Margaret Beaufort & Her Four Husbands

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Margaret Beaufort is arguably the great winner of the Wars of the Roses. Certainly she is one of the few to have lived through the war in its entirety and, as such, became the matriarch of the House of the Tudor. Mother to Henry VII, she is an ancestor to every English/British monarch since Henry VIII (as well as Scotland’s James V and Mary Stuart). But though she existed in the same world as Marguerite of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville, she is rarely seen as exciting as them – she never wore a crown and by the time she held substantial power, she was a woman in 50s. Instead, she is usually depicted as the mother-in-law from hell, a meddler and a jarring mix of pious and power-hungry.

To some, she is even a contender as the true killer of the Princes of the Tower.

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Jeanne of Navarre: The Breton Duchess at the Lancastrian Court

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Jeanne of Navarre and Henry IV

On this day in 1403 Henry IV, King of England married Jeanne of Navarre, Dowager Duchess of Brittany at Winchester Cathedral. A little less than three weeks later she would make her formal entry into London and be crowned queen at Westminster Abbey. Henry’s new wife received mix reviews: Popular enough within the family, Jeanne had the misfortune of arriving in England in the midst of a surge of nationalism, which made the public wary of her Breton entourage and French family ties.

It was a second marriage for them both. Henry’s first wife, Mary de Bohun, had died in 1394, before he ascended the throne. From their marriage he had six children ranging from the ages of nine to 17 – a significant consideration in Henry taking a second wife was less in securing more children, as he had already four sons, but in providing his court with a feminine presence. Jeanne, for her part, had been married to Jean IV, Duke of Brittany for 13 years, a union which provided nine children.

When Jean IV died on November 1, 1399, her eldest son was only 10 and it fell to Jeanne to act as regent for him until he came of age. It was this same year that Henry IV became king, “usurping” the throne from his cousin, the last Plantagenet monarch, Richard II. Once crowned, and once Jeanne had been widowed, Henry proposed marriage and was well-received. Indeed, the couple already knew each other, since prior to becoming king, Henry had been banished from England by Richard II and spent some time at the Breton court. Notably, this match is often referred to as a marriage of preference, as opposed to diplomatic necessity.

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