Henry VII of England (1457-1509) and Elizabeth of York (1466-1503)

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Henry VII and Elizabeth of York

Henry Tudor and Elizabeth Plantagenet, seen here with three of the Tudor children, Arthur, Henry, and Mary Rose, were the couple who joined the house of Lancaster and York, ending the War of the Roses for good.

Henry Tudor was the son of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and Countess Margaret Beaufort. He never knew his father, for he died before Henry was born. He and his mother were looked after by Jasper Tudor, Henry’s uncle. When Margaret was given in marriage again to Henry Stafford , the Duke of Buckingham’s son, she left Henry in his uncle’s care, as that was what was normally done during this time. Normally, noble children with title and lands were left in the care of a male guardian and they did not follow their mothers when they remarried. It is expected that Jasper Tudor was very close to Henry and like a father to him.

His mother also visited him quite regularly during his younger years when he was in England. This was due to the kindness of her husband, who did not have to escort her for these visits. Henry’s mother was appalled by the Yorkist deposition of the Lancaster King, Henry VI. She remained loyal to the Lancaster cause all her life, while she saw many other nobles and friends switch sides so readily. Because of this, she suffered hardship and her son’s lands and titles were taken from him. She made it her life mission to restore to her son what was rightfully his.

At some point in time Margaret claimed she had a vision from God and it was revealed to her that her son would be King of England. Many people thought she was a bit mad. It was true that she had royal blood, but it was pretty diluted and maybe not even legitimate. She was the great-great granddaughter of Edward III, through a third son, John of Gaunt and the children by his mistress, who were later legitimized, though barred from succession. The thing was, at the time, there were five Lancasters ahead of Henry Tudor in the line of succession. Also, a Yorkist, Edward IV, was currently King and he was proving to be a great King. The deposed king, Henry VI, was pretty much mentally insane. He did not even know his own name most of the time. Even still, Margaret would not be deterred. She was quite a bold ambitious woman when one takes into account what she preached. She did understand the consequences of those who committed treason.

This was how Henry Tudor grew up. He grew up believing that one day he could be King of England. He would bide his time await his moment patiently.

Elizabeth of Plantagenet on the other hand, grew up at the enemies court. Her father was the Yorkist King, Edward IV, and her mother was the commoner he scandalized the kingdom with when he married her, Lady Elizabeth Woodville. Elizabeth grew up in a stressful environment. Her father’s kingdom was very unstable. The Earl of Warwick, put her father on throne in the hopes he could make Edward his puppet and rule through him. Edward proved to be too strong. Warwick rebelled several times and even plotted with Edwards brother. He did not stop plotting until he died during one of his uprisings. Edward’s brother, George, the Duke of Clarence, never stopped rebelling either, until he was executed.

When Elizabeth’s father died, her 12 year old brother became Edward V, with his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, named Lord Protector. Elizabeth Woodville, not trusting Richard fled into sanctuary with most of her children. Edward V, was intercepted on his way to his mother and taken to the tower by Richard’s men. What happened afterwards remains a mystery. Richard, who was always seemingly loyal to his brother when he was King, declared that the children of Edward IV were illegitimate, because Edward made a previous marriage in secret to another woman. This could not be proven, but Richard still had himself and his wife Anne Neville crowned King and Queen of England.

A lot of people did not protest, as they knew Richard III to be a pretty decent man and a good military general. They knew that with a child on the throne, things were never certain. But, wasn’t that why Edward trusted his brother to be Lord Protector? Also, many people hated Elizabeth Woodville and her family. People really believed she was a witch. This was something that people were sincerely afraid of during these times. As much as they adored Edward IV, they despised their Queen, though she appears to have been as kind a Queen as any other.

