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Elizabeth's second marriage to Edward IV became a cause célèbre. Elizabeth was known for her beauty but came from minor nobility with no great estates, and the marriage took place in secret. Edward was the first king of England since the Norman Conquest to marry one of his subjects, and Elizabeth was the first such consort to be crowned queen.[nb 2] Her marriage greatly enriched her siblings and children, but their advancement incurred the hostility of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, "The Kingmaker", and his various alliances with the most senior figures in the increasingly divided royal family. This hostility turned into open discord between King Edward and Warwick, leading to a battle of wills that finally resulted in Warwick switching allegiance to the Lancastrian cause, and to the execution of Elizabeth's father, Richard Woodville, in 1469.
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Elizabeth Woodville was born in about 1437 (no record of her birth survives), at Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire. She was the firstborn child of a socially unequal marriage between Sir Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, which briefly scandalised the English court. The Woodvilles, though an old and respectable family, were gentry rather than noble, a landed and wealthy family that had previously produced commissioners of the peace, sheriffs, and MPs, rather than peers of the realm. Elizabeth's mother, in contrast, was the eldest daughter of Peter I of Luxembourg, Count of Saint-Pol, Conversano and Brienne, and as the widow of the Duke of Bedford, uncle of King Henry VI of England, was before her second marriage one of the highest ranking women in England. As Jacquetta had pledged, upon the death of her first husband, that she would not remarry without first obtaining royal permission, and as royal permission to marry Woodville was out of the question, the pair married secretly. When the marriage became public knowledge, the couple was heavily fined, but was pardoned on 24 October 1437: it has been conjectured that the pardon coincided with the birth of Elizabeth, the couple's firstborn child.
In the early years of his reign, Edward IV's governance of England was dependent upon a small circle of supporters, most notably his cousin, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. At around the time of Edward IV's secret marriage, Warwick was negotiating an alliance with France in an effort to thwart a similar arrangement being made by his sworn enemy Margaret of Anjou, wife of the deposed Henry VI. The plan was that Edward IV should marry a French princess. When his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, who was both a commoner and from a family of Lancastrian supporters became public, Warwick was both embarrassed and offended, and his relationship with Edward IV never recovered. The match was also badly received by the Privy Council, who according to Jean de Waurin told Edward with great frankness that "he must know that she was no wife for a prince such as himself".
Now referred to as Dame Elizabeth Grey, she and the Duke of Buckingham (a former close ally of Richard III and now probably seeking the throne for himself) allied themselves with Lady Margaret Stanley (née Beaufort) and espoused the cause of Margaret's son Henry Tudor, a great-great-great-grandson of King Edward III, the closest male heir of the Lancastrian claim to the throne with any degree of validity.[nb 3] To strengthen his claim and unite the two feuding noble houses, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort agreed that the latter's son should marry the former's eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, who upon the death of her brothers became the heiress of the House of York. Henry Tudor agreed to this plan and in December 1483 publicly swore an oath to that effect in the cathedral in Rennes, Brittany. A month earlier, an uprising in his favour, led by Buckingham, had been crushed.
Richard III's first Parliament of January 1484 stripped Elizabeth of all the lands given to her during Edward IV's reign. On 1 March 1484, Elizabeth and her daughters came out of sanctuary after Richard III publicly swore an oath that her daughters would not be harmed or molested and that they would not be imprisoned in the Tower of London or in any other prison. He also promised to provide them with marriage portions and to marry them to "gentlemen born". Richard also awarded Elizabeth a pension of 700 Marks per year. The family returned to Court, apparently reconciled to Richard III. After the death of Richard III's wife Anne Neville, in March 1485, rumours arose that the newly widowed king was going to marry his niece Elizabeth of York. It is known that Richard was in negotiation to marry Joana of Portugal and to marry off Elizabeth to Manuel, Duke of Beja.
At court, Henry is seen dancing with a young woman, which is not surprising considering that he is known to enjoy the company of beautiful women. However, it is quickly revealed that this woman is his sister, Margaret. Margaret has been betrothed to the aged King of Portugal; she begs the King not to force her to marry him, but Henry will have none of it. Margaret attempts to gain a promise from Henry that she may marry whomever she chooses once the King dies (which she thinks will not be long, due to his crippled state); Henry gives her an ambiguous response.
