Transcript for Margaret 6

As you may also know, in Anna Karenina, old Leo wrote that ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’; or an least that’s what it said on the marketing blurb when I was in the bookshop the other day. A disconcertingly large book, so I bought a copy of Viz instead, but you know, I thought it was a clever thing to say, so thought I’d share it with you. And that’s the problem we have with Margaret’s life after her marriage to Henry Stafford in 1458. She seems unexcitingly very happy, free of death and destruction in a way that seriously doesn’t make good copy.

I mentioned last time Margaret and Stafford set up home at Bourne, on the edge of the Fens. The house at the time was a descendant of a Motte & Bailey Norman castle, beautified over the centuries and with plenty of space for their household, which was relatively small – 30 blokes and 2 women. The benefit of Bourne was that is was cheek by jowl with Maxey Castle, home of Margaret’s Mum Margaret Beauchamp, just 10 miles down the road. Margaret Beauchamp was a formidable estate manager and determined to pursue all of her rights, and it may be that it was at this time that she passed her knowledge to her daughter, or at least in part. Meanwhile, close contact was also renewed with the St John family; in 1465, Henry Stafford and Oliver St John worked together on a boundary commission in Stamford; the following year the St Johns were with Henry and Margaret as they kicked off their shoes for a six week hooley over Christmas at Maxey castle. I told you, happy families are all the same. Yawn. Although six weeks…quite a house party. The one fly in Margaret’s ointment, and I would imagine it was a large, nasty, smelly blue arsed fly, was the absence of her son with Jasper Tudor – safe with a man Margaret trusted, but must have been hard to be separated. By the way, I am assailed with doubt – should I be pronouncing St John as Singan? Or is that only if it’s double barrelled? Answers on a postcard to the Shed.

However, before the idyll of Margaret’s household life could really get going at Bourne, politics rudely intruded. As Margaret was getting married in 1458, there was the truly delightful vision of Henry VI’s loveday, where Yorkist and Lancastrian walked together in procession down the streets of London, Richard of York side by side with Margaret of Anjou. I believe I have regaled you before about my brother and I looking angelic as we sat in the choir pews in church when we were kids, in our little ruffs and cassocks, mother beaming proudly at us, while unseen under the level of the pews we were fighting furiously with our fingers. I would like to bet Richard and Margaret where doing the same. ‘Oh dear so sorry did I stand on your gown?’ ‘Oh so sorry, did I accidentally kick your fat male arse?’ Before 1459 was out, it had turned to warfare, with the Lancastrian victories at Blore Heath and Ludlow as Margaret of Anjou brought the Yorkist pig dogs to heel. York and his most important supporters Salisbury and Warwick fled the country, York to drum up support in Ireland.

Before you could say knife, the Yorkists were back in town, with the boys of course, and in July 1460 won a splendid victory at Northampton, and captured the king. In the process, the king’s most powerful supporter, and Margaret’s father in law, Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham was killed. The death of Henry Stafford’s father was hugely significant specifically to Margaret; she’d married Stafford afterall due to the powerful family she married with it and the protection it brought – now the head of that family was entoasted. Humph’s will made his wife Anne Neville his sole executor, and was instructed to provide an annuity of 400 marks to his son Henry Stafford. The heir however, was his grandson, Henry who became a royal ward.

We are now in the heart of Wars of the Roses chaos. Richard Duke of York was in the ascendant, and his ambition now extended to the throne itself. We have the slightly embarrassing occasion when at the parliament York significantly placed his hand on the throne, nudge nudge wink wink, and waited for the enthusiastic acclamations for him to be made king, and was greeted instead by tumbleweed. None the less, by the Act of Accord, he was declared Protector again, and, outrageously, Henry VI’s heir. Which was never going to work while Margaret of Anjou and her son Edward were alive.

His success was shortlived because, on 30th December Richard of York boobed, and allowed himself to be caught at Wakefield by the latest of the seemingly endless Beaufort brood, Henry now the new Duke of Somerset. And Richard was killed, along with his 17th year old son, Edmund. Now the boot moved from Yorkist to Lancastrian foot. But still there was a young man, Richard of York’s son the 18 year old Edward Earl of March ready to step into the breach, a man charismatic, talented and supposedly devilishly tall and handsome, in contrast to his portrait where I think lumpen would be the kindest description.

