16 August 2017

Daughters of York

For more than five centuries, the world has wondered, "What happened to the Princes in the Tower?" Rarely do we ever ask, "What about their sisters?"

Whether they were murdered by their uncle, who became King Richard III, or by their brother-in-law, who became King Henry VII, or happened to die naturally with immaculate timing, the little King Edward V and his younger brother Richard Duke of York have been the subject of one of history's ultimate unsolved mysteries. With the exception of their eldest sister, Elizabeth of York, who is a barely more than a footnote in the biographies of her husband and son (Henry VII and VIII) respectively, we hear almost nothing about their sisters. Despite this, we do know quite a bit about their lives.

The daughters of the Yorkist King Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville were plentiful: Elizabeth (1466-1503), Mary (1467-1482), Cecily (1469-1507), Margaret (b. and d. 1472), Anne (1475-1511), Catherine (1479-1527) and Bridget (1480-1517). Had they been boys, there would have been a LOT of princes in the Tower to be murdered!

Elizabeth Woodville
via Wikimedia Commons
Their story starts as a love story between their parents. Elizabeth Woodville's first husband Sir John Grey had died fighting for the Lancastrians before she caught the eye of the Yorkist heir. She already had two sons, when Edward of York won his throne and then secretly married her. Some said, he was already contracted to marry someone else, and it was upon this basis that all of his children by Elizabeth would later be declared illegitimate. Despite the constant political and military turmoil of the ongoing Wars of the Roses, Elizabeth and Edward had a fruitful marriage, producing 10 children in 14 years. (A third son, George Duke of Bedford, died at age 2).

Despite his reputation as a soldier, Edward grew increasingly subject to illness and succumbed to natural causes (pneumonia? typhoid?) shortly before his 41st birthday. One of his final acts was to name his trusted brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, as the Protector for his young son and heir. While little Edward was taken to live in the royal castle known as the Tower of London, Queen Elizabeth's father and one of her Grey sons were taken prisoner for attempts to monopolize power. Elizabeth gathered all of her daughters and the little Duke of York and fled into sanctuary. Gloucester soon accused her of plotting his murder and had several of her allies, including her father and son, executed.

When he demanded that the Duke of York be sent to keep his brother company, she had no choice but to let him go. He also enticed the former Queen and her daughters to come out of sanctuary and live instead under house arrest, eventually bringing some of the girls to court to serve as ladies in waiting to his wife Queen Anne Neville. Meanwhile he had Edward IV's marriage declared invalid based on witness testimony that he had been contracted to someone else when he married Elizabeth Woodville. This meant that all of his children were now considered bastards.

Elizabeth of York:
daughter, sister, niece, wife & mother of kings
via Wikimedia Commons
Elizabeth was an ambitious woman and she soon found her equal in Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian claimant to the throne. The mothers agreed that Elizabeth's oldest daughter would marry Henry, if he could secure the throne. The young man, defeated Richard (who was killed) at the Battle of Bosworth and declared himself King Henry VII by right of conquest, but solidified his claim by marrying Princess Elizabeth, who by now, was generally thought to be the Yorkist heir due to the disappearance of her brothers. She went on to be immortalized with her portrait on playing cards. She also is best remembered as the mother of the much-married King Henry VIII, although she produced a total of eight children. Her last child died about a week after her birth and Elizabeth followed her the next day having succumbed to infection caused by the birth. It was her 37th birthday.

The second York sister, Mary, had died a year before their father, at the age of 15. Daughter #3, named Cecily for Edward IV's mother, was married off by her uncle to one of his supporters, Ralph Scrope, but it was annulled when her brother-in-law seized the crown. Henry VII married her off to one his supporters, his uncle John Welles 1st Viscount Welles. The couple had two daughters who died young, but their marriage seems to have been happy. After Welles' untimely death, she chose her third husband for herself, a country Squire named Thomas Kyme and lived the rest of her life in relative obscurity. She appears to have had children by Kyme, but the records are rather sketchy and, if they existed, they certainly never took up life at the royal court. She died at age 38.

The fourth York sister, Margaret, died at just eight months old but the fifth sister Anne survived the tumultuous reigns of her father and uncle to be married to Thomas Howard, to whom she had been betrothed by King Richard. After Richard's defeat and death, Howard was not about to lose his claim on marrying a royal princess (since the York children's legitimacy had been re-established so that their oldest sister could marry King Henry.) Henry allowed the wedding. Anne died at age 36, having outlived any children they had, and Thomas remarried. He became very famous indeed as the 3rd Duke of Norfolk; he was the uncle of two of King Henry VIII's unfortunate wives, the two who were beheaded, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

Five daughters of Edward IV on a stained glass window:
Elizabeth, Cecily, Anne, Katherine & Mary of York
via Wikimedia Commons
The ongoing political turmoil of the era also continued to impact the sixth sister, Catherine. Her brother-in-law arranged her marriage with William Courtenay 1st Earl of Devon, by whom she had at least three children. However, hubby got caught up in one of several conspiracies against the new Tudor king. In 1509 he was imprisoned and lost his title for his support of a Yorkist claimant, Catherine's cousin Edmund de la Pole. He managed to keep his head and survived into the reign of nephew Henry VIII, who pardoned him. After Courtenay's death two years later, Catherine was given control over the earldom, which was inherited by her teenage son. Her nephew even honored her by making her a godmother to his daughter, the future Queen Mary. Catherine was the longest lived of all the sisters, passing away at the age of 48. Her descendants are numerous among Britain's aristocracy today, having interwoven with the royal offspring of the Stuart kings and the Hanoverians.

