A STRANGE PORTRAIT OF ELIZABETH WOODVILLE

Recently I came across a Victorian piece of art by Ford Madox Brown which is supposed to depict Elizabeth Woodville first appearing before Edward IV with her two small children. It’s rather odd piece and not particularly flattering–I am guessing that the artist was not a Woodville fan? Here, a rather plain-looking Liz W. has  a simpering, slightly smug  expression and is rolling her eyes upwards (perhaps batting her eyelashes at Edward.)

It is, shall we say, not a good look.

Even more perplexing is the fact, she seems to have THREE children rather  than two–and the one crammed in the middle is a rather sinister, saturnine boy with a widow’s peak, who resembles a young Dracula, or Eddie Munster from the Munsters TV series!

I am not surprised that this painting is not more well-known!

 

madox_brown_lady_grey_451

27 comments

  1. I would love to know the story behind the “Eddie Munster” kid (as you so cleverly dubbed him) because he really does draw the eye in this painting. Makes me think that the artist had some specific message/motive in mind by placing a third child who so clearly doesn’t belong there in the scene (even if you didn’t know Elizabeth Woodville only had two sons from her marriage to John Grey, the third child would still stand out as incongruous because of his appearance). I’m tempted to try researching this one further just out of curiosity now!

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  2. Elizabeth, if you do decide to research it, please tell us what you find out, I’d be intrigued to know what you find!

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  3. Are you sure this was supposed to depict Elizabeth Woodville? According to the artist’s Wikipedia page, he did a painting of “Lady Rivers and her children”, but none of the titles listed fit a picture of Elizabeth Woodville.

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  4. Dear Hoodedman1, this ‘portrait’ is just outright ghastly! Had E4 been shown THIS portrait of EW first there would have been a Bona of Savoy as his Queen – it’s hideous, even for a Madox Ford! Then again, Ford Madox Brown was part of the curious movement known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (truly a mis-named group with misplaced agita towards Raphael!) and ALL the images of his women, girls, (and most men) are similarly – to my eyes – ghastly flat ovals with wide spaced eyes – this painting appears to me to be a ‘rough’ – something sketched in very loosely and never completed in a further, and more stylistically typical, form. Madox Brown probably found it grotesque as well, many oil sketches are just that, and abandoned. I would have painted over this one with lead white, or burned it.

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  5. Hoodedman1, since you gave us the Ashmolean as its source, there is indeed a citation concerning this oil sketch (roughly 8.5″ x 6.75″ -that is SMALL, it is just a quick sketch, what can be called ‘allaprima’ dashed off all at one time, indeed the background is scarcely indicated which is typical of this method). The Ashmolean curators probably had little more information about this mess than we do – it’s listed as oil on canvas then laid on a panel – to make it portable and more durable – again, an oil sketch doesn’t require either consideration.

    Someone named Henry Boddington owned it until the family/heirs/estate sold it (?) to another owner in 1977, it had been a Pownall Hall (Cheshire). There are two possibilities for Boddington – one Henry Boddington was from a family of landscape painters and may have requested this sketch – and it is a LATE work, around 1887, at the close of Ford Madox Brown’s long career. That is a very strong option, a fellow artist may well request such a sketch, upon seeing it in Brown’s studio, and being a landscape painter would not pester the artist for something more grandiose, an artist would be well aware of the time, expense and labor required to FIX that sketch.

    The other Henry Boddington was a Manchester brewer, but he owned Pownell Hall, and converted the country house in the 1880’s into a “Tudor style” showcase for the Arts and Crafts movement – it is entirely possible he saw, found, or had agents locate artwork for his Hall and he was the one who acquired this ummm painting. Since Ashmolean lists Boddington of Pownall Hall it certainly appears, to me, that the Manchester art lover and brewer, knew very little about art and less about Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydville! It could well be that he listed to the sketch as Lady Rivers in his catalog, and museums are wont to follow suit with their donors/acquisitions. Brown died in 1893.

    Ok, that’s all I got.

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      1. lol, what is reallllly funny is that someone wanted that thing! Madox Brown was an accomplished painter (just not my style) that thing really WAS just a quickie, dashed off sketch, can’t imagine why he even left it lying around in his studio!

