The Wedding of the Century Part II: Celebrating in Style!

0Winchester Cathedral 1
Winchester Cathedral

The marriage of Queen Mary and Philip, Prince of Asturias and King of Naples was no little thing. It was a big event and the date chosen, was in honor of Spain’s patron saint, St James. According to contemporary chroniclers, Winchester Cathedral was “richly hanged with arras and cloth of gold, and in the midst of the church, from the west door unto the roof, was a scaffold erected of timber, at the end whereof was raised a mount, covered all with red say, and underneath the left were erected two traverses, one for the Queen on the right hand, and the other for the prince on the left, which places served very well for the purpose.”

0Mary I dress

Mary and Philip were richly clothed in white and gold. Other sources differ, saying that Mary’s dress was one of rich purple. Purple as everyone will remember, was a color exclusively reserved for royals. Her dress was made in the French style. Besides the purple satin, it also contained wide sleeves “set with pearls of our store, lined with purple taffeta.” Philip for his part was dressed in white doublet and breeches with a “mantle of rich cloth of gold ornamented with pearls and precious stones and wearing the collar of the Garter.” The mantle was “adorned with crimson velvet and thistles of curled gold, lined in crimson satin, with twelve buttons made of four pearls on each sleeve.” Mary’s train was “borne up by the Marchioness of Winchester, assisted by Sir John Gage, her lord chamberlain”. After Mary was given away by the Marchioness and the three Earls of Bedford, Pembroke and Derby, the ceremony began. Gardiner reminded everyone that although Philip was a mere Prince, he had been given the kingdom of Naples, making himself an equal to their Queen. Gardiner also added that this marriage was agreed upon by parliament and the wishes of the realm. While he was not specific about the marriage treaty, it was implied that the true boss in this union would be Mary. She was Queen of England after all, and not just any Queen, but a Queen Regnant. Philip was there to help her make alliances, and make their country stronger, and last but not least, to give England male heirs to preserve both the Tudor and Habsburg line.

While Philip showed frustration with this agreement, it did not manifest right away. At the time it seemed like the two were, according to one Spanish chronicler, “the happiest couple in the world. More in love than words can say.”

After Gardiner finished his speech, the people cheered for them “praying to God to send them joy”. Then the ring was laid on the bible so it could be blessed, then Philip added three handfuls of fine gold. Mary followed suit. Her cousin, Margaret Clifford, opened the Queen’s purse so she could make an offering. The sword of state, came forth, symbolizing the unbreakable vow the two now shared. The mass finished with this last proclamation:

0Queen Mary and Philip of Spain

“Philip and Mary, by the grace of God, King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith; Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tyrol.”

The couple then traveled by foot to the Bishop’s Palace where they dined in splendor. The Queen and King sat together under a cloth of state, with the privy councilors and ambassadors, and Spanish Grandees and English courtiers, sitting in separate tables. Edward Underhill reported that every kind of dish was served, with the plates being of pure gold.

To show their union was strong, Philip and Mary danced together, and the Spanish Grandees with “the fair ladies and the most beautiful nymphs of England.” This however is taken by some historians with a grain of salt. John Elder reported this with the intention to make the Spaniards appear like lusty creatures, when in fact, Spaniards reported that they found little appeal in the English ladies.

“They wear black stockings and show their legs up to the knee when walking. As their skirts are not long they are passably immodest when walking, and even when seated. They are neither beautiful nor graceful when dancing and their dances only consist in strutting or trotting around. Not a single Spanish gentleman has fallen in love with one of them.”

And the Spanish ladies thought no better of them, believing that they “are of evil conversation.” Underhill however, wanted to put the Spaniards to shame, and implied that the reason behind the Spaniards’ words was because they were too sour compared to the liveliness of the English.

The truth as they say, is in the eye of the beholder and it can be that both sources are both right and wrong. The Spaniards carried themselves with such grace and manners that might not have appealed to the English courtiers. When Mary’s mother was born, Spain was known for its love of clothing, pageantry, and other rich displays. The Spanish Princess had brought with her, her Spanish fashions which soon became a hit among the English girls. The farthingale became widely used, and while she did adopt English headdresses after she married Henry VIII; she continued with many of her Spanish customs, one of which was to party. Henry and Katherine partied a lot, and many of their picnics, and masques are well known. By the time Philip’s father became King however; Spain gradually changed. The country was united once more, but Charles brought with him a code of conduct he had learned from one of the most fashionable courts in Europe (Burgundy). The Book of the Courtier became the bible of every nobleman, it told them how to behave, dress, and even how to eat. It also had specific instructions for women. With all of this in mind, it should come as no surprise that when Philip and his entourage arrived to England, they found little appeal in its customs and its people, and vice-verse.

