Posts Tagged ‘Edward IV’

Royal Gossip

Posted in General, On This Day on January 18th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 7 Comments

January 18, 1486: How the Tudors Got Their Good Looks (even if they couldn’t keep them)

We all have the image of Henry VIII as that bloated bully in the Holbein portrait. Either fat had a higher aesthetic value in the 16th century or those English courtiers assured the tempermental King that he looked wonderful. Fortunately, Henry was easily convinced of his good looks. When a middle-aged blob, he certainly was self-deluded but at least he had an excellent memory.

Henry VIII was not born looking like Charles Laughton. The young king actually was handsome, a gift from his mother Elizabeth of York. She was a beauty, the gift of her parents: Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. They were regarded as the best-looking people in England! Elizabeth Woodville had to be a beauty; to have her, Edward IV caused a civil war.

She was a widow, with children, and only from the minor nobility; worse, her late husband and her family had been supporters of the rival Lancastrian dynasty. The lusty Edward IV wanted her as a mistress; she refused his advances and insisted on marriage. At that very time, Edward had commissioned his chief supporter, the Earl of Warwick, to negotiate a marriage with the sister-in-law of the King of France. Warwick, the most powerful noble in England, had successfully negotiated that marital alliance when he learned that Edward had eloped with the Woodville widow. “The Kingmaker”, as Warwick was known, was humiliated and furious; he then switched his allegiance and considerable forces to the Lancasters. Warwick succeeded in ousting Edward and restored Henry VI to the throne in 1470. A year later, Edward returned. Warwick was killed in battle and Henry VI was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The deposed King apparently fell on several daggers while in chapel.

In any case, handsome Edward IV and beautiful Elizabeth Woodville produced seven children. (He also acquired a pack of greedy in-laws and two stepsons who could have been role models for Paris Hilton.) Edward died in 1483, thinking his young son Edward would succeed him. Unfortunately, the regent of England was Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Although the late King’s brother, he had always resented the Woodville queen and her upstart family. Uncle Richard had other plans.

And the war over Elizabeth Woodville so divided the Yorkist party that the illegitimate Welsh branch of the Lancastrian line would soon kill its way to the throne. When the illegitimate half-second cousin, once removed, Henry Tudor ascended to the throne, he required a legitimate princess for some resemblance to respectability. The eldest daughter of Edward IV sufficed quite nicely, and today is their wedding anniversary.

p.s.  And let’s not forget this birthday: http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2009/01/18/adjective-orgy/

On This Day in 1503

Posted in General, On This Day on November 24th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

November 23rd

If you were reading the death notices from 505 years ago, you would have been intrigued by Bona of Savoy’s obituary: she was almost Queen of England and sorta Duchess of Milan. Perhaps Bona (1449-1503) was born to be an underachiever and runner-up. She did have the abysmal timing to be a younger child in the Ducal House of Savoy. The older siblings got the properties and the better marriages. For instance, her older sister Charlotte was married to the King of France. True, he was old (20 years Charlotte’s senior), creepy and cheap; but he still had a status job. (He was also a superb king, but that would be of interest only to his subjects and historians.)

But then Prince Charming–or at least his ambassador–promised to rescue Bona. In 1464 the precariously throned Edward IV of England needed a wife, preferably one who could include a powerful ally in her dowry. The French had been lending support to Edward’s Lancastrian rivals, but a marriage to Bona might alter the Gallic bias. Edward’s chief advisors were encouraging the match, especially the Earl of Warwick. In fact, Warwick was in Paris to negotiate the marriage. Bona should have been enthusiastic about the prospective union. She would not only get a throne but a chance to finally outdo Charlotte. King Edward was young and said to be the most handsome man in England. Warwick, Bona and the French Court thought they had reached an agreement when some contradictory news arrived from London. The most handsome man in England had just married the most beautiful woman in England. Edward had affronted Bona, sabotaged a French alliance and betrayed the Earl of Warwick–and all for a penniless widow with a large, ravenous family.

France would continue to support the Lancastrians, and the Earl of Warrick was about to change sides. The next round in the Wars of the Roses was ready to begin.

