Cross breed Game of Thrones with Cinderella, and you’ll get Elizabeth Woodville’s life story. Despite her lowborn roots, she used her beauty to catch the eye of King Edward IV and become the first common-born Queen of England. Once she had her crown, she’d do anything—and I mean anything—to keep it. Get to know Elizabeth Woodville, England’s infamous “White Queen.”
Elizabeth Woodville Facts
1. She Started From The Bottom
In truth, Elizabeth Woodville wasn’t really a “peasant” queen. On her father’s side, she was descended from knights, sheriffs, members of Parliament, and other ancestors of gentlemanly vocation. This was nothing to turn your nose at, but back in the 1400s, it was hardly the pedigree that people expected from the future queen of the nation.
2. She Had Scandalous Roots
As the first child of a controversial couple, scandal was in Elizabeth Woodville’s blood. Her mother was the widow of King Henry V’s younger brother. But when it came time to choose husband number two, she passed on the royals and wed a mere knight named Sir Richard Woodville. The mismatched couple dropped jaws at the English court and infuriated the king.
3. She Was A Bad Girl From The Start
Elizabeth Woodville’s parents were literal outlaws. You see, her mother had to get permission from the king to remarry, but in her haste to tie the knot, she skipped that step. The king was ticked and promptly fined the newlyweds a hefty £1,000 for getting hitched without his royal blessing. How many other queens of England can say that their birth was literally against the law?
4. She Was Hot Stuff
Tudor portraits aren’t exactly flattering, but by all accounts, Elizabeth Woodville was hot stuff. She was statuesque with shining blonde hair, fair skin, and entrancing eyes. In a painting of Woodville, they look hazel, but sources describe them as “lynx eyes” and “the eyes of a dragon.” Some historians believe that Woodville’s eyes were a striking light green or even golden.
5. She Got Married Young
The 1400s weren’t about waiting around—they was about making babies as soon as possible. To do her part, Elizabeth Woodville walked down the aisle when she was just 15 years old and married a knight named Sir John Grey. Soon enough, Woodville won the Medieval jackpot and gave birth to two sons. However, her wedded bliss wouldn’t last very long.
6. Her Family Was Torn Apart
Long story short, during the Wars of the Roses, the Yorks and the Lancasters played an exhausting, bloody game of Crown Swap. After decades of conflict, the Lancasters lost and King Edward IV took the throne. For the Yorks, this was great. But for Elizabeth Woodville, who was a Lancaster through and through, it was a disaster. And the bad news kept coming.
During the final phases of the conflict, enemy forces captured her brother and father.
7. She Lost Her Husband
Before Woodville and Grey even reached their tin anniversary, their marriage was already done. Woodville’s first husband fought in the brutal Battle of St. Albans and unfortunately, he didn’t make it out alive. With her husband’s passing, Woodville became a 28-year-old widow and a single mother—and now she had to deal with her hellish in-laws all alone.
8. Her In-Laws Were Evil
Get this, when Grey perished, his parents point-blank refused to help Elizabeth or her children (who were also, I must point out, their own grandchildren!). Although Woodville was promised money in her marriage settlement, her in-laws refused to send her any funds to help her and her children survive. Desperate, poor, and widowed, Woodville only had one option left for survival.
Betray her family’s Lancastrian roots and beg the new king to help her out.
9. She Defied The Odds
Woodville’s evil in-laws weren’t budging, so to get her money, our girl had to take her fight to the new king…who was awkwardly her sworn enemy. However, their meeting didn’t exactly go according to plan and in the end, Woodville got a heck of a lot more than she bargained for. She went hoping to receive a pittance—and she left with a wedding ring and a crown. Here’s how.
10. She Caught A King
How does a single mom meet a guy who will treat her like a queen? In the days before dating apps, all you had to do was stand under an oak tree and wait for the king to ride by—or at least, that’s all it took for a hottie like Elizabeth Woodville. In this version of King Edward IV and Elizabeth’s meet-cute, our gal used her legendary beauty to catch the king’s eye. As Elizabeth explained her plight to the king, he was instantly smitten.
