Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Women of the Cousins' War

Over the summer I read ‘The Women of the Cousins’ War’ by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin and Michael Jones. This book is a non-fiction book and focused on the extraordinary stories of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort; three women who until now have been largely forgotten by history. The book is based in 16th century Tudor Britain. I was particularly interested in the story of Margaret Beaufort also known as the ‘King’s Mother’ by Michael Jones who focused both on Margaret’s life, her family history and her role as being the mother of King Henry VII.

Margaret lived an interesting life and faced many unusual encounters throughout her childhood, for example she had an arranged marriage with 7 year old John de la Pole when Margaret was only 6 years old herself. His marriage was arranged by William de la Pole – a man who feared his own future and wanted his son to marry into a wealthy family and have a more powerful claim to the throne. In this marriage King Henry VI, the current king at the time, gave a very generous gift of £25,000 in today’s money so that Margaret could have been dressed magnificently. This fact fascinated me as this amount of money was surprising to be spent on a 6 year old! This early marriage of Margaret interested me as this would be very unusual in today’s century and was interesting to find out a few pages later in the book that the King actually planned to dissolve Margaret’s childhood marriage to John de la Pole and arrange another marriage with Henry VI’s own 22 year old half-brother Edmund Tudor. Within this marriage Margaret had one son at the age of 13! This was very shocking to find out and I later found out that the impact of giving birth at 13 years old left Margaret in a poor medical state and left her unable to have any more children. From my own knowledge of the Tudor times I know that dissolving marriages such as the one Margaret encountered was very unusual.

I also discovered from the book that Margaret was deeply religious as she experienced a vision from Saint Nicholas advising her to choose Edmund Tudor over John de la Pole and this experience of encountering a vision was a remarkable experience for her as she had to confide with her spiritual adviser.

Margaret encountered many interesting experiences throughout her life and her main role in life was to advance their fortunes of her only son Henry Tudor (Henry VII).  EB

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