60 second history – Elizabeth of York

Today’s Tudor topic for my 60-second history video series is Elizabeth of York. I refrained from shouting “she wasn’t raped!”, “there’s no evidence that she was in love with Richard III!” and the like and, instead, focused on a brief bio of this Tudor queen consort.

As I’ve explained before, the idea of this series is to give information about Tudor history in easy-to-digest 60-second chunks. Die-hard Tudor history fans don’t, of course, need these videos, but I hope they act as introductions to newbies or students.

My first seven videos were on the Tudor dynasty, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Jane (Lady Jane Grey), Mary I and Elizabeth I. You can catch them on the 60 Second History playlist of the Anne Boleyn Files YouTube channel.

If you would like to know even more about Elizabeth of York then here are some links to articles here at the Anne Boleyn Files:

More links!

  • Coronation of Elizabeth of York – 25 November 1487 on the Tudor Society website
  • Tudor Society members can read articles on Elizabeth of York in the following editions of Tudor Life magazine: March 2016 (Queen of England and Bride of Peace: The legacy of Elizabeth of York by Lauren Browne), May 2015 (Richard III and Elizabeth of York: Romance or the rumour mill by Olga Hughes), February 2015 (Henry VII and Elizabeth of York: While the world shall endure by Ola Hughes), January 2015 (Henry VII and Elizabeth of York: the first Tudor marriage by Olga Hughes), December 2014 (Henry VII and Elizabeth of York: A long betrothal by Olga Hughes)
  • Olga Hughes has several articles on Elizabeth of York on her blog Nerdalicious – see http://nerdalicious.com.au/?s=elizabeth+of+york

My favourite book on Elizabeth of York is Elizabeth of York: Forgotten Tudor Queen by Amy Licence.

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3 thoughts on “60 second history – Elizabeth of York”
  1. Elizabeth of York is a fascinating figure and there are many questions about her that remain unresolved. It is often claimed that she was in love with Henry VII and it is also suggested that her relationship with his mother Margaret Beaufort was either antagonistic or supportive – rarely do we read that their relationship might have been both. Elizabeth is somewhat like Anne Neville, both are shadowy figures who lived in turbulent times, for whom there are so many questions that are likely never to be fully answered.

    Did Elizabeth hope to marry her uncle Richard? There is some evidence that she might have considered the possibility, but much of it is not contemporary, it dates from much later on, and for this reason historians have remained sceptical. There were rumours circulating in Richard’s lifetime after the death of his wife that he intended to marry Elizabeth, but Richard appeared in public and openly quashed the rumours, speaking of his love for Anne. Added to this, it has been suggested that Elizabeth’s supposed desire to marry her uncle confirmed that she knew he was not responsible for what happened to her brothers, but I think that is making quite a big leap and is speculation. We also cannot say that Elizabeth Wydeville believed that Richard was responsible for her sons’ disappearance, nor can we say that she knew him to be innocent.

    The allegation that Henry Tudor raped Elizabeth is fiction and is not worthy of serious historical analysis. Whether or not they enjoyed a happy marriage, or whether there were tensions between the two, is a mystery, but what does matter is that Elizabeth fulfilled her role admirably by providing her husband with several children, one of whom, Henry, succeeded his father as king. On the surface, Elizabeth of York appears as a gentle, modest and dutiful woman content to remain in the shadows, a loyal wife, a loving mother. I am sure that there was a lot more to her than that, but we can only speculate.

    I do wish, however, that modern television dramas would refrain from sexualising Elizabeth and presenting her as an immodest, scantily dressed hussy. Philippa Gregory’s novels are compelling and fairly entertaining, but they do not present a realistic picture of the fifteenth-century. Everyone talks in modern language, everyone behaves like twenty-first century people, religion is marginalised in her books and witchcraft is ever present. The real Elizabeth dressed modestly, behaved circumspectly, and was highly popular with her subjects. She had the fortune to be queen of England, and whether or not she loved Henry VII, she surely accepted her duty and took her responsibilities seriously. It has also recently been argued that Elizabeth was rightful queen in her own right, but I doubt that such a thought ever occurred to her. The idea that a woman could rule in her own right was viewed with ambivalence, hostility or as a joke, and it was only seventy years later that Elizabeth’s granddaughters Mary and Elizabeth proved that female sovereignty was not an alien concept. But to Elizabeth of York, it would have been.

