International Women’s Day comes around every year and Facebook is filled with posts celebrating mainly mums and grandmas, which is great, but I find it all a bit of a cliché. Of course we are in awe of our mothers. They guide us through life and still look after us even when we’re adults (Thanks mum! You really are the best!) but family aside… who are our most inspirational women?
I have always been fascinated by Margaret Beaufort. The red queen. The woman who ended the Plantagenet dynasty and brought power back to the Tudors. A fifteenth century political pawn who changed the face of the nation. But how did she do it?
Born in 1443, she was descended from royalty. Although she came from a powerful bloodline, she would never be a woman with power. Forced at the age of twelve in to marriage (her second, if you can believe it!) she fell pregnant. She gave birth at the tender age of thirteen and the birth was probably along the lines of medieval torture, except it lasted a lot longer and she was not relieved by death afterwards. The child she was carrying was so important to the family that, had it been necessary, they would have killed her to get it out safely JUST INCASE it was a boy. Can you imagine that? That is how unimportant she was. But she just got on with it. It was her duty.
After going through all of that, she was a very young mum, but could she raise her son? Oh no, of course not. The husband was now dead from the plague and so she needed to be married off to someone else, although she would never again fall pregnant. Her body was ruined from giving birth at such a young age.
Margaret’s life was controlled and dictated by others who never stopped to ask how she felt about anything. Not to mention she was Lancastrian in a country ruled by Yorkists. Would a girl ever catch a break?
Her son, in 1485, would return from exile as a strong, young man who had miraculously managed to raise an army strong enough to defeat Richard lll, and he took the throne. (Not to mention he had the help of Margaret’s FOURTH husband betraying the king and switching sides. Got to love those reliable Stanley men…)
So now her son was king of England, but was he really the one in charge? Margaret, after a pious life of obedience, who had never been in control of her own life was now ruling the kingdom beside/behind her one and only son. The coronation, weddings, events, funerals etc were all coordinated by her and she slept in the most luxurious rooms the castle had to offer.
So why am I so fascinated by this woman?
Nothing got her down. Nothing stopped her taking control of her own life. She never looked in the mirror and said ‘oh, my life sucks, I hate my life, no one likes me’. She just got on with it! No complaining necessary, no diva attitude, no snowflake whinging, no sense of millennial entitlement. And while my heart belongs to the house of York and I am almost one hundred percent sure she had something to do with the Princes in the tower… you can’t deny she was a bloody fantastic woman and had she been born a few centuries later she would have been a brilliant leader (as long as she wasn’t babysitting any heirs to the throne…)