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Elizabeth Woodville

Woodville, Elizabeth, 1437–92, queen consort of Edward IV of England. She was the daughter of Richard Woodville (later the 1st Earl Rivers). Her first husband, Sir John Grey, was killed fighting on the Lancastrian side at the battle of St. Albans (1461) in the Wars of the Roses. By him she had two sons, Thomas, 1st marquess of Dorset, and Richard. Edward IV married her in secret in 1464, partly because the powerful Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, had other marriage plans for him and partly because of Elizabeth's Lancastrian connections. The marriage was soon made public, however, and Elizabeth's large family received numerous royal favors. At the death (1483) of Edward IV, Richard, duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), seized custody of the young Edward V, Elizabeth's eldest son by the late king, and destroyed the power of the Woodvilles (Elizabeth's brother the 2d Earl Rivers and son Richard Grey were executed). The queen mother again took sanctuary in Westminster and soon surrendered her second son by Edward, Richard, duke of York, to Gloucester. He then placed both boys in the Tower of London and declared them illegitimate, asserting that Elizabeth's marriage to Edward was voided by a precontract of marriage on Edward's part. (The boys were subsequently murdered.) After Henry VII seized the throne from Richard, he married (1486) Elizabeth's eldest daughter, who was also named Elizabeth.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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