During the trip to Portugal, Charles Brandon, who was sent with her, constantly teases her about how old her new husband is. The teasing eventually turns into passionate love-making against a window seat on the ship. Unfortunately for Margaret, she is still forced to marry the King who is quite old and perverted, licking his lips at the thought of their upcoming wedding night. Margaret is disgusted at the thought and faints.
Margaret had a rather negative outlook on things, though this may be due to Henry's control over her life. As the king's sister, she was in a difficult position and Margaret's choice of husband was more of a strategic alliance than a love-match. Margaret was a strong woman, going so far as to (secretly) kill the king of Portugal and marry (without permission) the king's best friend, Charles Brandon. It is unknown if she was aware of Charles' infidelity, though she remained loyal if not hot-tempered. Margaret and Henry had a very cold love for each other, and Henry didn't grieve for long over his sister's death. As king, Henry could control his sister's life and she had no choice in it.
Leicester's private life interfered with his court career and vice versa. When his first wife, Amy Robsart, fell down a flight of stairs and died in 1560, he was free to marry the queen. However, the resulting scandal very much reduced his chances in this respect. Popular rumours that he had arranged for his wife's death continued throughout his life, despite the coroner's jury's verdict of accident. For 18 years he did not remarry for Queen Elizabeth's sake and when he finally did, his new wife, Lettice Knollys, was permanently banished from court. This and the death of his only legitimate son and heir were heavy blows. Shortly after the child's death in 1584, a virulent libel known as Leicester's Commonwealth was circulated in England. It laid the foundation of a literary and historiographical tradition that often depicted the earl as the Machiavellian "master courtier" and as a deplorable figure around Elizabeth I. More recent research has led to a reassessment of his place in Elizabethan government and society.
Lord Robert has come so much into favour that he does whatever he likes with affairs and it is even said that her majesty visits him in his chamber day and night. People talk of this so freely that they go so far as to say that his wife has a malady in one of her breasts[note 2] and the Queen is only waiting for her to die to marry Lord Robert ... Matters have reached such a pass ... that ... it would ... be well to approach Lord Robert on your Majesty's behalf ... Your Majesty would do well to attract and confirm him in his friendship.
In 1563, Elizabeth suggested Dudley as a consort to the widowed Mary, Queen of Scots, the idea being to achieve firm amity between England and Scotland and diminish the influence of foreign powers. Elizabeth's preferred solution was that they should all live together at the English court, so that she would not have to forgo her favourite's company. Mary at first enquired if Elizabeth was serious, wanting above all to know her chances of inheriting the English crown. Elizabeth repeatedly declared that she was prepared to acknowledge Mary as her heir only on condition that she marry Robert Dudley. Mary's Protestant advisors warmed to the prospect of her marriage to Dudley, and in September 1564 he was created Earl of Leicester, a move designed to make him more acceptable to Mary. In January 1565, Thomas Randolph, the English ambassador to Scotland, was told by the Scottish queen that she would accept the proposal. To his amazement, Dudley was not to be moved to comply:
Ambrose and Robert Dudley were very close, in matters of business and personally. Through their paternal grandmother they descended from the Hundred Years War heroes, John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, and Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. Robert Dudley was especially fascinated by the Beauchamp descent and, with his brother, adopted the ancient heraldic device of the earls of Warwick, the Bear and Ragged Staff. Due to such genealogical aspects the West Midlands held a special significance for him. The town of Warwick felt this during a magnificent visit by the Earl in 1571 to celebrate the feast of the Order of Saint Michael, with which Leicester had been invested by the French king in 1566. He shortly afterwards founded Lord Leycester's Hospital, a charity for aged and injured soldiers still functioning today.Kenilworth Castle was the centre of Leicester's ambitions to "plant" himself in the region, and he substantially transformed the site's appearance through comprehensive alterations. He added a 15th-century style gatehouse to the castle's medieval structures, as well as a formal garden and a residential wing which featured the "brittle, thin walls and grids of windows" that were to become the hallmark of Elizabethan architecture in later decades. His works completed, the Earl staged a spectacular 19-day-festival in July 1575 as a final, allegorical bid for the Queen's hand; it was as much a request to give him leave to marry someone else. There was a Lady of the Lake, a swimming papier-mâché dolphin with a little orchestra in its belly, fireworks, masques, hunts, and popular entertainments like bear baiting. The whole scenery of landscape, artificial lake, castle, and Renaissance garden was ingeniously used for the entertainment. 041b061a72