        BTW, if you have the time, take a look at some portraits of Bona of Savoy (poor thing, she ended up with Milan’s Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza (LXI’s best bud), in contrast to QEW, there are (maybe too many) portraits of Bona, usually allegorical, as St Catherine of Alexandria or the Virgin. Who can say if any of them are accurate but those where she is at least young she appears to be attractive with red hair and with shall we say an ample bosom? A later one, with a simple veil-like netting over her red hair is likely very accurate, and my my, the castle laundress? She and E4 would have made for quite the hefty pair! Think of the misery and death a marriage to her would have prevented – then again, any alliance LXI desired (forget what Warwick wanted, he was sadly ruled by “Lewis of France”) would have been one I just can’t see E4 willing to suffer, well, maybe if LXI made the right price?

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      2. This is just a random thought that occurred to me after reading Amma’s comments about Bona of Savoy but….suppose Edward IV DID marry Bona…the pre-contract to Eleanor Talbot would still have pre-dated that marriage too wouldn’t it? That could have potentially turned into a diplomatic disaster if Stillington still came forward at some point…this is all of course completely supposition (because I haven’t even checked the dates of the Talbot pre-contract versus Warwick’s negotiations for Bona of Savoy) but what if that played into Edward IV’s decision not to continue negotiations for a foreign Princess (which he desperately needed because of Margaret of Anjou still lurking in France) and carry on with Elizabeth Woodville instead? Again, just a random thought, feel free to tell me to go kick rocks lol.

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      3. Dear Elizabeth B, I like the way you think! devious lol! actually you may have revealed a nest of problems E4 created for himself –
        – all we can ‘know’ about the affair/pre-contract/marriage with Lady Eleanor Talbot Butler is that it didn’t occur before 1461 and was likely concluded some time (?) before her death in 1468 – and that she did indeed possess those properties (at her death) she (we think) she requested E4 return to her
        – surrounding that are people who would have known far more in detail, her sister Elizabeth Talbot, duchess Norfolk, her niece Elizabeth Grey (married to QEW’s brother-in-law Edward Grey, Baron Ferrers of Groby, Viscount Lisle), and of course Bishop Stillington

        We know Warwick – as early as 1462-3 wanted appeasement/ peace with France and E4 leaned towards Burgundy, as the English had for nearly a century, and IF Warwick heard anything about E4’s dalliances he likely ignored them, he had a rampant ambition that LXI at turns fed, then found tiring, then toyed with simply because anything that created discord in England was good for him.

        The question probably is HOW serious was LXI in seeing his wife’s kin marry the English king? He may well have heard of the rumours about E’s affairs, in fact I would be shocked if he didn’t have better intel than Warwick because 1) LXI was
        patient, methodical, the type we describe as enjoying his revenge cold and 2) it was no injury to him IF the rumours were true, if Bona found herself married to an English king who had prior contracts and it became known (gee who would let that little secret out?) well, such shame and dishonor would be met in rather a Continental way I think. Read some of the startling (to me) marital events in what passed for the Italian ‘Renaissance’ (ie. 1420 to 1520) – keep in mind that the best professional poisoners were IN Italy, and the Italians had long perfected the use of codes for personal, financial and diplomatic correspondence. E4 would have been toast. And Lewis of France, loving it.

        Not sure that’s an answer though…

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      4. Hi Amma, that was a really good answer actually to what is probably an unanswerable question (unless we’re going hold a seance and try to contact Edward IV…but with my luck we’d end up with Henry VII haha). Very interesting food for thought about Louis XI. I don’t know much about him, so you’ve piqued my interest! I’m going to have to add him now to my summer reading list (know of a good biography for him? ).

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      5. Well, Elizabeth, sure you want to wade into the LXI waters? I’m teasing, he’s utterly immoral, devious and calculating, every decision he made was fraught with several hidden ones, as some, probably Commynes, said, he made men just to unmake them 🙂

        There is quite a bit about LXI in French – such as his letters, eventually I will get to those – for now I am under a mountain of material connected to a project I am working on – however, there are some things you can read up on in English, remember to include context, such as those around LXI:

        Richard Vaughan wrote a series of monographs on the Burgundian dukes that will likely remain the standard reference material for them for some time – the one on Charles the Bold is a must, otherwise you won’t understand what the feud discussed in Commynes (or any of our modern historians) are writing about between E4, Charles, and LXI (careful with Commynes, see note below)

        Paul Murray Kendall (we know his Richard bio) also wrote one on Warwick, and oddly enough one on Louis XI, “the universal spider” – a name given to him by Charles the Bold (or Rash, which I think better suited this duke). Kendall’s bio provides a very sympathetic take on LXI, and to some degree – from a French perspective – LXI was an astonishing success following the utter mess that was his father, CVII (Joan of Arch’s idiot Dauphin, if you remember, she went through the bother to get this fool crowned at Reims then found herself abandoned by him after her capture at Compeigne – John Duke of Bedford had her burned at the stake yada yada yada, CVII was contemptible). Anyway, the single best explanation for LXI are his own quotes, and there are many of them in Kendall’s bio, my favorite is “one cannot rule if one cannot lie” – he had quite the sense of humor, sly, pithy and his habit of summing up his fellow rulers (most of whom he was related to through blood or marriage) in succinct, charming insults, make him ‘almost’ endearing as he is usually accurate (especially about Francis of Brittany).

