Saturday, November 22, 2008

Question from Diane - Elizabeth of York

I am curious about the rank of Elizabeth of York before she married Henry VII. Since her brothers, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, were missing and presumed dead, wouldn't she, as the oldest surviving child of Edward IV, be considered the rightful Queen of England? Richard III, even though he was Edward's brother, was thought to be an usurper (and even his nephews murderer) by many, but did his position as the King's brother outweigh Elizabeth's claim to the throne?

Also, could anyone recommend a good biography of Elizabeth of York?


Merlin said...

Richard III had justfied his actions on the basis that Elizabeth of York (and, indeed, all Edward IV's children) were technically illegitimate because Edward IV had been precontracted (or possibly married) to another woman prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. However, Elizabeth of York continued, I think, to be regarded as a princess and you're right- following the death of her brothers she had a very good claim to the throne in her own right. I think the problem in her inheriting would have been the same as that Henry VIII faced some years later- the only precedent for a female ruler in England had been Matilda (back in the 12th century) and that had resulted in 11 years of civil war between her and her cousin Stephen. Henry Tudor, via his mother, Margaret Beaufort, basically made a deal with Elizabeth's mother that he would marry Elizabeth if he succeeded in claiming the throne- thus conveniently uniting the two warring houses. When he became Henry VII he kept his promise. He always stressed that he was king in his own right- not via Elizabeth- but I think honour was basically satisfied.

Tamise said...

Elizabeth of York is included in the recently published 'Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens' by Lisa Hilton.

Also David Loades has a book coming out in January, 'The Tudor Queens of England', which also includes Elizabeth.

Anonymous said...

A bit earlier than Lisa Hilton's book is "Queen Consorts of England" by Petronelle Cook (1993).

From Matilda of Flanders to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Ms Cook dedicates a few pages to each queen, either as consort or as the reigning monarch. Elizabeth of York is featured.