Lizzie Woodville has got everybody Googling…

Every time I check my website’s dashboard stats, I’m more and more surprised by the number of The White Queen/Elizabeth Woodville searches that have directed web-users to this website, specifically my constantly trafficked (and in some cases, plagiarised, naughty naughty…) post on the real White Queen. In the interests of being helpful, I thought I would throw together a quick FAQ on some of the questions that people have been asking their search engines.

Why was Elizabeth Woodville called ‘The White Queen’?
First of all, I think you’re making the apparently common mistake of taking Philippa Gregory as total gospel, but anyway… Elizabeth Woodville is known as the ‘White’ Queen, as she was the wife of Edward of York, whose house’s ‘symbol’ was a white rose. Conversely, Philippa Gregory has Margaret Beaufort as the ‘Red’ Queen, as she is of the competing House of Lancaster, whose ‘symbol’ was a red rose (although I think Margaret of Anjou would be the true ‘Red Queen’ in this instance). When Henry Tudor married Edward and Elizabeth’s Yorkist daughter and founded the Tudors dynasty, he created the ‘Tudor Rose’ by overlaying the white York rose to the red Lancaster one.

Why wasn’t Elizabeth Woodville known as Elizabeth I?
You might be rolling your eyes, but this search appears on my dashboard at least once a week! The simple answer is that, of course, Elizabeth Woodville was a Queen Consort, and not monarch in her own right. Her great-granddaughter Elizabeth Tudor would reign in her own name, which is why she is Elizabeth I.

Why did Elizabeth Woodville give up her sons to Richard III?
It is important to remember that Elizabeth didn’t ‘give’ Richard her son and heir, Edward V; Richard in his role of Lord Protector simply took governship of the boy-king. As for the younger son, Richard, who knows? Elizabeth’s concern was for her family’s political safety, and as suspicious of Richard as she clearly was, there was nothing to suggest that her brother-in-law would cause any physical harm to his two young nephews. Richard was invited to join his brother in the Tower of London to await the coronation; a reasonable request. There is the argument that Richard was just going to walk in and take him if she didn’t cooperate, due to the shaky legality of the boy being in sanctuary in the first place; due to a child’s intrinsic innocence it could be argued that he had no right to sanctuary. Of course we’ll never know what went through the woman’s mind in 1483, which leads on to the next question…

Did Elizabeth Woodville exchange her younger son for another boy?
During the reign of Henry VII, countless upstarts appeared claiming to be Richard, Duke of York, grown into a man and ready to claim his kingdom. There’s no proof that any of these were anything more than stooges coached by enemies of the Tudors, chancers or delusionists. There’s no record that Elizabeth of York was ever hopeful or remotely convinced that any of these men were truly her younger brother; one of them was given a job in the royal kitchens, as a spit-turner.

Did Elizabeth Woodville give Edward an heir?
I presume this was asked by people who hadn’t yet watched past the first half of The White Queen series and were impatient. Elizabeth gave Edward two sons, Edward and Richard, who of course would ‘disappear’.

Was Elizabeth Woodville beautiful?
Of course, we have to expect a certain amount of flattery, but I think we can safely say that Elizabeth was an attractive woman. Her contemporaries raved that she was “the most beautiful woman on the Island of Britain” with “heavy-lidded eyes like those of a dragon” – nice! An associated question is ‘Was Elizabeth Woodville blonde?’. Looking at her portraiture she was probably fair, as was her daughter – she may well have been the progenitor of the famous Tudor red-gold hair.

Will Elizabeth Woodville marry Henry Tudor?
No. Her daughter will… I’ve also seen “Will Elizabeth Woodville marry Henry VIII?” – her own grandson, impressive!

Was Elizabeth Woodville a witch?”
I imagine that’s rather unlikely, don’t you? People hated the Woodvilles, and so grumbled that Elizabeth’s foreign and glamorous mother – Jacquetta of Luxembourg – had used some form of enchantment in order to make Edward IV marry her daughter. Calling powerful women ‘witches’ was pretty par for the course – it doesn’t mean a thing.

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