Did Elizabeth of York Love Henry Tudor? (Guest Article)

Did Elizabeth of York Love Henry Tudor?

Guest Article By: Samantha Wilcoxson

Historians and enthusiasts of the Tudor era have debated the thoughts and emotions of Elizabeth of York through the tumultuous events that placed her on the throne as the mother of the Tudor dynasty. This young woman had clearly learned her lessons as a princess well, keeping her thoughts private and her public face serene. She has left us few clues as to her inner thoughts when her father died, brothers disappeared, uncle usurped the throne, and mother betrothed her to Henry Tudor. Each of these events has been rich historical novel material, including for my own Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen.

If you have read it, you know that I promote a vision of Elizabeth who is a strong, yet quiet, force behind her husbands throne. Her devout faith led her to see her marriage as Gods will, and she therefore devoted herself to him and a peaceful future for their kingdom. Reviewers have stated happy surprise that Henry Tudor and his marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth is favorably portrayed.

I believe that the objective of the historical novelist is to bring events and people to life as accurately as possible, so when I made the decision to demonstrate love between this royal couple it is because I believe it truly existed. While some decisions in my storytelling are made for their dramatic impact where the truth is not known, this one is backed up by research that reveals a strong bond between Henry and Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth met Henry Tudor, it was shortly after his defeat of her uncle, Richard III, on a field near Bosworth. Elizabeths feelings toward Richard are much more mysterious than those for Henry. Did she plot against him to aid Henry? Was she in love with Richard and devastated by his death? Maybe she had simply become resolved to accept his rule and make the best of it. Though it is the source of many debates and novels, I do not believe we can say with certainty how she felt toward Richard. Whatever she felt, there is no evidence of an inappropriate relationship between them.

Henry had pledged himself to Elizabeth in the cathedral at Rennes on Christmas day 1483. He made good on that promise on January 18, 1486. The ceremony was designed to convince those watching of Henrys magnificence, and draw the kingdom together beneath the rule of the couple that united the York and Lancaster factions what was left of them, anyway. The hope of peace that they shared was one of the key elements creating a bond between Henry and Elizabeth.



Elizabeth bore Henry seven children over the following seventeen years. Only three of them outlived both parents: the infamous Henry VIII and his sisters, Margaret and Mary. Margaret put her mark upon the intertwining family trees of European royalty with her marriage to James of Scotland. Mary briefly enjoyed the title Queen of France before she scandalously married Charles Brandon. However, these were events that Elizabeth would never see.

While children are not necessarily proof of a happy marriage, they are a piece of evidence. The way Henry and Elizabeth clung to each other when their children died is a further piece of evidence. The death of their heir, Arthur, in 1502 is particularly documented, as is his parents reaction. Both were crushed by the news, and they sought comfort in each others arms. Shortly after this, they conceived the child that would be their last, whose birth led to Elizabeths death.

We know that Henry and Elizabeth called upon God for comfort and grace when grieving for their children. Faith was an important element of their marriage, and one can only guess what their reaction would have been to their sons Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry prayed Psalm 43 when he landed in Wales to begin his conquest. Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause. Their devotion to each other is further evinced by the lack of royal mistresses and favorites.



Henry and Elizabeth spent a significant amount of time together for a busy royal couple. Even through uprisings that Henry had to deal with, he was never far from his wife. In an age when it would have been simple to avoid each other were that their desire, these two stayed together through thick and thin. They gave each other gifts and celebrated Christmases together with their children.

If you are still struggling to see the romantic side of Henry VII, consider his final tribute of love to his bride. When Elizabeth died after a complicated childbirth on her 37th birthday, Henry publicly demonstrated his love and grief in an elaborate and expensive funeral. Those who called him a penny pincher would not do so on this occasion. He further honored her by not remarrying, despite his status as a father of a new dynasty with only one son. Elizabeths tomb, which is shared with her husband who died six years later, is elaborately crafted in bronze with an inscription referring to her as his sweet wife was very pretty, chaste and fruitful.

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About the Author:

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Samantha Wilcoxson is the author of the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy. An incurable bibliophile and sufferer of wanderlust, she lives in Michigan with her husband and three teenagers. She lives in Michigan with her husband and three children. You can connect with Samantha atSamanthaWilcoxson.BlogSpot.comor on Twitter@Carpe_Librum.

