Elizabeth Woodville (1434-1492)
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Elizabeth Woodville (1434-1492)

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Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV, was the mother of the two princes who were supposedly murdered by their Uncle Richard III in the Tower of London.

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Elizabeth Woodville (1434-1492)

The first English queen of native birth for 300 years, Elizabeth was the daughter of the Lancastrian Richard Woodville who had been a humble squire in the household of the Duke of Bedford, Henry VI's uncle, and had married his widow. She was first married to Sir John Grey who was killed fighting for Henry VI at St. Albans. She then managed to snare Edward IV, who had many mistresses both before and after his secret marriage to her, by determinedly resisting his advances after he had fallen in love with her, even to the point of preferring death at his hand to becoming one of them.

When Edward announced their marriage and that Elizabeth would be proclaimed queen some months later in 1464, the Yorkists and Warwicks were outraged humiliated and furious, and after the preferment of many of the Woodville relations, there was a general rising in 1469 led by Warwick. Elizabeth's father and his son were both executed, the king was forced to flee to France and Henry VI was put back on the throne. Elizabeth had to remain in London as she was heavily pregnant and found sanctuary in Westminster Abbey where she had their first son Edward. After her husband returned to trounce Warwick and then Margaret of Anjou, they had another son, Richard of York, and the succession seemed secure.

Edward became more self-indulgent in middle age and died in 1483, upon which his brother, Richard of Gloucester, seized the throne and imprisoned both his nephews in the Tower, where they both may well have been murdered. Elizabeth again took sanctuary at Westminster and remained there until she heard Richard had been killed by Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field, and that Henry wanted to marry her daughter Elizabeth.

However, once having ascended the throne the new king, Henry VII, wanted Elizabeth and her tiresome relations out of the way. So he arranged for all her properties to be seized and for her to be sent to the Abbey at Bermondsey, where she died in 1492, almost penniless. Elizabeth's coffin was then taken to Windsor and she was buried next to her husband Edward IV.

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