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.
The 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.