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

Posted By on January 18, 2014

Henry VII and Elizabeth of YorkOn this day in history, 18th January 1486, the founding member of the Tudor dynasty, King Henry VII, married Elizabeth of York, daughter of the late Edward IV, at Westminster Abbey. The service was conducted by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Sadly, we don’t have any contemporary accounts of the wedding ceremony or celebrations, but in “The Crowland Chronicle Continuations: 1459-1486”, there is the following record of the marriage:

“…after the victory of the said king Henry the Seventh, and the ceremonies of his anointing an coronation, on the last day but one of the following month, by the hand of the most reverend father, Thomas, cardinal archbishop of Canterbury, and in due conformity with the ancient custom, the marriage was celebrated, which from the first had been hoped for, between him and the lady Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of king Edward the Fourth. This was duly solemnized, at the instance and urgent entreaty of all three of the estates of the realm, in the presence of the Church, on the eighteenth day of the month of January, in the year of our Lord, according to the computation of the Roman Church, 1486; a dispensation having been first obtained from the Apostolic See on the account of the fourth degree of consanguinity, within which the king and queen were related to each other.”

You can read more about the bride and groom, and how this marriage came about, in my article Henry VII Marries Elizabeth of York.

Notes and Sources

22 thoughts on “18 January 1486 – The Wedding of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York”

  1. Miladyblue says:

    Interesting that the greatest of the Tudor monarchs, Elizabeth I, was named for a “Lady Elizabeth,” who, like herself, was declared a bastard, but managed to triumph after all.

  2. BanditQueen says:

    Henry Tudor is a whily old fox. His own claim to the throne was less than excemlary, although through his mother he did have some connections and by now was the only real heir to the house of lancaster to whom he was related through marriage of his grand-parents. He wins the field and then makes sure of his valid claim by marrying the true heir: Elizabeth the daughter of the ruling house of York. Not only did the marriage unite the two houses to end the wars of the roses, but it also validated Henry’s claim and that of their children. A whily old fox and a wise one.

    The reason for the delay of course is two fold: first Elizabeth and her sisters and late brothers had been declared bastards by Richard III saying that his brother’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was not valid as it had been made by witchcraft and that Edward was already contracted to Eleanor Bulter, daughter of the Talbot family. So the act of Parliament making this so had to be reversed, which it was so now Elizabeth was legitimate again and Henry could marry her.

    The second reason was that they were related and Henry and Elizabeth had to wait for a dispensation to come from the Pope. There is some speculation amongst fiction writers and there may have been at the time that Henry put off marrying Elizabeth as he believed that she had had a relationship with Richard III and was not pure. There is no real evidence that supports this and we must blame P. Gregory for this nonsense. However, Richard himself was said to have fancied Elizabeth who was his neice by blood and wanted to marry her himself. He was forced to make a public declaration denying this or that he had any ambitions to marry her. May-be this was playing on Henry’s mind and he hesitated for a time, but there is no real evidence that he believed his wife and Richard had actually been lovers. There was a further delay in her coronation and this too has given rise to speculation that he looked unfavourably on Elizabeth until persuaded by his mother to crown her. Was this true or again are fiction writers just running with the drama?

    Either way Henry and Elizabeth were married; he did not rape her prior to marriage as suggested by Gregory, and they soon had children, with Prince Arthur being born nine months later. Several more children followed and he and his Queen do seem to have been a devoted couple. Henry was devastated when she died soon after giving birth to a daughter who also died in 1503, and did not marry again. Henry also does not seem to have had any mistresses.

    1. Cupcake says:

      It had been said that he did in fact rape her. Remember that Gregory’s work is not solely based off of history and facts, and that she did in fact make things more….interesting? I guess you can say, for the reader. She does mention this several times.

      Elizabeth and Richard (from what i have researched) did in fact want to marry and a dispensation had been written, but not sent, to the Pope for approval. He did want to make her his wife.

      During these times, families were all pretty much interrelated by cousins marriage and other things.

