On this day in Tudor history,18th January 1486, twenty-nine year-old King Henry VII married twenty year-old Elizabeth of York at Westminster Abbey.
This was over two years after he had vowed to marry her and nearly 5 months after his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Why did Henry VII delay in marrying Elizabeth of York?
Find out what delayed the marriage, and more about the bride and groom, in today's talk.
Also on this day in Tudor history, 18th January 1510, King Henry VIII and twelve of his men disguised themselves as outlaws, or Robin Hood and his men, and surprised Queen Catherine and her ladies in the queen’s chamber. Find out more about what happened in last year's video:
Also on this day in history:
- 1543 – Baptism of Alfonso Ferrabosco, composer and court musician at the court of Elizabeth I, at the Cathedral of San Petronio, Bologna, Italy.
- 1616 – Burial of John Bettes the Younger, portrait painter, at St Gregory by St Paul's.
On this day in Tudor history,18th January 1486, just under five months after his victory at the Battle of Bosworth, twenty-nine year-old King Henry VII married twenty year-old Elizabeth of York, daughter and eldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, at Westminster Abbey. The service was conducted by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Over two years earlier, on Christmas Day 1483 at Rennes Cathedral, Henry VII, when he was just Henry Tudor and in exile in Brittany, had made a pledge to marry Elizabeth to unite the Houses of Lancaster and York. But why had he not married her as soon as he had become king? Elizabeth’s biographer, Amy Licence, believes that the delay was down to several different factors, and none of them being that Henry was not sure that he wanted to marry Elizabeth:
1. His first Parliament had to sit
2. There was a terrible outbreak of plague in London in autumn 1485
3. There were things to sort out, e.g. “the Titulus Regis was repealed and the dowager queen’s reputation restored”.
4. And Henry “wanted to ensure his kingship was established and independent of Elizabeth’s claim before the ceremony took place.”
Parliament approved the marriage match on 10th December 1485, with the Speaker declaring “Which marriage, they hoped God would bless with a progeny of the race of kings, to the great satisfaction of the whole realm”, and on 16th January 1486 a papal dispensation was issued to cover the degree of sanguinity within the fourth degree.
There is no contemporary account of the wedding ceremony but The Crowland Chronicle Continuations: 1459-1486, gives the following record of the marriage:
“…after the victory of the said king Henry the Seventh, and the ceremonies of his anointing an coronation, on the last day but one of the following month, by the hand of the most reverend father, Thomas, cardinal archbishop of Canterbury, and in due conformity with the ancient custom, the marriage was celebrated, which from the first had been hoped for, between him and the lady Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of king Edward the Fourth. This was duly solemnized, at the instance and urgent entreaty of all three of the estates of the realm, in the presence of the Church, on the eighteenth day of the month of January, in the year of our Lord, according to the computation of the Roman Church, 1486; a dispensation having been first obtained from the Apostolic See on the account of the fourth degree of consanguinity, within which the king and queen were related to each other.”
It’s such a shame that we don’t have a record of the ceremony and the couple’s attire.
Elizabeth and Henry made a striking couple. Elizabeth of York had classic English Rose looks – blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin – and Henry was tall, slim, dark haired and handsome. They were the perfect couple, and their marriage brought hope to the country. It reconciled the warring Houses of Lancaster and York, and began a new royal house and era: the Tudor dynasty.
The bride, Elizabeth of York, had been born on 11th February 1466, and was the daughter and eldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Her father had managed to capture and imprison Henry VI in 1461, dethroning him and taking the crown for himself, starting the royal House of York. In 1464, he secretly married Elizabeth Woodville, a young widow. It was a love match, not a diplomatic one, and caused trouble when Elizabeth alienated powerful Yorkist supporters, causing them to side with Lancastrians and challenge Edward. The result was that Edward was driven into exile and the throne became Henry VI's once more in October 1470. Henry's reign was short-lived, though, as Edward overthrew him once again in April 1471. It was a brutal coup. Ex-Yorkists and Lancastrians were defeated in battle, and Henry VI was killed in the Tower. Edward had stamped out his enemies.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck the House of York at Easter 1483 when Edward caught a chill on a fishing trip. He died on 9th April, and his thirteen year-old son, Edward, became Edward V. Edward V was too young to reign in his own right, so his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, became the Protector. However, to cut a rather long story short, this was not enough for Richard. With Edward and his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York, ‘residing’ in the Tower of London, Richard was crowned King Richard III on 6th July 1483, and the boys disappeared, going down in history as ‘The Princes in the Tower’.
Elizabeth of York mourned the loss of her brothers, but her mother decided on revenge, and this is when she decided to approach Lady Margaret Beaufort. Although the two ladies were supposed to be on different sides, Elizabeth being from the House of York and Margaret being a Lancastrian, neither lady was happy with Richard on the throne, and decided that a union between their children could bring about Richard’s downfall.
The bridegroom, Henry VII, was born at Pembroke Castle on 28th January 1457. His parents were the thirteen year-old Lady Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, who, unfortunately, had died of the plague three months before Henry's birth. Both Margaret and Edmund were linked to the House of Lancaster. Edmund was the son of Owen Tudor and Catherine Valois (Catherine of France), the widow of Henry V and mother of Henry VI. Margaret Beaufort was descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (third son of King Edward III) and his mistress and eventual wife, Katherine Swynford. Neither of Henry's parents had a strong claim to the throne, with Edmund having no English royal blood and Margaret being descended from a line which was deliberately excluded from the succession. This, however, did not stop Henry VII from claiming the throne, by right of conquest, after his Lancastrian forces defeated Richard III's Yorkist forces at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22nd August 1485, where Richard was killed. Henry was crowned king on 30th October 1485.
The marriage of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York was a successful one, lasting until Elizabeth’s death on 11th February 1503, her 37th birthday. They had four children who survived childhood: Margaret Tudor, queen consort of King James IV of Scotland; Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, who died at the age of 15; King Henry VIII, and Mary Tudor, Queen of France.