Friday, July 15, 2011

Tudor Tart - Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth of York
 Elizabeth of York is probably best known as the mother of Henry VIII, and bride of Henry VII. She was born the daughter of Elizabeth Wydville (the "common" bride) and King Edward IV. Her younger brothers, Edward and Richard, are the mysterious Princes in the Tower.

After her father's death, Elizabeth went into sanctuary with her mother. Her brothers disappeared and her uncle, Richard III was crowned King of England. Elizabeth was declared illegitimate by Richard. However, this didn't stop him from inviting her to court, as well as the rumors that he intended to marry her upon his sick wife's death. Some even speculated that he was poisoning his wife to marry Elizabeth, who, like her mother, was said to be charming and beautiful.

However, when Richard's wife finally died there were no wedding bells. Rather, the trumpet of war was sounded as Henry Tudor invaded England. He defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth and was crowned King of England. Rather, it was he that married Elizabeth of York, the closest living person to the throne.

Richard III
 Why, do you ask, would I suggest Elizabeth of York as a Tudor Tart? I suggest it because of the young girl's relationship with her uncle, Richard III and later relationship with Henry VII. The Battle of Bosworth not only decided who would be King of England, but most likely who would marry Elizabeth. As said before, Richard was rumored to be courting his young niece. How true is this though?

The only real evidence of Richard planning a wedding for Elizabeth comes not from England, but from Portugal. The royal records there suggest negotiations for Richard to marry a Portuguese Princess, and Elizabeth to marry a Portuguese Prince. Richard also had Elizabeth (along with her missing brothers) declared illegitimate.

When Henry VII gained power, he had the ruling reversed, then married her. Elizabeth was much closer to the throne than Henry. Because of this, Henry stated he was ruling not by birthright, but by the fact that he conquered England. Thus, he didn't have to share power with his royal wife as joint rulers.

But what about Elizabeth's feelings in the whole matter? Many novels portray her as being in love with her uncle, and terrified of Henry VII. Sadly, no authentic records of her feelings survive. She did join Richard in court and seemed to be happy. Her mother, however, was not. She and Richard had never gotten along. He, like many in England, did not see her rank as befitting that of a Queen (she was a lowly Lord's daughter who, like Anne Boleyn years later, said "no" to a king's sexual advances...which resulted in marriage). Many saw her as a cunning witch, including Richard.

Young Henry VII
 She began scheming behind Richard's back with Margaret Beaufort (Henry VII's mother). The two decided that if Henry invaded England and took the crown, he would marry Elizabeth. Elizabeth did end up marrying him, but of course, there are no records of her reaction. The marriage, whether Elizabeth wanted it or not, was a successful one. The couple had several children together and seemed happy. Henry seemed to have genuienly loved Elizabeth and did not remarry after she died from a part-partum infection.

Now that the few sparse facts have been provided, what do you think? Was Elizabeth of York, like so many women of her time, a political pawn? Or, in true Tudor Tart fashion, the young lover of Richard and the unwilling bride of Henry VII? Pin It


  1. I think she was a pawn. Some stories portray her as in love with Richard, some not. I like to believe that she wasn't. She was to me a fairly young, innocent princess that married where she was told. She must have been somewhat scared of ri...chard or why would she have gone into sanctury with her mother and sisters?
    Henry and Elizabeth did seem happy together and as you say, they have a fair few children. I think in the 15th century, it would have been wrong to rule together in England. The rebellious English subjects wouldn't have liked a queen regnant.
    I think the portrait we have of her shows her as a pious, motherly, almost madonna type of woman. I believe that it is said not to show the full extent of her beauty, which is a shame.

  2. I wish more people did books and movies about Elizabeth of York and her parents. They were remarkable people.

  3. I agree! The Wars of the Roses is certainly a fascinating time period!

  4. I think Elizabeth of York and henry the seventh did love each other because he didn't marry anyone after her death and because I don't think that she and Richard ever liked each other. He just wanted to marry her because his wife and son died and he needed an heir and also Elizabeth had a claim to the throne

  5. Elizabeth of York probably wanted to be near to her uncle Richard as he was her father's much loved brother and she loved her father. she had no control over her life she did as she was told. Over time she probably made the best of a bad job and tried to secure the throne for the Tudor's by providing heirs. She had probably had enough of war as it had taken many of her close relations and friends. I think she was a loving mother - I once read that she taught Henry VIII to read and write - her oldest son Arthur being the heir to the throne she was allowed to keep the other children with her while Arthur was more at court. She didn't plot against Henry VII as she could so easily have done before she married him. I think she wanted a quiet life and was happy when combining red and white dynasties put an end to wars that had hurt England.

  6. I think Elizabeth Woodville absolutely blamed Richard for her son's deaths and would have influenced Elizabeth of York to fear her uncle. E.W. didn't trust Richard at all, as shown by her working with Margaret Beaufort to put Henry VII on the throne. I'm not sure how affectionate this would have made E.Y. toward Richard. Were I in her place (not having extensive knowledge of the situation) I would most likely not have fallen in love with this particular man. But neither would I have fallen for Henry VII, a Lancastrian and therefore "enemy". Because she was in this particular situtation of being betrothed to either man I would categorize her as a pawn, married to a man she may have grown to love, but whom she would have been conditioned to loathe and an Lancastrian enemy of her beloved father or as the man who, according to her mother, was at least partly responsible for the deaths of her brothers and who was such a threat that E.Y. was brought up in sanctuary... essentially a prison. While her mother was lucky enough to marry for love, being born a princess doesn't always afford that luxury.

  7. Perhaps Elizabeth had the 15th century version of a 'schoolgirl crush' on Uncle Richard, a mature, suave man with a great deal of charm, who probably reminded her of her much-loved father Edward IV. She was probably glad to be out of sanctuary and back at the court - who wouldn't be? Personally, I think she would have felt sick at the thought of marrying Richard and would have regarded it as incest.

    If she didn't love Henry VII at first, she soon did come to love him. From the date of Arthur's birth, she and Henry were probably already sleeping together. And when Arthur died so tragically, it was only Henry who was able to comfort her. I think she loved him so much by then that she wanted to give him another baby, hoping for a boy, even though it was dangerous for her at thirty-seven. When she died after giving birth to a baby girl (who also died within days) Henry was almost mad with grief, and he never really recovered from losing her. Another person who was adversely affected by her death was Prince Henry, who was very close to his mother. There was nobody to help him as his father was too wrapped up in his own grief.