lunedì 18 ottobre 2010

Elizabeth of York

The eldest child of Edward IV Plantagenet and Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York was born at Westminster on 11th February, 1466. She was christened by Grorge Neville, Archbishop of York and her godparents were Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, Cecily Neville, Dowager Duchess of York and Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford.

Elizabeth's parents had married secretly at Grafton Manor, soon after her father's accession to the throne. Her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, was the daughter of Sir Richard Woodville, (later created Earl Rivers) and Jacquetta of Luxemburg, the widow of John, Duke of Bedford (the brother of Henry V) Edward IV had met Elizabeth's mother, the widow of Sir John Grey, a Lancastrian knight who was killed at St. Albans in 1461, when she came to petition him for the return of her husband's estates. Edward had wanted to make her his mistress, but she held out for marriage.

Elizabeth Woodville had two sons by her first marriage, Thomas Grey (1455-1501) , later created Marquis Dorset and Lord Ferrers of Groby and Sir Richard Grey, who was later executed by Richard III in 1483. A marriage was arranged for her in her childhood to George Neville, but, when the Neville family deserted her father's cause, she was promised to the Dauphin of France in 1475 at the age of 9, which also came to nothing.

Following the death of her father and the usurpation of Richard III, Elizabeth and her siblings, including Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, the so called Princes in the Tower, were declared illegitimate by the Act of Titulus Regius. Her young brothers disappeared inside the Tower of London amidst rumours that they had been murdered, how Elizabeth herself reacted to their demise has gone unrecorded, she had at the time taken sanctuary with her mother at Westminster Abbey. Rumour suggested that Richard III was planning to marry her himself. Her mother, in secret correspondence with Margaret Beaufort, agreed to the marriage of Elizabeth and Margaret's son, Richard III's rival and the exiled heir to the House of Lancaster, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who took a public oath to marry Elizabeth should he became King of England.

Marriage to Henry VII
Richmond became King Henry VII after his victory over Richard III at Bosworth Field and the Princess was brought back to London from Yorkshire. Henry was crowned at Westminster alone on 30th October, to underline that he ruled in his own right. Parliament petitioned the king to honour his promise to marry the Yorkist heiress and the marriage of Elizabeth of York and Henry VII was finally celebrated on 18th January 1486 at Westminster Abbey. Nine months later, the new Queen was delivered of a son. He was given the symbolic name of Arthur, in honour of the legendary Dark Age British King. Elizabeth was finally crowned Queen Consort on 25 November, 1487.

Elizabeth was tall, fair haired, attractive and gentle natured. The Queen's household was ruled by Lady Margaret Beaufort. The Queen's own mother, the meddlesome and grasping Elizabeth Woodville, suspected of involvement in Yorkist plots, was shut up in a nunnery and stripped of all her belongings. The marriage of Elizabeth of York and Henry VII was to produce 7 children, of which only four survived the perils of infancy in Tudor times. One of these was the future Henry VIII.

Later Years
Both Elizabeth and Henry deeply grieved the loss of their eldest son and heir, Arthur, Prince of Wales, who died at Ludlow Castle on the Welsh borders on 2nd April, 1502, shortly after his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. The prince is said to have died of either the sweating sickness, consumption or tuberculosis. The couple attempted to console each other.

Only one male heir to the Tudor throne now survived, the young Prince Henry, Duke of York. The couple decided to try for another son and Elizabeth quickly became pregnant. The child, a girl named Katherine, was born on 2 February, 1503, at the Tower of London and died on the same day. Tragically, Elizabeth of York followed her to the grave nine days later, dying of a post-pregnancy infection on her 37th birthday. Her body was removed from the chamber where she died to the chapel within the Tower, under the steps of which the the bodies of her brothers, Edward V and Richard Duke of York were to be discovered nearly two centuries later. Her body then lay in state at the Tower.

Elizabeth was buried at Westminster Abbey. Her magnificent effigy by the Renaissance sculptor Pietro Torrigiano, which lies beside that of her husband, can still be seen in the Henry VII chapel at Westminster Abbey.


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