Succession – The Players


These are some of the facts that fascinated me about the key players in this history.

Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509)

  • Mother of Henry VII and therefore founder of the Tudor dynasty.
  • Great- great-granddaughter of King Edward III.
  • Great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III, and his mistress, Katherine Swynford.
  • Married three times by the age of fourteen; arranges the fourth marriage herself, to Thomas Stanley, 1stEarl of Derby and King of Mann
  • Has one child, to her second husband Edmund Tudor, who is half-brother to King Henry VI.
  • Her only son is born when she is thirteen years and eight months old.
  • Her husband dies in captivity when she is six months pregnant.
  • Her son is taken from her in infancy and custody awarded firstly to her brother in law, Jasper Tudor, and then to William Herbert, the man responsible for the death of her husband.
  • She spends 24 years trying to get him back, ultimately leading a rebellion against Richard III.
  • When her son comes to the throne she claims the legal status of femme sole which grants her legal and economic autonomy as sole persone not covert of anie husband.This is an unprecedented action for a married woman to take while her husband is still alive.
  • While her son rules he consults her in all things, so that she is said to be ‘queen in all but name’.
  • She dies in 1509, only a few weeks after the death of her son, during the coronation feast of her grandson, Henry VIII.
  • By the time of her death she is the richest, most powerful woman in England.
Fig1. – The Beaufort Family Tree.

Henry VI (1421 – 1471)

  • Only child of Henry V and Katherine of Valois.
  • Inherits the crowns of both England and France when only a few months old.
  • During the course of his reign almost all the territories in France won by his father are lost.
  • Marries Margaret of Anjou in 1445 after falling in love with her portrait.
  • No dowry is paid with this marriage and in fact the key territories of Maine and Anjou are surrendered, which is one of the factors leading to civil war in England.
  • Is famously ascetic and pious
  • Has one son, Edward of Westminster, after eight years of marriage
  • Suffers most of his life from a debilitating mental illness which would probably be classified today as a form of schizophrenia.
  • The first major instance of this is in 1453, when he falls into a catatonic state lasting for more than sixteen months.
  • Margaret of Anjou is pregnant when he falls into this catatonia, which allows her enemies to spread rumours that the child is not his.
  • Imprisoned in Tower of London in 1465 until briefly restored to the throne in 1470
  • After the battle of Tewkesbury is returned to the Tower and dies there on the evening of May 21 1471.Most chroniclers agree he has been murdered.
  • After his death he is venerated as a holy man, though attempts to have him canonised are unsuccessful.
Fig2. – Family Tree of Henry VI.

Margaret of Anjou (1430 – 1482)

  • Daughter of Rene, Duke of Anjou and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine.
  • Marries Henry VI of England in 1445.
  • Has one son, Edward of Westminster, or Edward of Lancaster,  in 1453.
  • Attempts to become regent of England during her husband’s incapacity, but is defeated by Richard of York.
  • Becomes an increasingly active campaigner for her son’s cause, especially after Richard of York claims the throne in 1460, successfully disinheriting Prince Edward.
  • Turns increasingly to Scotland for support, then France.
  • Leads an army of Scots and English south to the battle of St Albans in February 1461.  This army is described as a whirlwind from the northbecause it leaves a trail of destruction in its wake.
  • Introduces the French practice of forced conscription, partly because she cannot afford to pay her recruits.
  • After losing the key battle of Towton she takes refuge in Scotland, then France.
  • Returns to England in an ill-fated invasion in 1462-3.
  • In 1470 she makes an alliance with her enemy the Earl of Warwick, agreeing to the marriage of her son and his daughter, in order to invade England again.
  • The Earl of Warwick is defeated at the battle of Barnet in April 1471, and her son is killed three weeks later at the battle of Tewkesbury.
  • Margaret of Anjou is imprisoned in the Tower of London on the same day that her husband is murdered.  She is eventually transferred to France, where she dies in poverty some years later.
Conflicting Allegiences of Margaret Of Anjou
Fig3. – Conflicting Allegiences of Margaret Of Anjou.

Richard Duke of York (1411 – 1460)

  • Descended from Edward III on both his father’s and his mother’s side. His mother, Anne Mortimer is said to have died giving birth to Richard, and his father, Richard Earl of Cambridge is executed in 1415 for plotting against Henry V.
  • Richard is brought up in the household of Ralph Neville, 1stEarl of Westmorland.
  • He is betrothed to the earl’s youngest daughter, Cecily Neville, c. 1424
  • Is appointed Lieutenant of France in 1436
  • Lieutenant of Ireland in 1447
  • Appointed Protector and Defender of the Realm in 1454, during the King’s ‘incapacity’.
  • Leads an army against the king at the first battle of St Albans in 1455
  • Again opposes the king in 1459 and is attainted, fleeing to Ireland
  • In October 1460 makes a claim to the throne, but does not gain the support of the other peers.Advances his claim in writing, which is debated for several weeks.  Finally he is acknowledged successor to Henry VI and his sons as heirs to the throne i.e. prince Edward of Lancaster is disinherited.
  • This leads to an uprising on behalf of the queen and prince.Richard of York marches north, but is killed at the battle of Wakefield in December 1460, along with his second son Edmund, and his brother-in-law, the Earl of Salisbury
  • Although he is never king himself, he is father to two kings: Edward IV and Richard III
Family Tree of Richard, Duke of York
Fig4. – Family Tree of Richard, Duke of York.