Purchase her newest book,Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I (Plantagenet Embers Book 3) onAmazon.com

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17 thoughts on “Did Elizabeth of York Love Henry Tudor? (Guest Article)

  1. Elizabeth York took the worst possible outcome for herself and made the best of it. I think the struggle she must have had in the beginning deminished over the years as her own children appeared and she yielded to the family as it became a reflection of her devotion to them and their father. I have watched every episode of the Tudors, White Queen and White Princess to come to some understanding of these people. It is humbling to know that many persons are alive today because of their role in Western Civilizations greatest/ and most awful love story. DCR

  2. I found this article very interesting. While I have never taken the idea of Elizabeth being in love with her uncle too seriously, it’s certain not impossible that, as a young girl, she conceived a crush on him. It’s also not impossible that, having had such a crush, she could also love Henry Tudor as her husband. I can see a strong affection/love growing between them, especially once they were married. One need not completely rule out the other, especially since she had time to learn several harsh lessons along the way, including how to keep her own counsel. Without solid evidence either way, it allows us to consider all the options, and allows novelists to explore them in their work.

  3. Her father did not kill his brother George. George was guilty of treason more than once and lucky he lived as long as he did. George was condemed for his actions of treason – not made up but well and truly documented. It is a shame Edward died so young. He was good for England. Although Henry was not directly involved in the disappearances of the Princes, it was more likely his supporters had something to do with it more than Richard. The Children of Edward and Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate, so did not hinder his accession to the throne but to make the way clear for Henry Tudor it was better for them to be dead as after Richards death the country would have been split again as many would have wanted Edward on the throne if he was still alive. Very interesting times.

    1. I’ve always felt that Richard had a lot more to gain by the princes disappearing. I understand the arguments for Henry or his supporters but in my mind it seems less likely.

  4. I agree with North’s comments. I did enjoy that their relationship was well portayed for once (and I 100 percent agree that there was a deep love between them) but it was depressing to me that your Elizabeth dies still angry at Henry and thinking he killed her brothers, when she never was angry at Richard nor did she ever seem to suspect him doe their disappearance (even telling her little henry that he did not kill them!). Realistically, Richard Would be her prime suspect. He did put them in the tower after all. And she can forgive and “love” Richard for killing her uncle and brother but not Henry for killing her cousin, a cousin whom she realistically wouldn’t have been close with? (And her father killed his father!) it just came off as Elizabeth being a but hypocritical.

    1. Thanks for your insight, Liz. I do think that Elizabeth loved Henry deeply when she died, despite any setbacks they may have had. I’m sorry if it did not come across that way. Her life had been full of challenging situations, as you’ve pointed out. Love & faith helped them get through it together, and I do not think she died suspecting Henry of killing her brothers. Though I chose to have her search for the truth during her last progress, the results of her investigation were quite purposefully left inconclusive. Even if some suspected Henry, that is not what she would want to hear. You have given me great feedback to work with, so that I can make my characters’ motivations and feelings more clear in my next book. Thank you.

      1. Yeah, I hope you don’t take the comments in a bad way, my only complaint was Elizabeth’s pov but on the rest is a good book and I love that you gave Henry VII a sympathetic portrayal. I am very curious about your future projects and who you’ll touch upon next!

        1. Same here. Thank you for your responses. I will still recommend this book out of all the ones on Elizabeth as it is a fantastic portrayal of Henry and it is a very entertaining book as well.

          1. Thank you to you both! I appreciate the feedback and your help in spreading the word about my writing. My next project features Margaret Pole, following the Plantagenet remnant into the Tudor dynasty.

  5. I agree with you, this article is pretty spot on! I did however, like the previous comments suggest find it disappointing that in the book Elizabeth seemed to settle for Henry while constantly thinking about her uncle Richard, it was a refreshing take on Tudor’s reign though it did basically follow the same line concerning Elizabeth of York in fiction, she’s in love with her uncle and turns against her husband when Perkin Warbeck comes into the picture. I, as many others question the possibility of Elizabeth being in love with Richard of all people, not only because he’s her uncle (ew!) but because he declared her and her siblings bastards, executed her brother Richard, her uncle Anthony, many of Edward’s close allies including his good friend William Hastings, had her brother Thomas flee for his life and was the prime suspect in the disappearance of the princes (I don’t think he did it but that’s still up to debate, and he was still responsible in one way or another). I’m not certain about how much she knew Hastings but we do know that she was closer to her Woodville relatives than Richard (he lived in the north and after a specific time he rarely went to London), so losing them so abruptly at the hands of her uncle as well as being declared a bastard must have been a hard blow for her, if she had any reason or intelligence (which she had in history) she should at least be suspicious towards him not fall head over heels for him, I don’t know, to me it made her look nave and not aware at all of her situation. I’m not demonizing Richard, I think he was an apt ruler but he like everyone was a man of his time, and this is from Elizabeth’s perspective so in her view she really wouldn’t have trusted him so easily and would have tried to find whatever way possible to regain her honor (the betrothal to Portugal was her chance, though I don’t think it was mentioned in the book since even after the public denial she keep hoping to marry Richard :sigh:).