Sources:

  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana of Castile by Julia Fox
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty by Leanda de Lisle
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A Triple Wedding and a Coup in the making

Jane Grey played by Helena Bonham Carter and Guildford Dudley played by Cary Elwes. The movie featured a very idolized Victorian version of Jane, one where her greatest strengths are neglected.
Jane Grey played by Helena Bonham Carter and Guildford Dudley played by Cary Elwes. The movie featured a very idolized Victorian version of Jane, one where her greatest strengths are neglected.

On May the 25th 1553 a triple wedding was celebrated. The couples were Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley, his sister Lady Catherine and Lord Hastings, and Jane’s sister, Lady Katherine and Lord Herbert -the son of the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager and Baroness Sudeley, Katherine Parr.

Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey
Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey

The wedding was a master plan in the making. Initially the ailing King, Edward VI had been considered as a potential suitor for the eldest of the Grey sisters since negotiations to continue his betrothal with Henry II’s eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth of France, were not going very well. Among the many reformers abroad who encouraged this union was Ulmer and Bulm who told their former apprentice she would flourish there. Jane’s popularity was rising and all that fame soon got to the teenager’s head. She began to make bolder statements against her cousin Mary and others who refused to follow the ‘true faith’. In Jane perspective, this was holy war, and she had become one of her faith’s greatest pioneers. But as the year 1552 came and went, it became clear to anyone that Edward’s days were numbered. He had survived a brush with death when he overcame the measles in 1551, but he wasn’t going to be so lucky this time. Edward began to draft a legal document that was more of a legal exercise that posed an important question on who would be king or queen after he died. The succession did not favor women as many people think. In fact “My Device for the succession” as it was titled, still favored male succession. It stated that if Frances failed to give birth to any male issue before he died, the throne would pass on to Jane and her sons. If Jane failed to have any sons then the throne would pass on to Katherine and her sons. And if she failed to have any sons as well, then to Mary and her sons.

To strengthen Jane’s claim and the Protestant alliance, the teenagers were married on the same day.  Not surprisingly, supporting the Evangelicals was France (whose own ambassador, Boisdauphin was present at the wedding) who were as opposed as they were to see the Lady Mary Tudor succeed her brother (since she would favor Spanish interests over French).

Lady Katherine Grey and her firstborn son, Edward Seymour. She married for a second and last time which landed her in the tower of London and then under multiple house arrests. At the time of the triple marriage, she was married to Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke and the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager  and Baroness of Sudeley, Katherine Parr.
Lady Katherine Grey and her firstborn son, Edward Seymour. She married for a second and last time which landed her in the tower of London and then under multiple house arrests. At the time of the triple marriage, she was married to Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke and the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager and Baroness of Sudeley, Katherine Parr.

The wedding took place in Northumberland’s London residence, at Durham House. The young couples wore “silver and gold fabrics forfeited to the King from the Duke of Somerset in 1551 and figuratively at least, marked with his blood.” (Lisle). Perhaps it was appropriate they were wearing such clothes since this wedding -albeit sanctioned by the head of their  church- was a declaration of war against their future rival, Lady Mary Tudor. The triple ceremony was attended by almost all of the nobility. They enjoyed a great number of entertainments such as masques, jousts, and a great feast. When the celebrations ended, the two Grey sisters went to their new homes with their respective fathers-in-law. Jane at Sion in Richmond, and Katherine at Bayanard’s Castle near the Thames (coincidentally the same palace one of their ancestress –Cecily Neville, Duchess of York  aka “Queen by Rights” and “Proud Cis”- had once possessed and where some historians suggest, Richard engineered his usurpation).

Edward VI. The last Tudor King.
Edward VI. The last Tudor King.

It is unclear whether the marriage was consummated or not. Some believed that it wasn’t because of her young age. But it is important to remember that in the Tudor age, the age of consent for girls was twelve and for boys fourteen. Both Jane and Guildford were well past that age range. Then again, the argument against it holds up very well too. Since she was her mother and Edward’s heir, her health was of the utmost importance. Consummating the marriage could result in a pregnancy which could result in her death or inability to have more children (as it had happened to her great-great-grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond).