11. He Put A Ring On It
In some tellings of their “love” story, Edward meets Elizabeth, immediately falls for her, and insists that she become his mistress. Woodville resists the king’s advances and plays hard to get, which obviously leads Edward to become even more obsessed with his new flame. In some versions of this story, Liz plays her cards so well that after meeting the king, she goes from destitute widow to queen in just three weeks.
However, another version of their meeting isn’t so romantic.
12. She Was Pushed To The Edge
King Edward IV was a legendary horndog and dude was used to getting any girl he wanted. So when Woodville resisted him, some sources claim that he responded…poorly. Apparently, Woodville had to threaten to end her own life to make him back off before their wedding night. And in other versions of the tale, things get even worse.
13. He Had A Dark Side
According to some legends, it was actually Edward who wielded a knife against Elizabeth. Apparently, when she refused to go to bed with him, the king held the blade to her throat and forced her to submit to his advances. Romantic! Thankfully, many scholars believe that this particular version of their meeting is just dramatic embellishment.
14. They Got Hitched
No matter how they met, here’s what we know for certain: It didn’t take long for Edward and Elizabeth to make things official. By May of 1464, the king and his commoner bride got hitched. The new couple tied the knot in a ceremony at a chapel in Woodville’s family home in Northamptonshire. But there was a twist to this royal wedding.
15. They Wed In Secret
When you think of a royal wedding, you think pomp and circumstance. But that was not the case at Edward and Elizabeth’s wedding. It was a modest affair and the only witnesses were the bride’s mother and a few of her attendants. Why? Oh, because the marriage was top secret. Edward knew that marrying a commoner wouldn’t go over well with his advisers, so he threw caution to the wind, had an impulsive Vegas-style wedding, and let Future Edward deal with the blowback.
This plan went about as well as you’d expect.
16. Her Husband Was A Player
Courtiers weren’t the only ones who’d be ticked to learn about the wedding. You see, when it came to the ladies, Elizabeth’s new hubby had a policy of “promise to marry it, hit it, and then quit it.” In fact, at the same time as Elizabeth married the king, it was rumored that Edward’s previous mistress was heavily pregnant and waiting for her marriage to the king. I see an awkward conversation in Liz and Ed’s future.
17. She Made History
Despite all the messiness and scandal surrounding Elizabeth Woodville’s marriage to King Edward IV, her wedding was still straight out of a fairy tale. Before tying the knot, Elizabeth was your average well-to-do gal. After, she was the Queen of England. With her marriage, Elizabeth became the first “Commoner Queen” of England, setting the stage for women like Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle.
Liz must have been happy with her advantageous match—but Edward’s advisers? They were furious.
18. Her Marriage Was Controversial
Edward’s key adviser, the infamous “Kingmaker” Richard Neville had been busy setting up a strategic French marriage for the king. Everything was locked and loaded—until Edward revealed that actually, he couldn’t marry a French hottie because he’d already eloped with Woodville. The faux-pas made Neville seem like a lying fool in the eyes of the French court. Angry and embarrassed, Neville would hold a murderous grudge against both the king and Woodville herself for years to come.
19. The Court Hated Her
Neville wasn’t the only one who hated the idea of Queen Elizabeth Woodville. All of the English nobles were ticked. Contemporary accounts called Elizabeth “undistinguished,” and rumors about Woodville’s super seductress ways spread far and wide. The people believed that the king had been led by his, ahem, nether regions and that the impulsive match was a huge mistake. Oh, and that wasn’t all.
20. She Liked Younger Men
As though being a commoner and a widow wasn’t controversial enough, did I mention that Elizabeth Woodville was also a bit of a cougar? At 28, she was a scandalous five years older than her new husband.
21. Dark Rumors Spread
Here’s a sign of how much the people hated Liz. After news of the king’s marriage broke, a dark rumor spread through England. It claimed that Edward’s wedding didn’t count because—get this—Edward was illegitimate. The story went that when Edward’s mother was over in France, she had a spicy affair and that Edward was the result of that romance, not the queen’s marriage to the king. But that’s not even the wildest part of the story.
22. Her Mother-In-Law Detested Her
The king’s mother—the woman whose reputation was being dragged through the mud with this rumor—did very little to stop it. In fact, some historians believe that she spread the rumor herself (!) or instructed one of her ladies-in-waiting to start the gossip. This woman hated Elizabeth so much that she scorched-earthed her own reputation and the reputation of her son to get her new daughter-in-law out of the picture.
