The marriage was chosen by King Henry VI, as Edmund Tudor was his half-brother - son of Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois. Margaret herself was the daughter of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset - the grandson of John of Gaunt (a son of King Edward III). See how these two might be able to claim a legal and rightful tie to the Crown? It's little wonder that the future Henry Tudor would fight to claim this right.
However, the marriage was short-lived. The Wars of the Roses had just broken out, and Edward (a Lancastrian, loyal to King Henry), was taken prisoner by Yorkist forces in 1456. When he died of the plague in captivity that November, he left a 13-year-old widow who was seven months pregnant.
We have very little information about this birth, but certain reports speak of Margaret as a very petite young woman (er, child) - and given her supposed stature and confirmed young age of 13, it's not difficult to believe that this was a tough and traumatic birth. What we do know is that Margaret never went on to have more children - despite two more marriages, in which she would have been at her peak childbearing years. Can we assume that the birth of Henry Tudor could have caused irreparable damage to Margaret, and prevented her from conceiving or carrying another baby to term again? Possibly. In any case, we can certainly imagine that this was a rough and scary experience for her.
Most importantly, it's noteworthy to remember that the birth of Henry Tudor was nothing particularly special or significant to England from a political perspective. When he was born, no one (except, perhaps, Margaret) would have ever considered that he could one day sit on the throne.
But Henry Tudor's claim to the English throne was tenuous at best. First of all, it was through his mother's line - a woman, and that just wasn't very impressive. Second, though Margaret was technically the 2nd-great-granddaughter of King Edward III, it was a somewhat illegitimate relation - due to the fact that his son, John of Gaunt's mistress-turned-wife, Katherine Swynford, was her 2nd-great-grandmother. This means, of course, that although the line was eventually legitimized through marriage, its beginnings certainly were not. This was a far less convincing claim to the throne than it would have been, had John already been married to Katherine at the time they procreated.
Nevertheless, we all know how the story would ultimately go! Henry Tudor would, in the end, challenge the future King Richard III's crown with an army of his own - largely spurred on by his mother and the support she was able to amass for him over the decades. In August of 1485, the Planatagenet Dynasty would be no more, and nor would the Wars of the Roses. Henry would defeat Richard and the House of York once and for all, crown himself on the Bosworth battlefield, and become the first Tudor king - claiming Richard's niece, Elizabeth of York, for his wife, in a "seal the deal" measure between the once-warring houses.
There's a lot to unpack in the years between Henry's birth and his claiming the English throne (much more than I have time for in this blog post!), but I hope we can all take a moment today to consider this future king's unassuming birth to a 13-year-old child on this day in 1457. (What a strange time it was to be a noble girl in the medieval period).
(Whether legitimate or not, we thank you for ultimately claiming the throne and marking the beginning of one fascinating dynasty!)