Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Many are familiar with the story of the much-married King Henry VIII of England and the celebrated reign of his daughter, Elizabeth I. But it is often forgotten that the life of the first Tudor queen, Elizabeth of York, Henry’s mother and Elizabeth’s grandmother, spanned one of England’s most dramatic and perilous periods. Now New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir presents the first modern biography of this extraordinary woman, whose very existence united the realm and ensured the survival of the Plantagenet bloodline.
Her birth was greeted with as much pomp and ceremony as that of a male heir. The first child of King Edward IV, Elizabeth enjoyed all the glittering trappings of royalty. But after the death of her father; the disappearance and probable murder of her brothers—the Princes in the Tower; and the usurpation of the throne by her calculating uncle Richard III, Elizabeth found her world turned upside-down: She and her siblings were declared bastards.
As Richard’s wife, Anne Neville, was dying, there were murmurs that the king sought to marry his niece Elizabeth, knowing that most people believed her to be England’s rightful queen. Weir addresses Elizabeth’s possible role in this and her covert support for Henry Tudor, the exiled pretender who defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth and was crowned Henry VII, first sovereign of the House of Tudor. Elizabeth’s subsequent marriage to Henry united the houses of York and Lancaster and signaled the end of the Wars of the Roses. For centuries historians have asserted that, as queen, she was kept under Henry’s firm grasp, but Weir shows that Elizabeth proved to be a model consort—pious and generous—who enjoyed the confidence of her husband, exerted a tangible and beneficial influence, and was revered by her son, the future King Henry VIII.
Drawing from a rich trove of historical records, Weir gives a long overdue and much-deserved look at this unforgettable princess whose line descends to today’s British monarch—a woman who overcame tragedy and danger to become one of England’s most beloved consorts.
Praise for Elizabeth of York
“Weir tells Elizabeth’s story well. . . . She is a meticulous scholar. . . . Most important, Weir sincerely admires her subject, doing honor to an almost forgotten queen.”—The New York Times Book Review
“In [Alison] Weir’s skillful hands, Elizabeth of York returns to us, full-bodied and three-dimensional. This is a must-read for Tudor fans!”—Historical Novels Review
“This bracing biography reveals a woman of integrity, who . . . helped [her husband] lay strong groundwork for the success of the new Tudor dynasty. As always in a Weir book, the tenor of the times is drawn with great color and authenticity.”—Booklist
“Weir once again demonstrates that she is an outstanding portrayer of the Tudor era, giving us a fully realized biography of a remarkable woman.”—Huntington News
pursue the matter, and expressed his fears that the sovereigns would no longer trust him “if he were married by the Queen of England to a rich English lady.”1 Evidently Elizabeth finally got the message that her offer was unwelcome, and dropped the matter. From June 1499, England had suffered one of its worst-ever plague epidemics, which raged on through a mild winter into the late spring of 1500; in London alone, which suffered the most, it was said (probably with some exaggeration) that
every vicissitude of life. Whatever his prosperity, he had injured nobody, though benefiting many.”9 That is debatable, for Rivers, like his father, Richard Wydeville, could be ruthless in the pursuit of his ambitions. He was a complex man, ambitious yet deeply pious, to the extent of wearing a hair shirt beneath his fine attire. He traveled in Italy and made pilgrimages to Rome and the shrine of St. James at Compostela, and it was his unfulfilled life’s ambition to go on a crusade against the
Wiesflacker 42. Harleian MS. 336, in Leland: Collectanea. Gigli was rewarded with a prebendary stall in York; he would serve Henry VII as ambassador to Rome and become Bishop of Worcester (Tournoy-Thouen; Dixon). 43. Calendar of Papal Registers, January 1486 44. PPE 45. Croyland Chronicle 46. Rotuli Parliamentorum; Materials for a History of the Reign of Henry the Seventh; André 47. Mutilated document in Cotton MS. Cleopatra 48. Calendar of Papal Registers 49. Ibid. 50. Ibid. 51. Hall
sire,”25 and there were those who thought that Henry and Elizabeth should reign as joint sovereigns, no one seriously considered that a woman—even the legitimate, rightful heiress of the House of York—could actually rule alone as Queen regnant. On the contrary, her crown was the inheritance she would bring to her husband. As one song would put it, “the Queen’s title, by fortune’s adventure, he hath.”26 Traditionally women could transmit the crown—the royal houses of Plantagenet, York, and Tudor
her intimate relationship with the King. It was accepted that, because of this, she might be privy to matters of state, but advice that Elizabeth might have read urged that her “wisdom ought to appear in speaking, that is to wit that she be secret and tell not such things as ought to be holden secret.”27 If she ever interceded with Henry, it was in private, and there are instances of his paying heed to her concerns, but it was not in his nature generally to be swayed by her. As he almost