Margaret Beauchamp

At the time of the Domesday survey in 1086 the Lydiard estate belonged to Alfred of Marlborough but by the 14th century it was owned by the Beauchamp family. It was Margaret Beauchamp who brought not only wealth but power, prestige and a royal ancestry to the St. John family.

Margaret, born in c 1409 and John Beauchamp, born a year later, were the children of Sir John Beauchamp and his second wife Edith Stourton. Their father died when both children were very young. Along with the Beauchamp property and lands, the young brother and sister became wards of their uncles William and George Stourton, their mother’s two brothers.

Following her brother John’s death in 1420/1, eleven year old Margaret became the sole heir to her father’s considerable estate.

Margaret married Sir Oliver St John the son of John St John and Elizabeth Paullet in about 1425 and the couple had seven children, daughters Edith, Elizabeth, Mary, Margaret and Agnes, and two sons, John and Oliver.

Sir Oliver died in France in 1437/8, probably during fighting following the execution of Joan of Arc when the English were driven out of the country. He was buried at the Church of St. Jacques des Jacobins in Rouen, Normandy.

It is presumed that Margaret and her children lived at the Bedfordshire estate in Bletsoe Castle following her husband’s death. During this period the manor house at Lydiard would have been considerably smaller than the remodelled 18th century Palladian mansion house that survives today. Dominated by a Tudor hall and court yard the H shaped house contained the kitchens and services in the west wing and opposite the hall the family rooms in the solar wing.

John Beaufort was descended from an illegitimate son of John of Gaunt but sadly his financial situation did not match up to his Royal pedigree.

Captured by the French during fighting in 1421, John was held prisoner for a record breaking seventeen years. He only secured his release by paying a ransom equal to most of his inheritance.

Impoverished and with a weakened constitution, John was on the lookout for a wealthy bride and in 1442 the widowed Margaret Beauchamp, Lady St John filled the position nicely.

A year later he returned to France with the intention of recouping his lost fortune by imposing illegal taxes on the French. His plans went very wrong and he returned to England in disgrace. He retired to his estate in Wimborne where it was believed he chose to fall on his sword. He died on May 27, 1444.

Margaret’s second marriage was a short one but produced a daughter Margaret Beaufort, who would become one of the most influential and powerful women of the 15th century.

Henry VI granted the wardship of the infant Lady Margaret Beaufort to William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk and steward of the royal household. The child continued to live with her mother at Bletsoe until at the age of just twelve she was married to Edmund Tudor, Henry VI’s half brother. A year later she became the mother of the future King Henry VII founder of the Tudor dynasty.

Evidence suggests that Margaret Beauchamp was a strong willed and astute woman, carefully preserving and overseeing her considerable legacy. Following the death of her second husband she received a grant for life of £166 13s 4d annually and manors in Somerset, Essex, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Dorset and Devon, acquired during her husband’s lifetime, were transferred to her by royal licence. In 1445 and 1458 conveyances were made of Beauchamp held manors at Lydiard and Bletsoe and secured for Margaret’s two sons by Oliver St. John. Her elder son Sir John St John headed the senior branch of the family at Bletsoe while second son Oliver inherited the manor of Lydiard in Wiltshire.

On April 14, 1447 Margaret married Lancastrian Lionel, 6th Lord Welles by whom she had two children, John and Cecily. Her third husband was killed during the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Towton in March 1461.

Margaret died in the summer of 1482 aged 72 years. She was buried in Wimborne Minster beside her second husband John Beaufort.

There are few surviving likenesses of Margaret Beauchamp. Probably the best known is the portrait on the pediment of the St. John polyptych in St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoze. She is also depicted in marble on the magnificent Beaufort memorial in Wimborne Minster.

Images – Portrait of Margaret Beauchamp on the St John polyptych in St Mary’s Church, courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball – see more photos of the St John memorials on www.oodwocc.co.uk  

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6 thoughts on “Margaret Beauchamp

  1. I have recently this discovered that Margaret Beauchamp is my 17 times great grandmother (via the St Johns) and that consequently I am related to Henry VII via Margaret Beaufort. This discovery of the Tudor connection arose as a result of listening to Melvyn Bragg’s Radio 4 series on culture and doing a bit of research on CP Snow. I discovered that his college in Cambridge was founded by Margaret Beaufort. Thinking that she must have been quite a remarkable woman to be founding a college in those times, I did some research on her and recognised her ancestry on her mother’s side as being a part of my family tree.

    What an amazing resource the internet is.

    • Jane, what a fascinating discovery. I should be very interested to learn your line of descent through the St John family should you have time to let me know. As you say, what an amazing resource the internet is.

  2. What a well written blog entry about my 16th great grandmother! You can really tell you have a genuine love for history :) As the person above me, I also am related to Henry VII via Margaret Beaufort. My line is through Sir John St John m. Alice BRADSHAGH (Bradshaw) > John St John m. SYBIL verch MORGAN > John St John m. Margaret WALDGRAVE > Margaret St John m. Francis RUSSELL 2nd Earl de Bedford – at this point I lose the St John name and it becomes Russell for a few generations before changing again, eventually with my ancestors coming to America.

    • Hi Anna,
      I have just gone over my family tree and realised that I was a generation out in my calculations. Margaret Beauchamp is (as with you) my 16th great grandmother. (I think this means that we each have 2 to the power of 16, about 65,000 16th great grandmothers so it is not surprising that we have some overlap!).
      My line is first of all through the St Johns via Margaret’s son Oliver, then Sir John, then John then Nicholas to Elizabeth. She grew up in Lydiard Tregoze and married Richard St George, an officer of arms at he College of Arms in London. Richard was knighted in 1616 and lived from 1550 until 1635, a very long life for those days. He appears to have had Irish connections and two of his sons came to Ireland and were given(or purchased) large grants of land and administrative offices. After a few generations the St George name died out due to lack of male heirs. The lands were inherited on the female line for a few generations until a great grandson Christopher French inherited them. Christopher then changed his name to St George in 1774. The family and their descendants were part of the anglo Irish landed ascendancy until the beginning of the 20th century at which point the changing conditions in Ireland and generations of living beyond their means got the better of them. (If you Google Tyrone House Co Galway you will see where they lived).My great grandmother Mary Ann St George (b 1868) grew up there ran off with a local policeman John Fitzgerald and married him against the wishes of her father. She brought up 11 children (including my grandmother Jane) and lived in very modest circumstances compared to her ancestors. She had nothing further to do with her St George family of whom she was ashamed. Mary Ann died when my mother was 4 and tales of the St George family’s past have echoed very faintly down through the generations. In a newly independent Ireland of the 1920s, having such ancestors was nothing to be proud of.

      I started researching the family’s fortunes in a serious way about a year ago and was amazed to uncover the trail leading all the way back (via Margaret Beauchamp to a Norwegian king of Orkney and the Capet kings of France in about 900).
      Thanks for making contact,
      Your long lost cousin
      Jane Landy
      Skerries, Co Dublin, Ireland

  3. Margaret Beauchamp is my 15th great grandmother through the St Johns. My Yankee
    3rd great grandfather left NY and traveled South to GA in 1820′s and married a Georgia
    “gal”. It has been an interesting “trek” through the history of the St Johns and the
    rest of my paternal grandmother’s side.
    The American Cousin from North Florida

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