Elizabeth of York (Queen)

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Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth of York (born February 11, 1466 in Westminster Palace , † February 11, 1503 in the Tower of London ) was an English princess from the house of York and the eldest daughter of King Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville . After the fall of her uncle Richard III. she married the new King Henry VII and became the mother of the future King Henry VIII of England and the future Queen of Scotland Margaret Tudor and the future Queen of France Mary Tudor . She outlived her children Edmund , Elizabeth and the already fifteen-year-old heir to the throne Arthur and died in 1503 giving birth to their youngest daughter Katherine.

Not to be confused with her aunt of the same name, Elizabeth of York , Duchess of Suffolk, daughter of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York , and sister of Edward IV and Richards III.



Elizabeth was the first-born daughter of King Edward IV of England and his wife Elizabeth Woodville. She was baptized in Westminster Abbey . Her godparents were her aunt Elizabeth of the same name, Lady Bedford and Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick . She grew up at Sheen Castle in Richmond. As the eldest daughter and heir to the English throne until her brother Eduard was born, Elizabeth was a good match on the marriage market from an early age. At the age of three, her father tried to arrange a marriage for her. Initially, George Neville, Duke of Bedford , was slated to be the husband. Eduard hoped through this connection an alliance with the Nevilles, since Richard Neville organized an armed uprising in 1469. Negotiations came to nothing when George's father and Richard Neville died in the Battle of Barnet .

After Edward's invasion of France, the Treaty of Picquigny in 1475 stipulated that Elizabeth should marry Charles, heir to the French throne . If Elizabeth died before then, her younger sister, Mary, would take her place. The duchies of Aquitaine and Guyenne were planned as dowries, and Louis XI also promised . from France her a widow's inheritance of £ 60,000. In preparation for this marriage, Elizabeth received instruction in the French language and courtly spelling. In 1480 the treaty was ratified, whereupon Elizabeth received the title "Madame la Dauphine". Two years later, however, Ludwig broke off the engagement and instead sought his son's marriage to a princess from the Duchy of Burgundy .

Under Richard III.

When her father died in 1483, Elizabeth's status changed suddenly. Your uncle Richard III. intercepted her brother Edward, and her mother and her other children fled to sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. Richard persuaded her to hand him over his second nephew, and on June 16, she also handed over her younger son Richard into his care. As soon as both princes were under his control, Richard canceled all preparations for his nephew's coronation and had himself proclaimed king. His reasoning was that his brother's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville would have been void, which made Elizabeth and her siblings all bastards. This meant that they were excluded from any kind of succession under current law. Her brothers Eduard and Richard disappeared without a trace in the Tower of London and became known as the Princes in the Tower . According to the blind court poet Bernard Andreas, Elizabeth was very close to her brothers because he said: “The love Elizabeth felt for her brothers was unique and almost incredible.” Elizabeth and her sisters stayed under Richard III for the first few months. in the asylum and Richard had her closely guarded by one of his closest confidants.

Elizabeth Woodville with her children in Westminster

Since the arrest of his nieces and his sister-in-law finally became an embarrassing loss of face for Richard and the rebels viewed them as figureheads, Richard negotiated with Elizabeth Woodville and finally came to an agreement with her on March 1, 1484. Elizabeth and her sisters left their asylum and were called to court. Despite their bastardization, the sisters were still coveted matches on the marriage market, as only a few contemporaries considered them illegitimate. Elizabeth in particular, as the eldest sister, had the strongest claim to the throne. Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII , had sworn by Christmas that he would marry Elizabeth if he would become King of England. Elizabeth Woodville and Henry's mother Margaret Beaufort may have been behind this marriage vow. Richard therefore tried to marry the sisters in such a way that their marriage and any offspring would not pose a threat to him. But only Elisabeth's sister Cecily was married under Richard's rule.

Elizabeth herself spent Christmas 1484 at court. There, according to the Historia Croylandensis, she provoked half a scandal because she wore almost the same clothes as Richard's wife Anne Neville . Although conclusions have often been drawn from this that Elizabeth was slated to succeed Anne Neville and should marry Richard herself, modern research suggests a more innocuous reason. Similar dresses were often worn by relatives or peers. As an example, it is cited that as Queen Elizabeth was dressed almost identically to her mother-in-law Margaret Beaufort at state receptions. In any case, Elizabeth's contemporaries gave rise to speculation. When Anne Neville died the following spring, Richard was searched for, and Elizabeth's name was also mentioned. However, if she was actually intended as Anne's successor, the resistance of the English nobility quickly ruined this prospect. Richard had to publicly deny that he had ever toyed with the idea of ​​such a marriage.

