…that with my soul I love thy daughter and do intend to make her Queen of England.

That Richard III intended to marry his brother’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, is a rumour that we can date back to 1483. It made its way into Tudor-era chronicles, ballads and eventually into Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Richard III. The sinister depictions of Richard’s intentions can be attributed to contemporary attitudes. When the rumours began to spread in Richard’s own court that he was considering marrying his niece, his supporters told him his actions were “to the extreme abhorrence of the Almighty”.

Yet it is far more sinister to depict uncle and niece of having indeed been in love, and worse, having had a sexual relationship. Tudor and Elizabethan writers usually presented Elizabeth as the victim of her uncle’s evil intentions, or lust in some cases. Modern fiction writers, however, are starting to present Elizabeth as the victim of her husband Henry Tudor. Although we can date Henry Tudor’s “dark prince” back to Francis Bacon, he certainly never accused Elizabeth of pining for her dead lover while trapped in a marriage with the man who defeated him and shattered her dreams. The relationship between Elizabeth of York and her uncle King Richard III has long been debated. Was Richard truly intent on marrying his niece?

Westminster Abbey – 1484

After the death of Edward IV in April 1483 and Richard III’s subsequent seizure of King Edward V, Elizabeth Woodville fled with her five daughters to Sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. After the disappearance of her two sons, Edward and Richard of Shrewsbury, her eldest daughter Elizabeth of York was considered by some as the rightful heir to the throne, and was becoming a focus for rebellion. By March of 1484 Westminster Abbey was under siege and Richard was pressuring Elizabeth Woodville to leave Sanctuary. After almost twelve months in sanctuary and probably in fear for her safety, the Queen Dowager struck the best bargain that she could manage, forcing Richard to swear an unprecedented public oath before she would agree to take herself and her daughters out of Sanctuary.

…promise and swear on the word of a king, and upon these holy evangelies [Gospels] of God, by me personally touched, that if the daughters of Dame Elizabeth Grey, late calling herself Queen of England, that is, Elizabeth, Cecily, Anne, Katherine, and Bridget, will come unto me out of the sanctuary of Westminster, and be guided, ruled, and demeaned after me, then I shall see that they shall be in surety of their lives, and also not suffer any manner hurt in their body by any manner [of] person or persons to them, or any of them in their bodies and persons by way of ravishment or defouling contrary to their wills, not them or any of them imprison within the Tower of London or other prison; but that I shall put them in honest places of good name and fame, and them honestly and courteously shall see to be founden and entreated, and to have all things requisite and necessary for their exhibitions [display] and findings [domestic arrangements] as my kinswomen… 1

There has been some speculation that in this bargain, Elizabeth Woodville agreed to a marriage between Elizabeth of York and Richard III. During her time in Sanctuary, Elizabeth Woodville had arranged a bethrothal between Margaret Beaufort’s son Henry Tudor and her daughter Elizabeth of York. They were still considered betrothed when Elizabeth of York was sent to court under her uncle’s guardianship. That Elizabeth Woodville agreed to Richard marrying her daughter is mainly the speculation of modern historians, and for the most part those eager to slander Elizabeth Woodville by claiming she was greedily trying to restore her own position by placing her daughter on the throne. There is no evidence for this, and Richard was not actively seeking a new wife at this point. Although Anne Neville’s health was beginning to fail, his son Edward, was still alive. Sadly he would die only a few weeks later.

Anne Neville and Richard III

Anne Neville and Richard III

Christmas

Later in March Elizabeth of York went to court and joined Queen Anne’s household, where her famed beauty was attracting a great deal of attention. But at the end of that month tragedy struck, Richard and Anne lost their only son, Edward Prince of Wales. It was a terrible blow to the couple and to their marriage, Amy Licence noting that it was “as if Edward had been a bond that broke them with his death”. 2 Anne’s illness became progressively worse. Polydore Vergil said that Richard was complaining to a number of courtiers that Anne could no longer give him an heir. It is unclear exactly when the rumours about Richard and Elizabeth began, but they were certainly reaching their peak by Christmas of 1484. According to the Croyland Chronicle:

“There may be many other things that are not written in this book and of which it is shameful to speak, but let it not go unsaid that during this Christmas festival, an excessive interest was displayed in singing and dancing and to vain changes of apparel presented to Queen Anne and the Lady Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the late King, being of similar color and shape: a thing that caused the people to murmur and the nobles and prelates greatly to wonder at, while it was said by many that the King was bent either on the anticipated death of the Queen taking place, or else by means of a divorce, for which he supposed he had quite sufficient grounds, on contracting a marriage with the said Elizabeth. For it appeared that in no other way could his kingly power be established, or the hopes of his rival being put an end to.”3

Why did this cause such a scandal? Strict sumptuary laws restricted the wearing of luxurious materials to the upper ranks of society. Since Richard had declared all of the children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville illegitimate, to have Elizabeth arrayed in the same manner as the Queen was seen as shocking. Croyland discusses the anticipated death of Queen Anne, alluding that Richard had discussed divorce prior to Anne becoming seriously ill.

