The Tudor Society

8 June – Elizabeth Woodville

On this day in Tudor history, 8th June 1492, in the reign of King Henry VII, Elizabeth Woodville, died at Bermondsey Abbey.

Elizabeth Woodville was the wife of King Edward IV and mother of Elizabeth of York and the Princes in the Tower, King Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, but there's far more to her than that.

Enjoy this overview of Elizabeth Woodville's life.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 8th June 1536, Parliament passed the Second Act of Succession, which removed Mary and Elizabeth from the succession and declared them illegitimate. Find out more in last year’s video -

Article on Elizabeth Woodville and the idea that she died of the plague -

Also on this day in history:

  • 1476 – Death of George Neville, administrator and Archbishop of York, at Blyth in Nottinghamshire. He was buried in York Minster.
  • 1533 – Papal authority in England was denied by Parliament.
  • 1536 – Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary, wrote to her father hoping to reconcile with him following the fall of her stepmother, Queen Anne Boleyn.
  • 1536 – Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, made his last public appearance (at Parliament) before his death.
  • 1590 – Death of Thomas Randolph, Elizabethan diplomat, at his home in St Peter's Hill, London. He was buried at St Peter Paul's Wharf. Randolph acted as a go-between for Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, and also served his Queen in Russia and France. He has been described as the first English "career diplomat".


On this day in Tudor history, 8th June 1492, Elizabeth Woodville, mother of the present queen, Elizabeth of York, died at Bermondsey Abbey. She was laid to rest beside her husband, King Edward IV, in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Elizabeth Woodville was, of course, also the mother of the Princes in the Tower, but let me give you some more Elizabeth Woodville facts….

• Elizabeth was born in around 1437, and was the eldest daughter of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers, and his wife, Jaquetta de Luxembourg, who was the dowager duchess of Bedford, being the widow of John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, brother of Henry V.
• In around 1456, when she was about 19, Elizabeth married her first husband, Sir John Grey, eldest son and heir of Elizabeth Ferrers, 6th Baroness Ferrers of Groby, and Sir Edward Grey. Elizabeth and John had two sons together: Thomas, Marquess of Dorset, and Richard Grey.
• Elizabeth was widowed just five years into her marriage, when John was killed at the Second Battle of St Albans in 1461, fighting on the Lancastrian side. Elizabeth was left in a precarious financial state so appealed to her relative William, Lord Hastings, chamberlain of the household, to intercede with King Edward IV on her behalf. In April 1464, after negotiating a marriage match between her son and Hastings’ unborn daughter, Elizabeth was able to successfully petition the king to recognise her son, Thomas, as John’s heir, and John’s former manors were granted to Elizabeth.
• Now, there’s no evidence that Elizabeth put a magic spell on the king, no mention of any magic strings in the river, but the king did fall of Elizabeth, who was allegedly very beautiful, and the couple married in a secret ceremony not long after Elizabeth had petitioned him, and traditionally on 1st May 1464, May Day, at Grafton House, Northamptonshire, Elizabeth’s father’s property.
• Edward IV kept his marriage secret until September 1464, when he was forced to reveal it due to negotiations by the Earl of Warwick for him to marry Bona of Savoy. It was scandalous for Edward to marry secretly while these negotiations were going on, and to someone very much beneath him in status.
• Elizabeth was crowned queen on 26th May 1465 and the royal couple’s first child, Elizabeth of York, was born in February 1466.
• With her position and the grants of lands, Elizabeth was able to act as a patron for her family. Her sisters had good marriage matches organised, as did her son, Thomas, who was also made Marquess of Dorset. Elizabeth’s father and her brother, Anthony, also advanced at court, with her father being made earl, treasurer, and constable of England.
• The marriage and the rise of the Woodvilles led to resentment and to the Earl of Warwick and Edward’s brother, George, Duke of Clarence, rebelling against the king. Edward ended up fleeing into exile in October 1470, while Elizabeth took sanctuary in Westminster Abbey, where she gave birth to their eldest son, Edward.
• In April 1471, Edward IV returned and was restored as king, and Elizabeth came out of sanctuary. She gave birth to their second son, Richard, in 1473. Between 1466 and 1480, Elizabeth gave Edward three sons and seven daughters – wow! Their third son, George, died at the age of 2.
• In 1473, Elizabeth and Edward’s eldest son, Prince Edward, was set up in his own household at Ludlow in the Welsh Marches under the supervision of Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Rivers, and in 1478, their youngest son, Richard, married heiress Anne Mowbray, with Elizabeth taking responsibility for Richard’s estates. It was also in 1478 that Elizabeth’s brother-in-law, George, Duke of Clarence, was executed, or judicially murdered, while imprisoned in the Tower of London.
• Edward IV died on 9th April 1483, leaving the throne to his eldest son, twelve-year-old Edward, who became Edward V. A coronation was planned for May, and Earl Rivers was told to bring the young king to London in preparation. Elizabeth’s brother-in-law, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, took custody of the boy and apprehended Earl Rivers and Elizabeth’s son from her first marriage, Richard Grey. Elizabeth took sanctuary once more at Westminster Abbey with five of her daughters and Edward V’s brother, Richard. On 16th June, Archbishop Bourchier, fetched Richard from sanctuary, allegedly so that he could attend his brother’s coronation. However, that same month, doubts were cast on the validity of Elizabeth’s marriage to Edward IV, and therefore the legitimacy of their children, Gloucester became King Richard III, and Rivers and Grey were executed. Elizabeth was demoted from dowager queen to Dame Elizabeth Grey.
• While still in sanctuary, Elizabeth was able to plot with Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, who was in exile. At Christmas 1483, Henry Tudor swore a public oath at Rennes Cathedral that he would marry Elizabeth’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York.
• In March 1484, Elizabeth and her daughters came out of sanctuary after Richard III promised that no harm would come to them.
• On 22nd August 1485, Henry Tudor and his forces defeated those of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth and Henry claimed the throne as King Henry VII. He did indeed marry Elizabeth of York, and Elizabeth Woodville was restored to her dower lands in March 1486, Elizabeth stood as godmother to her grandson, Arthur, Prince of Wales, in September 1486.
• In February 1487, Elizabeth Woodville retired to Bermondsey Abbey. It is not known for sure whether this was her choice, or whether she was forced to. Her final years there were comfortable, for she resided in well-appointed apartments and had a generous pension. A potential marriage match with King James III of Scotland was put forward but then James died in 1488.
• Elizabeth Woodville died on this day in 1492 at Bermondsey and was laid to rest in St George’s Chapel, with her second husband, King Edward IV, on 12th June. In 2019, National Archives records specialist Euan Roger found a letter written by the Venetian ambassador in which he recorded “the Queen-Widow, mother of King Edward, has died of plague, and the King is disturbed”, so perhaps Elizabeth died of plague, which would explain her quick burial. I’ll give you a link to an article on this as it makes for interesting reading.
• So, that’s a brief overview of the life of Elizabeth Woodville.

Only 1 comment so far Go To Comment

  1. R

    Great overview of Elizabeth Woodville. I do hope Edward didn’t hurt himself when he fell of Elizabeth, though.

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8 June – Elizabeth Woodville