WAS HENRY VII A RELUCTANT BRIDEGROOM?

REBLOGGED FROM A Medieval Potpourri sparkypus.com

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Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.  Their effigies in Westminster Abbey.  Artist Pietro Torrigiano. Photo westminster-abbey.org

I was recently reading an excellent article in the Ricardian discussing Henry Tudor’s enthusiasm, or lack of it, for his marriage to Elizabeth of York by David Johnson entitled Ardent Suitor or Reluctant Groom?  It’s pretty much an eye opener and is in two parts – part 1 Ardent Suitor covers the positives, if you can call them that  – that is to try to understand why Henry, who in Rennes Cathedral on Christmas Day 1483 had vowed to marry Elizabeth of York,  seemingly developed a serious case of cold feet in 1485 after his success at Bosworth.  This seems a major volte-face from a man who was reported by Vergil as being ‘pinched by the very stomach’ when rumours had reached him that Richard III was ‘amynded’,  having been recently widowed,  to  marry Elizabeth himself.  Love was not of course the issue to Henry at the time, Elizabeth was but a stepping stone to cement his usurpation of the throne and to gain the loyalty of dissatisfied Yorkists that had joined him in Brittany.   The rumour, as it turned out, was false.  Richard was negotiating a double foreign marriage for himself and for Elizabeth to members of the Portuguese royal family.  However it is a helpful indication of Henry’s mindset at that time that  he or someone close to him suggested a Plan B – that was if a Plantagenet bride was not available, he would marry one of the daughter sof William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.    To add to his angst some time later came the collapse of the ‘Beaufort/Woodville alliance’ after Elizabeth Woodville’s rapprochement with Richard and her older daughters attending Richard’s court.  Henry’s carefully laid plans were in tatters.  Was it at this point he was changing his mind about marrying Elizabeth should he be successful in taking the throne?  David Johnson points out a change in strategy and  instead of ‘emphasising the political necessity of marriage with Elizabeth of York, as he had in 1483, Henry according to the Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet was urged by the Earl of Oxford, and from England, by the Lord Stanley to use the title of king’  which he did henceforth, beginning his letters with the customary royal salutation ‘By the King.  Right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well’ and signing off his letters as HR (Henricus Rex).  David Johnson points out that  Rosemary Horrox has noted that ‘None of Henry’s predecessors who seized the throne by force made such an early and explicit declaration of their sovereignity (1).

This ‘bold’ change in strategy  ‘conveniently dispensed with Elizabeth of York and instead promoted his royal title as heir of Lancaster(2)’. Richard’s response was swift and a proclamation was issued in December 1484 condemning Henry and his brass necked gall.  Describing Henry’s ‘ambitious and insatiable covetousness …. encroacheth upon him the name and title of Royal estate of this Realm of England, whereunto he hat no manner interest, right or colour…’ 

What Elizabeth Snr or Elizabeth Jnr made of all this is unfortunately lost to us.    Perhaps Elizabeth Woodville,  who was about to dump Margaret Beaufort basically, and cast her lot in with Richard, felt some foreboding?   On the other hand perhaps she felt confident all would be well.  Indeed she did send word to her son, Thomas Grey,  Marquis of Dorset,  who was with  with Tudor at that time, to come home  and he would be treated well.    Maybe, ever pragmatic,  she had concluded it was better to be in tune with the King at the moment and not a mere faux king over in Brittany.  However this reneging on her deal with Margaret Beaufort would cast a long shadow over her future.

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16 comments

  1. I’m afraid Maud Herbert as a bride for Henry Tudor is and was out of the question as she was already married to Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. Tudor’s knee-jerk reaction when he heard rumours of Richard’s supposed interest in marrying Elizabeth of York was to write to Percy, seeking to enlist his help in finding a bride. Since Tudor had been in Herbert’s household as a child, he had in mind one of Maud’s sisters. I can find little information about their dates of birth, but the sisters Cecily and Catherine are nearest in age to Maud. What I find most significant, which seems widely overlooked, is the fact that when Tudor needed help he wrote to Northumberland. To my mind this should be remembered when we consider Northumberland’s role at Bosworth.

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    1. Yes thanks Annette. My bloomer had already been pointed out to me on my own blog A Medieval Potpourri. I corrected it on there but failed to do so on M&B. Mea Culpa. I think where I went wrong was having read William Herbert’s will where he left instructions that Maud was to marry ‘Lord Henry of Richmond’. Now updated on here too.

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