I’m beginning to convince myself that the Lambert Simnel Affair might have been an uprising in favour of Edward V, not Edward, Earl of Warwick….
I’m beginning to convince myself that the Lambert Simnel Affair might have been an uprising in favour of Edward V, not Edward, Earl of Warwick….
Henry Vll and his children in mourning for Elizabeth of York. An idealised presentation of Henry. His children , Margaret and Mary sitting in front of the fire while a young Henry weeps into his mother’s empty bed. From the Vaux Passional, a 15th century manuscript.
And so on this day Elizabeth gave birth to her son Arthur. Arthur’s life was destined to be short and he died on 2 April 1502. And so the fickle wheel of fortune turned once more with Arthur’s parents feeling the same pain, despair and shock that are recorded as having engulfed Richard lll and his Queen, Anne Neville on the death of their small son Edward. Perhaps Henry’s pain was cushioned somewhat by the knowledge that he had a spare heir, Henry Jnr.
Elizabeth is often quoted as having said, an in attempt to comfort Henry that they were young enough to have another child. (1) Whether she said this or not – how would such a personal conversation be known to others? – as sure as eggs are eggs, Elizabeth did indeed become pregnant soon after , a pregnancy that we all know resulted in her death. So thus in another strange coincidence Henry also lost his wife a few short months after the death of their son as did Richard.
Elizabeth’s bronze effigy on her tomb, Westminster Abbey, Torrigiano
It is said by some that Henry’s and Elizabeth’s marriage was a happy one, they both growing to love one another over the years. Alternatively you will read that she was considered by some to have been kept subservient and that Henry was not uxorious. You will have to form your own opinions over that one dear reader. Either way she has my sympathy with regard to her mother-in-law, the formidable Margaret Beaufort, to whom Henry remained close. Indeed a certain yeoman of the crown John Hewyk ‘grumbled that he would have spoken more to the Queen had it not been for that strong whore, the King’s mother ‘.(2) with a Spanish observer writing that ‘she is kept in subjection by the mother of the king. (3). However there are some examples that demonstrate that Elizabeth was not entirely a push over nor totally ‘eclipsed’ by her mother-in-law Rosemary Horrox gives us one such example where a Welsh tenant appealed to Elizabeth over an injustice involving the king’s uncle, Jasper Tudor, which led to Elizabeth ‘responding with a firm letter to the said Jasper. (4) Bravo Elizabeth!
Portrait by an unknown artist c 1503
Although much has been written about her death and funeral , and I won’t go into that here, interesting as it is, nothing much is known about her personal feelings towards her husband, the demise of the House of York, the treatment of her mother, Elizabeth Wydeville, and her ‘retirement’ in to Bermondsey Abbey, the fates of her brothers or the identity of Perkin Warbeck. However her Privy Purse Account have survived and perhaps some thing of her nature and true feelings may be gleaned from them.
Sir Nicholas Harris Nicholas, writing in 1830, was editor of The Privy Purse Expenses which also include a memoir. Sir Nicholas seems to have been a little in love with Elizabeth, whose motto was ‘Humble and Reverent’ attributing to her ‘most if not all of the virtues which adorn the female character’. He notes that her expenses consist chiefly of rewards to persons who brought her presents with often the reward being of greater value. ‘Nothing was too contemptible to be received, nor was any person deemed too humble..Among the articles presented to Elizabeth were fish, fruit, fowls, puddings, tripe, a crane, woodcocks, a popinjay, quails and other birds, pork, rabbit, Llanthony cheeses, pease cods, cakes, a wild boar, malmsey wine, flowers, chiefly roses, bucks, sweetmeats, rose water, a cushion, and a pair of clarycords’. All the bearers of these gifts would never go away empty handed.
