in the library

Women of History: Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth of York

WHO SHE WAS: She was the daughter of Elizabeth Wydeville and Edward IV, the first born, although at that time a woman ruling England as queen regnant (ruling in her own right)  was unheard of and there would have been no thought to her ascension. That of course, would come years later, with Elizabeth’s granddaughter Mary I!

HER PLACE IN HISTORY: Like so many royals before her, she was still a political piece to be played to ensure that an alliance was made with Henry Tudor. This plan was put into action by Elizabeth’s mother and future mother-in-law; Elizabeth Wydeville knew that if Henry Tudor defeated Richard III, it would give Elizabeth of York a place on throne as queen consort through her marriage to  him.

INTERESTING BITS: As I’ve mentioned before, her marriage to Henry Tudor meant the end of the rift between the houses Lancaster and York. The War of the Roses left so many of her family dead, either by battle or by order of authority, so I like to imagine that perhaps the end of the turmoil would have brought her joy, knowing that she could finally live in the relative peace of the time. And as a queen to boot!

Elizabeth and her husband, Henry VII, had eight children in total, four of which survived infancy. Most notably, Elizabeth of York was the mother of Arthur, Prince of Wales (and the first husband of Catherine of Aragon) and Henry, Duke of York, who would later become Henry VIII.

Elizabeth died in 1503 when she was 37; after giving birth to her last baby girl, both Elizabeth and the baby passed away shortly thereafter.

Henry Tudor won the crown by right of conquest when he defeated Richard III in battle, but Elizabeth still had a stronger claim to the throne. Henry’s coronation took place shortly after the last battle and before his wedding to Elizabeth to solidify his position as a king through conquest and not through Elizabeth. Henry VII and Elizabeth were the first king and queen of the House of Tudor, a dynasty that put an end to over 300 years of Plantagenet rule.

If you’re interested in further reading, my main non-fictional account is Elizabeth of York: First Tudor Queen by Alison Weir and for a bit of historical fiction, check out Philipa Gregory’s The White Princess, a book that is part of her series about the Cousin’s War.

Happy reading!


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