Margaret Beaufort & the Birth of Henry Tudor

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Margaret Beaufort later in life

On January 28, 1457 the future King Henry VII was born at Pembroke Castle in Wales, but the real star of the show was his mother, the Countess of Richmond. In fact, at the time of his birth it couldn’t have seemed less likely that the infant would one day ascend the English throne and it certainly wasn’t seen as an event of national importance. His father was Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, the younger half-brother of King Henry VI, through the second marriage of their mother, Katherine of Valois.

But unlike Henry VI, who was fathered by the celebrated Henry V, Edmund and his siblings were fathered by a Welshman attached to Queen Katherine’s household, Owen Tudor. For political reasons, the relationship was conducted under the radar and it wouldn’t be until the early 1450s that Edmund and his younger brother, Jasper, were transitioned from a legally grey area to members of the peerage as the Earls of Richmond and Pembroke, respectively.

Because of these circumstances, the infant Henry Tudor born in 1457 had a better claim to the French crown than the English, if you disregard the Salic Law, barring inheritance of the throne through a woman (a pesky byproduct of the Hundred Years’ War).

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The Marriage of Katherine of Valois and Owen Tudor

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On January 3, 1437 Katherine of Valois, Dowager Queen of England, died in Bermondsey Abbey in London. It was not until after her funeral that news began to trickle out, far beyond the inner circle of the English court, that somewhere in the last years of her life Katherine had conducted a secret relationship with a Welshman, Owen Tudor, far below her station. Not only had this relationship occurred, but proof of it could be found in the multiple children she had taken care to hide across the English countryside and in religious houses.

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