ǫᴜᴇᴇɴs ᴏғ ᴇɴɢʟᴀɴᴅ ⏤elizabeth of york : 

Elizabeth of York (11 February 1466 – 11 February 1503) was queen consort of England from 1486 until her death. As the wife of Henry VII, she was the first Tudor queen. She was the daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III, and she married the king following Henry’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth which started the last phase of the Wars of the Roses. She was the mother of King Henry VIII. Therefore, she was the daughter, sister, niece, wife, mother and grandmother of successive Kings and Queens of England. The period of Henry VI’s readaption from October 1470 until April 1471 and the period between her father’s death in 1483, when she was 17, and the making of peace between her mother and her uncle Richard were violent and anxious interludes in what was mostly a peaceful life. Her two brothers disappeared, the “Princes in the Tower”, their fate unknown. She was welcomed back to court by her Uncle Richard III, along with all of her sisters. As a Yorkist princess, the final victory of the Lancastrian faction in the War of the Roses may have seemed a further disaster, but Henry Tudor knew the importance of Yorkist support for his invasion and promised to marry her before he arrived in England; this was an important move, which, however, failed to bring him the desired Yorkist support.[3] Her marriage seems to have been successful, though her eldest son Arthur, Prince of Wales, died at age 15 in 1502, and three other children died young. She seems to have played little part in politics. Her surviving children became a King of England and queens of France and Scotland; it is through the Scottish Stuart dynasty that her many modern royal descendants trace their descent from her.


Queens of England + Elizabeth of York (1466-1503)

Elizabeth was born in 1466, the oldest of ten children born to Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. She was born at the Palace of Westminster and her christening was celebrated at Westminster Abbey. The first few years of her life were relatively peaceful considering the political climate she was born into.

It changed in 1470 when Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, rebelled against Elizabeth’s father and restored Henry VI. Edward was forced to flee England to avoid capture and her mother had to take Elizabeth and her sisters, Mary and Cecily, into sanctuary. It was here that her brother the future Edward V was born. She stayed here until April 1471 when her father returned to England and crushed the rebellion.

Elizabeth was returned to a secure life as princess. Because of her betrothal to the Dauphin of France, Charles, in 1475, she received an excellent education. She was taught to speak and write French and taught to write court hand as well as her father. Her establishment was also amplified by the tribute Louis XI paid Edward to keep the peace. This long held alliance fell through when Edward became ill in 1483.

After the death of Edward, his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, seized the young Edward V and arrested Elizabeth’s uncle, Earl Rivers, and her older brother, Lord Richard Grey. The dowager queen again had to take sanctuary, bringing with her Elizabeth and her four younger siblings, including Richard, Duke of York. Richard was eventually taken to be with his brother at the Tower of London and the two were never seen again.

The Duke of Gloucester became Richard III when Parliament passed Titulus Regius. It declared the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville to be invalid, therefore making all their children illegitimate. In spite of this blow and that of the supposed death of her brothers, Elizabeth’s mother plotted against Richard. She made an alliance with Margaret Beaufort who was the mother of Henry Tudor, the last male heir of Lancaster. When Henry defeated Richard and became king, he would marry Elizabeth. In return, she would help legitimize his weak claim to the throne as he descended from the illegitimate line of John of Gaunt and gain him the support of Yorkists, many of whom thought she should claim the throne in her own right.

Henry defeated Richard in September 1485 at Bosworth. Elizabeth married him in January 1486, finally uniting the warring houses of York and Lancaster. She gave birth to their first son, Arthur, in September of that year and was crowned queen in November 1487. They eventually had six more children, only three of which survived infancy. These were Margaret, Henry, and Mary. Despite it being a political arrangement, Elizabeth and Henry’s marriage proved to be a successful one and they grew to love each other.