Queen of England

After Henry had defeated Richard on August 22, 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth , Elizabeth was housed in the household of his mother Margaret Beaufort. Henry was crowned the new King of England on October 30, and Parliament confirmed his legitimate claim to the throne in November. However, the members of the House of Commons urged the king on December 10th to marry “the illustrious Lady Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward IV” and thereby secure “offspring of royal blood”. This phrase is often interpreted by historians to mean that Henry's claim to the throne was only secured if he married Elizabeth, her father's rightful heir. The king assured him that he would be "happy to do this."

On January 18, 1486, Henry and Elizabeth were married in Westminster Abbey. In the time of the Wars of the Roses , Henry was the last survivor of the House of Lancaster to become its head. Through his marriage to the heiress of the House of York , England hoped for an end to the civil war between the two houses and a lasting peace. Though considered by many to be the rightful Queen of England, Elizabeth was not crowned until December 25, 1487, when the heir to the throne Arthur was already born, and Henry bestowed her the title of Duchess of York, according to the Italian Giovanni de Gigli . Elizabeth's brother Richard had last held the title, as it was traditionally bestowed on the king's second-born son. Elizabeth, however, got him probably in a restructuring of her survivor's heritage, and Wittums her mother. It is unknown whether the loss of these lands was intended to constrain Elizabeth Woodville or merely redistribute the resources.

Elizabeth and Henry by Sarah Malden, Countess of Essex

In contrast to her mother and mother-in-law Margaret Beaufort, Elizabeth showed no political ambitions and officially went into her role as wife and mother. Possibly it was due to the influence of her mother-in-law, who often stayed at court and officially had great influence on her son's politics. Many historians suspect that Elizabeth was overshadowed by her dominant mother-in-law and pushed into the domestic sphere. The reports of contemporaries are evidence of this. One of the Spanish guests at court wrote: “She is kept dependent on the king's mother. It would be good to write to her more often and show her a little love. " John Hewyk , a servant of the Crown, went so far as to say that he would have liked to have spoken much longer with the Queen," if it weren't for that mighty whore , the queen's mother. ”Historian David Starkey himself describes Margaret Beaufort for Elizabeth of York as“ the mother-in-law from hell. ”What the relationship between the two actually looked like is unknown. In public, Margaret Beaufort always let her daughter-in-law take precedence and together with her, at least outwardly, embodied unity in the family.

Nevertheless, there are indications that Elizabeth was also politically active, albeit in the socially accepted, discrete form of influence. For example, a Welsh tenant did not turn to the King with a complaint about Henry's uncle Jasper Tudor, 1st Duke of Bedford , but instead to Elizabeth, who put Jasper in her place with a stern letter. Robert Vertue , who was working on a new building for Henry in Greenwich in 1502 , used a plan Elizabeth had drawn up for its construction. Your bookkeeping also records gifts from the highest nobility, including a. Cherries and cakes, which historians also regard as a sign of their influence and patronage. It is also believed that Elizabeth was responsible for the marriages of her sisters Anne and Katherine and personally campaigned for the wife of her disgraced cousin Edmund de la Pole, 3rd Duke of Suffolk , to live with the widow of John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk , was allowed to live. Elizabeth also always endeavored to reconcile the House of York with the new circumstances and to win them over to her side. Since the long-established nobility of Europe in particular had difficulties recognizing Heinrich as king, Elizabeth became an acceptable contact person for them. a. for Isabella of Castile .

Family life

Elizabeth was a very popular queen. According to her motto of life "humble and reverent" she was very charitable, which gave her the nickname "the good one". What made them even more popular with the people were their numerous children, with whom they secured the young Tudor dynasty. The heir to the throne, Arthur, was born on September 20, 1486. Elizabeth had withdrawn to Winchester on the occasion of his birth , according to the belief of the time, equated with King Arthur 's Camelot . Margaret, Heinrich, Elizabeth, Mary and Edmund followed, although only Margaret, Heinrich and Mary survived their childhood. The first years in particular were stormy for Elizabeth's family, including the pretender to the throne Perkin Warbeck , who posed as Elizabeth's brother Richard. His presence in Scotland sabotaged the marriage negotiations for Princess Margaret and when a rebellion for Warbeck took place in Cornwall in 1496 , Elizabeth had to flee to the Tower of London with her son Henry and possibly also with her daughters until the king could defeat the rebels shortly before London .

