Woodville, Elizabeth

 Born  1437   Born At  
 Died  8 Jun 1492   Buried At  
 Father  Woodville, Richard (1st Earl Rivers)   Mother  Jacquetta (of Luxembourg)
he eldest child of Richard and Jacquetta Woodville arrived in 1437 and grew up to be incredibly beautiful. As Richard Woodville was known as the most handsome man in England and Jacquetta was said to be beautiful, too, it is not surprising their offspring displayed startling good looks.

Elizabeth married Sir John Grey in 1457. Sir John was the owner of the Bradgate estate and had considerable wealth. He was Lancastrian by inclination, as was the Woodville family. It seemed a perfect match. The couple had two sons and life seemed to be good, but Sir John was killed in the second battle of St Albans in 1461 and Elizabeth returned to Grafton, to the family home, with her sons.

She met Edward IV probably at a reception held by one of the local gentry and from then on her future was set. They were married on the 1st May 1464 in a secret ceremony at Grafton. It was some five months later when the news of the marriage finally came out and the court went into shock. The handsome young soldier king, who could have had the pick of any European Princess, had chosen a Lancastrian widow with two children. It was hard for courtiers to understand but it had happened and it was something they had to live with. Edward was kept busy arranging marriages and positions for every member of his new bride's extensive family. The marriage did not sit well with Richard, Earl of Warwick, who eventually turned against Edward and conspired to start a rebellion.

In May 1465 Elizabeth was crowned with great ceremony and feasting. The Woodvilles had arrived - in style. It should have been a spectacular occasion but it was marred by some of the Luxemburg kin arriving in London carrying shields depicting a water witch, but the face was clearly that of the new young queen. This was an insult guaranteed to start a 'witchcraft' rumour against Elizabeth. It is recorded that Anthony drove the men out of the abbey and back to the dock, but he refused to allow them to embark until he had taken on every one of them in single combat to counteract the witchcraft claim. This was to surface later, though, as Jacquetta herself was accused of witchcraft, of using her wiles to help her daughter to ensnare the king's affections. The first child to be born to the couple was Elizabeth, then came Mary and Cecily, before the long awaited son and heir arrived in 1470. He was born in Westminster Abbey, as at that time Elizabeth was claiming sanctuary whilst Edward was out of the country, exiled in the Netherlands. His reign was briefly interrupted by Henry VI retaking the throne, a move engineered by his ever-scheming wife, Margaret Beaufort. Elizabeth had taken sanctuary for her own safety and that of her children and the unborn child.

After many ordeals and a treacherous sea crossing, Edward returned to England and, by devious means, won over the major cities in the North, before marching right down the country and into London, without losing a man. He went to the Abbey where his son and heir, Edward, Prince of Wales, had been born and where Elizabeth was patiently awaiting the arrival of her husband. It must have been a joyful reunion.

In all Elizabeth bore her husband ten children, two of whom were boys. The second son was Richard, duke of York. Elizabeth had to wait at home while her soldier-king husband fought the battle of Barnet, where the Earl of Warwick was killed, the battle of Tewkesbury, where the hopes of the Lancastrians were finally defeated for a very long time, and endured his problems with his brother George, duke of Clarence. The couple held a fine court for quite a few years and all was reasonably well for Elizabeth until Edward died after a short illness in April 1483. She once again fled to the sanctuary of the Abbey, this time taking so much in the way of furnishings and possessions with her that part of a wall had to be demolished for her to get everything in. Edward's Will had appointed his brother Richard of Gloucester, then taking care of his brother's affairs in the north of England, to be Lord Protector. Elizabeth knew well that there was no love lost between Richard and the Woodvilles. She sent a hasty note to her brother Anthony in Ludlow with the young King Edward V, asking him to bring the boy to London with all speed and to arrange a large escort of armed men for him, too.

Anthony and Richard met at Stony Stratford, the young king was put into lodgings and the two men, together with the duke of Buckingham, had a good meal and then went to their beds. Next morning Anthony, his nephew Richard, Marquis of Devon and Sir Thomas Vaughan found themselves arrested and despatched to strongholds in the north. Richard appeared to be determined to remove all Woodville influence from the young king. They moved on to London in great style, everyone wearing black in full mourning for the late King Edward but with the young king wearing purple, to ensure he stood out for his people. He was lodged in royal apartments whilst the business of preparing his coronation were undertaken, and all should have been well. But a bishop, one Robert Stillington, had come forward to talk of a pre-contract of marriage which Edward had entered into with Eleanor Butler. This rendered Elizabeth's marriage invalid and made her children illegitimate and therefore unable to take the crown. Richard was asked to take the crown instead. The young Edward went to the royal apartments in the Tower and Richard III persuaded Elizabeth to allow her son Richard duke of York to go there with him. The fate of the two boys is a mystery which has come down through the ages without any clear resolution. It has cast a pall over Richard III's reign as few people look further than the Shakespearean slander on his character. Elizabeth had not only been widowed, she had been deprived of her young sons and had the sad knowledge of the deaths of her brother Anthony and her son Richard Grey, executed on the Lord Protector's orders in June 1483. Her brother Edward went into exile in Brittany, along with other aristocrats who felt they had to leave the country because of the change of regime and what seemed to them like a witch hunt against all Woodvilles and others who did not fit in the new court.

Elizabeth Woodville's daughter Elizabeth was betrothed to and finally married the new king, Henry VII, and the Tudor/Plantagenet alliance was finally sealed. Elizabeth herself went into a convent and there ended her days in 1492.

