Cecily of York has always perplexed me. A daughter of one queen and sister to another, she was not only at the epicenter of “Wars of the Roses” drama, but unlike her younger sisters, Anne, Katherine and Bridget, she was old enough to know what was happening. She also came very close to playing a more high-profile role thanks to her betrothal to the future James IV of Scotland, and had her first marriage abruptly annulled when power changed hands in 1485. So, who exactly was this woman?
Of all the rather memorable personalities and (borderline) incestuous pairings during the Wars of the Roses, the one that I find the strangest is without a doubt Jasper Tudor and Katherine Woodville. They literally make zero sense to the point that I honestly sometimes forget about them. And yet! They existed.
There was one thing that Henry VIII and his siblings had in common: marrying whoever they wanted. Certainly we know how Henry went about this, but less known is the extent to which his sisters did. After James IV of Scotland died in 1513, Margaret went on to marry twice by her own choice. Today, however, we’re going to take a look at their younger sister, Princess Mary, who did her duty by the king of France and then went the Tudor way.
Remarkably given their dynastic importance, the chaos with which they were surrounded and their potential for mischief, the daughters of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were a quiet lot. Much like the eldest, Elizabeth of York, there are only flashes of agency against an overarching pattern of obedience for the younger daughters.
While we know that Elizabeth became the queen consort of Henry VII and the third sister, Anne of York, married Thomas Howard, future 3rd Duke of Norfolk, today we’re going to focus on the second-to-youngest daughter, Katherine, whose life followed a very interesting Medieval pattern.
By the “union of Tudor and Stuart” I don’t mean that of England and Scotland, but rather the marriage that facilitated the eventual consolidation of power in James I in 1603 and the later formation of the concept of “Britain.” All of that was a long time in the making and it stemmed from the union of King James IV of Scotland and England’s Princess Margaret Tudor in 1503.
The alliance came together in the Treaty of Perpetual Peace signed on January 24, 1502 at Richmond Palace. The treaty was the first between the two countries in roughly 170 years and it ended what had become nearly two centuries of warfare – that said, it was England and Scotland, so even that two centuries needs to be put in the context of several more of bloody battles over sovereignty.
Speaking of the Tudor Myth, a fun little twist to exanining Richard III is seeing two wildly divergent schools of thought on him. While there are presumably some objective histories of his life and reign, most fall into two camps: those that revile him and those that apologize for him.
This is particularly evident in the question as to whether or not Richard III made plans to marry his niece, Elizabeth of York, in 1485. What exactly the nature of their relationship was has been eroded by time, but there is far too much smoke around the issue for there not to have been at least a reasonably-sized fire. In this case, the theory is borne out by the fact that there was contemporary speculation on the subject, as well as the fact that Richard took the pains to publicly deny it.
Well, that answers the Katherine Woodville question. Yes, she comes up, but about two years too late as a means for Lizzie to hurt her mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort. Even so, the series is coming together in its narrative arc – primarily by playing up what about it is actually compelling. The evolution of Lizzie from York to Tudor, and what the actual ramifications were for a young woman to marry her enemy, have his children and realize the wishes of her blood family would come at the cost of her new existence.
Between Henry VII ascending the throne in 1485 and his death in 1509, England evolved from a country that had been in or on the verge of civil war for decades to a country that was beginning to re-emerge as an actual power broker in Europe. It’s an interesting concept to consider in the wake of all the Brexit news as members of today’s Royal Family undertake diplomatic tours of European countries to underline Britain’s continued friendship.
By establishing the House of Tudor, Henry essentially put an end to the viability of continued Plantagenet infighting. As the last Lancastrian claimant (sort of, his lineage wasn’t much to boast of) he strategically married Elizabeth of York, fusing the two warring houses in one union. Thus, their children were meant to appease both sides, and their position was bolstered by a father who ruthlessly kept the peace, filled the coffers and eliminated dynastic threats.
On February 11, 1466, Elizabeth of York was born to King Edward IV and his wife, Elizabeth Woodville, at the Palace of Westminster. Thirty-seven years later, Elizabeth would die in the residence of the Tower of London as the consort of King Henry VII. Within that time span, she would be the daughter, sister, niece and wife of four English kings, while six years after her death, she would become the mother of one when Henry VIII ascended the throne.
On January 28, 1457 the future King Henry VII was born at Pembroke Castle in Wales, but the real star of the show was his mother, the Countess of Richmond. In fact, at the time of his birth it couldn’t have seemed less likely that the infant would one day ascend the English throne and it certainly wasn’t seen as an event of national importance. His father was Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, the younger half-brother of King Henry VI, through the second marriage of their mother, Katherine of Valois.
But unlike Henry VI, who was fathered by the celebrated Henry V, Edmund and his siblings were fathered by a Welshman attached to Queen Katherine’s household, Owen Tudor. For political reasons, the relationship was conducted under the radar and it wouldn’t be until the early 1450s that Edmund and his younger brother, Jasper, were transitioned from a legally grey area to members of the peerage as the Earls of Richmond and Pembroke, respectively.
Because of these circumstances, the infant Henry Tudor born in 1457 had a better claim to the French crown than the English, if you disregard the Salic Law, barring inheritance of the throne through a woman (a pesky byproduct of the Hundred Years’ War).