Elizabeth of York – 11 February 1466 to 11 February 1503

Elizabeth of YorkOn 11th February 1466, Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV, gave birth to the couple’s first child at Westminster Palace. The baby girl 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. The little girl was named Elizabeth after her mother and she was soon given her own household at Greenwich Palace under the care of Lady Margaret Berners.

Edward IV was obviously happy with his first-born child, even though she was a girl, rewarding his wife with a jewelled ornament which cost £125. Elizabeth Woodville did not seem to have any fertility problems; she’d already had two sons by her first husband and she went on to give Edward IV ten children between 1466 and 1480.

During Elizabeth of York’s childhood, she was betrothed to George Neville, son of John Neville, Marquess Montagu, and then to Charles the Dauphin, son of Louis XI, but the man she eventually married in January 1486 was King Henry VII, the man who had defeated her uncle, Richard III, at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485. Although the marriage was a political union, uniting the once warring Houses of Lancaster and York, it was happy and successful. Elizabeth and Henry had eight children, although only four of them survived infancy: Arthur, Margaret, Henry and Mary.

On 2nd February 1503, after a long labour, Elizabeth gave birth to her eighth and final child, a little girl called Katherine. Little Katherine died on 10th February and her mother followed her on 11th. It is not known what the Queen died of but it must have been a post-partum infection or complication, like puerperal fever or haemorrhaging. Elizabeth was buried at Westminster Abbey after a lavish funeral. Today, visitors can pay their respects at the magnificent tomb of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York in the Abbey’s Lady Chapel, built by Henry VII.

If you want to know more about Elizabeth of York then I would recommend getting hold of a copy of Amy Licence’s biography of her, “Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Queen of England”, which is available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or your usual bookstore. You can read a review of it on our Tudor Book Reviews site – click here.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1531 – Convocation granted Henry VIII the title “singular protector, supreme lord, and even, so far as the law of Christ allows, supreme head of the English church and clergy.”
  • 1971 – Birth of a certain Claire Ridgway. Without that event, this site just would not exist!

Notes and Sources

  • Licence, Amy (2013) Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Queen of England, Amberley Publishing
  • Horrox, Rosemary (2004) Elizabeth (1466–1503), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press

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19 thoughts on “Elizabeth of York – 11 February 1466 to 11 February 1503”
  1. Are we absolutely certain of the year of Elizabeth’s birth? As you point out in your article, Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV had no fertility problems. There seems to be no doubt that they married on 1st May 1464. From 1st May to 11th February the following year is 41 weeks. We know that the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was based upon personal attraction. It seems extraordinary if the first child of that marriage were born a year and 41 weeks after the marriage. Is there a possibility that the counting of the years was in error, as years were not counted as we count them but were regnal years, or counted from April? No doubt the answer lies in the Licence biography, which I have not yet read.
    Happy Birthday, Claire!

  2. Very best wishes on your birthday Claire!

    The picture you showed of Elizabeth reminded me instantly of the late Frances Shand Kydd, Princess Diana’s mother, whom I always thought Diana would have come to resemble more, had she lived .

  3. Not necessarily in order:

    Happy Birthday, Claire!

    Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth!

    Farewell Queen Elizabeth and little Princess Katherine

    Odd to think that Elizabeth of York is 500 years and 1 day older than I am.

  4. Happy belated Birthday, and to her Grace as well.

    I am currently reading Allison Weirs book on her, and find it fascinating. She really took a different approach than her mother, and mother-in-law, but in that, she may have understood that in dealing with Henry, who had tremendous trust issues, that was the better way to go.

  5. I love the story of Princess Elisabeth of York and of her mother Elisabeth Woodville. I think that our Elisabeth, mother of Henry VIII and Prince Author had a great nature, but she was also a strong woman and this part of her is not often highlighted. All the York women had to be strong; that is the wife of Edward IV and her daughters; they spent half of their lives in and out of santurary; hiding from enemy troops or the plots to remove them from power. It is a story of survival as much as it is of a woman who is often accused of putting her family into places of power. Elisabeth Woodville was also from the other side, from a knightly family supporting the House of Lancaster, made a widow by the House of York. It took a lot of courage for her to defend her young sons and as a widow to seek aid from the King who se father had caused the death of her husband. And with that King she fell in love.

    Edward and Elisabeth, despite their secret wedding were clearly devoted to each other and had numerous children. She was certainly fertile coming from a large family herself and had two sons already. It is clear that Edward did not mind that he had three daughters before the birth of his eldest son Prince Edward. He was looking on the marriage as long term and the children would follow one after the other. The pattern was to follow with Elisabeth, who had eight children, three of whom lived to full adulthood and four into teens. Four sons were amongst them; two living into their teens: Author and Henry and one living to become King. There was every reason to hope that the Tudor dynasty would continue to be fertile. Why it was not remains one of the most debated subjects of hisorians today and probably is still a mystery? Fertile Henry and his wives were; the children for some reason, sadly did not survive infancy or where born stillborn. SIDS is a possible cause of some infant deaths at this time; but all sorts of complications in childbed and infections as well as rare blood disorders could also have been to blame; many of these people were also inter-related and that can in itself cause problems.

    Elisabeth was doted on by her father and her mother and she herself seems to have been a devoted wife to Henry Tudor and to her children. It has been assessed by handwriting comparrison that Elisabeth was the first tutor of her sons, and that she had a close relationship with Prince Henry. Elisabeth was also a woman who knew the meaning of duty and necessity; as did her mother when she arranged for her daughter and namesake to marry Henry Tudor. It was not merely to ensure that her child got onto the throne; it was to attempt to bring peace to the still waring and hostile remains of the dying houses of York and Lancaster. With Richard on the throne and a possible threat to Elisabeth of York and her family, she needed a safety net. By 1484 she assumed that her sons where dead, possibly killed by Richard or others at his command; they had vanished from sight and history; and she had gained a guarantee from King Richard for the safety of Princess Elisabeth and her other daughters, in sanctuary with her.

    Once out Princess Elisabeth went to court where she was in favour by Richard and Queen Anne Neville and rumours started that he fancied her. It is probably untrue, but he still had to make a public promise that he did not have any desire to marry Elisabeth who was his neice. It would have made political sense for a marriage with Elisabeth or one of her sisters on the death of his own wife as their own son, another Edward had died aged 10. Anne Neville herself died in mid 1485 and rumours again linked Richard to Elisabeth of York. By now she was promised to Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond who was massing an army to invade England and claim the throne from Richard. An agreement with Margaret Beaufort and Elisabeth Woodville had arranged for this marriage to support Henry’s claim to the throne. It was also a survival strategy by Eliabeth Woodville who would not trust Richard as far as she could throw him. What her daughter made of it all is conjecture, but as a Princess of the blood royal, she knew where her duty lay and she would of courss be Queen.

    Well as we know Elisabeth and Henry were married after his victory and a dispensation from the Pope in January 1486, there first child being born a little less than nine months later. This has led to speculation as to whether or not they had relations before the wedding or if Arthur was premature. What is known is that Henry seems to have treated her with honour and did nothing to dishonour her in any way; if they had relations it must have been as they wanted to and the couple seem to have come to love each other. I do not think that Henry Tudor was the stud and drop dead gorgeous tall hunk that his son was when he was young; but he was handsome enough and Elisabeth was attracted to him. They were a couple that seem to have been fond of each other and very close. Henry cared for his wife and Elisabeth was a good help to her husband. She was praised by all who knew and met her and she was involved in her children’s raising and wellbeing. Henry was devastated when she died after her last child was born in 1503 and did not marry again. He also did not have a known mistress at this time or during the marriage; he may have been that rare thing; a faithful royal husband.

    Prince Henry (VIII) must also have been close to his mother for one of the first things that he wrote says that he was sad at the passing of his dear mother. There are many biographies on this little known Queen but I believe the Amy Linicre one to be the best. She gives us many of the quotes from her and from sources about her; the real Elisabeth becomes known in this book. It is here that the stronger Elisabeth comes through, the confident Elisabeth and the devoted Elisabeth. There is nothing of the fictional character seen in the White Queen; but we see a woman who had her own destiny in mind and yet, knew that only by marrying Henry Tudor could that destiny be fulfilled. She gave Henry his legitimacy as King and without her the Tudor claim would have been almost one that would have disintergrated, even with his victory at Bosworth.

    Finally, it is sad that she did not live longer to have more of an influence on her adult sons ad daughters; and even sadder to die on her birthday. RIP Elisabeth, mother of the Tudor Dynasty.

    1. This was just the post I was looking for.

      I just read Allison Weirs book on Elizabeth, and wanted to read more, but I don’t know how to feel about Phillipa Gregory’s take on her and Henry.
      The two visions seem at odds.

      So, I will gladly look for Amy Linicre’s work.

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