The History Makers: Elizabeth Woodville |

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The History Makers: Elizabeth Woodville

The marriage of a Lancastrian widow to a Yorkist king left the country reeling, and was one that ended – perhaps inevitably – in tragedy. Lottie Goldfinch explains
Elizabeth is perhaps best remembered for being the mother of the ill-fated Princes in the Tower

In early 1464, so legend has it, a young woman stood patiently beneath the branches of an oak tree near the royal hunting ground of Whittlewood Forest, Northamptonshire. A widow with two young sons to provide for, she was willing to wait as long as it took to win back the inheritance that was being denied them.

The lady in question was Elizabeth Woodville, the beautiful widow of Sir John Grey and daughter of Sir Richard Woodville, a local landowner. The man she was waiting for was the handsome 22-year-old King, Edward IV. Sure enough, Edward and his party eventually approached Elizabeth, whereupon she pleaded with him to return lands seized after her husband’s death in battle three years earlier.

The young King is said to have been instantly smitten with Elizabeth, who is described by contemporaries as “the most beautiful woman in the Island of Britain” with “heavy-lidded eyes like those of a dragon”. Whether in lust (Elizabeth allegedly refused to become Edward’s mistress) or love, the pair were secretly married at some point before September 1464. The following year, on 26 May 1465, Elizabeth was crowned That Westminster Abbey in a lavish coronation, cementing her rise from commoner to Queen Consort.

Both Woodville’s family and her first husband were supporters of the House of Lancaster – the King’s rivals
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"From raiders to invades: Medievalist Dr Ryan Lavelle tells the story of how the Vikings dropped their hit-and-run tactics and instead banded together to form a Great Heathen Army, eventually conquering a large part of Britain. Also in the issue, find out how a Lancastrian widow came to marry a Yorkist king during the Wars of the Roses, and what happened when a German monk dared to take on the Pope with a 500-anniversary feature on Martin Luther's Reformation. Plus, inside Hitler's last gamble at the Battle of the Bulge, the spy who tried to kill Lenin and the Atomic Age in pictures."