I thought Elizabeth Norton's She-Wolves: The Notorious Queens of England
was just plain dreadful - with good reason - but surprise, surprise, this biography of Margaret Beaufort is actually very good. It has the usual modern-day problem of imperfect editing, though in a reversal of the usual problem, it suffers from too many commas rather than not enough. There is also a statement on p. 12 that Richard II "imposed no limits on the Beaufort's new status". This refers to all the Beauforts, so should be "the Beauforts's new status" - preferably with the second `s' omitted, since the word ends in `s'. Do editors know anything these days?
But aside from these minor problems the text is very readable, and nowhere near as superficial as that of She Wolves. The book also contains a theory I had never read before: that Henry VII's father Edmund Tudor, son of Catherine de Valois and (presumably) her second husband Owen Tudor, may have been fathered by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, an uncle of Margaret Beaufort's with whom Catherine may have had an affair in the late 1420s. I had read elsewhere (in Lisa Hilton's Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens
) that Edmund Beaufort and Catherine de Valois wanted to marry around this time, but that Parliament passed a law that would have caused Edmund Beaufort to lose his property and possessions if he married the Queen without official permission, with the result that he lost interest in her. Anyway, this is what Norton has to say (p. 37-38):
"It is possible that Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor might have been rather more closely related than previously realised. Edmund Tudor's birth was veiled in considerable secrecy, and he was not born in one of Catherine of Valois's own properties, with the Queen instead travelling to Much Hadham, a manor belonging to the Bishop of London in order to give birth in the greatest possible privacy. The name Edmund was an odd choice for Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor and deserves some further comment. Before her relationship with Owen Tudor began, Catherine had been romantically linked with Margaret Beaufort's uncle, Edmund Beaufort, the future Duke of Somerset, and the pair had hoped to marry. Any man that Catherine married would become the King's stepfather, with a good claim to the regency during his minority. Beaufort was a controversial choice amongst the King's council, which was already deeply divided by a dispute between the King's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, and his great uncle, Cardinal Beaufort. In 1426, parliament made a formal request to the regency council that they cease their refusals to allow Catherine to remarry. It is likely that Catherine petitioned parliament for their aide herself. Henry VI's council was determined to prevent Catherine from making any new marriage, and in the parliament of 1429 to 1430, a statute was passed legislating on the remarriage of dowager queens. The new law ordered that anyone who dared marry the Queen without the King's express permission would have his lands and property confiscated and effectively meant that Catherine could not remarry until Henry VI obtained his majority. This put an end to Beaufort's ambition to marry the Queen, but given the choice of the name Edmund for her eldest son by her second marriage, it is possible that she and Beaufort had already been lovers and that her relationship with Owen Tudor, a man of such low status that the advantages of a marriage to the Queen far outweighed the risks, may have proved necessary in order to ensure that Catherine did not bear an illegitimate child."
Sensationalist poppycock, or a possibility? Who knows; historians can squabble over that one. Though if Edmund Tudor was fathered by a Plantagenet cousin of Henry VI's father, rather than by a penniless Welshman, and if Henry VI knew this, it could explain why he considered a half-brother of dubious legitimacy fit to marry Margaret Beaufort, who was a great heiress and a possible heir to the throne (or mother of them) in the event that Henry VI's line died out, as ultimately proved the case. It would mean Edmund Tudor was not only Henry VI's half-brother through their mother, but also an illegitimate member of the English royal family and Henry's second cousin, their fathers being sons of half-brothers Henry IV and John Beaufort, both sons of John of Gaunt.
The book has no proper citations (hence no possibility of five stars), but from the notes for Chapter 3, it looks as if Norton's source may be R. A. Griffiths' 2004 The Reign of Henry VI - though given the absence of citations, she could just as easily be the first to put forward this theory. If it turned out to be true, it would mean the Tudors were not Tudors, but Plantagenets/Beauforts. I had noticed that Henry VII bore a strong resemblance, in some of his portraits, to Richard II (the same narrow face, pursed-up mouth, semi-circular eyebrows and steely, suspicious-looking eyes). Of course, I just assumed he took heavily after his Plantagenet mother. Now it turns out his father may have been a first cousin of his mother, and a Plantagenet too. That would certainly explain the striking resemblance that Henry VII and his eldest son Arthur bore to Richard II.
In summary, it's a very good book that could have been even better had it been properly documented. Ms Norton, in your next book, please cite a source for every statement of fact!