Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Coronation of Richard III

July 6, 2015 is the 532nd anniversary of one of the most controversial events in English history. Many historians and Wars of the Roses enthusiasts continue to debate Richard of Gloucester’s motivations and intentions when he took the crown of England from his young nephew, who was already being called Edward V. I will leave that debate for another day as we look at what the coronation of Richard III may have looked like.

Richard’s coronation was shared with his wife, Anne Neville, who was crowned queen at his side. Their son, another Edward, remained in the north. Did they fear for his health or safety? It is unknown, but the fact remains that he died less than a year later so poor health is a possibility.

Richard’s brother Edward IV had been a boisterous and glamorous king, probably not unlike his grandson, Henry VIII. Except that Edward had better luck with the fertility of his queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and therefore never experienced the frustration to beget a son that defines so much of Henry’s reign. Edward had set a high standard for pageantry and magnificence that Richard’s coronation met and exceeded.

Anne’s dress was handcrafted out of 27 yards of white cloth of gold, trimmed in ermine. Over it, she wore a velvet robe and mantle in royal purple. This purple stretched behind Anne in the form of a stunning train created from 56 yards of the precious velvet. With her proud Neville background, Anne surely looked every bit a Queen of England.

Richard was dressed no less magnificently than his bride in his own purple velvet mantle that was exchanged for one in glimmering cloth of gold once the ceremony at Westminster Abbey was completed. He and Anne had been reverently anointed with holy oil, recognizing them as monarchs of England and representatives of God.

The banquet following the solemn mass was another example of amazing ceremony, especially considering the brief period of time that had been taken to plan it. Course after course of savory foods and delicate desserts were served to the most important people in the land. Richard and Anne were served from dishes of rich gold and silver.

Contrary to what some may believe about Richard’s reputation as a villain and usurper, great rejoicing took place at his coronation. Though Edward V may or may not have been the legitimate heir (that, too, is a discussion for another day), the people of England had suffered through too many years of civil war that were the result of a child king who never truly grew up. Rather than taking the chance that young Edward would become a second Henry VI, many nobles were eager to back the capable brother of the previous king. More than 3,000 people including most of the nobility attended the coronation feast in a celebration that has not seen its equal since.

Since I have a particular interest in her, I have often wondered what Elizabeth of York was thinking as Richard III’s coronation took place. Still in sanctuary with her mother and sisters, Elizabeth would have still been in shock at the death of her larger than life father and the bastardization of herself and her siblings. Did she see Richard as a grasping villain?

Nine more months would go by before Elizabeth and her sisters would leave sanctuary with their mother. In this time, Richard ruled well, but somehow misplaced Elizabeth’s brothers. Did he have them murdered to solidify his own strength and eliminate future heads of rebellion? Did someone else do away with them, thinking they were doing Richard a favor? Possibly a member of the Lancastrian remnant rid the country of two more York boys, or they simply sickened and died. Many authors have written in the hope that the boys didn’t die at all but escaped or were sent away by Richard for their own safety. We do not know the truth to this day, but this is an issue that Elizabeth would have struggled with.

When she went to court, no longer as a princess but as the bastard daughter of the king’s brother, what thoughts were coursing through her mind? Maybe Elizabeth believed the story of her father’s precontract. After all, she was old enough to know that he had been many things, but monogamous was not one of them. To overhear one conversation between her and Richard is a privilege that I wish there was a way to obtain.


Whether Elizabeth hated Richard, was in love with him, or had a relationship that fell somewhere in between, his reign was not to last. Shortly following the deaths of his heir and then his queen, Richard fell in a courageous charge at Bosworth, defending his crown from Henry Tudor on August 22, 1485. Henry had promised to marry Elizabeth the previous Christmas and made good on that promise on January 18, 1486. 

