18 January 1486 – The wedding of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York

On this day in history, twenty-nine-year-old King Henry VII, who’d been king since his victory at the Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August 1485, married twenty-year-old Elizabeth of York, daughter and eldest child of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. The service was conducted by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, at Westminster Abbey.

Over two years earlier, on Christmas Day 1483 at Rennes Cathedral, Henry VII, when he was just Henry Tudor and in exile in Brittany, had made a pledge to marry Elizabeth to unite the Houses of Lancaster and York. But why had he not married her as soon as he had become king?

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25 thoughts on “18 January 1486 – The wedding of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York”
  1. I believe as Amy Licence does that Henry had far too many other pressing things to think about that were more important than wedding bells, he had vowed to marry Elizabeth and he would, having her as consort was like owning an ace in a pack of cards, she was the nearest thing to having the Plantaganets on the throne again which made her beloved of the people, she kept his position secure, although Henry would have Parliament pass a bill that made him sovereign in his own right he knew that the throne was quite shaky in these early days, the wedding is something we can sadly only imagine but I bet Elizabeth looked beautiful and together with her husband, they must have made a handsome pair, it was a time for national rejoicing and Elizabeths mother, the enigmatic Elizabeth Woodville had her wish of seeing her daughter in what she believed was her rightful place.

  2. Who could have foreseen that this union would result in a dynasty though only 118 years long would have such an impact on English and world history.

  3. It dawned on me while watching Say Yes to the Dress (my only vice) that this ceremony was a rare public one in the next 150 years. It was the last King and Queen grand public wedding before Mary I and Philip ii as Henry had six moderate ceremonies in private. Even his wedding to Anne of Cleves, witnessed by a number of people, took place in the Queens Closet, as did his marriage to Katherine Parr, which had twelve guests. The only other public wedding in England was Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon. Other than Mary Tudor, the next Monarch to publicly get married was Charles I. Of course there are others at court or in other countries, like Margaret being married in Scotland and Princess Mary Rose in France, but our Kings went strangely private in their nuptials.

    This was also the most important wedding of the time because it was meant to end the constant quarrels and wars between the various factions of the Houses of York and Lancaster, from which the Tudors came, via the wrong side of the blanket House of Beaufort. However, it was more important because Henry needed Elizabeth to gain the support of the old Plantagenet families. His promise to marry her two years earlier on Christmas Day was to gain support from Yorkists and as a result of negotiations between his mother, Margaret Beaufort, from whom his own tender claim came, and the ambitious Elizabeth Woodville, wanting to raise her to the crown, probably because she now thought her sons were dead, although this is disputed. Henry, having now won the crown based on his lucky victory at Bosworth on 22nd August 1485 now kept his promise and married Elizabeth, partly because he needed her royal claim and partly because he actually wanted to.

    Elizabeth was charming, beautiful, intelligent and she and Henry appear to have found common ground and wanted to marry. No doubt this union was needed for peace and sanity but that the future bride and groom got on alright was an additional bonus.

    As with other articles there were good reasons which I agree with to explain a wedding some five months after Bosworth rather than at the time.

    The first is the obvious personal status of Elizabeth legally. She, as with her entire family were illegitimate by means of the legislation which declared her brothers the same, barring them from the throne. Henry had his first Parliament reverse this, but only the first 14 lines read out, which has always been suspect by historians as a Bill is normally read in full when it is repealed. The rest explained why the boys and thus Elizabeth and her sisters were declared illegitimate and how their parents were not married due to a former contract between Edward iv and Lady Eleanor Butler, while the first part refers to the marriage being made through witchcraft. It was this part alone that was read out. There was then a new Act to make Elizabeth legitimate once more so as her claim stood and Henry could marry her.

    The next reason was to establish his own claim and authority as a lawfully accepted King in his own right, through conquest and legal establishment. Henry believed he was directly descended from ancient King’s and was a true Lancastrian heir and he was blessed by prophecy and God, something his mother had taught him. This he did by his own coronation in October that year. Now he really was King.

    Henry and Elizabeth were related and everyone related needed the leave of the Church through a special document called a Papal Dispensation which was permission to get married before they could proceed with the ceremony. This arrived in January 1486.

