P R E F A C E
THE remarkable and attractive personality of Margaret Beaufort was well known in her own time; her descendants down to the present day have been Sovereigns of England, and her name and liberality have been honoured in the Universities for more than 400 years. Her Cambridge Foundations have their own distinguished historians, but she herself would seem only a shadowy figure to the modern reader, without the vivid and nearly contemporary word portrait left by the hand of Bishop Fisher, the intimate friend of her later life, whose narrative is many times quoted in the following memoir.
Although it is very incomplete and contains little information that is new (being drawn chiefly from printed sources), it is hoped that a slight sketch of the life and character of this notable Englishwoman of the fifteenth century may have some interest for past, present, and future students of Lady Margaret Hall, and for others to whom the older biographies (now out of print) may not be readily accessible.
To my regret I have been obliged to leave to some future writer the task of exploring the stores of material in Cambridge, which might throw a strong light on Lady Margaret's daily life at Collyweston and elsewhere. A wonderful collection of her plate is in the possession of Christ's College, and the Treasury of St. John's College contains a large number of contemporary manuscripts, including some of her private account books and household books, and a list of her 'Wardrobe of Robes' described with tantalizing brevity in the Appendix to the First Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission as being 'extremely curious'.
It will be seen that, failing an examination of these documents, I have made great use of the laborious researches of the late Mr. C. H. Cooper and Professor J. E. B. Mayor, who extracted a great deal of information from them and from other sources.
One point in Lady Margaret's life that has to some extent been overlooked by previous writers is the very large and important part that she took in winning the Crown for Henry VII.
I am greatly indebted to the Rev. Canon H. F. Westlake, F.S.A., M.V.O., Custodian of Westminster Abbey, who most kindly made researches for me among the Muniments of the Abbey, and whose notes taken from unpublished household books of Lady Margaret and Lord Henry Stafford, her second husband, give some details of a period of her life of which very little is known (1466-1471).
My grateful acknowledgements are also due to Miss E. C. Lodge, M.A., Principal of Westfield College, for her kindness in revising my proofs; to my Mother and to Miss C. Jamison for the great help they have given me in many ways, to Sir Arthur Dryden, Bt., Sir Arthur Shipley, G.B.E.. F.R.S., Master of Christ's College, and Mr. C. W. Previte-Orton, M.A., Librarian of St. John's College, for information they have sent me, and to the Librarian and Staff of the London Library for the unfailing courtesy and help fulness with which they have met my many demands.
E. M. G. R.