      1. BanditQueen says:

        I agree that Richard and Elizabeth had shown some interest in wanting to be a couple and some of the sources support this, which is why he had to denounce his intentions and make a public declaration; it horrified people at court when they heard it. He may also have wanted to marry Elizabeth after the death of Queen Anne to stop her from marrying Henry of Richmond, who had made a vow to take her as his wife. Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s mother made an agreement that Henry would marry Elizabeth. Richard was angry at this and did make some noises about marriage to her himself. Lovell and others persuaded him that as she was his neice it would be unseemly for him to wed Elizabeth and to make the declaration that he only had honourable intentions towards her and did not intend to marry her. I do not believe that they were actually lovers in the sexual sense but some affection or love may have existed between them. As the Yorkist heir of course, when Henry took the throne, marriage to Elizabeth made perfect sense and he had made the vow in the Cathedral in France.

        I do not agree that Gregory is correct that Henry raped Elizabeth. Her novels tend to be a bit colourful and as you say spice things up for the reader.

        1. AmazingCat says:

          No, No, No, No. Richard showed no signs at all of wanting to marry Elizabeth of York, he would have to have been utter idiot to want to in the first place. Richard openly denied the rumors, swore an oath before all of London that he had never had any intentions of wanting to marry EOY. Richard starts negations with Portugal as early as February of 1485, when it became apparent that Queen Anne would not survive.
          And it is not Lovell in the account who had to persuaded him is Catesby, someone without proper nobel blood. Which should flat out raise an eyebrow. Lovell, Richard’s best friend, is rarely mentioned in this account. It also states that over I think 50 religious clerics had to convince Richard that he was not to marry Elizabeth and if you know anything about the Middle Ages you know how difficult it would be to get 50 religious scholars together in a room. The account is utter fantasy made up to make Richard look bad, it was written a fully year after Richard’s death and after the death of anyone in the account.
          Contemporary accounts of Richard have him deeply opposed the rumors, he imprisons people for it, and when he denies it (And the idea he poisoned his wife) he “Showed His Grief” most likely meaning he cried. That says alot, Kings don’t do this, especially since Richard was arranging another match and eventually the rumor would have cleared itself up given that he had already arranged a match for himself to Joanna of Portugal and Elizabeth to the future Manuel I of Portugal.
          There is no evidence at all that Richard III wanted to marry or lusted after his niece. There is evidence that Elizabeth of York grew close with Queen Anne, given she was in her service, wore clothes similar to her during a christmas pageant and left court after her death. But there is no evidence at all for her and Richard.
          The Buck Letter is most likely false, given it was written by a known forger and hasn’t been seen since or before Buck “Discovered” it. That being said, since we don’t have the originally letter it could be very likely Elizabeth was writing about her marriage to Portugal, as Richard was deciding around winter of 1485, to either do an alliance with Portugal or Spain, and maybe Elizabeth favored Portugal since it offered her marriage as well. Given her age and the fact that her younger sister had already made a love match marriage it wouldn’t have been completely shocking for EOY to want a match made for her. But that’s if the letter existed at all, which I highly doubt it did.

      2. Hazel says:

        @ Cupcake It had been said that he did in fact rape her.

        Sorry cupcake, what is the basis of this at all except in Philippa Gergory’s mind which in a marketing point of view, the juicier the story, the more book sales? There is no basis to this at all. And I find it horrifying that some people would just accept what they read in a historical fiction book without researching it for themselves.

        Henry Tudor knows his claim to the throne is weak. He knows this as all the people around him. Raping Elizabeth would do him no good. Yes, he won at Bosworth. But these were turbulent times and emotions were still running high. The Lovell rebellion and Lambert Simnel plot proves this as this were early days of his reign. If he raped her would they not use it as a rallying cry to depose a monarch who they think had a weak claim to the throne. Another thing, Richard III had to make a public statement to deny wanting to marry Elizabeth because it so offended people. It would also follow that the raping of Elizabeth would not also anger and distress people in power including the Yorkists who defected to Tudor. You can say a lot about Henry Tudor but he is not dumb. In the realm of probabilities, this is just not possible.

        From what I have read from Tudor biographers – Okerlund, Starkey and Penn – they all state it was a happy marriage. Interestingly, Alison Weir, in her Princes of the Tower book had opined that Elizabeth and Richard were lovers but now has changed her mind in her Elizabeth of York biography and has also come to the conclusion that it was a happy marriage.