  2. It’s all nonsense the rape theory, Henry and Elizabeth were married therefore in law he couldn’t rape her anyway, a wife belonged solely to her husband, all her worldly goods were his, she was his chattel, Elizabeth is interesting I would go so far as to call her enigmatic, she was described as being a bosomy natural blonde the pin up girl of the 15th century! Both her parents were good looking therefore she inherited their looks, in the portraits of her you can see a round faced woman with even features and big brown eyes, did Richard intend to marry her as has been suggested, certainly he could have entertained the idea, she was very attractive and as many thought she was the rightful heir to the throne this would have strengthened Richards position, we do not know, and was she herself a little in love with her dashing uncle, again there’s no proof but the stories of his valour and the fact that she could not have seen him much throughout her childhood meant she could have nurtured a young girls crush on him, had they married it would have been incestuous anyway and surely parliament would not have allowed it, any children they may have had would have been born disabled most likely or idiots, or both, she married the hero of Bosworth instead as was atrranged between her scheming mum and Margaret Beaufott and settled down to life as queen, she did do her job admirably, she was always described as serene and composed and beautiful to, which was in her favour, she embodied all what queens should be, kind gracious regal and benevolent, all the more was she popular because she embodied the union between York and Lancaster, the end of the Wars of the Roses and the bloodshed it caused, she was blessed in her children, sadly she did lose several but gave England prince Arthur named after Britains legendary King, alas fate decreed he was not destined to be King that fell to his precocious younger brother Henry V111, as for tv and novels, there will always be those that show a lot of bed hopping, sex sells but at least we know the reality was entirely different.

  3. Elizabeth of York was more than just a behind the scenes Queen and I think she really did Henry Tudor good in more ways than one. She had the pedigree, he didn’t, although this pedigree is questioned, by the question of her parents marriage being lawful or not, (more in a mo); she was a King’s daughter, the first born, raised to be a Queen, she was intelligent, astute, beautiful, had the same determination of her mother and father to fulfil her destiny and she was at this point looked to as the potential Yorkist heir. Henry’s marriage to Elizabeth of York wasn’t a love match, it was born out of a political conspiracy and agreement between Elizabeth Woodville and another strong woman, Margaret Beaufort. Henry, in agreeing to marry Elizabeth, in vowing the same publicly, made himself the recognised challenger for the throne. Elizabeth, legally, could have taken the crown for herself, had she not been in ‘protective ‘ custody, awaiting the outcome of Bosworth and could prove her brothers were dead. She could then get herself relegitimized in Parliament. However, as she wasn’t in any position to do either, marriage to Henry, claiming to be the Lancastrian claimant and already King was the next best thing.

    Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate by the declaration of Dr Shae and Parliament along with all of the children of Edward iv and Henry had to reverse this complication in Parliament before he could marry her. Henry had to get himself crowned to establish his claim in his own right and then Parliament to confirm his own right and that of his future right and wait for a dispensation to allow them to marry. It is argued by historians like Annette Carson and John Ashdown Hill and Peter Hammond that the marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was not legal because Edward was married first to Eleanor Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. It was this information which led to Richard being offered the throne by the three estates of the realm and Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York being declared illegitimate. Henry’s first Parliament reversed this, invented Henry’s heritage, backdated his reign by one day and declared everyone who fought against him traitors. Elizabeth was now the key to him being accepted and successful as a King.

    I don’t believe Elizabeth knew anything about her brothers, but if she did, she was more than prepared to do her part and accept her new Queenship and do her duty. I don’t believe as I said that the marriage between Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York was a love match, but one of mutual agreement and both parties had some respect and affection for each other. I actually will go so far as to say romanticizing the marriage at the start is poppycock. Henry and Elizabeth were strangers. Elizabeth probably had very little choice in the marriage, but she obviously agreed and was content. It does appear that Henry got to know his bride and by the time they were married were definitely close. It is also possible that they had had sexual relations and Elizabeth was already pregnant, given her delivery less than nine months later.

