Margaret BeaufortMargaret Beaufort
(May 31 1443
- June 29 1509
) married four times and had only one child who became Henry VII of England
. She was the daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset
, granddaughter of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset
and great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt
and his mistress Katherine Swynford
; following Gaunt's marriage to Katherine, their children (the Beauforts) were legitimized, but their descendants were barred from ever inheriting the throne.
Margaret's first marriage, to John de la Pole, took place in 1450, when she was still a child, but was annulled after a short time. Her second cousin Henry VI had as yet no children, and considered naming her his heir. He married her to his half-brother, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Edmund was the eldest son of the king's mother, dowager Queen Catherine (the widow of Henry V) by her illegal (and so legally invalid) second marriage to a Welsh squire in her household, Owen Tudor. Thus, in one of the great ironies of history, Margaret's son Henry, the Lancastrian claimant to the throne at the end of the Wars of the Roses -- the one who won it all and united the two houses by marrying the Yorkist princess Elizabeth of York -- had plenty of royal blood but no legal claim to the throne.
Edmund died while she was only thirteen and pregnant with their son. The difficult birth left her unable to have any more children.
Nevertheless, Lady Margaret soon married her third husband, Sir Henry Stafford, son of the 1st Duke of Buckingham. Following his death in 1471
, she took a vow of chastity, but this did not prevent her from marrying Thomas, Lord Stanley
, some time between 1473
. Stanley, who had switched sides repeatedly during the Wars of the Roses
, chose to double-cross King Richard
on the battlefield at the Battle of Bosworth Field
and so throw the victory to Margaret's son Henry Tudor. Stanley was later made Earl of Derby
, which made Margaret Countess of Derby, and she was still the dowager
Countess of Richmond. She was known for her education and her piety, and her son is said to have been devoted to her.
In 1502 she established the Lady Margaret's Professorship of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.