    If you ever watch or read Philippa Gregory you will be told that Henry put of marriage to Elizabeth of York because she was damaged goods, being the lover of Richard iii. There is no reasonable evidence for this and although there were rumours which Henry had believed while in Brittany that Richard may want to marry Elizabeth, these also are rumours only. Yes, there is speculation that Elizabeth found Richard handsome and was flattered by his attention, showed evidence of affection, but she had been couped up for eighteen months in Sanctuary with her mother and sisters and at home for a few months. Back at the Court she had grown up in, it was only natural that she should let her hair down and enjoy herself. Welcomed by Anne Neville to whom she became close she also found Richard kind and respectful. She may have had a crush on him and rumours started with the gossiping monks at Crowland Abbey who made much of this time at court.

    Anne was also unwell and when her health deteriorated during early 1485 these same chronicles said Richard intended to marry Elizabeth, which he publicly denied. In fact Richard had no intention of marriage to Elizabeth, even though in March Anne died and he needed a new wife. For one thing she was his niece and he would never have been given permission to marry her, but his other objection was that now she was illegitimate. Richard needed a new wife, a Dynastic marriage, but he also needed to prevent a marriage between Elizabeth and Henry. For this reason he sent envoys to Portugal and negotiated a marriage between himself and Joanne of Portugal and Elizabeth and the future Manuel I of Portugal. For more information, Annette Carson has discussed this from the sources in Richard iii, the Maligned King and on her website, plus Alison Weir has extensive, if somewhat speculative discussions on Elizabeth and Richard in her biography. Most modern historians of note accept that Richard was her lover or wanted her as a bride as nonsense, and it is evident that Henry accepted these things as only rumours as he had no hesitation about making Elizabeth his wife.

    The ceremony is described as being lavish and it is clear that it was meant to be, in order to show everyone that this marriage was important and the will of both parties. It would send a message of unity and power and win favour in the North, the power base of his wife’s family. It was the stuff of propaganda, with a new heraldic symbol made to bring that unity into focus. The White Rose of York and the invented Red Rose of Lancaster (Beaufort) were merged to form the famous iconic Tudor Rose which is now everywhere. Henry used this to publish his own version of history and legend and create the myth of romance and the peace he had brought the Kingdom, a peace that was fragile at best. Elizabeth was not crowned for at least another year due to political upheaval as men who he hoped would support him backed John de la Pole and a young boy claiming to be either Edward V or Edward, Earl of Warwick, the Dublin King, depending on which sources you read. The Battle of Stoke in 1487 ended this challenge, after which Elizabeth was finally crowned. Her crowning was also delayed by her pregnancy, during 1486, which ended with the birth of Prince Arthur in September.

    Elizabeth and Henry would go on to have a successful marriage, producing seven children, three of them sons. Edmund only lived a few years, but Arthur and Henry thrived. Margaret and Mary lived to become Queens of Scotland and France and Arthur was the key to a grand union with Spain. Despite a long and difficult political and military challenge from another young man who claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger son of Edward iv and Elizabeth’s lost brother, between 1493 and 1499, known to history as Perkin Warbeck, Elizabeth was known for her loyalty and support and Henry managed to establish his Dynasty through her. I don’t believe she was a mere passive observer, but Henry would restrict her political role. He also had to restrict her wardrobe because the Queen was fond of shopping, gambling and lending money, which wasn’t paid back. There was affection between them and after she died, soon after her last child, Princess Katherine, who sadly died a week later, Henry never remarried. Neither is there any evidence of infidelity, unusual for a man of this time.

  4. Philippa Gregory really irks me with her interpretions of the past, I cannot understand why there are movies and television series based on her books, as they really are so far from the truth, yes Henry V11 was not a philanderer it seems unlike his son and many of the kings who ruled before and after, there was a rumour that he was quite attracted to the wife of was it Sir James Tyrell I’m unsure? This lady who was a Scottish gentlewoman was said to be very attractive, but he had a trophy wife anyway, he had spent most of his life in exile and possibly had not had time to have many love affairs, his victory at Bosworth was down to the Stanley’s switching sides and the battle could easily have gone the other way, as Royal marriages go there was indeed affection between them which possibly did grow into love, they respected each other and I think on Elizabeths part this was mainly due to him rescuing her from a somewhat uncertain future, Henry V11 had commissioned a beautiful tomb for them both and their golden effigies lie together hands raised in prayer in the chapel of his name, looking at the portrait of the young Henry I can see both his sons in him, yet Henry V111 resembled his Plantaganet grandfather more in looks and character, as Edward 1V aged he too like his grandson grew very fat, Elizabeth also in a later portrait of her shows a jowly face, hardly surprising as women do spread out a little, especially after numerous pregnancies, theirs was a happy marriage and it is said she left a lasting impression on her son Henry V111 of what a perfect queen should be like, gracious regal and dignified, and fertile to, her face is said to be the one that stares out at us on the deck of cards, January is a dismal month, it can be the coldest of the year with snow ice and gales, no doubt the wedding of their much loved golden princess gave the crowds something to smile about in the year 1486.