23. She Had A Glam Coronation
Yeah, everyone hated Elizabeth Woodville, but like it or not, she was the new queen and new queens get lavish coronations. Edward cleverly used the occasion as a way to legitimize his new bride. He hired people to dress as angels, bought Elizabeth an expensive purple gown, and even made London smell okay which, back in the 1400s, was a big achievement.
Thankfully, all these expenses did the trick. On May 26, 1465, the coronation’s pomp and splendour, along with Elizabeth’s jaw-dropping beauty, won the people over—for now, at least.
24. Her Family Made Trouble
Elizabeth Woodville’s enormous family hitched a ride on her rising star in a big way. The Woodville clan shamelessly used their new fancy-pants status as the king’s in-laws to ensnare wealthy husbands and wives. Most scandalously, Woodville’s 20-year-old brother John married the Duchess of Norfolk, who a whopping 65 years old at the time.
This was a power grab, plain and simple—and the Woodvilles were not being subtle about it. Their actions were guaranteed to ruffle feathers at court.
25. She Made Enemies
Remember Elizabeth’s enemy, the Kingmaker Richard Neville? Well, all these advantageous Woodville marriages only made him hate Elizabeth more. He felt that his family were the ones who should have been marrying up, not the ambitious Woodvilles. As he watched Elizabeth’s relatives call dibs on all the eligible court hotties, he saw his family’s chances to gain power go up in smoke. And then, Elizabeth went too far.
26. She Got Revenge
Neville’s nephew was supposed to nab a wealthy heiress—until Elizabeth pettily stole the girl away and married her off to her own son. With this final insult, Neville officially lost it. In 1470, he lashed out against the royal couple. He partnered up with King Edward’s ambitious younger brother and staged a rebellion to replace King Edward with England’s old ruler, Henry VI.
27. Everything Fell Apart
While Neville staged his coup, King Edward told Elizabeth to run away and take shelter with her children. Elizabeth got out of dodge just in the nick of time. After she left, everything devolved. Enemy forces captured Edward, then his commanders screwed the pooch and lost a major battle. When all was said and done, King Henry VI reclaimed the throne, while King Edward and Elizabeth Woodville lost everything.
28. She Lost Loved Ones
Unfortunately for Elizabeth, things would get worse before they got better. Richard Neville, the mastermind behind Henry’s takeover, made things personal. He declared that Elizabeth and her mother were witches and that Elizabeth had used dark magic to ensnare King Edward IV. Not content with ruining the reputations of Elizabeth and her mom, Neville then did something far worse. He captured and beheaded Elizabeth’s brother and father.
29. She Went Into Hiding
In a matter of months, Elizabeth had gone from the queen of England to a desperate, grieving mother. In 1470, her husband had been exiled to France and she had moved into Westminster Abbey to hide from her enemies. As though that wasn’t enough for Woodville to deal with, the entire time this mess was going down, Elizabeth was heavily pregnant.
30. She Did Her Duty
Elizabeth Woodville was one tough lady. Even though her life was a dumpster fire, she persevered and gave birth to a baby boy in the basement of Westminster Abbey. She named her son Edward and, even though she and her hubby had technically been deposed, Elizabeth ignored that little detail and thought of the infant as the heir to the throne of England.
Little did she know, she was right to get her hopes up. A lot had happened while Liz was locked up in Westminster…
31. Her Fortunes Changed
By May of 1471, King Edward had staged a legendary comeback. He rallied his French allies, persuaded one of Neville’s co-conspirators to switch sides, and charged back into England to defeat the infamous Kingmaker. After a decisive victory at Barnet, Edward deposed his competition and reclaimed his crown. Richard Neville, meanwhile, fell off his horse and got trampled. Boy, bye.
With her husband back as king, Elizabeth Woodville re-entered the real-life game of thrones.
32. She Got Busy
After all Elizabeth’s ordeals, she could finally sit back and relax. For the next decade, she spent most of her time doing what all queens had to do: Makin’ babies. Although King Edward’s womanizing ways meant he was hardly faithful to Elizabeth, the couple had a whopping ten children, including that all-important heir, Prince Edward.
