A Christmas romance – how lovely…
Edward IV died unexpectedly in April 1483. For Elizabeth Woodville this was a disaster, especially when her brother-in-law Richard became the Protector. Now is not the time or the place to look more closely at the possible permutations of what happened to young Edward V and his brother Richard in the Tower or what Richard’s plans and rationale were for claiming the crown himself; suffice it to say rather a lot of mud was slung at the time and has continued to be thrown since.
Elizabeth Woodville took herself, along with her remaining children, into sanctuary at Westminster. Whilst she was there she and Margaret Beaufort – presumably working on the principle of the enemy of my enemy is my friend in Elizabeth’s case- came up with a plan to marry their children. Henry Tudor, Margaret’s Lancastrian son and dubious claimant to the throne would marry Elizabeth of York the eldest daughter of Edward IV. There was the small issue of Edward’s possible pre-contract in marriage rendering the princess an arrival on the wrong side of the blanket but by this stage in proceedings there were no other Lancastrian claimants and it was Richard who was suggesting the legitimacy of his nieces and nephews was open to question in order to claim the throne for himself.
It was against this backdrop – Jane Austen never came up with a romance like this one- that on Christmas Day, 1483, at Rennes Cathedral in Brittany, where he was in exile but writing and receiving lots of letters that Henry Tudor took an oath that he would marry Elizabeth just as soon as he got his mitts on the crown. The rest as they say is, er, history.