  5. There was one child that Henry is believed to have had while in exile and none known otherwise. Well they all had feckless youths. Even Richard iii had two illegitimate children from when he was about eighteen or nineteen and then settled down. He then disapproved of his brother.

    I completely agree with you, Philippa Gregory can be entertaining, but some of her ideas of history go well too far and she claims them as the truth. The White Queen had plenty of odd stuff with all of the witchcraft, but the White Princess was more fantasy than anything else with Elizabeth being road tested by Henry and a poor reputation. Margaret Beaufort was some sort of serial killer in it. I spent weeks in shock. It was really poor. I thought the Other Boleyn Girl took the biscuit on bad history, but this is far worse.

    Elizabeth was indeed a good mother and she was fairly strong when it came to being a real partner to Henry, especially when the young man claiming to be her brother possibly could be, but Henry made sure Elizabeth never saw him. She must have been torn in two during those years. She had to run with her children into the Tower in 1496 as the Cornnishmen were attacking London. Henry of course was off with the army. Imagine gathering them up in the middle of the night and running for your life. Elizabeth was very involved in her children’s education, especially we know something about her teaching young Prince Henry to write. He expressed he was upset when his mother died. She was only 37.

    A public royal wedding is always a great sight and I would imagine it was very delightful, even in the very cold weather, colder than today as this was during the Little Ice Age, but I am sure there would be fires and hot drinks to help as well as free hot wine and plenty of food on sale. It must have been a grand sight and there is a very colourful picture in the book by Alison Weir which is Victorian, but gives an idea of the rich clothes and colour and banners and tapestries. We also know what their bed looked like because we have the Paradise bed which belonged to them, richly carved with mythical people from the old testament and the classical tales. I would have loved to have seen what hangings it had. In Hampton Court there is a beautiful collection of later beds with magnificent hangings, silk with every flowers possible and many designs. A bed was very personal, but a widow didn’t normally keep it. It was so expensive that it was an heirloom and passed to her son. I bet the entire route was hung with rich tapestries and banners. The day would really cheer up a cold dark winter.

  6. The Lady you may be thinking of, Christine, is Lady Katherine Gordon, the first cousin to the King of Scots who married Richard of England, better known as Perkin Warbeck, who was very lovely and was a companion for his wife after the capture of Warbeck. She was also a friend to King Henry and became his companion after Elizabeth died, but no more than that. She went on to marry three more times. It was an odd relationship, but she was a good listener, I guess and Henry found her very trustworthy and charming.

    1. I must admit I did like The White Queen, it was as near to the truth as could be but, The White Princess was as you say, pure fantasy I watched about half hour then turned it of, what a load of tripe, as I said, I just don’t know why they air her rubbish on the tv, Lady Katherine Gordon was the lady that’s right, she was beautiful and intelligent and I recall now Henry V11 did have some children but after he became King and married Elizabeth they seemed to fade into history, wonder what became of them? On the wedding day they may have had mulled wine given to the crowds and I bet the pie sellers did well, on the evening before Diana and Charles married we went to Hyde park but it was murder, so many people there you could not move, and we were shunted about like cattle, but it was nice to play a part in what is now an historical event, sadly we know how the marriage ended but it was nice to be in London in the hub of it on that day, i wonder if there was the usual discussion on the lips of the people in those days also, ‘has the bride to be lost weight and what sort of dress will she wear’,

  7. The article on Lissa Bryan’s novel about Jane Boleyn has led me to thinking how important it is not to malign historical personalities – it sounds common sense, but so many historical characters have suffered at the hands of novelists, including Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Edward II, Piers Gaveston, Jane Boleyn etc. So I must take issue with Philippa Gregory’s suggestion that Henry VII raped Elizabeth of York prior to their wedding, to make sure that she was fertile. There is no evidence for this and you could say it is a very offensive and shocking interpretation of what was, by all accounts, a successful and loving marriage. Most historians do not believe that Elizabeth loathed her husband’s family or that she was Margaret Beaufort’s rival. I believe it is fine to be a Ricardian, but surely that does not entitle you to demonise Henry Tudor by portraying him as a rapist, for which there is no evidence?

