A young Henry weeping on the empty bed of his dead mother Elizabeth of York. His two sisters Margaret and Mary sit at the foot of the bed. From the Vaux Passional, in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth
As an enthusiastic amateur I do love all the minutiae of history particularly the coincidences which crop up now and again and which really pique my interest. One I mentioned only recently was the burial of Sir James Tyrell in Austin Friars Church where also lay buried Perkin Warbeck the young man who claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, son of Edward IV and who if he were Richard would have spent time in Sir James’ home of Gipping Hall if the Tyrell family tradition be true.
There is also Elizabeth Talbot Viscountess Lisle. Elizabeth was married to Edward Grey Viscount Lisle. Edward Grey was the brother of Sir John Grey, first husband of Elizabeth Wydeville, bigamous wife to Edward IV. However the coincidence here is that Elizabeth Talbot was also the niece of Lady Eleanor Butler (Elizabeth Wydeville’s very own personal nemesis) who was true wife of Edward IV.
Possible portrait of Elizabeth Talbot, Viscountess Lisle c1468 Petrus Christus of Bruge Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.
Next on my list is the the coincidence of the timing of the deaths of the heirs and wives of both Richard III and Henry VII . Strange to think that these two kings, so utterly different would have been able to commiserate with each other on the pain of having major bereavements so close to each other there was scarce time to come to terms with their loss before another befell them. Richard’s small son Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales died some time around the 9th April 1484 – there is some confusion over the exact date – his wife Anne Neville passed away but eleven months later on March 16th 1485. Henry’s heir Arthur, Prince of Wales, 15 years old and recently wed was to pass away on the 2 April 1502 followed by his mother Elizabeth of York on the 11th February 1503 – not quite the eleven months that were between Edward and Anne but pretty close. Both kings are said to have taken the deaths of their wives badly and for Richard the death of his heir was catastrophic. Henry at least had a spare, the young Henry Jnr – Oh Joy!
Holbein’s sketch of Henry VIII as a child. What a little tinker..bless. A medieval Chukkie only more cuddly…Yikes!
Elizabeth fared better than Anne, well tombwise, having a tomb and monument that cost a small fortune whereas the grave of Anne, who was buried in Westminster Abbey ‘with honours no less than befitted the burial of a queen’ , is lost and unmarked other than a plaque put up courtesy of the Richard III Society in 1960 in the area where she is known to rest that is ‘by the South dore that does ledyth Into Seynt Edwardys Chapell’(1). The plaque reads:
QUEEN OF ENGLAND
YOUNGER DAUGHTER OF RICHARD EARL OF WARWICK CALLED THE KINGMAKER WIFE TO THE LAST PLANTAGENET KING RICHARD III
‘In person she was seemly, amiable and beauteous and according to the interpretation of her name Anne full gracious’
REQUIESCAT IN PACE.
The plaque given by The Richard III Society
Arthur lays at rest in a beautiful tomb in Worcester Cathedral. Edward’s grave is now lost but I believe he rests somewhere in the Church of St Mary and St Akelda, Middleham as that is where Rous said he was and I’m inclined to believe him as he would have been in a position to know.
The tomb of Arthur Princes of Wales. Worcester Cathedral. Photographer unknown. Pinterest.
Prince Arthur Tudor. 16th century oil on panel. Philip Mould Historical Portraits
Edward of Middleham from the Rous Roll
But back to Elizabeth of York. The desperate attempts to get a doctor to her proved to no avail after she lay dangerously ill following the recent birth of a daughter who had not lived for very long.
‘Itm To James Nattres for his costes going into Kent for Doctour Hallysworth phesicon to comme to the Quene by the Kinges commaundement. Furst for his bote hyre from the Towre to Gravys ende and again iiij s, iiij d. Itm to twoo watermen abiding at Gravys ende unto suche tyme the said James came again for theire expenses viij d. Itm for horse hyre and to guydes by night and day ij s.iij d.and for his awe expenses xvj d.’ (2).
Having died on the 11th February (which was her birthday and thus another coincidence) in the Royal Apartments at the Tower of London her body lay in repose amidst the serenity of the beautiful chapel of St John the Evangelist. Her funeral was held on the Wednesday 22 February although she was temporarily interred in a side chapel in Westminster Abbey, the tomb her husband commissioned for both of them having not yet been completed (3). However on completion of the new Lady Chapel and tomb she was finally laid to rest besides her husband in a vault beneath their monument as dictated in his will:
Also we wol that incontinent after our decefle, and after that our bodye be buried with in the said Towmbe, the bodie of our said late wif the Quene, bee translated from the place where it nowe, is buried, and brought and laid with oure bodye in ow said Towmbe, yf it be not soo doon by our self in our daies
It was here in the stunning simplicity of the Chapel of St John the Evangelist in the Tower of London that Elizabeth’s body lay in repose. Photo James Brittain
That is not the end of the story though because much later on someone thought it was a good idea for the coffin of James Ist (d.1625) to be interred with them despite the instructions left in Henry’s will :
AND we wol that our Towmbe bee in the myddes of the same Chapell, before the High Aultier, in such distance from the same, as it is ordred in the Plat made for the fame Chapell, and signed with our haude: In which place we wol, that for the said Sepulture of vs and our derest late wif the Quene, whose soule God p’donne, be made a Towmbe of Stone called Touche, sufficient in largieur for The us booth’.
Elizabeth’s bronze effigy on her tomb, Westminster Abbey, Torrigiano
I can only imagine Henry’s annoyance from up above when after the fortune shelled out for their tomb etc., a gooseberry albeit a royal gooseberry got to intrude on his and Elizabeth’s space.
The Henry VII vault. Opened in 1869. Drawn by George Scharf.
Elizabeth of York. Her wooden funeral effigy. Westminster Abbey.
The inscription on Elizabeth’s tomb reads:
‘Here lies Queen Elizabeth, daughter of the former King Edward IV, sister of the formerly appointed King Edward V, once the wife of King Henry VII, and the renowned mother of Henry VIII. She met her day of death in the Tower of London on the 11th day of February in the year of Our Lord 1502, having fulfilled the age of 37 years’ (4).
- The Great Chronicle of London, written in the 1530s
- The Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York Sir Nicholas Harris Nicholas 1830.
- Westminster Abbey p.171 Dean Stanley
- http://www.Westminster-abbey.org Online article.
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