Today in history: The Life of Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth of York is crowned Queen of England

7 mins read
Reign January 18, 1486-February 11, 1503 Coronation on November 25, 1487

In 1486, she married Henry VII, king of England, and became queen of England. She was the wife of Henry VII, mother of Henry VIII, daughter of Edward IV, niece of Richard III and sister of Edward V. She is also a Princess of England by virtue of being the daughter of Edward IV and the sister of Edward V. She is the sister, daughter, niece, wife and mother of the Kings of England.

Her life:

King’s daughter
Elizabeth was born in 1466 at the Palace of Westminster, the first child of King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth Woodville. She was baptized under the sponsorship of her grandmothers Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. His third sponsor was his cousin Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.

In 1469 she was briefly betrothed to George Neville, son of John Neville, Earl of Northumberland. John Neville had supported King Edward IV in the rebellion led by his brother Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, and later sided with his brother Warwick. In 1475, King Louis XI of France had agreed to the betrothal of Elizabeth to his son Charles VIII. However, he reneged on this promise in 1482.

King’s brother

On April 9, 1483, Elizabeth’s father died unexpectedly and her younger brother Edward, Prince of Wales, became king. Her uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, became her nephew’s guardian and regent until he reached a mature age.

After his brother’s death, the Duke of Gloucester sought to distance his nephews from the Woodville family. When his nephew Edward V made the journey from Ludlow, where he lived as Prince of Wales, to London, where he was to be crowned, he was met on the road by his uncle and taken to the Tower of London for his safety. Former Queen Elizabeth took refuge in Westminster Abbey with the Woodville daughters and her other son, Richard, Duke of York. Gloucester asked that his other nephew, Prince Richard, be brought to the Tower with his brother Edward.

Two months later, on June 22, 1483, King Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid. Parliament backed this with a law called Titulus Regius. This declared that Edward IV’s two princes and their daughters were illegitimate and therefore had no right to the throne. Richard, Duke of Gloucester ascended the throne as Richard III on July 6, 1483 when his nephews were declared illegitimate. His nephews, Edward V and Richard Duke of York, disappeared from the tower shortly afterwards. Rumors began to spread that they had been murdered.

King’s nephew

Elizabeth’s mother, former Queen Elizabeth Woodville, began to form an alliance with Henry Tudor’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort. Even though Henry Tudor was a great-grandson of King Edward III, his chances of claiming the throne were slim. Nevertheless, his mother Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville agreed that Henry should fight for the throne, and if he won, he would marry Elizabeth and unite the two rival families. In December 1483, in a cathedral in Rennes, Henry Tudor publicly announced that he would marry Elizabeth.

In 1484 Elizabeth and her family left their sanctuary in Westminster Abbey and returned to court. Rumors emerged that Richard III would marry Elizabeth when his sick wife Anne Neville died. According to the Croyland Chronicle, King Richard had to deny this rumor. Sir George Buck (b. 1560-d.1622) later claimed that he had proof of the rumor’s authenticity, claiming that Elizabeth was willing to marry her uncle, the King, in one of her letters. Buck, who had uncovered the only copy of the Titulus Regius, the document that had illegitimized the marriage of King Edward VI, was unable to provide evidence for his claim about this marriage. Following Anne Neville’s death, Richard III removed his niece Elizabeth from court and began negotiations to marry Princess Joanna of Portugal. For Elizabeth, he planned a marriage with the future King Manuel I of Portugal.

On August 7, 1485, Henry Tudor and his army arrived in Wales. On August 22, 1485, Henry Tudor and Richard III faced each other at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard III, despite being outnumbered, was betrayed by some powerful lords on his side and was defeated in battle. Henry Tudor became King of England as Henry VII.

King’s wife

She was the eldest daughter of King Edward IV and with no living brothers, Elizabeth had a chance to claim the throne of England on her own. Henry, who had won the war, saw that marrying Elizabeth would bring stability to the kingdom and weaken the claim to the throne by other living members of the House of York. In addition, Henry wanted it to be known that he had taken the throne by war, not by marriage to a member of the House of York, and he did not want to share the throne. Therefore, on October 30, 1485, he chose to be crowned as King before his marriage.

Although their marriage was initially for political reasons and national interests, Henry and Elizabeth grew to love each other over time. They portrayed a happy couple until Elizabeth’s death in 1503. Elizabeth was a loving mother and supportive wife with a calm character. She was loved by the courtiers and her people.

Arthur, Prince of Wales (September 20, 1486 – April 2, 1502)
Margaret, Queen of Scots (November 28, 1489 – October 18, 1541)
Henry VIII, King of England (June 28, 1491 – January 28, 1547)
Elizabeth (July 2, 1492 – September 14, 1495), buried in St Edward’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey
Mary Queen of France (March 18, 1496 – June 25, 1533)
Edmund (February 21, 1499 – June 19, 1500), buried in Westminster Abbey
Katherine (February 2, 1503 – February 10 or 18, 1503), buried in Westminster Abbey.



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