Thursday, November 10, 2016

Forgotten Daughter of York

Princess Bridget of York
Nun at Dartford Priory
On November 10, 1480, Elizabeth Woodville gave birth to her seventh daughter. Born during the most peaceful days of her father's reign, Bridget's position would have seemed charmed and secure until Edward IV died unexpectedly less than three years later.

Bridget joined the large York royal family just over a year after her older sister, Katherine, and only months after older sisters, Mary and Cecily, had been made Ladies of the Garter. Queen Elizabeth's last child is often overlooked in the drama that occurred during her early life, but Bridget would leave it all behind for a monastic life just as her namesake, St Bridget of Sweden, had done.

Born at Eltham Palace, Bridget was baptized the following day with her eldest sister, Elizabeth, standing as godmother. It is likely that the decision to dedicate this child to the church had already been made. Cecily of York, Bridget's grandmother, had recently retired to Berkhamsted to devote her life to religious study and worship. She is thought to be the one to suggest the unconventional name of Bridget for the youngest York princess.

As a toddler, Bridget went with her mother and sisters into sanctuary when her father died in 1483. Hearing that Richard of Gloucester had taken control of the boy who was now Edward V, Elizabeth panicked and rushed her remaining children to Westminster Abbey. While the rest of the family waited in fear to see how events would unfold, Bridget was young enough to be blissfully ignorant.

The girls did not leave sanctuary until March of the following year, after Queen Elizabeth had convinced the man who was by then Richard III to publicly promise to see to the protection and well-being of her five surviving daughters. Blessed by her youth, Bridget would not have understood the loss of her two brothers that devastated her mother and older sisters. Edward V and little Richard of York would never be seen again.

Then, in 1485, the world shifted again. The Plantagenet dynasty, which had begun in 1154, came to an end when Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth by the forces of Henry Tudor. In an underdog victory that none could have foreseen, the Tudor dynasty was born and Bridget found herself the youngest princess of a defeated regime. She was almost five years old.

Since Bridget's eldest sister, Elizabeth, became Henry Tudor's bride, her position was safe if uncertain. What would Henry VII decide to do about all those York girls with royal blood running through their veins? Parliament had bastardized them, but Henry quickly had them legitimized for his wife's sake. Their marriage would unite their houses and bring peace, but who could he safely marry her sisters to?

Dartford Priory
1786 Print
In Bridget's case, Henry had no worries. By the time she was ten years old, Bridget was dedicated to the church. She was sent to the Order of St Augustine at Dartford, which had been founded by her ancestor, Edward III, in 1349. Dartford was an affluent priory with a reputation for scholarly and religious study. It was the lone order of Dominican nuns in England. Bridget became eligible to take vows on her thirteenth birthday in 1493, but it is unknown precisely when she did become a nun. She also stayed in touch with her sister, the queen, until Elizabeth's death in 1503. One of the few times that Bridget left Dartford was for the funeral of the first Tudor queen.

Bridget died in 1517 and was buried at the priory. However, the exact location of her grave was lost due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries by her nephew, Henry VIII.


8 comments:

  1. Great article. Thanks for posting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by, Bonnie. :-D

      Delete
  2. Thank you for posting this great article. I only remembered that Elizabeth had a lot of daughters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. More than I can imagine having! ;-)
      Thanks for stopping by my blog.

      Delete
  3. I'm sorry, but I get a bit peeved when people make out that the Yorkists were the 'last Plantagenets'. What about the descendents of Elizabeth, sister of Henry IV, or the myriad of descendant of the Plantagenet Kings? In fact, there was a blog post recently showing that even Henry Tudor was descended from Three of them, not just Edward III throught the Beauforts, but Henry III and Edward I through Margaret Beaufort's grandmother, Margaret Holland.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for visiting my blog! I did not mean to imply that Henry did not descend from the Lancastrian branch of the Plantagenets and certainly never denied Elizabeth her Plantagenet princess status. Do you not refer to it as the Tudor dynasty? I think most 'new' dynasties are related by blood to the previous one. Even William the Conqueror had familial ties that led him on his invasion, yet we still divide history into different dynasties. Who would you consider the 'last' Plantagenet?

      Delete
  4. Very interesting post Samantha, thank you. Do you know where the, window is that depicts Bridget, that you have used? I'm trying to find out and am going around in ever decreasing circled :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great question, Bev. I have to admit that I had not carefully looked into this image's source before using it, so I had to dig a bit as well. It appears that it is a modern computer-generated image rather than a painting, as I had believed.

      Delete