Three days later, Edward VI’s doctors confirmed that he was dying. Edward had sent expensive gifts to the Grey sisters and to Catherine Dudley to congratulate them on their union. This proved his own validation for the Evangelical elite’s schemes against his sisters, and more than that, his own involvement with them. For Edward, it was imperative that England remained faithful and he believed that the only way that could be achieved was if another Evangelical succeeded him to the throne and that someone was Jane who was just as passionately Evangelical as he was.

Sources:

  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Ives
  • On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Caroll

15th May 1567: A Most Unhappy (and Forced) Union

MQS c.1565

On this day, MQS (Mary, Queen Of Scots) & James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell were married at Holyrood House. The ceremony was conducted by the Bishop of Orkney. This action has often been criticized and taken as proof that Mary was an incompetent Queen. In the show Reign, I will give you the win, she is. In real life, the issue gets more complicated because she was far from the Mary-Sue-ish character she is often portrayed in Hollywood films. She was an intelligent, articulate, brave young woman who knew her position, and what was expected of her. However as Linda Porter, John Guy and other historians have pointed out in their respective biographies of her, she was raised as a Consort while in France instead of a Queen Regnant. This, no doubt, was problematic to many, including her defenders, who viewed that whoever she married was going to be the true ruler of their realm. (And it didn’t help that she signed, although coaxed, documents before her wedding to Francis that she would hand over the kingdom to the French crown if she died without issue). But her experience in French shaped her no doubt, being a close observer of court politics and seeing the family dynamics of the King, the King’s mistress and the King’s wife; her mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici. It was suggested after she became a widow that she married the next in line, her brother-in-law Charles, but Catherine and some French courtiers refused. The Guise family was rising too high and since her mother’s engagement to her father, the King of Scotland, they had been viewed as upstarts. She returned to Scotland and contrary to what is often shown in TV shows and movies; she didn’t seek to dethrone her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Although Mary had a claim to the English throne as a descendant of the first Tudor monarch (Henry VII) eldest daughter, Margaret Tudor; she preferred to ‘charm’ her older cousin so she would name her, her heiress. She went so far to win Elizabeth’s favor that she started allowing Protestant mass and the book of common prayer. However, Elizabeth did not want to name any heirs for fear they would start plotting against her. Elizabeth I was justified in her fears, but this made MQS frustrated and very soon she started voicing those frustrations to her cousin via her ambassadors. In response Elizabeth told them that while she preferred MQS over the Grey sisters, she could not name her, her heiress yet. Furthermore, she added, if MQS wanted to remain on Elizabeth I’s good side, she had to refuse any offer of marriage unless she had her royal permission. Mary agreed but as Elizabeth I kept delaying the matter of the line of succession, she got angry and went ahead and defied her cousin, marrying her cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley (another descendant of Margaret Tudor via her second marriage to the Earl of Angus). Elizabeth naturally panicked and had his family under house arrest, but this didn’t solve anything. MQS became pregnant right away and gave birth to a baby boy (the future James VI of Scotland and I of England). But things were not good for Mary, either. Defiance had a price and that price was in the form of a bad marriage. Disputes and disagreements, the two couldn’t reconcile no matter how hard his parents, especially his mother (the formidable Countess of Lennox, Margaret Douglas) tried. When Darnley was murdered, MQS was blamed and although evidence has been used to prove she was guilty, some recent historians have doubted the validity of the famous ‘Casket Letters’. Whatever the truth, MQS wasn’t his only enemy, he had many more in Scotland who were eager to see him dead. It is probable one of them killed him.

As soon as MQS knew, she tried to be diplomatic about it and arm herself to the teeth but failed. One notable courtier who often defended the young Queen (but wasn’t without self-ambition) got the idea of kidnapping her and marry her. Bothwell was “never a man to underrate himself or miss an opportunity”, Porter writes. He played a last part in MQS last parliament, and the day after he invited a number of the most influential lords to supper where he produced a draft of a bond he wanted his fellow lords to sign.

James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell. His bond was endorsed by eight bishops, and the earls of Morton, Huntly, Caithness, Argyll, Cassilis, Sutherland, Crawford, Errol and Rothes, and the Lords Boyd, Herries, Ogilvy and Sempill.
James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell. His bond was endorsed by eight bishops, and the earls of Morton, Huntly, Caithness, Argyll, Cassilis, Sutherland, Crawford, Errol and Rothes, and the Lords Boyd, Herries, Ogilvy and Sempill.

