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Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, second half of 17th century
27 in. x 21 5/8 in. (686 mm x 549 mm)
Transferred from British Museum, 1879
Primary Collection
NPG 551

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This painted portrait is a later version of the only known likeness of Margaret Beaufort. She is depicted wearing the costume of a widow. The book that she holds is likely to symbolise her piety but may also refer to her patronage. This painting was probably commissioned as part of a set of portraits of English royalty.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 19 Read entry

    Medieval noblewoman Lady Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509), the mother of Henry VII, was central to ensuring his kingship. She married (in 1454/5, and later twice more) and was widowed in 1456, just before the birth of Henry, her only child. A woman of substance, devout and determined, she proved adept at political intrigue, consolidating the Tudor dynasty and her own influence. She was, for instance, the first woman to have her own council, at Collyweston, a seat of justice empowered to settle disputes. ‘Right studious she was in books’, too, according to Bishop Fisher, and a pioneering patron of scholarship and learning. She founded St John’s College, Cambridge, the charter of which was sealed by her executors in 1511, and, with a royal charter from her son, re-founded Christ’s College, Cambridge, in 1505. Around 1502, she created England’s first endowed professorships, the Lady Margaret professorships of divinity. She also commissioned works of literature and music, and translations of religious texts. Lady Margaret Hall, which was founded in 1878, pioneered the opening up of Oxford to women and is named after her, a friend to ‘poor scholars’.

  • Bolland, Charlotte; Cooper, Tarnya, The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12th September 2014 to 1st March 2015), p. 12
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 42
  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 18
  • Williamson, David, Kings and Queens, 2010, p. 85
  • Williamson, David, The National Portrait Gallery: History of the Kings and Queens of England, 1998, p. 83

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Events of 1661back to top

Current affairs

The Cavalier Parliament, with pro-royalist-Anglican majority, begins passing legislation to enforce conformity to the restored Church of England. These statues became known as the 'Clarendon Code', named after, Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, erroneously, since Clarendon favoured a more tolerate approach.
Coronation of Charles II in Westminster Abbey.

Art and science

Prince Rupert, Count Palatine, the earliest practitioner of mezzotint engraving in England, demonstrates the technique to diarist John Evelyn.
The Sceptical Chymist by natural philosopher, Robert Boyle is published; in it Boyle argues for a more philosophical approach to the study of nature by 'chymists'.


The marriage treaty of Charles II and Catherine of Braganza, sister of the Afonso VI, King of Portugal is concluded. Catherine's dowry brings Mumbai and Tangiers into British possession, as well as free trade with Brazil and the East Indies. England, in return, would provide military protection for Portugal.

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