There were disbursements for servants wages, for preparing her apartments when she removed from one place to another, which she did frequently, for conveying her clothes and necessary furniture, for messengers, for the repairs of her barge and the pay of the bargemen, for her chairs and litters, the purchase of household articles, for silks, damasks, satins, cloth of gold, velvet, linen, gowns, kirtles, petticoats for her own use or for the ladies she maintained; for jewellery, trappings for horses, furs, gold chains and for the charges of her stables and greyhounds; for the support of her sister Lady Katherine Courtney and her children, including the burial of some of them; for the clothing and board of her Fool, gambling debts and so much more. Sir Nicholas notes that ‘her Majesties revenue was not adequate to cover all these demands and she was ‘not infrequently obliged to borrow money’. A look at Henry’s Privy Purse accounts shows that he, perhaps being a good egg or because it was the least he could do under the circumstances, frequently bailed his wife out although it was expected these loans were to be repaid.
The accounts which cover the last year of Elizabeth’s life are too detailed to go into her but I list here a few :
MAY 1502 Item to Frary Clerc of St Johns for the buryeng of the men that were hanged at Wapping mylne 8 shillings
There are several examples of money being given to servants of her father, King Edward, who had perhaps fallen on hard times such as ;
JUNE 1502 Item ..and to a pore man in aulmouse somtyme being a servant of King Edwards IV 2s. 4d. as well as cloth to a woman who had been nurse to her brothers –
Help was also given to people who had served other members of her family :
DECEMBER 1502 item 3 yards of cloth delivered by commandment of the Queen to a woman what was ‘norice’ to the Princes brothers to the Queen grace
DECEMBER 1502 Item to a man of ‘Poynfreyt saying himself to lodge in his house Therl Ryvers in tyme of his death in almous 12 shillings’
For herself, other than her gambling debts , Elizabeth seemed to keep an eye on the purse strings with numerous mentions of her gowns being repaired.
DECEMBER 1502 item to the Quenes grace upon the Feest of St Stephen for hure disport at cardes this Cristmas 100 s.
She appeared to wear a lot of black during the period these accounts cover when presumably the court were in mourning for Arthur – an example being
NOVEMBER 1502 Item ..to Henry Bryan for 17 yards of black velvet for a gown for the Queen at 10 shillings 6d the yard. 13 yards of black satin delivered to Johnson for a riding gown and a yard of black velvet for an edge and cuffs for the same gown. Item black bokeram for lining of the same gown, sarcenet for ‘fentes’ for the same gown and an elle of canvas for lining of the same gown – although on a lighter note in
JUNE 1502 Item ..to William Antyne coper smyth for spangelles settes square sterrys dropes and pointes after silver and gold for garnisshing of jakettes against the disguysing lvj viiij d.
AUGUST 1502 ..to my Lady Verney for money by hur delivered by commaundement of the Queen to Fyll the Kinges paynter in reward 3s. 4d. Item to John Reynold payntour for making of divers beestes and othere pleasires for the Quene at Windsore 10 s.
A short, interesting appraisal of Elizabeth including her expenses were included by Ann Wrote in her biography of Perkin Warbeck. ‘The queen seems to have been a gentle passive creature. Her world was one of frugally mended gowns, whicker baskets and works of charity. She had little money of her own her allowance being one eighth of the king’s and she often gave it away. On Maundy Thursday she distributed new shoes to poor women but her own shoes cost no more than 12d each and had cheap latten buckles…Ayala writing in 1498 thought her’ beloved because she is powerless’ and believed as many did that her formidable mother in law kept her in subjection. Although Margaret Beaufort showed her kindness she was undoubtedly a stronger character. A citizen of Nottingham once tried to speak to Elizabeth when she visited that city, their pleasant conversation was stopped by that ‘strong whore’, Henry’s mother, and Elizabeth acquiesced’ .(5)
Later it is poignant to read about the costs of trying, vainly, to save her life when she was stricken after giving birth to her last child, Katherine.
