Poor Elizabeth of York

There really are better ways to spend your birthday… Today, the 11th February, in 1466 and 1503 respectively, saw the birth and death of Elizabeth of York, famed for her relationships with some of the biggest players in the Wars of the Roses, and in my opinion, a really interesting character.


I wasn’t sure what to make of Elizabeth when I first started researching for Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, set in the location she died, after giving birth to Katherine just days earlier, who sadly also passed away. That in itself was an event of note, marking the end of the Tower as a true royal palace, with very little activity after 1503, and other palaces being used in preference.

She was born to Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, in the far more luxurious Palace of Westminster, whilst her father was king, and yet also spent two long periods of time hidden in Westminster Abbey, seeking sanctuary when times seemed difficult for her and her mother and siblings, before eventually being buried with great respect there years later, by her apparently devoted husband, Henry VII. Walking past their tomb, you really are at the heart of things, in the beautiful Lady Chapel, and the care is evident. No side-tomb for this queen.

FB_IMG_1517300648464.jpgI deliberately didn’t include her in that first novel, even though it would have made perfect sense, because I didn’t want to introduce any reason for either Henry Tudor, father or son, to show up and distract from who I saw as the leading man in that story: Richard III. When it came to Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey however, I was ready to let at least one of them in, having worked out, to my annoyance, that Henry VII was the only lead male which made sense in the context of the story.

My knowledge of her, I’m ashamed to say, was based purely on fictional versions of her, but on reading more, I have come to the opinion (personal as it is) that she must have been a strong character, albeit at times a frustrated one, living, potentially, in the shadow of two other women: her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, and Henry’s, Margaret Beaufort. As with many young, marriageable women of her time, she was to many nothing more than a pawn in the power struggles of the day, being promised to whoever would be the most advantageous husband of the moment. She was likely always destined to be a queen, but of a foreign land, rather than England, due to the presence of her older brothers (let’s not get into that one!). Even she could probably see that as young girl.

To me, Elizabeth was the perfect counterbalance against Margaret Beaufort, her mother-in-law, and I loved getting to know her a bit more during my reading. Have you ever found your opinion changing about a character as you researched or wrote about them? I’d love to know!



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