      3. Claire says:

        “it had been said that he did in fact rape her” – only by Philippa Gregory, no contemporary source backs up this idea and the two had a very happy and successful marriage.

  3. Jo says:

    for God’s sake! why do people have to ruin this day, commenting on the fantasies of P. Gregory? stop spreading this work of fiction as fact! Today is their birthday and plenty of evidence that they were happy in their marriage, regarding unsubstantiated rumors that she was the mistress of his uncle. For God’s sake, again, it is clear that Henry was smart to marry Elizabeth, he did nothing that a minimally intelligent person would do, nothing different than anyone else in his position would do, the fact that there was affection and a good understanding between them was a bonus.

    1. Claire says:

      I totally agree with you, Jo, evidence does not back up the fiction of Philippa Gregory at all. There is no evidence that Henry raped Elizabeth whatsoever. I do wish that people could take The White Queen and The White Princess as fiction.

      1. Jo says:

        I agree Claire, I want that people don’t say things like to:. ” I heard “someone” say” and etc, IF is to say something, that shows fonts, unlike the many facts that show a happy marriage, and above all I would like that don’t ruin this blessed post, there is a wonderful forum here where they can discuss all of these “theories” and “rumors”, please just do not ruin this post.

  4. Anita says:

    I have to say that as far as Gregory goes, she is fine for light reading, but I was really surprised and annoyed by “The White Queen.”

    I came away not only annoyed at Edward and family, but by the fact she seems to have written to stereo-type, with the possible exception of Richard who I’ve always believed was much more attractive than history has led us to believe given he suffered from severe Scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.

    Not sure if it was the way the script was written, but it seemed hurried, and for all the “fangirls” not familiar with history and Edwards incredible womanizing, (though yes, he probably loved Elizabeth in his own selfish way), the fact that information came out almost towards the end of the series really soured them whereas that factor in his character should have been written in from the beginning.

    That series actually made me a Henry Tudor fan, (gasp), and I’ve just gotten Weirs book on “Elizabeth of York, a Tudor Queen and her World,” to see if I can get a more realistic view of their life.

    1. Claire says:

      I haven’t read Weir’s book, but I would recommend Amy Licence’s book on Elizabeth of York and Thomas Penn’s “Winter King” which is about Henry VII.

      1. Anita says:

        Hi Claire,

        Thanks so much for those recommendations, and I apologize for my rant on that show as this is probably not the forum for that.

        I had read the story of “The War of the Roses,” so when I saw it on screen, it just seemed more “glistory”, or glamorized history rather a realistic rendering and it annoys me.

        But, I will most certainly check out those books.

        Best Regards,

  5. Tudor Addict says:

    It’s a shame that the wedding details weren’t chronicled. I can bet, however, that there were themes of peace and healing in the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses. What better way to signify an end to the conflict than marriage between members of the rival houses of Lancaster and York?

    1. BanditQueen says:

      Therre was much work to do to heal the rifts and Elizabeth and Henry made efforts for reconciliation. I love the duel portrait of the fresh and young Princess Elizabeth of York with her white rose and the more mature picture of Henry with his red rose; that you see side by side on so many books and portraits. It is really iconic. The couple clearly had a lot of affection for each other and got on well together, found each other attractive and may have grown to love each other. By what I have read I believe they were a devoted couple and Henry was very unhappy when Elizabeth died as was her son; Prince Henry. She took a keen interest in the education of her children and the family appear to be a close knit group. The couple paid visits to York and many other places on more than one occassion soon after their marriage and were welcomed and honoured with great feasting and revels. Even after Henry had to visit again after the Lambet Simnel affair; the city was welcoming and he was a fair King. He is sometimes seen as being a miser and it is true that he did control his nobles with threats of financial ruin after some of them had been pardoned treason several times; but for the most part Henry VII showed more mercy than his predecessors; or for that matter his direct descendents; certainly than his son. Elizabeth must have had a good influence on him. She is described as having a kind nature. She was certainly missed after her death in 1503.

  6. Tamara says:

    I find it sad that those who say they love history – will go after the rumors and stories to spice it up. History has enough spice without adding rape into the mix. Even back in history stories were told to spice up a tale – it was the making of a good story teller – not to be added into the history books but for fun and laughs.

