Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Question from Sandra - Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville

I am reading about how the Tudor period came into history, can anyone help explain things alittle better to me?
Why was Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor believed to be such and odd pair and why was her son Henry taken and raised elsewhere?

Why was Elizabeth Woodville considered socially very much beneath Edward IV when they was married? She was a widowed queen in her own right.

Can anyone explain the relationship between Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville, why did Margaret need her help and what did Elizabeth do?

Thanks, I greatly appreciate the help!!!


Lara said...

This is one that I probably should have split into multiple posts, but there are related questions here, so we might end up with some long comments!

First, one small correction - Elizabeth Woodville wasn't a widowed Queen, she was the widow of Sir John Grey.

You might find "The Making of the Tudor Dynasty" by Griffiths and Thomas an interesting read if you're looking into the pre-1485 Tudor family.

Lara said...

Ooops, let me clarify... Elizabeth wasn't a widowed Queen *before* she married Edward IV. Obviously she was one later after Edward died!

Foose said...

I'll take a tentative stab at the second question, since it's always interested me ...

Elizabeth Woodville was not exactly white trash, although sometimes you get that feeling when reading about the nobility's reaction to her.

Her mother Jacquetta was very well-connected, from the House of Luxemburg, a branch of which had produced a few Holy Roman Emperors (the last of whom died in 1437, only about 20+ years before Elizabeth married Edward). Her own Luxemburg family were valued servants of the French crown. Jacquetta was the widow of John of Bedford (uncle to Henry VI). Her first marriage helped wreck the Burgundian alliance, apparently, since Philip of Burgundy resented his sister's quick replacement by the young Jacquetta. She vastly outranked her own second husband, Sir Richard Woodville, who seems to have come from country gentry. Their marriage was a classic mesalliance. There may have been resentment that Jacquetta married so soon after her first husband's death, and she apparently was subjected to a huge fine for remarrying without permission from the authorities.

The Woodvilles were on the Lancastrian side in the conflict between Henry VI and the Duke of York, and Elizabeth's first husband was killed at St. Albans fighting for Lancaster. Elizabeth was now a Lancastrian widow, and a substantial number of people felt a young unmarried king should marry a virgin and in any case there were plenty of deserving Yorkist widows about. Widows had a sort of naughty reputation -- in popular culture they were supposed to be always hot for another man and ruthless in their pursuit. Elizabeth, being an widow older than Edward, fit the stereotype. She was not even rich, which was an acceptable excuse for marrying a widow; she met the king apparently as a supplicant for restoration of her husband's property. Much of the annoyance would have been fanned by the Earl of Warwick, who had been negotiating Edward's marriage to a Savoyard princess connected to Louis XI and was humiliated by being publicly shown not to be in the king's confidence.

Edward seems to have married her for her beauty, and because she would not be his mistress. To marry for love and carnal desire was frowned upon by the society of the period; marrying for family honor and advantage was the ideal. He also married her secretly, which lent a certain disreputable quality to the proceedings.

Finally, the new Queen had a large ambitious family and there were plenty of nobles after the 1450s who had their own large ambitious families who now had to compete with Woodvilles and Greys for marriages and offices as well as the properties and titles confiscated and restored several times during the course of the war. The Nevilles (Warwick's family) were particularly enraged by what they perceived as Edward deploying the Woodvilles as a counterweight and obstacle to their own marital and political activities.

So there was definitely a fuss at the higher level. It's hard to say what the average non-noble English person thought. In an effort to boost his Queen's standing and reconcile the nobility, Edward talked up her fancy Continental relations a lot and invited them to visit. The nobility remained unimpressed, and the effort may have merely signalled "French" to ordinary people, who had had quite enough of French queens at that point. I wonder if it might have been more effective to woo the common folk by presenting Elizabeth as a true-born Englishwoman and not a foreigner, a strategy that her great-granddaughter Elizabeth I exploited successfully.

She is traditionally depicted as a haughty, grasping, meddling queen, seeking always to advance her family and encompass the ruin of loyal Yorkists. Objectively, she seems to have been tied up with childbearing much of the time. She did arrange a number of advantageous marriages for her children and siblings, and none of these alliances seemed to do her any good when Edward died. Arlene Okerlund, in her recent biography, points out that for all the talk of a powerful "Woodville faction" alleged to be poised for a swift, ruthless coup once the king died, the menace seemed to be largely imaginary. Elizabeth's younger brothers were largely negligible as political factors and from a dynastic point of view, died childless; the most politically prominent one, Anthony, was quickly eliminated by Richard III. Her sisters, though married to peers, were inactive; her sons by her first marriage were lightweights. She was basically on her own.

Elizabeth M. said...

Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Wydeville joined forces early in the reign of Richard III. Richard had usurped the throne from his twelve-year-old nephew, Edward V. Needless to say, he was tremendously unpopular, especially after the rumors began flying that young Edward and his brother, Richard, Duke of York, may have probably died while held in the Tower. When Richard seized power, Elizabeth Aydeville fled into sanctuary at Westminster. After it was believed her sons were dead, that left her eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, as her father's rightful heir in the eyes of many.
Enter Margaret Beaufort. Her father, John Beaufort, ist Duke of Somerset, was a grandson of Edward III's son John of gaunt by his mistress turned wife Katherine Swynford. Though the children of John of Gaunt and Katherine were born before their marriage, they were legitimized by by both a papal bull and an act of Parliament, though there was a clause in the parliament act stipulating the Beauforts could not inherit the throne. The Beauforts were loyal Lancastrians. By the time Richard III seized the throne, Henry Tudor, Margaret Beaufort's only child, was about the only viable Lancastrian alternative to the House of York. Bohth Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Wydeville were women of strong character, and a plan was hatched to support Henry Tudor in his own plan of usurping the throne. By marrying him to Elizabeth of York, it would not only strengthen his own tenuous claim to the throne, it would prove popular to the people, whom many regarded the rightful queen upon the deaths of her brothers. It is said Richard III even toyed with the idea of marrying his niece for just that reason, to strengthen his own claim to the throne. However, that idea was quietly dropped--even in medieval England, a marriage like this was considered heinous. The marriage of Elizabeth of York to Henry Tudor, espoused by Margaret and Queen Elizabeth, would serve to unite the two houses of Lancaster and York. After an early aborted attempt on Henry's part, he succeeded in winning the throne by defeating Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth in 1486. In due time, Henry Tudor did indeed marry Elizabeth of York. Both Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Wydeville got what they wanted--their children upon the throne of England.

Elizabeth M. said...

Oop, I made a booboo. Bosworth was in 1485.