Birthday: February 11, 1466
Died At Age: 37
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Born Country: England
Born in: Westminster Palace, London, England, United Kingdom
Famous as: Queen Consort of England
Empresses & Queens
Spouse/Ex-: Henry VII of England (m. 1486)
father: Edward IV of England
mother: Elizabeth Woodville
siblings: Anne of York, Arthur Plantagenet - 1st Viscount Lisle, Bridget of York, Catherine of York, Cecily of York, Edward V, Elizabeth Plantagenet, George Plantagenet - 1st Duke of Bedford, Margaret of York, Mary of York, Richard of Shrewsbury - Duke of York
children: Arthur, Arthur - Prince of Wales, Edmund Tudor - Duke of Somerset, Edward Tudor Henry VII of England, Elizabeth Tudor, Henry VIII, Katherine Tudor, King of England Mary, Margaret Tudor, Mary Tudor - Queen of France, Prince of Wales Margaret, Queen of France, Queen of Scots
Died on: February 11, 1503
place of death: Tower of London, London, England, United Kingdom
Who was Elizabeth of York?
Elizabeth of York was the wife of Henry VII and the first queen consort of England of the Tudor dynasty. Daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York was born in medieval England in the year 1466. She was a kind woman and led a happy and peaceful life until the death of her father, which triggered bitter feud over the throne. Subsequently, her uncle Richard III ascended the throne, of which Elizabeth’s brother Edward was the rightful heir. The struggle for the throne was far from over and Richard’s reign didn’t last very long as he was defeated by Henry Tudor of House Lancaster. By then, almost all the members of the York house were either dead or had disappeared. In order to establish peace between the two houses, Elizabeth of York was married to Henry Tudor, better known in history as King Henry VII. The war ended and peace found its way into the kingdom. Elizabeth and Henry were blessed with eight children, of which only four survived to adulthood. Elizabeth is remembered as a beautiful and kind woman who was loved by her subjects.
Childhood & Early Life
On February 11, 1466, Elizabeth of York was born into the royal family, to King Edward IV of England and Queen Elizabeth Woodville, in the royal palace of Westminster. She was given lessons in dancing, singing, embroidery, and manners. At the age of three, she was promised to be married to George Neville, but the betrothal was called off due to George’s death. It was a political arrangement as George’s father John Neville had declared against Edward during the uprising.
It was a period of utter chaos as the houses of York and Lancaster were at each other’s throats. This conflict for the throne of England came to be known as ‘War of the Roses.’ In September 1470, Edward IV had to flee England in order to save his life from Earl of Warwick and Margaret of Anjou, who supported the house of Lancaster in the battle for the throne. Elizabeth Woodville took asylum in Westminster Abbey in order to safeguard her children; criminals or the outlaws could seek asylum in the churches.
Since Elizabeth was the eldest child of King Edward, she was named the Queen Regent by the loyal supporters of the House of York during the absence of Edward IV. In the meantime, Elizabeth Woodville gave birth to a son. The birth of his son infused courage in King Edward who won back his throne successfully. He also rejoined his family, much to the delight of his wife and children.
Elizabeth of York learned to read and write in English. She also learned French. She was a kind young girl, who loved her parents and siblings and believed in God.
In 1475, the King of France eyed the throne of England. King Edward retaliated by invading the neighboring country with all his might. King Louis XI of France decided to settle the issue without war if Edward promised his daughter’s hand to the Prince of France Dauphin Charles. The arrangement was later canceled as the French royals dishonored the agreement and broke it. It was a huge blow to King Edward. However, he decided not to react to it with armed forces.
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Life After Edward's Death
In April 1483, when Elizabeth was 17, King Edward died under dubious circumstances. His death left the royal York house of England exposed to several power-hungry nobles. Her mother took the children to a safe sanctuary, leaving behind her eldest sons, Edward and Richard, as per the wishes of their Uncle Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. He turned out to be a traitor and claimed that all the children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were bastards. He said that the children didn’t have claim to the throne, and crowned himself the king.
