The other Margaret Beaufort

It’s all very confusing! Some of the public family trees posted on the online genealogy website Ancestry are in a right royal old muddle and it’s all down to the two Margaret Beauforts.

As St John family followers will know, one is famously the mother of Henry VII and half sister to a whole bunch of medieval St Johns. The other Margaret Beaufort is her cousin but unravelling the Beaufort/Beauchamp links can prove quite tricky.

‘Our’ Margaret was born in 1443, the daughter of Margaret Beauchamp and her second husband John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. The ‘other’ Margaret was born c1437 and was the daughter of Eleanor Beauchamp and her second husband Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.

Uh oh. So where do we start?

Like so many of our medieval women, there is little information to be found about the ‘other’ Margaret Beaufort, and rather more about the men in her life (yawn).

Her father was Edmund Beaufort, the younger brother of John Beaufort, ‘our’ Margaret’s father. The title of Duke of Somerset became extinct after the death of John but was revived and given to his brother Edmund, so sometimes Edmund is referred to as the first Duke of Somerset and sometimes as the second – like we need any more confusion in this story.

The Beaufort family were at the very epicentre of the mid 15th century royal upheaval. Edmund was a serious contender for the throne and a civil war protagonist along with Richard 3rd Duke of York. A Lancastrian supporter, Edmund was killed in the battle of St Albans on May 22, 1455, the first battle in what is more familiarly now known as the War of the Roses.

This is most probably the same year in which the ‘other’ Margaret married Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Stafford.  Humphrey was the  brother of Sir Henry Stafford who in 1462 became ‘our’ Margaret’s third husband. So now the two cousins also become sisters in law as well. Cripes!

And what about the ‘other’ Margaret’s mother, Eleanor Beauchamp (same surname as ‘our’ Margaret’s mother). Well here we have to clamber up the old Beauchamp family tree a bit until we get to two Beauchamp brothers William born in around 1240 who in due course became the 9th Earl of Warwick and his younger brother Sir Walter Beauchamp born around 1255. The Earl of Warwick was the ‘other’ Margaret’s ancestor while Sir Walter was ‘our’ Margarets. The brothers parents were William de Beauchamp and his wife Isabel Mauduit, which means that both Margaret Beauforts shared their maternal 5x great grandparents.

By the early 1460s the ‘other’ Margaret was widowed and about to marry Sir Richard Dayrell or Darell whose family seat was Lillingstone Dayrell, Buckinghamshire. For St John family followers there is an interesting Wiltshire connection here. Richard and other members of the Darell family served as Sheriff of Wiltshire and owned Littlecote Manor in Ramsey, Wiltshire, just up the road from Lydiard Tregoze.

Was the ‘other’ Margaret’s second marriage a happy one? Well, I’ll leave you to decide.

The Collections for a History of Staffordshire record a lawsuit dated 1466 served by Alexander Darell, Richard’s elder brother, which declares that Richard owed their mother 45 marks at the time of her death. The debt had accrued for his wife’s board and lodging in 1463. It appears that this ‘other’ Margaret spent a total of 45 weeks with her mother in law and Richard had failed to settle the bill. It was suggested, without any firm evidence I might add, that in 1463 the ‘other’ Margaret was ‘an embecile’ and ‘non compos mentis.’

It seems more likely, however, that the ‘other’ Margaret spent the duration of her pregnancy with her mother in law and left after the birth of her daughter.

So the scant reference we have to the ‘other’ Margaret intimates that she may (or may not) have suffered from a mental illness or mental incapacity. Well, I’m not sure how helpful that is.

So, when and where did she die? That seems to be confusing as well. Some of the  Ancestry public family trees put her date of death as May 22, 1474 and her place of death as the Abbots House, Cheyney Gates, Westminster Abbey, which is a bit of a coincidence as this is where ‘our’ Margaret died in 1509. These same family trees invariably include a very famous portrait of ‘our’ Margaret at prayer and even one of her tomb in Westminster Abbey. If there is a portrait of the ‘other’ Margaret I haven’t come across it yet. It appears that the ‘other’ Margaret died in approximately 1476 when aged about 39 years old.

So as you can see, it’s easy to confuse  the two Margaret Beauforts. It’s fortunate the St John family followers know the true story of ‘our’ Margaret.

Britain’s Royal Families – The Complete Genealogy by Alison Weir

Lady Margaret Beaufort

Margaret Beaufort's tomb

The tomb of Lady Margaret Beaufort, Westminster Abbey

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Henry VII

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Portrait of Margaret Beauchamp – St John polyptych, St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Park.