The women who feature in my books..
My passion whilst writing all of my books has been the research into the lives of women who we know little about, drawing them out of the shadows and bringing them to life again. Women who knew, loved or were related to some of the fascinating historical figures that are written about and whose life stories are just as fascinating, as captivating and as thrilling as those men and women who history did remember. That desire to dig deeper into the lives of lesser-known women is what led me to write my first book on The Queen's Sisters.
Partly by chance and partly by design, all my books are on women that would have surrounded the White Queen and been part of her life story in one way or another. I explored the life of her sisters in The Queen's Sisters, her daughters in The York Princesses and Cecily Bonville-Grey, featured in my third biography, was her daughter-in-law, married to her son, Thomas Grey.
More recently I have written on Elizabeth herself in The Woodville Women which also tells the stories of her daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, and her granddaughter, Elizabeth Grey. My most recent book is The Sisters of Richard III (publishing 2024), who of course were also sisters to Edward IV and therefore Elizabeth Woodville's sister-in-laws.
Often known as 'The White Queen', a name attributed to her as the queen of the House of York, Elizabeth Woodville was the first English-born queen for over 400 years. Her rise was meteoric, her detractors many. But her life is fascinating and has helped me write on those shadowy women connected to her.
More details on Elizabeth Woodville and other books on her can be found here.
ELIZABETH OF YORK
Elizabeth of York was the eldest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Loved by her family and adored and respected by her subjects, she is often considered by many as one of England's most uneventful queens but that is doing her a disservice. She may not have been controversial or volatile and she performed the role of dutiful wife and queen spectacularly but her quiet stoicism, her never-ending generosity to her family and her ability to cope with all that came her way makes her a fascinating subject. Beyond her soft exterior was a woman of steel!
Cecily Bonville-Grey was one of the richest women of her time and perhaps one of the most connected, which is what makes her story so fascinating. She was a daughter of a Neville and stepdaughter of the King’s Chamberlain, daughter-in-law to the King and Queen of England, wife of a Marquis, niece of Warwick the Kingmaker and the great grandmother of a Tudor queen. But more than just all of those things to all of those people, she was a woman of substance herself who lived and thrived during one of history’s most turbulent times, as the rule of the Plantagenets ended and the Tudor era began.
Elizabeth Grey is one of the protagonists featured in my new book for Pen and Sword: The Woodville Women, 100 years of Plantagenet and Tudor History and out of all the women I have featured, she is perhaps one of my favourites. One of the younger daughters of Cecily and Thomas Grey, she was the granddaughter of Elizabeth Woodville. As a young woman, she accompanied Mary Tudor to France, where she would have spent time in the company of Mary and Anne Boleyn. Upon her return to England, she married for love without her family's agreement. The man she married was the enigmatic Earl of Kildare and this union transported Elizabeth across the sea to Ireland where she lived a turbulent life with the man she would love for the rest of her days. I cant wait to share her story with you.
The Queen's Sisters
Jacquetta was the closest sister in age to Elizabeth Woodville. She was married at the age of just 4 to Richard LeStrange and therefore was not in need of a husband when her other sisters were matched after Elizabeth married King Edward. Jacquetta and Richard lived a seemingly quiet life, most likely on their estates at Colham in Middlesex and were not involved in court life and politics. They had one daughter together, Jean. The exact date Jacquetta died is unknown but she was likely around thirty years old.
Anne was around seven years younger than Elizabeth and is the sister who perhaps remained closest to Elizabeth throughout her life as she became one of Elizabeth's ladies at court. Married at the age of 19 to William Bourchier, a cousin of Edward IV, the couple had three children together. William predeceased Anne and in her early 30s she married again to George Grey. She died in 1489 at around the age of 42.
Jane is unquestionably one of the more hidden Woodville sisters with even her name being in doubt ... she is sometimes referred to as Jean and even as Eleanor. She married Anthony Grey, the eldest son of Edmund, Lord Grey of Ruthin. Anthony's younger brother, George Grey, would later become the second husband of her sister, Anne. The Grey's main residences were in Bedfordshire and Jane would have spent time at Wrest Park and Ampthill Castle during her marriage. Anthony died when Jane was just 25; it is possible they had one daughter together but this is unproven. Jane is believed to have remarried a man named Edward Wingfield. The last trace of Jane is in 1485 and she is believed to have died by 1492.
