Tag Archives: King Richard III

On this day in 1443 – Margaret Beaufort was born

Margaret Beaufort is considered the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty who worked tirelessly to put her son, Henry, on the throne but her life was not always that easy. She was born on 31st May 1443 at Bletsoe Castle, Bedfordshire to Margaret Beauchamp and John Beaufort. Margaret’s father was the great grandson of King Edward III through his third son, John of Gaunt and his mistress (and later wife) Katherine Swynford.

Margaret Beaufort

Upon Margaret’s first birthday, with her father dead and Margaret now a wealthy heiress, her wardship was given to William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk. It was here that her first marriage was arranged to William’s son John de la Pole, it is unsure whether this was a marriage or just a betrothal between the two young children. It is believed that the betrothal/wedding took place in 1444 but just three years later King Henry VI dissolved the union and Margaret’s wardship passed to Jasper and Edmund Tudor.

Henry VI arranged for Margaret to be married to his half brother, Edmund Tudor and on 1st November 1455 at the age of 12 she married the 24 year old Edmund. After less than a year of being married Edmund was taken prisoner by Yorkist troops and was imprisoned at Carmarthen Castle dying from the plague months later. He left Margaret a widow at the age of 13 and seven months pregnant.

On 28th January 1457 at Pembroke Castle Margaret gave birth to her son, Henry Tudor, in a labour that jeopardised the life of both mother and child. It is believed that she was too young and too slim to withhold the traumas of labour and it is likely this damaged her ability to have further children. Margaret and her new son remained in Pembroke until the castle was given to Lord Herbert of Raglan, a Yorkist. Margaret was son separated from her son who remained in Wales and eventually exiled to France for many years until he returned to win the throne at the Battle of Bosworth.

Margaret, now 14, was married to Sir Henry Stafford on 3rd January 1458 due to the couple being second cousins a Papal dispensation was required before they could marry which was granted on 6th April 1457. In 1471 Stafford was fatally wounded at the Battle of Barnet and although he returned to his home he died, leaving Margaret a widow again at the age of 28.

A year later in 1472, Margaret married Thomas Stanley in a marriage of convenience. The marriage allowed Margaret to return to the York court of Edward IV and later Richard III. She served both Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville in their roles as Queen. Despite the close position to Queen Anne, Margaret was under constant suspicion regarding her son who was considered the Lancastrian heir to the throne. As such King Richard III stripped Margaret of all titles and estates and placed her into the custody of her husband.

During her time under house arrest Margaret was in contact with the Dowager Queen allegedly plotting the downfall of King Richard III. Following the death of the Princes in the Tower the two women agreed that Henry would marry Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of King Edward IV.

Henry Tudor landed in Dale, Wales in 1485 and marched towards King Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth where Henry was victorious. Margaret was now the mother to the King of England, a position she had fought for since Henry was a child.

In 1499, with the permission of Stanley, Margaret took a vow of chastity in the presence of the Bishop of London. Margaret moved away from her husband and lived at Collyweston although her husband visited her she renewed her vows in 1504.

Margaret helped establish many new schools including in 1502 the Lady Margaret’s Professorship of Divinity at Cambridge University. In 1505 Margaret enlarged and renamed God’s Church, Cambridge as Christ’s College, Cambridge, here a copy of her signature can still be found carved into one of the buildings.

With Henry now on the throne Margaret was referred to as ‘My Lady the King’s Mother’ and during Henry’s first parliament he passed an act that would allow her to hold property independently from her husband. Despite Henry’s marriage to Elizabeth of York, Margaret styled herself as Queen Consort and spent many hours with Henry ruling the country. She also began signing her name Margaret R in order to show her royal significance.

When Henry VII died on 21st April 1509 he made his mother chief executor of his will and she not only arranged her son’s funeral but also her grandson’s coronation. However, just months later on 29th June 1509 Margaret herself died in the Deanery of Westminster Abbey. She is buried in the Henry VII Lady Chapel of the Abbey despite her will requesting for her to be buried with her son’s father, Edmund Tudor.


Margaret Beaufort’s influence can still be seen in modern Britain her heraldic badge can be seen across Westminster and Parliament.

Beaufort Portcullis

Richard III in repose and the King Richard III visitor centre

A visit to Leicester to see a King who died 530 years ago and is being re-interred on Thursday 26th March 2015.

When a skeleton was found in a car park 2 ½ years ago in September 2012 just six hours into the start of an archaeological dig that was funded on the feeling, no one knew just how much attention they would receive. After countless scientific tests and DNA matching it was confirmed the skeleton in a Leicester council car park was that of the lost King, Richard III. The last English monarch to die in battle in 1485 at Bosworth.

After 2 ½ years of testing, planning and even the odd argument about the treatment of Richard’s mortal remains it is finally time to put the last Plantagenet King to rest. A stunning final journey began on Sunday 22nd March where a coffin made from Richard’s descendant left the University of Leicester for the last time and placed in a hearse where his journey began. Travelling to Bosworth and the location of Richard’s death he was given a private ceremony before beginning his final journey. A more dignified journey than the last time he was taken from the battlefield, slung naked over a horse where he was attack and abused from the army escorting him to his grave. The cortège travelled through all the local villages whilst heading back towards its final destination of Leicester Cathedral. What started in a car park would end in a Cathedral.

When it was announced that King Richard III would lie in repose until he was re-interred and the public could visit the Cathedral to pay their respects, I was in no doubt, I had to go. So on Tuesday 24th March at 9am I set off for the hour’s drive towards Leicester. I was hoping more than anything that the weather would stay nice and the rain would hold off.

