The role of consort can make or break a monarchy. Some have seen their reign saved by the energies of their spouse while others have seen their power waver because of their consort’s actions. Here, we look at the consorts of the House of York.
Queen Elizabeth, 1464 – 1470; 1471 – 1483
Many of her enemies would rather Elizabeth Wydville had never been queen at all. Instead, she is the only woman to hold the role of English consort twice.
Elizabeth was born around 1437 in Grafton, Northamptonshire and although she was the first commoner to be Queen of England, her ancestry wasn’t that unimpressive. Her mother was Jacquetta of Luxembourg, descended from royalty. Her father was Richard Wydville, a well connected minor noble. Elizabeth married for the first time at the age of around fifteen but was widowed within a decade and left with two young sons. Legend has it that as she begged the handsome young Yorkist king, Edward IV, to help her Lancastrian family, they fell in love. They married in secret in 1464 and her unveiling as Queen Elizabeth caused shockwaves through the court.
Once in place, she worked hard to promote her family, making her even more unpopular with her enemies. Her husband’s throne began to wobble and in 1470, she found herself seeking sanctuary in Westminster Abbey as Edward was toppled from power. His re-emergence as the conquering force in the Wars of the Roses in 1471 led to a golden period for England and Elizabeth but her husband’s unexpected death in 1483 left her the widowed mother of the boy king, Edward V. Within weeks, her son and his brother had disappeared into the Tower of London, never to be seen again.
Elizabeth survived the machinations that followed and, in 1486, saw her daughter, Elizabeth, marry the new king, Henry Tudor, finally uniting the Houses of Lancaster and York. However, England’s first Queen Elizabeth was an obscure figure from then until her death in 1492. She is buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor with Edward IV.
Queen Anne, 1483 – 1485
The ambitious daughter of an ambitious man, the reign of Anne Neville as Queen of England was as turbulent as any experienced by a consort.
Anne was born on June 11 1456 at Warwick Castle. Her father was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known to history as the Kingmaker. His immense power was already taking root at the time of Anne’s birth. Her mother was Anne de Beauchamp who brought considerable wealth and even more determination to the match.
Anne Neville soon became a useful pawn in the power games her father controlled and in 1470, she married Edward, only son of Henry VI, the Lancastrian king brought back to power by the Earl of Warwick when he fell out spectacularly with his former ally, the Yorkist king, Edward IV. Anne was now Princess of Wales but her young husband was killed in battle in 1471 and the House of Lancaster was vanquished once more. Now on the losing side, Anne secretly married Edward IV’s younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
Her second husband seized the throne in 1483 following the unexpected death of Edward IV and the accession of the 12 year old Edward V as king. Queen Anne was now consort to King Richard III but the death of their son, Edward, in 1484 devastated her and her health, already fragile, began to worsen. Anne, Queen of England, died on March 16 1485 and was buried at Westminster Abbey.