Lady Margaret at Ormskirk

At Ormskirk’s gigantic parish church is the Derby Chapel, a burial place for the local Stanley lords, the Earls of (West) Derby. In 1472, Lady Margaret Beaufort married Thomas Stanley, and her image, if not her body, is likely one of these found in the chapel. She was mother to Henrry VII and matriarch of the Tudors. Any who read Phillipa Gregory will remember her as a scheming and irritatingly pious female player in the Wars of the Roses. Gregory even portrays her as being the Tower Princes’ killer. Whether this interpretation is true, or whether she was altogether more meek, gentle and sincere, one cannot say. This woman who became ‘My Lady the King’s Mother’ was arguably the most powerful woman in the land, pulling strings and influencing doting men. It was her portcullis symbol that adorned the previous British penny, and her Lady Margaret Hall remains an Oxford College. Yet how many now have even heard of her, other than a few Oxford graduates and devotees of a successful lady novelist?

Power, like breath, is fleeting. Of the effigies at Ormskirk, it is not even clear which one is hers.

So I said in my heart,
“As it happens to the fool,
It also happens to me,
And why was I then more wise?”
Then I said in my heart,
“This also is vanity.”
For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever,
Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come.
And how does a wise man die?
As the fool!

-Ecclesiastes 2:15-16