‘Itm To James Nattres for his costes going into Kent for Doctour Hallysworth phesicon to comme to the Quene by the Kinges commaundement. Furst for his bote hyre from the Towre to Gravys ende and again iiij s, iiij d. Itm to twoo watermen abiding at Gravys ende unto suche tyme the said James came again for theire expenses viij d. Itm for horse hyre and to guydes by night and day ij s.iij d.and for his awe expenses xvj d.’
Elizabeth’s midwife Alice Massy was not forgotten; her wages being 12 shillings.
And thus Elizabeth, with exemplary timing, died on the anniversary of her birthday, 11 February. Its said that Henry took her death badly and it would seem that his behaviour and attitudes took a turn for the worse after he had been widowed but that is another story. Perhaps theirs was not a passionate love, duty having bound them together, but I do get the impression from their Privy Purse accounts that they did rub along together quite nicely.
Here is an interesting thought. What might have happened to Anne Neville had she outlived Richard? I quote:
“A question that arises is what would have happened to Anne had she lived? It is unlikely that her survival would have affected the result of Richard’s loss at Bosworth in any way and it is highly doubtful that she would have produced anymore children. Perhaps she would have become Elizabeth of York’s lady-in-waiting, or sought sanctuary until she was financially able to support herself or re-marry. Anne has remained an enigma, with her thoughts and opinions never heard.”
Yes, she is, was and probably ever will be, an enigma. And heaven knows how Henry “Tudor” would have treated her – by shoving her in Bermondsey with Elizabeth Woodville? Probably.
The quote is taken from here and regardless of its source being The “Tudor” Society, it is not biased against Richard. If it raises those vile rumours of his intention to marry his niece and poisoning Anne, it also argues against them. The real quibble I have is the statement that Richard would never have married Elizabeth because of “opposition in the North”. No mention is made of the Bible and Church forbidding uncles and nieces to marry, or of the fact that Elizabeth’s illegitimacy was rather a large obstacle too. Interesting for all that.
And here’s another thought. Mine, this time. On the assumption that Anne not only survived Richard, but was also in good health. Would she have been drawn into any Yorkist plotting against Henry? After the apocalypse of Bosworth, would she have been tempted to support the Earl of Lincoln and the Earl of Warwick? Maybe even, at a push, Perkin Warbeck? Would she even have been in contact with Elizabeth Woodville, who was, after all, part of the House of York? It’s all an intriguing scenario.
Humphrey Duke of Gloucester from the Talbot Shrewsbury Book
A print by an unknown artist now in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich depicting the Palace c 1487.
Greenwich Palace, or Placentia as it is often known, was built around 1433 by Henry V’s brother, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, who named it Bella Court after he had been granted the Manor of Greenwich by his nephew Henry Vl. There had been been an even older palace on that site, perhaps dating from the reign of Edward l. Henry lV dated his will from his ‘Manor of Greenwich January 22nd 1408′ and the palace appears to have been his favourite residence. However, the grant in 1433 of 200 acres of land was for the purpose of enclosing it as a park. It would seem that Humphrey was pleased with the spot because 4 years later he and his ill-fated wife, Eleanor Cobham, obtained a similar grant and in that, licence was given for the owners to ’embattle and build with stone’ as well as ‘to enclose and make a tower and ditch within the same and a certain tower within the part to build and edify’ (1)
Part of the drawing of Greenwich Palace by Anthony van der Wyngaerde 1558 with Duke Humphrey’s tower on top of the hill.
Accordingly soon after this Humphrey commenced building the tower within what is now the site of the Royal Observatory which was then called Greenwich Castle, and he likewise rebuilt the old palace on the spot where the west wing of the Royal Naval College now stands which he renamed from its agreeable situation, Pleazaunce or Placentia although this name was not commonly used until the reign of Henry Vlll.
