Bridget of York

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Bridget of York
Born10 November 1480
Eltham Palace, London, England
Died1507 (aged 26 or 27)
Dartford Priory, Kent, England
FatherEdward IV of England
MotherElizabeth Woodville

Bridget of York (10 November 1480 – 1507) was an English princess, the tenth child and seventh daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. She was a nun at Dartford Priory.


Bridget was born to Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, the king and queen of England, in the royal manor house of Eltham, in Kent, now known as Eltham Palace, London, on 10 November 1480. She was baptised in the chapel there by Edward Story, the bishop of Chichester on 11 November 1480. Her godmothers at the baptismal font were her paternal grandmother, Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, and her oldest sister, Elizabeth of York. Her godfather was the aged William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester.[1]. The child was carried by Lady Margaret Beaufort, the wife of Lord Stanley, the steward of Edward IV's household.[1][2] Bridget's maternal aunt Lady Maltravers served as her godmother at her confirmation, which immediately followed the baptism.[1] Bridget was likely named after St. Bridget of Sweden.[3]

In the spring, or just possibly the summer, of 1483 Bridget was ill, lying 'sick the Wardrobe',[4] that is, in the storehouse and occasional royal residence just north of Baynard's Castle and the church of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe in the city of London. For much of 1483 and the early months of 1484, however, she was with her mother and older sisters in semi-confinement within the Sanctuary of Westminster Abbey.[4] The Sanctuary was a legally defined and protected area of relative safety within the boundary walls of the Abbey. It included both houses and shops.[5] Elizabeth Woodville had fled there on the night of 30 April 1483, for fear of Edward IV's younger brother who soon took the throne as King Richard III. She took with her all her daughters and her youngest surviving son, Richard, as well as much treasure and other possessions.[6][4] Bridget, along with her sisters and mother, emerged from sanctuary only after 1 March 1484, when Elizabeth Woodville finally made accommodation with Richard III.[7]

The death in 1485 of Richard III, the accession of Henry Tudor as Henry VII, and Henry's marriage to Bridget's eldest sister, Elizabeth of York, changed the dynamic. In November 1487, in the course of short-lived Anglo-Scottish marriage negotiations, Bridget, although not mentioned by name, was offered as a potential bride for the future James IV of Scotland, the alternative option being her elder sister, Anne, similarly unnamed.[8]


Dedication of Bridget to the nunnery at Dartford, as imagined by James Northcote (1822)

Bridget's parents may have decided at the time of her birth that this daughter would be dedicated to a religious life, and Bridget was entrusted to Dartford Priory, Dartford, Kent sometime between 1486 and 1492. She became a nun.[4] Dartford was a house of Dominican nuns, and the constitutions of the order prohibited full profession before the age of thirteen.[9] The nuns were dedicated to a contemplative life, meaning that they spent their time in prayer and spiritual recreation, such as devotional reading.[10] Indeed, in 1495 Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, Bridget's grandmother and godmother, left her three such books. Two were lives of holy women, St Catherine of Siena and Mechtild of Hackeborn. The third was a popular compendium of saints lives, the Legenda Aurea or Golden Legend, undoubtedly in the form of a translation.[11][12]

Evidence for financial support given to Bridget by her sister, Elizabeth of York, survives only for the last year of the queen's life. £3 6s 8d a quarter, that is, a total of twenty marks per year, was sent by messenger to the prioress for Bridget's expenses.[4][13] It seems likely, however, that this was an arrangement of long standing.[13] Bridget is known to have left Dartford on at least one occasion, when she attended the funeral of her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, in 1492.[14] The story of a supposed illegitimate child, Agnes of Eltham, and of financial support given to that child by the queen, are modern myths with no known historical foundation.[15]

Death and burial[edit]

One of two dates is often asserted to be the year of Bridget's death. That most commonly cited avers that Bridget died in, or about, 1517. This year date is derived from an unsourced statement made by the antiquarian John Weever in his Ancient Funerall Monuments, published in 1631.[1][4] Mary Everett Green, however, proposed an earlier date, suggesting that Bridget died in or before 1513. She based this statement on her reading of Thomas More's History of King Richard III, written, according to William Rastell, about 1513.[4]. Neither date is correct. Bridget was dead by December 1507, when her brother-in-law King Henry VII paid for a stone to cover her grave.[16] Bridget was laid to rest in the choir of the priory church. The tombstone, a ledger stone laid on the floor of the choir, was probably destroyed or reused in 1541, when Dartford Priory was largely demolished and remodelled as a royal manor house for her nephew King Henry VIII.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d Pauline Routh,'Princess Bridget', The Ricardian, June 1975,[1] pp. 13-14
  2. ^ Michael K. Jones and Malcom G. Underwood, (1992), The King's Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521345125, p. 60
  3. ^ Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs, The Royal Funerals of the House of York at Windsor, Richard III Society, 2005, p. 110.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Mary Anne Everett Green, Lives of the Princesses of England. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1857. Vol. 4, pp. 44-48.
  5. ^ H. F. Westlake, Westminster, a Historical Sketch, London, 1919, pp. 11-14.
  6. ^ David MacGibbon, Elizabeth Woodville: A Life (1938, reprint Amberley 2014), pp. 115-117 ISBN 9781445633138
  7. ^ David MacGibbon, Elizabeth Woodville: A Life (reprint 2014), pp. 142-146.
  8. ^ David MacGibbon, Elizabeth Woodville: A Life (reprint 2014), pp. 156-157.
  9. ^ Paul Lee, Nunneries, Learning and Spirituality in Late Medieval English Society: the Dominican Priory of Dartford, York Medieval Press (2001), pp. 30, 116 ISBN 1903153026
  10. ^ Paul Lee, Nunneries, Learning and Spirituality in Late Medieval English Society: the Dominican Priory of Dartford, p. 135.
  11. ^ Paul Lee, Nunneries, Learning and Spirituality in Late Medieval English Society: the Dominican Priory of Dartford, p. 169.
  12. ^ J. L. Laynesmith, Cecily, Duchess of York Bloomsbury Publishing (2017), p. 177 ISBN 9781474272261
  13. ^ a b Weir, Alison (7 November 2013). Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen. Random House. pp. 246, 388. ISBN 978-1-4481-9138-3.
  14. ^ Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, p. 73.
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b Margaret M. Condon, 'The Death and Burial of Bridget, Daughter of Edward IV: a Revised Chronology', The Ricardian, Vol. XXX (2020), pp. 101–111