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Beaufort, Lady Margaret

Beaufort, Lady Margaret (1443–1509). The mother of Henry VII, Margaret Beaufort was one of the most remarkable women of the 15th cent. She was married to Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond, as a child and conceived Henry when she was only 12. Tudor died when she was six months pregnant; she outlived two further husbands, but had no more children. She was separated from her son in 1461, when he was 4, and apart from a one-week reunion in 1470, did not see him again until he was king. Nevertheless, she devoted herself to his cause. By 1482 she was near to completing terms for his return from exile in Brittany. However, Edward IV's death and the accession of Richard III intervened. Tudor now became the pretender to the throne and Margaret threw herself into the conspiracy which triumphed on the field of Bosworth. As mother of the king, for 24 years Margaret wielded immense political influence. She was the only person to whom he deferred. She outlived Henry, her last service being to help manipulate the succession of her grandson Henry VIII, dying two weeks after his coronation. A small, birdlike woman, in later years troubled by failing eyesight and arthritis, she was renowned for her piety, sponsoring the publication of devotional literature. She was the founder of two colleges at Cambridge, Christ's and St John's. Her portrait hangs in both colleges, whose great gates are adorned with her heraldic imagery. At Oxford, she founded the first chair of divinity, and the first women's college, Lady Margaret Hall (1879), was named after her.

Anthony James Pollard

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