    1. That’s really a dreadful slur on any man, he was the product of an unwanted pregnancy himself, forced on a young girl of barely thirteen, his own mother an utterly selfish and unforgivable act by a much older man who was just thinking about getting his own heir, that was rape in my book, his child bride was frightened beyond belief, she must have been and went through a most dreadful labour, the result of which she was never able to bear another living child, Henry must have heard of how his mother suffered and I believe his feelings later towards women in general were one of utmost respect for their frail state, (not that I’m trying to understand his phycology), and I can hear many feminists shouting about this, but women are the weaker sex although we are just as intelligent but I just think it’s shocking the way Gregory portrayed King Henry as being savage enough to force his bride to be, it’s all about drama as I said before, she’s best at writing 18thc bodice rippers really, she should leave Tudor history to the experts and those who write it as it is, Henrys son of the same name never forced a woman either, he lusted after Anne Boleyn for years but never resorted to rape, and here’s something telling about his character, he could have and got away with it since in those days Kings were above the law, in a sense they still are today, but Henry had a fair sense of chivalry, he was a poet and liked to portray himself as the ardent gallant lover, he may have murdured his two queens yet he never resorted to rape, it seems odd but whearas he had no qualms in shedding their blood, he would have considered sexual violence abhorrent to women, his father Henry V11 was said to be rather cold and a distant father towards him, it was said he actually disliked his youngest son, maybe he could recognise the same traits in him from his legendary Plantaganet grandfather Edward 1V, who delighted in seducing women, and who grew fat and lazy in later years, he wasn’t supposed to be his heir, his heir had sadly died and left his rather boisterous vain younger brother in his place, maybe Henry V11 trembled for him for he must have wondered what sort of King he would make, all through his reign he had to look over his shoulder at pretenders lurking in the shadows all ready to depose him, he lived an uneasy existence, he was not a colourful King, he was not a show of like Henry V11, he was wise and had money acumen, he built up a huge fortune and left great wealth to his heir, in later years England did enjoy some peace and he did forge a great dynasty, as a King he did not do too bad though he never had it easy.

    2. Here, here. The book went back the moment I read that. I could overlook the theme of witchcraft as playing fast and loose but to accuse Henry or anyone of rape is shocking. The theme is played down on screen, with it being more Henry insisting he see if she is fertile and Elizabeth complying, the whole thing being Margaret B idea. It was as close to rape as they could get away with, but the book is specific. It was totally bad and shocking. There is no evidence and it is totally ridiculous. Why would a King want to try out his bride? Utter nonsense. I am a Ricardian and I would disown Philippa Gregory. Her views are her own and where she gets them from is anyone ‘s guess. Considering she claims to do extensive research, she seems to be very particular about what she uses and the rest is her own ideas. The White Queen was not too bad but the White Princess bore little resemblance to anything factual. And when did Margaret Beaufort become an obsessive serial killer? Apart from the fact that Jasper Tudor died four years prior to the execution of Richard of England/Perkin Warbeck, he died of natural causes and therefore could not have been murdered by Margaret because he found out she had killed the Princes in the Tower, for which there is nothing to show that either. I think the bodies were piling up by the end.

      I completely agree Conor, there are too many people maligned in history and even when the truth is shown to be quite the opposite. Henry is shown as some penny pinching miser and dark bland weak character who executed the entire survivors of the House of York, their cousins and heirs. Well as far as I know he executed one, the poor young man called Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, the surviving son of George Duke of Clarence, the brother of Edward iv and Richard iii who had been executed in private in 1478. He married the first heir and provided for the rest through marriage or other means. Another heir, John de la Pole led an army against him and was killed at East Stoke 1487, but his brothers were not. Edmund lived to run off abroad, as did Richard, although Edmund was sweet talked back and imprisoned. Henry vii didn’t execute him, his son did in 1513 and their brother was killed at Pavia in 1525. It was Henry Viii, not his father who rid himself at the end of his life of Yorkist heirs. He killed the old and innocent Margaret Pole, Clarence’s daughter, her son and probably her grandson who vanished. He also killed two other members of the family who were also connected by marriage, also Edward Neville and one or two more. Apart from Warwick, who was an inconvenience, nobody else was touched by Henry Vii. Yet the myth persists that he systematically killed off every York heir. Well if he had have done, his family would have been very small as his wife and her sisters were all York heirs and his kids were half York heirs. You don’t kill of a House that you marry into in order to make peace and bring some stability to a fragile country. You may have to appease some people, but it’s worth it in order to keep what must have been a very tenuous grip on power at first. The last thing Henry would have done was rape the one woman he needed on his side to ensure he kept hold of that power.

