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Marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

The marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville took place in secret with just a handful of witnesses on 1 May 1464. Edward, as King, was expected to marry somebody of royal blood. Marriage was a diplomatic tool, cementing alliances. Indeed, the Earl of Warwick was negotiating such a marriage.

Elizabeth Woodville, not an ideal bride for a king

Elizabeth Woodville was far an ideal choice as a royal bride. She was the widow of a Lancastrian noble killed in battle fighting against Edward, though her mother was Jacquetta of Luxemburg.

Responses to the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

It is widely believed that Elizabeth had refused Edward’s suggestions that she should become his mistress. The theory goes that he was so besotted that he chose to marry her. Though Elizabeth herself came from noble stock, the marriage when revealed sent shockwaves through court.

Edward IV shown meeting Elizabeth Woodville for the first time at Stony Stratford
Edward IV is said to have first met Elizabeth Woodville when she waited to petition him in person. This took place near Stony Straford, where Elizabeth waited for the king by a tree now known as the Queens Oak.

Secret marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

Nonetheless, the marriage lasted to Edward’s death and produced many children, the most notable of whom were the uncrowned Edward V and his brother Richard, The Princes in the Tower, along with Elizabeth of York who was destined to marry Henry Tudor and, like her mother, become Queen Consort.

Following Edward’s death at an early age, the legality of the marriage with Elizabeth Woodville was questioned. It was stated that Edward was precontracted to marry Eleanor Butler, an assertion accepted by the Three Estates which declared the marriage null and void. This was stated in Titulus Regis, though overturned upon Henry Tudor‘s accession to the throne.

Source material on the marriage of Edward IV to Elizabeth Woodville

After this, king Edward, prompted by the ardour of youth. and relying Entirely on his own choice^ without consnlting the nobles of the kingdom, privately married the widow of a certain knight, Elizabeth by name ; who, thoagh she had only a knight for her father, had a duchess for her mother; and shortly after he had her solemnly crowned queen. This the nobility and chief men of the kingdom took amiss, seeing that he had with such immoderate haste promoted a person sprung from a comparatively humble lineage, to share the throne with him.

From the Croyland (Crowland) Chronicle

Links on the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

A Level lesson on the relationship between Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. 

Image credits

Featured image: marrisge of Edward IV to Elizabeth Woodville. Anciennes Chroniques d’Angleterre.

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