Elizabeth Woodville

Elizabeth Woodville was born around 1437 in Northamptonshire, England, the daughter of Sir Richard Woodville, a knight and Jacquetta of Luxembourg.

Around 1452, Elizabeth was married to Sir John Grey of Groby, a marriage that produced two sons. John Grey, however was later to die at the Second Battle of St Albans in 1461.

Edward IV was heavily supported by his cousin Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who believed that to secure relations with France, a politically motivated marriage with a French princess should be arranged, however Edward went ahead and secretly married Elizabeth Woodville.

Why Edward would go against the wishes of his main supporter is unknown, however Edward was not known for his fidelity, so maybe Elizabeth had refused to become his mistress and wanting her, he had no choice but to marry her.

Edward and Elizabeth were married in secret, believed to be on 1 May 1464 at her home in Northamptonshire, and later crowned queen on 26 May 1465.

When the marriage became known, Warwick was furious. He and Edward were now enemies.

Warwick now defected to the Lancastrian cause along with George, Duke of Clarence. They formed an alliance with Margaret of Anjou, wife of the deposed King Henry VI of England and agreed with her that they would reinstate her husband Henry to the throne.

Following battle, Henry VI was briefly restored to the throne, and Edward fled to France.

For her own security, Elizabeth, now pregnant sought sanctuary in Westminster Abbey where she gave birth to her son, Edward, one of ten children in her marriage to Edward IV.

Edward returned and regained his throne at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.

Following Edward’s death in April 1483, his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester became Lord Protector of Edward IV’s son, also named Edward.

Elizabeth’s eldest son Edward briefly came to the throne as Edward V, but Gloucester wanted the throne for himself so he convinced parliament that the marriage between Edward and Elizabeth Woodville was invalid, therefore making their children illegitimate, leaving Gloucester to take the throne as Richard III.

Elizabeth’s two older son’s Edward and Richard, Duke of York were imprisoned in the Tower of London and later disappeared, believed murdered. Elizabeth herself sought sanctuary again, along with her daughters.

In January 1484 Richard stripped Elizabeth of all the lands she received during the reign of her husband Edward IV, however she later reconciled with Richard and returned to court with her daughters.

In 1484 Elizabeth was afforded the title and honours of Queen Dowager by the then king Henry VII, and in 1487 she retired to Bermondsey Abbey to live. This is where she died on 8 June 1492. She is buried at St Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle.

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