Henry VII Marries Elizabeth of York: An Attempt to Strengthen His Claim

by AlexandriaIngham

On January 18, 1486 Henry VII and Elizabeth of York married. This was more than just about creating heirs to the throne. Henry VII needed to strengthen his claim.

After Henry VII won the crown at the Battle of Bosworth, he had to do everything he could to strengthen his claim. Part of that was his marriage to Elizabeth of York on January 18, 1486. However, it was not as simple as just marrying her. She would need to give him heirs to the throne and be someone the English people supported.

At the time of winning the crown, Henry VII was already betrothed to the former princess. However, Richard III had done everything he could to discredit the children of his brother, Edward IV. Elizabeth Plantagenet had been made illegitimate, and therefore unable to become Queen of England in her own right. Henry VII went to work to put that right.

Elizabeth of York: Daughter, Sister, Niece and Wife of Kings

Elizabeth of York had numerous titles that helped Henry VII strengthen his claim to the throne

Elizabeth of York was the daughter of Edward IV, which played a major factor for Henry VIIElizabeth of York is one of the only members of the royal family to hold so many different titles. She was the eldest child of Edward IV, sister of King Edward V and niece of the Tudor villain, Richard III. Upon her marriage to Henry VII she became the wife of a King of England. Had she lived for a few more years, she would have also been the mother of a King: Henry VIII of England.

Being the daughter of Edward IV was her main quality. It was that title that led to Margaret Beaufort offering her son has a husband. Elizabeth Woodville was in sanctuary with her daughters at the time and Henry Tudor was exiled in France. They both needed each other, and Margaret possibly knew that Henry needed Elizabeth. Elizabeth Woodville would have known that she needed Henry if she was to put one of her children on the English throne in some way.

Before the negotiations and conspiracies against Richard III, Elizabeth Wooville’s marriage to Edward IV had been declared void. All her children were now illegitimate and unable to take the throne. Henry Tudor was in a similar position due to his great-great-grandfather, John of Gaunt. The only way Henry could take the throne was by force, but that would never have been enough in a warring England.

Henry VII has Elizabeth of York Legitimized

Henry VII needed to make Elizabeth a rightful contender for the throne to help his processes of securing his own claim.

Before he could even think of marrying the former princess, Henry needed to pass a bill that would undo Richard’s attempts to seize the throne for good. He needed to make his bride to be legitimate. By this point, everyone believed the Princes in the Tower, Edward V and Richard, Duke of Shrewsbury, were dead, so it would not cause a problem for Henry VII’s claim.

Elizabeth of York was now the rightful heir of the throne as the eldest child of Edward IV. It was perfect for Henry Tudor. He could marry her, knowing the majority of the English people would support them. Those who favored Edward’s lineage would support Elizabeth and those who supported him winning the Battle of Bosworth would support him.

It took some time, along with having to get a papal dispensation, which is why the marriage took five months after the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485.

Wizzley Articles About the Wars of the Roses

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The Joining of the Two Houses in England

The marriage helped to join the House of Lancaster and the House of York, bringing an end to the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VII needed to bring an end to the Wars of the RosesThe Wars of the Roses had caused many problems for England, including financial pressures. The whole of England wanted them to end, and Henry VII’s marriage to Elizabeth of York made that possible. Henry Tudor was from the House of Lancaster and Elizabeth, of course, was from the House of York. With no-one able to compete with the two, there was no reason for a war to start back up. Of course, there were others with claims to the throne, but nobody strong enough at the time of their marriage.

The joining of the two houses didn’t stop all claims to the throne. There were pretenders, including the infamous Perkin Warbeck who was supposed to be Elizabeth’s youngest brother, Richard. Richard apparently escaped and an imposter was placed into the Tower of London instead. However, Henry VII and Elizabeth of York managed to keep the throne.

Henry VII needed much more than marrying the niece of the man he took the throne from. He needed an heir and it was up to Elizabeth of York to provide this. Luckily, she did very quickly, giving birth of Arthur Tudor on September 20, 1486. He was followed by six other children, but only three of them survived infancy: Margaret, Henry and Mary Tudor.

More Wizzley Articles About Henry VII of England

The Tudor line reigned for 118 years. It all started with Henry VII of England but his reign was not without its ups and downs.
Margaret Beaufort was Henry VII's mother and the reason he was able to take the throne. She died on June 29, 1509, just two months after her son's death.
Jasper Tudor, the uncle of Henry VII of England, died on December 21, 1495. Unlike many other Tudors, he died at a good age of 64 years old.

Did Henry VII and Elizabeth of York Love Each Other?

Their marriage was for power and political reasons, but is there a possibility that they loved each other?

Despite their marriage being arranged and for power, it is probable that they cared for each other later in their lives together. Whether they loved each other though will always be unknown. Henry VII definitely had some feelings towards Elizabeth, since after her death he went through a stage of mourning. However, like any king at the time, he had to start looking for another wife. By this point he had lost one son, so needed another in case something happened to Prince Henry.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t care for her. However, it suggests that he may not have loved her. He didn’t wait too long before starting to look like Henry VIII did after losing Jane Seymour. However, Henry VII chose not to marry in the end. He spent the last 10 years of his life as a widower and focused on the country.

Updated: 01/17/2014, AlexandriaIngham
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AlexandriaIngham on 01/17/2014

I think this one was going to last because they both wanted something out of it. Henry VII felt more secure on the throne and Elizabeth of York got the crown back into her own lineage. I think after her brother's death/disappearance (whichever you believe it was) she wanted to become Queen and this was the best option. She is one of my favourites in history.

Tolovaj on 01/17/2014

I am always fascinated with marriages where love obviously wasn't a trigger. It seems they can last and even be more successful / happy than marriages 'of love'. Thanks for this fascinating story. Elizabeth of York was really special lady.

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