06 January 2013

Margaret Beaufort: Mother to King Henry VII

Margaret Beaufort was a dynamic woman. A natural leader, she rather took charge of every setting she found herself in. In fact, prior to Catherine of Aragon's departure for England, Margaret sent her a bundle of written instruction to the young princess on life at the English court. It may be strange that this tutorial wasn't sent by her mother-in-law to be, Elizabeth of York.  But Margaret Beaufort Countess of Richmond functioned as Queen Mother in the court, and it was just as well for Elizabeth of York was a mere child of 12 years when she became bride of King Henry VII. Elizabeth very much needed her strong and organized mother in law. Margaret Beaufort understood Elizabeth's situation better than most, as she bore Henry VII at the shocking age of 13. Margaret would never again bear a child and it would thought that such early childbearing may have caused some permanent damage to her.

In our current age any physician would be aghast at such early motherhood; but the Tudor royal marriages were dynastic. People were certainly more fatalistic, and death in childbirth was no stranger to any family. Everyone knew someone, or was related to someone who had died in the birthing bed. It seems the fear of early childbearing, in Tudor days, was that a woman would permanently lose her figure if she bore children at such a young age.  It may be possible that Margaret did sustain some injury, since she was married a total of 4 times, and never again bore a child after her son Henry.

Margaret Beaufort was an exceptionally pious woman, and her son Henry had a great respect for her.  Margaret rose from bed at midnight to attend the Matins of the friars. She spent mornings in her chapel, and typically wore a St. Francis habit beneath her robes. Margaret kept a yearly Maundy, a practice which Catherine of Aragon would imitate. This was the old custom of royal persons washing the feet of the poor, and after this distributing a purse of money to those unfortunates.  (Anne Boleyn would also keep the practice of the Maundy. And some recipients noted that she was more generous in her distribution than had been Queen Catherine.)

For generations thereafter, Margaret Beaufort Countess of Richmond would be considered a fine example of piety, and of a new tradition of learning and study for women.

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