        His terse letter to Richard III, literally days before he would FINALLY die, gives me some idea of what that sparring match between them would have been like – Richard’s letter to him, it arrived after Louis (Lewis! he’s referred to as ‘Lewis’ by the English, omg took me awhile to accept that!) had died but R is one nervy dude; we have enough surviving examples of his humour I think to evaluate him as LXI’s equal in snark and wry putdowns, I so regret that they never had enough time to really go at each other! LXI’s heinous daughter, whom he called “the least insane woman in France” was about 22 or so when Louis died and left and wobbly, insipid 13 yr old dauphin to rule, ye gods, Anne literally was the Queen in all but name – and THAT will cause a host of problems, and explain Dominic Mancini and his patron, Angelo Cato. BTW, Anne was completely dreary, no charm whatsoever, and far more ruthless than her father! She is the one who decided to eliminate any chance of R leading an invasion on France (so paranoid, the French), that she threw her mercenaries, funds, support and spies behind that trembling exile Henry Tuddor, just to preempt an attack from Richard. Tell me I am wrong.

        Now, you only need SOME of this one Frederic J Baumgartner’s Louis XII, the king who follows the hapless Charles VIII, THIS is a loaded gentleman in terms of who he was – and he is intergral to LXI, Anne de Beaujeu (the regent) and R3 – he was about 19 in 1483 and desperately wanted revenge on the royal family – well he was the royal family, he was married to Louis’s other daughter Joan, the one who had been offered to Richard back in the 1460’s – the one Louis ended up forcing Louis d’Orleans to marry, why? Rumour was she was sterile and allegedly lame, a horror to Louis d’Orleans, the end of his line, which would have pleased LXI, and there is SO much more, as you will read – again, you just need the background on this Louis, where he came from, HIS grandfather who had been assassinated in broad daylight by Jean sans Peur (oh you will see). The French royal family, for all their wild slander of the English royals (note Jan 1484 and de Rochefort’s ridiculous ‘speech) were a family that quite definitely hated each other and had no problem killing each other! (Poison, execution, assassination, you name it…)

        Now, you MUST if you haven’t already, read Cora Scofield’s 2 volumes on Edward IV, I quite incorrectly considered her to be ‘old news’ and all the modern writers must surely have picked her research clean, right? WRONG! While reading through Matt Lewis (again) he mentioned the very complex foreign diplomacy issues between E4 and LXI and that – this was in a footnote I think, Lewis has fabulous footnotes – if you can read the details in Scofield. Well, challenge taken. Scofield is awesome!!! And modern scholars etc have NOT mined her research clean! I’m shocked to find out how much no one bothers to cite!

        Scofield I will warn you is not an sympathetic read for E4, nor Warwick, certainly she knows virtually NOTHING about Richard, I suppose in the 1920’s (that is when Vol.1 came out) all she had was Gairdner as an ‘authority’ as per Richard, and it shows. It’s not that she has an endless list of slander about him, she just doesn’t know where he is most of the time – her volumes on E4 however will help you immensely with cross-referencing what you read about Charles and LXI … she does have a sense of humour, its inserted in proper measure, her citations are on each page. I have thought, maybe I should read Gairdner, after the success I have discovered with Scofield, but I sense Gairdner was just too biased to provide any useful information.

        There are scads of info on the various city states that make up the Italian Renaissance, I’m strong in some areas (art) but woefully running like mad to catch up on things like mercantile trade, diplomacy, shifting rule of the condottieri, the Papacy, etc etc etc – but one has to start somewhere, this one I liked alot – The Deadly Sisterhood, by Leonie Frieda, “A Story of Women, Power, and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance, 1427-1527” – its fairly recent, 2012, again, read what interests you, I’m something of a “project” oriented reader, I target what I need for my project, make dozens of index cards, highlight the book to pieces (then order a clean copy) and put it aside for the moment. Two weeks later I find myself back again reading something that meant nothing the first time around!

