Margaret Beaufort: Life Story

Chapter 4 : Remarriage

Margaret was not to remain a widow for long. Within two months of the birth she travelled to the Duke of Buckingham’s Manor near Newport in Gwent with Jasper. There the Duke, Jasper and Margaret discussed the possibility of marriage to the Duke’s second son, Henry Stafford. Why Jasper and Margaret’s choice fell on Buckingham’s son is not documented. Certainly, Buckingham was one of the most powerful nobles in England, and was a staunch Lancastrian.

A dispensation was granted for the marriage by the Bishop of Coventry on 6th April 1457. The dispensation was required because Margaret and Henry Stafford were second cousins, both great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt. This relationship is an illustration of the complexity of kinship and loyalty in the period of the Wars of the Roses.

Whilst Buckingham, descended from Edward III via his fifth son and his Duchess, Anne Neville, grand-daughter of John of Gaunt, were Lancastrians, Duchess Anne was the sister of Cicely Neville, Duchess of York. Their half-nephew, Ralph Neville, 2th Earl of Westmorland, was a strong Lancastrian, whilst their brother, Richard, Earl of Salisbury,, and Salisbury’s son, Warwick, were York’s strongest supporters.

Henry Stafford’s age at the time of his wedding to Margaret wedding is uncertain. His parents were married sometime before 1424, however, his mother was only ten in that year, so, even if her marriage were consummated as soon as she was twelve, Henry, the second son, could hardly have been born before 1428. If his mother bore her first child at fifteen, Henry was probably born around 1430, making him about thirteen years older than his bride. It is likely that the marriage took place in Warwickshire Buckingham’s home of Maxstoke, on 3rd January 1458.

Buckingham probably settled money on the couple, although it was not necessarily paid until after his death, but the majority of their income came from Margaret’s own estates.

Margaret and Henry were married for 14 years but not much is known about their personal relationship or her life during this period. Her parents-in-law both mentioned her in their wills (calling her, as was customary, by her title of Countess of Richmond.)This suggest a happy marriage and the couple appear to have travelled between Margaret’s estates regularly, hunting as they went. Their main homes seem to have been at Bourne, in Lincolnshire, and, later, Woking.

Margaret’s father-in-law, the Duke of Buckingham, died fighting for Lancaster at the Battle of Northampton in 1460 and her step-father fell in the Lancastrian army at Towton in March 1461. Henry Stafford also fought for Lancaster at Towton. However after this most bloody battle, in which the army of Yorkists decimated the Lancastrians, Stafford, together with many of the Lancastrian lords, accepted the victorious Edward, son of the Duke of York, as King.

Edward IV, following this victory, pursued a course of reconciliation with leading Lancastrians, and Stafford was able to secure a pardon for both himself and Margaret. This action meant that Margaret’s estates were not confiscated. Unfortunately however she was parted from her son (Henry’s whereabouts between 1458 and 1461 is not known for certain, but, if the King did not grant his wardship elsewhere, and there is no record of his doing so, he would have remained with either Jasper or Margaret. Since Jasper was unmarried, he is unlikely to have taken charge of such a small child).

The wardship and marriage of the young Henry Tudor was granted by Edward IV to Sir William Herbert, along with his uncle Jasper’s earldom of Pembroke. Sir William Herbert paid a thousand pounds for the wardship marriage and it is likely that he envisaged marrying Henry to his own daughter Maud, although she was his senior by six years, or possibly his second daughter, Katherine.

As noted previously, it was common for the children of nobles, whose fathers were deceased to be granted as wards to people that the King wished to favour. Margaret’s parting from Henry was therefore not unusual, although, of course, it was deeply upsetting. She was able to write to him and even visit him at Raglan Castle in South Wales where he spent most of his childhood.

Margaret’s wider family, too, were largely reconciled to York, at least initially, with her cousin, Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset, being shown enormous favour and trust by Edward IV once he had submitted to the King. Unfortunately for Edward, this trust was misplaced. Somerset found it impossible to maintain allegiance to York. Whatever his reasons – loyalty to his father, genuine belief in the Lancastrian cause, or some unknown personal motivation - he defected after having sworn allegiance to Edward IV. Unfortunately for Somerset he was captured and executed after the battle of Hexham in 1464 and his brothers also had their lands confiscated. This betrayal, as he saw it, by Somerset, left Edward IV much less conciliatory thereafter.

Somerset’s mother, Duchess Eleanor, the widow of Duke Edmund, was imprisoned and treated harshly. This must have been hard for Margaret. She had known her aunt in childhood and Duchess Eleanor had lived for considerable periods with Margaret’s own mother. Similarly, Margaret’s brother-in-law Jasper remained the most prominent member of the Lancastrian party, although he was now a wanted man, slipping between Wales, Scotland, France and Brittany to drum up support for Lancaster.

At the same time, Margaret’s new marital family, the Staffords, were drawing closer to York. Henry Stafford’s nephew, now 2nd Duke of Buckingham, was married to Katherine Woodville, sister of the Queen, a match that is said to have disgusted the proud nobleman, as the Woodvilles were considered parvenu.

In 1466 Stafford and Margaret received a royal grant of the former Beaufort Manor in Woking, which had been confiscated from Henry, 3rd Duke of Somerset. This became one of Margaret’s favourite homes, although they still continued to visit their other properties.

Margaret continued to write to her son, Henry, and in September 1467 she and Stafford crossed the Severn from Bristol to Chepstow, a trip which cost 10 shillings, en route to Raglan Castle where they stayed with the Herberts for a week.

In the following year Margaret sent a stream of messages to Henry when he was carried in Herbert’s train to North Wales where he would have witnessed the destruction of Jasper’s Lancastrian forces at Twt Hill, near Caernarfon, and the surrender of Harlech Castle following an eight year siege.

In December 1468 Margaret and Stafford entertained Edward IV at their hunting lodge in Brookwood, a couple of miles from Woking. So far as is known, this was the first occasion when Margaret actually met Edward IV in person.