This was to confirm his innocence of Darnley’s murder and to defend himself of any lies said about him (using any means necessary), and furthermore to become Mary’s husband. The draft said Mary would be given a choice, but we all know what really happened when he encountered MQS’s party (who were headed to Edinburgh). Bothwell approached the Queen and said it was her choice to say yes or no, but there was not much of a choice.

“If she was truly kidnapped against her will, why did she not cry out or demand assistance as they passed through the various small towns and villages on route? There are several answers to this, the most obvious of which is that surrounded by a press of eight hundred horsemen it is unlikely that she could ever have been heard. But more persuasive even is the culture of the time: it would have been improper for a gentlewoman to try and fight her way out of the situation physically and, besides, Mary had no means of so doing even if she had been minded to try and escape. She does appear to have sent her messenger, James Borthwick, to Edinburgh to seek help from the citizens there, but all they could manage was tow salvoes of cannon as the riders went past them at speed. Mary was not completely at Bothwell’s mercy. When they arrived at Dunbar he dismissed all her ladies-in-waiting and replaced them with his sister Jane Hepburn the widow of Lord John Stewart, Mary’s favorite half-brother.” -Porter

There is plenty of evidence that points that Bothwell did rape Mary and since a Queen, although God’s anointed monarch, was supposed to protect her country and her reputation above all else; she could say very little. If she did scream or cry or denounce Bothwell she would have been seen as incompetent by the men of her times, including her cousin, who would use this opportunity to say that this was a Queen who was acting irrationally, who couldn’t control her own subjects and as a consequence, it was her fault for being so dumb. That was the thinking back then (and sometimes today too). With so few options, Mary could do nothing but recognize the marriage and accept it had happened. Furthermore, she was fearful for her son’s future. There were so many people who could abuse him, shape him into becoming something she dreaded, if she was deposed. So Mary did what so many women back then did, deny the charges of violence and tell her lords on the 12th of May that she forgave Bothwell for everything he had done, two days later she signed their marriage contract and on the fifteenth, she married him.

Sources:

  • Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary, Queen of Scots by John Guy
  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
  • Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn

The Queen and the Dauphin: Beyond their marriage

Mary Queen and Francis France
Mary, Queen of Scots at age thirteen, two years before her wedding and Francois II at the time of their wedding.

On the 24th of April 1558, Mary, Queen of Scots married her first husband, the Dauphin Francois Valois. Mary and her four companions known as the “four Maries” had been sent to France since she was a child to ensure her marriage to the Crown Heir of France. She had previously been betrothed to Prince Edward Tudor, only surviving son of Henry VIII. What was called the “Rough Wooing”, Henry VIII brokered a deal with the Regency at the time to betroth her to his son. Both parties agreed she would stay in Scotland but if needed be, she would be brought to England to be reared as future Consort to Edward. As the Regency weakened, her mother took advantage of the situation. Mary of Guise belonged to one of the most prominent families in France. They were seen as social climbers by many. However, they were known for their amassing wealth, and taking advantage of every situation. Initially her family considered -after she’d been widowed- to marry her to Henry VIII, but then James V made an offer which Francois pressed the Guise family into accepting since he wasn’t too happy with the prospect of having one of the rising families in France in alliance with his enemy. Mary of Guise had been a dutiful wife, but as the situation was beginning to deteriorate and she began to see everyone crowing around her daughter, waiting to use her for their own benefit, she stopped being idle and using her docility and apparent sweetness, she began networking with the greatest leaders in Scotland and convinced them to betroth her to France instead. This also helped her family’s interests. Henry VIII became aware of this and tried to stop it but he was too late. His incursions which were headed for the most part by his brother-in-law and future Lord Protector, Edward Seymour turned out to be for naught.

Mary was safe in France. When she disembarked, the King and her family wasted no time. There was a special household set for her. While movies depict her relationship with Catherine de Medici as the worst, this is not entirely true. It is true that she and Catherine were not the best of friends, but to state they were enemies is not very accurate either. As Porter says in her latest book ‘Tudors vs Stewarts’, it is evident that Mary, Queen of Scots learned a great deal more from Catherine de Medici, simply by watching her, how she ruled her household, how she conducted business, and how she behaved with dignity in spite of her husband’s treatment and took on the regency during the English-French wars when the former (under the control of Queen Mary (I) Tudor) lost Calais; learned the most from her than her closest ‘friend’-the King’s mistress, Diana Poiters. From the latter she obviously learned dress code, etiquette and other things such as charm. But it was Catherine from whom she learned about politics.