Cecily Neville (1415 – 1495)

  • Youngest daughter of Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland and his second wife, Joan Beaufort.
  • Joan Beaufort is the daughter of John of Gaunt and the granddaughter of Edward III.
  • Is betrothed to Richard Duke of York and marries him sometime before 1429
  • Has thirteen children with him, but is only outlived by two.
  • After the battle of Ludford Bridge, 1459, when her husband flees, she confronts the enemy army alone and manages to stop it in its tracks.
  • Is arrested and kept in custody by her sister Anne, Duchess of Buckingham, for more than a year.
  • When Margaret of Anjou marches south in February 1461, Cecily sends her two youngest sons, George and Richard, to Bruges for safekeeping.
  • Is enraged by the marriage of Edward IV to Elizabeth Woodville.
  • Attempts to intercede in the quarrel between her two sons, Edward and George, Duke of Clarence, but cannot prevent the execution of George by his brother.
  • After his usurpation of the throne, Richard III declares his brother, Edward IV, illegitimate, thereby branding her an adulteress.
  • In later life Cecily became increasingly pious and devoted herself to religious duties, finally dying at the age of 80 at Berkhamsted Castle
Family Tree of Cecily Neville
Fig5. – Family Tree of Cecily Neville.

Alice Chaucer (1404-1475)

  •      Daughter of Thomas Chaucer and Matilda Burghersh.
  • Granddaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer.
  • Marries firstly Sir John Phelip c. 1414, who dies within a year, after fighting in France.
  • Marries secondly Thomas Montacute, 4thEarl of Salisbury, dies 1428, also fighting in France.
  • Marries William de la Pole, Earl the Duke of Suffolk, c. 1430.
  • Founds god’s House at her home of Ewelme for thirteen paupers, and later a school.  The foundation survives today as the Ewelme Trust
  • Has one son, John de la Pole, born 1442.
  • Lady in waiting to Margaret of Anjou in 1445.
  • Is made guardian of Margaret Beaufort after the death of her father, and arranges Margaret’s first marriage, to her son, John de la Pole.
  • After this marriage is annulled by Henry VI in 1453, Alice transfers her loyalties to the Yorkist cause.  Her son marries Richard of York’s daughter, Elizabeth.
  • In 1472 becomes custodian of Margaret of Anjou at Wallingford Castle.
  • Famous for her learning she owns or commissions several books and is a patron of poets, including the court poet John Lydgate.


William de la Pole (1396-1450)

  • Second son of Michael de la Pole, 2ndEarl of Suffolk, and Katherine de Stafford
  • Serves as commander in 100 years war, is seriously injured at siege of Harfleur.
  • His father is killed during the siege of Harfleur, and his older brother during the battle of Agincourt, so William inherits the title of 4thEarl of Suffolk.
  • Is commander of the English forces during the Siege of Orleans, 1429, after the death of Thomas Montacute, 4thEarl of Salisbury.
  • The siege is relieved by Joan of Arc and he is taken prisoner by the French until ransomed in 1431.
  • Marries Alice Chaucer on 11 November 1430.
  • Made constable of Wallingford Castle in 1434
  • Negotiates the marriage of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou in 1444.  This is unpopular since it involves the loss of the English territories of Maine and Anjou.
  • Awarded custody of the infant heiress Margaret Beaufort in same year.
  • Is implicated in the death of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of Henry V
  • Is made Admiral of England and Duke of Suffolk by 1448
  • As more French territory is lost, he is denounced as a traitor, arrested on 28 January 1450 and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
  • King Henry VI intervenes to save his life, imposing a term of exile rather than execution.
  • His journey to Calais is intercepted by the ship Nicholas of the Tower.  Suffolk is taken on board, subjected to a mock trial and beheaded.
  • His body is found on the sands near Dover.

Owen Tudor

For more information about the Tudor family see Griffiths, R.A & Thomas, R.S (1985) The Making of the Tudor Dynasty, Sutton Publishing.

  • The Tudor family had served the princes of Wales and were descended from Rhys ap Tewdwr, King of Deheubrath
  • Owen was born around 1400, probably in Anglesey, the son of Maredudd ap Tudur and his wife Marged.
  • May have entered the service of Sir Walter Hungerford, steward of the household of

Henry V, and served in France c. 1421

  • Returns to England after the death of the king in 1422.
  • Enters the household of Katherine de Valois, widow of Henry V, possibly as keeper of the wardrobe.
  • Different stories are told of their meeting; that he falls into her lap when drunk at a palace ball, or that the queen ‘unable to curb her carnal lusts’ spies on him while swimming.
  • They marry secretly and live together quietly outside London.
  • Their first child, Edmund, is born circa 1429/30 at Much Hadham, Jasper a year or so later at Hatfield.
  • A third son, Owen, is born at Westminster Abbey, and is kept by the monks and brought up there as a Benedictine monk.
  • They also have a daughter, who seems to have died young.
  • Katherine de Valois becomes ill and enters Bermondsey Abbey, possibly for medical care.
  • She dies there on 3rdJanuary 1937, after giving birth to a daughter.
  • The king’s council, headed by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, now pursues Owen, who seeks sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.
  • He finally appears before the council and clears himself of all charges relating to his marriage, but is arrested on the way back to Wales and committed to Newgate Gaol.
  • Escapes Newgate in early 1438, ‘hurting foul his keeper’, but is captured and returned there in March 1438.
  • In July 1438 he is moved to Windsor Castle and kept in custody there.
  • In 1439 he is released from Windsor Castle, pardoned all offences and taken into the household of Henry VI.
  • Has at least one more son, David, born c. 1459.
  • Leads Lancastrian forces against Edward, Earl of March (Edward IV) in the battle of Mortimer’s Cross, February 1461.
  • Is executed after the battle, and is reported to have said, ‘that head shall lie in the stock that was wont to lie in Queen Katherine’s lap.’
  • It is also said that after the beheading ‘a madwoman’ washed his face and hair, and lit one hundred candles around his head.
Tudor Family Tree
Fig6. – Tudor Family Tree.

Edmund Tudor

  • After their mother’s death, Edmund and Jasper are placed in the care of Katherine de la Pole, sister of the Earl of Suffolk and Abbess of Barking.
  • They are taken into the king’s household c.1442.
  • Recognised as ’legitimate uterine brothers’ of the king, released from any statutory disabilities as a result of their father being Welsh, and made Earls, of Richmond and Pembroke respectively, in 1452.
  • On 24 March 1453 are given joint custody of the young heiress, Margaret Beaufort.
  • Edmund and Margaret marry in 1455, Margaret becomes pregnant in 1456.
  • Edmund is now the king’s representative in Wales, and is soon ‘greatly at war’ with the Welsh leader, Gruffydd ap Nicholas.
  • Gruffydd and his sons take control of the royal fortresses of Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Carreg Cennen.
  • In August 1456 Edmund recaptures Carmarthen Castle for the king but is attacked by the Duke of York’s men under William Herbert.
  • Edmund is taken prisoner and dies of plague in the castle on 1stNovember 1456.

Jasper Tudor

  • After his brother’s death, Jasper Tudor takes his place in Wales, but continues to fight for King Henry and Queen Margaret.
  • Is awarded custody of his nephew, Henry Tudor.
  • After the battle of Towton, continues to fight in Wales against new king’s forces.
  • Pembroke Castle is taken in September 1461, and custody of Henry Tudor is given to William Herbert.
  • Jasper spends most of the next eight years in exile, acting as the queen’s emissary and travelling between Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Brittany, Normandy, France.
  • After the battle of Edgecote in which William Herbert is killed, Jasper once again takes custody of Henry Tudor.
  • After the battle of Tewkesbury, May 1471, flees with his nephew to Brittany.
  • Remains in exile with Henry Tudor for the next fourteen years.
  • Returns with Henry Tudor to fight for the throne in 1485.
  • When Henry is made king after the battle of Bosworth, is made Duke of Bedford and marries Katherine Woodville, sister of the former queen Elizabeth Woodville, and widow of the young Duke of Buckingham (executed 1483).
  • Dies in 1495.

Edward IV

  • Oldest living son of Richard Duke of York and Cecily Neville.
  • Great-great grandson of Edward III.
  • Born in 1442 in Rouen, Normandy.
  • Is present at four of the battles of the ‘wars of the roses’, fighting on his father’s side.
  • His father, brother and uncle are killed during the battle of Wakefield, December 1460.
  • Is proclaimed king by the citizens of London in March 1461, shortly before his nineteenth birthday.
  • Defeats the Lancastrians at the battle of Towton, 29 March 1461 ‘the greatest battle ever fought on English soil’.
  • Marries Elizabeth Woodville, widow of a Lancastrian knight, in 1464.
  • Has ten children with her, including two sons and at least two illegitimate children with Elizabeth Lucy.
  • Described as ‘a very handsome prince, the handsomest I ever saw,’ by Philippe de Commines, he is a notorious womaniser, ‘licentious in the extreme.’
  • His most famous mistress iss Jane Shore, ‘For many he had, but her he loved.’
  • Flees to Bruges  1470-71 after Warwick’s rebellion and the Readeption of Henry VI.
  • Returns to win great victories at Barnet and Tewkesbury.
  • Probably orders the murder of Henry VI in the Tower.
  • After being reinstated as king, brings a measure of prosperity and peace to the country.
  • Dies in April 1483 shortly before his fortieth birthday, possibly as a result of over-indulgence.
Family Tree of Edward IV
Fig7. – Family Tree of Edward IV.

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