However, as the years went by, Elizabeth’s experience with motherhood became utterly horrific.
33. Her Husband Was A Bad Boy
Back in the 1400s, queens just had to deal with their husbands having mistresses. But even the most understanding wife would have issues with King Edward’s bottomless lust. He had three major mistresses and plenty of flings on the side, including one rumored relationship with another man, Henry Beaufort. Meanwhile, Elizabeth repaid her hubby’s affairs with complete loyalty. Worth it for the crown?
34. Her Brother-In-Law Was Trouble
Even though England was finally peaceful, drama never slept for long in King Ed’s castle. This time, the king’s brother George was the one causing trouble. He had a, shall we say, tense relationship with King Edward and Queen Elizabeth. George had betrayed Edward in past battles and he was also a big part of why Elizabeth’s father and brother had been executed, so you can’t really blame them for not liking the guy. But then things got incredibly messy. Like, impending body count messy.
35. He Tried To Punish Her
George kept trying to marry high-status women in King Edward’s court. I say “trying” because every time he got close to putting a ring on it, Edward (and Elizabeth, goading her man on from the background) would mess up the match to keep George from getting too powerful. After the royal couple kaiboshed George’s love life one too many times, he got ticked, left the court, and started scheming against Ed and Liz. Do you think this will go well for him? Me neither.
36. She Got Him Back
As a warning that George should back the heck off, Edward charged some of his brother’s friends with a serious offence: Using dark magic to destroy both Edward and his heir. Anyone with half a brain would have reined in their schemes at this point—but not George! He kept on keeping on, and in the end, he found himself drowned in a barrel of wine.
Historians believe that Elizabeth was in on George’s brutal punishment. It was belated payback for his role in the demise of her family.
37. She Bided Her Time
Despite her occasional lapses into Quentin Tarantino-style violence, most of the time, Queen Elizabeth was a pretty tame, traditional queen. She invested heavily in acts of Christian charity and piety, said Angelus devotion three times a day, and was heavily involved in her children’s upbringings. Her days were pretty normal—until, once again, everything fell down around her.
38. Her Husband Passed
In April 1483, Elizabeth’s husband passed under ambiguous circumstances at just 40 years old. Some say that he had “a chill”; others insist that his debauched ways had finally caught up to him. No matter what caused the king to keep over, his demise left Elizabeth Woodville a widow and single mother to the future king. During the turbulent 1400s, this was a very dangerous position to be in. Elizabeth knew that to ensure her safety—and the safety of her family—she’d have to act fast.
39. Her Entire Life Changed In An Instant
In the king’s will, Edward appointed his brother, Richard the Duke of Gloucester, to become the Lord Protector of little Prince Edward, the heir to the throne. Unfortunately, it turns out that Richard was incredibly ambitious. With his big brother out of the picture, he immediately used his new position to grab power for himself. He promised Elizabeth that he’d keep Prince Edward safe, but unfortunately, he lied. Big time.
40. Her Foe Targeted Her Family
After getting his hands on Prince Edward, Richard went to work destroying the rest of Elizabeth’s family. He arrested both her brother and one of her sons from her first marriage, Richard Grey, then suspiciously delayed the coronation of Prince Edward. Sensing that the tides were turning and her entire family would soon be in big trouble, Woodville rushed herself into sanctuary once again.
41. He Ran Her Name Through The Mud
While Elizabeth hid out at an abbey with her children, Richard was busy running one heck of a PR campaign. He made the public think that he was somehow protecting the Prince, instead of, y’know, abducting him and trying to usurp his power. He also ran Elizabeth’s name through the mud. In 1483, he accused her of trying to “murder and utterly destroy” him from her sanctuary. Not sure how that would work, but OK, bud.
42. She Had No Choice
To be fair to Richard, Elizabeth probably did want to wring his neck, but at this particular moment in time, he had all of the power and she had none. Case in point: When Richard was no longer satisfied with just abducting the heir to the throne, he turned his eye to the spare as well. His men surrounded the abbey where Elizabeth Woodville was hiding and demanded that she hand over her other son. Elizabeth’s reaction to this demand has puzzled historians for centuries.
