The eldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York was born at Westminster on 11th February, 1466. She was christened by George Neville, Archbishop of York and her godparents were Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, Cecily Neville, Dowager Duchess of York and Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford.
Elizabeth’s parents had married secretly at Grafton Manor, soon after her father’s accession to the throne. Her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, was the daughter of Sir Richard Woodville, (later created Earl Rivers) and Jacquetta of Luxemburg, the widow of John, Duke of Bedford (the brother of Henry V) Edward IV had met Elizabeth’s mother, the widow of Sir John Grey, a Lancastrian knight who was killed at St. Albans in 1461, when she came to petition him for the return of her husband’s estates. Edward had wanted to make her his mistress, but she held out for marriage.
Elizabeth was tall, fair haired, attractive and gentle natured. Despite being a political arrangement, the marriage proved successful and both partners appear to have genuinely cared for each other. Elizabeth was generous to her relations, servants and benefactors, she enjoyed music and dancing, as well as dicing. The Queen’s household was ruled by Lady Margaret Beaufort. The Queen’s own mother, the meddlesome and grasping Elizabeth Woodville, suspected of involvement in Yorkist plots, was shut up in a nunnery and stripped of all her belongings. The marriage of Elizabeth of York and Henry VII was to produce seven children, of which only four survived the perils of infancy in Tudor times. One of these was the future Henry VIII.
Only one male heir to the Tudor throne now survived, the young Prince Henry, Duke of York. The couple decided to try for another son and Elizabeth quickly became pregnant. The child, a girl named Katherine, was born on 2 February, 1503, at the Tower of London and died on the same day. Tragically, Elizabeth of York followed her to the grave nine days later, dying of a post-pregnancy infection on her 37th birthday. Elizabeth was buried at Westminster Abbey. Her magnificent effigy by the Renaissance sculptor Pietro Torrigiano, which lies beside that of her husband, can still be seen in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey.