By Samantha Wilcoxson
For those of us looking centuries back through history, it is easy to end the dynasty of the Plantagenets and begin that of the Tudors with a clean line drawn through 1485. The truth for those who survived the Wars of the Roses was much more complicated. Henry Tudor made clear with his decree that his reign began on the day before the Battle of Bosworth that he was not going to tolerate Yorkists who wished to continue the fight.
Those Yorkists were allowed to become faithful followers of the first Tudor king, however, and many took him up on that offer. Elizabeth of York may be the best example of this, choosing to marry and support Henry rather than press a claim of her own or that of a male relative. Many, most notably the children of Edward IV and their families, made similar decisions.
Not all of these converts stayed true to their Tudor king. John de la Pole was the first of his brothers to stand up to Henry. The son of Edward IV’s sister, Elizabeth, and once named Richard III’s heir, the eldest de la Pole son initially bowed to Henry Tudor and served him for two years before challenging him in the Battle of Stoke. Since de la Pole was killed in the fighting, it is impossible to know what his plans were had he been victorious. It is unlikely that he would have placed the crown on the head of Lambert Simnel, who had been held up as Edward of Warwick to rally the troops. Would he have taken it for himself or given it to the true son of George of Clarence, who was securely held in the Tower of London?
Edward of Warwick is one of the most tragic stories of the York remnant under Henry Tudor. Only ten years old when Henry took power, he had already been branded the son of a traitor when Edward IV had George of Clarence executed for treason seven years earlier. As his cousins, who became known as the Princes in the Tower, discovered, being a young boy close to the throne was not necessarily an advantage. Edward spent Henry’s reign imprisoned for nothing besides his excess of royal blood before being executed in 1499 to clear the way for Catherine of Aragon and Arthur Tudor’s wedding.
The story of Edward’s sister is somewhat more encouraging. Margaret was married to Richard Pole early in Henry’s reign. His treatment of her seems to indicate mixed feelings. As the daughter of the one-time heir apparent of England, marriage to an ordinary knight was rather beneath Margaret. However, her father had also tainted the family with the scent of treason, and her family had been replaced upon England’s throne. Richard and Margaret were appointed to serve Arthur at Ludlow, demonstrating some amount of trust in the girl who had likely grown up expecting a different future. After the death of Prince Arthur and Queen Elizabeth, Margaret seems to have largely stayed out of Henry’s way as she grew her own family. It is after the rise of Henry VIII that Margaret’s story gets interesting.
Henry also had his wife’s many sisters to deal with. Cecily, the second oldest York princess, had her marriage to Ralph Scrope annulled so that she could be paired with Henry’s choice for her: loyal Lancastrian John Welles. Cecily was often at court to serve her sister and seems to have built a relationship with everyone’s favorite mother-in-law to villainize, Margaret Beaufort. Upon the death of Viscount Welles and the two children they had together, Cecily made a scandalous secret marriage in keeping with Woodville tradition. Henry was unforgiving, reducing her income by taking her lands. Cecily and her descendants fell into obscurity, living partially on support from Queen Elizabeth.
Little is known of sisters Anne and Bridget, neither of which left surviving children. Bridget was pledged early as a nun, while Anne was wed to Thomas Howard. These two quietly lived out their lives within the new regime.
The final York princess has a well-known history. Catherine married William Courtenay, and neither they nor their children seemed able to stay on the good side of the Tudors. William was imprisoned throughout much of Henry’s reign, only to die shortly after his merciful release by Henry VIII. Their son, Henry, would be wrapped up in the Exeter Conspiracy with their Pole cousins in 1538. The longest surviving of Edward IV’s children, Catherine lived until 1527 but did not remarry.
The members of the fallen York dynasty could rise or be brought low during the reign of Henry Tudor. Their fate was largely dependent upon their willingness to bow to their new king or decision to press their own claim.
Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer and history enthusiast. Her 2015 novel, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, features Elizabeth of York and was selected as an Editors’ Choice by the Historical Novel Society. This novel is followed by the June release of Faithful Traitor, which carries on the story of the Plantagenet remnant in Tudor times with Margaret Pole. The Tudor England trilogy will be completed with the story of Queen Mary. Samantha has also published two middle grade novels, Over the Deep: A Titanic Adventure and No Such Thing as Perfect. Each of these are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format.
Samantha lives on a small lake in Michigan with her husband, three children, two dogs, and two cats. This crew provides plenty of good times and writing inspiration. When she is not reading or writing, Samantha enjoys traveling and learning about new places.
Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: (US) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013J4PX28
Faithful Traitor: (US) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01D04CTX8