This could be titled, “The War of the Roses,” as this is when it really kicked off. Elizabeth and Anne were women born upon completely different tiers in life, yet their paths crossed several times. Each time under completely different circumstances and when one was set above the other. Each woman was on top and the below the other at different points in time.
Elizabeth Woodville was born to Sir Richard Woodville, a common knight, and Jacquetta of Luxembourg. The marriage of Elizabeth’s parents was quite the scandal of the times, as Jacquetta had no business marrying so far beneath her station, as she was related both to Henry VI, the Lancaster King of England and Margaret of Anjou. In fact, she out ranked every women in England beside the Queen herself. Henry VI was beyond irritated when she married without his consent to a Knight. Despite the disapproval of the King, and everyone else for that matter, the marriage was successful and one of love. The couple had 14 Children. Elizabeth was the eldest.
Elizabeth’s first marriage was to Sir John Grey of Groby, a heir to a Barony. They had two young son’s when Sir Grey was killed at the 2nd Battle of St. Alban’s where the Lancaster’s fought against the Yorkist usurpers. The Earl of Warwick had arranged the deposition of Lancaster King Henry VI, who was feeble minded and unstable. He wanted to replace him with the Duke of York, Richard Plantagenet. When Richard was killed in battle he set his oldest son, Edward IV up in his place. This gave Warwick the nickname of “The Kingmaker.” He would prove to be a dangerous foe to Elizabeth.
The story goes that the widowed Elizabeth went to meet King Edward IV, with her two young sons, by the side of the road as the King was riding through. It was said that she threw herself at his mercy and pleaded with him to restore her sons inheritance; which was confiscated, as their father was declared a traitor for fighting for Henry VI, his King. Edward IV, known as a womanizer immediately stopped and was taken by the enchanting and distressed widow, who was said by many to be the most beautiful woman in England. Some said she was so pretty, that she must have known secrets of the “old ways,” which meant that she must have dabbled in witchcraft.
Edward most likely wanted her as his mistress, however he was so enthralled by Lady Elizabeth Grey, that he secretly married her. Rumor was, he secretly married another as well, but this was never proven. If he intended for his marriage to be real at first or not is not known, but the fact is, he did proclaim to Warwick, and the nobles of his realm during a meeting, conducted with the intentions of announcing his engagement to the French Princess, a marriage and alliance that Warwick worked to hard to arrange, that he was married to the common widow, Lady Elizabeth Grey. The news shocked the whole Kingdom, most of all Warwick the Kingmaker, who would never forgave this embarrassment and complete lack of respect. The King married for the good of the realm and how he is advised, he does not marry for love. How dare he do such a thing. This was the first test Edward failed, showing his realm that maybe he was no King at all.
Elizabeth and her family were summoned to court, and with her she brought her whole family of Woodville commoners. Soon properties and titles through marriages were snatched up for all of the Queens many siblings, most of them girls. In fact so many, that Warwick realized that almost no suitable nobles remained to marry his daughters, heiresses to their father and mother’s vast estates; his daughters, who had royal blood in their veins. This was another unforgivable act that made Warwick Elizabeth’s most dangerous enemy.
It was during these days that Elizabeth would have crossed paths with Anne Neville. Little did she know, that the sweet little girl would be set against her in a fight for her life. The first thing that indicated that all was not well between Warwick and the Queen was the fact that Warwick did not bring his daughter’s to court to serve the Queen as Ladies in Waiting. Surely as the most noble young ladies in the realm it would have been right and proper. It is what girls of their rank were born for. Elizabeth was served by her many sisters. Her sisters even held her train at her coronation, which was an honor that should have fell to the Neville sisters. No one knew for sure if Elizabeth refused them the honor or Warwick did. Either way, it proved that there was some bad blood brewing between all of them.
Anne Neville was the youngest of two daughters born to Richard “The Kingmaker” Warwick, and his wife Anne de Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick and Salisbury. She and her older sister Isobel were the sole heiresses to their parents huge fortune. They were raised like Princesses and they were the most attractive perspective brides in all of England. Their father saw their worth and used them ruthlessly as pawns in his games of intrigue and struggle for holding power over the Kings of England. One way he tried to secure his power was to have his girls married to Edward IV’s brothers, George the Duke of Clarence, and Richard the Duke of Gloucester. The King was having none of it and refused him. This was the final insult to Warwick that led him to arrange the marriage of Isobel and George anyway, without the King’s consent. and stir up a rebellion against him. If Edward IV would not let him run things, he would put someone in his place that would. Edward’s brother. During this rebellion Elizabeth Woodville’s father and one of her brothers were executed on Warwick’s orders.
Elizabeth fled into sanctuary with her 3 daughters until Edward IV finally ran his brother and Warwick out of England and into France. It was while in France that Warwick switched sides and allied himself with Margaret of Anjou, the wife of the deposed King, Henry VI. To show that his allegiance was real he married his younger daughter Anne to her son, Edward, and they were hailed and the Prince and Princess of Wales. This attempt was short lived as Edward, possibly but not for certain, had Henry VI “taken care of.” The Yorkist also defeated the Lancaster’s, killing Edward, the proclaimed Prince of Wales, and Warwick the Kingmaker, in Battle. Margaret of Anjou fled for good this time.
After all was said and done, Edward eventually forgave his brother George and welcomed him home. George and Isobel took control over Anne Neville. George wanted to keep her half of the Warwick fortune and had no intentions for allowing her to remarry. Richard of Gloucester, the younger brother, decided he would marry her whether his brother liked or not. Anne escaped with him and they eventually married. In the end Edward IV did not protest and allowed Richard to obtain a good portion of her of her inheritance. Greedy George was not pleased and tried to rebel and go against his King again. He was dealt with and he was executed for treason. By then Elizabeth had given Edward a healthy living son and heir. After, she had another. The throne was seemingly secure.
However, when Edward suddenly died of illness, everything fell apart. By pure instinct alone, Elizabeth fled into sanctuary with her daughters and youngest son. The heir, who was now Edward V was on his way to his mother. However, Richard of Gloucester, named Lord Protector in his brother’s will, intercepted the King and brought him to the Tower of London. He insisted he was doing what was customary, as all King’s of England were brought thus before their coronation. Richard also sent his men to coax Elizabeth into releasing her younger son into his care, as the brother’s should be together.
Letting her son go must have been the hardest thing Elizabeth ever had to do. As a mother, she must have known both her boys were in grave danger. Even though she was supposedly safe within the Abbey, Richard would have taken the boy possibly killing the other children as well. She knew she had no choice. He was sent out to be taken to the tower where his brother, the King, was being held prisoner. Some theories are that Elizabeth switched the young boy with a servant and sent her real son away to hide. This is high unlikely, as when the younger boy was brought to his brother, surely the older boy would have been very fearful. He would have known he was in great danger, or possibly given away that the changeling was not his brother. Later on, a pretender to throne would appear during the reign of Henry VII, claiming to be the real surviving son of Edward IV, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York.
Soon the boys were declared illegitimate, because Richard claimed his brother, Edward IV had a pre-contracted marriage. After the boys disappeared, Richard took the crown as Richard III. It was common knowledge then, that the boys met their deaths in that tower while they were supposed to be under their uncle’s protection. Speculation was who killed the boys? Most assume it was Richard, although many benefited from the princes deaths far more. Richard was already King, without much protest from most of the powerful nobility. Henry Tudor and his mother, Margaret Beaufort have been accused as well. Many seem to accept it was Richard, and that he was had just been thorough and making sure the throne was secure for him and his son.
Richard and Anne Neville were crowned jointly. Their son, Edward was then crown Prince of Wales, heir apparent. Eventually Elizabeth emerged from sanctuary and she was allowed at court with her daughters. It was possibly during these times that Elizabeth befriended Margaret Beaufort, Henry Tudor, the last Lancastrian heirs, mother. They probably secretly arranged the betrothal or Henry Tudor and Elizabeth Woodville’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York.
Suddenly, Edward the Prince of Wales, son of Queen Anne Neville died. He was and would be their only child, as Anne Neville was frail and in poor health. Both parents were devastated and Anne became gravely ill. Anne also died and Richard was searching for his next bride. Some say he had set his sights on Elizabeth of York, his niece, before the Queens death. She was young, beautiful, and came from a family with very fertile women. However, he did not have time to settle the matter because Henry Tudor invaded England. Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth field and Henry Tudor was crowned Henry VII, the first Tudor King. He married Elizabeth of York, the daughter of the Yorkist King, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Through their marriage they united the Houses of Lancaster and York and ended the War of the Roses.
Elizabeth Woodville’s legacy still lives on today. Through her, a beautiful common girl, all of Great Britain’s and Scotland’s monarchs descended.
Their saga has actually been made into a made for television mini series called “The White Queen” based on the novel by Philippa Gregory, by the same title.