43. She Lost Her Son
Prepare to rage. Defying all her maternal instincts, Elizabeth handed over her son. Yes, this was a TERRIBLE idea, but in Elizabeth’s defence, she didn’t really have a choice. In most versions of this story, Elizabeth only gives the boy up because she is under extreme duress. She’s literally surrounded by Richard’s men, so after making the archbishop promise that her son won’t be harmed, she reluctantly gave Richard the boy. Reader, this was a huge mistake.
44. Her Babies Were Locked Up
This is the point where Richard gives up all pretence of being a protective uncle. He makes it clear that he’s out for power and that anyone standing in his way is toast. First, he executes Elizabeth’s brother and one of her sons from her first marriage. Then, despite all his promises to the contrary, he imprisons Elizabeth’s beloved sons, Prince Edward and his little brother, in the Tower of London.
45. Cruel Rumors Spread
Elizabeth must have been terrified for her sons—but all she could do was stay in the sanctuary and try to protect her other children while Richard spread vicious rumors about Elizabeth, Edward, and their kids all through England. In a bid to take Prince Edward’s power, Richard declared that actually, it was okay for him to lock up two innocent little boys because they weren’t actually legitimate. Plot twist, right?
46. She Was Disgraced
Remember when Edward’s mom was like, “Edward can’t make that common lady a queen because I actually had an affair with a random French guy and he is Edward’s real dad”? Well, Richard brought that back up to claim that the princes couldn’t lead the nation because ipso facto, they too were illegitimate. And then just to prove how much of a turd he was, Richard went even further.
47. Her Marriage Was Cancelled
The lurid romantic history of Woodville’s late husband came back to bite her in the royal rear. In 1483, Richard declared that Woodville’s marriage didn’t count for a shocking reason. When she wed the king, Edward had already promised to marry his old mistress—and back in the 1400s, a promise was as good as a wedding ring.
But just to make sure that Woodville couldn’t fight back, Richard covered his bases with an even worse claim about Elizabeth and Edward’s marriage.
48. Her Husband Was Manipulative
When Richard defamed somebody, he went hard. He claimed that the “priest” who married Liz and Ed was a fraud and thus their marriage never actually happened. Apparently, Edward would take resistant mistresses to a buddy who’d pretend to be a priest and fake-marry the couple. Once the girls thought they had a ring, they hopped into bed with Edward, who’d then love em and leave em. What. A. Guy.
49. Her Power Was Gone
After spreading all the dirt, Richard dissolved Elizabeth’s marriage to Edward, declared the Woodville children illegitimate, and barred them from inheriting the throne. He deposed Prince Edward in 1483, declared himself King Richard III of England, and for good measure, threw in one final reminder that Elizabeth Woodville was a witch. Then he hurt the ex-queen in the worst way possible.
50. Her Sons Became A Historical Cold Case
After the summer of 1483, when Elizabeth reluctantly handed over her two sons to Richard III and his henchmen, there would be no more sightings of Woodville’s sons. The lost boys are now known to history as the tragic “Princes in the Tower.” No one knows for sure what happened to them, but for centuries, people have believed that Richard executed the brothers. They were just 12 and nine years old at the time.
51. She Gave Up
During Richard III’s reign, Elizabeth Woodville’s life was miserable. She was stripped of her royal title and lands. Her daughters were bastardized and she would henceforth be known as “Dame Elizabeth Grey,” in reference to her first husband. After holding out hope that her sons might emerge from the Tower, she eventually gave up. By the autumn of 1483, she accepted that she would never see her babies again. Poor Elizabeth.
52. She Made Friends With An Old Foe
Say what you want about her, Elizabeth Woodville was a survivor. When the going got tough, she put on her game face and did what she had to do. Case in point: During her time in the sanctuary, she made an unlikely ally. Elizabeth teamed up with her deceased husband’s chief mistress (and Elizabeth’s own great rival) Jane Shore. With Shore’s help, the widowed queen stayed in contact with her allies—and plotted an ingenious revenge.
53. She Plotted
Woodville defied everyone’s expectations by working with another old frenemy, Margaret Beaufort, and trying to bring Richard down. In October of 1483, the women became involved in Buckingham’s Rebellion. The plan was stunning: Beaufort’s son Henry Tudor would come to England, defeat Richard, take the throne, and marry Woodville’s daughter, thus uniting both Yorks and Lanacasters.