Mary Woodville was one of the middle Woodville sisters and after Elizabeth married the King, a marriage was arranged for her with William Herbert, the eldest son of the Earl of Pembroke, a hugely powerful Welsh magnate. This union led Mary to Wales where she would make her home in the beautiful Raglan Castle. Whilst at Raglan she would have spent time with a young Henry Tudor who spent some of his childhood there. In 1476 she gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth Herbert, but sadly Mary died just six years later. She is buried in the beautiful Tintern Abbey in Wales.
Margaret was one of the younger Woodville sisters. She was married by February 1465 to Thomas Fitzalan, the son of the Earl of Arundel. She lived in the beautiful Arundel Castle, becoming Countess of Arundel after the death of her father-in-law. Margaret and Thomas had a seemingly happy marriage; the 18th century Charles Carracioli describing Thomas as a tender and affectionate husband. Margaret and Thomas had four children together, and Margaret died sometime around the age of 35. She is buried in the Fitzalan family vaults at Arundel Castle.
Katherine Woodville was the youngest Woodville sister and the one we perhaps know the most about. Raised at her sister's court alongside her young husband, the Duke of Buckingham, she would also make the journey to Wales when to live at Brecon Castle. When the Duke was executed by Richard III, Katherine was held under house arrest before remarrying Jasper Tudor during the reign of Henry VII. After Jasper's death she married for the third time, this time undoubtedly a man of her choosing, Richard Wingfield. Sadly they were married a mere 15 months before her death, perhaps in childbirth?
Martha is the most intriguing Woodville sister as there is question whether she ever existed at all. With evidence of a Martha Woodville marrying a John Bromley the chapter on Martha takes a look at the evidence and if she was a Woodville sister, suggests where she may fit in within the family.
The York Princesses
Cecily of York
Cecily was the third daughter born to Elizabeth and Edward and perhaps it's fair to say one of the most spirited. It is believed she had a close relationship with Margaret Beaufort and Cecily was married to Margaret's half brother, John, Viscount Welles. Cecily served as one of her sister's Ladies in Waiting at the Tudor Court although after the death of Viscount Welles she found herself banished after marrying her second husband in a love match without the permission of the King. She lived out the rest of her life on the Isle of Wight.
Mary of York
Mary of York was the second eldest daughter born to Elizabeth and Edward. She would have spent most of her childhood in the company of her elder sister, Elizabeth, as they were just a year apart in age. It seems Mary may always have had a weak constitution and sadly Mary died, aged just 15. She is buried in St George's Chapel and when her coffin was discovered and opened during excavations in 1810 she was revealed to have long, pale blond hair, a family trait it appears, and blue eyes which were open but disintegrated immediately when exposed to the air.
Anne of York
Anne of York, one of the middle sisters, also served as Lady of the Bedchamber at her sister Elizabeth's Court. She married Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, who would later in life become the infamous Duke of Norfolk, Uncle to Mary and Anne Boleyn. They had 4 children together although none of them survived infancy. Unlike the complaints of his later wife, they seemingly had a peaceful marriage. Anne died at the age of thirty-seven, before Norfolk's political career took off.
Margaret of York
Margaret of York was born in April and survived no longer than 9 months, dying in December of the same year. During her short life she was much loved and her inscription reads: Margaret, fifth daughter of the most illustrious Edward IV, King of England and France, and Elizabeth his Queen, his most serene Consort. She was born the 19th day of April, Ano. Dom. 1472, died the 11th of Dec, on whose soul God have mercy. Amen.
Katherine of York
Katherine was the second youngest York daughter, and was just 4 years old when her father died. She married William Courtenay and made her base on his estates in Devon, although when William was imprisoned for suspected treason, she spent some time at court with her sister Elizabeth who she was seemingly very close to and who supported her and her husband during his sat in the Tower. She spent the later part of her life as a widow and was a very much respected member of her community, forming for herself her own little 'kingdom' where she could reign as Duchess of Devon.
Bridget of York
Bridget, the youngest of the York Princesses, would spend her life as a Nun at Dartford Priory, something it seems that was always destined for her. She lived her life in the peace and quiet of the priory, although she was supported by and remained close to her sister, the queen, and other members of her family. She died around the age of 27.