Elizabeth suffered a great blow when her eldest son Arthur died in April 1502, five months after marrying Catherine of Aragon. Elizabeth and Henry were both grief-stricken and she comforted him by telling him that God had left him with a son and two daughters and they were both young enough to have more children. Elizabeth then became pregnant for the seventh time and went for her confinement to the Tower of London in February 1503. She gave birth to a short-lived daughter named Katherine. Elizabeth died on February 11, her 37th birthday, from a post-partum infection. Twelve days after her death she was buried in the Henry VII Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Her husband and children deeply mourned her. Henry went into seclusion and became extremely ill, allowing no one but his mother to see him. His character also deteriorated after her death and he became notorious for his rapacity. When he died in 1509, he was buried next to her in the chapel bearing his name. (x)


Queens of England + Empress Matilda (1102-1167)

Matilda was born in February 1102, the eldest child of Henry I and Matilda of Scotland. She had one younger brother, William Adelin. Little is known about her early life, but it is likely that she stayed with her mother where she was taught to read and educated in religious morals.

In April 1114, Matilda married Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor. During this marriage she gained considerable practical experience of government. She played a full part in it by sponsoring grants, dealing with petitioners, and taking part in ceremonial occasions. She was controversially crowned Empress of the Holy Roman Empire when she and Henry traveled to Italy in 1116 and acted as imperial regent when her husband traveled. Henry died in 1125 and left childless, Matilda returned to Normandy.

Henry I’s failure to produce another male heir after the death of William Adelin in 1120 made Matilda his preferred choice as his successor. In 1126, the Anglo-Norman barons swore to recognize Matilda and any of her future heirs. In order to secure the southern borders of Normandy, Henry married her to Geoffrey of Anjou, the son of Fulk, Count of Anjou. They were married in 1128 and by the time Henry I died in 1135, they had two sons, Henry and Geoffrey.

After Henry’s death, Matilda and Geoffrey faced opposition from the Norman barons and were unable to pursue their claims. Instead, Matilda’s cousin, Stephen of Blois easily claimed the throne with the backing of the English Church. In 1139, Matilda crossed into England to take the kingdom by force with the support of her half-brother Robert of Gloucester and her uncle, David I of Scotland. Her forces captured Stephen in 1141 but her attempts to be crowned at Westminster failed due to bitter opposition from London crowds. Because of her retreat she was never formally declared Queen of England and only received the title Lady of the English.

Later in 1141, Matilda’s brother Robert was captured and she agreed to exchange him for Stephen. The war then degenerated into a stalemate and in 1148, she returned to Normandy which was now in the hands of her husband. She left her eldest son Henry to continue the campaign in England. She settled into her court near Rouen and for the rest of her life focused on the administration of the Duchy. When Geoffrey died in 1151, Henry claimed the family lands and in 1154 succeeded the throne as Henry II.  In Normandy, Matilda often acted as Henry’s representative and presided over the government. Henry depended on her during the early years of his reign and asked her advice on policy matters.

In her old age Matilda focused increasingly in Church affairs and her personal faith. When she died in 1167 her remaining wealth was given to the Church. Her tomb’s epitaph included the lines, “Great by birth, greater by marriage, greatest in her offspring: here lies Matilda, the daughter, wife, and mother of Henry.” (x)


Queens of England + Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (1792-1849)

Adelaide was born in 1792, the daughter of George I, Duke of Saxe-Meinigen, and Princess Luise Eleonore of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. Her father died when she was 11 years old and she, along with her younger siblings, was carefully raised by her mother and received an excellent education.

Adelaide’s marriage to Prince William, Duke of Clarence, was precipitated by the death of Princess Charlotte in 1817. She was the daughter of the Prince Regent and only legitimate grandchild of the ailing George III. This event led the other sons of the king to seek quick marriages in the hope of producing children who could inherit the throne. Parliament offered considerable allowances to any Royal Duke who married. This is what led the Duke of Clarence to marry Adelaide, the princess of an unimportant German state and twenty-seven years his junior in July 1818, a week after their first meeting. It was a double wedding with his brother Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and his bride Princess Victoria of Saxe-Cogburg-Saafeld.

By all accounts, the two became devoted to each other despite the circumstances of their marriage. Adelaide accepted William’s illegitimate children by the actress Dorothea Jordan as part of the family and had a positive effect on William’s behavior; he drank and swore less and became more tactful. Observers thought them parsimonious and their lifestyle simple. Adelaide and William had no surviving children. Between 1819 and 1822, Adelaide gave birth to two short-lived daughters, Charlotte and Elizabeth, and stillborn twin boys. Princess Victoria of Kent came to be acknowledged as William’s heir presumptive, as Adelaide had no more pregnancies after 1822.