However, our concern is Bona. Whether as compensation for the aggrieved or banishment of an embarrassment, the French Court now eagerly sought some acceptable marriage for her. The ruling family in Milan was receptive; the Sforza welcomed any class and legitimacy they could get. Francesco Sforza, a successful mercenary commander, had taken control of Lombardy in 1447. While his power could not be disputed, he was not acknowledged as the rightful Duke of Milan. (Of course, people addressed him as Duke to his face; if Al Capone demanded to be called Mayor of Chicago, would you have argued with him?) Francisco was illegitimate as was his wife; so the status-craving Sforza were eager to have an aristocrat–with royal connections–for a daughter-in-law.

Nonetheless, the negotiations took four years; the Sforza knew how to bargain. But in 1468 Bona became the wife of Galeazzo Sforza. He succeeded his father as the self-proclaimed Duke of Milan and showed himself to be a patron of art and torture. His assassination in 1476 may have only been a surprise to him. Galeazzo’s body was treated as a pinata, but the Sforza family was still in control. (They apparently did not miss him, either.) During the marriage, Bona had produced the prerequisite son, and the 7 year-old was now the sorta Duke of Milan. Bona was supposed to be Regent, but her brother-in-law Ludovico Sforza really was not one for formalities. After a short civil war, Bona was exiled and Uncle Ludovico established himself as regent for his nephew.

Would you be surprised that Uncle Ludovico outlived his nephew? Actually, to Uncle Lud’s credit, the young “Duke” lived for 18 years in comfortable confinement; those comforts included considerable latitude because the young man apparently died of syphilis in 1494.

As for Bona, she was a has-been at 31. Since she did not possess a conspiratorial nature, she was never involve in any political intrigues and so she also never had to hire a foodtaster. In the remaining two decades of her life, she was content to be a patron of the arts. And today’s museums would indicate that she had good taste.

p.s. What happened to the most beautiful woman in England? Her name was Elizabeth Woodville–England’s first queen Elizabeth–and in 1483 she found herself in a similar plight to Bona’s. Edward IV had died, leaving a young son as his heir and a fight-to-the-death over who would be the regent. Elizabeth also had a hostile brother-in-law; and her sons would not live long enough to get syphilis.

The Sexiest Man Alive, circa 1510

Posted in General on January 16th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

There were two general reactions to my assertion that the young Henry VIII was attractive. The more charitable among you think that I should sue my opthalmologist. The more cynical readers suspect that I am a royalist sycophant groveling for an invitation to a high tea at Buckingham Palace.

Of course, both assumptions could be right; but so am I!

Henry VIII was not born looking like Charles Laughton. The young king actually was handsome, a gift from his mother: Elizabeth of York. She was a beauty, the gift of her parents: Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. They were regarded as the best-looking people in England! Elizabeth Woodville had to be a beauty; to have her, Edward IV caused a civil war.

She was a widow, with children, and only from the minor nobility; worse, her late husband and her family had been supporters of the rival Lancastrian dynasty. The lusty Edward IV wanted her as a mistress; she refused his advances and insisted on marriage. At that very time, Edward had commissioned his chief supporter, the Earl of Warwick, to negotiate a marriage with the sister-in-law of the King of France. Warwick, the most powerful noble in England, had successfully negotiated that marital alliance when he learned that Edward had eloped with the Woodville widow. “The Kingmaker”, as Warwick was known, was humiliated and furious; he then switched his allegiance and considerable forces to the Lancasters. Warwick succeeded in ousting Edward and restored Henry VI to the throne in 1470. A year later, Edward returned. Warwick was killed in battle and Henry VI was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The deposed King apparently fell on several daggers while in chapel.

In any case, handsome Edward IV and beautiful Elizabeth Woodville produced seven children. (He also acquired a pack of greedy in-laws and two stepsons who could have been role models for Udai and Qusay Hussein.) Edward died in 1483, thinking his young son Edward would succeed him. Unfortunately, the regent of England was Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Although the late King’s brother, he was also Warwick’s son-in-law and had always resented the Woodville queen and her upstart family. Uncle Richard had other plans.

And the war over Elizabeth Woodville so divided the Yorkist party that the illegitimate Welsh branch of the Lancastrian line would soon kill its way to the throne. When the illegitimate half-second cousin, once removed, Henry Tudor ascended to the throne, he required a legitimate princess for some resemblance to respectability. The eldest daughter of Edward IV sufficed quite nicely.