I parked up and consulted the map of how to find my way to the Cathedral, I really didn’t need to do that though as I only had to cross the street to find myself with the end of the vast queue in front of me in Jubilee Gardens. After reading reports from the previous day’s queues I prepared myself for a long wait. However, the queue was moving quite quickly and before I knew it we were the other side of Jubilee Gardens. Whilst here Phillippa Langley joined the queue to talk to a group of Richardians, it was quite strange seeing the lady ultimately responsible for all these events just standing casually chatting to others.

20150324_104724                             The back of the queue in Jubilee Gardens

As the queue began moving towards the Cathedral we soon approached the corner of Peacock Lane and was greeted with the ‘Waiting Time 2 Hours’ sign but we had been previously informed that the queue was moving at a quicker pace and it was be significantly less than the two hours. As we were moving along Peacock Lane many of the team who were involved with the dig for Richard were walking along the queue chatting to those waiting this included Richard Buckley (lead archaeologist), Dr Turi King (genetics analysis) and Jo Appleby (osteology expert).

012                             Richard Buckley talking to the crowds.

It was an honour to see them talking away to everyone and sharing in the experience of the day. Richard Buckley even said that about the interest and events’ surrounding Richard III was “anything beyond what anyone could have ever imagined”. I can understand what he meant, when it was predicting finding Richard was going to be a one in a million chance to then actually finding and identifying him, it’s so unbelievable they must constantly be pinching themselves.

The queue then began its approach towards the Cathedral, via the back of the Channel 4 temporary studio in the corner of the Cathedral Gardens. The queue was so well organised everyone was very patient with the wait and just got on and chatted to others. It was very well managed as well with clear signs as to where to go and how long was left. The Cathedral itself is magnificent and to see the approach adorned with Richard III’s banners and emblems really added to the spectacle of the event and brought medieval history into the present.

010                  Leicester Cathedral adorned by Richard III’s banners.

At 1pm we reached the front of the queue just as a Eucharist was about to begin. The Cathedral was staying open but photos were not allowed so I decided to move to the other queue and wait. So it was another hour but it was worth it. This is probably my only critism of the event we were moved to a smaller area where a queue began to form but as more joined it turned into chaos. It was clear it would be an undignified rush to get into the Cathedral but the security did handle it well even dealing with the few that were annoyed. But with that out my mind and not finding it much of a problem as we would all still get in I finally began my walk into the Cathedral at 2.15pm.

There were so many white roses walking into the Cathedral and walking in the coffin of the last Plantagenet King greeted us, a humbling moment to see history in front of my eyes. The black funeral pall embroidered with Richard’s life to his discovery. On top of the coffin lay a crown designed and commissioned by John Ashdown-Hill especially for the re-internment and also a 15th Century bible. Richard was a very pious man in a time when religion was everything. We were hurried through to keep the queue moving which meant I could not take a minute to think about the man, who controversial as he was, ruled England for just 777 days until I was back outside the Cathedral looking back into the coffin. The coffin was surrounded by a vigil of four retired veterans who did a fantastic job keeping the mortal remains of the King safe with honour.

038                                       King Richard III lying in repose

Leicester Cathedral did an amazing job. The tag line of ‘With dignity and honour’ has certainly been fulfilled by all of those involved.

After seeing Richard III I decided to go to the King Richard III visitor centre. It was also very busy with a small wait until an available slot. The centre itself is an impressive former school building overlooking the car park in which the King was found. To the left of the entrance the group was directed to a small room where a selection of art work was on display that depicted the events of the Wars of the Roses. With the instructions to return to the first room upon hearing the bells tolling we saw an introductory video that shows where the country was just before Richard’s reign began.

The start of the exhibition sees the death of Richard’s brother, Edward IV and the resulting chaos. It doesn’t focus much on the ins and outs of Richard taking the crown. There is a section of the Princes in the Tower, just enough to get you interested in the story so you can research it more when you leave. It swiftly moves onto what Richard achieved as King in his short reign before a good section on the Battle of Bosworth and the events that led to Richard’s death at the hands of the Tudor army.


The next part of the exhibition is via the cafe to warm up after spending so long queuing I needed a hot drink. Once refreshed I continued upstairs where we are to examine the many different interpretations of Richard over the years from Laurence Olivier’s Shakespearean Richard to Aneurin Barnard’s portray in Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen. It was an interesting and thought provoking section as to what we think of Richard. Was he evil? Did he kill the Princes? Or did he do a lot for his country in a short space of time?

Beyond this was the part many wanted to see how King Richard III was found. Many amazing artefacts from the dig accompanied the exhibition including documents that were filled in and the responses from parliament about the exhumation of the bones they found. This led into the science behind the discovery including a replica of the bones for all to see how he was found.

086                  The digger that cleared the tarmac that led to the discovery

The exhibition then led towards the facial reconstruction of Richard, newly updated to incorporate the recent news that he had blue eyes and blonde hair as a child. I saw the replica at Sudeley Castle in 2014 with the dark hair so seeing it now did feel a bit strange with all the portraits and images we have of Richard with dark hair now to see him blonde just didn’t feel right to me.

111                 The updated facial reconstruction of Richard III

With the upstairs part of the exhibition done I headed back downstairs to the highlight of the exhibition, the exact spot where archaeologists found the remains of Richard III. After seeing Richard earlier in the Cathedral to see the place where he was originally laid to rest was special. Seeing the cramped location that Richard was hastily buried in really made me appreciate that he was found and now is being buried in a more dignified and royal way.

121                   The location where Richard was found in Leicester

Both Leicester Cathedral and King Richard III visitor centre did a fantastic job dealing with the crowds and attention that has been received over the last few days and tomorrow (Thursday 26th March) we will see Richard III re-interred with a service befitting a King.

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