This incident can be, and has been interpreted in several ways. In the eyes of the court, according to Croyland, he was publicly displaying his niece as equal in rank to his Queen. Alison Weir conjectures that Queen Anne would hardly have suggested that Elizabeth appear in similar clothing to her out of kindness, knowing the comment it would cause. “It could only have been King Richard, eager to discountenance Henry Tudor, who ordered that Elizabeth appear dressed as a queen; and in that he showed scant regard for her reputation or for his ailing wife.” 4 According to Vergil, the rumours of their alleged marriage plans reached Henry Tudor in France it “pinched him by the very stomach“.

One could consider Richard was publicly displaying his niece as equal in rank to his Queen. But did Richard really supervise Anne’s wardrobe? It is more likely that Queen Anne was simply being kind to her niece.

Some modern historians even claim that Elizabeth was deliberately trying to outshine the Queen, an act of antipathy from a teenage girl in love with her uncle. We would have to then accept that Elizabeth was in the position to influence what the Queen would wear to an important court occasion, and this is hardly likely.

The most likely scenario is a show of friendship and solidarity. The young Elizabeth paying homage to the fashion set by the queen. However if it was the Queen’s intention to display her friendship towards her niece, according to Croyland, it was ill-received.

All th’issue and Children of the Said King been Bastards

The five daughters f Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV - Royal Window, Northwest Transept, Canterbury Cathedral

The five daughters of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV – Royal Window, Northwest Transept, Canterbury Cathedral

Why would Richard III want to marry his brother’s daughter who he had deemed illegitimate? There would have been some obvious immediate advantages for Richard. He had lost both his wife and son in the space of a year, and with a tenuous hold on the throne, an heirless king was vulnerable. Elizabeth was young, beautiful and most importantly, her mother and grandmother had excellent childbearing records. Restoring Elizabeth of York to royal status would have also reigned in the disaffected Yorkists still loyal to the memory of Edward IV and resistant to Richard’s rule because of his treatment of Edward’s sons. Such an alliance and the hope of a prince or princess in the cradle may have afforded Richard a little more time to win people over.

But there was of course two problems. The obvious problem was the blood relation. It is possible the Pope may have issued a dispensation. But Richard could not marry someone of the rank he had imposed on Elizabeth. Even her mother who was considered “common” was of higher rank than Elizabeth at this point, with Richard affording her the title “Dame Grey” from her first marriage. Richard would have had to make Elizabeth of York legally legitimate again, and would then have to acknowledge that her missing brothers were also legitimate, who would then revert to the position of rightful heirs to the throne. A throne Richard had only been able to take after deeming the boys illegitimate.

Loyalte me lye

There is no real evidence of either Elizabeth or Richard’s actual feelings for each other. While it is becoming popular for Richard to be depicted as a sort of romantic hero, there is no doubt he was entirely unconcerned with romance when it came to choosing his future bride. Richard was more pragmatic than his brother Edward IV in that department. However it seems uncle and niece were on good terms while she was at court, good enough that he sent her a gift of two books. Both books had belonged to Richard when he was Duke of Gloucester. To give her two of his own books as gifts shows that he must have held her in some esteem. One of the books, Boethius’s Consolatio Philosophiae, bears Richard’s motto “Loyalte me lye”, likely written by Elizabeth and bearing her signature underneath. The other contains the inscription, not necessarily in Richard’s hand, “Iste liber constat Ricardo Duci Gloucestre”. On the same page Elizabeth wrote the motto she had chosen for herself, “sans removyr (without changing), Elyzabeth”. 5

It is certain that she inscribed the books before she became Queen, her signature later read Elysabeth ye Queene and her personal motto “Humble and Reverent“. It is curious that she chose to inscribe the books with his motto. Perhaps Elizabeth was envisioning a future as Richard III’s Queen. Or perhaps it was just another show of solidarity.

Fortune had turned against Elizabeth several times before, she was raised in an environment where one must learn to adapt and survive. It is likely that the idea of the marriage had been discussed, whether rumour or fact. But it is not evidence, as some have speculated, that she was in love with her uncle. In the end Elizabeth would have had little choice in the matter of her marriage, as her guardian, the decision would be made by Richard. As for Richard’s marriage, a King’s marriage was a matter of state.

Elizabeth-of-York-sig

Elysabeth ye Queene

The Cat and the Rat

Croyland said that “the King’s plan and intention to marry Elizabeth, his close blood relation, was related to some who were opposed to it and, after the council had been summoned, the king was compelled to make his excuses at length, saying that such a thing had never entered his mind. There were some at that council who knew well enough that the contrary was true.” Sir Richard Ratcliffe and Sir William Catesby “whose wills the king scarcely ever dared to oppose” told Richard “to his face, that if he did not deny any such purpose and did not counter it by public declaration…the northerners, in whom he placed the greatest trust, would all rise against him, charging him with the death of the Queen.”6

Ratcliffe and Catesby were said to have brought Richard proof in the form of several priests that the Pope would never sanction the marriage. Avunculate marriage, that is marriage between and uncle and niece or aunt and nephew, was very unusual at the time. King Ferdinand II married his aunt Joanna of Naples but that was not until 1496, more than a decade later and under Pope Alexander VI.

In addition, Croyland claimed that they had brought in “over a dozen Doctors of theology who asserted that the Pope had no power of dispensation over that degree of consanguinity.” This sheds some light on the idea that historical fiction authors enjoy perpetuating, that incest was not “unusual”. Richard was then compelled to publicly deny the charges and “in the great hall at St. John’s in the presence of the mayor and citizens of London and in a clear, loud voice carried out fully the advice to make a denial of this kind.7

Elizabeth of York was packed up and shipped off to Sheriff Hutton. Sometime after March Richard began negotiating for a marriage alliance with Portugal. It was the negotiations for this marriage that Elizabeth may have been discussing in her now-notorious letter to John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, that has fuelled the wildest rumours of all.

George-Bucks-Richard-III

The Buck Letter

There are two George Bucks. The first George Buck was an antiquarian who served King James I as his master of Revels. Buck’s most important work, his History of the Life and Reign of Richard II was not published until after his death. Buck happened upon the previously undiscovered Croyland Chronicle, containing Richard III’s suppressed act of Parliament,Titulus Regius, which had declared Edward IV’s children illegitimate. Although Henry VII had ordered all copies of it destroyed, the chronicler had copied the text and Buck was able to reproduce it. Buck’s work was largely based on the original manuscript of the Chronicle and is an extremely important early history.

But one of Buck’s discoveries that historians have spent the last few decades arguing over, is the letter from Elizabeth of York to the Duke of Norfolk.

Historians have long debated the authenticity of the letter and of Buck’s credentials. But historian A.N. Kincaid, who edited a new edition of Buck’s Richard III in 1979, believed Buck’s sources were reliable. Unfortunately the original letter from Elizabeth of York is lost. Buck claims to have seen it in the private collection of the Earl of Arundel and reproduced the text. Buck’s original manuscript has survived, complete with notes and revisions from his great-nephew, also George Buck. But it was damaged by fire in the 18th century and parts of the text are missing or illegible.

This is what remains of the original text of George Buck’s manuscript:

“…st she thanked him for his many Curtesies and friendly
…as before…
in the cause of…
and then she prayed him to be a mediator for her to the K…
ge who (as she wrote) was her onely joy and maker in…
Worlde, and that she was his…harte, in thoughts, in…and in all, and then she intimated that the better halfe of Ffe…was paste, and that she feared the Queene would neu.…”

The second George Buck (Junior) took his great-uncle’s manuscript, revised it heavily and it published it as his own. This is a copy of the letter from the edition available online:

“When the midst and last of February was past, the Lady Elizabeth, being more impatient and jealous of the success anyone knew or conceived, writes a letter to the Duke of Norfolk, intimating first that he was the man in whom she affied, in respect of that love her father had ever bore him, etc. Then she congratulates his many courtesies and friendly offices, in continuance of which she desires him, as before, to be a mediator for her to the King in the behalf of the marriage propounded between them; who, as she wrote, was her only joy and maker in the world; and that she was his in heart and thought, withal insinuating that the better part of February was past, and that she feared the Queen would never die.”8

This text is reproduced from the manuscript held in the British Library (Egerton 2216):

But when the midst, and last of ffebruary was past, the Lady Elizabeth (beinge more impatient and suspitious of ye successe, then every one knewe, or conceived ) wrote a letter to the Duke of Norffe: Intimateinge first therein, that hee was the man, in whome shee most affyed, and that she had reason soe to doe, knowinge the King her fathr much loved hym, and that hee had been a very faith=full servant vnto hym, and to the Kinge his brother, then raigninge, and serviceable to all king Edwa: Children; then shee congratu=lates, his many courtesyes, and friend=ly offices, in continuance of which, shee desires hym, to bee a mediator to [hym]\the king/ for her, in the behalfe of the marriage propounded betweene them, whoe (as shee wrote) was her onely ioye, and maker in this world, and that shee was his \in/ hart, in, thought, in body, and in all; insinua=tinge, that the best part of ffebr: was past, and that shee feared the Queene would never dye;”9

This text is from A.N. Kincaid’s 1976 edition of Buck’s History:

[[]But when the mid]st and more days of February were gone, [the Lady Eli]zabeth, being very desirous to be married, and growing not only impatient of delays, but also suspicious of the [success,] wrote a letter to Sir John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, intimating first therein that [he was the] one in whom she most [affied,] because she knew the king her father much lov[ed him,] and that he was a very faithful servant unto him and to [the king his brother then reign]ing, and very loving and serviceable to King Edward’s children.
First she thanked him for his many courtesies and friendly [offices, an]d then she prayed him as before to be a mediator for her in the cause of [the marriage] to the k[i]ng, who, as she wrote,  was her only joy and maker in [this] world, and that she was his in heart and in thoughts, in [body,] and in all. And then she intimated that the better half of Fe[bruary] was past, and that she feared the queen would nev[er die.]”
10

The word “body” has been seen as suggestive and having sexual connotations by some historians. Alison Weir told us “I don’t take that view nowadays. But when I was researching that book, A.N. Kincaid’s new translation (or rather, reconstruction) of the controversial letter on which that theory rests had not long been published, and for the first time historians could read how Elizabeth declared that she was the King’s in heart, in thought, in body and in all. The words ‘in body’ had never appeared in previous versions of the letter, so it looked as if they had been censored. I was not the only historian to interpret them as referring to a sexual relationship. But on reflection I think they mean something else entirely.” 11

We cannot use the heavily reconstructed letter to prove that Elizabeth of York was longing to marry her uncle. Had the letter even been referring to any marriage, and this remains unclear, it may have been referring to a marriage Richard was arranging for Elizabeth of York, and not necessarily to him.

Manuel I of Portugal

Manuel I of Portugal

Portuguese Interlude

Proposed plans for a double-marriage alliance with Portugal were discovered in the 1980s. Because the discovery is so recent it has been embraced with far more enthusiasm than it probably deserves.

Sometime after March of 1485 Richard had entered into negotiations to marry the Infanta Joanna, the sister of John II of Portugal, and his cousin the Duke of Beja to marry an unnamed ‘daughter of Edward IV’. On the 22nd of March 1485 Sir Edward Brampton went on an embassy to Portugal, but we have no record of the marriage negotiations being entered into on this first visit. The negotiations may have commenced after this first visit.

Another point to consider is that the later negotiations never mentioned Elizabeth of York by name. Sir Edward Wydeville mentioned the proposed marriage alliance between the Duke of Beja and one of Edward’s daughters after Elizabeth of York was already married to Henry Tudor. Edward mentioned the possibility of a marriage Elizabeth’s younger sister Cecily. How serious this was is unclear, Edward was on a social visit on his way back to England, and not an embassy.

Moreover there is no evidence that Richard himself was particularly attached to the idea. Joanna was an infinitely unsuitable choice for a bride, she was 33 and had spent much of her life in a convent. Joanna had never given birth, meaning there was no guarantee of a much-needed heir. Her Lancastrian ties could hardly have been more important than a prince. Richard needed a young and fertile wife.

We should also consider that sending Elizabeth of York abroad might not have been the brightest political move. Elizabeth could have been the possible focus for rebellion. Richard would have been far better off keeping her close by and marrying her off to one of his own loyal men.

The Portuguese marriage negotiations commenced well after the rumours that Richard wanted to marry his niece were brewing. They are not proof that he never intended to marry his niece, they are, in fact, largely irrelevant. The best defence is common sense.

To gratify an incestuous passion…

A romantic depiction of Elizabeth of York by Edward Corbould – 19th Century

While we have seen several entirely imaginary depictions of romantic love between uncle and niece in fiction recently, the one thing we can almost positively rule out is sexual intercourse. Elizabeth had left sanctuary in March of 1484 and was at court soon after. Had they been sleeping together it is almost certain that Elizabeth would have conceived, for she conceived on either the first or one of the first few occasions she slept with her husband Henry Tudor. Prince Arthur was born eight months after the wedding, either he was premature, or Henry and Elizabeth decided to start trying to conceive just before the wedding.

Of course it cannot be ruled out that either Elizabeth was using contraception, or that Richard’s fertility can be questioned – it had been many years since he fathered a child – but we are beginning to grasp at straws here. There are no mentions of Richard being unfaithful to his wife Anne. And it is extremely unlikely Richard III would risk his somewhat tenuous position and his own reputation to have extra-marital sex with his own niece, or that he would have risked ruining her reputation.

And Elizabeth’s reputation was spotless, when she eventually became Queen. Vergil says Richard “had kept her unharmed with a view to marriage.” Catesby and Ratcliffe accused Richard of wanting to “gratify an incestuous passion for his niece”.12 The word gratify clearly indicates that there was no rumour at the time that Richard had done so.

But then even the Cat and the Rat may have had the wrong of him. Was it passion, or practicality?