21 comments:

  1. Richard executed for sure her half-brother and her uncle Anthony, and a close firend (Hastings) of her father. she maybe didn't hate Richard but i do think that she was not a fierce supporter of his new reign :)

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    1. Very true. Of course, she also knew that her father had trusted Richard implicitly, so I'm sure she had many conflicting emotions concerning her uncle. If only we could know for sure, but I do my best to create thoughts and emotions for Elizabeth in my biographical fiction of her. Thanks for your comment.

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    2. i read the last biorgrapies about her by Amy Licence and Alison Weir. good books! if you are writing a fiction, i just hope that in this one she won't be in love with her uncle (this idea is just so silly in my opinion) and that her relationship with Henry VII will be depicted as happy and good as it seemed to have been by all accounts. i am very protective over Elizabeth of York ahaha! sorry, it's just i read way too many fictions with always the same silly plots :) good luck with your work !

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    3. You will have to judge for yourself if my characterization of Elizabeth is realistic. ;-) As for her feelings for Richard, I do believe that they were very confusing times for a young woman, and we have no clear indication of how she felt. This is how I have attempted to portray her. I agree that there are many indications that she and Henry found happiness together. I am happy to have connected with another Elizabeth of York fan!

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  2. Elizabeth of York was the Wydville,s daughter in first and she needed to be the member of the royal court and - if possible - Queen of England. Such feelings like love for men or for parents, brothers etc. did not existed in Middle Ages, specially in England - these are the reports of the foreign travellers. Of course there were sexual passions and a pride of the members of great families and in consequence - craving of vengeance. But in first - great craving of power and English throne.

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    1. I think you may mean to say that people did not act upon love the way we do now. Rather than let her passions and emotions rule her, Elizabeth would have done what she felt was her duty regardless of feelings of love for any particular person. This can be seen in her marriage to Henry Tudor, who she would not have known beforehand, though evidence exists that they would come to love one another.

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    2. I tried to say that her letter to lord Howard (which existed I am sure, vide the arguments of Alison Weir in her book "Richard III and Princes in Tower") was not the proof of falling in love with Richard but carving of become Queen of England. If she loved his husband Henry it is known only by her:))) She had not easy life with her mother-in-law and her husband rather did not defend her

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    3. I agree that the letter you are referring to does not necessarily indicate improper affection for her uncle. However, I think we must also be careful what we do assume about Elizabeth's relationships and feelings. That's why historical fiction is so much fun! I love seeing how different writers fill in the gaps between the facts we know.

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  3. .....DID NOT EXIST...(of course:))

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    1. I hope I have addressed what you are inferring in my reply above. Thank you for commenting!

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  4. just to say about the anon comment, we have evidence that Margaret and Elizabeth went along pretty well. and we have an example that Henry listenned to his wife OVER his own mother (for the vacant bishopric of Worcester, he chose the candidate of his wife instead of the one of his mother), when we have actually, no evidence of the contrary (Henry listenning to his mother instead of his wife). they often both teamed up together against the King. so yeah, no. There is actually nothing supporting always the same *mysoginist* view that Margaret disliked her daughter-in-law. Henry respected and cared for his wife. and *BREAKING NEWS* Margaret didn't live at the court 24hours the day, 7days the week. She had her own bussiness...
    and yes, we have proof that Elizabeth cared deeply about her husband: like the love-poem she wrote, or the fact that she polished herself his armour, or how she took care of him after then son's death... we have plenty of evidence of the loving marriage they had. the only thing that we don't have, and thing that seems to matter for some people, is an actual diary with on each page written 'I AM SO IN LOVE WITH HENRY TUDOR'. like really, what more proof do people want, than the ones that we already have??
    wow, it was a long comment :) so sorry. as i said, i am very protective over Elizabeth ahah

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    1. I would agree that we have significant evidence of affection between Elizabeth and Henry. While I do believe that the animosity between Margaret and Elizabeth has possibly been overstated in some cases, I wouldn't go so far to say there is no evidence of them clashing. Henry is known to have given his mother the Queen's Rooms, giving Margaret free access to him as a constant adviser. Elizabeth was treasured as a wife but is not known for frequently influencing decisions of state. Elizabeth did a magnificent job of being a devoted wife and peacekeeper.