The Roses volume was now turned up to the Spinal Tap level 11. For Margaret, there would have been double worries. Firstly, Jasper Tudor, her son’s protector was deeply involved on the Lancastrian side, along with his father, Owen. If he should be killed in all the fighting, then what of her son? And then there was her hub, Henry Stafford – he was effectively the head of the Stafford clan while the heir was still a nipper; he could get dragged into the conflict. Cleverly he’d managed to duck so far, and indeed to weave, but sooner or later someone was bound to notice and put him in the team. It was nail biting.

Well, 1461 was crazy. It started badly for Margaret. In January, Jasper and Owen left little Henry at Pembroke and took an army across Wales into Herefordshire. There they were met at Mortimer’s Cross on 2nd February by William Herbert’s Yorkists. And given a thrashing. Jasper fled – Owen was not so lucky. The following day Owen and others were taken to the market place at Hereford, to the block, to be beheaded. Apparently, legend has it that when he saw the block and realised he was going to be executed, Owen really lost his head and said

That head shall lie on the stock that was wont to lie on Queen Katherine’s lap

Oh puurrlease! I really hope he didn’t, I mean come on, I hate to be heartless that Owen was about to be headless, but come on. Even Mel Gibson did better than that.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch Warwick, called kingmaker to history and horse murdering dipstick to his mates, tried to stop the Lancastrians reaching London – and was soundly defeated at the Second battle of St Albans. Margaret of Anjou marched on London, for as you know, to pretty much everyone’s annoyance, where London leads England follows. Good lord this is breathless – surely the Yorkists were finally dished?

Au contraire, mon brave, au contraire. London did not want Margaret and closed its gates. Nonplussed and just a little grumpy, Margaret and Henry retreated up north. Edward, soon to change his surname to ‘the fourth’ entered London, where he was indeed declared to be king. But now he had to make that claim stick, and he took his army north for the final countdown. Henry and Margaret had gathered all their strength, pulled out all the stops, called in all the favours. And one of those stops was called Henry Stafford. After months of ducking and weaving, Henry Stafford had been collared, and found himself a place in Henry and Margaret’s army. Somewhere near the back probably.

The resulting battle of Towton on 29th March 1461 was a bloodbath – bloodiest battle on English soil, 28,000 dead. And the Lancastrians after a long struggle in the snow and sleet were put to the sword, including our Margaret’s Step father, Lord Welles. Queen Margaret, Henry VI and Somerset legged it post haste over the border to Scotland. But Henry Stafford chose not to flee, but to return home and hope he could square it with the king against whom he had taken up arms, not a situation normally looked at kindly by kings it has to be said. Now at Bourne must have been fear and dread; Margaret consoling her mother who’d lost her husband, probably in a horribly violent way; and worrying about what would happen to Henry and herself – execution and attainder was a very real possibility, with the loss of all their land and money.

Possibly even worse though, was her son. After Mortimer’s Cross, Jasper Tudor had fled west to Tenby, and wrote bitterly of his father’s death. In December, Jasper was indeed attainted by Edward IV, and probably fled to Scotland. Jasper was to spend the next 25 years mainly in exile, working tirelessly for the dynasty that retained his loyalty to the end. But what it meant of course was that Henry Tudor was all alone and defenceless.

Edward IV did in fact turn out to be one of England’s more competent monarchs, as well as being full of hail-fellow-well-met charm; though a fondness for the pies was to get him in the end. Edward had to tread a difficult line between the Scylla of constant warfare and the Charybodis of accommodating unreconcilable enemies. So while 150 nobles, including, Jasper Tudor were clearly a lost cause and were attainted at the Parliament of November 1461, Edward took a different view of the Stafford. The little heir of the Stafford fortune was his cousin, since their mothers were sisters. To have the powerful Staffords on his side would help his new regime establish themselves; and so in the general desire to win their hearts and minds, Edward also forgave Henry Stafford and his younger brother John. On 25th June he had pardoned the Staffords. At the parliament, Margaret herself got a mench declaring that

No act made or to be made in this present parliament shall extend or be prejudicial to Margaret, Countess of Richmond

It confirmed that all her holdings should remain hers and her husbands, even those assigned by Henry VI, described by Edward’s bill nastily as ‘late in deed and not by right king of England’.