The youngest sister Bridget was only two years old when their father died. Her oldest sister Elizabeth, 14 years her elder, was one of her godmothers. Elizabeth apparently took this role seriously and would look after Bridget until her own death when Bridget was 22. At some point early in Henry VII's reign the little girl was sent into religious life as a nun at Dartford Priory. Big sis Queen Elizabeth paid many of her expenses, especially after the death of their mum. Despite her quiet life well away from the political vagaries of the court or the uncertainties of childbearing, Bridget also had a relatively early death at the age of 36.




14 August 2017

Previously at the Palace: Children in the Wedding

In this series, we capture the biographical and major news posts from this date in previous years so that you can "catch up" on your favorites or reflect on some topics you might have missed. One paragraph is included here; click the title to see the full post.


2010: Children in the Wedding
"Amidst the pageantry of a royal wedding, a small group of children almost always takes center stage after the bride and groom. This troupe of tiny attendants takes the place of adult bridesmaids and groomsmen." READ MORE


Embed from Getty Images

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12 August 2017

Previously at the Palace: Young Royal Widows

In this series, we capture the biographical and major news posts from this date in previous years so that you can "catch up" on your favorites or reflect on some topics you might have missed. One paragraph is included here; click the title to see the full post.

By Allen Warren
via Wikimedia Commons
2013: Young Royal Widows
"With the long, slow death of Dutch Prince Johan Frisco today, his wife Princess Mabel becomes the latest in a tragic line of young royal widows. Here are the stories of a few of them." READ MORE
(It's hard to believe that it's been four years already.)

08 August 2017

A Different Maria Theresa of Austria

By Johann Ender via Wikimedia Commons
Revolutionaries had forced her to flee Sicily with her five youngest children, but now a new crisis loomed: cholera. The deadly disease made no allowance for widowed queens and their little ones. She had already lost three of her 12 children, and her stepson had lost his throne. When she began to feel the effects of the disease, doctors were summoned, but Maria Theresa of Austria, majestic to a fault, refused their care. She would not be saved by liberal doctors. She passed away on August 8, 1867 at age 51. A few days later, her youngest child, 10-year-old Prince Januarius, died too.

As a great-granddaughter and namesake of the famous Empress, Maria Theresa's life was bookended by revolution. Before her birth, her father Archduke Charles had battled against the French Revolution, but his efforts ultimately failed to save the monarchy or the life of his aunt Queen Marie Antoinette. By the time he married the Protestant Princess Henrietta of Nassau-Weilburg, he was already a bona fide hero of the Napoleonic Wars, Austria's version of Britain's Duke of Wellington. Maria Theresa was the first of their seven children, but she was only 13 years old when her mother died of scarlet fever.

At age 20, Maria Theresa was sent to be the second wife of her second cousin, King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, and immediately became a mother to his son, the future King Francis II. Baby Francis' mother, another second cousin of both Maria Theresa and King Ferdinand, had died one year earlier, just five days after Francis' birth. From the beginning, the stepson was close to his stepmother, and she accepted him as her own, even after her own brood began arriving with regularity.

The peace and calm of their family life, with Maria Theresa enjoying both motherhood and needlework, did not extend to their public life. Queen Maria Theresa was thought to have a little too much influence on her husband, and that influence was thought to be too authoritarian. Things only got worse after Ferdinand's death in 1859, placed 23-year-old Francis on the throne. As always, he turned to his stepmother for advice, and she was only too happy to assist him. This not only caused strife with his new bride Maria Sophie of Bavaria, but severe political issues at a time when all of Italy was in turmoil. The forces of Italian unification and revolution were threatening must of Italy's various little states. Whenever any issue large or small arose, Francis' response was often a reactionary overreaction.

In less than two years, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies was being threatened by an imminent invasion by Giuseppe Garibaldi, the man who would eventually unite Italy under one government. Maria Theresa was the first of the royal family to flee with her young children in tow. She was followed not long thereafter by Francis and Maria Sophie. They fled to the coastal fortress at Gaeta, but it was eventually overrun by the opposing Sardinia King Victor Emmanuel II, who would eventually be King of all of Italy. The family then took refuge in Rome, while summering at the papal retreat in Albano Laziale, where Maria Theresa would meet her final defeat at the hands of unrelenting cholera.

