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Elizabeth Woodville
(1502-1536)

Born: 1437 at Grafton Regis, Northants
Queen of England
Died: 26th May 1465 at Bermondsey Abbey, Surrey

Queen of Edward IV, daughter of Sir Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers, and Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, of the great house of Luxemburg, Elizabeth Woodville was probably born in 1437. Her first husband was Sir John Grey of Groby, a Lancastrian, who fell at St. Albans in 1461. By him she had two sons, Thomas and Richard, and it was when she was supplicating King Edward IV for the restoration of their estates that he fell in love with her.

Edward married her privately in 1464, and, when the marriage was declared at Reading Abbey (Berkshire), it at once provoked the hostility of the family of Neville, which had put Edward on the throne. The rivalry of the Nevilles with the Woodvilles soon succeeded to that of the Yorkists and Lancastrians, for Elizabeth was a greedy, unscrupulous woman who insisted on the King showering lands and wealth on all her relations.

She bore Edward numerous children, the first of whom was her eldest daughter, Elizabeth, afterwards Queen of Henry VII; the best known were the 'Princes in the Tower,' Edward V and his brother, Richard, Duke of York, afterwards murdered, apparently, by their uncle, Richard III. The elder of these boys was born while Edward was in exile in 1470 and the Queen had 'taken sanctuary' at Westminster.

On the death of Edward IV the unpopularity of the whole Woodville family was at once manifest and the Queen had to take sanctuary again. The most extraordinary point in her career was reached when the wily Richard tempted her to come to his Court again and she went through some sort of reconciliation with him. Henry VII never trusted her and, in 1487, she went to reside in the nunnery at Bermondsey on a pension. The refoundation of Queens' College, Cambridge, in the beautiful gallery of which there is an authenticated portrait of her, is the only good thing recorded of her.

Edited from Emery Walker's "Historical Portraits" (1909).

 

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