      I am not saying Elizabeth and Henry fell instantly in love, I doubt it, but they certainly found common ground very quickly, found affection and grew into a successful and well formed union. They appear to have been devoted and they appear to have gotten on well and had a close bond. Anything to the contrary is shocking and nonsense and it is a great insult to the memory of both Henry and Elizabeth.

  8. We had this discussion a while back. My problem with Philippa Gregory isn’t so much with WHAT she writes as is the fact that people consider her an historian and she doesn’t do anything to mitigate that thought in people’s minds. If she and other people in her genre would just admit that they’re playing with history it would make it a whole lot easier to get the truth out there and get people to look in the right direction and do their own research.

  9. Whilst I don’t give any credence to the rape theory I can understand it’s origin. Arthur was born 8 months after the wedding of his parents, and although they weren’t too hot on obstetrics and so wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows there’s no record of him being a small child and he wasn’t baptised straight away and therefore there mustn’t have been any concerns about his health . Do you we assume he was a robust honeymoon baby who came early. Any thoughts on this? .

    1. I cannot understand it’s origin, it’s merely something that Miss.Gregory thought up and jotted down just for added spice, Elizabeth supported her husband throughout their marriage which was largely successful, had any husband shown violence to his wife there would have been real animosity between them, which would have been noted, the Duke of Norfolk and his wife were clearly unhappy and Anne Boleyns old love, the Earl of Northumberland was not enjoying wedded bliss with his wife, they continually argued and at one point she left him, although a wife was the property of her husband in the medieval/ Tudor period there were a few instances where most of the women would not endure abuse from their husbands, Elizabeth and Henry were both young and attractive, there was obviously an attraction there, they could well have slept together before their wedding or Arthur coukd have been a month premature, but that doesn’t mean he was the result of rape, I believe had he been Elizabeth would not have wanted to have had anything to do with him, at it was she loved all her children dearly, on his death she collapsed with grief and torment, Miss Gregory’s books whilst entertaining are really only for those who are not too bothered if what they are reading is fact or fiction.

    2. Why couldn’t he be conceived on the wedding night? He was a little over 8 months and anything over that can be considered full term. He could also have been conceived before because Henry and Elizabeth chose to sleep together as they were betrothed, thus consenting to consummate a union which was happening in a couple of weeks anyway. Betrothed couples did from time to time sleep together and if a child resulted all the better. All you needed was to consent to live together as husband and wife and then have sexual relations, before or afterwards. Maybe Henry and Elizabeth were enamoured and could wait no longer. Or the baby was just a little early and fine. There is no evidence for the rape theory, nobody made any comment at the time and the only origins are in the head of Philippa Gregory. There are numerous reasons for an early child and no child would be baptised at once unless in danger, as it was required to take all children to the public parish or chapel for baptism, which marked the entrance of the child into the Christian familiy, so you are correct there. Why does it have to be a rape or assumed to be rape, why can’t it be something they both wanted? They were about to marry, so why not commit in a special way? Philippa Gregory makes stuff up all the time and yet she puts herself across as a historian of note and presents her ideas as if they are well researched facts. That is the danger, because she also enjoys and international reputation and people believe what she says is how it must be. I can’t understand the origins of the rape idea being a possible child conceived just outside of marriage. If that was so then we could assume that Elizabeth was conceived under the same circumstances, rather than as a result of Anne and him consenting to finally consummate their relationship in France, which of course is not true. Elizabeth was born somewhat early if she was conceived after the marriage of Anne and Henry in January 1533, but it is more likely that Anne was already pregnant. By the same reasonable deduction, Arthur was either conceived on the wedding night or was an early baby, but not so early as to make a difference. However, it is just as reasonable to say Elizabeth was pregnant at the time of her marriage because the couple decided not to wait as soon as they approached the ceremony. It is not reasonable to claim it was rape or could only be rape and it is a terrible charge to make against anyone, let alone a King. In the series version of the White Princess, Elizabeth is also persuaded to get rid of the child but changed her mind. There was never any suggestions of this and it was totally invented. It is clear that Philippa Gregory is determined to push this agenda with little regard for the truth. It is her idea, not one that has any origins in the sixteenth century.