Dynastic marriages were made with alliances and advantages in mind, not with love or sexual attraction. Had Richard seriously considered marrying his niece, he would have been considering that she was a focus of rebellion for disaffected Yorkists, that by marrying her he may win their loyalty and keep the threat of rebellion at bay. That Elizabeth could produce a large family for him was almost guaranteed. Yet when faced with dissension he moved on. If he had indeed considered it at all. Richard had lost his son and his wife, and needed an heir. He was in the market for a wife, not a romance. As for Elizabeth’s feelings on the matter, they are ultimately irrelevant. Elizabeth of York was in no position to do anything other than what she was told.

However fate, or Henry Tudor, would deal them both a different hand.


Updated: 17/03/2015

  1. Okerlund, Arlene Elizabeth of York Palgrave Macmillan 2011, pg 33/34
  2. Licence, Amy Anne Neville: Richard III’s Tragic Queen, Amberley Publishing 2013, pg 522 (iBooks version)
  3. Pronay, Nicholas; Cox, John; The Croyland Chronicle Continuations 1459-1486 Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 1986 p. 175
  4. Weir, Alison Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen, Jonathan Cape 2013, pg 122
  5. Weir, Alison Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen, Jonathan Cape 2013, pg 138
  6. Pronay, Nicholas; Cox, John; The Croyland Chronicle Continuations 1459-1486 Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 1986 p. 175
  7. Ibid
  8. Buck, George, The History of the Life and Reign of King Richard III
  9. Supplied by A.N. Kincaid, from B.L. MS. Egerton 2216 ff. 266V-267, Bodleian MS Malone 1 ff. 272v-273 and Fisher (Fisher Rare Books Room, U. of Toronto Library), ff. 273-273v
  10. Supplied by A.N. Kincaid
  11. The words in body were omitted in a print version, despite appearing in manuscript copies, see above
  12. Ingulph version of the Croyland Chronicles

About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.

14 Responses

  1. LauraS

    Portuguese royal records prove that Richard III was planning a double marriage into that royal house: himself to Joanna, sister of King John II, and Elizabeth to Manuel Duke of Beira, the future Manuel I. Oddly enough, the counterpart English records are missing (but then most of the official records of Richard’s reign did not survive the Tudors.) He had absolutely NO intention of marrying his niece.

  2. Jasmine

    What would have been the political gain and what would have been the political costs of such a thing as an uncle-niece marriage? It makes no sense, especially in the light of the recent discoveries in Portugal regarding the propose marriages mentioned in LauraS’s post above.

  3. Olga Hughes

    This is a pretty tricky subject Jasmine. When I first spoke to David Baldwin about it I was convinced there was no truth to the rumours but he seems to think differently and I respect his opinions.

    There is a three-month gap between Christmas and the official negotiations for the Portuguese marriage. The rumours that he wanted to marry her may well have started before Christmas but it is of course difficult to pinpoint. But I would assume that a marriage between them would have been discussed some time before Christmas, which was well before the negotiations with Portugal started.

    The political gain would not have outweighed the costs, in the end. It’s my personal opinion it may have been entertained at some point and then dropped. On the other hand it could have been a blatant rumour and Richard wanted it squashed. But I have always found it a bit curious Richard felt he needed to address this publicly but never spoke of the princes publicly.

    • Jasmine

      There is another explanation as to why the rumours started, but I am not completely convinced by it.

      It goes that in order to stop Henry Tudor talking about a marriage between himself and EoY, Richard allowed the idea that he would marry her himself to ‘leak’ and put paid to Henry’s plan. That he was forced to officially deny it was a result of how easily it was believed to be true.

      People cite evidence from Croyland about Elizabeth wearing the same colours and clothing as Queen Anne as pointing to some involvement by Richard – but this was a common practice with queens and their ladies. It may also have been that both Richard and Anne went out of their way to be kind to Elizabeth – she had lost her father, and seen her mother removed from her status as queen dowager, let alone having her own status called into question by the Titulus Regius – people may have mistaken kindness and affection for something else.

      With regard to David Baldwyn’s theories, after having read his The Lost Prince, and seeing how he threads together extremely tenuous flakes of information to make something entirely different (and straining one’s credulity in the process) I am not sure I would believe him about Richard’s and Elizabeth’s relationships.

      • Olga Hughes

        Well the Lost Prince theories are a rather different thing to his work on Richard himself, which is always balanced – and in my opinion of the the best introductory books on Richard. I think with attempting to exonerate Richard from the murder of the Princes historians can get a little creative – which is fine by me 🙂 But I think his work on Elizabeth Woodville has led him to believe that Richard and Elizabeth would have come to some sort of secret agreement.