        Well, we come to Commynes, I am guessing you have your copy (lord help us all) of Thomas More, Vergil, and Mancini, and possibly you have some form of Commynes’ “Memoirs” – but a scholarly evaluation ON Commynes and his memoirs interested me more so I found Irit Ruth Kleiman’s “Philippe de Commynes, Memory, Betrayal, Text” to be helpful in MANY places, it also completely altered the accepted version Commynes himself wanted established about his memoirs and his role in both Charles’ court and as counselor to LXI (see p.185 in particular) … much of it can be scholar-speak, skip over what is not of use to you, but it may clarify why many are a bit hesitant to believe Commynes as if he left us one of Moses’ tablets (something we should extend to More, Vergil, Crowland, Mancini, et al … everyone has a agenda … other than official documents (Patent office, Close Rolls, Common Pleas, etc) or a letter written at the time, dated, with a seal, I trust not one Chronicle, cross-reference everyone!

        It’s alot of info, I know, so give yourself a bite-size project like I do, consider some topic you want in-depth material on and then peruse everything available – but get Scofield, she really amazed me with her research, and the Vaughan, he can read a bit ‘dry’ (ok VERY dry) and if you have time and you haven’t read Christine Weightman’s fabulous bio on Margaret of York DO so! I should have put that one in too … I tell my students to do this, find a bite-size topic and then dive in! That way it doesn’t seem too overwhelming 🙂

        Send me some of the titles of books you have found helpful, I read everything!

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      6. Wow, now THAT is a list, thank you so much!! I think I’m going to start with Scofield and then maybe Margaret of York and go on from there…”Phillips de Commynes, Memory, Betrayal, Text” sounds fascinating though too, so it might depend on which one is easiest to get my hands on. Love your ” Charles the Brash” comment too by the way lol.

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      7. The Weightman bio of Margaret of York is one of the few reviews I’ve made on Amazon (hmm, I think I did one for the Thomas Penn Winter King too, I was polite, I think…) anyway, the Weightman is a very refined, elevated bio – and if thorough like so many other peripheral scholars of the period not directly researching Richard she has at best a hazy grasp about him and it’s painful for Weightman to discuss him as Margaret never publicaly – or privately as far as we know from letters, personal or diplomatic – condemned her youngest brother. Indeed, one gets the feeling that Weightman is aware her Subject knew quite a bit more about the E4-QEW marriage why her brother Richard became king than she cares to either speculate on or even consider. Much easier to discuss her elaborate and extensive patronage of the arts.

        One one hand Weightman beautifully offers a true intellect in Margaret, her court was not simply the result of Burgundian culture, the glorious height of the arts in Europe for a century, but her own capable management of this legacy and her additions to it; Margaret was more than the equal to her brother Edward for grit and personal courage, the equal to Richard for piety and loyalty – he never failed to get her whatever she requested, and that was even before Edward died.

        You may soon sense Margaret would have made an exceptional queen in her own right, anything Elizabeth I had going for her Margaret of York had in excess – except for the neuroses!

        I’ve been reading the Scofield alongside my Richard ‘authors’ – I had started a parallel in-depth ‘timeline’ for both E and R and found the Ross just didn’t cut it – Scofield may not know her Richard but she did her homework on E’s foreign policy which impacted his domestic policy – trying to create a parallel for R’s often changing affinity also connected with E’s domestic policies and I can’t get that from Scofield – soooo things just snowballed into cross referencing her with everyone

        cross referencing is my middle name 🙂

        and if you get a chance … try Ann Wroe’s “The Perfect Prince: The Mystery of Perkin Warbeck…” – not a quick read btw, I have found that it has been helpful tracking down people mentioned in one area and maybe nowhere else!
        (ex. a certain gentleman who was part of Richard of Shrewbury’s service and had been granted a property during Edward’s time was not retained in any capacity by Richard as Protector or as King – but a gentleman in the same bedroom staffing for the young prince was given new appointments by R3. I poked about for a bit and figured out the grant the 1st one had been a Norfolk property and as such no longer required anyone to oversee it during a minority, John Howard was quite capable of managing this one as well – so what happened to gentleman #1? Could I find him anywhere? Zip, nada, yea, well, Ann Wroe is more detail oriented than I am! He was in there, and yup, he waited it out and lo, the heavens blessed him with Mr Light and Beauty… otherwise known as you know who

        she’s a fun read, ya just never know when one of those millions of details will be helpful (bless the INDEX! And the Cal of Patent Rolls!)

