More’s account of the marriage of Edward IV
The Duchess [of York] with these words nothing appeased, and seeing the King so set thereon that she could not pull him back, so highly she disdained it, that under pretext of her duty to Godward, she devised to disturb this marriage, and rather to help that he should marry one Dame Elizabeth Lucy, whom the King had also not long before gotten with child. Wherefore the King’s mother objected openly against his marriage, as it were in discharge of her conscience, that the King was sure to Dame Elizabeth Lucy and her husband before God. By reason of which words, such obstacle was made in the matter, that either the Bishops durst not, or the King would not, proceed to the solemnisation of this wedding, till these same were clearly purged, and the truth well and openly testified. Whereupon Dame Elizabeth Lucy was sent for. And albeit that she was by the King’s mother and many other put in good comfort, to affirm that she was ensure unto the King: yet when she was solemnly sworn to say the truth, she confessed that they were never ensured. Howbeit she said his grace spake so loving words unto her, that she verily hoped he would have married her. And that if it had not been for such kind words, she would never have showed such kindness to him, to let him so kindly get her with child. This examination solemnly taken, when it was clearly perceived that there was none impediment, the King with great feast and honourable solemnity, married Dame Elisabeth Gray and her crowned Queen that was his enemy’s wife, and many time had prayed full heartily for his loss. In which God loved her better, than to grant her boon.
Points to note:
- But for the chance survival of a copy of Titulus Regius this farrago of lies would doubtless be mistaken for historical truth, especially by the Legion of Richard-Haters.
- It is extremely unlikely that More pulled this account of the marriage out of thin air. It is more likely that his source (Morton?) set out to mislead him. This in turn suggests there was a truth that needed to be concealed. Otherwise, why come up with such an invention? Why not state that Richard claimed Edward was married to Eleanor Talbot, but the claim was a load of nonsense, and here are the proofs that it was…
- Why mention the Duchess of York’s protest, unless such a protest was so well remembered that it had to be ‘covered’ in some way? Richard (it might be supposed) made up the whole story out of his head over the course of a few days; More mentioning Duchess Cecily suggests that there was indeed some long-standing issue with the marriage.
- We know for a fact that the lady referred to by Richard was Eleanor Talbot not Elizabeth Lucy who was a known mistress of Edward IV and the mother of his children.
- We know for a fact that Edward did not marry Elizabeth Woodville ‘with great feast and honourable solemnity’ but in secrecy, possibly with a view to ditching her as he had previously ditched Eleanor. Ironically, if he had married Elizabeth ‘with great feast and honourable solemnity’ it would have made the marriage valid, in the absence of a protest from Eleanor – even if he had previously contracted a secret marriage! As a lawyer, and a man of the Church, More should have been well aware of this.