    I don’t believe Henry raped Elizabeth. This is a theme in the White Princess, nor do I believe she dabbled with her mother in witchcraft. Just because one source has Richard saying Edward was enticed by Elizabeth to marry by witchcraft, doesn’t make it reliable. If you remember in the White Queen (good drama, lacking in history) Elizabeth and EW are shown weaving spells to raise storms, cause harm to Isabella Neville and put a curse on Henry’s future sons (straight out of the witches handbooks). The curse comes to fruition in the ironic marriage of Elizabeth and Henry and the loss of their son Arthur and lack of sons in the next generation, according to the theory behind Philippa Gregory and her next two books. The rape of Elizabeth is typical of the craze on TV at the moment for scenes brutally showing women as victims to be abused. There is no evidence to sustain such an idea and I think we can dismiss it as an invention.

    There was speculation about Elizabeth and Richard iii, mainly from the gossipy and disapproving pen of Crowland. He describes the festivities at Christmas 1484, when Elizabeth and Cecily come to court after being couped up in santuary and then at home for over twelve months. Elizabeth is now eighteen and very attractive. She was well treated by Richard and his Queen, Anne Neville, who honours her with a matching outfit and her friendship. She may have found Richard attractive, been taken with him, but there is no evidence that they became lovers. Our chronicle goes on to frown on the festivities as excessive but doesn’t say he was her lover. Anne became ill in the New Year, going down hill fast and in March Richard was advised not to sleep with his dying wife because she was contagious. This doesn’t prove he had harmed her or wished her ill, or that he didn’t visit at all and remain at a distance. Rumours began soon after her death that Richard intended to marry Elizabeth but it was nonsense. Richard took the advice of his councillors and made a declaration that he had no interest in marriage with his niece, which would have been incestuous, plus he had marriage plans of his own. Elizabeth brought nothing to Richard. As far as he was concerned she was illegitimate and he could get much better alliances from Portugal or Spain. There is evidence that Richard had negotiated and was due to marry Joanna of Portugal in the Summer 1485 had he survived Bosworth. Elizabeth was included in the treaty to marry Manuel the future King of Portugal. Both were Lancastrians in origin with better claims to the throne than Henry Tudor. Much has been made of a letter that Elizabeth is said by Buck to have written to the Duke of Norfolk praising Richard and expressing administration for him and asking his help to promote her forthcoming marriage. However, the original letter is missing, only part was found by Buck and there is no indication as to who her marriage refers to. Its not considered evidence that she was talking about a marriage to Richard iii but could refer to the Portuguese marriage being negotiated at the time. The letter could even be a fake as its
    history cannot be guaranteed. There is also evidence that Henry had heard rumours that Richard may marry Elizabeth or marry her to someone else, for he asked about Maud Herbert, a relative of William Herbert, who later supported him. However, there is nothing to suggest that he still believed any such rumours after Bosworth and it doesn’t seem to have affected his decision to marry Elizabeth. Like most people he probably dismissed the rumours as gossip, which they probably were. Richard was fulfilling his pledge to EW by finding a husband for Cecily, already married in 1484, and for Elizabeth in 1485, which would have later seen her as Queen of Portugal.

    Elizabeth and Henry certainly had a good bond and relationship and possibly came to love each other, appear to be devoted and had a large family. Elizabeth did everything to strengthen her husband’s kingship, was a model Queen, saw the importance of the symbolism she embodied during her pregnancies, travelling to Winchester, the ancient capital to symbolically give birth to Prince Arthur. Elizabeth was an incredibly well travelled Queen. She accompanied Henry to York and her own personal last progress through Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and all of South Wales in 1502, while pregnant was a massive undertaking. Elizabeth to me seems a very intelligent and capable lady who had good insight and was the strength behind the first Tudor King.

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