Adelaide became queen in 1830 when George IV died and her husband succeeded the throne as William IV. They were crowned at Westminster Abbey in 1831 and while William despised the ceremony and behaved in mockery of it, Adelaide took it very seriously. She received praise for her “dignity, repose and characteristic grace.” She became beloved by the people for her piety, modesty, charity, and tragic childbirth history.

It is unknown how much Adelaide was able to politically to influence her husband and she never spoke about politics in public. She did give a large portion of her household income to charity and treated the heir presumptive, Princess Victoria, with kindness. She and William were both fond of the Princess but were frustrated in their attempts to have her closer to them by her mother, the Dowager Duchess of Kent. The Duchess refused to acknowledge Adelaide’s precedence and William, aggrieved at this disrespect to his wife, publicly called out the Duchess for her behavior.

When William became fatally ill in 1837, Adelaide stayed by his deathbed and didn’t sleep for ten days. She became the first queen dowager in over a century when he died and survived him by twelve years. She died of natural causes in the reign of her niece, Queen Victoria, in 1849. She is well-remembered today for her namesake city in Australia. Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, was named after her at its founding in 1836. The Queen Adelaide Club for women for is still active there and a statue of her stands in the foyer of the Town Hall. (x)


Queens of England + Catherine Howard (1523-1542)

Catherine was born in 1523, the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper. She was first cousins with Anne Boleyn through her aunt Elizabeth Howard. While she had an aristocratic pedigree, Catherine’s family was not wealthy. Her mother died in 1531 so Catherine spent her early childhood in the household of her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Little attention was paid to her by the Dowager Duchess and as a result Catherine was poorly educated.

In 1536, at the age of 13, Catherine was molested by her music teacher, Henry Mannox. He would later give evidence against her. In 1538 Catherine was pursued by a secretary in the Dowager Duchess’s household, Francis Dereham. They became lovers and referred to each other as “husband” and “wife.” It was ended in 1539 when the Dowager Duchess caught wind of their relationship. Catherine and Francis may have parted with intentions to marry.

Catherine’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, found her a place at court in the household of Anne of Cleves. She quickly caught the eye of Henry VIII who was clearly uninterested in Anne. The Howards took advantage of the situation and sought to gain the influence they once had during the reign of Anne Boleyn. They succeeded in this and soon Henry was bestowing gifts of land and expensive cloth upon Catherine.

Catherine married Henry soon after his divorce from Anne in July 1540. In her new position, Catherine was called upon for favors in return for silence by people who had witnessed her earlier indiscretions. She made a fatal mistake when she appointed Francis Dereham as her personal secretary. It’s alleged that in early 1541, she began an affair with one of Henry’s courtiers, Thomas Culpeper.

By November 1541, Henry was made aware of her earlier relationships. Not wanting to believe that his “rose without a thorn” had such a scandalous past, Henry ordered an investigation to find out who was slandering Catherine while she herself was kept locked up. Unfortunately for Catherine, the evidence was against her and the king could not deny her past. Catherine refused to admit to a marriage contract between herself and Dereham and instead claimed that he raped her. She did this in spite of the fact that if she had admitted to a precontract, Henry would have been able to save face and easily annul the marriage. She was stripped of her title and imprisoned in Middlesex.

Catherine remained in limbo until February 1542 when Parliament made it an act of treason for a queen consort to fail to disclose her sexual history to the king within twenty days of their marriage, or to incite someone to commit adultery with her. Catherine was then found unequivocally guilty of treason and sentenced to death. She was executed on February 13 and buried in an unmarked grave in the same chapel as her cousin Anne. (x)


Queens of England + Anne of Cleves (1515-1557)

Anne was born in 1515, the daughter of John III, Duke of Cleves and Maria of Julich-Berg. As a child she received no formal education and could read and write in only German. At the age of 11 she was betrothed to Francis, the heir to the Duke of Lorraine. The engagement fell through when Anne’s brother became Duke of Cleves and refused to cede certain territory to the Duke of Lorraine.