Another view of van der Wyngaerde’s drawing of Greenwich Palace c 1558
Upon Humphrey’s death the palace was granted to his nemesis, Margaret of Anjou. Margaret added embellishments including terracotta tiles bearing her monogram, filled the windows with glass and built a landing stage and treasure house (2)
A view of Greenwich Palace from a print published by the Society of Antiquaries 1767
Later Edward IV enlarged the park, stocked it with deer and bestowed it as a residence upon Elizabeth Wydeville. Greenwich has been mentioned as one of Elizabeth’s favourite homes and it certainly crops up regularly in Edward’s itinerary (3). A joust was held there on the occasion of Richard of Shrewsbury’s marriage to Anne Mowbray and it was there at Greenwich on the 19th November 1481 that Anne tragically died at the age of just 8 years old and a few short months later, Edward and Elizabeth’s own daughter, the 15 year old Princess Mary also died on either the 20th or 23rd May 1482. The manuscript covering Mary’s death says she died ‘in the town’ but it is probable this meant the palace and presumably she would have ‘lain in the chapel of the palace with appropriate services and perhaps the attendance of her parents'(3). A week after her death, on the 27th May, Mary’s body was taken to the parish church of Greenwich on the first stage of the final journey to St Georges Chapel, Windsor. Mary may have been visited by her father, Edward lV, a few days before her death. He was at Canterbury on the 17th and back in London on the 23rd which may have been the day that his daughter breathed her last so clearly if he did indeed visit he did not linger. Numerous Wydeville ladies were conspicuous among the mourners including Jane, Lady Grey of Ruthin, sister to the queen and Jacquetta, another sister’s daugher, Joan Lady Strange, wife of George Stanley. Another niece, Lady ‘Dame’ Katherine Grey, possibly the daughter of Jane Wydeville was also present. Dinner for the funeral group was at the palace after which Mary’s body was taken from the church and begun its last sad journey to Windsor. Mary’s funeral is more than adequately covered in The Royal Funerals of the House of York at Windsor by Anne F Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs. It may well be that sisters-in-law Anne and Mary knew each other well and that perhaps Greenwich Palace was being used as a royal nursery in much the same way as Sheriff Hutton was later to become, although the age gap would surely have prevented them from being actual playmates.
The Royal Window, Canterbury Cathedral. Elizabeth Wydeville and her daughters. Mary is shown as the last figure on the right hand side. Greenwich was one of Elizabeth’s favourite homes and where her daugher Mary died in 1482.
Greenwich Palace conveniently came into Henry Tudor’s hands when Elizabeth Wydeville was, ummmmm, retired to Bermondsey Abbey on an altogether frivolous charge. It is true to say that Tudor heavily rebuilt the palace between 1498 and 1504, renaming it Placentia, (the pleasant place), and the result of which is that any reference to Placentia usually finds it referred to as a Tudor palace but it is the earlier years of the palace with its Lancastrian and Yorkist links that I find the most intriguing.
Modern plaque commemorating the ‘building’ of Greenwich Palace by Henry Tudor. Visitors could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking , with no mention made of the earlier palace, that Tudor was reponsible for the building of Greenwich Palace from the onset.
Later in its long history the palace was to see many important events including the birth of Henry Vlll in 1491. Henry jnr spared no expense in beautifying Placentia and his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was solemnised there on the 3 June 1509. Many sumptious banquets, revels and jousts were held there – in Henry’s ‘Manor of Pleazaunce’ – and both his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth were born there. Details of these and other less salubrious events such as the arrest of Anne Boleyn are readily available to anyone who is interested in the Tudors and their shenanigans and I will not cover them here. The Tudors were emulated by the Stuarts in choosing Placentia as a favourite residence until Charles ll, finding the old palace greatly decayed, ordered it to be taken down and yet another new palace to be built. Thus Greenwich or Placentia – whichever name you prefer arose, phoenix like from the ashes and a new chapter in its long history commenced.
As a footnote to Greenwich Palace and its rich history, much excitement has been created by the discovery by archaeologists working on the painted hall at the Old Royal Naval College of the discovery of two room, thought to have been used as kitchen or laundry rooms from the old palace. One of these rooms featured a lead-glazed tiled floor and wall cavities which may have been used to store food and drink or even ‘bee boles’ which would have housed beehive baskets or ‘skeps’ during the winter when the bee colonies hibernated.
