The Masque of the Lady Margaret

Pageant type


<p>Entry researched by Chloe Ratcliffe, King’s College London Undergraduate Research Fellow</p>

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Place: The Park (Bedford) (Bedford, Bedfordshire, England)

Year: 1931

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 4


10–11 June 1931

[Performances were held at 2.30pm and 7pm on both days. The performances on Wednesday 10 June were marred by heavy rain, but continued.]

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Director of the Masque [Pageant Master]: Pole, Katharine
  • Chairman: Miss Fenwick
  • Hon. Secretary: Miss F.C. Starey
  • Music: Mrs Squire, Miss Collisson, Miss F. Starey

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Finance and Business Committee

  • Chairman:  Mr C. Gurney
  • Hon. Sec: Mr A.W. Cornwall
  • Hon. Treas: Mr U.F. Kynaston

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Mrs Witbread
  • Mrs Shuttleworth
  • Mrs Orlebar
  • Mrs Mawson
  • Mrs Plowman
  • Mrs Todhunter

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


Financial information


Object of any funds raised

To further the work of the Women’s Institute Movement in the county.

Linked occasion


Audience information

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


[Tickets were priced at 5s, 2s 6d and 1s.]

Associated events


Pageant outline

Scene I.

Lady Margaret, at play in the Garden of Bletsoe Castle, May 1449, A.D., hears gossip of her betrothal; this frightens her and she prays to St. Nicholas for guidance. She and her three playmates, who are lively children and somewhat quarrelsome, receive a lesson in Latin from their tutor. The Duchess of Somerset discusses her daughter’s betrothal with the Abbess, [and] the latter comforts Lady Margaret when she confesses that she is afraid of her guardian forcing her to marry his son, John, and tells of a dream in which St. Nicholas appears to advice her to marry the King’s brother. The Duke is displeased when he sees that his ward and his son do not wish to be sweethearts. 

[Note: This synopsis and those that follow are taken verbatim from the pageant programme, held in Bedfordshire Archives and Records, X464/114].

Scene II: The Bride

Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, half brother to King Henry VI weds the Lady Margaret. The village people make merry at the festivities. On this great day in her life, Lady Margaret shows sympathy with those less fortunate than herself. Her old Nurse prophesies that great troubles will come to her in the future but that she was triumph over them, also that the memory of the services she is destined to give to England will endure forever.

Scene III: The Mother

The Lady Margaret’s son Henry, whose father died before he was born, was brought up more or less a prisoner by a Yorkist guardian, Sir William Herbert. In this scene the Lady Margaret and the Lancastrian forces, which were defeated at Tewkesbury, have taken refuge in Pembroke Castle, [in] August 1471. News comes of danger, friends drive off the besiegers and thus open the road for escape. Lady Margaret announces her intention of staying in England as the best means of serving the interests of her son and her country. Henry is sent to France for safety and fourteen years pass before they meet each other again.

Scene IV: A Woman of Faith, Hope and Charity

This scene centres round the Lancastrian plot to dethrone the Yorkist king. Lady Margaret is now the wife of Lord Stanley, a supporter of the House of York and guardian to Elizabeth. She seeks the aid of her husband to place her own son, Henry, on the throne in place of Richard III whose infamous deeds have made him hated throughout the land. In the event of success, she promises that he shall wed Elizabeth thus uniting the two branches of the royal family which have fought each other for thirty years. The Lady Margaret has many anxieties but she ever neglects an opportunity of caring for the aged and sick or of helping those in distress. The scene closes with the news of Henry Tudor landing in Wales and hurried preparations are made to raise forces to assist him. 

Interlude: The Union of Red and White Roses

Scene V: My Lady the King’s Mother

Lady Margaret’s troubles are at an end. Her son is King of England, he is wedded to Elizabeth of York, and the Wars of the Roses are ended. Princess Katherine of Aragon, the betrothed of Arthur, Prince of Wales is welcomed by the Lady Margaret who also receives visits from some of the foremost scholars of the day. The King and Queen receive an ambassador from the King of Scotland who wishes to wed their daughter. Prince Henry (who in later days as King Henry VIII marries Katherine of Aragon) shows his masterful spirit and beats his brother at a game of chess by taking the queen. Every one is amused when he wins except the Lady Margaret as she foresees in this an ill omen for the future. 

Epilogue: June 29th, 1509 AD: The End of the Day

The Lady Margaret thanks father Time for recalling the past so clearly. Progress foretells that her good deeds will never be forgotten by the people of England. Followed by procession of all the players. 

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Beaufort, Margaret [known as Lady Margaret Beaufort], countess of Richmond and Derby (1443–1509) royal matriarch
  • Beaufort, Edmund, first duke of Somerset (c.1406–1455) magnate and soldier
  • Henry VI (1421–1471) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
  • Tudor, Edmund [Edmund of Hadham], first earl of Richmond (c.1430–1456) magnate
  • Stanley, Thomas, first earl of Derby (c.1433–1504) magnate
  • Henry VII (1457–1509) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Richard III (1452–1485) king of England and lord of Ireland
  • Elizabeth [Elizabeth of York] (1466–1503) queen of England, consort of Henry VII
  • Katherine [Catalina, Catherine, Katherine of Aragon] (1485–1536) queen of England, first consort of Henry VIII
  • Arthur, prince of Wales (1486–1502)

Musical production


Newspaper coverage of pageant

  • The Bedfordshire Standard
  • The Observer

Book of words


Other primary published materials

  • The Masque of Lady Margaret. [Bedford, 1931].

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Bedfordshire Archives and Records. Programme – X464/114. and Collection of photographs and newspaper cuttings – X464/115.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Women’s Institute Movement first came to Britain from Canada in 1915, and rapidly spread across the country. Bedfordshire villages first took it up towards the end of the Great War, and its extension was stimulated and led by a County Federation. The Pageant was one of many during this period held by county Women's Institutes including Norfolk (1926), Oxfordshire (1926), Staffordshire (1928), Dorstet (1928), Warwickshire (1930). 

In early 1931 the WI began to make plans for a pageant to be held in Bedford in the summer.1 The pageant was not only intended to be a bright and energetic spectacle but also to educate and inform those who attended. It had been proposed that a special panel of speakers be present, who would issue separate lectures on the lives of the chief characters being represented in the pageant. The WI chose the romantic story of Lady Margaret Beaufort as the focal point for their pageant. Margaret epitomised the accomplished woman—educated far beyond her female contemporaries in addition to her very thorough knowledge of medicine, nursing and domestic duties. Most importantly, of course, she was born in Bedfordshire. The scenes were researched and devised by members of the WI, and it was proposed that study circles could be arranged by those members who were interested in a particular episode.

Despite heavy rain during the opening performance, eager spectators still attended in their hundreds and filled out the tiers of seats, umbrellas in hand. According to The Bedfordshire Standard the pageant ran smoothly and efficiently.2 The production of each episode was left to a different WI member but the transition between each was seamless and cohesive. The colourful costumes, meticulously designed by WI members, seem to have been a particular point of pride.

Entry written by Chloe Ratcliffe


1. ^ Correspondence, Bedfordshire Records and Archives: X464/114.
2. ^ The Bedfordshire Standard, 12 June 1931.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Masque of the Lady Margaret’, The Redress of the Past,