Marriage negotiations began in 1539 for Henry VIII to marry Anne or her sister Amalia. Henry’s advisor, Thomas Cromwell, was keen to build connections with an alliance of Lutheran Princes that was established by Anne’s brother-in-law. Henry also looked to Germany for support when Francis I of France and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor became friendly. Hans Holbein was dispatched to portraits of Anne and her sister Amalia, and Henry required the portraits to be as accurate as possible and not to flatter the women.

A marriage treaty was signed in October that year for Anne to marry Henry. They met privately on New Year’s Day in 1540. Henry followed the chivalric tradition of meeting his bride in disguise but it turned out to be a failure. Disguised as a servant, he tried to kiss her but Anne was shocked at such behavior from a servant and did not respond. Humiliated, Henry did not want marry her but the marriage could not be called off without offending Anne’s brother, the Duke of Cleves, and damaging the German alliance so it went forward. 

Anne married Henry on January 6, 1540 at Greenwich. She was never crowned and the marriage was never consummated. By June she was commanded to leave court and later informed that her marriage was invalid due to her pre-contract from 1527 and the fact that the marriage was unconsummated. Anne agreed to the annulment and was rewarded with lands and the title “The King’s Beloved Sister.” She also took precedence over all other women apart from Henry’s wife and daughters. 

After Catherine Howard was beheaded, Anne and her brother pressed the king to remarry her. He refused and married Catherine Parr, whom Anne disliked. She reportedly remarked on the marriage, “Madam Parr is taking a great burden on herself.” 

In 1553, Anne made her last public appearance when she participated in Mary I’s coronation procession. A year later, she lost royal favor following Wyatt’s rebellion and was not invited back to court after 1554. She spent the rest of life living quietly on her estate, never having returned to Germany. Anne died in 1557, the last of Henry’s wives still living, and was also the only wife to be buried in Westminster Abbey. (x)


Queens of England + Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204)

Eleanor was born in 1122 or 1124, the eldest child of William X, Duke of Aquitaine and Aenor de Châtellerault. By all accounts, her father ensured that Eleanor had the best possible education. She was taught to read and speak Latin, was well versed in music and literature, and was schooled in riding, hawking, and hunting. In 1130, her mother and brother William Aigret died, making Eleanor the heir presumptive to her father’s domains.

William died in 1137 and Eleanor became the Duchess of Aquitaine aged between 12 and 15. Shortly thereafter her guardian, Louis VI of France, married her to his son Prince Louis, the future Louis VII. Both were enthroned as Duke and Duchess of Aquitaine but her land would remain independent of France until her eldest son became King of the Franks and Duke of Aquitaine. Soon after they were invested Louis VI died, and Louis and Eleanor were anointed King and Queen of the Franks on Christmas of that year.

By 1152 Louis and Eleanor only had two daughters, Marie and Alix. In consideration of this they agreed to an annulment of their marriage. Their daughters were declared legitimate and stayed in the custody of Louis while Eleanor’s lands were restored to her. Traveling to Poitiers after the annulment, Theobald V, Count of Blois, and Geoffrey, Count of Nantes (brother of Henry, Duke of Normandy) tried to kidnap and marry her for her lands. When she arrived in Poitiers, Eleanor sent envoys to Henry asking him to come at once to marry her. They were married in May 1152 without the pomp and circumstance that befitted their rank.

In October 1154, Henry became King of England. Eleanor was crowned Queen of England in December the same year. Over the next thirteen years she bore Henry five sons and three daughters. They had a tumultuous marriage and Henry was not faithful. In 1167 the two agreed to a separation and Henry escorted Eleanor to her city of Poitiers after Christmas that year. When her protective custodian Earl Patrick was killed and Eleanor captured and ransomed his nephew, she was left in control of her lands.

In 1173, Eleanor’s son Henry the Young King revolted against his father. With Eleanor’s help he convinced his brothers to help him and she herself may have encouraged lords to rise up and support them. Eleanor was arrested when she left Poitiers in 1174 and sent to the king. For the next sixteen years Henry imprisoned her in various locations. She did not often get to see her sons and was only released for special occasions such as Christmas.

