Happy Birthday Elizabeth of York

 

elizabeth of york

Elizabeth of York (known in some circles as the White Princess) was technically the very first queen of the infamous Tudor dynasty.  She was born on this day, February 11, 1466, and, ironically, also died on this day, February 11, 1503.

Young Elizabeth had a lot going for her.  Besides the royal bloodline, she was, by all accounts, beautiful, intelligent, kind, empathetic and well mannered.

eliz of york 2

She was the oldest daughter of King Edward of York and his wife Elizabeth Woodville. Elizabeth’s father had come to power after many hard fought battles with his cousins the Lancasters. Edward’s reign issued in a period of peace and prosperity. When he died unexpectedly in 1483, a new game of thrones would ensue, complete with evil plots and bloody battles as the Lancasters and Yorks once again strove for power.

Elizabeth was only seventeen when her father died. Her younger brother Edward, just thirteen, then became king. However, their Uncle Richard (Richard III) exercised his power as Lord Protector of the Realm and had Edward and his younger brother Richard (second heir) put away in the Tower of London for “safe keeping”.  What happened to the two York princes remains a mystery to this day.  Neither boy was ever heard from again. It is commonly thought that Richard had them murdered.

In 1674, workmen at the Tower discovered a box containing two small skeletons. Those are thought to be the bones of the princes.

princes

Richard then took the throne for himself. He did not keep it for long. Henry Tudor, a Welshman from a royal but illegitimate bloodline, also had kingly ambitions. He waged war. Richard III was defeated and lost his life at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

Henry Tudor then became King Henry VII.  He knew it would be prudent to unite his house with York and asked for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage. Young Elizabeth then found herself in the rather awkward position of being a York heir, yet pulled into the Lancaster-Tudor stronghold, most likely against her own will.

The marriage, however, proved to be a happy one.

Elizabeth gave birth to eight children. The most notorious of these was of course King Henry VIII. He continued the dynasty and also fathered a rather strong tempered little girl, also named Elizabeth, who would  never marry, but would come to rule England for almost fifty years.

You guessed it! Bess the Virgin Queen was Elizabeth’s granddaughter.

bess

Elizabeth of York was a hands-on mother, unusual at the time for women of her status. She insisted upon having much domestic time with her children and often brought them to her palace at Eltham.  Although she left behind a great legacy, Elizabeth of York only lived to be thirty seven years old. She died of an infection on Feb. 11, 1503, just days after giving birth to her last daughter Katherine. The baby died too.

In 2012, the Vaux Passional, an illuminated manuscript that was once the property of Henry VII, was rediscovered in the National Library of Wales. This manuscript gives us insight into the strong bonds between Elizabeth and her family.  It depicts Elizabeth’s death, with a saddened Henry VII in mourning garments. In the background, an 11-year-old King Henry VIII’s red head is shown weeping into the sheets of his mother’s empty bed. His two sisters wear black mourning veils.

Fun Facts:

  • After her father’s death, teenage Elizabeth went to live with her Uncle Richard.  It is rumored they developed a romantic relationship, and Richard planned to marry her. Richard himself denied this, and sent his niece away after the death of his wife, perhaps to end further rumors.

eliz and richard

  • She loved music and dancing — a trait that was perhaps passed on to her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth I.
  • She was extremely fond of greyhound dogs and kept several of them at her residence in Eltham Palace.

  • Elizabeth’s grandmother, Jaquetta of Luxembourg, was rumored to have been a witch — a bloodline which was passed down to her daughter Elizabeth Woodville and hence Elizabeth of York. The women are said to have used their witchy powers to keep their various dynasties afloat.

  • She is thought to be the queen in the poem “Song of Sixpence”. The rhyme goes: “The king was in his counting house, counting out his money; The queen was in the parlour, eating bread and honey.” In real life, Henry VII was shrewd with money and Elizabeth was preoccupied with domestic work, meals and children, so maybe it is true.
  • Pre-raphaelite artist Valentine Cameron Prinsep even painted this 1860 depiction of Elizabeth as “the queen in the parlour”!