Some time after Richard III became the king, Elizabeth’s brothers disappeared from the tower where they were supposedly kept safe by their uncle. Elizabeth had no brothers left and the supporters of the York house accepted Elizabeth as the legitimate heir to the throne after her father Edward IV. Richard III’s act of treason filled lady Woodville with hatred towards her husband’s brother. Hence, she joined hands with the House of Lancaster’s Margaret Beaufort by betrothing Elizabeth to Henry Tudor, Beaufort’s son.
Henry Tudor attacked the troops of Richard III, and defeated him at the ‘Battle of Bosworth’ and occupied the throne of England as King Henry VII. Subsequently, he declared Lady Woodville’s children as the legitimate children of Edward IV and Lady Elizabeth Woodville.
In January 1486, Henry VII married Elizabeth in a grand ceremony. The wedding officially brought an end to the ‘War of the Roses.’
As The Queen
Some records suggest that though Henry VII didn’t love Elizabeth, he respected her for being a kind, generous, and wonderful human being, who was popular among the subjects for being kind to them all. Her marriage with Henry VII unified the Houses of York and Lancaster, which established peace in England to a great degree.
Elizabeth kept herself away from politics, but supported her husband in his endeavors. She preferred taking the back seat, despite the fact that she was still considered the rightful heir to the throne by some loyalists of the York house.
Elizabeth spent quite a lot of time traveling, sometimes with her husband, and most of the time alone to the faraway lands of her kingdom. She became pregnant soon after her marriage and gave birth to a son named Arthur in September 1486. Arthur was later crowned as the prince. She eventually gave birth to seven more children. However, most of her children were not healthy and many of them died soon after their birth. Their eldest son Arthur, the heir to the throne, died in 1502, inducing a wave of pain and shock in the royal couple’s life.
Henry loved his son more than anything in the world. He broke down after his son’s death, with many accounts claiming that he got severely depressed. It is said that his love and respect for his wife Elizabeth grew when she comforted him during this difficult time. She told him that they were still young and could have many more children if they want to and that consoled the king. Soon, the queen became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter named Katherine in 1503. Unfortunately, Elizabeth had become very weak by now and succumbed to a post-partum infection in February 1503.
Elizabeth of York was a deeply respected woman and the family broke down when she died. Historians even claim that King Henry Tudor became reclusive after her death and ordered everyone to leave him alone to mourn the death of his beloved wife. Henry became ill, and couldn’t move on from the death of his wife. The members of his royal court saw him lose his skills as a ruler. In fact, he would weep uncontrollably every now and then. He became a very silent man. The court members advised him to remarry and several proposals came his way, but he remained a widower and died in 1509; his body was buried next to Elizabeth’s grave.
Elizabeth and Henry were blessed with eight children, of which four managed to survive to adulthood—Arthur, Margaret, Henry, and Mary. The king never sought a mistress when he was with Elizabeth, and shared a close and affectionate bond with her. The king’s devotion to his wife wasn’t appreciated by the loyal advisors as they thought that a king shouldn’t be very attached to his spouse. They claimed that his love for his wife could hinder logical thinking, which could prove disastrous for a king. But Henry Tudor didn’t care as he loved and cared for his wife until the very end.
Elizabeth of York is remembered as one of the most powerful women in the history of English royal lineage. Over a period of time, she became a famous character for several plays, movies, novels, and poems. William Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tragedy of King Richard III’ mentions her name several times. However, her character doesn’t make an appearance in the play. In the 2013 BBC drama ‘The White Queen,’ Elizabeth plays a key role. The character was portrayed beautifully by Freya Mavor.
She has been the main character in several novels, such as ‘The Red Queen’ and ‘The White Princess.’
In the Starz drama mini-series, which revolves around the marriage of Elizabeth and Henry, her character was portrayed by English actress Jodie Comer in 2017.