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Elizabeth Wydeville: The Slandered Queen…
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Elizabeth Wydeville: The Slandered Queen (England's Forgotten Queens) (2009)

by Arlene Okerlund

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Familiar to readers of Henry VI or Richard III, Elizabeth Wydeville (often spelled Woodville) precipitated Round II of the War of the Roses by marrying Edward IV while the Kingmaker, the Earl of Warwick, was busy in Paris trying to hook Edward up with a French princess. The Earl was not pleased that all his negotiations had gone for naught and switched sides to the Lancastrians. The general consensus among the nobility was that Edward had screwed up badly by marrying a widow from a relatively minor family, so although Elizabeth was always popular with the public she never got on with the nobility. She had 10 children with Edward, so at least she was popular with him; popular enough to be accused of using witchcraft to beguile him.


As Queen, Elizabeth was able to fend off all the hostility, but things went sour when Edward died young. Their oldest son became Edward V, but he and his brother were both taken to the Tower under the “protection” of the Duke of Gloucester, who quickly decided that Edward IV’s marriage was invalid and as the King’s only surviving brother he was the rightful heir as Richard III. The two princes disappeared (to be found buried under a stairway in the 18th century - maybe; apparently there’s so many bodies buried in the Tower it’s hard to know who’s who). All of Elizabeth’s male relatives were killed off, including the erudite Anthony Wydville, author of the first English-language book printed in England. However, Elizabeth managed to get her eldest daughter (also named Elizabeth) married to Henry Tudor, who invaded England, killed Richard (well, not personally) and took the throne as Henry VII. See Shakespeare for details.


This book has the same problem as a lot of medieval biographies; there just isn’t that much information available. Thus, we read a lot about Elizabeth’s relatives, get long verbatim descriptions of contemporary accounts of her coronation and her attendance at the reburial of her father-in-law (Richard of York), and miscellaneous bits of her household accounts, but not very much about the lady herself. The author, Arlene Okerlund, is reduced to speculation - how Elizabeth must have felt when her two oldest sons were kidnaped and she was denounced as an adulteress by Richard III. Well, probably not good, but she didn’t keep a diary. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a pretty good book, well researched, and well written; it just would be more accurately titled “The Life and Times of Elizabeth Wydeville” or something similar. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 7, 2017 |
Although this is supposedly a biography, Okerlund spends most of her time gushing about Elizabeth’s brother or making wild assumptions about historical figures’ state of minds. I hate when authors pretend they knew the thoughts of people long dead, and Okerlund does it *a lot*. She’s also wildly defensive about the Wydevilles—she spends far more time dissecting the arguments of other historians than making her own case. The book also isn’t organized very well. I was glad to read a biography from someone on the other side of the Wars of the Roses (I’ve studied Margaret of Anjou and of course, Henry VII before), but I wish this had been better. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Useful as being the first modern full-scale biography of Elizabeth Woodville (Wydeville) wife of King Edward IV of England, but distorted by a bias in her favor at least as strong as the bias against her in some other writers.
It is probably fair to say that she and her kinfolk were no more greedy for profit and power than most of the their rivals, but it is hard to believe they were less so. Okerlund emphasizes Anthony Woodville's learning and piety and downplays the fact that his position in charge of Prince Edward (briefly Edward V) would have given him total control of the next king of England if Richard Duke of Gloucester (later RIchard III) had not intervened. This is not to defend Gloucester (who was also less noble than his partisans insist) but simply to say it was a power struggle with no saints on either side. The writer also has an irritating habit of referring to earls as "Earl Warwick" etc. instead of "the Earl of Warwick" also she transcribes "regina" as "regia" , Vitellius as Vitellis, and translates vicecomitis/vicomtes as 'viscounts" instead of "sheriffs." as it in fact would mean in that context. ( )
  antiquary | May 24, 2013 |
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Epigraph
The purest treasure mortal times afford
Is spotless reputation; that away,
Men are but gilded loam, or painted clay

William Shakespeare, Richard II (1.1-177-179)
Dedication
This book is dedicated to:

Cynthia P. Soyster, the student and friend who first provoked my passion for Elizabeth Wydeville

Elizabeth Van Beek, a teacher who inspires students to study and love history

Linda Okerlund, my daughter whose wit and achievements keep me humble
First words
CHAPTER ONE

The Widow and the King

The newly widowed Lady Elizabeth Grey, née Wydeville, watched Edward IV, King of England, ride through the woods in the midst of his courtiers.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0752433849, Hardcover)

Elizabeth Wydeville, Queen consort to Edward IV, has traditionally been portrayed as a scheming opportunist. But was she a cunning vixen or a tragic wife and mother? As this extraordinary biography shows, the first queen to bear the name Elizabeth lived a life of tragedy, love, and loss that no other queen has since endured. This shocking revelation about the survival of one woman through vilification and adversity shows Elizabeth as a beautiful and adored wife, distraught mother of the two lost Princes in the Tower, an and innocent queen slandered by politicians.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Elizabeth Wydeville, Queen consort to Edward IV, has traditionally been portrayed as a scheming opportunist. But was she a cunning vixen or a tragic wife and mother? As this extraordinary biography shows, the first queen to bear the name Elizabeth lived a life of tragedy, love, and loss that no other queen has since endured. This shocking revelation about the survival of one woman through vilification and adversity shows Elizabeth as a beautiful and adored wife, distraught mother of the two lost Princes in the Tower, an and innocent queen slandered by politicians.… (more)

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