Kickass Women in History: Margaret Beaufort

Brace yourselves, Bitches, for a very abbreviated description of the life of Margaret Beaufort, one of the most Kickass Women in Tudor history, a period of time during which Kickass Women rather abounded despite their lack of legal rights.

Here’s the basics. Lady Margaret Beaufort was born on May 31,1443. She was a descendant of King Edward III. Margaret became the sole heir of her father’s fortune in infancy and survived all manner of complicated political dramas. She was married to Edmund Tudor at twelve and pregnant with Henry at thirteen, during which time her husband died of the plague leaving her a 13 year old pregnant widow in the midst of a horrendous war. She had a horrendous labor and had no further children despite two subsequent marriages, presumably because of complications from the childbirth. She was devoted to her son.

Margaret’s son was Henry VII. She kept him alive through the War of the Roses and managed to get him crowned, making him Tudor monarch. That alone would elevate her to Kickass status (if not, shall we say, Super Ethical status) as it involves countless pages of historical details including alliances that Margaret created, as well as marriages, exiles, and possible murders.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that, later in life, Margaret became very pious and committed to Good Works.

The Tudor Dynasty largely owed itself to Margaret’s friendship with Elizabeth Woodville, another Kickass Woman. The two women worked together to undermine the rule of Richard III and replace him with Henry. Upon Richard III’s death, Margaret and Elizabeth arranged to have Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, marry Henry, which solidified the ending of the War of the Roses.

How complicated is all this? Well, for one thing, Elizabeth Woodville was the mother of the Princes in the Tower, the young deposed Edward V and Prince Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. The disappearance of these children was blamed on Richard III but might possibly be owed to Margaret, who had a substantial motive (there is, however, no evidence against her, and there are many other suspects).

Despite their alliances prior to the marriage, Margaret and Elizabeth Woodville seem to have not gotten along when in the same household due to both being extraordinarily strong-willed people. Thankfully, Elizabeth of York was, by all accounts, a sweet, lovely woman who loved her husband and her many children. Were her temperament otherwise one suspects that any household inhabited by all three women would have spontaneously combusted.

Once the smoke cleared and the blood was mopped up, Margaret:

  • Was a major advisor to King Henry VII.
  • Wrote the Book of the Royal Household, which described how state and private occasions should be carried out.
  • Was given the right to own and manage property as though she was a single woman, despite being married – the same status and rights she would have had as a Queen.
  • Ensured the succession of Henry VIII and suggested the members of his first privy council.
  • Founded Christ’s College and St. John’s, Cambridge.
  • Supported the arts and translated two books herself.

Let me tell you, Bitches, I bit off way more history than I could chew with this one! This is only a tiny slice of Margaret’s life and of Tudor history. My purpose is to demonstrate that women have always done amazing and unconventional things, and to suggest certain trails for you to head down should you choose to google on your own.

Margaret Beaufort is someone I could happily spend my whole life studying without ever running out of things to learn either directly or tangentially about her and her life. If you want to learn more about this person whom I have barely described, here’s a few links to get you started.


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