    And regarding Perkin Warbeck, the tendency to have Elizabeth supporting this pretender (I don’t think he was the prince at all) and being heartbroken over his and the Earl of Warwick’s execution (the Spanish monarchs wanted him dead if they were to betroth their daughter Catalina to Arthur) is also off. It makes Bess look unreasonable because her father and Richard did things that were just as terrible, perhaps even more and she doesn’t question it but when Henry takes action against the pretender she doesn’t waste time to turn against him. So, she’s basically supporting this man she’s not even sure if he’s her brother and turning against her own children, it makes her look like a poor mother as well. Those were the things that bothered me the most. On the other hand I like that you portrayed Henry fairly and not as a lecher like a lot of Ricardians tend to do, your writing is very good and it was a fresh take. I wouldn’t consider it a romance (due to Elizabeth, because Henry does appear to truly love her), to me it’s more of a tale suspicion and on that aspect it was well done. Despite the qualms I have about the book (it mostly has to do with Elizabeth’s pov) I did find it interesting and hope to see more from you!

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I will only add that my intention was to portray Elizabeth’s anger over Warwick’s execution, not Warbeck’s. Edward was her cousin and someone she felt responsible for. I agree that she had no reason to mourn a pretender and apologize if I was unclear about that.

  6. Thank you for your comments. The decision of how to treat Richard in a book about Elizabeth is one that is tricky, with as many people disliking one choice as the other. I tried to keep the focus on Henry and Elizabeth, who I do truly think had a great love between them. Yes, they experienced difficulties, and it would have been unrealistic for me to present them otherwise. They also stood by each other through the death of half their children, rebellion, and the scandal of her brothers’ disappearance. I thank you for your honest feedback and will consider it in my future projects.

  7. Good article! I do agree, there is plenty of evidence of love and affection on both sides with Henry and Elizabeth and that their affection for each other remained until both of their deaths. I don’t think she ever was in love with her Uncle though.

  8. i agree with the previous message. in your novel, your Elizabeth doesn’t sound in love with Henry at all, being cold with him in the end of the novel and suspecting him to be part of her brother’s disappearance (???). Richard sounds like the third wheel in their marriage and it’s creepy af…
    ANYWAY, back to the topic: i do think that EoY was in love with Henry. there is many little gestures toward him that she really didn’t have to make but did proving her affection for him (like garnishing of his salett by her own hands, or when he went to meet the rebels at Blackheath she ornamented his helmet with jewels, or mending his clothes like his garter). There is as well a love poem attribued to Elizabeth she wrote during her marriage. And even after Elizabeth received reversion rights to Yorkist estates in 1492, the couple frequently shared residences -they genuinely liked each other. The fact as well that her ladies-in-waiting went to the King to ask him to comfort Elizabeth after Arthru’s loss proves that he was like the only one to console her (ladies-in-waiting her the true confidants of a Queen).
    so yes, with the facts that we have, it seems that she had deep affection and love for Henry (and nothing points that she had a crush or love for Richard btw *sigh*)

  9. This is really rich coming from you, given the fact that in your novel Elizabeth is hopelessly in love with Richard III, and compares him to Henry at every single point. You take a minor point in her life, an uncle she hardly would have know (Realistically she would have been closer to her Woodville relatives) and make it the most important part of her life.
    You also make Elizabeth still think Richard would marry her even after he publicly denied her. Anyone would realize after that moment he never could have even if he wanted to.
    And to be honest I’m rather sick of the focus on Richard III and Elizabeth of York. Like you said we have no evidence to what the relationship was like. They don’t seem to be very close from the evidence we can realistically gather. So why did you focus on for in entire book. It’s in nearly every chapter that Henry was nice but wasn’t as good as Richard.
    I applauded you for not making Henry abusive and cruel. But you certainly did not write a love story. Your Elizabeth wasn’t in love with Henry, she easily abandoned him, for something her own father and uncle had done before him.

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