  10. The origin of the rape accusation must surely come from the fact that Arthur was born 8 months after his parents wedding, There is no record of him being born prematurely so therefore must have been conceived before the nuptials. My own theory is that Elisabeth instigated that-perhaps at the suggestion of her mother. Henry had dillydallied so much over the wedding perhaps it was to ensure he didn’t renege on the deal which had been made between their two mothers.

    1. Henry didn’t dillydally over the wedding, he made the earliest date for this very grand marriage that was possible. He had to get a dispensation from the Pope which took five months to arrive and he had to reverse her illegitimate status in Parliament. He also had to have his coronation in his own right in order to show he didn’t just get his claim from his promised wife as the eldest York Princess. He was claiming that his own claim was good enough and was blessed by God and his authority was based in his own person. All of this took time and it allowed Elizabeth and Henry to get to know each other. Yes, the agreement had been formed between the two mothers but Henry had made a separate vow in Rennes Cathedral to marry Elizabeth. Elizabeth may have had some apprehension over her future, a man she had never met, who may not win at Bosworth, but she was raised to do her duty as every Royal child was and accepted her mother’s wish. However, that does not mean that once she met Henry she didn’t get to know him and find this marriage desirable. The couple found common ground and their is evidence of genuine affection between them. There is no evidence that Elizabeth Woodville made any suggestions to her daughter to use a pregnancy or rape claim in order to expedite the marriage with Henry. Henry Tudor needed Elizabeth, his keeping power at this early part of his reign depended on her and the support she attracted.

  11. I doubt if he would have gone back on his promise to marry Elizabeth, he could claim descent on his mothers side back to Edward 111 via John of Gaunt, but only a illegitimate line, he knew there were grumblings at court and both Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville wanted the union badly, Elizabeth especially as it ensured the crown having been lost to her sons, at least her daughter would now own it, Henry himself knew that having Elizabeth of York as queen consort strengthened his own flimsy hold on it, it made him more popular having Edward 1V’s daughter as a bride, maybe Elizabeth did instigate it, her mother was capable of suggesting such a thing to her daughter if she had any qualms about Henry marrying Elizabeth, but really I think he had every intention of marrying her, for one thing having met her, he possibly fell for her quite heavily, she was very beautiful a natural blonde and a princess, had she been an old hag history might have been very different, after all, Henry V111 had such a dislike for Anne of Cleves and soon got shot of her, I should imagine both Henry and Elizabeth thought they were extremely lucky to have each other.

  12. Why would Henry Tudor want to rape or humiliate a woman he had gone to the trouble of having her declared legitimate again in Parliament?

    This for me shows that he was committed to the marriage from the start, honoured the vow he had made in Rennes two years earlier, a vow which would make him look dishonest if he broke it, as it was made voluntarily before the Lord, in the prescence of clergy and many people and on holy ground. Such an oath could only be broken by him being released and in such a religious age it would put his soul in jeapardy. Henry is not normally remembered for his piety but he was religious and devout and he did hold his oath as sacred. It would also have dishonoured Elizabeth and insulted her and he needed her supporters so he would lose that as well.

    If Henry was going to merely ‘try out’ Elizabeth to see if she was fertile or he believed the lies and rumours about her being the lover of Richard iii, then why go to all of the bother and expense of having Parliament restore her legal status as a royal Princess? The Titular Regis passed by Richard Iii one Parliament set out his own claim to the crown, set aside the Kingship of his nephew Edward V and his brother, Richard, Duke of York and the inheritance of them and all of their sisters, including Elizabeth. It also declared that the marriage of Elizabeth and their parents was not valid as Edward iv had previously married Eleanor Butler, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. The Act confirmed the earlier declaration that the children were all illegitimate and that stain of illegitimacy hung over Elizabeth. Henry removed that stain and dishonour when he had the Act repealed and a new Act to restore her inheritance.

    Yes, Henry had self interest at heart here because by restoring Elizabeth as the York heiress he had promised to marry so publicly he restored his own claim which was strengthened by her own. Much of his support from York nobles depended on this marriage and the keeping of his word. An illegitimate daughter of a King could not inherit or bring him the inheritance by marriage. However, this was still something Henry chose to do, something he wanted to put right, even for selfish reasons. He also had the copies destroyed as there was more to the Regis, reading only the first fourteen lines dealing soley with Elizabeth and her siblings. The part about her father being beguiled by witchcraft was missed out. Elizabeth was thus restored to her regal status and all taint of illegitimacy lifted as part of the advance preparation to unite with Henry in marriage. It was a lot of time and expense for a woman he would have had any doubts about, which for me confirms that Henry both needed and desired to marry Elizabeth and would do nothing to dishonour her or to injure her reputation. It is the fulfilment of a sacred vow, the end product of two years of dangerous negotiating, the most sensible thing to do for peace and unity and something Henry agreed to do from the outset. Had Henry raped Elizabeth this would have been an insult and not very honourable, going against everything he had vowed and hardly the actions to gain him the support of a woman he needed to secure his new Kingdom or to win over her followers. Why would he go to all this trouble to maintain and uphold and restore her name and title, only to assault and insult her in the most vile and violent way possible?

    No, this makes no sense, never happened, there was no evidence for it back then or talk about it, and it resides only in the imagination of Philippa Gregory, an author who is notorious for writing shocking theories, usually with a sexual theme and presenting them as true. Elizabeth of York was charming and beautiful, a young woman who loved fun, sure, loved to dance and dress well, yes, of course, she was the eldest daughter of Edward iv and raised in luxury. She became a devoted wife and mother, was popular and stood by the King, her husband through one crisis after another. Although not a political Queen, Elizabeth was still a symbol of power and dynastic hopes and the future. It is very clear that the couple soon found common ground and their marriage was affectionate and successful.

    1. That’s true, a very good point Bq why would he want to humiliate his bride to be when he had parliament reverse the titular Regis and made those sacred vows in Rennes, it was a religious as well as a superstitious age, he could have had divine wrath pour down on him had he not carried out his commitment to marry her, and he and all his supporters believed God was on their side when he triumphed at Bosworth, he wasn’t going to be dishonourable and go back on his promise to wed her and physically assault her just to ‘try her out’, his own mother was a remarkable woman, our parents leave lasting impressions on how we judge people in years to come, my own belief is being the son of a strong woman he had every respect for women and their very status in that harsh age, his own father he never knew, he had won the crown and he dedicated the rest of his life to being a good sensible ruler, he had a beautiful and popular queen and she gave him a son – Arthur named after Britains legendary King, she proved she was fertile, they needed each other and they respected each other because of it.

      1. Yes, Henry was a son of prophecy according to the Welsh bards and had won the crown on the field of battle, which he saw as an ancient way of deciding claims to the crown. His victory was almost miraculous, certainly lucky because of the fact Thomas and William Stanley sat on the sidelines and intervened when Richard charged in order to kill Henry. This certainly would have been seen as a divine blessing and given him the confidence that he was chosen and had a righteous claim. His marriage to Elizabeth and the acceptance of the noble families who supported her father and family were what he needed to complete all that. Elizabeth may have been apprehensive, because hd was a stranger but she was also a Princess known for duty as well as fun and intelligence. She had been betrothed before to the Dauphan of France but this was ended after a number of years, so she knew how important a Dynastic marriage was. There is nothing to suggest that Henry and Elizabeth didn’t use the five months delay caused by legal and political procedures well and got to know each other and used to the idea of marriage. After all, Henry too didn’t know much about the woman he had vowed to marry. He must surely have spent some time talking to her. As you say, his mother had been married very young, at twelve and her husband, Edmund Tudor didn’t wait until she was legally old enough to have sexual relations, as recommended. Margaret was careful over the marriage of her grand daughter to James iv of Scotland whom she got to wait a few years before finally having the ceremony. Margaret does not strike me as the sort of ruthless woman who would induce her son to rape a woman or bring them together before the wedding and make them get pregnant. She demanded respect from her later husbands and Henry would have picked up on this. He seems to have respected women and I believe he showed Elizabeth respect from the beginning. There are times in the marriage that he had to curb he spending and gambling, but that was probably a good thing. He respected her when pretenders popped up to claim to be her brother and even when he wisely kept her from seeing Richard of England,/Perkin Warbeck, she accepted it, no matter what her personal feelings. When Arthur died in 1502 Elizabeth risked her life in late pregnancy in order to give her husband another son and another heir, by her own will. You don’t take risks with your own body unless it is for someone you care for. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died, the baby Katherine also died, but Elizabeth knew that could happen and still made that sacrifice out of love. Henry actually wasn’t too bad a King and he showed restraint and wisdom and that must have contributed to their marriage success. Anyway, Henry and Elizabeth did have a successful life together, with seven children and their devotion as a couple was well noted. Henry would not risk everything by acting like a brute and forcing his wife to have pre marital sex. By the way, Elizabeth was probably about 37 weeks gone anyway if she conceived in the first few days of her marriage and this would now be considered an almost full term delivery, with no complications expected. Elizabeth was indeed beautiful and popular.

