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 husband’s throne. Her devout faith led her to see her marriage as God’s 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. Elizabeth’s 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 Henry’s 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 other’s arms. Shortly after this, they conceived the child that would be their last, whose birth led to Elizabeth’s 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 son’s 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. Elizabeth’s 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.”
About the Author:
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 at SamanthaWilcoxson.BlogSpot.com or on Twitter @Carpe_Librum.
Purchase her newest book, Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I (Plantagenet Embers Book 3) on Amazon.com
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