Elizabeth of York,
wife of King Henry VII
18 January 1486 Henry VII
25 November 1487 Westminster Abbey, London
11 February 1503 at Westminster Palace
aised a pampered princess, 17-year-old Elizabeth’s life changed radically when her father died. Her parents’ marriage was declared invalid and their children illegitimate. Elizabeth’s brothers disappeared into the Tower and her uncle took the throne as Richard III. Her mother, in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey with her daughters, began scheming against Richard. She turned to York’s traditional enemies, the Lancastrians, and formed a secret alliance with Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, the Lancastrian claimant to the throne.
On 25 December 1483, Henry Tudor swore that, if he gained the crown, he would end the civil war between the factions of Lancaster and York by marrying Elizabeth.
On 22 August 1485, Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field. Henry did not, however, immediately marry Elizabeth and he was crowned without her. After the House of Commons urged him to fulfill his vow, Henry married Elizabeth on 18 January 1486, uniting the warring families of Lancaster and York. A year after the birth of the couple’s first son Arthur, Elizabeth herself was finally crowned.
A quiet and gentle woman with almost no visible influence at court, Elizabeth was always overshadowed by Henry’s mother Margaret Beaufort. She was, however, much loved, receiving numerous small gifts from the common folks as well as from eminent people, perhaps indicating that she did have some subtle influence with Henry.
Elizabeth was fond of music, minstrels and secular revels. She also joined with her deeply religious mother-in-law as a patron of literature.
Four of Elizabeth and Henry’s children survived, Arthur, Margaret, Henry and Mary. Arthur’s death at age 16 led to Elizabeth’s last, fatal pregnancy. Her premature daughter did not survive. At her death, Elizabeth was mourned sincerely by her husband, who seems to have ultimately found peace and contentment with his Yorkist bride.
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