        I don’t doubt that Richard and Anne were kind to Edward IV’s daughters at court. And I think Elizabeth of York was fond of her uncle, but no more than that. I have heard that theory before, that Richard was involved in the rumours being spread but but I am not convinced by it either.

  4. Jasmine

    I must try to read Baldwin’s EW book – I’ve seen it in the shops and flicked through it.

    The disappearance of the boys is always the elephant in the room! 😀 Perhaps Richard did not speak of them because he wished them to fade from people’s memories. Personally, I think they were moved from The Tower sometime after the last public sighting of them. But there is no evidence about them after that date at all – and until something turns up, historians will continue to be creative…….

  5. Amazing

    There is a few things that should be pointed out. Here on the marriage of Richard and Anne deteriorating after the death of Edward of Middleham. There isn’t that much proof for this. Vergil sites that he complained to Archbishop Rotterham, now first it should be mentioned that Rotterham was not a supporter of Richard III, so the fact that Richard went to him to talk about Anne should raise the corners of your ears. Even Vergil seems to realize this because he then mentions that he went to Rotterham because Richard needed a good moral man. In general Vergil is very unreliable when it comes to Richard III. It has then been expanded based on Vergil’s account that Richard went to Rotterham that Richard went around talking about Anne’s lack of fertility. To me this strikes me as very unusually account, even when Henry VIII was attempting to seek an annulment from Catherine of Aragon he very publicly said that he was worried about his own mortal soul, and that he was hoping the Pope would make the marriage legally sound. All the while we know Henry was trying to use every trick he could to get the annulment. Public images for Kings were everything, I just very much doubt the idea that Richard ever was publiclly cruel to Anne or made comments about her in such a fashion. It really goes against what we know Kings would do in the era.
    We’ll never know how they’re marriage truly was but I don’t see enough evidence that Richard and Anne were separated post Edward’s deaths. They seemed to be in the same residence and Richard did have to publiclly state the reason for why he no longer shared her bed. This would have indicated that either A. Richard and Anne shared a room (Indicated extreme closeness) or that B. Richard spent so much time in Anne’s rooms (Or she him) that it was noticeable to the court. If they were living separate lives prior to January of 1485 there really would have been no reason for this announcement.
    So to me I very much disagree with Licence speculation that there marriage fell apart after the death of Prince Edward.
    Also I don’t think Richard would have had much room to complain about Anne’s fertility, one we don’t know if they had other children. It’s very possibly they did and they died young, children of Lords weren’t usually recorded until the age of two or so. Richard in his own writings calls Edward’s his “First-born Son” which could indicated that yes Edward did have brothers. Then we have the fact that Anne was only 27, and her and Richard would have actually have been spending much more time together as king and queen, then they would as Duke and Duchess. Medieval Lords were often away from there homes to fight for the king, if Anne had lived she probably would have had more chances to actually conceive.
    Furthermore I want to address the public denial, I think it should for a medieval lawyer William Catesby appears in the record way too often. He and Ratcliffe were advisors to the King clearly however they were low born men, and as such would not have been able to bring this issue up to the King. The two men who probably could have were Francis Lovell, a Viscount or John Howard the Duke of Norfolk. The fact that these two men are left out of the account on the “forced denial” is extremely odd. Also Catesby seems to have betrayed Richard at Bosworth which should be noted.
    Also the “over dozen doctors of theology” would be insane for 1485. Were talking about an era where it took weeks to travel safely. It’s highly illogically that over 10 theologians would happen to get to London in time to convince Richard not to do this.

