Elizabeth Woodville Biography

Elizabeth Woodville was wife of King Edward IV and remained Queen consort of England from 1464 till 1483. This biography profiles her childhood, family, life history, marriage to King Edward IV, and other facts.

Elizabeth Woodville
Quick Facts

Born: 1437

Nationality: British

Famous: Empresses & Queens British Women

Died At Age: 55

Born in: Grafton Regis, United Kingdom

Famous as: British Queen (1464-1483)

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Sir John Grey (m. c. 1452–61; his death) Edward IV of England

father: Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers

mother: Jacquetta of Luxembourg

siblings: 3rd Earl Rivers, Anne Woodville, Anthony Woodville, Catherine Woodville, Duchess of Buckingham, Edward Woodville, Eleanor Woodville, Jacquetta Woodville, John Woodville, Lewis Woodwille, Lionel Woodville, Lord Scales, Margaret Woodville, Martha Woodville, Mary Woodville, Richard Woodville

children: 1st Duke of Bedford, 1st Marquess of Dorset, Anne of York, Bridget of York, Catherine of York, Cecily of York, Duke of York, Edward V, Elizabeth of York, George Plantagenet, Margaret of York, Mary of York, Richard Grey, Richard of Shrewsbury, Thomas Grey

Died on: June 8, 1492

place of death: Bermondsey, London, United Kingdom

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Elizabeth Woodville was wife of King Edward IV and remained Queen consort of England starting 1464 till the demise of the King in 1483. This great Lancastrian beauty was a widow with two children when she married Edward IV. The wedlock that became a cause célèbre of those times made Edward IV the second monarch of England who married one of his subjects. Elizabeth was the first such consort to emerge as queen. Her Lancastrian background sans any royal rank made her marriage with Edward IV unpopular among ruling Yorkist nobility. Moreover her propensity in gaining high offices and titles for her relatives and their subsequent advancements met with hostility, particularly from Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. This led to fallout between the King and Warwick, who switched side to the Lancastrians. Edward IV and Elizabeth’s son, Edward V, became the king for a brief period, but the ‘Titulus Regius’ issued in 1484 invalidated their marriage debarring their children to the throne. The crown was bestowed to Richard III, brother of Edward IV. Elizabeth later played an instrumental role in the accession of Lancastrian Henry VII to the throne which marked he end of Yorkist rule.