Unfortunately, things, um, didn’t go to plan.
54. She Had To Do The Unthinkable
Richard III caught wind of the rebellion and immediately shut it down, putting Elizabeth in a tricky situation. She effectively had to make a deal with the devil AKA Richard himself. Woodville said that if Richard let her and her daughters safely leave the abbey, she wouldn’t make any more trouble for him. Richard agreed—but he had one sickening condition. Elizabeth had to live at his court and tacitly support his reign.
Yup, if Elizabeth wanted to survive, she’d have to play nice with the man who killed her sons.
55. Her Daughter Was In Danger
In the end, Woodville and her daughters took Richard’s deal. They came out of religious sanctuary in March 1484, hung out in their enemy uncle’s court, and bided their time until Henry Tudor made another attempt at a takeover. But it’s not as though this period was uneventful. At this time, Richard decided that he had the hots for Woodville’s eldest daughter (and yuckily his own niece), Elizabeth of York. With this skeezy development, I’m sure that Woodville was plenty busy.
56. Everything Changed
Thankfully, things were about to change in a big way. Henry VII invaded England in 1485, defeated Richard III, and successfully seized the throne. In his victory speech, the new King Henry declared that little Prince Edward was legitimate, then restored Elizabeth Woodville back to her former glory as Dowager Queen. At long last, she got all her land and money back. Whoo!
But if you think Henry was doing this out of the goodness of his heart, guess again…
57. She Was Redeemed
Henry’s kindness to Elizabeth and her kids wasn’t purely altruistic. It was also a way for him to bolster his own power. After all, he stuck to the plan where he’d marry Woodville’s daughter—and it wasn’t like a king could marry a disgraced woman. By re-fancying Elizabeth, the new king also re-fancied her daughter and crucially, his future bride.
With this advantageous marriage completed, Elizabeth was ready to settle back into court. But life had other plans.
58. She Was Kicked Out
After defeating Richard III, Woodville and her old frenemy Margaret Beaufort went back to their old rivalrous ways. They drove each other nuts in a petty battle of the Dowager Queens and eventually, Beaufort edged Woodville out. After this defeat, the ex-queen got shuttled to yet another sanctuary. However, another version of the story claims that Elizabeth left the court for a far darker reason.
59. She Rebelled
In 1487, a ten-year-old boy named Lambert Simnel claimed that he was actually one of the infamous princes in the tower and he was coming back to claim his throne. Seeing as this was an uprising led by a literal child, it’s not surprising to learn that Henry VII shut it down fast. But even though he quelled the rebellion, the king suspected that Elizabeth Woodville had been involved in some capacity. Was this the real reason that he shuttled her off to another abbey?
60. She May Have Fooled Everyone
Ultimately, we don’t know if Woodville truly was involved with the Simnel uprising. However, there are persistent rumors that one of her sons survived the Tower of London. Some sources claim that when Woodville handed over her child to Richard, she actually handed over an imposter—which would mean that Woodville’s real son (and King Edward’s heir) was still alive at this time. Most historians think these are just conspiracy theories, but who knows?
61. She Went Into Retirement
Some people say that Woodville went to her latest abbey kicking and screaming. Others insist that the Dowager Queen went to retirement more willingly. This is based on evidence that the queen was already planning her retirement into a religious life as early as one year into Henry Tudor’s reign. After losing her father, brothers, and sons to the violence of court politics, it’s not a stretch to imagine that Woodville would welcome some peace and quiet.
Well, she’d finally get them in February of 1487—but not for long.
62. She Almost Got Hitched
With his widowed mother-in-law far away from rebellions, King Henry VII decided to make the most of Elizabeth’s status as a single lady. He played matchmaker and tried to set Elizabeth up with yet another ruler: King James III of Scotland. The match would have cemented Woodville’s cougar reputation, seeing as how she would have been in her fifties, while new new hubby was in his thirties. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for a terrible reason.
63. She Lived The Single Life
Despite Henry VII’s attempts to play Cupid, the match between James and Elizabeth came to naught. The king passed in battle (or, depending on who you ask, while running away from the fight) in 1488. After that, Woodville remained at the single’s table for the rest of her life, where she chilled out in a church until her own equally dramatic demise.