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    2. i do agree with that! what i was just saying that MB and Elizabeth probably worked together efficiently more often than people thinks and both on two completely different levels. Elizabeth had influence on her husband but on a much more private sphere (like the education of the children, their future and weddings like when she was sent to Calais for a negociatioon of wedding for Princess Mary). How Henry's character degenerated after her death is an evidence of her influence. and the numerous gifts to her from powerful persons showed that, they thought at least that her patronage was worth having.
      i didn't read anything about a clash to be honest (maybe one or two spanish ambassadors said that the Queen was 'unloved' or 'unhappy' with her M-I-L but i would take thes accounts with a BIG grain of salt ahah ambassadors had agendas, and their as the same who called Anne Boleyn 'the great whore' so...), by the way Edward IV gave as well to his mother Cecily queen’s quarters so she had access to her son easily as well.
      I think that Elizabeth saw her predecessors and how bad it had been for them to be a 'political' Queen: Margaret of anjou, her own mother suffered a lot from being publicly active... i imagine Elizabeth as being able to influence but behind the doors and the curtains, while MB was the one in the front line :)
      well at least, this is just my point of view; i just love to talk about Elizabeth

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    3. Great points! I can tell you have made quite a study of Elizabeth. We are kindred spirits in that :-)

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  5. I am looking forward to your book! I love Elizabeth as well and have read everything I could about her (not that there is much).
    I do believe that she was a woman of her time, doing her duty above all else. However, there is a lot of evidence that her marriage to Henry was a happy one and that he came to cherish her so I hope you go a bit easier on them than previous authors of fictions have! I think a lot of the reason for the negative portrayals of their marriage recently is that the trend has swung in a Ricardian direction and the authors think that portraying Henry as a terrible husband does Richard favors. It is fair to see that Henry VII is the unfairly maligned one today! At any rate, I do believe they found happiness and security in one another and they are now together for eternity!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words! I have done my best to accurately portray Elizabeth's relationships, especially with Henry. Personally, I think it is possible to characterize both men realistically without either one being a villain. Of course, Henry is a much greater focus in my book. I look forward to hearing your thoughts once it is released!

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    2. i agree anon! i just hope that in this book we won't have agin the same plot with Henry lusting after Perkin's wife or taking her as mistress. there is absolutely nothing supporting such an idea and Henry is one of the rare Kings with no recorded mistress :)

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    3. I agree. If Henry had wanted to marry Catherine Gordon, he could have done so after Elizabeth's death. I think that speaks quite loudly.

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    4. "It is fair to see that Henry VII is the unfairly maligned one today!"

      Don't know how to quote in order to answer. I don't think it is 100 per cent true really, he is just not a popular subject for a historicl fiction, unlike Henry VIII, and there are not many fictional novels in general about him, but there are novels about him where he is depicted in a very positive light. See, "An Unknown Welshman" or "Dragon and the Rose" for example. And of course, there is Shakespeare's play where he is very much celebrated. And Shakespeare still has far more impact when any of the modern fictional writers.

      "I think a lot of the reason for the negative portrayals of their marriage recently is that the trend has swung in a Ricardian direction "

      That's simplified view I think. There are novels without any Ricardian sentiments and with Richard as not nice guy at all, which still have portrayal of their marriage as not very fluffy.

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    5. I agree that Henry VII is not as popular to write about but is not necessarily maligned. Ignored may be a better word to describe him and his reign. It is interesting that many assume that defending Richard must mean that Elizabeth could not be happy with Henry. I believe that Elizabeth could have been quite happy with Henry, even if she had at one time had feelings for Richard or simply loved him as an uncle. Such a necessary shift in loyalty would not have been unheard of at that time.

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  6. It's not the Richardians that are trying to make their marriage look bad not Elizabeth of York. I think you people just all need to get along regardless if you disagree with certain facts or opinions.

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