Tuesday, September 8, 2015

On To the Elizabeths! Elizabeth Woodville - Mother of the Little Princes in the Tower of London

"In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."

Also in fourteen hundred and ninety two, Elizabeth Woodville died after a life that included being Queen Consort to Edward IV and giving him ten (10!!!) children. 
Elizabeth Woodville - mother of the Little Princes in the Tower, Grandmother to Henry VIII. 
She was also widowed twice, and knew the heart-stopping fear of a mother freaking out over the disappearance of her two sons, Prince Edward and Prince Richard, aged 12 and 9 years old, who entered the Tower of London and were never seen alive again.

Born in 1437, Elizabeth Woodville married Sir John Grey in her late teens.
The stork 
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delivered two boys to the couple; Thomas and Richard  - but within five or six years, Sir John Grey died.
The freshly widowed Elizabeth managed to land a meeting with the king, Edward IV, to discuss what was due her after the death of her husband.
In no time at all, the Edward IV had fallen hard for the lovely young widow, and the two got secretly hitched in 1464 at her dad's place.
The monkey wrench in the machinery of the secret marriage was when advisers to Edward IV strongly advised, pressured, even, him to marry a foreign princess (for ensuring peace with at the very least, the homeland of the 'foreign princess'.)
Edward IV owned up to the fact that he was already married, and the coronation of Elizabeth Woodville followed in May, 1465.

The King and Queen had an astounding ten (10!!!!) children. 
Seven girls, three boys, and the eldest of the boys, Prince Edward, as first-born 
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was first in the line of succession to the throne.
After a brief illness,  Edward IV died in 1483, and once again, Elizabeth Woodville was a widow.

Enter: Edward IV's brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
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The king's brother stepped up to the responsibility of seeing the new king, twelve year old Edward V, safely to the Tower to prepare for the young king's coronation.  quietly kidnapped Edward V, the new King, and brought him to the Tower for 'safekeeping' until the coronation.
Seeing the new king 'safely' to the Tower is overstating what actually happened; the boy's Uncle Richard arrested the men closest to Edward V, including Elizabeth Woodville's son Richard Grey, from her first marriage.
The men were all beheaded and with that, Richard, Duke of Gloucester went full-on h.a.m. to take the crown. 

With faked concern for the boredom of the young king, Richard went to Elizabeth Woodville, who had grabbed her remaining children and hunkered down inside Westminster Abbey.
He convinced her to turn over the new little King's littler brother.
What. The. Actual. Hell.

Once Edward V and his brother, Prince Richard (I know, lots of Richards here) entered the Tower of London, they were seen playing in the interior of the Tower every now and again. 
Then . . . they just vanished.
And Elizabeth Woodville, their mother, couldn't do anything but watch from the sidelines as Richard declared himself Richard III and took over his nephew's throne. 

But wait! 
Tudor-era women who survived did so because they were matchless in their ability to work behind the scenes.
They ran their households, and in the absence of their husbands, waged war or defended their castle against invaders.
They arranged marriages for their children (and sometimes for themselves.) 
They influenced who backed whom on the field of battle.
And sometimes they did all of those things simultaneously.

Elizabeth Woodville plotted 
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with another noblewoman, Margaret Beaufort, whose son Henry had an almost legitimate claim to the throne Richard III had so recently offed the little princes to possess.
Margaret Beaufort was formidable; her son, Henry, equally formidable.
Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort did a little conniving, a little cloak-and-dagger sneaky contacting of other enemies of Richard III, and, for the win, they planned to marry Henry Tudor to Elizabeth Woodville's eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York.

The plan worked; Richard died horribly when Henry Tudor's men overtook him.
Yow! Say, that hole's gonna take an XL size metal plate to close up. 
Margaret Beaufort's second husband picked up the crown the dead Richard III had worn, and crowned his stepson, Henry VII.
The new king married Elizabeth of York.
They had a happy marriage of mutual respect, with Bossy Pants Margaret Beaufort making sure every little thing was done correctly.

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There isn't room for two domineering mothers-in-law in a royal marriage, so Elizabeth Woodville, no doubt tired and a little heartsick at the cost of her two sons, headed to a nice, quiet convent to pray, study, get away from the treachery of the court, and she died there 8 June, 1492.

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