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Elizabeth of York (February 11, 1466 – February 11, 1503) was the first queen consort of England of the Tudor dynasty from January 18, 1486 until her death, as the wife of Henry VII. She married Henry in 1485 after his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field, which marked the end of the Wars of the Roses. Together, Elizabeth and Henry had seven, possibly eight, children.

Elizabeth of York was born at the Palace of Westminster as the eldest child of King Edward IV and his wife, Elizabeth Woodville. In 1469, aged three, she was briefly betrothed to George Neville. His father John later supported George’s uncle, the Earl of Warwick, in rebellion against King Edward IV, and the betrothal was called off. In 1475, Louis XI agreed to the marriage of nine-year-old Elizabeth of York to his son Charles, the Dauphin of France. In 1482, however, Louis XI reneged on his promise. She was named a Lady of the Garter in 1477, at age eleven, along with her mother and her paternal aunt Elizabeth of York, Duchess of Suffolk.

Elizabeth of York, Queen of England

After the death of her father, King Edward IV, Elizabeth’s brothers the “Princes in the Tower” disappeared, their fate uncertain. Although the 1484 act of Parliament Titulus Regius declared the marriage of her parents, Edward and Elizabeth Woodville, invalid, she and her sisters were subsequently welcomed back to court by Edward’s brother, King Richard III. As a Yorkist princess, the final victory of the Lancastrian faction in the War of the Roses may have seemed a further disaster, but Henry Tudor knew the importance of Yorkist support for his invasion and promised to marry Elizabeth before he arrived in England. This may well have contributed to the hemorrhaging of Yorkist support for Richard.

Although Elizabeth seems to have played little part in politics, her marriage appears to have been a successful one. Her eldest son Arthur, Prince of Wales, died at age 15 in 1502, and three other children died young. Her second, and only surviving, son became King Henry VIII of England, while her daughters Mary and Margaret became queen of France and queen of Scotland, respectively.

In 1502, Elizabeth of York became pregnant once more and spent her confinement period in the Tower of London. On February 2, 1503, she gave birth to a daughter, Katherine, but the child died a few days afterwards. Succumbing to a post partum infection, Elizabeth of York died on February 11, 1503 which was also her 37th birthday. Her husband and children appear to have mourned her death deeply. According to one account, Henry Tudor “privily departed to a solitary place and would no man should resort unto him.”


Henry VII entertained thoughts of remarriage to renew the alliance with Spain — Joanna, Dowager Queen of Naples (daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples), Joanna, Queen of Castile (daughter of Fernando II-V and Isabella I), and Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Savoy (sister-in-law of Joanna of Castile), were all considered — but he died a widower in 1509. The specifications that Henry gave to his ambassadors outlining what he wanted in a second wife described Elizabeth. On each anniversary of her death, he decreed that a requiem mass be sung, the bells be tolled, and 100 candles be lit in her honour. Henry also continued to employ her minstrels each New Year.

Elizabeth of York had the distinction of being the daughter of a king (Edward IV), sister of a king (Edward V), niece of a king (Richard III), wife of a king (Henry VII), the mother of a king (Henry VIII), mother of two queen consorts (Margaret, Queen of Scotland & Mary, Queen of France), and the grandmother of two kings and queens (Edward VI of England, James V of Scotland, Queen Mary I of England, Queen Elizabeth I of England), the grand mother and great-grandmother of sovereigns (Queen Mary I of Scotland and her son James VI-I of Scotland and England) and so forth. Actually, many modern royals, including Elizabeth II, trace their line through her daughter Margaret.

Elizabeth of York was a renowned beauty, inheriting her parents’ fair hair and complexion. All other Tudor monarchs inherited her reddish gold hair and the trait became synonymous with the dynasty.