Margaret Beaufort: mother of the Tudors

She was pregnant at 12, widowed by the Wars of the Roses and almost died at the hands of Richard III. But, writes Michael Jones, nothing could prevent the indomitable Margaret Beaufort from engineering the rise of her son, Henry VII, to the English throne...

Painting of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, depicted on her knees in prayer wearing a head covering. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

On 14 February 1453, a nine-year-old girl was travelling to London to be introduced to the court of King Henry VI. 
Her name was Margaret Beaufort, the only child of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and inheritor of a large landed estate.

Margaret (born on 31 May 1443) had royal blood in her veins. But it was tainted blood, for her family was the illegitimate offspring of the king’s great-grandfather, John of Gaunt, by his mistress, Katherine Swynford. When Gaunt subsequently married Katherine, the Beauforts were legitimised – but barred from succeeding to the throne. As Margaret approached the royal court that day in 1453, her family harboured hopes that that Henry VI would overturn this provision.

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