When Henry II died in 1189, Richard ascended the throne and one of his first acts as king was to release Eleanor. She served as regent when Richard went off on the Third Crusade. She survived his reign and lived well into John’s. She died in 1204 and was buried in Fontevraud Abbey next to her husband and son Richard. (x)


Queens of England + Matilda aka Edith of Scotland (1080-1118)

Matilda was born around 1080 in Dunfermline, the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and Saint Margaret. She was christened Edith, and Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, stood as godfather at the ceremony. Queen Matilda, the consort of William the Conqueror, was also present at the baptismal font and served as her godmother. Baby Matilda pulled at Queen Matilda’s headdress, which was seen as an omen that the younger Matilda would be queen one day.

When she was about six years old, Matilda of Scotland and her sister Mary were sent to Romsey Abbey, near Southampton, where their aunt Cristina was abbess. Her education went beyond the standard feminine pursuits. This was not surprising as her mother was a great lover of books. Her daughters learned English, French, and some Latin, and were sufficiently literate to read St. Augustine and the Bible. 

After the mysterious death of William II in August 1100, his brother, Henry, immediately seized the royal treasury and crown. His next task was to marry and Henry’s choice was Matilda. Because Matilda had spent most of her life in a convent, there was some controversy over whether she was a nun and thus canonically ineligible for marriage. Matilda testified that she had never taken holy vows, insisting that her parents had sent her and her sister to England for educational purposes, and her aunt Cristina had veiled her to protect her “from the lust of the Normans.” Matilda claimed she had pulled the veil off and stamped on it, and her aunt beat and scolded her for this act. 

Matilda’s mother was the sister of Edgar the Ætheling, proclaimed but uncrowned King of England after Harold, and, through her, Matilda was descended from Edmund Ironside and thus from the royal family of Wessex, which in the 10th century had become the royal family of a united England. This was extremely important because although Henry had been born in England, he needed a bride with ties to the ancient Wessex line to increase his popularity with the English and to reconcile the Normans and Anglo-Saxons.

After Matilda and Henry were married on 11 November 1100 at Westminster Abbey by Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, she was crowned as “Matilda,” a hallowed Norman name. By courtiers, however, she and her husband were soon nicknamed ‘Godric and Godiva’. She gave birth to a daughter, Matilda, born in February 1102, and a son, William, called “Adelin”, in November 1103. Matilda was the designated head of Henry’s curia and acted as regent during his frequent absences.

Matilda had great interest in architecture and instigated the building of many Norman-style buildings, including Waltham Abbey and Holy Trinity Aldgate. She also had the first arched bridge in England built, at Stratford-le-Bow, as well as a bathhouse with piped-in water and public lavatories at Queenhithe.

She was an active queen and, like her mother, was renowned for her devotion to religion and the poor. Matilda exhibited a particular interest in leprosy, founding at least two leper hospitals, including the institution that later became the parish church of St Giles-in-the-Fields. She also administered extensive dower properties and was known as a patron of the arts, especially music.

After Matilda died on 1 May 1118 at Westminster Palace, she was buried at Westminster Abbey.After her death, she was remembered by her subjects as “Matilda the Good Queen” and “Matilda of Blessed Memory”, and for a time sainthood was sought for her, though she was never canonized. Matilda is also thought to be the identity of the “Fair Lady” mentioned at the end of each verse in the nursery rhyme London Bridge Is Falling Down. The post-Norman conquest English monarchs to the present day are related to the Anglo-Saxon House of Wessex monarchs via Matilda of Scotland as she was the great-granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside. (x)


Queens of England + Catherine of Valois (1401-1437)

Catherine was born in 1401, the youngest daughter of Charles VI of France and Isabella of Bavaria. Her older sister Isabella was Richard II’s second queen. Early in her life there was discussion of marrying her to Henry IV’s son but he died before negotiations could begin. The new king, Henry V, also proposed the match but he demanded a large dowry and acknowledgement of his right to the throne in France.

Henry went to war with France but plans for the marriage still continued even after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Catherine was known to be very beautiful and when Henry met her at Meulan he became enamored of her. In May 1420 a peace treaty was made between England and France in which Henry was acknowledged as Charles’ heir and Catherine married him in June.