The cavities from Greenwich Palace believed to be for storing food, drink or even ‘bee boles’.
Elizabeth Wydeville, by an unknown artist, Royal Collection.
If anyone today wandering around Bermondsey, South London, should find themselves in redeveloped Bermondsey Square they may be surprised to find that they are standing on the spot where once stood the quadrangle of the Abbey of Bermondsey, the entrance to the square being the site of the Abbey gatehouse.
Nothing much hardly remains today above ground (after the archaeologists had completed their study of the Abbey remains in 2006 they were once again covered over) other than some remains of the south western tower which can be seen below the glass floor of a restaurant and nearby houses on Grange Walk, 5, 6 and 7 which incorporate in their structure remains of one wall of the Abbey’s stone eastern gatehouse, particularly No.7, where the chamfered south jamb with two wrought iron gate hooks still project.
5, 6 and 7 Grange Walk, Bermondsey incorporating the remains of the Abbey gatehouse seen in 18th century engraving below. Note the roof line still recognisable today and windows still in original positions.
18th century print of the Abbey Gatehouse.
Drawing by C R B Barrett 1906 where the two Gatehouse hinges can clearly be seen with the remains of a third one still visible.
It is intriguing to remember that in this Abbey, Edward lV’s queen lived out the last five years of her life, in the Clare guest suite, dying there on 8 June 1492, She was the second queen to both retire and die there, the first being Katherine of Valois, Henry V’s widow. Elizabeth commenced her retirement there in 1487 and debate still rages as to whether she retired there willingly or unwillingly with some good reason to be believe that her withdrawal there was forced upon her by her son-in-law, Henry Vll. Certainly her removal there and the arrest of her son Thomas Grey followed hot on the heels of the news of the outbreak of the Lambert Simnel rebellion and a council meeting at Sheen so that it might be reasonable to deduce that Elizabeth and Thomas were implicated in that plot. MacGibbon, Elizabeth’s biographer wrote ‘Henry is reported to have deprived Elizabeth of all her lands and estates, conferring them on her daughter, his queen, on the l May 1487, and finally to have induced her to spend the rest of her days in seclusion in Bermondsey Abbey in very reduced circumstances ‘(1). Vergil, the Tudor historian was later to say that this was because Elizabeth had reached an understanding with King Richard three years earlier upon which she removed herself and her daughters from sanctuary. This is absurd and it may be that Vergil knew full well that Elizabeth’s retirement was not voluntary but did not know the precise circumstances or chose not to repeat them it being unwise to record that Elizabeth and Grey may have got themselves involved in the Simnel rebellion because they both believed that Edward of Westminster and/or Richard of Shrewsbury were alive and well. Certainly it does seem a strange decision on Elizabeth’s part if she herself decided on the move to Bermondsey as she had only in the previous year taken out a 40 year lease on the Abbots House, known as Cheyneygates, at Westminster Abbey, conveniently close to the Palace of Westminster ( 2 ). Ah, man makes plans and the Gods laugh as they say. MacGibbon also opines, rather contradictorily, as he seems rather besotted with Elizabeth, that ‘It is possible, if not probable, that Henry disliked his mother-in-law and in this he was no means singular, for there never was a woman who contrived to make more personal enemies’ but he adds as an afterthought, ‘but he ever deprived her of either property or dignity, remains to be proved’. Furthermore, ‘far from being exiled from her daugher’s court, she was in that same year chosen as Prince Arthur’s godmother and attended at the font’ ( 3). Finally, he plucks his ripest plumb from the tree, that on the 28 November 1487 Henry and James lll of Scotland agreed that the latter should marry Elizabeth as well as two of her daughters marry James’ sons. However it must be remembered that at the time of James death, June 1488 none of these marriages had actually taken place and so it cannot be taken as a given that either King, particulary Henry fully intended these marriages to take place. Indeed David Baldwin points out that ‘the proposed marriages had been mooted before the Simnel rebellion, at least as early as the Three Years Truce signed on the 3 July 1486’ ( 4 ).
