Another one (denialists’ myth) bites the dust

Another subject that Cairo dwellers frequently pontificate about is Henry “Tudor”‘s marriage to Elizabeth of York. We do know that he promised, on Christmas Day in 1483 at Rennes Cathedral, to wed her and we know that he obtained a dispensation for the purpose. The denialists claim that this shows her and her mother’s knowledge and consent to the eventual union but the evidence for this is wafer-thin.

Ashdown-Hill’s The Pink Queen, ch.18, pp.169-173, as a biography of Elizabeth Wydeville, fully investigates this subject. Firstly, under the 1475 treaty of Picquigny, Edward IV had agreed with Louis XI that his eldest daughter marry the Dauphin Charles (VIII). Louis abrogated this, by negotiating Charles’ alternative marriage to Margaret of Austria, only in 1482-3. Ironically, Charles actually married a third princess.

Photo of a parrotThe source that suggests cooperation between the families of Elizabeth of York and of Henry “Tudor” is Thomas, Lord Stanley and now Earl of Derby, who was Henry’s stepfather and made this claim in 1486, some months after Bosworth. Ashdown-Hill quotes Derby’s testimony, which noted the couple’s close relationship, verbatim on p.169. Polydore Vergil (left) also quotes this and implies consent from the lady in question. These witness claims, to James, Bishop of Imola, were probably about countering accusations that Elizabeth and her family weren’t able to demonstrate their consent because Elizabeth was being kept in MB’s household. Note that Elizabeth was only able to give evidence to the tribunal via proctors, and they may well have been chosen for her. There were no Wydevilles amongst the witnesses called.

Griffith and Thomas’ The Making of the Tudor Dynasty, pp.91-3, make a similar assertion, involving Margaret Beaufort’s physician, Dr. Lewis Caerleon, but the evidence is notable, once again, only by its absence as Vergil is their only source. Only Vergil suggests that Caerleon was also Elizabeth Woodville’s physician and she was known to employ a different one.

Vergil’s statement continues that the plan was to marry Henry to Elizabeth or Cecily if Elizabeth was already married, as Barrie Williams reminds us was that she was to be to Joao II’s cousin. Whatever the truth of the this matter, she wasn’t crowned until today in 1485 or married until 18th January. Both of these events post-date the repeal of Titulus Regius, which arguably legitimised those born to Edward IV’s bigamous “marriage”.

Henry, before and after his coronation, obviously saw Edward’s daughters as pawns, one of whom he would promote to a queen, with or without her consent or that of her mother. This was only possible by relegitimising Elizabeth and her sisters, after which their mother was disposable.


By super blue

Grandson of a Town player.


  1. That reads as if Eliazbeth was crowned BEFORE she was married to Henry! Making HER Queen in her own right, which he certainly would not like… In fact she wasn’t crowned until November 25th 1487, more than a year after Arthur had been born in September 1486.

    More interesting to me is the question “Was Elizabeth pregnant when Henry married her?” If they married in February (the Papal Bull reaching them in March) then any child conceived after the wedding would have been born in November…
    (I can count!) A 7 month baby , though not unknown, would not have had the medical advantages we enjoy today.

    I think Henry gave it long enough to ensure she wasn’t pregnant by anyone else, then “tried her out” (did she have much choice poor girl?) and only when she’d proved her fertility did the wedding take place.

    Ironic that the “dynasty” should have so much trouble in poviding a legitimate heir after Henry Tudor’s death – it’s my belief that Henry VIII picked Jane Seymour because she was like his mother – not a foreign princess, with all the diplomatic complications that brings, not a “diva” like Anne, trying to rule the roost, but English, calm and quiet… restful.


  2. Dear Ms. Ayres –
    I can count too All sources I have read say that Henry and Elizabeth were married in January, not February. A full-term baby born in September would most likely have been conceived in late December. We don’t know what Elizabeth’s cycles were, but it seems unlikely that any pregnancy could have been confirmed before mid-January, when the wedding took place.

    And how long does it take to plan a royal wedding? I can tell you, it is not done overnight. A modest but proper church wedding, with flowers, bridesmaids, a reception, etc, etc, takes months

    The simplest explanation is that Arthur was slightly premature. An 8-month baby has a better chance than a 7-month one. Alternatively, she seduced him. What motive would she have? She had been rejected by the Dauphin of France, rejected quite publicly by Richard III, and the Portugese royals didn’t seem to want her unless the deal was sweetened by King Richard’s own marriage. Now Henry seemed to be dragging his feet. One more rejection may have seemed just too much. Of course none of this can be proved, any more than the ‘Henry the rapist’ theory can. But it does mean that she had a motivation, no doubt egged on by her mother.

    Of a still simpler explanation: It was Christmas-time and everybody had had a little too much to drink.


    1. Sorry hw36, I wasn’t being sarky at your expense – (about the counting) more a self-deprecating comment meaning that I can just about manage 1 thru to 9! And to my shame I looked it up on Wiki (eek!!) and it sayeth there that the papal bull was received in March 1486, one month after the wedding, so I just assumed…:-(
      (Very naughty! It’s like taking one’s knowledge of WW2 from Errol Flynn or John Wayne films!)
      You make good points and I rather like the last one about the Chrstmas drinking!


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