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Elizabeth Woodville
Childhood & Early Life
  • Elizabeth Woodville was born sometime around 1437, presumably in October in Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire as first born child of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers and Jacquetta of Luxembourg.
  • The secret marriage of her parents considered unequal socially with her father being a mere knight from a genteel family background and her mother a wealthy childless widow of John, Duke of Bedford, younger brother of King Henry V who ruled England till his death on August 31, 1422 , disparaged the court of England.
  • Although her parents were fined £1000, it was later remitted and on May 9, 1448, her father was created Baron Rivers by King Henry VI.
  • Elizabeth was married to Lancastrian knight and heir to Barony Ferrers of Groby Sir John Grey in 1452. He died in 1461 fighting at the Second Battle of St Albans.
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Marriage to King Edward IV & Tenure As Queen Consort
  • March 29, 1461, witnessed the Battle of Towton during the English Wars of the Roses that resulted in the decisive victory of the Yorkists over the Lancastrians leading to the ascension of Edward, Duke of York as King Edward IV displacing King Henry VI.
  • Although the exact date of Elizabeth’s secret marriage with Edward IV is not known, it is conventionally regarded to have happened on May 1, 1964, in her Northamptonshire family house in the presence of her mother and two other ladies. On May 26, 1465, she was crowned the Queen.
  • Edward IV’s choice of marrying Elizabeth was however not taken well by the Privy Council and particularly by his cousin Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick whose support played an instrumental role in initial years of the former’s reign.
  • Secret marriage of Edward IV to a Lancastrian as also a commoner came as an embarrassment to Warwick who was meanwhile trying to negotiate an alliance with France to prevent such move by wife of Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou, by planning Edward IV’s marriage with a French princess.
  • Elizabeth’s position as Queen Consort greatly aided her relatives in gaining high offices and titles. Her sister Catherine Woodville married Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, the 11 year old ward of King Edward IV, while three of her other sisters married sons of the earls of Essex, Pembroke and Kent.
  • Her son Thomas Grey from first marriage was married to Cecily Bonville, 7th Baroness Harington. The most scandalised marriage of all was of her twenty years old brother John with sexagenarian three-time widow Katherine, Duchess of Norfolk.
  • Warwick’ s relationship with Edward IV strained over the latter’s choice of marrying Elizabeth as also on foreign policy and it only worsened with time. Warwick devised plan to enthrone Edward IV’s younger brother and his son-in-law, George, Duke of Clarence, but it failed.
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  • Warwick then changed side to Lancastrians and restored Henry VI to the throne in 1470 while Edward IV went into exile. However such feat remained short-lived as Edward IV defeated Warwick at the Battle of Barnet on April 14, 1471 where the latter was killed and then defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury on May 4, that year to regain his throne.
  • Meanwhile on November 2, 1470, Elizabeth gave birth to Edward in a Westminster Abbey sanctuary who later succeeded his father Edward IV to the throne as Edward V. As queen consort, she would involve in Christian pious acts which included founding St. Erasmus’ chapel in Westminster Abbey and making pilgrimages among others.
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As Queen Dowager
  • With the death of Edward IV on April 9, 1483 and ascension of her 12-year old son Edward V to the throne, Elizabeth became queen dowager while Edward IV’s brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester became the Lord Protector.
  • The 86-day reign of the uncrowned Edward V was dominated by the influence of Gloucester who in pursuit of restricting power of Woodvilles arrested Elizabeth’s son Richard Grey and brother Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers and later executed them.
  • An ardent Yorkist William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings KG who remained a close friend and significant courtier of late King Edward IV and who initially backed actions of Gloucester was summarily executed by Gloucester on June 13, 1483, with accusations of treason planned with Elizabeth.
  • Elizabeth meanwhile sought sanctuary with her daughters and younger son while Edward V was transferred to the Tower of London.
  • The ‘Titulus Regius’ act declared marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth invalid and their children illegitimate thus barring them from throne. Gloucester was offered the throne who then replaced Edward V as King Richard III on June 26, 1483.
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  • The two sons of Edward IV, Edward V aged 12 years and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York aged 9 years often referred as Princes in the Tower who were lodged by Gloucester in the Tower of London suddenly disappeared and were never seen after the summer of 1483.
  • Although several hypotheses have been suggested for the disappearance of the princes it is usually assumed that they were murdered and such act is widely attributed to Richard III.
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The Fall of Richard III & Accession of Henry VII
  • Elizabeth along with Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, KG joined hands with Lady Margaret Stanley (née Beaufort) who already began to promote her son Henry Tudor, a great-great-great-grandson of King Edward III and by that time the only surviving male having any lineal claim to the House of Lancaster as the credible replacement of Richard III as King of England.
  • The two ladies strengthened ties by deciding to marry off Elizabeth’s eldest daughter Elizabeth of York, the heiress of the House of York by that time following her brothers’ death, with Henry Tudor and on December 25, 1483 Henry took a pledge in the cathedral in Rennes, France to marry Elizabeth of York.
  • Two major uprisings were undertaken against Richard III. Although the first one under Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham failed, the one under Henry Tudor and his uncle Jasper Tudor that took place on August 22, 1485 saw a decisive victory of the Lancastrians over the Yorkists.
  • The civil war became famous as the Battle of Bosworth Field. It was the last significant battle of the ‘Wars of the Roses’ that not only saw overthrow of the House of York with killing of Richard III in the battle but also rise of Tudor Dynasty with Henry Tudor being crowned as first English monarch of the dynasty as Henry VII of England.
  • Henry VII then not only revoked the Titulus Regius but also destroyed all copies of the act found. The title and honours of a queen dowager was granted to Elizabeth Woodville.
  • The once influential Elizabeth however lost her pre-eminence to Henry VII’s mother, Lady Margaret Stanley (née Beaufort) and eventually retired from court.
  • On February 12, 1487 she retreated at the Bermondsey Abbey where she spent the last five years of her life. Different scholars differ on the reason for such retreat with some believing that she was compelled to retreat in the convent by Henry VII while some others say that her religious inclinations led her to such move.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • She had two sons from her first marriage with Sir John Grey and three sons including Edward V and seven daughters with King Edward IV of England.
  • On June 8, 1492 she died at Bermondsey Abbey and her funeral ceremony was held on June 12, 1492 at Windsor Castle. She lay to rest in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle in the same chantry as Edward IV.
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How To Cite

Article Title
- Elizabeth Woodville Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/elizabeth-woodville-33620.php
Last Updated
- August 22, 2017

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