Accession continues the story of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor. It begins where Rebellion leaves off, after the Battle of Tewkesbury. Henry has gone into exile in Brittany, and Margaret, as part of her campaign to get him back safely into England, arranges her own fourth marriage to Thomas Stanley. Stanley was King of Mann, a wealthy widower who had some influence over the king.
For the first twelve years of the period covered by my novel, Edward IV is king. He is married to Elizabeth Woodville and they have ten children. Only 3 are sons, and the youngest, George, dies in infancy. Edward is notoriously promiscuous, but he has a sustained affair with Elizabeth Shore – more usually known as Jane Shore. As Thomas More put it, ‘many he had, but her he loved’.
Edward IV makes several attempts to have Henry and his uncle, Jasper Tudor, returned to England. Henry is, by now, the last surviving male member of the House of Lancaster, so while his mother, Margaret Beaufort, was involved in these negotiations, she was also suspicious of them. Did King Edward in fact want to get rid of this potential rival? Or would he keep his word to marry Henry into his own family?
The Duke of Brittany treated Henry and his uncle well, but he was under considerable pressure from the kings of both France and England to give them up. He kept them however, promising to increase the severity of their confinement. So while the fugitives were initially housed together, ultimately they were separated, and Henry had to endure his confinement alone.
Henry’s mother never gave up the campaign to have him restored to his lands and titles, and to England. Ultimately, this led to an act of treason against the king. She orchestrated the rebellion against Richard III that failed in 1483. She was attainted at that point and handed over to the custody of her husband, Thomas Stanley, who kept her in one of his fortresses in the north. Using her priest as a spy she began the second conspiracy and this time her efforts were successful. Twenty-eight years of separation were finally over. Margaret Beaufort was mother of the king. It is said she ‘wept mervaylously’ at his coronation, as well she might.
This third novel in my trilogy also deals inevitably with the Princes in the Tower. I propose my own theory about their fate!
England’s history at this time seems to me to turn on a hair. Henry VII is sometimes described as England’s unlikeliest king. Once he was crowned, it was the end of an era for England. Richard III was, in effect, England’s last medieval king. Henry was no warrior, and he had no supporting dynasty behind him so he was forced to adopt a different style of kingship. Essentially he ushered in the era of early capitalism where England depended on trade and bureaucracy rather than warfare.
Margaret, of course, is said to have ruled with her son, and after his death, she was England’s regent. So hers is a remarkable story, of separation, grief, and sheer, bloody-minded determination! It’s a story that deserves to be told.
This novel, however, concludes with the Battle of Bosworth, which is one of the most significant turning points of English history.