64. Her Retirement Is Suspicious
Working against the idea that Henry VII shunned his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Woodville seems to have had a sweet time in the abbey. She retired to a nice £400 per year pension and received occasional gifts from the Tudor king. She also enjoyed visits from her daughters, most often by Cecily of York. However, towards the end of her life, Elizabeth insisted that this wasn’t the whole story.
65. She Lived In Poverty
During Woodville’s final five years in religious seclusion, she insisted that she didn’t actually receive the cash injection promised by King Henry VII. Instead, she spent her time in abject poverty. In fact, in Woodville’s will, she laments that though she is “the God Queen of England” she has “no worldly goods” and could not even afford to “reward my children.” Yikes.
66. She Hated Her Son-In-Law
I think it’s safe to say that over the years, Henry VII and Elizabeth Woodville’s relationship had soured pretty intensely. Even though he was A) the king, B) her son-in-law, and C) the only reason she’d escaped from the clutches of Richard III, Elizabeth very conspicuously does not mention Henry in her last will and testament. Sounds like some icy family dinners went down in the castle…
67. She Passed On
And so, after 55 years of nonstop drama, Elizabeth Woodville’s health began to deteriorate. On June 8, 1492, she finally breathed her last breaths at Bermondsey Abbey, where she had retired/been low-key imprisoned for the last five years. The royal family said goodbye to their mother and prepared for her funeral at Windsor Castle. But when they arrived at the ceremony, their jaws dropped.
68. Her Funeral Was Insulting
Even though Elizabeth was a Dowager Queen, her funeral was downright shabby. Usually, royal funerals cost about £1500. Hers looked like it cost just £100. A mere five attendants carried Elizabeth’s coffin, the bells did not toll in her honor, and she didn’t even receive the traditional funerary rights. Her coffin was basically buried as soon as humanly possible.
This was a huge slap in the deceased queen’s face—but why?
69. Her Burial Stunned Historians
Some people took the drabness of Woodville’s 1492 funeral as evidence that the new Tudor dynasty really hated her. However, other people insist that the self-secluded queen dowager wanted it this way. After all, she specifically requested a simple, plain burial in her last will and testament. But recently uncovered evidence has suggested a much more likely—and much more disturbing alternative.
70. The Truth Finally Came Out
Over 500 years after Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s demise, we may finally know why her funeral was so slapdash. In 2019, a historian uncovered a letter that confirmed that Woodville had perished of the strange plague often called the “sweating sickness” (gotta say, that doesn’t sound like a great way to go). In an effort to avoid spreading the disease, the royal family decided to bury the Dowager Queen as quickly as possible and get the heck outta there.
71. She Had A Huge Impact On Henry VIII
In the letter about Woodville’s plague infection, the writer also mentions that her illness profoundly disturbed the King. Well, apparently Henry VII passed down his fears to his son, the infamous Henry VIII. He was incredibly anxious about the illness that ended his grandmother’s life, even sleeping in different beds every single night in a strange effort to…outrun it?
72. Her Resting Place Is Heartbreaking
In the end, Woodville was buried in the same chantry as her beloved, rascally second husband, Kind Edward IV. To this day, they lie together at St. George’s Chapel inside Windsor Castle.
73. Her Daughter Was A Bad Girl Too
Woodville’s younger daughter Cecily followed her mother’s path by making another interclass remarriage. Unfortunately for Cecily, she took a step down rather than up. By marrying an obscure squire named Thomas Kyme, Cecily forfeited all her lands and got banished from court. Her children by that marriage faded into obscurity. Hardly the courtly welcome her mother enjoyed for her elopement.
74. She Has A Surprising Legacy
Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s legacy lives on in our modern day. You can visit the “Queen’s Oak” (the legendary site of the oak tree where Elizabeth and Edward IV first met) and the borough of Queens in New York City is actually named after Woodville.
75. She’s Part Of A Major Landmark
Queens’ College at Cambridge University was originally set up by the Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou. It collapsed as the Lancastrian regime crumbled in 1448, but Elizabeth Woodville stepped up in 1465 to help bring it back to life. Because of this, she’s credited with helping to found the legendary college. A pretty impressive legacy!