Henry VII and the Princes in the Tower

In 1483 Edward V and Richard, Duke of York disappeared from the Tower of London. They were the sons of the late Edward IV and his queen, Elizabeth Woodville.

Edward V was born 2 November 1470 in Westminster Abbey where his mother had taken sanctuary from the Lancastrians who had deposed his father during the Wars of the Roses. His brother, Richard was born 17 August 1473 in Shrewsbury, England when Edward IV ruled over England once again.

Shortly before his sudden death on 9 April 1483, King Edward IV named his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Lord Protector of the realm for the young Edward V, who was only 12 years old.

edward5gloucesterIt was at Ludlow Castle that young Edward was notified of his father’s death and his succession to the throne – he was to travel to London immediately in preparation for his coronation. As he traveled from Ludlow, Richard (Lord Protector) met and escorted him to lodgings in the Tower of London. Edward’s brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York joined him shortly after. Edward’s coronation was to be on 22 June 1483, but before the young king could be crowned his father’s marriage to his mother Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid – making their children illegitimate and ineligible for the throne. This left an opening for their uncle Richard to take the throne himself.

PrincesThe last time the boys were seen in or around the grounds of the Tower of London was the summer of 1483 – they were never to be seen again.

A decade later, in January 1493, news of a resurrected Duke of York (in Ireland) had reached London. Just six years earlier another boy by the name of Lambert Simnel claimed to be the young Duke of York but turned out to be a pretender. The idea of another pretender must have seemed preposterous and fabricated at the time.

However, when the news of Perkin Warbeck arrived in England, Yorkist supporters jumped at the chance to back anyone who claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York.

Henry VII took the threat of Perkin Warbeck seriously. So seriously he dispatched 200 men to Ireland. Their job was to arrest those that may be involved or cause trouble for the throne. He also sent spies to dig up the truth of the new pretender to expose him as a fraud. Any legitimate, surviving son of Edward IV would be considered a threat to Henry’s crown.

Margaret of Burgundy
Margaret of Burgundy

By end of June of the same year (1493) the danger seemed over. Nothing had happened in either Ireland or England. In Flanders, Margaret of Burgundy (aunt to the princes in the Tower) had been unable to raise funds for the army she needed to assist her nephew in taking back the throne of England for the House of York. Margaret was sister to Edward lV and insisted that Warbeck was indeed her nephew and heir to the throne of England. When Margaret continued to throw her support towards Perkin Warbeck Henry VII became angry and declared his son, Henry Tudor (future Henry VIII) as Duke of York in a magnificent ceremony. There could not be two living Dukes of York in England.

1493 was also the year Perkin Warbeck wrote a letter to Isabella of Castile looking for support while trying to convince her that he was indeed Richard. During this time period Henry VII was negotiating the marriage of his son Arthur, Prince of Wales with Katherine of Aragon – daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Resolving the issue of the pretender was of utmost importance to both parties. Ferdinand and Isabella would not want to align their daughter with a usurper.

For the next couple years Warbeck worked on a plan and tried to gain more supporters.

James IV of Scotland

At the beginning of 1496, James IV of Scotland had arranged and celebrated the nuptials of Warbeck and his cousin, Lady Katherine Gordon.  Surely James IV believed he was the rightful Duke of York and king of England, why else would he marry his cousin to Warbeck. Soon after the wedding Falkland Palace was used as Warbeck’s base. Together they planned to invade England in hopes of claiming the English throne as Richard IV.

In 1497, after departing Scotland, Warbeck crossed to Ireland. When he arrived he found no allies and was being pursued by the Earl of Kildare. In a country that had supported the House of York, Warbeck was sadly not welcomed, so he sailed to Devon.

“Here only a few thousand people joined him and the people of Exeter and Taunton drove him out. Warbeck fled to Beaulieu Abbey where he hoped to find sanctuary. In August 1497 he was persuaded to give himself up. As a foreigner Warbeck could not be tried for treason so would not have faced the butchery of being hung, drawn and quartered.” 

