Elizabeth of York

Mother of Henry VIII

ELIZABETH OF YORK (February 11, 1466 – February 11, 1503), the grand daughter of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers, was Queen consort of England as spouse of King Henry VII from 1486 until 1503, and mother of King Henry VIII of England. She is the only English queen to have been a daughter, sister, niece, and wife of English monarchs during her lifetime. She was born at Westminster, the eldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. She was named a Lady of the Garter in 1477, along with her mother and her paternal aunt Elizabeth of York, Duchess of Suffolk.

In 1469, she was briefly betrothed to George Neville, son of John Neville, Earl of Northumberland, who initially supported Edward IV against his brother Warwick’s rebellion. The Earl of Northumberland switched sides, the betrothal was called off. In 1475, Louis XI agreed to let her marry his son, Charles, the Dauphin of France, but Louis reneged on the promise in 1482. In 1483, Edward IV died and Elizabeth’s younger brother, Edward V, became King. Her uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was appointed regent and protector of his nephews. However, he proclaimed himself king Richard III, strengthening his claim when Edward V and his younger brother Richard allegedly died in the Tower of London (Princes in the Tower). I say allegedly because they certainly disappeared, believed murdered but their bodies were never found.

Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth Woodville, made an alliance with Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, who was the closest to Royalty the Lancastrian party possessed. Although Henry was descended from King Edward III, his claim to the throne was weak. Despite this, his mother and Elizabeth Woodville agreed Henry should move to claim the throne, and once he had taken it, he would marry Woodville’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, uniting the two rival Houses. In December 1483, in the cathedral in Rennes, Henry swore an oath promising to marry her, and began planning an invasion. On August 7, 1485, Henry and his army landed in Wales and began marching land-inwards. On August 22, Henry and Richard fought the Battle of Bosworth Field and despite having the larger army, Richard was betrayed by some of his most powerful retainers and died in battle.

Henry acknowledged the necessity of marrying Elizabeth of York to secure the stability of his rule and weaken the claims of other surviving members of the House of York, but he insisted on being King by conquest, ruling in his own right, and not by his marriage to the heir of the House of York, and had no intention of sharing power. Consequently, he chose to be crowned before his marriage. Henry had the Titulus Regius repealed, thereby re-legitimising the children of Edward IV and acknowledged Edward V as his predecessor, since he did not want the legitimacy of his wife or her claim as heiress of Edward IV called into question. After a Papal dispensation was procured, Henry and Elizabeth married on January 18, 1486 and she was crowned queen consort on November 25, 1487. She died on her 44th birthday.  

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