Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pop History Moment: Henry VII Marries Elizabeth of York


Shortly after the Duke of Richmond became Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485, the Lancastrian usurper sought to heal the deep divide in England caused by the Wars of the Roses by marrying the Yorkist Princess, Elizabeth of York. In uniting the red rose of the Lancasters with the white rose of the Yorks was the Tudor Dynasty born.

The Princess was already with child when, on this day in 1486 she and her King approached the altar of Westminster Abbey; the promise he had made at the altar of Rennes Cathedral on Christmas Day two years earlier - that if he should become King he would marry her - was made good. As was his promise to crown her Queen once she had borne him a son, which she duly did in September of that year.

Though theirs was a dynastic marriage it seems to have coalesced into a love bond; unlike most Kings, Henry VII had no mistresses, attended Mass thrice daily, and used the vast wealth of his Nation to aid the indigent and support the arts. As his was a throne by right of conquest (as opposed to inheritance) Henry knew he was treading on unsteady ground, and so sought in all ways to secure the good graces of the nobility and the people throughout his reign.

Although he briefly considered remarriage when Elizabeth, worn out from her eighth childbirth, died in February 1503 he did not; at his own passing in April 1509 he joined her in the gilt-bronze tomb he'd commissioned for them (from the Florentine sculptor Pietro Torrigiano) as the centrepiece of the Henry VII Chapel in the selfsame Abbey where just two dozen years earlier they'd been joined in life.
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