  7. Sharee says:

    I am currently reading Thomas Penn’s book ‘The Winter King’ which is about Henry & after that I plan to read a book on Elizabeth of York.
    I became intrigued by these two royals thanks to Philippa Gregory’s books & her TV series. Not all of us who view these shows or read her books are stupid enough to think it all to be based on fact. It was because of these shows & light reading novels, that made me interested in learning about their real lives.
    I am disappointed how people are so quick to judge others, when they should appreciate what they do!
    At the end of the day, none of us were there to really know the truth.

    1. Claire says:

      I’ve never called people stupid, and I can’t honestly blame people for taking The Other Boleyn Girl as a factual retelling when that’s what Philippa Gregory has led people to believe in the Q&A section of the version of the book I have on my bookcase. When you have an author, who says she is also an historian, saying that Anne definitely committed at least one murder, that that is a historical fact, then as a reader you may well believe that. That doesn’t make you stupid.

      I also don’t judge others. I challenge views that are not backed up by the historical sources, but I can’t see where I judge others. I love many of Gregory’s novels, she’s a wonderful writer, and she’s a lovely person. That doesn’t mean that I have to agree with her or that I can’t pick her up on things.

      1. Sharee says:

        Hello Claire,
        My comment was not really directed towards you, but i felt other people’s comments on this thread were quite judgmental towards P. Gregory. She is a great author & states in all the books that I have read of hers, that they are ‘historical fiction’. I guess anyone who studies history can call themselves a ‘historian’.

        I have never read ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ but i thought this thread was about Henry Vll & Elizabeth of York. I have read P. Gregory’s book on Elizabeth of York and thought it was very interesting. It intrigued me to look further into her real life or at least as much as we can know.

        I apologise if I offended you, but as I mentioned, it was not directed at you personally. I am just annoyed by people always complaining about Philippa Gregory’s books & thinking the readers are just going to believe every word she writes.

        1. Claire says:

          You didn’t offend me at all, so please don’t worry. Sorry, I was reading your comment and replying to it on my phone so I thought it was on the TOBG thread. My fault and I’m so sorry.

          In “The Women of the Cousins’ War”, the non-fiction book Gregory wrote with David Baldwin and Michael Jones, Gregory states “However vivid and powerful the historical novel, I believe it should be based on the recorded facts and never deviate from them when they are available.” She is therefore saying that her historical novels are based on recorded facts and that she never deviates from them. This, and what she has said in the notes sections of novels like TOBG, leads people to believe that her novels are based on fact.

          She is a great author, her books are historical fiction and they lead many people into history, but those readers cannot be blamed or labelled stupid for taking her novels as inspired by the facts. If you’d just read Gregory’s depiction of Henry VII’s relationship with Elizabeth of York, which includes rape, and then you go on to read “The Women of the Cousins’ War” and how Gregory believes that a writer should not deviate from the facts then you are going to believe that Henry VII did indeed rape Elizabeth. People are going to believe every word she writes if she tells people that they are true.

          I don’t think people would have a problem with her books if it weren’t for Gregory’s claims about them being accurate.

  8. Deborah says:

    Dear Claire, I am a newcomer to your site & can see that this page is over a year old but hope you’ll see my comments. I’m a lover of history & a genealogist & truly appreciate the conversations of your many followers. While many historical fiction writers lean towards creating excitement by constructing scenes of violence, romance, sex & mystery, readers should always realize that much of what they write is pure imagination. But I agree that to imply otherwise by the author does cause some readers to accept what has been presented as based on fact. Whatever I read, no matter who the writer is, I tend to dive into as much research as possible & verify everything (which is not always easy to do). In the end the entire book becomes a wonderful learning experience. Thank you so much for this great site.

  9. J.P. Reedman says:

    There was no relationship between Elizabeth and Richard III. He was planning to marry Joanna of Portugal and was arranging a marriage for Elizabeth to Manuel of Beja. The documents exist, and are in the Portuguese state papers. This needs to be known much more widely. Yes, there was court gossip…but when isn’t there?The letter from Elizabeth that asked John Howard to intercede with the king in the ‘matter of the marriage’ further muddied the waters; knowing about the Portuguese marriage makes it clear what she was referring to.

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