The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth of York (February 11, 1466February 11, 1503) was the Queen consort of King Henry VII of England, who she married in 1486, and the mother of King Henry VIII.

She was born at Westminster, the eldest child of King Edward IV and his own Queen consort Elizabeth Woodville (who both had children from earlier relationships). Following her father's death and the accession to the throne of his brother Richard III, scurrilous rumours circulated that Richard intended to marry her as soon as his wife, the ailing Anne Neville, was dead. There is no surviving evidence for such a plan, although Sir George Buck later claimed to have uncovered a letter from Elizabeth (now lost) which showed she was party to it. It has been suggested that the rumours were started by Elizabeth's mother Elizabeth Woodville as part of her campaign to put her daughter on the throne; if Richard had been able to obtain a dispensation from the church to marry his niece, it would have prevented her marrying the chief threat to his throne, Henry Tudor.

Elizabeth Woodville arranged to marry her daughter to Tudor if he could overthrow King Richard, which he did at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, becoming King Henry VII. But he was in no hurry to marry Elizabeth of York, although he had publicly taken a sacred oath to do so before he had left France to invade England. On October 30, Henry was crowned, but still delayed his wedding. Finally Parliament itself, on behalf of the people, petitioned him to carry out his promise, and on January 18, 1486, the marriage took place. It was not until November 25, 1487, more than a year after their first child, Arthur, was born on September 20, 1486, that Elizabeth was crowned queen.

It was a relatively successful marriage, all things considered. They had seven (or possibly eight, but only seven are shown in the commemorative picture painted in about 1509) children:

The eldest son and heir to the throne, Arthur, Prince of Wales, died after marrying Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. This seems to have been the motive for Elizabeth to become pregnant the last time, in order to strengthen the succession. Elizabeth died, on her 37th birthday, a few days after giving birth to her last child, Katherine Tudor, who also died. Although Henry VII was known to be a very thrifty person, he threw his wife a splendid funeral. She is buried in Westminster Abbey in the Lady Chapel. Later, her husband Henry was buried beside her.

Elizabeth of York is the only English Queen to have been a wife, daughter, sister, niece and mother to an English King. Elizabeth is also the basis for the picture of queens in a deck of cards.

Her second son Henry followed his father as king, her eldest daughter Margaret married James IV of Scotland, and her youngest child Mary married Louis XII of France.

Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46