It has been said that it is unlikely that Elizabeth would involve herself in the Simnel plot, which would have culminated not only in the eviction of Henry, her son-in-law. from the throne but also her daughter not to mention have robbed her small grandson Arthur of his future inheritance. But on the other hand if she believed that the true intention of the plot was not to put Simnel/ young Warwick on the throne but one of her surviving sons, then it is highly likely that this is the very course she would have taken. This may also explain any coolness that Elizabeth of York may have felt towards her mother and, if this were the case, Elizabeth’s retirement, brought about by her diminished financial circumstances, leaving her with little choice, may have proved very convenient for the royal couple, . Certainly from Henry’s point of view Bermondsey must have seemed the perfect solution. The accommodation itself, the Clare Suite, may have been deemed suitable by some for an ex-queen although to Elizabeth, who had lived a life of luxury in many sumptuous properties it must have seemed a massive case of downsizing, as we call it today, with a close watch on her movements and an occasional outing to keep any murmuring/speculation down.
Interior of Great Gatehouse as it was in the 17th century.
18th century print of one of the Abbey rooms before demolition
A) 1485. Elizabeth is treated with deference by Henry, her title of Queen Dowager being restored to her in Henry’s first parliament which met a week after his coronation on 7 November 1485. Acted as godmother to her grandson Arthur.
B) 1486. Titulus Regius declaring the invalidity of Elizabeth’s marriage to King Edward was repealed in Henry’s first parliament and on the 5 March 1486 she received annuities and a life interest in a raft of properties in southern England in full satisfaction of her dower (5)
C) 1486 July 10th. Elizabeth takes out a 40 year old lease on the Abbots House, Cheyneygates, at Westminster Abbey.
D) 1487. February. Shortly after news of the Lambert Simnel plot reached England Elizabeth retired to Bermondsey Abbey and her son Thomas Grey is arrested and put into the Tower of London. Elizabeth’s biographer David Baldwin wrote Henry ‘deprived Elizabeth of all her properties, and confined her to Bermondsey on the unlikely grounds that she had imperilled his cause by surrendering her daughters, including his bride, to King Richard three years earlier’.
E) 1487 November 28th. An agreement between Henry and James lll of Scotland for the latter to marry Elizabeth. However, James died in June 1488 without this proposed marriage taking place.
F) 1489 November. Elizabeth is present when Francois, Monsieur de Luxemboug, head of a visiting French embassy, met Elizabeth of York and her mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort. Although this might appear prima facie to indicate that all was well within the royal family, as it was surely intended to do, the possibility exists that Francois, her kinsman, had insisted on meeting Elizabeth and to avoid suspicion and gossip the meeting was duly arranged with the presence of Margaret stiffling any chance of a private conversation taking place which might have occurred had he met her in private at Bermondsey.
G) 1492 April 10th. Elizabeth makes her will in Bermondsey Abbey. There is no dispute, with her will still in existence, that her condition was, for a dowager queen, extremely impoverished. I do not have to go into the entire content of the will which is well know other than to repeat the words ‘I’tm where I have no worldly goods to do the queens grace, my dearest daughter, a pleasure with, neither to reward any of my children, according to my heart and mind, as is to me possible….’
H) 1492 June 8. Elizabeth dies at Bermondsey Abbey.