        1. Many thanks for your common sense interpretation, BQ. I think Philippa Gregory is entitled to interpret the past as she wishes for the purposes of her novels, but she shouldn’t be claiming that she is a historian because then people are misled into thinking that what she writes is the gospel truth. There is no historical evidence to suggest that Henry Tudor was a rapist, but there is also no evidence that Anne Boleyn gave birth to a monstrously deformed baby or that she committed incest with George; there is no evidence that Elizabeth I had a sexual relationship with Robert Dudley and secretly ordered Amy Robsart’s murder; there is no evidence that Elizabeth Wydeville and her mother Jacquetta were witches; there is no evidence that the whole of the north of England supported Mary Queen of Scots and hated Elizabeth. These are all theories put forward by Gregory. They are fictional, so she is entitled to use them in her novels, but she should not claim that they are based on fact, because they’re not.

        2. Thanks, Conor for your kind comments. Yes, I would definitely agree, as a novelist please be free to interpret, but please also make certain everyone knows the real story is somewhat different.

          For reference I got my information on eight months ; 37 weeks pregnancy from an earlier article by Amy Linance and from an article she did on this for her book on Elizabeth Wydeville and Edward iv. I believe she has done some extant research on this with experts on midwifery and childbirth, so the information is as correct as it can be.

          Thanks again for your comments.

  13. Henry might well have wanted to see if he could be accepted as king in his own right (by conquest) before marrying someone who (many believed) was the rightful heiress. If Henry wasn’t king by conquest, he ruled in right of his mother (who held the comparatively weak Lancastrian claim) until he married, when he ruled in right of his wife. According to John Ashdown-Hill (a staunch Ricardian), Henry didn’t start circulating the “Richard the wicked uncle” meme for some years because he could only claim kingship by conquest if Richard’s reign had some legitimacy. (This might be why he didn’t merely repeal Titlius Regius — the bill pronouncing Edward IV’s kids as illegitimate and giving the crown to Richard — but tried to destroy it.)

    1. Perfectly stated. Only his coronation could show his independent claim and authority, only Parliament confirm it and only his marriage to a legitimate heiress, Elizabeth, the now restored York heir. The guarantee of that was the destruction of the Titular Regis, which must have made these five months very interesting and busy. I feel Elizabeth made a good wife for Henry on a personal level, for with her he was a more open person, if a rightly cautious one and after her death he was far more withdrawn, his character somewhat darkened and his suspicious mind grew. Henry never remarried, never had a physical relationship again with a significant other and that was possibly a mistake. A King needed a Queen, not just to provide heirs but for balance, as there were roles a man simply couldn’t take on in the same way. If a Queen was absent, a female member of the family was still appointed were possible for official hostess duties, charitable and benevolence, and so on. For example, when Katherine Howard was in executed, Christmas that year was hosted by Princess Mary, in lieu of a Queen. The fact that Henry Vii never remarried speaks volumes of his deep regard for his lost wife and that in his heart and mind, she was not replaceable. Henry was ill for months after her death and according to Thomas Penn, emerged as a different person. This may be exaggeration as Penn tends to paint Henry in a much darker way than others, but it is essentially true. He became more private, less trusting and centred more on control. Elizabeth would have balanced and made her husband more accessible, as her role of Queen demanded. People looked to Elizabeth, who opened up support for the new King and probably taught him as much about being King as his mother did. The same was true of Katherine of Aragon who taught the immature Henry Viii how to be a King. Elizabeth had influence on her children, took a personal and appreciated role in their formative education, probably much more than their father. As you say, Henry knew his acceptance in the country depended much on Elizabeth just as it did on showing his own authority, thus the destruction of the Regis. As far as we know one original was preserved and one copy in a later document, which is how we have the text, from the chronicle.

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