05 August 2017

Quick Bio: Matilda of Flanders

Originally from "Queens of England" - 1894.
via Wikimedia Commons

BIRTH:
c. 1031

PARENTS:
Baldwin V Count of Flanders and Adela of France

HUSBAND:
William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy & King of England

MARRIAGE:
c. 1051-1052


Statue by Carle Elshoecht (1850). Luxembourg Garden, Paris.
By Tosca via Wikimedia Commons


CHILDREN:
9 or 10 who lived to adulthood: Robert Duke of Normandy; Richard; William II of England; Henry I of England; Agatha; Adeliza; Cecilia Abbesst of Holy Trinity, Caen; Matilda; Constance Duchess of Brittany; Adela Countess of Blois


TOP TITLE:
Crowned Queen Consort of England at Westminster in 1068


Unknown artist. Pen, ink and watercolour, 18 x 13.3cm (7 1/8" x 5 1/2").
National Portrait Gallery (RN49540). National Portrait Gallery, London
via Wikimedia Commons

BEST REMEMBERED FOR:
Governed Normandy during her husband's absence in England, first English consort to officially share in royal power, secured excellent education for her children (both sons and daughters

UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS: Many stories claim that she turned down William's proposal because he was a bastard. As a result he is said to have ridden to her home (or church) and violently snatched her by her hair, after which she refused to marry anyone else. Also, a poorly conducted examination of her bones in 1959 concluded that she was only 4'2"; it has been discredited.

DEATH:
November 1083 from illness

BURIED AT:
L'Abbaye aux Dames in Caen, Normandy, France

Photograph of the chancel of the Women's Abbey at Caen
with Queen Matilda's grave shown in the center.
By Greenshed via Wikimedia Commons

04 August 2017

Previously at the Palace: Farewell to Romania's Queen Anne

In this series, we capture the biographical and major news posts from this date in previous years so that you can "catch up" on your favorites or reflect on some topics you might have missed. One paragraph is included here; click the title to see the full post.

King Michael and Queen Anne
on their wedding day in 1948
via Wikimedia Commons
2016: Farewell to Romania's Last Queen
"Very few queens have worked in a department store. Perhaps only this one.  Born in 1923 to cadet members of the royal houses of Bourbon-Parma and Denmark, Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma had gobs of glamorous cousins more royal than she, but she didn't necessarily have bright prospects. She was born just a few years after World War I and revolution had decimated Europe's royal houses. When she was a teenager, World War II sent her family as blue-blooded refugees across the pond to the United States." READ MORE

03 August 2017

Previously at the Palace: Rudolph's Tragic End

In this series, we capture the biographical and major news posts from this date in previous years so that you can "catch up" on your favorites or reflect on some topics you might have missed. One paragraph is included here; click the title to see the full post.

By Atelier Adele
via Wikimedia Commons
2010: Rudolph's Final Moment
"Rudolph sat stone still on the edge of the bed, tormented by what his life had become, terrified of the next step he must take. Beside him, his teenage mistress lay cloaked by her beautiful hair, her youth forever frozen by the jagged bullet wound behind her ear. Dawn was coming too slowly, too quickly. Crown Prince Rudolph, heir to the dual thrones of Austria and Hungary, knew he had to complete his plan. It had all seemed so simple, why was he hesitating?" READ MORE

02 August 2017

A Dollhouse Fit for a Queen

Many little girls long for a dollhouse. My sister and I used to make furniture and clothes for our dolls who had both a house and houseboat! We even made food for them out of Play Doh, but nothing we did could compare to the ultimate dollhouse.

Created in the 1920s for the Queen Mary, consort of King George V, Queen Mary's Dolls' House was conceived by one of Queen Victoria's granddaughters, Princess Marie Louise. The princess engaged an architect and even had her artist friends and craftsmen create items for the house. The house also includes all of the modern conveniences of the day, like electricity, flushing toilets, and a working elevator. The lowest level has a garage filled with model classic cars with working engines. It is really amazing!

Embed from Getty Images


The house is included as part of the Royal Collection and is displayed at Windsor Castle, where members of the public can view it as part of their tour admission. (Rates for 2017 are £20.50 for adults with discounts children, seniors, disabled people, and families.)

You can also take a virtual tour of Queen Mary's Dolls' House online: Click Here

01 August 2017

Spanish Royals on Holiday

The King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain recently welcomed photographers to their home at Marivent for a photocall with them and their daughters Leonor Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofia. It's appears from these photos that little sis Sofia, aged 10, is currently taller than Leonor, nearly 12. As they head into their teens it will be interesting to see if Sofia continues to outgrow her sister. Since their father is six and half feet tall, either one of them could hit a growth spurt that takes them well beyond average height! More importantly, we can see a happy and relaxed family in these photos. It is quite clear that the King adores all of his ladies.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

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