“Henry allowed Warbeck to remain at court where he could be watched. However, he foolishly tried to run away which seemed to emphasise his treachery. Warbeck was put in the stocks, humiliated and sent to the Tower. Clearly after being generous to the pretender, Henry’s patience had run out. In 1499, Warbeck was charged with trying to escape for a second time, found guilty and hanged on November 23rd 1499″.– The History Learning Site

I can only imagine how Queen Elizabeth reacted to the news. Did she believe that Warbeck was indeed her young brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York?

We don’t know for certain what happened to the princes, or the people involved in their disappearance, but those involved would have certainly been aware of the true status of the boys and react accordingly. This is why I believe Henry VII was not involved. If he knew that Richard was dead, by his hand, or his orders, he would not have sent an army or spies to investigate the pretender.

So what really happened to the boys? Were they both murdered? Did Edward V die from natural causes and his brother Richard escape? Did Elizabeth Woodville send a local boy in place of her youngest son and ship Richard off to safety?

Is the mystery of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ set to be uncovered?

Edward IV
Perkins Warbeck
Perkin Warbeck
Elizabeth Woodville
Elizabeth Woodville

Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales

Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales
Guest Article by Susan Abernethy
Website: The Freelance History Writer

Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, c. 1501

Henry Tudor’s Lancastrian claim to the throne of England was weak at best. In August of 1485, he defeated the Yorkist King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field and established the Tudor dynasty as King Henry VII. To cement his claim he married the eldest daughter of King Edward IV, Elizabeth of York. They were to have four children who survived infancy.

Arthur Tudor was born shortly after midnight on September 20, 1486, just eight months after his parent’s marriage. King Henry was optimistic and insisted his son be born at Winchester, the legendary capital of King Arthur’s Camelot. Henry also required the child be named Arthur anticipating his reign and dynasty would bring back the golden age of the legendary king. Arthur’s christening took place at Winchester Cathedral. The baptism rites followed the etiquette observed for all of King Edward IV’s ten children. He was christened in front of the entire congregation, including the remaining members of the Yorkist nobility and their wives. His principal godmother was his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Woodville.

When Arthur was three years old, he was made a Knight of the Garter and invested as Prince of Wales. In 1492, it was decided he would be sent to the castle of Ludlow where he had his own council and household. He was being prepared for the difficult duties of kingship. His tutors were John Rede and the blind Bernard André, who believed his student to be an excellent classical scholar. Arthur grew up to be studious and reserved. While at Ludlow, Arthur participated in the governing of Wales.

Young Arthur Tudor

King Henry was doing everything in his power to bolster the legitimacy of his reign. When Arthur was two years old, he began negotiating a marriage with one of the daughters of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile. Eventually their youngest daughter Catherine was chosen. This alliance worked in favor of both parties. For Spain, the relationship kept England from allying with their mortal enemy, France. For King Henry, it gave strong recognition to the infant Tudor dynasty. There was an initial agreement of the betrothal in 1489.

Ferdinand and Isabella wanted to be sure King Henry’s position was secure before they sent their daughter to England. There was a formal betrothal ceremony at Woodstock in August of 1497. But it wasn’t until King Henry executed the Yorkist pretenders to the throne, including Perkin Warbeck in 1499 that they were satisfied it was safe for Catherine to leave Spain. A proxy marriage took place at Arthur’s manor at Bewdley on May 19, 1499. Arthur declared to the Spanish ambassador that he rejoiced in the marriage and professed his sincere love for Catherine, all according to the custom of the time.

There are two completed love letters Arthur wrote to Catherine and one draft, all of which were written in October and November of 1499. They are affectionate but more than likely they were dictated by his tutors. The letters were written in Latin and Catherine did respond.

Catherine of Aragon, Prince Arthur Tudor's wife

Catherine finally left Spain in the autumn of 1501. In early November, King Henry set out to meet Catherine at Dogmersfield, about ten miles from London Bridge. He was joined by Arthur who headed a column of magnificently dressed noblemen. When they arrived on November 4, they were intercepted by members of Catherine’s household who insisted it was Castilian custom the bride not speak with the King or meet her bridegroom before the wedding day. The King held a council in the field, on horseback and a decision was made. Because Catherine was betrothed to Arthur, she was an English subject and Castilian law and custom did not apply. Catherine’s servants did all they could to prevent the King from seeing her but eventually they had to give in. Catherine shocked her servants even further when she agreed to meet Arthur. They spoke in a mixture of Spanish and Latin with an English bishop acting as interpreter.

Arthur and his father returned to Richmond and then made their way to Baynard’s Castle which was well-located to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The city was bedecked in celebration of the wedding. On November 14, Arthur awaited his bride dressed in white satin at the altar of St. Paul’s. The nuptials were celebrated, the trumpets blared and the bells of the city rang. There was a wedding feast that lasted until early evening. Then the formal bedding ceremony commenced.

The Earl of Oxford led the way to the bedchamber where he tried out the bed himself first on both sides. The Prince entered the bed followed by Princess Catherine. The bishops blessed the bed and the couple and they were left alone. The gentlemen of Arthur’s suite were to recall later that Arthur arose from bed the next morning appearing triumphant, requesting a drink and swearing he had been in Spain for the night. This scene was to have thunderous consequences for Princess Catherine later in her life.

The wedding celebrations lasted for days. A tournament was held at Westminster. Arthur arrived in a mobile pavilion painted in stripes of the Tudor colors of green and white. It was a spectacular pageant. Then the court dances began and Arthur danced with his mother’s sister Cecily. Another banquet was held in the Parliament Chamber and there was an even greater spectacle of pageantry. Eventually the celebrations came to an end and the court returned to Windsor.

It was decided the Prince and Princess were to return to Wales. Catherine had to say farewell to many of her retinue. On December 21, 1501, Arthur and Catherine set out for Arthur’s manor house at Bewdley in Worcestershire which had been turned into a small palace. The couple stayed there a short time and then traveled to Ludlow. Arthur returned to his work with his council which was headed by its new Lord President, Dr. William Smyth, Bishop of Lincoln. Arthur was also attended by his Chamberlain Sir Richard Pole. Late in March, both Arthur and Catherine were laid low by a virus and were very ill.

Remains of Ludlow Castle

On April 4, 1502, a messenger arrived at Greenwich Palace near London. He informed the privy councilors of the reason for his visit. The council decided to call in King Henry’s confessor to speak with the King. The friar knocked on the door of the King’s chamber, was admitted and asked all to leave the room. He informed the King that Arthur had died on April 2, the cause being the sweating sickness.

The King was shocked and immediately sent for Queen Elizabeth. She saw her husband’s grief and did her best to comfort him. She reminded him that he was the only child of his mother and they had their son Henry and their daughters Margaret and Mary. She also reminded him they were still young and could have more children. She felt they needed to accept their misfortune. Henry thanked her for her words and Elizabeth returned to her apartments. Once Elizabeth was with her women, she broke down, weeping in the deepest grief. Her ladies called for the King to comfort her. He arrived and did his best to soothe her reminding her of her own brave words to him before.

Arthur’s body was embalmed at Ludlow and put in a wooden coffin and lay in state until April 23. The town was too small to accommodate a large funeral. The coffin was taken in a procession from the castle to the parish church where three masses were heard. The funeral ceremonies lasted for days. The body was then taken to Bewdley and then finally rested at Worcester Cathedral. More ceremonies were held. Heralds delivered Arthur’s helmet, shield, sword and embroidered coat of arms, all according to chivalric custom. When all these ceremonies were completed and mass was over, the coffin was taken to the south end of the high altar where a grave had been prepared. The Bishop of Lincoln, weeping, threw earth into the grave and sprinkled it with holy water. The Comptroller of the Prince’s household and others broke their staffs and threw them into the grave. Arthur’s parents did not attend the funeral and Catherine was still too ill to attend.

There has been speculation on what exactly caused Arthur’s death. Sweating sickness was used to describe anything causing a high fever from pneumonia to tuberculosis. One of the symptoms of tuberculosis is night sweats. Other diseases mentioned have been diabetes, cancer and consumption, the euphemism for tuberculosis at the time. The best description of his death hints he died of some malignant disease.

The cause of death could have had an influence on Arthur’s ability to have children. There is a possibility of testicular tuberculosis which then spread to his lungs. Another explanation could be a testicular tumor that spread to the lungs. Arthur may have suffered from one of these conditions before he finally succumbed to actual pneumonia, influenza or sweating sickness. Catherine was also very sick but she managed to survive. She would remain at court in complete penury until King Henry VII died in 1509. She then married Arthur’s brother, the new king, Henry VIII.

Further reading: “Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales” by Steven Gunn, “The Sisters of Henry VIII” by Maria Perry, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” by Alison Weir, “The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty” by G.J. Meyer

About the Author:

purple-susan“Susan Abernethy here. It seems I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love history. At the age of fourteen, I watched “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” on TV and was enthralled. Truth seemed much more strange than fiction. I started reading about Henry VIII and then branched out into many types of history. This even led me to study history in college. Even though I never did anything with the history degree, it’s always been a hobby of mine. I started this blog to write about my thoughts on all kinds of history from Ancient times to mid-20th Century.

The Personal Tragedies of Henry VII

Image: Copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2017

Guest article by: Karlie aka History Gal

It was April 2nd 1502 when Arthur Tudor, age 15, died.

To honor Arthur’s short life, masses were said, ceremonies were held and a lavish funeral took place.

It was April 25th 1502 when he was finally laid to rest at Worcester Cathedral.

Tomb of Arthur Tudor Photo Credit – geograph.org.uk

The general consensus was that Arthur’s death was caused by the plague or sweating sickness. In recent years, many historians believe that Arthur’s death could have been caused by tuberculosis, testicular cancer, or diabetes (amongst other things). It is interesting to note, that Arthur began to feel ill shortly after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, in early November 1501. What’s even more interesting is that an outbreak of a mysterious virus had swept through Shropshire just when Arthur and his bride Catherine had taken up residence at Ludlow Castle.

Whatever the cause, to the people of England, Arthur’s death seemed to be a sign of bad things to come. This was the opposite reaction they had to his birth, on September 20th 1486. Back then, Arthur –who Henry VII named after the famous warrior, King Arthur– was seen as a beacon of hope, prosperity and political stability to the common people, to the kingdom and to his father. As such, Henry made sure that his son was well-groomed to one day succeed him….

Arthur was given prestigious titles such as the Duke of Cornwall. A few years later, he became the Prince of Wales and the Earl of Chester.  Henry also made him a Knight of the Garter.

Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales

Arthur was given Ludlow Castle as his residence along with a retinue of servants and councilors. He was expertly tutored by men such as politician John Rede and poet Bernard Andre. Arthur was also well-trained in warfare and diplomacy.

With such an upbringing, the young Prince certainly left behind what would have been a most promising future. He also left behind him the hopes and dreams of a father….

A father –a King– who wept tears of sorrow when he heard that his son had died. It was his wife, and mother of Prince Arthur, Queen Elizabeth of York, whom Henry VII summoned to his bed chamber to share in his despair.

But Henry was so overcome with emotion that the Queen had to cradle and comfort him. She reminded him that God had blessed him greatly, that they still had a son and two daughters, and that they were young enough to have more children. But no sooner had Elizabeth left Henry’s side did she succumb to overwhelming grief: her husband having to comfort her….

It wasn’t long before Elizabeth became pregnant with, what is thought to have been, her seventh child.

It was at the Tower of London on February 2nd 1503 that she gave birth to a girl; called Katherine. But the infant died just eight days later.

Henry VII’s bad luck continued when Elizabeth became ill from a postpartum infection. Unlike today, postpartum infections were vastly misunderstood and not well treated; so much so that it claimed the lives of many women during the Tudor period. It was this that Elizabeth died from on February 11th 1503: her 37th birthday.

When it came time for her funeral, the normally tight-fisted King Henry, spared little expense on the service; spending a grand total of £3,000.

Elizabeth was then laid to rest at the Lady Chapel (aka Henry VII Chapel) in Westminster Abbey on February 23rd 1503.

The loss of his wife was a devastating blow to Henry on many levels. Not only had he lost the woman who had helped solidify his claim to the throne, but he lost someone whom he had deeply cared for.

This contemporary account relays what Henry VII’s state of mind was like following the death of his wife: ”[King Henry] privily departed to a solitary place….and would no man should resort unto him. 1

Elizabeth of York - Public Domain
Elizabeth of York

Henry and Elizabeth were not always so close. Their marriage had been an arranged one: set up by their mothers, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville, and later encouraged by Henry’s council. And what started out as a loveless political union based on uniting the Yorkist’s and the Lancastrians, later blossomed into one of genuine affection and a sort of quiet, dignified love.

The successful nature of their marriage was in part due to Elizabeth’s good, dutiful and generous nature. A great beauty, she was reportedly tall, with fair skin and hair, and blue eyes.

Though Henry was mostly known for being a cold-hearted miser, he wasn’t a man void of good qualities….He was said to have once been reasonably attractive. The Italian humanist Polydore Vergil (a contemporary of Henry VII’s) described him as being “….slender but well-built and strong; his height above the average. His appearance remarkably attractive and his face was cheerful, especially when speaking; his eyes were small and blue…2.” Vergil then goes on to describe Henry’s persona: “His spirit was distinguished, wise and prudent; his mind was brave and resolute and never even at moments of the greatest danger, deserted him…….He was gracious and kind and was attentive to his visitors as he was of easy access.3” Vergil mentions some of Henry’s drawbacks but also adds that he: “cherished justice above all things….” And was: “….a most ardent supporter of our [Catholic] faith…4

But with the passing of his wife, Henry became a shell of his former self. He grew weary in spirit and more focused, determined and paranoid as ever.

Late 16th century copy of a portrait of Henry VII

In the years following the death of his wife, Henry did make several attempts to remarry. His decision to consider another marriage had mainly to do with strengthening England politically and financially. That he would be filling the void Elizabeth left in his life is debatable, but quite likely.

Among his potential wives was Catherine of Aragon: Arthur’s widow, but the marriage to her father in law never came to be; she became betrothed to his surviving son: the future King Henry VIII, instead. Margaret, Archduchess of Austria, was another potential wife but she declined the offer. Henry VII also tried to wed Joanna of Naples but no satisfactory deal was ever reached.

In the end, Henry VII spent the rest of his years unmarried. He also had to be content with his youngest son Henry inheriting the throne.

It was in and after 1507 that Henry VII’s physical health and emotional state began to decline.

He took his bed at Richmond palace, where he made his confessions and received his rights.

Henry VII succumbed to his afflictions and what is ultimately thought to have been tuberculous on the night of April 21st 1509. Henry was 52 years old; having reigned as King of England for 24 years. It is said that his ill-health, dejected demeanor, and death was in part due to the loss of his wife.

Tomb of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York; Photo Credit – englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com

Henry was buried in early May 1509, beside his wife, at the Henry VII Chapel, at Westminster Abbey in a vault. Years later, Henry VIII had the Italian artist Torrigiano create an ornate tomb effigy that depicted his parents….

As King, Henry kept most of his vulnerabilities and emotions in check. But we can see that following the death of his beloved son Arthur and wife Elizabeth that Henry was a man who grieved and showed grief and who loved and showed loved.

It seems that he genuinely cared for them, not just for what they meant to the Tudor dynasty, but as people too. As Vergil noted, Henry was, on many occasions, known to be gracious, kind, deeply religious, and diplomatic.

Henry was not always the frail and shriveled looking man portrayed in some of his paintings and his death mask, either.  He was once reasonably attractive, charming, tall and well-built. His later appearance was due to ill-health, the duties of kingship, a turbulent life, and personal tragedies.

Unfortunately, Henry’s reputation is that of a shrewd, cold, calculating and paranoid man who cared more about money and power than anything else. His bad reputation is warranted in many ways, but it’s also not a completely fair or entirely accurate estimation of   his character either.

If Henry VII hadn’t defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, and therefore wasn’t seen as a usurper, I think perhaps people would view him as a human being who had both good and bad qualities. And whose decisions, deeds and demeanor were the normal and justifiable actions of that of a natural-born King.

1: “Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England” by Thomas Penn
2, 3, 4: “Henry VII” by Roger Lockyer and Andrew Thrush


About the Author:



I’m Karlie (also known as History Gal on Twitter)! I’m a pre-med student from the U.S. I have many interests including reading, writing, drawing and painting but my passion is History. I have read and love to read just about every period in history but I am most interested in the Tudor period. I’m intrigued, not just by the Tudor dynasty, but also by the world in which they lived: the people, the religion, the politics, the conflicts, the events, the castles, the beautiful clothes, just overall their way of life.

It should go without saying that I love England and its rich history. My dream is to go there and see as many Tudor related places as I can!

The Funeral of Queen Elizabeth of York, the First Tudor Queen of England

Story shared by Susan Abernethy of TheFreelanceHistoryWriter.com

Elizabeth of York, Queen to King Henry VII of England, died in the Tower of London on February 11, 1503. She had given birth to a daughter Katherine on February 2 and never recovered. The death was a shock to her husband, her children and to the nation. Due to detailed accounts, most likely composed by a herald, we have a narration of the funeral as well as financial account records. The king ordered two council members to arrange the funeral; his treasurer, the Earl of Surrey and the comptroller of his household, Sir Richard Guildford. The citizens of London had substantial input as well.

Upon her death, the bells of St. Paul’s Cathedral rang out and soon all the other churches rang their bells. Elizabeth’s body was washed and dressed in her estate robes and laid out on her bed. Her children were brought in to say their goodbyes and pay their respects.

The same day, her body was embalmed by the sergeant of the Chandlery. He was given many ells of cerecloth, gums, balms, spices, sweet wine and many pounds of wax. Her body was washed with wine and rosewater and rubbed with balm and perfumed spices. Next, the body was wrapped in the cerecloth with had been broken down into strips and dipped in molten wax. The King’s plumber then enclosed the body in lead and marked it with a lead epitaph with her name and who she was. The lead case was enclosed in a coffin made of holly wood and the coffin was covered in black velvet with a cross of white damask.

King Henry VII and his family. The image depicts all of Henry and Elizabeth’s children, even those who died young.

The coffin was carried by persons of the highest rank with a canopy held over it by four knights as it was taken to the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula within the confines of the Tower on February 12th. Following the casket was Lady Elizabeth Stafford, first lady of the bedchamber, the ladies and maids of honor then all the rest of the Queen’s household, marching side by side. The chapel was lit by five hundred tall candles with the windows being lined with black crepe and the walls hung with black damask.

The coffin was positioned on a bier in front of the altar. Elizabeth’s sister Katherine, Countess of Devon arrived and took her place at the head of Elizabeth’s body where she stayed while mass was celebrated and offerings made. She then retired. The coffin remained in state while six ladies kept vigil at all times. Katherine attended most of this vigil as the Queen’s chief mourner. Masses were said for three consecutive days. At night, the Lord’s Prayer was recited for the Queen’s soul. The coffin remained in the chapel until the day of the funeral procession which was February 22nd.

On that day, mass was said at St. Peter ad Vincula. At noon the coffin was put on a carriage which was lined with cushions made of black velvet and blue cloth of gold. Placed on top of the coffin was a lifelike effigy clothed in the robes of the estate of a queen with a crown on her head. Her hair flowed down to her shoulders and she held a scepter in her right hand. Her fingers had gold and precious stones on them. The procession for the funeral took the same route to Westminster Abbey that was taken for her coronation because Elizabeth died in the Tower which is where queens stayed the night before their crowning. Many commoners lined the streets to witness the cortege.

Effigy of Elizabeth of York used at her funeral (Author: Lisby1)

The procession was led by two hundred poor folk carrying torches who had been dressed in black cloth from the great wardrobe of the king himself. Behind them came numerous household members, clerics, the Mayor of London and then the Queen’s coffin. The carriage was drawn by six horses trapped in black velvet. Beside the coffin rode many knights who carried banners representing royal arms, royal saints (Edward and Edmund), the Virgin Mary, other saints and the parents of the queen. Hundreds of escutcheons had been made with the arms of the king and queen and these probably hung around the coffin and were among the procession as it made its way through torchlit streets.

Behind the carriage of the queen were eight palfreys saddled with black velvet bearing ladies of honor riding in single file. Each horse was led by a man in a black gown. Among these ladies were the four sisters of the queen. There were other noblewomen in carriages followed by representatives of the city of London and the royal households.

Many guilds provided mourning clothes for their members. Some of their representatives dressed in white and stood holding torches before the monument to Elizabeth’s predecessor Eleanor of Castile (first wife of King Edward I) at Charing Cross as the procession passed by. The lady mayoress of London arranged for thirty-seven virgins, one for each year of Elizabeth’s life, to hold burning tapers and stand in Cheapside in the queen’s honor. These women wore white linen and had wreaths on their heads in the colors of the royal Tudor livery.

Parish churches along the route contributed torches and their choirs stood outside, singing anthems. All the City churches were draped in black. As the cortege passed each church, a curate would come forward and cense the coffin and the bells would peal. There was a delegation of foreign funeral-goers which included French, Spanish, Venetian and Portuguese and others who carried torches decorated with their country’s arms. Their presence signified European acceptance of the Tudor dynasty. Along the route there were five thousand torches carried by citizens wearing white woolen gowns and hoods. The procession made its way to St. Margaret’s churchyard at Westminster where it was met by eight bishops.

The coffin and effigy were placed on a hearse which was hung with black cloth of gold and ornamented with her motto “humble and reverent” in gold. Four white banners were draped over the corners of the coffin, supposedly to signify she died in childbirth. There were other emblems of Tudor queenship displayed such as gold roses, portcullises, fleur-de-lys and her coat of arms entwined with the king’s beneath crowns.

The coffin on the hearse spent the night in the Abbey surrounded by torchbearers and other observers, mostly ladies and gentlewomen. As the coffin lay in state in the Abbey the night before the burial, Elizabeth’s sister Katherine, along with her nephew the marquis of Dorset and the Earl of Derby presided over a supper of fish in the queen’s chamber at Westminster. During the supper, in the Abbey, knights, ladies, squires and heralds kept vigil over the body all night while over one thousand candles burned.

On the final day of the funeral, candles flamed around the coffin and two hundred and seventy-three tapers decorated with escutcheons burned above black cloths hanging from the roof. There were two masses and then the Bishop of Lincoln officiated the final requiem mass. Women were the first to give their offerings and they were led by Katherine as the chief mourner. After the offerings, the women presented palls of blue and green cloth of gold which were laid over the effigy. The Bishop of Rochester gave a sermon. After the sermon, the palls were removed and the ladies exited after symbolically burying the Queen with their palls. The prelates and the king’s chapel were left to perform the actual interment.

The effigy was removed from the coffin. The Bishop of London sanctified the grave before the coffin was lowered. Elizabeth’s chamberlain and gentlemen ushers tearfully broke their staffs of office and threw them in the grave. Because construction of the Tudor tomb in the Lady Chapel had only just begun, Elizabeth was buried in a vault specifically made for her in the crossing of the Abbey, between the high altar and the choir. She would be re-interred in the magnificent new tomb after the death of King Henry in 1509.

Henry had been generous in his expenditure for Elizabeth’s funeral. In April of 1502, when his eldest son Arthur died, Henry paid £600 to bury him. For Elizabeth’s ceremony, he had spent £3000. In today’s equivalent, that amounts to £1,381,000. Clearly this funeral had more significance to the Tudor dynasty than Arthur’s. The design and execution of the procession was meant to be dramatic, spectacular and memorable for the royal household, the nobility, and the citizens of London and for all who witnessed it. The entire ceremony was an opportunity to have a huge public display to denote the wealth, prestige and substance of the Tudor dynasty and to allow the public to participate and grieve for their queen. The numbers of citizens who appeared to witness her coffin pass by were a tribute to Elizabeth’s role and status as queen as well denoting their love for her.

Further reading: “Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World” by Alison Weir, “Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the War of the Roses” by Sarah Gristwood, “The Last Medieval Queens” by J.L. Laynesmith

For more great articles by Susan, go to: thefreelancehistorywriter.com

The Mother of the Tudor Dynasty

Margaret Beaufort – The Queen Mother

"Margaret R" signature
“Margaret R” signature
© National Portrait Gallery, London

I’ll be honest, after reading The Red Queen, by Philippa Gregory (the first I read in the Cousin’s War series) I strongly disliked Margaret Beaufort. I felt she was the most evil religious person I had ever read about. Philippa Gregory doesn’t paint her in a very good light in The White Queen either.  She is very obviously the antagonist in her books.

Looking back at the history of Margaret Beaufort her life definitely made her into the woman she became and I cannot blame her for that. She was forced into marriage at the age of twelve when all she wanted was to become a nun. When I was twelve years old I was only beginning to think about boys – I can’t image being married and becoming pregnant at that age.  She was a strong woman who fought for what she thought belonged to her and her family. I can now say I respect her for her determination. She is responsible (with the help from Jasper Tudor) for her son becoming Henry Vll of England.

Courtesy of: Lady Margaret Beaufort – The King’s Mother

Margaret Beaufort was born on May 31, 1443, the daughter of Margaret Beauchamp and her second husband John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset. John Beaufort was at the centre of a complicated royal family. His father, another John Beaufort, was the illegitimate son of John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford whom he later married.  The children were legitimised, which resulted in an awful lot of contenders for the throne.

Courtesy of: History Today – Lady Margaret Beaufort

The foundation of the Tudor dynasty in 1485 reflected both the abilities and the good fortune of the new monarch, Henry VII. Henry’s success without doubt owed much to the remarkable determination of his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who had helped arrange his prospective match with Elizabeth of York, sent him money and organised part of the 1483 rebellion. During the new reign Margaret had considerable influence with the King.

With Margaret’s son Henry being crowned king on the battle field (Battle of Bosworth) all of Margaret Beaufort’s dreams and ambitions had come true. She is the mother of all Tudors and deserves more recognition than she receives in the history books and historical fiction novels.

John of Gaunt - son of Edward III
John of Gaunt – son of Richard ll
John Beaufort, Margaret’s father-Grandson to John of Gaunt © National Portrait Gallery, London
possible Margaret Beaufort © National Portrait Gallery, London
Henry Vll © National Portrait Gallery, London

Henry VIII’s Best Friend: Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk

by Wenceslaus Hollar, after Hans Holbein the Younger, line engraving, possibly 1647
by Wenceslaus Hollar, after Hans Holbein the Younger, line engraving, possibly 1647

Charles Brandon
Born: circa end of 1483/early 1484
Death: 22 August 1545
Parents: Sir William Brandon & Elizabeth Bruyn
Marriage #1: Margaret (Neville) Mortimer (the widow of John Mortimer)
Marriage #2: Anne Browne
Marriage #3: Mary Tudor, Queen Dowager of France (Henry VIII’s sister)
Marriage #4: Catherine Willoughby
Anne Brandon, Baroness Grey of Powis
Mary Brandon, Baroness Monteagle
Frances, Duchess of Suffolk
Eleanor, Countess of Cumberland
Henry Brandon, Earl of Lincoln
Henry Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk

The son of William Brandon, who was the standard bearer for Henry Tudor during the Battle of Bosworth, Charles Brandon’s fate was held solely by his father’s decisions. William Brandon was killed during the Battle of Bosworth – some say by the hand of Richard III himself.  His loyalty and ultimate sacrifice to Henry Tudor (soon to be Henry VII) catapulted his son, Charles into the circle of the future Henry VIII. Henry VII repaid William’s loyalty by educating Charles with his own children. Henry (VIII) and Charles became fast friends and stayed that way for decades. Charles was rare in the fact that he remained friends with Henry for so long, even after marrying his favorite sister, Mary without his consent.

Charles Brandon Photo Christie’s Images Ltd 2011
by Unknown artist, oil on panel, late 16th century
by Unknown artist, oil on panel, late 16th century
Mary Brandon, Charles' daughter with Anne Browne.
Mary Brandon, Charles’ daughter with Anne Browne.


Frances Brandon, Charles' daughter with Mary Tudor.
Frances Brandon, Charles’ daughter with Mary Tudor.
Eleanor Brandon, Charles’ daughter with Mary Tudor.
Henry Brandon, Charles' son with Mary Tudor.
Henry Brandon, Charles’ son with Mary Tudor.


Henry Brandon, Charles' son with Catherine Willoughby.
Henry Brandon, Charles’ son with Catherine Willoughby.

Charles Brandon, Charles' son with Mary Tudor.

Charles Brandon, Charles’ son with Catherine Willoughby.


Charles Brandon & Mary Tudor - Duke & Duchess of Suffolk
Charles Brandon & Mary Tudor – Duke & Duchess of Suffolk
Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk
Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk