Queen Elizabeth Woodville, mother of the Princes in the Tower of London and one of the most maligned women in history, but was she really, as described so often, greedy, grasping, scheming? Were her family? I have a different view of her and I don’t think it can be refuted. Elizabeth was simply a woman of her times, albeit a woman in a powerful and public position. After her marriage she was in a position to help her family rise in power, prestige and wealth. Had she not done so she would have been guilty of neglecting an important familial duty. Anyone who knows anything about the 15th century will admit that people then married not for love but for gain of some sort or another. Life was all about accumulation of those three things: power, prestige and wealth.
And what about those grasping Woodvilles? Were they really? How did they benefit? Well, Elizabeth’s father was soon created Earl Rivers and given the office of treasurer, but then he’d been active in the previous regime for years and may have risen anyway. Brother Anthony got some lands in East Anglia and brother John got the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk to wife, although he didn’t enjoy her or her riches long. All those sisters made better marriages than they would have if Elizabeth hadn’t wed the king, but the bridegrooms don’t appear to have objected. So what did all this cost them? John and his father were executed by Warwick for no greater crime than being Woodvilles. Their mother was accused of witchcraft (exonerated except where some modern histfic writer’s are concerned.) Anthony and one of Elizabeth’s non-royal sons were executed by Richard III on trumped-up charges, and poor Elizabeth, twice she had to seek refuge in Sanctuary – as far as I know the only queen ever to do so. Finally, her two royal sons, aged 12 and 9, were murdered in the Tower of London by Richard III to clear his path to the throne.
In those days it didn’t pay to be a Woodville.