It could be said that Elizabeth was the human rock that the House of York foundered, and finally, crashed upon, taking with it her two young sons, although this in no way pardons Edward with whom the buck must stop. Perhaps he was giddy with his triumphs but certainly raging testosterone overcome common sense. Edward seems to have kept his brains in his pants and the ensuing problems and tragedy that this later caused is well documented elsewhere and I need not go into it here. Perhaps it would be hard hearted not to feel some glimmer of compassion when reading the pitiful will made at Bermondsey. Elizabeth asked for a humble funeral and that is exactly what she got – even the herald reporting it was shocked – and so she was laid to rest in a wooden coffin without the usual inner lead one so that when the vault in which she and Edward were interred was opened in 1789 all that remained of Elizabeth was a pile of bones and the remains of the coffin which had rotted away. When the vault was resealed once again there appears to have been nothing left of Elizabeth, her bones having been stolen by Georgian souvenir collectors. So Elizabeth remains a footnote in history, taking any secrets she may have had to the grave with her, including perhaps the whereabouts/fates of her two young sons. She died knowing that her daughter was queen and that her blood would run through the future Tudor monarchs and perhaps she gained some comfort from that..but I wonder, did she ever muse on what might have been and what had been lost. I leave you dear reader to make your own mind up about that.
Remains of the Abbey revealed in 2006 prior to the Square being redeveloped
1. David MacGibbon, Elizabeth Woodville, a Life p.134
2. J Armitage Robinson The Abbots House at Westminster pp22-23
3. David MacGibbon, Elizabeth Woodville, a Life p 135
4. David Baldwin Elizabeth Woodville Mother of the Princes in the Tower p115
5. Ibid p109
Here is another fine article by Matthew Lewis, concerning whether or not Richard III was a villain, or a good king. Matt is, as always, excellent to read, and puts forward the strong case that Richard was good. Well, we all know this to be so, but some of the comments following the article are a little inaccurate, to say the least.
For instance, concerning Elizabeth Woodville: “Elizabeth Woodville may have been sent to a convent some 15 months after she was reinstated as Queen Dowager, but she was granted several grants of land and rights and her titles. She was very wealthy when she died and was not mistreated in any way.”
I think not! She was bundled off to Bermondsey Abbey (a male monastery), and her lands and so on were handed over to her daughter, by then Henry VII’s queen. Henry did not treat Elizabeth Woodville kindly, and she lived on a mere allowance. She was far from wealthy when she died, as she stated in her will. Henry Tudor was not a loving son-in-law, but a spiteful one. Richard had great cause to dislike Elizabeth Woodville, but nevertheless treated her well.
Based upon articles originally appearing in The Ricardian from 1997-1999, Royal Funerals is probably one of the most comprehensive treatments of Yorkist burials at Windsor, and an excellent companion piece to Sutton/Visser-Fuchs’ The Reburial of Richard Duke of York: 21-30 July 1476. Together, these texts offer not only detailed analyses of royal English funerals from the late 15th century, but also exemplify the Yorkist use of pomp and ceremony to assert a hereditary position at the top of the ruling hierarchy.
Royal Funerals describes the interments of Edward IV (April 1483), his two-year old son Prince George (March 1479), fifteen-year old Princess Mary (May 1482), and widowed Queen Elizabeth (June 1492), all of which occurred at St. George’s Chapel at the royal residence of Windsor Castle. Some information about Henry VI’s reinterment in 1484 is also provided. Helpful illustrations show the routes taken from the places of death to entombment, construction of hearses, assembled processions, and schematics of the chantry intended by Edward IV to be his mausoleum. The authors provide text from primary sources narrating the funerals, mostly taken from Royal College of Arms manuscripts and Great Wardrobe accounts, and a collection of Laments penned in honor of the king. A chapter on the subsequent renovation work at St. George’s Chapel explains modifications made to his tomb and there is a detailed account of the discovery and exhumation of Edward IV’s body in 1789, including the rather bizarre trade in hair samples collected from his corpse.
