29 June 1509 – Death of Margaret Beaufort, the Tudor matriarch

Margaret BeaufortOn this day in 1509, Lady Margaret Beaufort, grandmother of Henry VIII, mother of the late Henry VII and a woman known as the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty, died at Cheyneygates, the Abbot of Westminter’s house.

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” at the coronation banquet. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and a good friend of Margaret, performed the last rites and she died as he elevated the host. She was buried in the south aisle of Henry VII’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, and her tomb features an effigy sculpted by Pietro Torrigiano. It shows 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.

You can find out more about Margaret in my bio of her – click here.

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8 thoughts on “29 June 1509 – Death of Margaret Beaufort, the Tudor matriarch”
  1. So was eating a cygnet the sixteenth-century royal equivalent of having chicken soup while ill? I suppose the meat would be very tender, and of course very exclusive as well :).

    1. No, “she took her infirmity with eating of a cygnet” means that she was taken ill after eating the cygnet. If it was food poisoning then I’m sure others would have suffered, so it’s likely that it exacerbated some stomach disordered or an illness she already had.

  2. Margaret Beaufort was a remarkable woman. Just how remarkable we may never know. I suspect she had little to live for once Henry VII died. After all, she had seen him crowned, run his household, and lived to see his son crowned. The dynasty appeared safe. Job done. She could not expect the same influence with her grandson. Henry was different from his father in many ways. He did not plan to follow the same course as his father, and that would have meant diminished influence for Margaret. She had ample reason to be satisfied with her life’s work.
    It is not hard to believe she was so heavily invested in her son emotionally that the blow of his death was too much for her.

  3. Margaret Beaufort Lady Stanley must have been proud to first see the ascendancy of her only son to the throne after his almost impossible victory at Bosworth, now she had witnessed another proud moment, the coronation of her grandson Henry Viii and the Princess she had negotiated for her other grandson, Prince Arthur, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret had also been regent for Henry up to his eighteenth birthday, although the new King had more or less taken legal control at the time of his ascension three months earlier. By marrying early Henry Viii was making a statement that he was fully adult. Margaret had indeed led an interesting and extraordinary life, married by the age of twelve to Edmund Tudor, a mother and widow by the age of thirteen, forced to raise Henry alone for four years, married a few years later to Henry Stafford, she saw him on one side of the Wars of the Roses, she raised troops in support of Henry, saw him and his Uncle Jasper Tudor go into exile when he was fourteen, she had attended Elizabeth Woodville as Queen, hoping to raise favour for her son, she even carried the train of Queen Anne Neville at her coronation with Richard iii. Margaret Beaufort married finally a well placed and wealthy Lord at the royal court, Lord Thomas Stanley, a close counsellor to both Edward iv and Richard lll. It was probably his status of the stepfather of Henry Tudor and the persuasive art of Margaret that led to his betrayal of Richard lll at Bosworth. However, it was Stanley’s power and own ability to appear loyal which saved Margaret from the block when she plotted against Richard by writing to her son and Jasper Tudor to raise an army in 1484. Margaret Beaufort had guided her son when he became King throughout his reign and most of his decisions. Enjoying the wonderful coronation of Henry Viii must have really been her own crowning glory, given her the satisfaction that her sons dynasty was safe and rounded off her life. She could finally die in peace, knowing that she had achieved all of her dreams.

  4. Margaret Beaufort had fought so hard for her only child and son Henry to sit on the throne and now it is almost as if having safely seen her grandson on the throne, her granddaughters married and the Tudors acknowledged abroad by Dynastic alliances with Spain and Scotland and growing trade with the Netherlands and a stake in the New World and a new Queen to continue the line that she sighed her relief and died. Aged 66 she died from food poisoning. She was the Matriarch who had guided Henry Vii but she had also developed a working beneficial relationship with her daughter in law, Elizabeth of York and she had overseen the best welfare of her grandchildren. She ensured, for example that Margaret was not married until she was fourteen at least, she recorded their births in her prayer book and she laid down strict forms of preparation for childbirth in her Ordinances. She reorganised the royal household as well. Margaret herself had been very lucky to survive childbirth aged 13 and she tried to prevent this happening to her granddaughters.

    RIP Margaret Beaufort.

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