Don't always blame the mothers
WITH the kitsch BBC drama The White Queen moving to its conclusion Margaret Beaufort is the villainess viewers love to hate.A frigid fanatic in high necklines she is the ultimate tiger mother. A woman willing even to commit child murder as she plots her son Henry Tudor's path to the throne.
But this is a depiction shaped by centuries of sexual and religious bigotry and by our still ambivalent attitudes to powerful women.
Female historians and novelists may claim a sisterly empathy for historical women but all too many of them are willing to plunder misogynistic myths to write their lives. And Margaret Beaufort is not their only victim.
In the Tudor period and for centuries afterwards it was considered wrong and unnatural for women to wield power. It followed that the kind of woman who sought power was also unnatural - so how to depict them? Well what could be more unnatural, more against a woman's proper nature than the abuse of children?
It seems no coincidence that Margaret Beaufort stands accused of planning the deaths of the White Queen's young sons, the so-called princes in the Tower, to clear the path for Henry Tudor to be king. The irony is that the real Margaret Beaufort was what we would consider to be an abused child. She was married at 12 and was so small and slight that her son's birth when she was 13 nearly killed her. She was unable to have further children and for the next 25 years Margaret was a pawn and victim of vicious power politics.
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Don't always blame the mothers....