Biography: Elizabeth of York

220px-Elizabeth_of_York_from_Kings_and_Queens_of_England(Born February 11, 1466- Died February 11, 1503). Daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Married to King Henry VII. Mother of Arthur, Prince of Wales, Margaret, Queen of Scots, Henry VIII, King of England and Mary, Queen of France.
Elizabeth of York was the daughter, niece, sister, wife and mother of kings. It was through her marriage with Henry VII that helped create the Tudor Dynasty.

Elizabeth of York was the eldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. She was born at the Palace of Westminster on February 11, 1466. She was christened at Westminster Abbey; her godparents were Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford, Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, and Richard Neville 16th Earl of Warwick. When she was three years old in 1469, she was briefly betrothed to George Neville, the nephew of Richard Neville, but it did not go far since his uncle would die two years later. In 1475, Louis XI agreed to arrange a marriage between nine year old Elizabeth of York to his son, Charles, the Dauphin of France; in 1482, Louis decided not to go along with the promised wedding.

Elizabeth’s world drastically changed forever when her father, Edward IV, suddenly died on April 9, 1483. Her young brother Edward V was proclaimed king and her uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester was named Lord Protector. On April 29, as previously agreed, Richard and his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, met Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, at Northampton. The young king himself had been sent to Stony Stratford. Richard had Earl Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and his associate, Thomas Vaughan, arrested. They were taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were executed on June 25 on the charge of treason against the Lord Protector after appearing before a tribuna. Richard took the young king under his protection, escorted him to London, and placed him in the Tower for his protection. After hearing about what had happened, Elizabeth Woodville took her children, including Elizabeth of York, her other daughters, her youngest son Richard Duke of York, and fled to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth Woodville tried to keep her son Richard Duke of York away from Richard Duke of Gloucester, but she eventually did give up her son. We do not know how Elizabeth of York reacted to these events.

In early June of 1483, the marriage between Elizabeth’s parents, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, was declared invalid because it is said that Edward IV had entered into a pre-contract marriage with Lady Eleanor Butler before he married Elizabeth Woodville. This meant that any children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were considered illegitimate, including Edward V, Richard Duke of York and Elizabeth of York. Since the children of George Duke of Clarence were barred from succession because of their father’s treason and execution, the next in line to the throne was Richard Duke of Gloucester. Richard was crowned King Richard III on July 6, 1483 and Elizabeth’s brothers disappeared. Some say that they were murdered, others say they escaped, but at this point we do not know what happened to Edward V and Richard Duke of York.

Elizabeth’s mother Elizabeth Woodville was now known as Elizabeth Grey and she decided to side with the Duke of Buckingham and Margaret Beaufort to put Margaret’s son Henry Tudor on the throne. Henry Tudor was the closest male Lancastrian heir and in order to cement this new alliance, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret arranged that Henry would marry Elizabeth of York. Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard would fail and he would be killed on November 2, 1483. In December 1483, Henry Tudor made an oath in Rennes, France that he would marry Elizabeth of York when he became King of England. In January 1484, the act known as Titulus Regius was passed by Parliament, which confirmed under law that the marriage between Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was invalid.

On March 1, 1484, Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters left sanctuary after Richard III promised not to harm them and to arrange marriages for all of Elizabeth’s daughters. There were rumors that after Anne Neville in March 1485, Richard III’s wife, died that he was seeking to marry Elizabeth of York, but there is no evidence to support this claim. Soon after Anne Neville’s death, Richard III sent Elizabeth away from court to the castle of Sheriff Hutton and opened negotiations with King John II of Portugal to marry his sister, Joan, Princess of Portugal, and to have Elizabeth marry their cousin, the future King Manuel I of Portugal.

These marriage arrangements did not come to fruition. Elizabeth of York stayed at Sheriff Hutton during August 1485, when Henry Tudor invaded England and on August 22, 1485 when Richard III fell at the Battle of Bosworth Field and Henry Tudor became King. Henry did keep his promise and married Elizabeth of York on January 18, 1486. The couple’s first child, Arthur, was born on September 20, 1486.

