Responses to “Lady Margaret Beaufort”

  1. Anne says:

    Aloha!
    What an amazing woman, again challenging our ideas of what women were capable of in those distant times. Of course, our Western culture now frowns on marriages (or betrothals) at 7 years of age, and her SECOND marriage at the age of 10 would certainly be anomalous these days. However, Lady Margaret Beaufort apparently was not equipped by her nature to act simply as a powerful family’s pawn, but helped create the Tudor lineage through her remarkable personal resources and abilities. Thank you for the interesting thumbnail sketch of this pivotal Tudor lady, Claire.

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  2. Carolyn says:

    Claire, we were discussing Lady Margaret back on the “Henry VIII – A Tyrant or Just Misunderstood?” posting and were wondering if you know of a biography of her?

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    Xerxes Reply:

    There is a complete list of biographies of Lady Margaret Beaufort at margaretbeaufort.com/LMB/Books.html

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  3. miladyblue says:

    Lady Margaret braved many dangers to put her son Henry on the throne as Henry VII; there were murders, executions, arrests and threats not only to Henry’s person, but to those of Margaret herself, her supporters, and her stepchildren, Earl Thomas’s sons. She was brave enough, bold enough and intelligent enough to take on Richard III, who was quite a shrewd strategist himself. Richard’s fatal mistake may have been the chauvinism of the times, and was unable to believe a “mere woman” was capable of bringing him down, whether directly or indirectly.

    I wonder what Lady Margaret would have thought of Anne, who had many of the same strengths Margaret herself did.

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    Marie Mcintosh Reply:

    In my view, R3 focused only on what appeared to be a palpable threat and in his present surrounding. That may have been his biggest mistake. MB was a praying soul and she kept quiet and was not really considered a big threat not even to EB. She was astute and within her core she knew. Never forget Isabeau d Baviere is Rvii grandmother too.

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    Marie Mcintosh Reply:

    In my view, R3 focused only on what appeared to be a palpable threat and in his present surrounding. That may have been his biggest mistake. MB was a praying soul and she kept quiet and was not really considered a big threat not even to EB. She was astute and within her core she knew. Never forget Isabeau d Baviere is Rvii grandmother too. She knew her goal and never moved her eyes from it.

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  4. Sheena says:

    Margaret Beauford was a woman with a very strong personality. Supposedly to was very cruel to her daughter in law, Elizabeth of York. She wanted to have higher status that every other woman at court, and even walked only a pace behind her son (something reserved only for royal spouses) I have read about how she even signed her name, Margaret R- et mater Henrici septimi regis Angliæ et Hiberniæ (mother of Henry VII, king of England and Ireland), despite having never been queen herself.

    Its amazing just how many strong willed women existed in Tudor times, despite the old addage that they were to be seen, and not heard.

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  5. Claire says:

    I haven’t read them but “The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby” by Jones and Underwood has good reviews on Amazon and there’s another one called “Life Of Margaret Beaufort – Countess Of Richmond And Derby, Mother Of King Henry The Seventh” by C A Halsted. Also, Elizabeth Norton has written one which is due to be published in the Autumn – I’ll definitely be reading that one as she’s a very good author and historian.

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  6. Claire says:

    Yes, Margaret Beaufort sounds like the mother-in-law from Hell, poor Elizabeth of York! Sheena, you’re right, she did sign herself Margaret R but this also stood for Margaret Richmond (she was Countess of Richmond) so she got away with it!

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  7. jenny says:

    Claire – Many thanks for this post – I knew more or less all the points you made but Margaret Beaufort is not a well known woman in history and yet was extremely influential. She alo seemed to be a chameleon being all to everyone when in reality it was her son that was teh most important person in her life.

    Milady Blue – yes I agree that Richard III did understimate her by a long way but from a lot of things I read about this king, he was just too trusting.

    Whether one like Margaret Beaufort or not (and I have to be on the side that I would even let her into my life) she was increidibly clever and knew how to manipilate people. However, she obviously didn’t realise the monster that she helped to create in H8 because from te time he became king he never heeded her advice

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  8. rosalie says:

    Read the fictional “Katheryne Swynford” it is excellent.

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  9. jenny says:

    Rosalie,

    is that the one by Alison Weir? If so, I was given it as a present a just over a year ago and found it extremely interesting!!! If not, pse let me know the name of the suthor pf the book you are referring to

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  10. tudormommy says:

    Phillipa Gregory is also writing a book about her called “The Red Queen” that will be released in August. It is the second part in her “Cousins’ War” series that started with “The White Queen” which was about Elizabeth Woodville, her co-plotter and arch rival.

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    Jo Hargis Reply:

    Even though it is considered historical fiction, The Red Queen is an extraordinary book which goes into great detail on Margaret Beaufort. Of course, the author took great pains to remain as historically accurate as possible. It will give you a picture of this woman like no other I’ve read. Very powerful, very crafty woman with one single purpose in life, to see her son on the throne.