    Also I want to address this idea that Richard had a weak claim in 1485/1484. This isn’t true at all. Most of House York supported Richard, Elizabeth Woodville had come out of sanctuary and Richard in 1484 was as secure as he ever would be as King. Elizabeth of York really wouldn’t have provided Richard with much of anything in 1484/85, House York already supported him and she had no dowry part of his promise to Elizabeth Woodville was to provide her daughters with a dowry.
    I think it is also it’s pretty safe to assume that Elizabeth was the bride intended for Manuel, for one Cecily was already married, and the next daughter was Anne of York, who was ten and already promised to the Duke of Norfolk’s son, and after her was Catherine of York who was six. All and all Elizabeth was realistically the only bride of age to marry and being the eldest was most suited for marriage.
    And Portugal and England had close ties for over 100 years at that point. In fact the marriages of Manuel and Joanna probably would have reconnected the English to the Portuguese. These alliances were highly important to the English as Portugal in 1400s was looking like a rising star, with various different colonies in the Atlantic already. Joanna would have been an extremely suitable bride. Also the marriage to Joanna had to have been considered prior to Anne’s death, it’s illogically to think otherwise. The ships were sent to Portugal I believe 5 days after Anne’s death. This is 1485, travel takes alot of time and energy and to just be able to pick a bride that quick after Anne’s death doesn’t seem very logically to me given the time period.
    Joanna herself was much more then a woman who had been in a convent her whole life (It’s rather insulting that you’ve deemed her such), she had been regent for her father, the King of Portugal on several different occasions, she had been treated like the heir to the throne of Portugal until the birth of her brother. She was a woman of great strength as she denied the King of France (The most powerful man in Europe at the time) the chance at her hand because he wasn’t moral enough for him. The fact that Joanna even accepted Richard is extremely interesting in itself.
    Also Lancastrian blood was extremely vital to Richard. As I mentioned above, it wasn’t York blood Richard need, Richard was fully supported by the House of York, most even rose against Henry VII later. What Richard needed was Lancastrian blood, Edward IV had been able to hold the peace between old Lancastrians families and the Yorkist in his later years. A marriage to Joanna probably would have been Richard moving in this direction.
    Also if fertility was what Richard was after he very simply could have married the 14 year old Isabel of Aragon, who was also offered to him as a choice of a bride. Isabel was the daughter of the powerful King and Queen, Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, her mother 5 living children herself and would have been deemed a “fertile” choice. Richard going with Joanna seems to indicate that he was not very focused on a Prince so much as he was on ensuring his kingship with a Lancastrian Queen who could be left as regent if she needed to. Richard III while still Lord of the North left his wife, Anne Neville, as regent of the North while he was campaigning with the King. So it might indicate that Richard wanted a wife whom he could trust.
    Also Richard had an heir in 1485, John de la Pole who was his nephew from his sister Elizabeth. John was in his late teens early 20s, he had supported Richard from the start of April of 1483, and he also had many other brothers to take his place. So the idea that the Yorkists were running out of heirs isn’t true at all. The De la Pole boys would later be thorns in the sides to Henry VII for his entire reign. People did seem to see them as the true heirs to the throne. It’s been speculated that the rebellion in 1486 by Francis Lovell would have left John as King in the event that it was successful. Also it’s been speculated that the true aim of 1487 was to make John King not the Earl of Warwick.
    On the book, we simply cannot know what that was about. We don’t know if Richard gave the book to her. It’s very likely she got it after his death in my opinion when his possessions would have been scattered. Margaret Beaufort it seems also ended up with a few of Richard’s books and tore his name out of them. Perhaps Elizabeth wrote her name in the book to save it from being torn out. I should also say that Elizabeth has another book where she writes her name under or near (I can’t remember) an E. Woodville, who very much could have been Edward Woodville her uncle since Elizabeth Woodville probably wouldn’t have used Woodville to sign her name (Unless it was signed before her marriage to John Grey). I don’t think anyone looks at that and goes “Oh Elizabeth must have been in love with him as well” Her writing her name It very simply could have been familial love, or to remember her father’s brother. Nothing in that indicates romantic love to me.
    So while we can’t ever know feelings, I highly doubt Richard III considered the marriage to his niece. It seems very unlikely that Richard would have seen much politically gain out of it.

    • Tina

      I wonder. For example, if I really dislike somebody or hate this person I will never keep things associated with this person in my possession. That’s natural human reaction. I think it shows that Elizabeth was a very kind young woman, because taking your interpretation that she wrote her name in the book to save it from being torn out, it means she didn’t have negative feelings for him, despite everything. Otherwise she could have easily torn the pages like Margaret Beaufort or even threw books away and nobody would ever see these books now, there was no point in keeping them. I’m not implying it as a definite sign of romance or anything, but still I find it interesting, that she as you say tried to save the books of a person who supposedly killed her two brothers and definitely executed her half-brother and uncle. Such level of compassion is too grand for me.

      • Amazing

        I mean I think emotions are more mixed then that. Richard was her uncle, he was her father’s favorite brother by all accounts. It must have been hurtful what he did to her, her siblings and her mother. I can’t see it not hurting to go from Princess to Bastard. But I think also she might have wanted to remember him for what he represented, a time when her family were the rulers of England. Or she did still think he was a good King. That still doesn’t mean she wasn’t fearful of him, or upset by his actions. House York in general is a mix of family members betraying and scheming against each other. Look at George Duke of Clarence and Richard III fought over the Neville lands for years, rumors are that Clarence at one point hid Anne Neville away from Richard III. And yet rumors lingered long after George’s death that Richard spoke out against George’s execution, he even wrote his brother had been “murder” in a letter at one point, speculation points to Richard’s main hatred of the Woodvilles being over George’s death. And yet it wasn’t an always happy relationship between them. George had betrayed both his brothers in Warwick’s rebellion and then again him and Richard fought. I mean you can still love your family members and still feel betrayed and upset by there actions. I think sometimes people think of these issues a bit too much black and white, there are various shades of grey.
        I really don’t buy too much into the book thing. It’s like reading tea leaves will simply never know why Elizabeth chose to write her name under. For all we know Elizabeth just did it random on a whim when she got the book, maybe she was grateful that Richard gave it too her. It could have just been an instant thing for her too do, and once her name was in it nobody would have destroyed that page.
        There is just too little we know why she didn’t tear his name out. What I dislike is the notion that it was unusually, it wasn’t unusual for nobility to write there name in there books. It was fairly common, the Woodvilles especially wrote there names in books often.

  6. Tina

    Even if we discuss mixed feelings angle, they were obviously not with the slope of too much negativity, otherwise such strong negativity would have likely outweighed any possible familial feelings and the books would not have been preserved. That’s why I mentioned her strong kindness. Of course since we don’t know when exactly she got the books, during his lifetime or after his death, and when she wrote in those books, people can only speculate and that’s exactly what they do. Maybe she was just super kind person, kinder than most of human beings, maybe she grew accustomed to the fact that her family members were betraying and scheming against each other, since her own father had already executed his brother for his actions, and had realistic approach to it, maybe something else. That’s all basically down to speculations. As for books I think a lot of people find it somehow unusual not only because she wrote her name in them, but because she also wrote his motto in one of them. That’s my guess. Also many people are simply interested in controversy, and when where is something speculative, unknown or questionable, it raises discussions around it . Otherwise I don’t think this issue would be so eagerly brought up time and again and would be likely long forgotten.

    • Amazing

      I think in life we generally over think things. I don’t think there is anything unusual at all about Elizabeth writing her name along with the mottos. It could be she wanted to remember who the book belonged to first before her.
      To me when you look at the Woodvilles in general they wrote in there books alot. Maybe it was just a habit Elizabeth picked up because she saw her other relatives do it alot.
      Looking at something in stand alone makes it unusual but when you pair it with the fact that the Woodvilles wrote names and such in there books alot, to me it becomes less unusual. People don’t seem to want to look at other evidence for what we have with the era.
      Anyways the argument could work the other way as well. Elizabeth grew more then happy with Henry VII who was Richard III’s killer. If she had any true bond to Richard, it doesn’t make much sense that she would grow to become so close to Henry VII in such a short time period.
      I think over all Elizabeth’s feelings on her uncle would have been mixed at best, I don’t think I can stress enough how much she hardly would have known the man. Richard mainly lived in the North of England while Elizabeth was growing up, he rarely went to court, and when he did so it was mainly on business and once he was done he didn’t stick around, he tended to leave London and his brother’s court as soon as he was able to.
      As a lady to Anne Neville she primarily would have seen Anne not Richard, Richard was a king with duties and obligations. If she did see Richard it was when he went to visit Anne. Richard was a man who had a very strict moral code in terms of his household, other then being friendly to his nieces I doubt he would have seen them that much.
      I think Elizabeth might have had mixed feelings on him, because there were rumors he killed her brothers, she knew he executed her uncle and other brother (An uncle she would seen much then Richard), that he executed her father’s best friend, William Hastings, that he forced her father’s favorite mistress to do a walk of shame, and that he declared her and her siblings bastards, and her mother a whore. I think she had justification after all that to have mixed feelings on the man. But just because she was hurt by him or feared him doesn’t mean she completely hated him or thought he was a bad king. Also we know Elizabeth was an extremely kind woman, so maybe she forgive him in death for all the things he had done to her and her family.
      Also we do know when Elizabeth wrote in the books, it was anytime after she became a bastard to when she married Henry VII because her motto changed after she married Henry VII. So we know it’s in that ballpark.

      • Tina

        But that’s the thing with people, people are all different, they think and even over think in different ways. Something that you find quite usual, other people would find not that usual or even unusual and interesting and would talk about it. You can’t make all people think alike or be interested in the same things in the same way. I mean I can try to guess at least why some people could speculate about the books, as they could not understand why she, having mixed feelings for this person at best, as you said, still wanted to remember who the book belonged to first before her. Also the kindness that I mentioned several times, to some people it could seem impressive, that she was so extremely kind that after everything, she still didn’t hate him or may even have thought of him as of not bad king, not to mention forgiving him in death , as you implied. Not all people can be that kind or comprehend such good quality. And since we indeed do not know when Elizabeth wrote in the books and have quite ballpark I can understand why people would find and do find it a subject to muse over. I think it’s not that strange since it’s not the first time when something related to famous historical person raises all kinds of speculations, especially when we are dealing with something related to Richard III. He has hundreds of years of controversy behind him.

  7. Jenny

    “Avunculate marriage, that is marriage between and uncle and niece or aunt and nephew, was very unusual at the time. King Ferdinand II married his aunt Joanna of Naples but that was not until 1496, more than a decade later and under Pope Alexander VI.”

    Factual error. Afonso V of Portugal, King of Portugal and the Algarves, married his niece Joanna of Castile in 1475 with dispensation.