Beaufort, Margaret

, the foundress of Christ’s and St. John’s colleges in Cambridge, was the only daughter and heir of John Beaufort, duke of Somerset (grandson of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster), and of Margaret Beauchamp his wife. She was born at Bletshoe in Bedfordshire) in 1441. About the fifteenth year of her age, being a rich heiress, the great duke of Suffolk, minister to Henry the Vlth. solicited her in marriage for his son; while the king wooed her for his half-brother Edmund, then earl of Richmond. On so nice a point the good young lady advised with an elder gentlewoman; who, thinking it too great a decision to take upon herself, recommended her to St. Nicholas, the patron of virgins. She followed her instructions, and poured forth her supplications and prayers with such effect, that one morning, whether sleeping or waking she could not tell, there appeared unto her somebody in the habit of a bishop, and desired she would accept of Edmund for her husband. Whereupon she married Edmund earl of Richmond; and by him had an only son, who was afterwards king Henry the VI 1th. Edmund died, Nov. 3, 1456, leaving Henry his son and heir but fifteen weeks old: after which Margaret married sir Henry Stafford, knight, second son to the duke of Buckingham, by whom she had no issue. Soon after the death of sir Henry Stafford, which happened about 1482, she was married again to Thomas lord Stanley, who was created earl of Derby, Oct. 27, 1485, which was the first year of her son’s reign; and this noble lord died also before her in 1504.

The virtues of this lady are exceedingly celebrated. Her humility was such, that she would often say, “on condition that the princes of Christendom would combine themselves, and march against the common enemy the Turks, she would most willingly attend them, and be their laundress in the camp.” For her chastity, the rev. Mr. Baker, who republished bishop Fisher’s “Funeral Sermon” on her, in 1708, informs us in a preface, that, as it was unspotted in her marriage, so in her last husband’s days, and long before his death, she obtained a licence of him to live chaste; upon which she took upon her the vow of celibacy from Fisher’s hands, in a form yet extant in the registers of St. John’s-college in Cambridge; and for this reason, as Baker supposes, her portrait is usually taken in the habit of a nun. All thw for a lady who had had three | husbands, and was now advanced in life, will not, we are afraid, be considered as any very violent degree of constraint. Her education, however, had qualified her for a studious and retired way of life. She understood the French language perfectly, and had some skill in the Latin; but would often lament that in her youth she did not make herself a perfect mistress of it. This affection for literature no doubt induced her mother-in-law, the duchess of Buckingham, to give her the following legacy in her last will “To her daughter Richmond, a book of English, being a legend of saints; a book of French, called Lucun another book of French, of the epistles and gospels and a primer with clasps of silver gilt, covered with purple velvet.” This was a considerable legacy of its kind at that time, when few of her sex were taught letters; for it has often been mentioned as an extraordinary accomplishment in Jane Shore, the darling mistress of Edward IV. that she could write and read.

Lady Margaret, however, could do both; and there are some of her literary performances still extant. She published, “The mirroure of golde for the sinful 1 soule,” translated from a French translation of a book called, * Speculum aureum peccatorum,‘ very scarce. She also translated out of French into English, the fourth book of Gerson’s treatise “Of the imitation and following the blessed life of our most merciful Saviour Christ,” printed at the nd of Dr. William Atkinson’s English translation of the three first books, 1504. A letter to her son is printed in Howard’s “Collection of Letters.” She also made, -by her son’s command and authority, the orders, yet extant, for great estates of ladies and noble women, for their precedence, &c. She was not only a lover of learning, but a great patroness of learned men; and did more acts of real goodness for the advancement of literature in general, than could reasonably have been expected from so much superstition. Erasmus has spoken great things of her, for the munificence shewn in her foundations and donations of several kinds; a large account of which is given by Mr. Baker, in the preface prefixed to the “Funeral Sermon.” What adds greatly to the merit of these donations is, that some of the most considerable of them were performed in her life-time; as the foundation of two colleges in Cambridge. | Her life was checquered with a variety of good and’ bad fortune: but she had a greatness of soul, which seems to have placed her above the reach of either; so that she wasneither elated with the former, nor depressed with the latter. She was most affected with what regarded her only child, for whom she had the most tender affection. She underwent some hardships on his account. She saw him from an exile, by a wonderful turn of fortune, advanced to the crown of England, which yet he could not keep without many struggles and difficulties; and when he had reigned twenty-three years, and lived fifty-two, she saw him carried to his grave. Whether this might not prove too great a shock for her, is uncertain; but she survived him only three months, dying at Westminster on the 29th of June, 1509. She was buried in his chapel, and had a beautiful monument erected to her memory, adorned with gilded brass, arms, and an epitaph round the verge, drawn up by Erasmus, at the request of bishop Fisher, for which he had twenty shillings given him by the university of Cambridge. Upon this altar-tomb, which is enclosed with a grate, is placed the statue of Margaret countess of Richmond and Derby, in her robes, all of solid brass, with two pillars on each side of her, and a Latin inscription, of which the following is a translation: “To Margaret of Richmond, the mother of Henry VII. and grandmother of Henry VIII. who founded salaries for three monks in this convent, for a grammar-school at Wymborn, and a preacher of God’s word throughout England; as also for two divinity-lecturers, the one at Oxford, the other at Cambridge; in which last place she likewise built two colleges, in honour of Christ and his disciple St. John. She died in the year of our Lord 1509, June the 29th.” This lady was the daughter and sole heiress of John Beaufort duke of Somerset, who was grandson to John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward the Third. Her mother, Margaret Beauchamp, was daughter and heiress of the lord Beauchamp of Powick. Bishop Fisher observes, “that by her marriage with the earl of Richmond, and by her birth, she was allied to thirty kings and queens, within the fourth degree either of blood or affinity; besides earls, marquisses, dukes, and princes: and since her death,” as Mr. Baker says, “she has been allied in her posterity to thirty more.” Her will, which is remarkably curious, is printed | at length in the “Collectioii of Royal and Noble Wills,1780, 4to, p. 376. 1


Biog. Brit Bp. Fisher’s Sermon published by Baker. Park’s edition of Walpole’s Royal and Noble Authors.