Henry VII and his Queen – Michelle McLean

As a huge fan of historicals, I’ve been an avid watcher of the Starz series like The White Queen and the new The White Princess (and Outlander of course!). I was very excited for The White Princess as the relationship between Henry VII and Elizabeth of York is one which has always fascinated me. On the one hand, they couldn’t have liked each other much when they first wed. They were from opposing sides of a civil war. Henry had a hand, directly or indirectly, in the imprisonment and/or death of a great many of Elizabeth’s friends, family, and followers. And they, of course, did not know each other well, if really at all, before their marriage. However, it seems to have ended as a happy union.

Henry was reportedly devastated when his wife died giving birth to their 8th child (only 4 of their children survived to adulthood). He is recorded to have shut himself up in his rooms for several days, refusing to speak to anyone. Unlike his notorious son, Henry VIII, who not only did not mourn most of his wives’ passings, but who was the cause of most of them as well. The rumor that Henry kept Elizabeth in penury is dispelled by looking at the meticulous financial records he kept which shows that he was actually quite generous with his wife and children.

What I find more convincing evidence of his affection for his wife is the fact that he appears to have remained faithful to her. They had 8 children together. He was obviously a fertile man, so had there been any significant dalliances, there most likely would have been other children. Of course, it’s entirely possible that he had his fun and either no other children were conceived or none were acknowledged or rumored to be his. But most kings of the time had illegitimate┬ákids running all over the place. There is one man who some believe was an illegitimate son of Henry’s – however, he was born several years before Henry’s marriage to Elizabeth.

After his wife’s death, there was some interest in Henry remarrying, but nothing every came of it. Henry had a requiem mass sung on the anniversary of her death every year, and the Tower of London was abandoned as a royal residence after she died there giving birth. He even had his books bound in blue velvet (blue and black were the colors of mourning). When he died 6 years later, he was laid to rest at her side.

If they didn’t genuinely love each other, they at least seem to have had a great affection and respect for each other. Compared to most royal couples, I find them refreshing. And as a hopeless romantic myself, I like to think that they did grow to love each other and found some happiness together after the turmoil of their younger years.

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