“White at Heart, Red on the Surface…”

The Princess, The Queen

With the upcoming show, The White Princess, based on a 2013 historical novel by Philippa Gregory prepping for television release, now is a good time to re-acquaint ourselves with the often-forgotten Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, was an anomaly as Queen. She was the princess of the white rose and yet she was the first Tudor queen – a queen of the red rose. The founder of the famous Tudor dynasty, Elizabeth served a unique role as she embodied King Henry VII’s desire for symbolism – no doubt to cement his place as the rightful ruler of England. Elizabeth was quintessential in this as, to many, she was the rightful heir to the throne. To not only appease the Yorkists but to mend the torn realm of England after decades of battle, Henry married Elizabeth and united the red and white. It is through this marriage that Elizabeth, just like Henry, would form a symbol that is everlasting, the English Rose. The English Rose, like Elizabeth, is white in the centre and red on the outside. This is befitting for the York princess who became the mother of the Tudor dynasty.

Wedding Woes

It is hard to imagine the emotions and thoughts contained within Elizabeth of this time as she was raised by her gregarious Yorkist father and was now married to her family’s sworn enemy – a Tudor. There are tiny pieces of history that relay the stimulus for these pressures. On one account, in April 1488, Elizabeth watched Henry riding in with his Knight’s Companions towards the incomplete St. George’s Chapel on the Sunday after St. George’s Day. These ceremonies and events had to have reminded her constantly of the grandeur of the previous court and her long gone father, as well as her “lost” brothers. What ironic fate that she should serve as Queen in her father’s court when her mother had dutifully produced an heir and a spare. On many other noted occasions, Elizabeth was forced to deal with the contentions of her religious zealot mother-in-law, Margret Beaufort. Under Margret’s influence, it is possible, nay probable, that a brokerage of attention and loyalty between mother and wife plagued Henry and vexed Elizabeth.

Mother of a Dynasty

However, as one does, Elizabeth managed. Not only did she manage, but she became the first iconic all around “perfect wife”. Elizabeth, like her mother, was of genuine beauty and of good lineage. She was well trained by a doting father and mother to be a Queen. Due to her Plantagenet blood, Elizabeth’s auspicious presence and fairness afforded her a reputation fit for a most cherished monarch. Elizabeth served as a compliant wife, willful and obedient, but it is known that she exercised a considerate influence on her husband while managing to please his court. First-hand accounts have prompted an accumulation of a vast number of gifts presented to her Majesty – consistent throughout her reign as Queen. Elizabeth knew her role and played it well. She was the lovely, just Queen and the dutiful wife of a King It was this harmony of beauty and brains that led to a successful marriage between the two when, in reality, they were oddly matched rivals. White at heart, red on the surface. Mother, sister, daughter, and grandmother of kings. This is Elizabeth of York, one of England’s greatest queens.

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