“With this contradictory percentage of mine: solid English earth and french water goddesss, one could expect anything from me: an enchantress or an ordinary girl. There are those who will say I am both.”
~~ Elizabeth Woodville ~~
Elizabeth Woodville was the wife of King Edward IV, and Queen of England: she was also the daughter of a certain Jaquetta, who was accused of sorcery to procure Edward`s marriage to her daughter. It was also said to be a bigamous marriage because Edward was already married to another in a secret ceremony: Thomas Wake claimed to have seen a lead figure of a Man at Arms broken at the waist and bound by a piece of wire, along with two other figures representing the King and Queen, which he said Jaquetta had made, and cast spells over. In the Middle Ages, witchcraft was used as a catch-all for everything which unsophisticated minds without recourse to scientific explanation could not comprehend: the fact that the King was sexually besotted with Elizabeth never seemed to enter the equation. The uproar which followed Edward`s marriage to Elizabeth is as much to do about class and social standing as much as anything else; because Elizabeth was considered a low born commoner, she was not seen as the right stuff. When Edward`s brother, Richard usurped the crown in 1483, he would use the accusation of witchcraft against the Woodvilles to back his ancestral and legal legitimacy to wear the crown. The above document is a beautiful example of history coming alive before our eyes: it bears the signature of the White Queen herself, Elizabeth Woodville, and is addressed to the Bishop of Lincoln, Chancellor of England, appointing itinerant justices in her forests. It is shown to have been issued from Windsor, 16th July 1477.
Elizabeth`s position was always a precarious one, which relied entirely on the love of her powerful husband to protect her from an aristocracy contemptuous of her, and her upwardly mobile, yuppy, parvenu rich family. The Woodvilles were to feel the full rancour of their enemies at court when the King suddenly died in 1483, leaving his wife and two young sons into the care of his loyal brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector…………The rest is history as they say.
Such documents as Elizabeth`s letter give leave for the life blood of history to flow through the veins of the past, and resurrect the people and events that once were as alive as you or I. Putting my cards on the table, I have had a life long interest in Richard III, and the recent discoveries and revelations from the discovery of his remains from under a parking lot in the city of Leicester, only add more meat onto the bones of uncertainty surrounding this tumultuous, and incredibly interesting period. The waters have been muddied to a very dirty and murky shade by the morally detestable Tudor dynasty which followed, and tried it`s damndest to crucify Richard`s reputation and sanctify his enemies by a blatant piece of political propaganda straight out of George Orwell`s 1984.
Just as the story of the real Richard needs to be told, so too does the voice of Elizabeth Woodville need to be heard above the clamour of historical obfuscation, deceptions and lies. Such a lovely and immediate experience we get from seeing and reading her letter to the Bishop, at least gives us the chance to get a little closer to the real woman.