|Tenure||1 May 1464 - 3 October 1470
11 April 1471 - 9 April 1483
|Coronation||26 May 1465|
|Spouse||Sir John Grey
m. c. 1452; dec. 1461
Edward IV of England
m. 1464; dec. 1483
|Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset
Elizabeth, Queen of England
Mary of York
Cecily of York, Viscountess Welles
Edward V of England
Margaret of York
Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York
Anne of York, Lady Howard
George Plantagenet, Duke of Bedford
Catherine of York, Countess of Devon
Bridget of York
|House||House of York|
|Father||Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers|
|Mother||Jacquetta of Luxembourg|
Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire
|Died||8 June 1492
|Burial||St. George's Chapel, Windsor|
Elizabeth Woodville (also spelled Wydeville or Widvile; c. 1437 – 8 June 1492) was Queen consort of England as the spouse of King Edward IV from 1464 until his death in 1483. Elizabeth was a key figure in the series of dynastic civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. As Lady Grey (née Woodville), Elizabeth had two sons by her first husband, Sir John Grey of Groby who was killed at the Second Battle of St Albans. The daughter of Sir Richard Woodville, she was the first commoner to become queen of England since the Conquest. It was because of this marriage that Edward and his former staunch ally Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick fell out, leading to a battle of wills that finally resulted in Warwick changing sides and switching his allegiance to that of Lancaster.
Her children included the Princes in the Tower and Elizabeth of York; the latter made her the maternal grandmother of Henry VIII and great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth I. Tradition holds that she served as a Maid of Honour to Margaret of Anjou, but the evidence of this is uncertain.
Early life and first marriage 
Elizabeth was born about 1437 at Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire, the daughter of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers, and his wife, the former Jacquetta of Luxembourg, widow of John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford. Although spelling of the family name is usually modernized to "Woodville", it was spelled "Wydeville" in contemporary publications by Caxton and her tomb at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle is inscribed thus; "Edward IV and his Queen Elizabeth Widvile". She may have been a maid of honour to Margaret of Anjou, Queen of Henry VI, in 1445, when she was about eight years of age. The identification of Elizabeth as the "Isabel Grey" referred to in the record in question is uncertain, however; as A. R. Myers and George Smith have each noted, assuming that the eight-year-old Elizabeth was then married to John Grey, there were several women by the name of Isabella or Elizabeth Grey, including an Elizabeth Grey who is noted as serving Margaret and as being the widow of a Ralph Grey. In about 1452, she married Sir John Grey of Groby, who was killed at the Second Battle of St Albans in 1461, fighting for the Lancastrian cause, which would become a source of irony as Edward IV was the Yorkist claimant to the throne. Elizabeth's two sons from this first marriage were Thomas (later Marquess of Dorset) and Richard.
Elizabeth was called "the most beautiful woman in the Island of Britain" with "heavy-lidded eyes like those of a dragon", suggesting a perhaps unusual criterion by which beauty in late medieval England was judged.
Queen consort 
Edward IV had many mistresses, the most notorious being Jane Shore, and did not have a reputation for fidelity. His marriage to the widowed Lady Grey took place secretly and though the date is not accepted as exactly accurate is traditionally said to have taken place (with only the bride's mother and two ladies in attendance) at her family home in Northamptonshire on 1 May 1464, just over three years after he had taken the English throne subsequent to leading the Yorkists in an overwhelming victory over the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton. Elizabeth was crowned Queen on Ascension Day, 26 May 1465.
In the early years of his reign, Edward's governance of England was dependent upon a small circle of supporters, most notably his cousin, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. At around the time of Edward's secret marriage, Warwick was negotiating an alliance with France in an effort to thwart a similar arrangement being made by his sworn enemy Margaret of Anjou, wife of the deposed Henry VI. The plan was that Edward should marry a French Princess. When his marriage to Elizabeth, who was both a commoner and from a family of Lancastrian supporters, became public, Warwick was both embarrassed and offended, and his relationship with Edward never recovered. The match was also badly received by the Privy Council, who according to Jean de Waurin told Edward with great frankness that "he must know she was no wife for a prince such as himself."
With the arrival on the scene of the new queen came a host of siblings who soon married into some of the most notable families in England. The marriages of her sisters to the sons of the earls of Kent, Essex and Pembroke have left no sign of unhappiness on the parts of the parties involved, nor does that of her sister, Catherine Woodville, to the queen's 11-year-old ward Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, though the duke stood with the duke of Gloucester in opposition to the Woodvilles after the death of Edward IV. The one marriage which may be considered shocking was that of her 20-year-old brother John Woodville to Katherine, Duchess of Norfolk, daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, by Joan Beaufort, and widow of John Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. The wealthy Katherine had been widowed three times and was probably in her sixties.
When Elizabeth's relatives, especially her brother, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, began to challenge Warwick's pre-eminence in English political society, Warwick conspired with his son-in-law, the Duke of Clarence, the king's younger brother. One of his followers accused Elizabeth's mother, the Duchess of Bedford, of practising witchcraft. Jacquetta was acquitted the following year. Warwick and Clarence twice rose in revolt and then fled to France. Warwick formed an uneasy alliance with the Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou and restored her husband Henry VI to the throne in 1470, but, the following year, Edward IV returned from exile and defeated Warwick at the Battle of Barnet and the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Henry VI was murdered soon afterwards.
Following her husband's temporary fall from power, Elizabeth had sought sanctuary in Westminster Abbey, where she gave birth to a son, Edward (later Edward V of England). Her marriage to Edward IV produced a total of ten children, including another son, Richard, Duke of York, who would later join his brother as one of the Princes in the Tower. Five daughters also lived to adulthood.
Queen Elizabeth engaged in acts of Christian piety, which was in keeping with what was expected of a medieval queen consort. Her acts included making pilgrimages, obtaining a papal indulgence for those who knelt and said the Angelus three times per day, and founding the chapel of St. Erasmus in Westminster Abbey.
Queen Mother 
Following Edward's sudden death, possibly from pneumonia, in April 1483, Elizabeth briefly became Queen Mother as her son, Edward became king, with his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, acting as Lord Protector. Fearing the Woodvilles would attempt to monopolise power, Richard quickly moved to take control of the young king and had Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, and Richard Grey, brother and son to Queen Elizabeth, arrested. The young king was transferred to the Tower of London to await the Coronation. With her younger son and daughters, Elizabeth again sought sanctuary. Baron Hastings, the late king's leading supporter in London, initially endorsed Richard's actions, but Richard then accused him of conspiring with Elizabeth against him. Hastings was summarily executed. Whether any such conspiracy really occurred is not known. Richard accused Elizabeth of plotting to "murder and utterly destroy" him.
Richard now moved to take the throne himself and on 25 June 1483 he had Elizabeth's son and brother executed in Pontefract Castle. In an act of Parliament, the Titulus Regius (1 Ric. 3), he declared Edward's and Elizabeth's children illegitimate on the grounds that Edward had made a previous promise (known as a precontract) to marry Lady Eleanor Butler, which was considered a legally binding contract that rendered any other marriage contract invalid. One source, the Burgundian chronicler Philippe de Commines, says that Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, claimed to have carried out the ceremony between Edward and Eleanor. The act also contained charges of witchcraft against Elizabeth, but gave no details and had no further repercussions. As a consequence, the Duke of Gloucester became King Richard III. Young Edward and his brother Richard, Duke of York, remained in the Tower of London. They were never seen alive again after mid-1483.
Life under Richard III 
Elizabeth, now referred to as Dame Elizabeth Grey, conspired to free her sons and restore her eldest to the throne. However, when the Duke of Buckingham, one of Richard III's closest allies, entered the conspiracy, he told her that the princes had been murdered. Elizabeth and Buckingham now allied themselves with Lady Margaret Beaufort and espoused the cause of Margaret's son Henry Tudor, a great-great-great-grandson of King Edward III, the closest male heir of the Lancastrian claim to the throne with any degree of validity. To strengthen his claim and unite the two feuding noble houses, Elizabeth and Margaret agreed that Henry should marry Edward IV and Elizabeth's oldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, who upon the death of her brothers became the Yorkist heiress. Henry agreed to this plan and in December publicly swore an oath to that effect in the cathedral in Rennes, France. A month earlier, an uprising in his favour, led by Buckingham, had been crushed.
On 1 March 1484, she and her daughters came out of sanctuary after Richard publicly swore an oath that her daughters would not be harmed or molested and that they would not be imprisoned in the Tower of London or in any other prison. He also promised to provide them with marriage portions and to marry them to "gentlemen born". The family returned to Court, apparently reconciled to King Richard. After the death of Richard's Queen Anne Neville in 1485, rumours arose that the now-widowed King was going to marry his beautiful teenaged niece Elizabeth of York. Richard issued a denial; though according to the Crowland Chronicle he was pressured to do this by the Woodvilles' enemies who feared, among other things, that they would have to return the lands they had confiscated from the Woodvilles.
Life under Henry VII 
In 1485, Henry Tudor invaded England and defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. As King, he married Elizabeth of York and had the Titulus Regius revoked. Elizabeth was accorded the title and honours of a queen dowager.