The book is a study in contrasts. Edward IV died at age 42, unexpectedly and during the zenith of his reign, and his obsequies reflect that. Because more narratives exist, a reconstruction of the day-to-day ritual is possible; such is not the case for his predeceased children who received dignified burials befitting their station. Yet, it is hard not to be impressed with the sheer magnificence of the king’s ceremonies, the “veritable forest of banners carried” during them, the splendor of his hearse which abounded with rich gilt-worked pillars holding the finest candles, sumptuous silks, and hundreds of sculptures depicting angels and Yorkist heraldry. The reader is treated to the spectacle of Sir William Parr — bareheaded but in full armor, riding the king’s charger trapped in his coat of arms, carrying a battle-axe in his hand, pommel held downwards — as he rode up the nave, dismounted at the choir door, and offered Edward IV’s knightly achievements. There are moments of less sobriety too; for example, the tussle between Lord Maltravers and William Berkeley over who took precedence, and the exasperation of the reporting herald who finally gave up on detailing the ceremonial offering of cloths to the casket because the frenzy and press of people were too great for him to note the individuals involved.
The 1492 funeral of dowager Queen Elizabeth, by comparison, was almost stark in its austerity. On her deathbed at Bermondsey Abbey, she wrote in her will that she desired to be buried next to her husband “without pompes entring or costlie expensis donne thereabought”. Thus, her body was taken to Windsor by the River Thames with no cortege, tolling bells, or religious services en route. It was accompanied by five companions of modest station, including Edward IV’s illegitimate daughter Grace. She had a “low” hearse of four wooden candlesticks, candles of no great weight, and recycled torch “ends”. The authors speculate her funeral obsequies were not planned by the royal heralds, as the reporting herald’s narrative makes repeated mention of the irregularities and lack of ceremony demonstrated. Perhaps this underscores the political realities of the day. Victors were compelled to give “lip-service” to the former dynasty, but the demands of perpetuating a new one required a vastly different, and extravagant, outlay. The next dynasty, the Tudor one, would reflect this in the incredibly over-the-top tomb of Henry VII in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey, or in Elizabeth I’s frugal “restoration” of St. Mary and All Saint’s Church at Fotheringhay.
Royal Funerals has much to offer readers interested in the critical time period of April, 1483 and the weeks following the Edward IV’s death. There are mysteries that still exist, such as who acted as chief mourner. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had yet to arrive in London from Middleham. It is almost eerily prophetic when, at the climax of the royal obsequies on April 19, the officers of Edward IV’s household threw their staves of office into his tomb with the body, indicating they were now “men without a master and without office”. The heralds threw in their coats of arms, and then were presented with new ones with the cry “The King lives!” Such a simple declaration at the time, yet in only two short months, the question of the king’s identity would transfix a nation.
“There was I, waiting at the church,
Waiting at the church, waiting at the church;
When I found he’d left me in the lurch.
Lor, how it did upset me!
All at once, he sent me round a note
Here’s the very note, this is what he wrote:
“Can’t get away to marry you today,
My wife, won’t let me!”
Have a look at this schedule of events. Elizabeth of York wasn’t exactly “left in the lurch”, in fact Obadiah Binks’ note is one that her father should have sent her mother:
25 December 1483: Henry “Tudor” promises to marry Elizabeth of York or one of her sisters
22 August 1485: Battle of Bosworth
30 October 1485: Henry VII’s coronation
7 November 1485: Richard III’s Titulus Regius is repealed, legitimising Elizabeth
14 January 1486: Marriage to Elizabeth of York
20 September 1486: Birth of Arthur “Tudor”, their first child
November 1486: Elizabeth Woodville is arrested and confined to Bermondsey Abbey
16 June 1487: Battle of Stoke
25 November 1487: Elizabeth’s coronation as Queen Consort
Henry VII, as he had become, certainly wasn’t in a hurry either to marry or to crown his bride, was he? Note the conditional promise – that he would try one of her sisters if she were already married (and we now know from the Portuguese records that Manoel of Beja was her likely husband whilst Buck recorded her joy at this prospect) – which scarcely marks him down as the romantic sort. Sending his mother-in-law to an Abbey (a male one at that) would have delighted a whole generation of comedians.
Now it seems likely that he sought to continue, in the immediate aftermath of Bosworth, the negotiations to substitute himself as a husband for Joao II’s sister Juana.