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ELIZABETH WOOD WILLE,
QUEEN OF EDWARD IV.
Unequal royal marriages—Parents of Elizabeth Woodville—She is maid of honour to Margaret of Anjou-Duke of York writes to Elizabeth—Earl of Warwick writes to her for his friend—She rejects sir Hugh Johns—Accepts the heir of lord Ferrers, John Gray—Elizabeth's sons born at Bradgate—Her husband killed at St. Alban's—Elizabeth's destitute widowhood–Captivates Edward IV.! Their meetings—The queen's oak-Private marriage with the king—Opposition of the king's mother—Recognition of Elizabeth as queen—Her sisters— Her brother, Anthony Woodville—Scene at her court–Coronation—Enmity of queen Isabella of Castile—Elizabeth endows Queen's college—Birth of her eldest daughter—Warwick’s enmity to the queen—Portrait of the queen— Her influence—Her father and eldest brother murdered—Her mother accused of witchcraft—Revolution—Edward IV.'s flight—Queen and her mother at the Tower—Flight to sanctuary—Birth of prince Edward—Queen's distress— Her humble friends—Return of Edward IV.-Queen leaves sanctuary for the Tower–Her brother Anthony defends the Tower—Re-establishment of the house of York—The queen's friends rewarded.
The fifteenth century was remarkable for unequal marriages made by persons of royal station. Then, for the first time since the reigns of our Plantagenets commenced, was broken that high and stately etiquette of the middle ages, which forbade king or kaiser to mate with partners below the rank of princess. In that century, the marriage of the handsome Edward IV. with an English gentlewoman caused as much astonishment at the wondrous archery of Dan Cupid as was fabled of old,—
“When he shot so true,
But the mother of Elizabeth Woodville had occasioned scarcely less wonder in her day, when, following the example of her sister-in-law, queen Katherine, she, a princess of Luxembourg
by birth, and (as the widow of the warlike duke of Bedford) the third lady of the realm, chose for her second helpmate another squire of Henry V., Richard Woodville, who was considered the handsomest man in England. This marriage was occasioned by the accident of sir Richard Woodville' being appointed as the commander of the guard which escorted the young duchess of Bedford to England. The marriage of the duchess of Bedford and Richard Woodville was kept secret full five years. Its discovery took place about the same time as that of the queen with Owen Tudor; and certainly the duke of Gloucester (though his own loveaffairs were quite as astounding to the nation) must have thought his two sisters-in-law had gone distracted with love for squires of low degree. What scandals, what court gossip, must have circulated throughout England in the year of grace 1436 . The duchess's dower was forfeited in consequence of her marriage with Woodville, but restored, on her humble supplication to parliament, through the influence of her husband's patron, cardinal Beaufort. Grafton-castle was the principal residence of the duchess. Probably Elizabeth Woodville was born there, about 1431, some years before the discovery of her parents' marriage.” Her father, sir Richard Woodville, was one of the English commanders at Rouen under the duke of York, during that prince's regency.” After the death of the unfortunate queen-mother Katherine, and that of the queen-dowager Joanna, the duchess of Bedford became for some time, in rank, the first lady in England, and always possessed a certain degree of influence in consequence. Her husband was in the retinue sent to escort Margaret of Anjou to England;’ he was afterwards rapidly advanced at court, made baron, and finally earl of Rivers, and the duchess of Bedford became a great favourite of the young queen. The duchess was still second lady in England, yet her rank was many degrees more exalted than her fortune; therefore, as her children grew up, she was glad to provide for them at the court of her friend, queen Margaret. Her eldest daughter, the beautiful Elizabeth Woodville, was appointed maid of honour' to that queen, little deeming that she was one day to fill her place on the English throne. While yet in attendance on her royal mistress, she captured the heart of a brave knight, sir Hugh Johns, a great favourite of Richard duke of York. Sir Hugh had nothing in the world wherewithal to endow the sair Woodville but a sword, whose temper had been proved in many a battle in France; he was, moreover, a timid wooer, and, very unwisely, deputed others to make the declaration of ove which he wanted courage to speak himself. Richard duke if York was protector of England when he thus, in regal tyle, recommended his landless vassal to the love of her, who was one day to share the diadem of his heir:—
* After the death of Henry V., he was in the service of the duke of Bedford, then regent of France: Richard Woodville was his partisan. He is named in chronicle as holding out the Tower for him against Humphrey duke of Gloucester. * All history affirms that Elizabeth was thirty-three in 1464. * Monstrelet, vol. ii. p. 114: new edition * Prekmoke Computus.
“To DAME ELIZABETH Wodevi L.L.E.” “Right trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well.
"Forasmuch as we are credibly informed that our right hearty and welloved knight sir Hugh John, for the great womanhood and gentleness approved no known in your person—ye being sole, [single, and to be married—his heart holly have; wherewith we are right well pleased. Howbeit your disposition owards him in that behalf as yet, is to us unknown. We therefore, as for he faithful, true, and good lordship we owe unto him at this time, (and so will ontinue.) desire and heartily pray ye will on your part be to him well-willed to he performing of this our writing and his desire. Wherein ye shall do not only bour pleasure, but, we doubt not, to your own great weal and worship in time * come; certifying, that if ye fulfil our intent in this matter, we will and shall * to him and you such lord, as shall be to both your great weal and worship, by he grace of God, who precede and guide you in all heavenly felicity and welfare.
“Written by RICHARD, DURE of York.”
Even if Elizabeth's heart had responded to this earnest appeal if her lover's princely master, yet she was too slenderly gifted by fortune to venture on a mere love-match. She probably lemurred on this point, and avoided returning a decisive inswer, for her delay elicited a second letter on the subject ofsir Hugh's great love and affection. This time it was from
'Parliamentary History, vol. ii. p. 345. Hall's Chronicle, p.365. Bucke and likewise dwell on this circumstance.
‘Bih. Reg. 17, b. xlvii, fol. 164, vol. clov. &c. This and the following letters, *h are not yet named in the catalogue of the British Museum, were discovered * the indefatigable research of Mr. Halliwell, and with great liberality com*iated to the author. Their biographical value every one will perceive. "The name is spelled Wodeville in the MS. letters, though one of the addresses **Pelled Wodehill; but this is a mere slip of the transcriber's pen, as it is evi** both are addressed to the same person.