What happened after Richard III became King is the big part of the mystery. Suddenly the two sons of Edward IV (the second son was eventually brought to the tower) disappeared. The mystery of the Two Princes in the tower has caused a lot of debate amongst historians. Did Richard order the boys killed? Did Anne Neville, his Queen? Or did Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor? Even though Richard declared them illegitimate, as long as the boys remained alive they would always remain a threat to his reign. They would also remain a threat to Anne Neville’s son, or any other children she may have with the King. However, getting rid of the boys, would put Margaret’s son Henry Tudor next in line for the throne (the 3 others that were in front of Henry had already died by this time). Henry Tudor was already preparing to invade England at the time. No one knows who killed the Two Princes in the Tower, but we do know that they were gone.

When Elizabeth of York and her mother found out, they were beside themselves with grief. Richard begged them to come out of sanctuary and that his nieces come to court to serve his wife as Queen. He swore he had nothing to do with the boys disappearance. No one can say if Elizabeth Woodville believed him or not, or if she suspected Margaret Tudor, because she has agreed to a supposedly secret betrothal between Henry Tudor and her daughter, Elizabeth. She also came out of hiding. Perhaps she felt she had nothing to lose at that point and she could not bare to stay locked away forever.

At court a rumor spread that Richard III was in love with his niece Elizabeth of York. His only son and heir had died of an illness and his wife was also very ill. She was not expected to live much longer, and she had not had a pregnancy in over 10 years. Even if she lived, it could be possible that Richard would have set her aside sooner or later, like so many kings did before him. There could have been some truth to these rumors. This also put Elizabeth in the most ideal position. As Richard and Henry prepared for their final battle for the crown, no matter what the outcome, Elizabeth of York, most likely would have been the next Queen of England. With the two Princes gone, the Yorkist were outraged. Either King needed to marry the York Princess in order to ensure peace within the realm. Civil war was on the verge of exploding from beneath the surface again.

With the help of France and Brittany, Henry Tudor set out to invade England. Richard III, with most of the British nobility supporting him set out to defend his crown. Henry’s men were outnumbered when the battle began at Bosworth‘s Field. It was Margaret Beaufort’s 4th husband, Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby, his brother, Sir William Stanley, and Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland, who decided the battle in Henry Tudor’s favor, (which you can bet they were awarded mightily for later on). They switched sides at the last moment and they destroyed Richard’s army, also killing Richard. Rumor was that Richard wore his crown into battle and it was plucked from the ground and placed on Henry Tudor’s head. Who knows, but it makes for a good story, right?

Henry had himself crowned almost right away and he also married Elizabeth of York. No one knows how she really felt about the marriage, or if she suspected Henry Tudor’s mother could have ordered the deaths of her brothers; or that she believed Richard did and was therefore happy. The fact is, no one cared how women felt about these things. They were mere pawns, used to glorify their families and cement alliances. She knew it was her duty to marry Henry VII, King of England. It appears they did grow to love each other. They had seven children. Four of whom lived past infancy and married, making great alliances, strengthening the kingdom. The heir Prince Arthur died young, but he bought the alliance with Spain, which his younger brother Henry kept for a time. Princess Margaret Tudor bought an alliance with Scotland. Through her great-grandson James, England was united with Scotland. Princess Mary Rose bought a brief alliance with France (England and France as friends never lasted long anyway). Through her descended Jane Grey, the tragic Nine Days Queen.

Elizabeth of York, Queen consort of England died after giving birth to a short lived daughter. She was doing her duty as queen by attempting to provide the King with another heir. Childbirth was the number one cause of death for women during these times. Queen’s and noble women died even more from it, as they did not nurse their own babies, therefore they experienced more pregnancies than lower born women. Henry VII, sincerely mourned her, locking himself away, refusing to see anyone. He even gave her a lavish funeral, and Henry VII was known as a money hoarder. He did not like to splurge on parties, festivities, or special occasions. Henry VII, never remarried, though several attempts were made by his advisers to push the subject. The marriages that were attempted to be arranged came to naught. As a powerful and wealthy King he would have had several choices. It appears his heart was not in it though. Perhaps in the end, no one could replace his true love Elizabeth of York.

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York

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