Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s marriage continues to fascinates us to this day, as we most recently saw with ‘The White Queen‘- TV series, which also covers this period. It was an awkwardly timed match between a commoner and a King, which had unforeseen circumstances. Amy Licence dives back into their infamous match with this new book ‘Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville: A True Romance’.
This book covers the entire period from Elizabeth Woodville’s life until her retirement and death. I enjoyed the backstory of her mother Jacquetta of Luxembourg, whose first marriage was to John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, the brother of King Henry V. After his death she married secretly to Sir Richard Woodville, who was later created Earl Rivers. Elizabeth was to be the first of their 14 children. Elizabeth’s first marriage was to Sir John Grey of Groby Old Hall. They would have two sons before his death at the Second Battle of St. Albans, fighting for the Lancastrian side. He was still only 29 years old.
Her second marriage was, of course, to Edward IV, who won the crown just a month after the Second Battle of St. Albans. Their marriage caused considerable tensions at the time. She was considered too lowly born to be a Queen consort, and marriage negotiations were already well on their way with Bona of Savoy. Tradition says Edward and Elizabeth married on 1 May 1464 without pomp or ceremony after she met him for a petition to resolve a dispute with her mother-in-law. Perhaps he had no intention of honouring the marriage as he may have done something similar with other women, but by late 1464 he let it be known that he was already married Elizabeth and gave her a grand coronation, confirming her as Queen. Their marriage was to be turbulent. The political situation was anything but stable, and Elizabeth gave birth to Edward’s son and heir, the future Edward V, in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey. They would have a total of 10 children. In the end, Edward died, not in battle, but in his own bed of an illness of which he had suffered for quite some time. How different things would have gone if he had survived to see his son come of age?
We know how the story ends. His sons, Edward, now King Edward V and Richard, Duke of York disappeared from the Tower of London in 1483 and were never seen again. Elizabeth Woodville and her daughters’ situation was precarious. With Edward’s brother now King Richard III, they were eventually welcomed back to court, though as Edward and Elizabeth’s children were declared illegitimate. It was Henry Tudor who defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field and he married Edward and Elizabeth’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, thus uniting the Yorkist and Lancastrian claims.
Amy Licence manages to bring this tumultuous period alive in a way that is easy to follow. I really enjoyed her writing style. I would highly recommend this book for all those interested in the period of the Wars of the Roses. ‘Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville: A True Romance’ by Amy Licence is available now in the UK and in the US.