        Three months of lock down, does it show????

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      8. Ha, yeah, I’m right there with you on the three months of lockdown…I’m torn between feeling like I’ve accomplished a lot during quarantine and feeling like I’m wasting my life away lol. I’ve been trying to keep two books going at once throughout this whole thing so that whenever I get bored or frustrated with one, I can just pick up the other. I just finished “The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family” by Susan Higginbotham and I’m about halfway into “The Mythology of the Princes in the Tower” by John Ashdown Hill. It’s actually been fun in a weird way to read them both together, since they’re so at odds with each other in regards to a lot of things. Margaret of York is next in my queue now so wish me luck!

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      9. Well, EB, you are ready for grad studies Ricardian style! Most of what I read, and sent to you on that list, should be in some library – of course, they’re all closed around here (I’m in the middle of NJ, but while we haven’t had a serious covid issue here we’re geographically too close to NYC and that has doomed us, I can’t see our governor opening us up again till …. ummmm

        ever since grad school I’ve kept multiple books going at once, maybe that’s where the cross-referencing mania came from, unintentional, occupational hazard!? Now I can’t stop. Alot of what I find I have to get from amazon’s army of used book vendors, sadly, too many seem to be libraries in the UK that are purging these books! I usually spend more on the Postage than the book itself! And books as old as the Scofield are being reprinted (I guess they qualify as historically important), the reprinting can be iffy – and fortunately alot has been digitized, that is where I go now for things like the Calendar of Patents, Common Pleas, etc … troll through that stuff for a few hours, very enlightening! The things people sued each other over, my gosh, and the endless suits over debt, “trespass” (apparently that could be any infraction short of murder) involves every blessed name you have seen in any bio of Richard or E4 … everyone sued everyone! Some of them are so funny my son has come into my workroom to find out if I have lost my mind – here’s one I recall, a poor man was tossed into the ‘compter’ (jail) in London because the good citizens who espied him suspected that, yes, he might well be … a Scot! And so, off to the room without windows – I think that one was about 1481? In the good citizens defense, E4 was having some probs with the border, now wasn’t he?

        Haven’t read the Higginbotham yet, I have it in my stack, like you I wanted this lockdown to be fruitful, and we were originally told “two weeks” – that was THREE months ago. But most of what I find I find in footnotes, bibliographies, where did the author get their info and what did they leave/alter/edit from the source material? And from there the stack grows, and grows … um, do I sound cynical? The fate of a Ricardian.

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  6. Hi Amma, found this today while paging through Annette Carson’s “The Maligned King” regarding Edward IV’s cause of death and thought it would amuse you: “Yet another writer from France, Jean de Roy or Troye, whose date of death (c. 1495) suggests that he was commenting on contemporaneous events, believed that Edward died of ‘une apoplexie’ or perhaps, as some people said, he was ‘empoisonne du bon vin’, given to him by Louis XI.”

    Given our conversation about our buddy Louis XI, I had to share!

    The Higginbotham book on the Woodvilles was an interesting read. I’m trying to collect as many points of view on events as I can to balance out my own views and it was the first truly sympathetic take on the Woodvilles that I’ve come across. Not sure I’m totally in agreeance with a lot of it, but that’s the point of evaluating a number of different opinions/conclusions in the search for objectivity, right?

    I’m in Pennsylvania and we’re getting ready to end lockdown next week, so hopefully everything goes smoothly. Hope things are on their way back to normal in your neck of the woods too, stay safe and thanks again for all your help!

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  7. Pennsy! EB you’re practically next door! my gosh, I was all set for the R3 Annual Conference here in Philly in Oct THIS year (can you imagine?) but Gov Wolf and Mayor Kenney already shot that Conference out of the water grrrrr…

    Supposedly we get out of lock down 15 June, we shall see, it doesn’t help with the Conference however, Matt Lewis was due to come over from England and speak, and that was SO worth it! Next to Annette Carson there is no one who asks the right questions like Lewis!

    As per AC, yes, I have seen the poison-LXI angle … and I heartily ascribe to it! lol, you knew I would, didn’t you! I could spend another 3 hours writing about that and why …

    feel free to email me, we’re neighbors, amazing! until later, and btw, I’m beth, I only had the “beth” part, my original last name was a long one, alas, I got part of a name, hahaa

    bwilliam@rcbc.edu

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