Episode 21:Tudor Grandmothers, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville
Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville were both strong women who lived their lives during a tumultuous time when survival was key, but looking to the future for others close to you was also extremely important. On opposing sides of The Wars of the Roses they came together at one point to join the Lancasters and the Yorks and eventually became the grandmothers of Henry VIII.
We begin our talk with Margaret Beaufort, born the only child of John Beaufort, the first Duke of Somerset in 1443. He “worked” under Henry VI, but had a very dubious reputation of missing the battles in favor of shaking down the locals. His death left an infant Margaret, and her Lancastrian blood open for a wardship. Young Margaret is a catch based solely on her really fab ” luggage”. Of course she gets married off…at 6 or 7. The marriage is never a traditional one. Come on, she is a CHILD , and the law didn’t recognize such a young marriage anyway, A few years later the marriage is dissolved.
So, young Margaret is up for a wardship again, and this time, it was given to the King’s half brothers Jasper and Edmund Tudor. Edmund, 24, became her first “real” husband when she was 12 years old. But within a year, Edmund had been taken prisoner by Yorkist forces and died of the plague while in captivity at Carmarthen, leaving young Margaret a seven-months-pregnant widow. At 13, after an agonizing and body altering delivery, she gives birth to what would be her only child, Henry Tudor…although you may know him more by his later title: King Henry VII.
We discuss her life, how Henry was raised, her third marriage to Henry Stafford, and her fourth marriage to Thomas Stanley. We talk about some of the other challenges she had in life but during all this time she has thought that her one son, Henry, was destined for greatness. The opening came as Richard III is knocking off those in line to the throne. This vile act brought Henry closer and closer to the top of the list, and as history ( and our previous Quaruple T podcast) reports, with a rag tag army scrapped together on the way to battle- Henry Tudor claims the crown. And Margaret? Just call her, M’lady, the King’s Mother.
This is where the stories of Margaret and Elizabeth merge. Through some behind the scenes action, their children- Henry and Elizabeth of York- marry combining the York and Lancaster lines. We would have loved to have been privy to some of the conversations happening at Court during this time. The Mothers- one the Dowager Queen, the other the King’s Mother, and then add in a third woman, now Queen Consort. Talk about your Golden Girls!
At court she has a lot of influence over her son, and we discuss all of the dynamics of this time and the rest of the lives of both Elizabeth, the White Queen (we have a thing for Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen and the Red Queen novels) and Margaret, the Red Queen.
Elizabeth Woodville was a bit older than Margaret Beaufort, and was born in 1437. She was the first child of Richard and Jacquetta (why couldn’t that name be passed down? So much more interesting than Elizabeth or Mary…oh, sorry, you know how we love to carry on about that!) Woodville. She was also born into a fairly wealthy family, although we like to think that this one was a marriage made from a love match. Because we are romantic like that. Elizabeth, in addition to family connections, was a very beautiful woman and by about age 15, she was married to her first husband, Sir John Grey. From this marriage she had two sons, Thomas and Richard, and they lived a fairly quiet life for the times until his death in battle nine years later.
The origins of Elizabeth’s second marriage are open to speculation. And oh, you know how much we love that! Did she wait by a tree, holding the hands of her two young sons as an advertisement that she was a boy producer, and wait for Edward IV to ride past? Was there some sort of witchcraft involved? Did she attract his attention and then use her powers as a beautiful and desirable woman to get him to wed her? Whatever the case, Elizabeth and the Take No Crap King were married in secret.
The family that she married into isn’t exactly protective of their own, and not beyond mayhem. We talk about some of that, but really, you will need to research it on your own to get all the deets, there was A LOT of mayhem. Bad, meyhem. But Elizabeth did her queenly duty and began producing children, first up the child who would grow up to be Queen herself, Elizabeth of York. Mama Elizabeth has 10 children in 14 years (who survived infancy) including two sweet young boys who will forever be known as The Princes in the Tower.
What happens to Elizabeth and her children after her husband dies was covered by us in our QuadT podcast. And thinking about it makes us sad, so can we skip on now to the part where Elizabeth and Margaret’s lives intertwine?
Wow, that’s kinda sad too.
Ok, here it is in a nutshell: Mama Elizabeth is looking at two options for her daughter, one Richard III (Scar!) who had her family killed, or the other Henry Tudor who hasn’t really done much since he was hanging out in France most of his life, waiting in the wings. At the Battle of Bosworth Richard III is taken out. Elizabeth and Margaret support the marriage of their children after Henry took the crown. They are all living at Court now, one big dysfuntional family. But, once Elizabeth of York becomes Queen, and Mama Elizabeth has Margaret Beaufort nipping away at her Elizabeth leaves Court and takes up residence at Bermondsey Abbey. And that is pretty much the end of the tale for Elizabeth who lives out her life there. Quietly, again.
But what remained? Most notable a the grandson to both of these women: Henry VIII was the second born son of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York. And what Henry VIII did was legacy making indeed.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
For book recommendations, we again suggest Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen, and The Red Queen. (Recommended on QuadT shownotes, as well). Yes, historical fiction, but will really color in the rainbow of your ideas of Margaret and Elizabeth.
Non-fiction, you say? Philippa Gregory we respond (again).
Websites? The Westminster Abbey website has a lot of interesting information, as well as bios of people that are buried there. (Link will take you to a bio of Margaret Beaufort)
If you want to get a little bit of Tudor history dropped into your twitter feed here are a couple of options:
And really, for some history fun, please go check out Tudor Confessions!
As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit at music.mevio.com