Little Henry though, appears to have languished at Pembroke, in limbo land, a ward of the king. In February 1462, Edward made a decision, connected with the establishment of William Herbert as his man in South Wales; Herbert was made Henry’s ward. Herbert’s new seat was at Raglan Castle, and to there Henry was taken, to spend his childhood with the Herberts. Margaret must have been deeply worried – what kind of guardian would the Herberts prove to be?

Margaret and Henry Stafford had a decision to make at this point probably; did they bend with the win and accept the new king and work with him, or remain loyal, either outwardly or secretly, to Henry and the Lancastrian cause. It is impossible to really know what was in their hearts, but for all outward purposes it seems that they made a decision to prove themselves loyal and helpful to Edward IV. There was something of a split here between the two halves of Margaret’s family. On the Stafford side, the clear consensus was to work with the new guy; Edward wined and dined little Henry Stafford, who throughout Edward’s reign would support the new king. On the Beaufort side for the most part the situation was very different. Edmund the Duke of Somerset and John Beaufort his younger brother, became the focus for the alternative Lancastrian kingdom in exile in Flanders, Edmund continuing to style himself Duke of Somerset, forging links with the Dukes of Britany and Burgundy, and joined by the Earl of Ormonde; Ormonde resolutely continued to use Henry VI’s regnal year in his letters.

This was despite an odd incident in 1462, when Somerset seemed to suddenly tire of a life of exile, and re-appreared in England, seeking forgiveness. Edward was delighted – this was a real catch, and a great propaganda coup. He both wined and dined Somerset, showered him with praise and friendship, to the point of sharing a bed with him, which is when you really know you made it. But after a year, Somerset suddenly threw up his arms and fled again, back to Henry’s side. There is no fury like an Edward scorned, and Edward’s fury knew no bounds, pies were thrown at tapestries in the castle at Windsor. It became a grudge match.

For Margaret, the added incentive or point of pressure maybe was that Henry Junior was miles away and in the power of the Yorkist regime in the persons of William and Anne Herbert; not only would it be hard to tek agin her husband’s family, but she would be loathe to do anything to endanger her son. And anyway, to her relief, William and Anne Herbert turned out to be good eggs, who took the role of Guardians seriously, and looked after Henry well and kindly. Henry would have had the company of other children, notably William Junior and Walter Herbert who were of similar ages; and William senior hoped maybe Henry would end up marrying one of his daughters. The Herberts allowed Margaret to stay in touch of course, often with correspondence. They assigned tutors to Henry and according to Andre, Henry was clever, bright and charming. Tudor chroniclers and historians were such suck ups. But there was of course an edge to this – in the end Henry was valuable property, and he felt it; later he would recall that ‘since the age of five he had been guarded like a fugitive or kept in Prison’[1]. There’s little sign of that though in the days of his life at Raglan.

There was one more blow yet, though; in 1461, Edward gave his unreliable brother George Duke of Clarence another present to keep him sweet – the Earldom of Richmond and all the lands associated with it. This was indeed quite a blow that rather transformed Henry’s prospects. In a very typical move, Margaret continued to defiantly refer to him as Lord Richmond, which is revealing; she might be towing the line, especially while her son was a minor, but unless future reparation was made, there could be trouble ahead.

But for the moment, it seemed that it was all moonlight and music and love and romance, and Henry and Margaret’s acquiescence to Edward was clearly paying off; in 1467, he made a grant to them of one of Somerset’s manors, of Woking in Surrey, a signal mark of royal favour. And it was to there that Henry and Margaret now planned to move.

I’m sorry, that didn’t turn out to be as domesticated and relaxed episode as I thought. Never mind, I’ll see what I can do next time!

[1] Tall, N Uncrowned Queen p81

Leave a Reply