On This Day – 11th February 1465 and 1503

Elizabeth of York

On the 11th of February 1465, Elizabeth, the first child of Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville, was born at Westminster Palace, London.

Elizabeth already had two legitimate step-brothers; her mother was a widow when she married Edward, and possibly a few illegitimate siblings as well – Edward was a notorious womaniser!

Like most princess at that time, betrothals were made, and discarded to suit the political aspirations of the king. Unusually, Elizabeth’s first proposed match was with a Duke of the Realm, the Duke of Bedford. That was set aside, and Elizabeth was betrothed to the Dauphin of France, who broke off the arrangement when Elizabeth was about 16.

In 1470, when Edward was forced to flee England after the restoration of Henry VI, Elizabeth Woodville and her three daughters took sanctuary in Westminster for about six months.

It was not the last time that Elizabeth Woodville sought sanctuary for herself and her children.  In 1483, after Edward died, Elizabeth fled to Westminster with her surviving five daughters and elder son, Edward, heir to the throne.

It is well known that Richard, Edward’s brother, declared that Elizabeth Woodville’s marriage to Edward was invalid, and that all their children were therefore illegitimate. Richard took the throne for himself. Under a guarantee of safety, provisions for the future and suitable marriages for her daughters, Elizabeth Woodville finally left sanctuary in March 1484.

Edward IV is reputed to have entrusted the care of Elizabeth to Lord Stanley. That would seem a little odd, since Stanley was the step-father of Henry Tudor, heir to the Lancastrian claim to the throne. However, if it is true and Elizabeth did lodge with the Stanley’s after leaving sanctuary, then it would explain how a marriage between Elizabeth and Henry was arranged. The marriage, it was hoped, would unite the claims of the Houses of Lancaster and York and end the dynastic turmoil of nearly a century.

After Henry won the Battle of Bosworth on the 22nd of August 1485, he sent for Elizabeth, and declared her Duchess of York. But, being determined to have his own right to the throne acknowledged and not wanting it to appear that he based his claim on Elizabeth’s heritage, Henry did not marry Elizabeth until five months later. That being the case, she was crowned at Henry’s coronation on the 30th of October that year. That event took place in November the following year.

Henry and Elizabeth had a total of seven children. The last child, named Katherine, was born and died on the 2nd of February 1503. Soon after, Elizabeth was taken ill. She died on her thirty-eighth birthday, 11th of February 1503.

Henry and Elizabeth’s marriage was based on political considerations, yet it is clear that they came to care for each other deeply. When Elizabeth died, Henry was stricken with grief and ‘privily departed to a solitary place and would no man should resort unto him‘.

16 thoughts on “On This Day – 11th February 1465 and 1503”

  1. boadicea
    When our sons were in primary school and I was fairly new in the UK, I saved one of their wooden rulers with an account of British History 613 to 1952 for quick reference to the history of the country that was now home. I often refer to it, just as I did now to (ignorantly) confirm that it was not Elizabeth I you meant. She of course ascended the throne in 1558, yes? 🙂

  2. It’s hard for me to follow your history posts, Boadicea. Language problems. I liked the last para.

    Ottomans, after the second Sultan, did not marry Turks. Not give any privilege to any family. To prevent possible claims, I guess.

    We don’t/didn’t have classes as English do, to my knowledge.

    Is royalty expressed with “blue blood” in English too? If so, do you know where it comes from?

  3. Levent, according to St Wiki, blue blood is ” a literal translation of the Spanish ‘sangre azul’, attributed to some of the oldest and proudest families of Castile, who claimed never to have intermarried with Moors, Jews, or other races. The expression probably originated in the blueness of the veins of people of fair complexion as compared with those of dark skin.

    That was certainly the understanding in the 19th century, and there seems little reason to doubt it. In 1834 Maria Edgeworth published ‘Helen’, which reiterates that opinion:

    “[Someone] from Spain, of high rank and birth, of the sangre azul, the blue blood.”

  4. I always liked Elizabeth Woodville ever since reading an historical novel about her. She was by some accounts a very beautiful woman, though descriptions of her might lead one to infer that tastes in beauty have changed. Her first husband was Sir John Grey. When she married Edward IV upon Grey’s death, she was known in some quarters, presumably those of Richard Duke of Gloucester, as the King’s Grey Mare.

    Here is a poem I learned as a child.

    King Edward the fourth was gay
    King Edward the fourth was charming
    He had a voice like silk
    And manners like milk
    And a smile that was most disarming

    King Edward the fourth was vexed
    By the Duke of Clarence his brother
    Although they had the selfsame dad
    As well as the selfsame mother

    King Edward the fourth was harsh
    So without and pangs or qualms he
    Upsided down his brother and drowned
    Him dead in a butt of malmsey

    King Edward the fourth was gay
    King Edward the fourth was charming
    He had a voice like silk
    And manners like milk
    And a smile that was most disarming

    I make no claims as to the factual accuracy of this poem, but learning it and others, helped me to remember all the monarchs from William I to Elizabeth II and to put them in some sort of historical context.

  5. PS I particularly like:
    “King Edward the fourth was harsh
    So without any pangs or qualms he
    Upsided down his brother and drowned
    Him dead in a butt of malmsey”.

    Great invention with the rhymes! I wish I’d written it. 😦

  6. Janus,

    Yes! “blueness of the veins” same in the east too. Meaning they don’t get much sunlight = they don’t work. A sign of royalty.

  7. A word of clarification; of course I only got confused about the name Elizabeth in paragraph eight as the little that I do know about English history includes Queen Elizabeth I never married.

  8. Shermeen may I suggest a nice politically correct potted history of England by the BBC?

    Called ‘This Sceptered Isle’ It should provide you with a basis of historical knowledge of the country in which you live.

  9. Shermeen there is also ‘A People’s History of Britain’ by Rebecca Fraser. I confess I have not read it, but her credentials are excellent, especially as she mentions that she grew up on ‘Our Island Story’. A more jingoistic account of Britain’s history for children you could not hope to find. In other words I don’t think she will be too PC, despite her mum’s dodgy left leanings. Her dad was a Tory MP.

  10. Hi Boadicea, I’m falling behind here! Dentist checkup. OK feeble excuse but may I just I just say that that your post are reviving my interest in history which has been buried for many years, and for that, I thank you, although it is taking up a a fair amount of time. Shermeen could do no better than follow your posts, although the suggestions above should not be discounted.

    PS: I am really bad at dates and who was on the throne whenever, I gave up history in favour of geography at the age of fourteen, so bored was I with the Repeal of he Corn Laws 🙂

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