Scholars differ about why Dowager Queen Elizabeth spent her last five years living at Bermondsey Abbey. Among her modern biographers, David Baldwin believes that Henry VII forced her retreat from the Court, while Arlene Okerlund presents evidence that indicates she was planning a religious, contemplative life as early as July 1486. At the Abbey, Elizabeth was treated with all the respect due to a queen dowager, lived a regal life, and received a pension of £400 and small gifts from the King. She was present at the birth of her second grandchild, Margaret, at Westminster Palace in November 1489. The Queen rarely visited her, although Elizabeth's daughter Viscountess Welles is known to have done so more often.
Henry VII briefly contemplated marrying his mother-in-law off to King James III of Scotland, when James' wife, Margaret of Denmark, died in 1486. However, James was killed in battle in 1488, rendering the plans of Henry VII moot.
Elizabeth died at Bermondsey Abbey on 8 June 1492. With the exception of the Queen, who was awaiting the birth of her fourth child, and Cecily (Viscountess Welles), her daughters attended the funeral at Windsor Castle: Anne (the future Lady Anne Howard), Catherine (the future Countess of Devon) and Bridget (a sister at Dartford Priory). Her will specified a simple ceremony. The surviving accounts of her funeral on 12 June 1492 suggest that at least one source "clearly felt that a queen's funeral should have been more splendid" and may have objected that "Henry VII had not seen fit to arrange a more queenly funeral for his mother-in-law", despite the fact that the simplicity was the queen's own wish. Elizabeth was laid to rest in the same chantry as her husband King Edward IV in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Issue of Elizabeth Woodville 
By Sir John Grey 
- Thomas Grey, Earl of Huntingdon, Marquess of Dorset and Lord Ferrers de Groby (1457 – 20 September 1501), married firstly Anne Holland, but she died young without issue; he married secondly on 18 July 1474, Cecily Bonville, suo jure Baroness Harington and Bonville, by whom he had fourteen children. The disputed queen Lady Jane Grey is a direct descendant from this line.
- Richard Grey (1458 – 25 June 1483)
By King Edward IV 
- Elizabeth of York (1466–1503), Queen Consort of England
- Mary of York (1467–1482), buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
- Cecily of York (1469–1507), Viscountess Welles
- Edward V of England (1470–1483/5), one of the Princes in the Tower
- Margaret of York (Apr. 1472-Dec. 1472), buried in Westminster Abbey
- Richard, Duke of York (1473–1483/5), one of the Princes in the Tower
- Anne of York, Lady Howard (1475–1511)
- George Plantagenet (1477–1479), Duke of Bedford; buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
- Catherine of York (1479–1527), Countess of Devon
- Bridget of York (1480–1517), nun at Dartford Priory, Kent
In literature 
Elizabeth is a character in the plays Richard III and Henry VI Part 3 by William Shakespeare.
Philippa Gregory's 2009 novel The White Queen follows a fictionalized account of Elizabeth's life from meeting her future husband, King Edward, up through the disappearance of her sons and the reign of her brother-in-law, Richard III. The novel places a great deal of focus on the legend of Melusine and Elizabeth and her mother's ties to witchcraft. In life, Jacquetta was cleared by the king’s great council of charges of witchcraft on January 19, 1470. Elizabeth also appears in other novels in Gregory's "Cousins' War" series.
Other fictional portraits of Elizabeth Woodville include that found in A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin. A less sympathetic picture is given in Sandra Worth's Lady of the Roses (2008) as well as in Marjorie Bowen's 1929 novel Dickon where she is portrayed as a schemer who is at the very heart of the various conspiracies against Richard III. She is also found in Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour, where she is seen mainly through the eyes of others, and in Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, where she is not evil but too self-centered and too kind to her family. Rosemary Hawley Jarman's fictionalized biography of Elizabeth Woodville is entitled The King's Grey Mare (1972).
Schools named after Elizabeth Woodville 
- Elizabeth Woodville Secondary School, Northamptonshire
- Elizabeth Woodville Primary School, Groby, Leicestershire.
|Ancestors of Elizabeth Woodville|
Screen portrayals 
- Richard III (1911): Elizabeth was played by Violet Farebrother
- Richard III (1912): Elizabeth was played by Carey Lee.
- In the French film, Les enfants d'Édouard (1914), Elizabeth was played by Jeanne Delvair.
- Jane Shore (1915): Elizabeth was played by Maud Yates.
- Tower of London (1939): Elizabeth was played by Barbara O'Neil.