During 1487, a young man named Lambert Simnel, claimed that he was the earl of Warwick, Elizabeth’s cousin, so Henry VII had the real earl of Warwick taken from the Tower and paraded through London. It was at the last battle of the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Stoke Field on June 16, 1487 that Lambert Simnel was defeated. Henry decided to let the boy live and gave him a job at the castle. Elizabeth was crowned on November 25, 1487 and she would have seven children total, four survived into adulthood; Arthur, Henry, Margaret and Mary. Although Elizabeth had a strong claim to the throne, she did not seek to become queen regnant.
In the early 1490s, another threat to the peace emerged with the contention that Elizabeth’s younger brother, Richard, Duke of York, was still alive. Her aunt, Margaret of York, Dowager Duchess of Burgundy and James IV of Scotland, were sponsoring a young man, later revealed to be a youth named Perkin Warbeck. Warbeck received wide-spread support from amongst Yorkists, who did not like Henry VII. Ultimately, however, Warbeck could not command enough support at home or abroad, to mount a successful challenge and in 1497, he was captured.

Warbeck’s wife Lady Catherine Gordon was made one of the ladies-in-waiting for Queen Elizabeth of York. In June 1498, Warbeck was forced to make two public appearances at Westminster and Cheapside, where he admitted that he was not Richard Duke of York and that Margaret of Burgundy was to blame for the entire scheme. Henry VII was kind to Warbeck at the beginning, allowing him to live at court, but Warbeck tried to escape and it landed him in the Tower of London, close to Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, son of the late George, Duke of Clarence. Warbeck and Warwick plotted to escape the Tower, but the plan was uncovered and both men were charged with treason. Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn on November 23, 1499. We don’t know if Elizabeth of York ever met Warbeck.

Elizabeth was a very pious woman and was very dedicated to her children’s wellbeing. Elizabeth was very involved in the marriage negotiations for her two eldest children, Arthur and Margaret, Arthur to Katherine of Aragon, daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, and Margaret to James IV of Scotland. Elizabeth helped convince Katherine’s parents that she would be well taken care of and with Margaret’s marriage, Elizabeth was concerned that she was getting married at such a young age.

In November 1501, Katherine of Aragon arrived in England and Elizabeth was part of the celebrations of the marriage. The following year, tragedy hit hard as Arthur died on April 2, 1502. This was a tragic loss for Henry and Elizabeth because this meant that there was only one heir to save the Tudor Dynasty, the young Henry Tudor. While Henry was grieving, it is said that Elizabeth comforted him and told her husband that they were still young enough to have more children. Later, Elizabeth would break down and it was Henry who consoled his wife. Elizabeth would have one more child, a girl named Katherine, on February 2, 1503, but the baby would not live long. Elizabeth of York would die on her 37th birthday, on February 11, 1503.

Book Review: “The Tudor Rose” by Margaret Campbell Barnes

6536233The beginning of the Tudor Dynasty was full of action and drama. Richard III and Henry Tudor met on the battlefield at Bosworth on August 22, 1485 to determine who would be the King of England. Richard III fell and Henry Tudor triumph, becoming Henry VII. However, there was another person whose fate was determined on that battlefield; Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. It was at this battle that Elizabeth knew that she would marry Henry Tudor and become queen of England. But what was it like for her to live through this time of change? From the death of her father to the case of her missing brothers. From to Richard III’s short reign to her relationship with her husband Henry VII and her children. How did she feel during the most difficult times in her life? Margaret Campbell Barnes explores this question in her novel, “The Tudor Rose”.

“The Tudor Rose” starts off in the middle of Elizabeth of York’s childhood when the French decided to back away from the marriage arrangement between her and the Dauphin. Elizabeth, clearly distress, goes to his loving father Edward IV for comfort. When Edward IV died, we see how Elizabeth and her family reacted. It is Barnes theory that the family was quite close, especially Elizabeth and her younger brother Richard. Elizabeth’s brother is made Edward V and both boys are placed in the Tower of London for their protection by their uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester. Barnes writes Richard as a villain, similar to the way Shakespeare described him, and it feels as though Elizabeth is disgusted by him. Its Elizabeth’s mother Elizabeth Woodville who decides to get back at Richard by arranging a marriage between Elizabeth and the son of Margaret Beaufort, the future Henry VII.

After Bosworth, Henry is made king and marries Elizabeth of York. Even though Elizabeth was from the York and Henry was a Lancastrian supporter, history books tell us that they loved each other. Barnes takes a different approach to their relationship. She writes Henry as a miserly king who never had real feelings towards Elizabeth. Elizabeth, according to Barnes, had more love towards her children than she did towards husband. It’s a darker look at Henry VII, but one that is not uncommon in literature.

A common theme during Henry VII’s reign was the constant threat of people who pretended to be Elizabeth of York’s brothers. Elizabeth is not known to have met with any of the pretenders, but in this book, Elizabeth met with both Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. The interactions are quite unique and makes the reader wonder if Warbeck especially could have been one of Elizabeth’s long lost brothers. Barnes explains the importance of these pretenders to both Henry and Elizabeth:

It was like a cloud above the Tudors’ lives. At first it had been just something which they joked about. But gradually, as the years went on and more and yet more people believed -or, for their own ends, pretended to believe- that a son of Edward’s still lived, it began to darken their world- and perhaps even to cloud their own certainty. Because it affected them both it brought Henry and Elizabeth closer together. But it affected them differently. To Henry, with his poor claim to the throne, the whole affair stood for affront and fear; whereas to Elizabeth- although it brought fear for her family- it never really ceased to hold a shining element of hope. A hope which she wore herself out trying to extinguish, knowing it for the crazy thing it was. (Barnes, 236).

I had read this book before I really started researching the Wars of the Roses and I really enjoyed the interactions between Elizabeth and her family. This was probably the first book that I read about Elizabeth of York that I really enjoyed and it was the book that got me interested in researching her life. Its been a few years since I have read this book and now that I have done a little research on Elizabeth of York’s life, I found myself questioning how certain characters were portrayed. If you want a book to help you get into the Wars of the Roses and the life of Elizabeth of York, I would recommend “The Tudor Rose” by Margaret Campbell Barnes. It gives a different perspective on the life of Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor queen.

Book Review: “Owen: Book One of the Tudor Trilogy” by Tony Riches

Medieval knightOwen Tudor, the second husband of Catherine of Valois and the father of Edmund and Jasper Tudor. His affair with Catherine changed English history forever, yet not much is known about his past before he met Catherine. Was he married before  he met Catherine and after she died? What must have been like for him as the Wars of the Roses began to take hold of England and everything he worked hard for began to fade away. The man who started as a Welsh servant turned step- father to King Henry VI and the grandfather of King Henry VII, the patriarch of the Tudor Dynasty, this is the protagonist in Tony Riches’ book, “Owen: Book One of the Tudor Trilogy”.

Tony Riches explains his fascination with Owen Tudor:

I was born near Pembroke Castle and recently visited the small room where the thirteen- year old Margaret Beaufort gave birth to Henry Tudor. I also stood on the pebble beach at Mill Bay near Milford Haven, imagining how Jasper Tudor would have felt as he approached with Henry and his mercenary army to ride to Bosworth- and  change history. These experiences made me wonder about Owen Tudor, the Welsh servant who began this fascinating dynasty. I felt a responsibility to research his story in as much detail as possible and try to sort out the myths from the facts. There are huge gaps in the historical records, which only historical fiction can help to fill. As well as there being no surviving record of Owen’s marriage, no  reliable image of him exists….I would like to remember Owen , not as a victim of the Wars of the Roses, but as an adventurer, a risk- taker, a man who lived his life to the full and made his mark on the world through his descendants. (Riches, 168).

Tony Riches starts his book with Owen’s entrance into Catherine of Valois’ household as the Keeper of her Wardrobe after the death of her first husband, Henry V. Owen tries to focus on his job, and not on Catherine, but he cannot help it. He loves Catherine and she loves him. They decide to marry in secret and they have 3 boys; Edmund, Jasper, and a third son who joined the church. The happiness that Catherine and Owen had living in the countryside would not last long. Catherine dies shortly after giving birth to a daughter and their secret relationship is revealed. Owen is thrown in jail while his sons Edmund and Jasper are raised to be the step-brothers of King Henry VI.

Eventually, Owen is released and is allowed to live a good life as a commander in France while his sons are given titles and land. Owen helps escort Margaret of Anjou to England to marry Henry VI and he helps walk his daughter in law Margaret Beaufort down the aisle. Unfortunately, the wheel of fortune is always turning and the happiness is soon replaced with tragedy yet again. Edmund Tudor dies shortly before the birth of his son Henry Tudor and the Wars of the Roses tears the country apart. Owen is killed before he could see his family triumph as the new dynasty in England.

This is the story of Owen Tudor. I found Tony Riches’ book “Owen” a thrilling read. I have always been fascinated by the life of Owen Tudor and his sons and Tony Riches was able to write a story that made me want to study more about Owen Tudor and his life. Riches was able to combine the historical facts that we know about Owen with fictitious elements, including two other women that Owen fell in love with and a friend named Nathaniel, into a cohesive and engaging book. I did not want to stop reading this book. This was my first time reading a book by Tony Riches and I loved it. His writing style is engaging and very easy to read. I look forward to reading more books by him in the future.  I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Owen Tudor and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty.