On This Day: Elizabeth of York, mother to the Tudors 

Elizabeth of York, born 550 years ago on 11th February 1466, became one half of the couple who finally ended the horrendous bloodshed of the cousin-on-cousin War of the Roses. In a tale of an organised Romeo and Juliet gone right, her marriage to the man who vanquished and killed her uncle began a new history, one that is first on the lips of popular history today. I present to you:

Elizabeth of York, Mother of The Tudors

Elizabeth of York, 15th century costume

The beautiful and fashionable Elizabeth of York
illustration by Percy Anderson for Costume Fanciful, Historical and Theatrical, 1906
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth’s life was typical of women in early modern court life. She was the darling of the court: beautiful, educated and, as eldest daughter of the King, supremely eligible. However, like all of her generation her life and family were deeply scarred by the ferocity of fighting between the royal houses. Although her father kept the danger at bay for much of her girlhood, his untimely death in 1483 led to one of the most infamous mysteries of British history - The Princes in the Tower - the disappearance and likely murder of Elizabeth of York’s own brothers. Hiding with her mother in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey whilst her uncle Richard proclaimed himself King, Elizabeth must have felt her situation to be desperate. However, as King Richard III’s wife lay dying, rumours began to emerge that the King was courting his beautiful niece. Sadly for him this didn’t work out too well as before he could make his move, Henry Tudor decided to invade conquering the Kingdom and the girl in one swoop. Not too shabby for a day’s work. 

Elizabeth Woodville with children in sanctuary

Elizabeth with her mother and siblings in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey
By John Cassell, 19th Century - Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth’s life was transformed from the dangers of being a Princess of York to the relative safety of being Queen of England and with that she seems to have been content. She was of course, in some eyes, the heir to her father’s throne in her own right, now that his sons and brothers were dead. However, perhaps she had seen too much bloodshed to be keen to press the point. Her decision finally brought an element of peace and stability to England and the reign of the house she formed with Henry VII brought England into a new Golden Age counting Henry VIII and Elizabeth I amongst it’s line. Whoever said women couldn’t make savvy decisions… 

800px-Elizabeth of York from Kings and Queens of England

Elizabeth of York as Queen with her York symbol of the white rose
Circa 1500 - public domain via wikimedia commons

Elizabeth brought a great and profound sense of love into the new Royal family. Her attachment to her husband and her children was sincere, as was their love for her. The death of her eldest son Arthur, shortly after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, nearly broke her heart and she did not long survive it. Her desperate attachment to her second son, the future Henry VIII, was natural however much it may have led to his relentlessly spoilt nature later in life. Upon her death in 1503 she was mourned deeply and passionately in public and private by her husband, children and her wide circle of friends. A touching testament to a women who whilst being a beloved and astute princess and Queen was still first and foremost a loving friend, a caring wife and a devoted mother. 

Next up in On This Day Ive written about Elizabeths granddaughter, Mary I. Do follow the link to check it out. 

Remigius van Leemput - Whitehall Mural

Left to right: Henry VIII (Elizabeth’s son), Henry VII (Elizabeth’s husband), Elizabeth of York, Jane Seymour (Henry VIII’s third wife)
Remigius van Leemput, 1667 - public domain via wikimedia commons


© Isla Robertson 2017