Details supplied by Dorothy Davies

Web Link: Woodville website by Dorothy Davies

Watch out for a BBC television series called the 'White Queen' based on the events that took place during a period of the Wars of the Roses. Elizabeth Woodville is played by Rebecca Ferguson.

Family Tree Details
Father: Woodville, Richard (1st Earl Rivers) (b.1410 - d.1469)
Mother: Jacquetta (of Luxembourg) (b.1415 - d.1472)
Woodville, Elizabeth (b.1437 - d.1492)
+Edward (IV, Earl of March and King of England 1461-1470, 1471-1483) (b.1442 - d.1483) | =Elizabeth (of York) ( - d.1503) | | +Henry (VII, King of England 1485-1509) (b.1457 - d.1509) | | =Arthur (Prince of Wales) (b.1486 - d.1502) | | | +Catherine (of Aragon) (b.1485 - d.1536) | | =Margaret (Tudor, Daughter of Henry VII) (b.1489 - d.1541) | | | +James (IV King of Scotland 1488-1513) (b.1473 - d.1513) | | | | =James (V, King of Scotland 1513-1542) (b.1512 - d.1542) | | | | +Mary (of Guise) ( - d.1560) | | | | | =Mary (Stuart, Queen of Scotland) (b.1542 - d.1587) | | | | +Erskine, Margaret (Lady) | | | | =Stewart, James (1st Earl of Moray) (b.1531 - m.1570) | | | +Douglas, Archibald (Earl of Angus) ( - d.1557) | | | =Douglas, Margaret ( - d.1578) | | | +Stewart, Matthew (Earl of Lennox) ( - d.1571) | | | =Henry (Lord Darnley) (b.1546 - d.1567) | | | =Stewart, Charles (Earl of Lennox) ( - d.1576) | | =Henry (VIII, King of England 1509-1547) (b.1491 - d.1547) | | | +Catherine (of Aragon) (b.1485 - d.1536) | | | | =Mary (I, Queen of England 1553-1558, Bloody Mary, Mary Tudor) (b.1516 - d.1558) | | | | +Philip (II, King of Spain 1556-1598) (b.1527 - d.1598) | | | +Boleyn, Anne ( - ex.1536) | | | | =Elizabeth (I, Queen of England 1558-1603) (b.1533 - d.1603) | | | +Seymour, Jane ( - d.1537) | | | | =Edward (VI, King of England 1547-1553) (b.1537 - d.1553) | | | +Anne (of Cleves) (b.1515 - d.1557) | | | +Howard, Catherine ( - ex.1542) | | | +Parr, Catherine | | =Mary (Tudor, Queen of France) (b.1495 - d.1533) | | +Louis (XII, King of France) ( - d.1515) | | +Brandon, Charles (Duke of Suffolk) (b.1485 - d.1545) | | =Frances (Lady) | | | +Grey, Henry (Duke of Suffolk) ( - ex.1554) | | | =Grey, Jane (Lady) (b.1537 - ex.1554) | | | =Grey, Catherine (Lady) | | =Clifford, Eleanor (Lady) ( - d.1547) | =Edward (V, King of England 1483) (b.1470 - m.1483) | =Richard (Duke of York, Prince in the Tower) ( - m.1483) | =Cecily (Daughter of Edward IV) (b.1469 - d.1507) +Grey, John (Sir) ( - d.1461)

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1464 May  27yrsEdward secretly marries
 Edward married Elizabeth Woodville (Wydville) secretly during a hunting trip. The hunting trip that may have been arranged as a cover. Edward is supposed to have had a reputation as a lady's man and had many lovers. To Edward, Elizabeth could have been just another lover, but Elizabeth may have wanted more and persuaded Edward to marry her. The marriage took place in secret and was kept quiet until the spring of 1465. One problem with the marriage was that Elizabeth was the widow of Henry V's brother John, a Lancastrian and her family were Lancastrian supporters. The other problem was that Warwick had contacted the French king Louis XI and had been trying to arrange a marriage for Edward to a French princess. Edward's act upset Warwick's plans.

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
1465 May 26  28yrsElizabeth crowned
 Elizabeth Woodville was finally crowned Queen at Westminster Abbey.

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
1466 Feb 11  29yrsBirth of Edward IV's first daughter
 First daughter, Elizabeth, born to Edward IV and Elizabeth; a second daughter, Mary, was born 11.8.1467.
1469 Qtr 1  32yrsRebellion of Robin of Redesdale
 A rebellion began early in the year started by a mysterious person calling himself Robin of Redesdale. The motivation for the uprising against the king was his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and the influence the Woodvilles were having. The rebels were supported by the Earl of Warwick.

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
 Aug  Woodville family members executed
 While Edward was imprisoned, Warwick captured the Queen's father (Earl Rivers) and one of her brothers and had them executed at Warwick Castle.

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
1470 Qtr 4  33yrsEdward (V) is born
 King Edward IV's wife Elizabeth gave birth to her first son. Elizabeth had taken refuge at Westminster Abbey after King Henry VI had been restored to the throne by the Earl of Warwick and King Edward had fled to Burgundy. The baby was named Edward and would be heir to the English throne.

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
1483 Apr  46yrsRichard made Protector
 Edward IV declared that Richard should be made Protector of England as the Prince of Wales was only twelve and too young to rule. Edward did not want the Queen and the Woodville family to have complete control of the country and by making Richard Protector, the King hoped to prevent civil war. 
1492 Jun  55yrsDeath of Elizabeth Woodville
 Elizabeth Woodville had retired to Bermondsey Abbey and it was here that she died at the age of round 55. 
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