Heinrich and Elizabeth with their children

In search of a bride for the heir to the throne Arthur, Heinrich finally decided on Katharina von Aragón , the youngest daughter of the " Catholic Kings " Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragón . Elizabeth then contacted her future daughter-in-law and encouraged her to learn French, as most English women did not speak Latin. The wedding of the two took place on November 14, 1501, which Heinrich and Elizabeth only attended discreetly from a small adjoining room so as not to steal the show from the young couple. The Scottish King James IV was intended for Elizabeth's daughter Margaret , but Elizabeth and Margaret Beaufort steadfastly refused to send Margaret to Scotland until she was physically mature. Heinrich confessed to the Spanish ambassador Don Pedro:

“The queen and my mother are against the wedding. They say that if the marriage were to be concluded we would be obliged to send the princess to Scotland immediately and they fear that in that case the King of Scotland would not wait , but would injure her and endanger her health. "

On January 25, 1502, Elizabeth finally attended Margaret's wedding by proxy . Immediately after this wedding, Margaret was treated as Queen of Scotland. Elizabeth herself took her by the hand after the wedding and led her to the Queen's table, which was previously reserved for her, to emphasize her daughter's equality. Arthur died just a few months later in April. Contemporaries report that Elizabeth tried to comfort her husband, half-broken with pain.

“Your mother never had more children than you, yet God in His grace has always protected you and brought you to where you are now. God left you a beautiful prince and two beautiful princesses, God remains where He always was and we are both still young. Since the wisdom of your grace is known throughout Christendom, now prove it by enduring this calamity. "

Heinrich thanked his queen for her comforting words and she returned to her rooms. There she finally let her own pain run free and was so desperate that her ladies rushed to fetch the king to comfort her. Heinrich hurried to his wife and consoled her in return. This episode seems to suggest that the originally politically motivated marriage had turned into a loving relationship. Elizabeth and her daughters wore black mourning clothes for the rest of the year.

After the death of her son Arthur, Elizabeth looked after her widowed and sick daughter-in-law Catherine of Aragón and made sure that the princess from Wales could return to the English court in a sedan chair. The expenses in her bookkeeping also show that she actively cared for the welfare of family members who had fallen out of favor with the king due to political circumstances, such as her younger sister Katherine of York and their son Henry Courtenay .


In the spring of 1502, shortly after Arthur's death, Elizabeth became pregnant again. She spent the year preparing her daughter Margaret for her role as Queen of Scotland and visiting shrines of saints. In August she went back to Wales to pray and donate at Arthur's tomb. Together with her ladies, she sewed the state bed into which she was to retire for the child's birth. On February 2, 1503, Elizabeth gave birth to her last child in the royal apartments of the Tower. The girl was baptized in the name of Katherine. A little later, Elizabeth fell ill with childbed fever and died on February 11 on her 37th birthday. Heinrich was so shaken by her death that he "secretly withdrew to a lonely place and did not allow anyone to turn to him." Her little daughter Katherine only survived by a few weeks.

Henry and Elizabeth's Crypt in Westminster Abbey

Elizabeth received a dignified state funeral at Westminster Abbey in the presence of her sisters. Her hearse was emblazoned with her motto "humble and reverent" and a wooden statue modeled after Elizabeth and bearing the Queen's insignia adorned the coffin. The funeral procession was led by her sister, Katherine of York . All of London mourned the popular queen. In Cheapside, groups of 37 virgins with white-green wreaths in their hair and candles in their hands gathered in her honor. Torches and candles burned in all churches. Sir Thomas More wrote in honor of the late Queen an elegy A Ruefull Lamentation (German: A repentant lamentation ), in which he complain Elizabeth the transience of all earthly honors and can say goodbye to her family.

"Adieu mine own dear spouse, my worthy lord,
The faithful love that did us both combine,
In marriage and peaceable concord
Into your handes here I clean resign,
To be bestowed upon your children and mine.
First you were father, and now must you supply
The mother's part also, for lo now here I lie.

Farewell my daughter, Lady Margaret,
God wot full often it grieved hath my mind,
That ye should go where we should seldom meet,
Now am I gone and have left you behind .
O mortal folk that we be, very blind!
That we least fear, full often it is most nigh,
From you depart I first, and lo now here I lie.

Adieu Lord Henry, my loving son adieu,
Our Lord increase your honor and estate.
Adieu my daughter Mary, bright of hue,
God make you virtuous, wise and fortunate.
Adieu sweet heart, my little daughter Kate,
Thou shalt, sweet babe, such is thy destiny,
Thy mother never know, for lo now here I lie. "

“Goodbye, beloved man, my noble sir,
The faithful love that has always united us
In peaceful harmony and marriage,
I now entrust your hands to
our children.
Once only the father, now be a
mother to them too, because look, now I am lying here.

Farewell, my daughter, Lady Margaret,
God knows how much and often it grieved me,
That you should go where I seldom went,
Now I went myself and left you behind.
O mortal people, that we are so blind!
What we hardly fear is often so close.
I'll part with you first and see, now I'm lying here.

Goodbye, Lord Henry, my loving son, goodbye
Our Lord raise your honor and your status
Goodbye, my daughter Mary, so bright in the face
God give you virtue, wisdom and happiness.
Goodbye, my heart, my little daughter Kate,
you should, sweet child, if your fate wills,
never know your mother, because look, now I am lying here. "

The crypt created by Pietro Torrigiano , in which Elizabeth was buried and in which Henry was later interred, can still be viewed in Westminster Abbey today.


Elizabeth had seven children with Henry VII, but only half of them reached adolescence:

Some sources mention another son named Edward who is believed to have been born before Arthur or Katherine. However, since there are hardly any historical mentions about him, it is assumed that it is a mix-up or a misspelling by Edmund Tudor.


  • Rosemary Horrox: Elizabeth . In: Henry C. Matthew et al. a. (Ed.): Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Volume 18: Ela - Fancourt . University Press, Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-19-861411-X , pp. 82-85.
  • Marita A. Panzer: Elizabeth of York . In: Diess .: England's queens. From the Tudors to the Windsors . 5th edition. Piper Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-932313-33-2 , pp. 16-21.
  • Maria Perry: Sisters to the King. The tumultous lives of Henry VIII's sisters - Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France . André Deutsch, London 2002, ISBN 0-233-05090-6 .
  • David Starkey : Henry. Virtuous Prince. Harper Perennial, London 2009, ISBN 0-00-724772-9 .
  • David Starkey: Six wives. The Queens of Henry VIII (Harper Perennial). Chatto & Windus, London 2003, ISBN 0-7011-7298-3 .
  • Agnes Strickland : Livres of the Queens of England . Bell & Daldy, London 1867.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Rosemary Horrox: Elizabeth . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Volume 18: Ela - Fancourt , pp. 82-85.
  2. a b c d e f England under the Tudors. Elizabeth of York . In: Agnes Strickland: Lives of the Queens of England , pp. 173-181.
  3. David Starkey: Six wives. The Queens of Henry VIII , p. 260.
  4. ^ A b Maria Perry: Sisters to the King. The tumultous Lives of Henry VIII's Sisters - Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France , p. 58.
  5. ^ Maria Perry: Sisters to the King. The tumultous Lives of Henry VIII's Sisters - Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France , p. 30.
  6. ^ Maria Perry: Sisters to the King. The tumultous Lives of Henry VIII's Sisters - Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France , p. 31.
  7. ^ Maria Perry: Sisters to the King. The tumultous Lives of Henry VIII's Sisters - Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France , p. 28: "The Queen and my mother are very much against the marriage. They say if the marriage were concluded we should be obliged to send the princess directly to Scotland, in which case they fear the King of Scotland would not wait , but injure her and endanger her health. "
  8. ^ Maria Perry: Sisters to the King. The tumultous Lives of Henry VIII's Sisters - Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France , p. 39: "your mother never had more children, but you only, yet God by his grace has ever preserved you and brought you where you are now. [ ...] God has left you yet a fair prince, two fair princesses and God is where he was and we are both young enough ".
  9. ^ Maria Perry: Sisters to the King. The tumultous Lives of Henry VIII's Sisters - Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France , p. 40.
  10. David Starkey: Henry. Virtuous Prince , p. 108.
  11. ^ A b Maria Perry: Sisters to the King. The tumultous Lives of Henry VIII's Sisters - Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France , p. 44.
  12. Thomas More's Elegy on Elizabeth of York in English
  13. Henry VII on Tudorplace.com.ar

Web links

Commons : Elizabeth of York  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
predecessor Office Successor
Anne Neville Queen Consort of England
Catherine of Aragon