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    Beth Reply:

    The author did not take great pains to be historically accurate as far as I can see? Why did she give Margaret an obsession with Joan of Arc, which there is absolutely no evidence for and indeed Joan of Arc was still at the time considered by the English to have been a heretic, not a saint? Why does she move the Battle of Edgecote to 1470 when it was in 1469, and make it the event that restores Henry VI and when it was not? Why does she have Elizabeth Woodville give up her son Richard before instead of after Hastings’ execution? Why does she drag up the highly discredited Blaybourne rumour? The Red Queen is definitely not as historically accurate as possible, and further the writing style leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t believe Margaret was anything like the character in The Red Queen.

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  11. Carolyn says:

    Thanks for all the book recommendations, everyone!

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  12. Nancy says:

    Another biography of Margaret Beaufort is “Of Virture Rare: Margaret Beaufort, Matriarch of the House of Tudor”, which was published in 1982 and written by Linda Simon. It’s been a long time since I read it (as a matter of fact, I’d forgotten about it until I read Carolyn’s post). Apparently it is still available – I looked on the Amazon website and noticed that they have one new book in stock and 45 used ones.

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  13. Leanne says:

    I went to Queen Elizabeth’s School in Wimborne. In 1998 the Queen and Prince Philip visted our school to commemorate its 500th birthday.

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  14. Sandra says:

    Margaret Beaufort owned and palace in our village (Collyweston, North East Northants) regrettably all trace of it has gone apart from a few mullion windows and various bits of stone amongst other buildings in the village. She was a powerful woman of deep convicition and was totally devoted to her son and the Tudor dynasty, it would appear that she was also very kind to the members of her household and the local residents. Rather strangely there appears to be no reference to her or her Court in our village Church? She apparently had a chapel here and entertained guest regularly at Christmas with services and performances by her choir. My family have connections with the village going back to the early 1600’s and from the archives they appear to have worked on the estate after her death. As families did not travel around the country it is possible that they also worked on the estate during Lady Margaret’s era. If anyone has any information concerning her Royal Palace at Collyweston I would be very intersted to hear from them. It seems the village remained in the hands of the Crown certainly until the death of Elizabeth I, Henry VIII’s Court was held here on at least one occasion, and his son Henry Fitzroy also visited. We then have a gap in the village history until it appears to have been owned by Robert Heath, Attorney General to Charles I, after his demise it was take back by the Crown then disappears from history, presumably demolised due to lack of use? Any leads or bits of information would be much appreciated.

    Sandra

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  15. Fiona steele says:

    I was fascinated to read Lady margaret Beaufort was buried in the Abbey as my local Parish church [Ormskirk Parish Church, Lancashire] believes she was buried with her husbandThomas Stanley Earl of Derby. there is an effigy in the Derby chapel of the church said to be hers. does seem more likely she has been buried in the Abbey but leaves a mystery as to whose effigy is in the Derby chapel!

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  16. Claire says:

    You can read the details about her resting place at http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/margaret-beaufort
    I’m interested by what you’ve said though and will look into it, perhaps it’s just a monument?

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  17. fullalove says:

    I would be interested to find out about one of her ladys inwaiting Bess fullilove who had a son by Henry vii ;Then was banished . Did the said Bess end up in Lincolnshire ? not to far away as my branch of the fullaloves comes from lincs 1665 john fullilove the name later changed to fullalove:

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  18. janice says:

    to sandra,

    just translating eric ives book and there is written, that based on acts of parliament in april 1536 the village was included into anne`s property, being transferred from the duke of richmond, so probably went back to the crown or was transferred to elizabeth

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  19. Carol says:

    Read Philippa Gregpory’s The Red Queen–goof fictional verison.makes you want to find out the real story

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  20. Anne Barnhill says:

    This makes me want to know more about this formidable woman–I have read she was a strong influence on Henry VIII as well as his father. So many amazing women of that age–imagine giving birth at 13… no wonder she had no more children.

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    Claire Reply:

    I know, it makes me flinch knowing that she had a baby so young!

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  21. Fleur says:

    I was just talking about Margaret, she really changed my view of tudor women!
    She was powerful, strong and had a major influence on English history…

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  22. Bo says:

    Lady Margaret Beaufort was one of the most cruel and malicious females on the planet-even of her time when war was a constant. She cared absolutely nothing of the suffering and killing of others as long as her son carried on the Tudor name, become King and then of course her ultimate desire: being known as the Mother of the King. She spent all of her life trying to convince people that she was called upon by God to do this. I believe she was a little crazy. Yes, she had a hard life but she spoke of being God’s messenger since she was a little girl and was constantly amazed that no one ever saw it. I would agree that she was strong but not in a good way at all. More like strong willed and sneaky. Not someone I’d care to associate with.