The couple was fifteen when they married. The ceremony was officiated by Charles Bourbon, the Cardinal and Archbishop of Rouen in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

“It was a Sunday and the citizens of Paris flocked to see the spectacle.” Linda Porter says and adds that the people were very impressed by the young Queen and Dauphine-to-be’s stature. She was taller than most girls and boys her age and unlike the constant depictions of her in the silver screen where she is all vain and clueless; she was more of a tomboy. When she played Tennis she would put on boy’s clothes and she loved exercising, riding, and doing other sports.

This is Mary in mourning. White was a color of mourning in France but two years prior in 1558, she broke tradition by wearing this color on her wedding day.
This is Mary in mourning. White was a color of mourning in France but two years prior in 1558, she broke tradition by wearing this color on her wedding day.

On the day of her wedding, she caused further stir when she came out wearing white. White was not the color used for wedding. Only other bride had used that color and broken with tradition. Her royal English cousin, Mary I Tudor; was the eldest daughter of Henry VIII by his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. When she married her first husband, Prince Arthur Tudor of Wales and Lord of Snowdonia, she had also broken with tradition and wore white and gold and Arthur, copying her, agreed to wear the same colors. Katherine had been the same age as Mary when she wed her first husband.

Besides her splendid gown, she wore a beautiful pendant around her neck engraved with her father-in-law, Henri II’s initials which she called ‘Great Harry’.

As all brides, she wore her hair down. It was a symbol of her purity, her maiden status. On her head she was a golden crown studded with rubies, diamonds and other precious gems.

Mary was seen as a valuable asset to France. Not only because of the Auld or Scottish-French alliance but because to many, she was more royal than Henry VIII’s bastardized daughters. If Mary (I) Tudor died without an heir, and many were saying she was likely to die soon since her last pregnancy turned out to be yet another phantom pregnancy, than that left the path clear for Mary who was the descendant of Henry VII through his eldest daughter, Margaret Tudor. Mary Tudor’s successor, Elizabeth, was still considered by most of Catholic Europe a bastard because of her mother, Anne Boleyn, and most of all, because of her Protestant affiliation.

And there was Mary, Queen of Scots herself. She was not only beautiful, accomplished and charming, but “naturally more intelligent and competent than the Dauphin” Dunn writes.

Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots

“She has grown so much, and grows daily in height, goodness, beauty and virtue, that she has become the most perfect and accomplished person in all hottest and virtuous things.” –Cardinal Archbishop of Rouen

Following the wedding ceremony, there was a sumptuous banquet, followed by the wedding night. Unlike the hit TV show Reign where the couple passionately consummates their union every night, it is unlikely this happened in real life. Francois was a sickly boy who –when he became King a year later- had to be helped so the weight of the crown didn’t hurt him. After he died in December 1560, there were talks of marrying her to the next in line, but this never came to be. Mary returned to Scotland, to rule a country she no longer recognized. Although she showed love to her subjects, the country she had been born into, was very different. It was torn by religion and many factions and they each conspired to bring Mary down following the murder of her second husband, Henry Stewart aka Lord Darnley.

Sources:

  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
  • Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals and Queens by Jane Dunn
  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter

18 JANUARY 1486: The Union of the Red and the White Rose

Their union formed the Tudor rose, a heraldic symbol of the union between two warring factions: Lancaster and York that were now at an end. The reality however, was much more complex. Nonetheless, their illusion did give a lasting impression of peace and helped the country heal. For the both of them, it was the realization of their dreams and ambitions.
Their union formed the Tudor rose, a heraldic symbol of the union between two warring factions: Lancaster and York that were now at an end. The reality however, was much more complex. Nonetheless, their illusion did give a lasting impression of peace and helped the country heal. For the both of them, it was the realization of their dreams and ambitions.

On January 18th, 1486 Henry VII married Elizabeth, Princess of York, eldest surviving daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. There is a not a lot of information regarding the wedding ceremony.  Henry VII had swore he would marry Elizabeth when he had been in exile in Brittany, at  Vannes Cathedral, three years prior. A lot had happened since then though. The papal dispensation that their mothers had secretly plotted to get had to be reissued. The papal dispensation covered the Earl of Richmond and the natural daughter of Elizabeth of York (meaning the Lady Elizabeth, not the legitimate daughter and heiress of Edward IV). It was vital that the couple married under the good eyes of the church. The fifteenth century had descended into chaos when two branches of the Plantagenet House had annihilated each other, their descendants had married off to other noble houses and as a result (after Bosworth), Henry claimed the crown. But he was not blind, conquering and ruling were two different things. He needed stability or at the very least, give the illusion of it to the people to put down civil unrest. Therefore he needed to marry Elizabeth who was the eldest living descendant of the first Yorkist King. The papal dispensation took time, and meanwhile Henry had to establish himself as the realm’s ruler. He established his claim to the throne through his “right of conquest” and his mother, Margaret Beaufort whose family descended from John of Gaunt via his third marriage to his mistress, Katherine Swynford. Nevertheless, his claim to the throne was still seen as weak, which was why parliament asked him on December 1485, two months after he had been crowned, to keep his promise to marry the Princess Elizabeth, and strengthen the claim of his descendants.

"Marrying Edwards eldest daughter was essential to holding that support and trying to restore some stability to the English royal line." (Jones)
“Marrying Edward’s eldest daughter was essential to holding that support and trying to restore some stability to the English royal line.” (Jones)

The pope had finally granted the dispensation at the beginning of the year, and it was confirmed in England by the papal legate, the Bishop of Imola on 16 January, two days later the coupe were married.

The wedding ceremony was officiated by the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourchier. Given the statement that Henry wanted to make, as it was mentioned earlier, about their union; the Abbey would have been filled with Tudor imagery that Henry had created that gave a new interpretation of the dynastic conflict that is now known as the wars of the roses. By intertwining the white rose of York (Edward IV’s favorite symbol besides the sun in splendor) with the red rose, Henry VII’s union with Elizabeth meant to give a powerful message of peace. Illusory as this was, its impression lasted and their descendants continued to use this device and celebrate the union of their ancestors, Henry and Elizabeth. The building would have been decorated by royal colors such as “purple and gold, silk, ermine and delicate cloths of tissue.” And the bride, adds Licence: “would have been splendidly dressed and adorned with jewels, lace, brocade and ribbons.” She would not have worn white, given that white was not a color worn for wedding dresses.(The first royal bride who did was in fact her daughter-in-law, Katherine of Aragon, when she married Prince Arthur). Elizabeth would have likely worn purple as it symbolized royalty, or taken one of her many new gowns.

After the archbishop placed the golden ring on Elizabeth, the couple said their vows. Following royal custom,  Elizabeth promised to take Henry as her husband “for fairer, for fouler, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to be blithe and amiable, and obliging in bed and at board” till death do them part.

“The wedding was celebrated in the customary fashion, with “wedding torches, marriage bed and other suitable decorations,” followed by “great magnificence … at the royal nuptials … Gifts flowed freely on all sides and were showered on everyone while feasts, dances and tournaments were celebrated with liberal generosity to … magnify the joyous occasion.” (Jones)

Besides the expenses, that no doubt would have been great, Elizabeth would have seen the new rose, the Tudor rose in every corner as well as her husband’s other badges. By intertwining the white rose of York (Edward IV’s favorite symbol besides the sun in splendor) with the red rose, Henry VII’s union with Elizabeth meant to give a powerful message of peace. Illusory as it was, its impression lasted and their descendants continued to use this device and celebrate the union of their ancestors, Henry and Elizabeth.

In recent fiction the two have been portrayed as an unhappy couple, pushed into the marriage by their shrewish mothers, but this is an interpretation based on secondary sources that have come many years (more than a century in fact) after the even took place. Francis Bacon writes very colorfully of Henry, and negatively of his mother but Francis was writing a century after the events took place and the two George Bucks themselves wrote even later. It is very easy to believe these sources, but if we want to look at the couple, we just have to look at their actions, at what they faced and what moral attitudes people had in this period.