Eliz of york

  • Her flower symbol became a red and white rose. Red represented  the House of Lancaster and white represented the House of York.  This, the Tudor rose, is still a floral symbol of England.

  • Remember the knaves painting roses from white to red in Alice in Wonderland? You guessed it! This was  not just some silly whim of author Lewis Carroll,  but actually based upon the rival Houses of Lancaster and York.  (“Off with their heads” was not far behind.)

Happy Birthday Elizabeth!

 

 

 

 

 

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Shakespeare’s Capers

 

shakes dance

The Bard knew capers. He used a lot of court jesters and clowns in his plays, so capering should naturally be a part of his stories. It is a colorful word, conjuring up images of frolic and flirtation.  But capering is not all fun and games!

Take Richard III.

richard 3 pd

When the War of the Roses ends, Richard should be happy.  His house, Team York, has won.  Not only is his brother Edward declared the undisputed King, but now the York men have a lot of free time on their hands and they could spend it wooing the ladies.

“Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front; 
And now… 
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber 
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.”

Yet Richard is apparently still in the winter of his discontent.  There will be no capering in the ladies chambers for him, as he feels he is not handsome enough to engage in sex play:

“But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks, 
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass; 
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty 
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph; 
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion, 
Cheated of feature; Deformed…
 
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace, 
Have no delight to pass away the time, 
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun 
And descant on mine own deformity:” 

Ouch! Poor Richard. He had nothing better to do during peace time than watch his own shadow and lament his deformity.  (Later he began to plot against his family and lock his nephews in the Tower…)

But Shakespeare may have been unfair.  Phillippa Gregory gave Richard better looks and a better disposition in her treatment of the story, called ‘The White Queen’. This book was  made into a series on Starz.

Richard III was played by this guy.

Richard III

Nuff said. But back to capers.

Consider Fenton from the Merry Wives of Windsor. Fenton is an eligible bachelor who hopes to marry Windsor’s number one It-girl Anne Page. The Innkeeper tries to recommend him to Anne’s father:

“What say you to young Master Fenton? He capers, he 
dances, he has eyes of youth! He writes verses, he 
speaks holiday, he smells April and May.”

Who would not want Fenton? He capers, he dances, he even smells good! Anne’s father, however, is suspicious.  The Page family is rich, and Fenton (who is also a penniless playboy) may be a gold digger. Mr. Page answers:

“Not by my consent, I promise you. The gentleman is
of no having.  He kept company with the wild prince 
and Poins!  No, he shall not knit a knot in his fortunes 
with the finger of my substance! The wealth I have waits on 
my consent, and my consent goes not that way.”

Mere capering will not a good marriage make! Do they get together in the end? Read the play and find out!

And finally, what may be the smartest words of all about capers.

Touchstone, the jester in As You Like It philosophizes about love:

“I remember, when I was in love, I broke my 
sword upon a stone, and bid him take that for coming a-night to 
Jane Smile; and I remember the kissing of her batler, and the 
cow’s dugs that her pretty chapt hands had milk’d; and I remember 
the wooing of peascod instead of her; from whom I took two cods, 
and giving her them again, said with weeping tears ‘Wear these 
for my sake.”

He is so devoted to Jane Smile that he kisses the stick she carries, and also the cow’s udders she milks. He practices his flirtation speech on a pea pod. That’s dedication.

But then again, he IS the Clown.

clown pd

Shakespeare’s clowns are usually the wisest characters.  In fact, Shakespeare invented the term ‘wise fool’.

Touchstone goes on to say:

“We that are true lovers run into strange capers
but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal
in folly.”

We are all fools in love. But we can be forgiven, for we are only human. And humans (even Shakespeare!)  lose their common sense when it comes to affairs of the heart.

 

Shakespeare_in_Love