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    Marianne55 Reply:

    This is based on a reading of ‘The Red Queen’ by Philippa Gregory.It’s an excellent novel partly basedon historical research but it is still fiction.See Elizaeth Norton’s recent book for a more factual acccount.

    Most imprtantly, it’s highly unlikely that Margaret Beaufort was responsible for the murder of the princed in the Tower. Richard iii is a much moreobvious candidate.

    We could go into psychobabble about why Margaret might have done it. It is now wonder if she murdered a twelve year old. Her own childhood had been murderd at the same age when she was legally raped by Edmund Tudor.

    But is even the last bit true? We know Margaretwas bon on 31 May but historians are undecided if it was in 1443 or 1441. If the latter, she ws fourteen when Henry was conceived and fifteen when he was born. That’s still too young and it’s awful that she and the baby neary died but it’s not as bad as if the ages had been twelve and thirteen.

    I can’t sy Margaret appeals to me. But if Richard really murdered the princes and she was motivated by appropriate indignation in conspiring to overthow him, that would show her in a goodlight. Of course it was also a great opportunity for her son and herself.

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  23. Catherine Milne says:

    Do you have an information regarding her life at Woking Palace? I believe that she lived here before Henry V11 came to the throne. Sadly its a ruin now but anyone interested can visit: http://www.woking-palace.org

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  24. Trevor says:

    Elizabeth Woodville faced a dilemma; her two sons were either murdered by Richard, or Henry? One of them would marry her daughter Elizabeth of York? Margaret Beaufort’s third husband was Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, who promised to support Richard III on the battle of Bosworth-but the future step father of The King of England: held back his forces! It is suggested that Margaret knew the bargaining power Thomas had in the house of York; and that’s why she married him? Margaret may have stirred up rumours of Richard III involvement in having a hand in murdering his brother George 1st Duke of Clarence; his cousin Henry VI, and his two nephews’, before Shakespeare wrote his plays? Elizabeth of York’s hand in marriage; was won for her title, like she was property, rather than a person, certainly not out of love ! She too would have had suspicions over the death of her younger brothers’.

    The War of the Roses crowned a ten year old king Richard II. It also crowned a nine month old baby Henry VI. The monarchy created a dynasty against women-where Henry VIII murdered Anne Boleyn, and Catherine Howard. He divorced his first wife to gain a strong male heir, before murdering Anne for the same reason. His daughter Elizabeth I became arguably the greatest ruler we ever had-unlike his son (who was weak). Throughout history women have been under estimated-it’s nice to know that history is readdressing their role !

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    Mary Kopp Reply:

    the war of roses, so called, did not start with Richard II. He was the legitimate heir to Edward III. Alot of what you saying here is horse manure: old tudor propaganda al la Morton via Moore. (and Shakespere).

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  25. Jasmine says:

    I hear what you guys are saying but Margaret probably in some way encouraged the two princes to be murdered, and just sneakily made suggestions to both Henry and Richard and watched for the right moment to strike. I admire her she was a strong woman, but I think her being such a fanatic about religion, was why she became so cruel . I hope your right and she was a bit older than 13 when her marriage was consummatted, but why didnt she have any more children?.

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    AnneBoleyn Reply:

    Apparently, she was so injured after giving birth so young that she could not give birth again. Lucky it was a boy, in her case.

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    Beth Reply:

    “Margaret probably in some way encouraged the two princes to be murdered”.

    Produce one shred of evidence to support that statement. And what is your evidence that she was “cruel”? The Red Queen is fiction and does not count as evidence whatsoever as to Margaret’s actions or character. Margaret was not a “fanatic”, rather, contemporaries considered her to be pious, which was what was the ideal and aspired to at the time. Modern connection between being religious and being a fanatic is a mindset that did not exist in the 15th century where people overwhelmingly believed in true faith as the path to salvation. Margaret was indeed 13 when her marriage was consummated, if not even younger, from her birth date and her son’s birth date.

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    Claire Reply:

    While I haven’t read “The Red Queen” I did watch some of “The White Queen” on TV and could only stomach a couple of episodes, Margaret Beaufort was depicted as a complete mad woman who was besotted with Jasper Tudor. So sad that such a strong woman, whose real story is fascinating, could be boiled down to that caricature.

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  26. lilangel says:

    My Grandma shares Margaret’s birthday, she would have been 94 today. I’ve always been interested in the Beaufort family and such.

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  27. maritzal says:

    Wow its very interesting to know that woman were very influencial in the ruling of the country but who was she really was a sneaky person or was she the circumstances or was she forced to be that way because of the times back then I guess living in those times were a threat to your livelyhood its sad that that’s the way they lived but no matter how many things we know of the tudors either they were tyrants or influencial they will be forever in history already written. Kind regards maritzal

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  28. Zsa Zsa says:

    I personally think Margaret Beaufort was an amazing woman – imagine giving birth at age 13? She was also ‘legally’ raped by her husband aged 12 (when their marriage was consumated) to have Henry. How awful to know that your only child was the product of rape.

    Margaret was apparently a small and very undeveloped child when she was married (I believe the first instance to just be a betrothal), and so her nannies and carers agreed unaminously that she was far too young and small to have the marriage consumated, but her husband wanted a boy so much that he took her to the marital bed and did it anyway. As a result of this and the childbirth when she had barely begun her period, her womb was so damaged that she could never carry another child.

    It’s just so sad…

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  29. BanditQueen says:

    I think Margaret Beautfort was a very brave young woman. What a terrible ordeal for a young girl of just over 13 to give birth to a child, especially im those days; with her husband dead and with little security. She would have difficulty today let alone back then, but from what I have read she was in labour for several hours and all around despaired of the life of both mother and son. But both survived and she must have been very protective of Henry, her only child and poor Margaret suffered terrible internal wounds and could not have any more children. I also think that she was brave to commit to yet another marriage and to negotiate her way through the political and divisive goings on during the wars of the roses. Margaret had her lands and her son taken from her and was forced to swallow her pride at times in order to serve people that she did not like or were against her in order to promote the cause of her son. I think Margaret was very pius and she would also believe that she had a destiny in her son.

    Margaret also took risks that put both her and her son in danger and was not always sensible in her choices; causing the death of her half brother and others who were caught up in her plans. I think that she was desperate to be with her son when they were seperated and she made plans and plots to attempt to get his rights back. Margaret was also sensible enough in 1471 to come to court and offer her service to the Queen; Elizabeth Woodville. By now Henry was in exile and I think she was trying to get the King to allow him to return in peace and restore his rights. After Edward’s death in 1483 is when the fun began, with Margaret involved in a dangerous plot with Buckingham and others against King Richard III, and with the Woodville survivors to gain her sons elevation to the throne.

    It was only because at this time that she was married to Lord Stanley, I believe that Margaret escaped prison or execution as a traitress when the plots failed. Stanley was able to persuade Richard that he had no part in the plot and agreed that he would be his wife’s jailor. Margaret did lose her rights and her property, wealth and her wine to her husband and she would not be able to contact anyone without his consent. Somehow, however, she did manage to contact someone: Elizabeth Woodville and came to an agreement that they would support Henry Tudor and he would marry her daughter Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth was probably the Yorkist heir now as it was feared and rumoured that the Princes in the Tower: Edward V and Richard of York had been killed.

    Margaret would never give up and she was to be proved correct and vindicated when her son was providentially victorious over Richard III at Bosworth. Margaret also appears to have been his closest ally and his good couseller and he depended on her advice much of his reign. It could only create conflict however having two Queen mothers around and her relationship with Elizabeth must have had its moments although there is no evidence that she was unkind to Elizabeth. On the contrary Elizabeth was also treated with respect and it was her own choice to retire late in life and spend her life in a convent. It was not correct that she was forced there either by Henry or Margaret. She was given a pension and lived in relative comfort. Henry continued to rely on his mother for much though and she must have felt some relief when Elizabeth took a back seat.

    We went to a local village called Ormskirk in Lancashire where the parish church was built by and is the main burial place of the Stanleys who lived at near-by Lathom and Knowsley. In the Stanley Chaple there is the tomb effergy (sorry about spelling) of Lady Margaret Beaufort, although of course she is is buried in Westminster, but the family had the effiggy made just the same to commemorate her here; and on the other side is Lord Thomas Stanley and his first wife, and next to Lady Margaret is his eldest son Lord Strange. There is also another effergy of Ferdinando, the third Lord Stanley who was also famous in Henry VIII’s reign. The tombs of all these and their bodies, save Lady Margaret are in the crypt below. The carved figure is very slender and shows her in her regalia as a Countess with her emblems about her neck on a chain and is very well made. Although part of the face was defaced by local yobs called Roundheads in the 17th century; it is still slender and beautiful and shows a woman with a very determined look and character within its features. It is lovely that we have something of this lady here and that London has not claimed all of her. It is also something of local pride to be connected to such interesting and vital characters as the Stanleys given the role that they played in changing and advancing English and Tudor history. In fact without them: the Tudor dynasty would never have been. Now is that not an awesome thought.

    There is also a baptismal font and a very large pillar that commemorates another local Stanley event: the siege of Lathom house, during which Lady Charlotte wife of the 7th Earl of Derby defended in the absense of military support and her husband who was in Guernsey; her home for several months against the troops of Oliver Cromwell and Fairfax; who of course damaged the tombs of their ancestors in the chaple above. Lady Charlotte was another formidable woman. The Stanleys seem to really know how to marry well.

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