Could El­iz­a­beth have saved her sons from Richard III?

BBC History Magazine - - Elizabeth Woodville -

When in April 1483 Ed­ward IV sud­denly died, he left the throne to his 12-year-old son, an­other Ed­ward, who was be­ing raised in Lud­low, Shrop­shire un­der the tute­lage of El­iz­a­beth’s tal­ented brother An­thony Woodville. El­iz­a­beth’s first in­stinct may have been con­cil­ia­tory – one con­tem­po­rary chron­i­cler de­scribed how she “most benef­i­cently tried to ex­tin­guish ev­ery spark of mur­mur­ing and dis­tur­bance” as the crown was passed to her son. But this wasn’t enough to al­lay the fears of some peo­ple – no­tably Richard of Glouces­ter – that the boy would grow up wholly un­der Woodville in­flu­ence. When Richard in­ter­cepted Ed­ward and An­thony Woodville on the jour­ney to Lon­don, El­iz­a­beth im­me­di­ately fled with her other chil­dren and her be­long­ings into the sanc­tu­ary of West­min­ster Abbey.

In June, Richard wrote to York for men to as­sist him “against the queen, her bloody ad­her­ents and affin­ity” who he claimed were try­ing to mur­der him. But he had not yet de­clared any in­ten­tion of seiz­ing the throne for him­self; and it was on this ba­sis that El­iz­a­beth was per­suaded – or co­erced – into al­low­ing her younger son, Richard, to be taken away from her to join his brother in the Tower of Lon­don.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, the el­der Richard’s ad­her­ents started spread­ing sto­ries that the mar­riage of Ed­ward and El­iz­a­beth was in­val­i­dated by the for­mer king’s pre­con­tract to Eleanor But­ler. Their sons were thus de­clared il­le­git­i­mate, and as the sum­mer wore on the boys dis­ap­peared from view, their fate one of the most de­bated mys­ter­ies of

Bri­tish his­tory.

A por­trait of Ed­ward IV. His sud­den death in April 1483 would have lethal con­se­quences for his young sons, and throw his king­dom into tur­moil

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