198 Mothers and Wives

In 1485  and 1486 Henry established the foundations of his reign through parliament, and established his household. The relationship between his wife and his mother would always be a matter of some debate.

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The Parliament of 1485

Henry’s first parliament would define much of the rest of the reign.

  • Henry established his right to rule – on his lineage and verum dei judicium – right by God’s judgment; there is no mention of Elizabeth of York
  • Henry laid out his position on Livery and Maintenance – it was banned except for household men and councillors; and all were compelled to take an oath to that effect
  • The date of his reign starts on 21st August – the day before Bosworth. This means all at Bosworth can be attainted
  • The act of Attainder is duly passed
  • Henry is told to resume all royal lands given away since the time of Henry VI in 1455
  • Parliament asks Henry to marry Elizabeth of York
  • Parliament grants tunnage and poundage (customs revenue) to Henry for life

Elizabeth Woodville

In 1487, Elizabeth finally left the political stage – banished to Bermondsey Abbey, with just 400 marks a year to live on. She was with her daughter Elizabeth of York at some key events, such as her confinements; and it is possible that she was not entirely unhappy with the move – though without doubt Margaret Beaufort and Henry would have been glad to see her go.

elizabeth-of-yorkElizabeth of York and her Mother in Law

It is difficult to know exactly what the relationship was between the Queen Elizabeth of York, her Husband Henry and her Mother in Law Margaret Beaufort.

Traditionally the image has been of a placid Elizabeth happy to take the background and let her mother in law rule the roost. But there are plenty of indications that Henry and his mother pushed Elizabeth into a situation she found deeply uncomfortable.

The Spanish visitor and diplomat Pedro de Ayala noted it when he wrote home after visiting court:

“He [Henry] is much influenced by his mother and his followers in affairs of personal interest and in others. The queen, as is generally the case, does not like it.”

“The Queen is a very noble woman and much beloved. She is kept in subjection by the mother of the king.”

Elizabeth was the recipient of a stream of presents from her husband; but the estate he gave her at £1,900 a year, was simply inadequate for the expenses of a queen, and Elizabeth was always short – and therefore dependent on these handouts. Although Elizabeth and Henry are more often together than was probably normal for kings and queens – the king’s mother was in constant attendance.

We will never know for sure; but it seems likely Elizabeth of York was forced into a secondary position and constantly subject to the rule of Margaret Beaufort.

3 thoughts on “198 Mothers and Wives

  1. Margaret Beaufort doesn’t fare well in the book ‘Winter King’ by Thomas Penn. She is portrayed as incredibly annoying – worse than itching powder in your privates. Actually, Penn isn’t kind to many of the characters in this drama! I get the impression that Elizabeth of York finds herself trapped by psychos, and just trying to make the best of it. Something telling about Henry VII and his mother (from the book) is Henry, at some point, confiscates his mothers favorite house. I don’t think his body (Henry) was quite cold before she reclaimed it! Likely to make sure her grandson didn’t deprive her of it. What a loving family!

    1. Having said that…while I strongly suspect that Margaret would have driven Elizabeth up the wall, I feel a bit that I am not giving Margaret her due. This is a strong person; had a child at the age of 13; life of constant danger; come back kid par excellence; a model of piety, which was an important attribute in those days; utterly fearless in support of her child (and who can blame her for that?). Maybe we’re not giving her enough applause. I hate to ask the question; if she had been a bloke would we judge her so negatively? I’ll look up the thing about Henry confiscating her favourite house though…doesn’t sound very filial…

  2. Margaret Beaufort may be admired as a strong, self-made woman with supreme political survival skills. That being said, I still wouldn’t want her as my kids’ football coach.
    (“My daughter has to run how many laps for being late? Whaddya mean, I’m ‘attained’ for questioning your authority? What does that even mean?!”)

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