"For women of all social classes in the late fifteenth century, becoming a wife marked a significant change in status ... As the wife of the King, although not yet crowned in her own right, Elizabeth was the highest-ranking female in the land but still subject to her husband's rule" (Amy Licence)
“For women of all social classes in the late fifteenth century, becoming a wife marked a significant change in status … As the wife of the King, although not yet crowned in her own right, Elizabeth was the highest-ranking female in the land but still subject to her husband’s rule” (Amy Licence)

A young woman such as Elizabeth would not have missed the opportunity to regain her status as Princess, and much less to be Queen. After being bastardized, and forced into hiding at Westminster, then in the midst of intrigue in the Ricardian court (with rumors -whether they are true or not, we will never know- that her uncle wanted to marry her shortly after his wife’s passing and he later recanted after people protested at such an idea that he began to look elsewhere for a bride, and a spouse for Elizabeth); she would have no doubt welcome this new change in status. Elizabeth was a Princess-born, she had at one point been betrothed to the heir to the French Crown. She could not accept no better offer than to be a Queen, as it would also bolster her family’s position as well and it did. Henry VII rewarded the Woodvilles. Richard Woodville as the third Earl of Rivers lived comfortably, Elizabeth Woodville kept some of her dower properties and when she was present, she always took precedence. Even Margaret Beaufort had to walk behind her as the older woman was Queen Dowager whereas Margaret was just a Countess -a Countess in her own right but a Countess nonetheless. Sir Edward Woodville, Elizabeth of York’s uncle who took after his late eldest brother, was a highly pious and adventurous individual who proved his loyalty many times and was favored. The  Catholic Kings themselves spoke very finely of him after his death. The set of ordinances that Edward IV had made for princes and that Anthony Woodville had supervise for Elizabeth’s brother, Prince Edward, was kept and used for Arthur’s upbringing. And Elizabeth herself was not left behind.

“Like her parents, Elizabeth was a patron of William Caxton and his successor at the  Westminster printing press, Wynkyn de Worde.” (Weir)

Furthermore, as Queen, she ruled over her own court and her own properties (some of which had previously belonged to her aunt, Isabel, Duchess of Clarence).  
As for Henry, this was also a personal triumph. Born to Margaret when she was thirteen (a birth that scarred her immensely. She would have no more children). Given as a ward to William Herbert who was given his uncle Jasper’s earldom of Pembroke, and raised to be the perfect Yorkist to neutralize the threat he might pose in the future, he was then sent into exile after the Lancastrian Readetion failed and every member of the royal house was eliminated. Henry lived in a period of uncertainty, danger, and now it was all over. He was King. And he could also boast of having one important advantage. Many royal couples did not have the luxury of getting to know one another. They were married to this person or that, and whether or not they liked each other, they were expected to fulfill their duties. 

Being King was a realization of his ambitions, and rewarded his supporters well. He allowed for Elizabeth's maternal family to be present. Sir Edward Woodville especially was the epitome of chivalry, and he proved himself in battle many times. He also rewarded his immediately family such as his uncle Jasper and his uncle and childhood playmate, David Owen (his grandfather's illegitimate son) who had been made commissioner of the peace in Sussex and was married off himself to a wealthy heiress. Henry also had the advantage of getting to know his bride (a luxury many royals did not have).
Being King was a realization of his ambitions, and rewarded his supporters well. He allowed for Elizabeth’s maternal family to be present. Sir Edward Woodville especially was the epitome of chivalry, and he proved himself in battle many times. He also rewarded his immediately family such as his uncle Jasper and his uncle and childhood playmate, David Owen (his grandfather’s illegitimate son) who had been made commissioner of the peace in Sussex and was married off himself to a wealthy heiress. Henry also had the advantage of getting to know his bride (a luxury many royals did not have).

Fortunately, Henry  did no have this problem. In the five month period that they waited for the dispensation to come, the two got to know each other. So when they walked down the aisle, they were not complete strangers.

After the ceremonies ended, came the consummation. Elizabeth proved herself an exemplary Queen, living by the virtues of the day and this,  as well as her fertility, made her well-remembered and loved. She would not be crowned until the following year, after “she proved herself” by giving Henry a male heir that autumn, less than nine months after their marriage. Given the speed in which they conceived, it is possible that the marriage could have been consummated before (since being betrothed was as good as being married. And the pope had given his approval, they knew it was only a matter of time before the bull came). But there is also the possibility that Arthur could have been premature.

Henry and Elizabeth’s marriage would remain strong, and the two would later rely on the other when tragedy came.

Sources:

  • Elizabeth of York The Tudors’ Forgotten Queen by Amy Licence
  • Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and her World by AlisonWeir
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
  • Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood
  • Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones