11 February 1466 and 1503 – Elizabeth of York’s birth and death
Posted By Claire on February 11, 2016
11 February is the date of both the birth and death of Elizabeth of York, consort of King Henry VII. Elizabeth was born on this day in 1466 and she died on this day in 1503.
Elizabeth was the eldest child of King Edward IV and his consort Elizabeth Woodville and was born on 11 February 1466 at Westminster Palace, London. She was baptised in St Stephen’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, with the Earl of Warwick standing as godfather and her grandmothers, the Duchesses of York and Bedford, standing as godmothers. She was named Elizabeth after her mother and was soon given her own household at Greenwich Palace under the care of Lady Margaret Berners.
You can also read an article on Elizabeth by Sarah Bryson – click here.
5 thoughts on “11 February 1466 and 1503 – Elizabeth of York’s birth and death”
A very Happy Birthday Claire. Hope you have a lovely day
Have a happy birthday, madam.
And thank you for your work – and patient answers!
Happy belated birthday Claire. All the best to you and good wishes for many, many more.
I’m reading Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir and it’s certainly a turbulent life this young woman had, she was the adored princess of two loving parents, then her life was turned upside down when her father died suddenly and she was forced into sanctuary along with her mother and siblings, she suffered the agonies of an uncertain future as she was declared a bastard and saw the events unfold that led to her brothers throne being usurped by her own uncle and the disappearance later of Edward and Richard Duke of York, she came through those dark days when she married Henry V11 and they had a close and loving relationship, she was the ideal queen, beautiful gracious and benign, ready to help those in need and of wise counsel, she supported her husband and became the mother to two princes, one the future Henry V111, the last Planteganet princess and the hope of England after the Battle of Bosworth.
Happy Birthday Elizabeth of York, Queen of England and Happy Birthday Claire, Queen of Anne Boleyn History…have a nice day.
Elizabeth had a very mixed life, some sadness and some happiness and moments of confusion. Her birth was as welcome as any other royal child, her parents doted on her, but she also spent time in and out of sanctuary. She was also for many years betrothed to the Dauphan of France. Her world was turned upside down in April 1483 when her self indulgent father died of years of too much food and drink and a chill gained from fishing on a cold Thames. Now April can be as wet and cold as any other month in England, but 1483 was even colder thanks to a Little Ice Age that lasted for about 300 years. It’s wet and cold today and my bones ache, so I know how Edward probably felt. It is also believed he had food poisoning but as the rest of the family fine, this can possibly be discounted.
Immediately plans were made to crown her brother, Edward, and immediately her mother’s family started to plot to seize power. Everything seemed in order at first, mourning for the late King, his burial and Richard led mourning in York, before setting out for London. The Prince was with his uncle, Anthony Woodville, his guardian and tutor were at Ludlow, the first Prince of Wales to establish his own household there. Ludlow of course was a family stronghold, being the property of Richard, Third Duke of York, Elizabeth and sibblings grandfather, in the name of his mother, Anne Mortimer. It was to here that news came that King Edward iv had died and news that the Prince was now Edward V. News also came from Richard, Lord Protector and High Constable of England that he was on his way south and Anthony arranged to meet him half way.
The events of April to July 1483 take some serious deconstruction but the main events stand out like sore thumbs. Back in London Elizabeth Woodville was consolidating her own role and prepared for an unauthorised and hasty coronation for 2nd May. She was also arranging her own rise and to appoint her own family as the new King’s advisers, without consulting the Lord Protector. News reached Richard that more than this was happening, Elizabeth was encouraging the lords and gentry and merchants in London to rise against Richard, who now feared for his own life. When he met with AW he knew he had to act and warnings from London, from Hastings, who didn’t like EW alerted Richard to the fact that the Woodville’s were plotting against him. He acted with speed and defence and AW was arrested on 30th April. The new King was met the next day with all reverence and homage, but he didn’t take the news of his uncle being arrested well or others being arrested when they appeared to resist Richard and his party. The young King was very outspoken, but Richard reassured him and took legal protection of his charge.
It is not clear at what time on the morning of May 1st that news of her brother had been arrested, but she gathered up the girls, the youngest aged two and fled into Westminster Sanctuary or rather the Bishops palace. She also gathered up her younger son, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. With EW went the royal treasury and Bishop Rotherham gave her illegally the Great Privy Seal. This was early in the morning and some historians believe that she had planned her escape as she was aware that she had acted against her own husband’s commands and the accepted order of things in England. EW overstepped her authority and prepared her escape. She wasn’t forced into Sanctuary, but felt she had no choice, given the news about her brothers arrest, although I am suspicious as the time is a problem. EW had to be planning her move before she heard about her brother, there was not enough time otherwise.
When Richard arrived a few days later with the young King he entered the capital formerly and Edward was given all honours and welcome. Richard was confirmed as Lord Protector by the Council and it was decided by the council that Edward should be housed in the main royal residence at the time, the luxurious royal apartments at the Tower of London. Richard also offered EW a peaceful way to come out of Santuary to attend to her duties as Dowager Queen, but she refused. Things then got out of hand. A delegation was sent to ask for the young Prince Richard to join his brother, but this was refused. Richard was nine, almost ten, too old to be under his mother’s control. He should now be raised by men, not a load of clucking women in hiding; that was the idea at this time, plus he should now be with his brother as his heir. Richard needed to take control at all costs and he suspected that his own life was under threat.
It was with this in mind that a second attempt to extract the boy from sanctuary was made, this time with 2000 troops to ensure there was no tricks or trouble. It was also to make the decision a no brainer. It has been debated whether Buckingham would have used the men to break sanctuary or if Richard was just strong arming. Richard it has been argued would never have done so, but there is a question mark over this as Richard is already acting contrary to normal patterns. He has to protect the heir and act in the best interests of the realm and that meant taking ruthless action, if need be. His powers as High Constable of England allowed him to do this. EW gave Richard up and he was taken to reside with his brother.
What happened next is controversial, but necessary. Richard found himself under threat and received evidence that the Woodville clan plotted against him, or so the Council were informed. Susan Higginbotham believes that there is no evidence that any conspiracy existed between the Woodvilles and Lord William Hastings, who was accused of treason by Richard on 13th June before part of the Council in the Tower. However, evidence of some kind was presented Buckingham that Hastings had changed sides, in defence of his friends children, the young King and his brother. The Woodville clan had the majority of power, with every noble family being married into theirs, they were accused of hording arms, although they claimed these were for national defence, of plotting to oust the Lord Protector and even kill him. Hastings was directly charged with treason and summarily executed. It is believed that Richard was taking a pre emptive strike and that he had information that Hastings was going to stand against him if he moved for the throne, but there is little evidence that he was plotting to take the crown. Hastings may have been biding his time, Richard given information lost to history, we don’t know all of the details, its something of a mystery. Annette Carson and Peter Hancock have looked at this from opposite points of view, well worth reading.
On 24th June everything changed with the revelation to the public by Dr Shae that the marriage between EW and Edward iv was not valid and the children, including Elizabeth were not legitimate. Richard and the Council had received evidence and eye witness testimony that Edward had previously married and contracted with Eleanor Talbot, by Bishop Shillington, who carried out the ceremony. This was never broken and Richard was given information that he believed in good faith. It was examined and now he had only one choice..to reveal the truth…which he now did. If the children were illegitimate, Richard was the next heir and he was invited to accept the crown by the three estates by legitimate processes.
Elizabeth was still in sanctuary and would eventually hear rumours about her brothers, but there is no evidence that she mourned them as she didn’t know what happened to them. The Princes were moved to more suitable quarters in the Garden Tower, but still provided with protection, medical doctors, allowed to play and practice archery and reports confirm them as visible in August 1483. Richard was crowned in July 1483, but contrary to rumours and Tudor myths, the sources confirm he was popular and didn’t lose the support of the people. Where he did lose support was from rival nobles such as Buckingham whose rebellion he easily crushed in October that year.
Elizabeth was now a pawn in the political plotting of her mother, with Margaret Beaufort and EW agreeing that she would marry Henry Tudor, in exile trying to raise support for a new expedition to invade England and take the crown. Henry created a myth that he was the senior heir to the House of Lancaster and that his marriage would unite the two houses, Elizabeth being the heiress to York. Henry agreed to marry her and took an oath at Christmas to do so. However, some months later EW and her daughters came out of sanctuary, Richard provided for them and agreed to find them husbands. Elizabeth and Cecily came to court at Christmas 1484, when Elizabeth caused a stir and rumours that she fancied Richard and he intended to marry her. His wife Anne Neville was ill for several weeks, dying in March 1485 and as Richard needed a new heir, his son having died aged 10, Crowland made unsubstantiated claims that Anne had been poisoned. Richard denied any intention to marry Elizabeth publicity and arranged a marriage for her. We now have evidence from Portugal that Richard proposed a joint marriage for himself to Joanna of Portugal and for Elizabeth to the future Manuel I. The negotiations took five months but Joanna accepted, had a vision of Richard being killed and said she would marry him if he was still alive. Elizabeth also agreed and pressed Norfolk to ensure Richard took this option as he also had an offer of the 14 years old daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. Henry Tudor panicked, looking for an alternative as his own claim was nothing without Elizabeth. The marriage plans were only halted as Richard was killed at Bosworth.
Elizabeth by now must have been really uncomfortable and uncertain of her future, but Henry kept his promise. He appears to have found Elizabeth beautiful and proud, regal and charming. She had been raised as a King’s daughter, she was aware of her duty, she was happy enough to accept Henry. They also appear to have gotten on well and it has been speculated that they grew into a love match. While there is little evidence that Elizabeth had any political role, her pregnancy with Arthur was used to emphasise a link to the ancient Kingdom of Albion. There was a delay in their marriage, but not because Henry had any reservations, but because he had to wait on three things. Henry had to reverse the Titular Regis and declare her legitimate, he had to get a dispensation and he had to have his own coronation to prove he had his own independent claim to the throne. Henry put off Elizabeth’s own coronation and this has led to assumptions that he did not trust her. However, it is more likely that her pregnancy and the rebellion of the Dublin King, Lambert Simnel and Battle of East Stoke held things up. Once he gained an heir and complete victory Henry had his Queen crowned in a magnificent ceremony worthy of her status.
Elizabeth of York was a popular and loyal Queen. She went on to give Henry several children, four of which lived to be 15 or more, three full adults. All three survivors became a ruler. Henry, Duke of York, who was very close to his mother, became our own beloved Henry Viii. His sister Margaret became Queen and Regent of Scotland and Mary was Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk. Another son and daughter died aged three and Elizabeth put her own life on the line in 1502, after Prince Arthur died, agreeing to give Henry a replacement son. Her baby was called Katherine and she was born in early 1503. Elizabeth died soon after the birth on 11th February 1503, on her 37th birthday. Although Henry Tudor is said to have had one illegitimate son in his youth while in France, there is no evidence that he was ever unfaithful to Elizabeth. Henry never remarried, although he did make enquires. It was during his years with Elizabeth that Henry faced pretenders. Perkin Warbeck turned up from 1493 to 1499, claiming to be the Duke of York. Elizabeth stood by Henry, but in fact we have no idea how she felt. She did have three sons to consider. I don’t believe Warbeck was who he claimed to be and am confident Elizabeth saw him as an imposter. Elizabeth also saw the arrangements of her daughters marriages and was closely involved in her children ‘s education. She was strong and intelligent, but a helpmate, not a crusader or political active person, a charitable patron and she was revered by all. Elizabeth may have been the investment of Yorkist support for Henry, he was more withdrawn after her death. In fact it was after her death that Henry became more suspicious and tried to control his nobles through extortion and fines. She now lays at his side in the chapel he built and their wonderful shrine in the new Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Henry billed the marriage as the union of the two roses, white and red, Lancaster and York, with the iconic Tudor rose dripping from everywhere. Myth this may be, but it is a story that helped forge a national identity.