- Richard III (1955): Elizabeth was portrayed by Mary Kerridge.
- In the Hungarian TV movie III. Richárd (1973) Elizabeth was played by Rita Békés.
- Richard III (1995): Elizabeth was played by Annette Bening.
- Looking For Richard (1996): Elizabeth was played by Penelope Allen.
- Richard III (2005): Elizabeth was played by Caroline Burns Cooke.
- Richard III (2008): Elizabeth was played by María Conchita Alonso.
- An Age of Kings (1960): Elizabeth is portrayed by Jane Wenham.
- Wars of the Roses (1965): Elizabeth was played by Susan Engel.
- The Third Part of Henry the Sixth and The Tragedy of Richard III (1983): Elizabeth was played by Rowena Cooper.
- The White Queen (2013): Elizabeth will be portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson.
- Karen Lindsey, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived, xviii, Perseus Books, 1995
- Myers, p. 182 n.2; Smith, p. 28.
- Hicks, Michael (2004), "Elizabeth (c.1437–1492) (subscription required)[[Category:Pages containing links to subscription-only content]]", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press), doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8634, retrieved 25 September 2010 Wikilink embedded in URL title (help)
- Jane Bingham, The Cotswolds: A Cultural History, (Oxford University Press, 2009), 66
- Robert Fabian, The New Chronicles of England and France, ed. Henry Ellis (London: Rivington, 1811), 654; “Hearne’s Fragment of an Old Chronicle, from 1460-1470,” The Chronicles of the White Rose of York. (London: James Bohn, 1845), 15-16.
- Ralph A. Griffiths, "The Court during the Wars of the Roses". In Princes Patronage and the Nobility: The Court at the Beginning of the Modern Age, cc. 1450–1650. Edited by Ronald G. Asch and Adolf M. Birke. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-19-920502-7. 59-61.
- Boutell, Charles (1863), A Manual of Heraldry, Historical and Popular, London: Winsor & Newton, p. 277
- Blazon of Woodville quoted from: , The House of York
- Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1467-77, pg. 190.
- Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, "A 'Most Benevolent Queen;'"Laynesmith, pp. 111, 118-19.
- C. T. Wood, "Richard III, William, Lord Hastings and Friday the Thirteenth", in R. A. Griffiths and J. Sherborne (eds.), Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Ages, New York, 1986, 156–61.
- Charles Ross, Richard III, University of California Press, 1981 p81.
- Philipe de Commines, The memoirs of Philip de Commines, lord of Argenton, Volume 1, H.G. Bohn, 1855, pp.396-7.
- Genealogical Tables in Morgan, (1988), p. 709.
- Henry's claim to the throne was weak due to Henry IV's declaration barring the accession to the throne of any heirs of the legitimized offspring of his father, John of Gaunt (son of King Edward III) by his third wife Katherine Swynford. The original act legitimizing the children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford passed by Parliament and the bull issued by the Pope in the matter legitimised them fully, which made the legality of Henry IV's declaration questionable.
- Richard III and Yorkist History Server
- Arlene Okerlund, Elizabeth: England's Slandered Queen. Stroud: Tempus, 2006, 245.
- J. L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503, Oxford University Press, New York, 2004, pp.127-8.
- Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1467-77, pg. 190
- www.ews.northants.sch.uk/ - Elizabeth Woodville Secondary School .
Further reading 
- David Baldwin, Elizabeth Woodville (Stroud, 2002) 
- Christine Carpenter, The Wars of the Roses (Cambridge, 1997) 
- Michael Hicks, Edward V (Stroud, 2003) 
- Rosemary Horrox, Richard III: A Study of Service (Cambridge, 1989) 
- J.L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens (Oxford, 2004) 
- A. R. Myers, Crown, Household and Parliament in Fifteenth-Century England. London and Ronceverte: Hambledon Press, 1985.
- Arlene Okerlund, Elizabeth Wydeville: The Slandered Queen (Stroud, 2005); Elizabeth: England's Slandered Queen (paper, Stroud, 2006) 
- Charles Ross, Edward IV (Berkeley, 1974) 
- George Smith, The Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville. Gloucester: Gloucester Reprints, 1975 (originally published 1935).
- Anne Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs, "'A Most Benevolent Queen': Queen Elizabeth Woodville's Reputation, Her Piety, and Her Books", The Ricardian, X:129, June 1995. PP. 214–245.
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Title last held byMargaret of Anjou
|Queen consort of England
Lady of Ireland
1 May 1464 – 30 October 1470
Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou
|Queen consort of England
Lady of Ireland
11 April 1471 – 9 April 1483
Title next held byAnne Neville