Elizabeth Woodville enters Sanctuary at Westminster

When news reached London of the arrest of Earl Rivers, Queen Elizabeth sought refuge in Westminster Abbey. Earl Rivers had been in Ludlow when Edward IV died. He was overseeing the Prince of Wales’ household and preparing him for kingship. When Edward IV died, arrangements were made for Earl Rivers to escort the young King Edward V from Ludlow to London. At Stony Stratford, that escort had been brought to an end. Earl Rivers had been arrested and the 2000 strong escort replaced with one more to the liking of the dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham, along with lord Hastings. 

The arrest was due to suspicion of the Woodville Family. The positions that had been given to the Queens kin were the source of discontent among the old nobility. Now they were worried that they would seek to retain power through control of the child king’s minority. With that came the risk of them using the powers that could entail to seek political revenge on their opponents. The result of that suspicion, which was heightened by the Woodville’s show of force, was the arrest of Earl Rivers, Sir Richard Grey and Sir Thomas Vaughan.

If the Queen and her family had intended to rapidly acquire control of the young king’s Council and Government, the plot had been foiled at the outset. If there was no plot, the arrests would be alarming to the Queen and her family. Either way, the tensions between the Woodville Family, Edward IV’s Household, and established nobility was heightened to the point of the Queen and the rest of her family being at risk. The Queen’s solution was to take herself and her other children into the safety of Sanctuary at Westminster Abbey.

Elizabeth Woodville enters Sanctuary at Westminster

These reports having reached London on the following night, queen Elizabeth betook herself, with all her children, to the sanctuary at Westminster. In the morning you might have seen there the adherents of both parties, some sincerely others treacherously, on account of the uncertainty of events, siding with the one party or the other. For some collected their forces at Westminster in the queen’s name, others at London under the shadow of the lord Hastings, and took up their position there.

(3rd Continuation of the Croyland Chronicle)

The Little Sanctuary. Elizabeth Woodville entered Sanctuary at Westminster on 30th April 1483
The Little Sanctuary, Westminster

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Westminster Sanctuary. From Luminarium.

The Little Sanctuary, Westminster. Walter Thornbury, ‘Westminster Abbey: The sanctuary and almonry’, in Old and New London: Volume 3 (London, 1878), pp. 483-491. British History Online [accessed 24 March 2022].


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