Catherine returned to England with Henry and was crowned queen in Westminster Abbey in February 1421. In June of that same year Henry returned to France to continue his campaign. By the time he left Catherine was pregnant and gave birth to a son, Henry, in December. Catherine was made a queen dowager less than a year after the birth of her son when her husband died in August 1422 of dysentery in France.

Catherine’s youth was a concern to her brother-in-law, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Lord Protector, as she was still marriageable. To prevent Catherine’s marrying without permission, the Parliament of 1427-8 introduced a bill setting the rules for the remarriage of a queen dowager. The bill stated that if she married without the king’s consent, the husband would lose his lands and possessions. It also stipulated the king could only grant permission once he had reached his majority. At the time the bill was written Henry VI was only 6.

Catherine lived in the king’s household, presumably to care for him. However, this arrangement also allowed the councilors to watch over the queen herself. Despite the surveillance, Catherine began a romantic relationship with the Welshman Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudor who served as her clerk of the wardrobe. The two soon became inseparable despite the danger of them being exposed. Unable to stay at court, Catherine retreated from court life into the countryside. She and Owen secretly married on an unknown date in the early 1430s. Catherine managed to conceal the marriage and the birth of her sons, Edmund, Jasper, and Owen by living in complete retirement.

In 1436, when she was pregnant with her fifth child, rumors of Catherine’s secret marriage reached the Duke of Gloucester. Finding this to be true, he swiftly punished her. He dissolved her household, sent her children away, and imprisoned Owen in Newgate. Catherine herself was sent to Bermondsey Abbey. The heavily pregnant Catherine was gravely ill by this time and distressed by the separation from her family. She soon gave birth to a daughter, Margaret, who died shortly after birth. Catherine never recovered from the birth and she died in January 1437.

She was laid in state at St. Catherine’s Chapel at the Tower of London and later buried in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey. (x)


Queens of England + Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737)

Caroline was born in March 1683, the daughter of John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and Princess Eleonore Erdmuthe of Saxe-Eisenach. By 1696, she and her younger brother William Frederick were orphans. Caroline eventually entered into the care of Frederick, Elector of Brandenburg, and his wife, Sophia Charlotte, who had been a friend to her mother.

Frederick and Sophia Charlotte came king and queen of Prussia in 1701 and their household was a lively intellectual environment for Caroline. Before this time, she had received little formal education but she soon developed into a scholar of considerable ability. She and the queen had a close relationship in which Caroline was treated as a surrogate daughter.

In 1705, Sophia Charlotte died and Caroline was devastated. That same year, her nephew, George Augustus, the electoral prince of Hanover, visited the Ansbach court. As well as being his father’s heir apparent to the Electorate of Hanover, he was also third-in-line to the British throne. He supposedly visited incognito to inspect Caroline although she was not fooled. He immediately took a liking to her and she found him attractive in return. They were married in 1705 in Hanover and their first child, Frederick, was born in 1707. Including Frederick, they eventually had seven children who survived into adulthood.

Caroline’s father-in-law ascended the British throne in 1714 as George I. She became Princess of Wales when her husband was invested as Prince of Wales, the first woman to receive the title at the same time as her husband. She was also the first Princess of Wales in over two hundred years, the last one being Catherine of Aragon. Since George I had no consort, Caroline was the highest-ranking woman in the kingdom. She and her husband made an effort to learn England’s culture which made their court more popular with the English people than the king’s which contained German courtiers and government ministers.

A woman of great intellect, Caroline read avidly and established an extensive library at St. James’s Palace. She facilitated the Leibniz-Clark correspondence, arguably the most important philosophy of physics discussion of the 18th century. She also helped to popularize variolation, an early type of immunization and had three of her own children inoculated against smallpox. She was praised by Voltaire for this as someone who “has never lost an opportunity to learn or to manifest her generosity.”

Her husband ascended the throne in 1727 as George II and she was crowned alongside him in Westminster Abbey. As queen, Caroline had great influence with her husband and held liberal opinions. She supported clemency for the Jacobites, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech in Parliament. Caroline served as regent four times over the course of her husband’s reign.

After suffering from gout in her final years, Caroline died in 1737 due to complications from an umbilical hernia she had developed after the birth of her last child. She was buried in Westminster Abbey and widely mourned by Protestants and Jacobites alike for her moral example and compassion. (x)


Queens of England + Matilda of Flanders (1031-1083)

Matilda, was the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders and Adèle of France. According to legend, when Duke William II of Normandy (later known as William the Conqueror) sent his representative to ask for Matilda’s hand in marriage, she told the representative that she was far too high-born to consider marrying a bastard. After hearing this response, William rode from Normandy to Bruges, found Matilda on her way to church, dragged her off her horse by her long braids, threw her down in the street in front of her flabbergasted attendants and rode off.

Naturally, Baldwin took offense at this but, before they could draw swords, Matilda settled the matter by refusing to marry anyone but William; even a papal ban by Pope Leo IX at the Council of Reims on the grounds of consanguinity did not dissuade her.

When William was preparing to invade England, Matilda outfitted a ship, the Mora, out of her own money and gave it to him. This indicated that she must have owned rich lands in Normandy to be able to do so. Additionally, William entrusted Normandy to his wife during his absence. Matilda successfully guided the duchy through this period in the name of her fourteen-year-old son; no major uprisings or unrest occurred.

Even after William conquered England and became its king, it took her more than a year to visit her new kingdom. Even after she had been crowned queen, she would spend most of her time in Normandy, governing the duchy, supporting her brother’s interests in Flanders, and sponsoring ecclesiastic houses there.

Matilda was crowned queen on May 11, 1068, in Westminster during the feast of Pentecost, in a ceremony presided over by the archbishop of York. Three new phrases were incorporated to cement the importance of English consorts, stating that the Queen was divinely placed by God, shares in royal power, and blesses her people by her power and virtue.

Matilda bore William nine or ten children. He was believed to have been faithful to her and never produced a child outside their marriage. Despite her royal duties, Matilda was deeply invested in her children’s well-being. All were known for being remarkably educated.

Matilda fell ill during the summer of 1083 and passed away in November 1083. Her husband was present for her final confession. Without her presence, a distraught William became increasingly tyrannical until his death four years later in 1087. (x)


Queens of England + Isabella of Valois (1389-1409)

Isabella was born in 1389, the eldest daughter of Charles VI of France and Isabella of Bavaria.

In October 1396, at the age of 7, Isabella was married to Richard II in a move to make peace between France and England. She came with an immense dowry and a truce was procured as a result of the marriage. Richard doted on her and the two developed a mutually respectful relationship.

In 1399, Richard was overthrown by Henry Bolingbroke who would become Henry IV. When Richard died in 1400, Charles demanded that Henry send back his daughter with her full dowry. Henry wanted Isabella to marry his son, the future Henry V, and could not afford to lose her dowry. Isabella, however, refused to marry Henry’s son and went into mourning for Richard. After a series of negotiations between Henry and Charles, she was sent back to France with all her jewels but the dowry was never paid back.

In 1406, Isabella was remarried to her cousin Charles, Duke of Orleans. She died giving birth to her only child, Joan, in 1409 when she was 19. (x)


Queens of England + Matilda of Boulogne (1105-1152)

Matilda of Boulogne was born in 1105 in Boulogne, France. Her parents were Eustace III, Count of Boulogne and Mary, daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and Saint Margaret, making Matilda the first cousin of her husband’s rival, Empress Matilda. 

She married Stephen of Blois, Count of Mortain, in 1125. Stephen already held large estates in England and combined with what Matilda inherited they became one of the wealthiest couples in the country. After her father’s death the same year of her marriage, Matilda became suo jure Countess of Boulogne but she and Stephen ruled jointly. During the reign of Henry I, the count and countess had two children, a son, Baldwin, and a daughter, Matilda. Both died young.

On the death of Henry I in 1135, Stephen took advantage of Boulogne’s seaports and rushed to England. He beat his rival, Empress Matilda, and was crowned king. Matilda was heavily pregnant at the time and crossed the Channel after giving birth to a son, Eustace, who would eventually succeed her as Count of Boulogne. Matilda was crowned queen on Easter, March 22, 1136.

During the civil war known as the Anarchy, Matilda was her husband’s strongest supporter. When England was invaded in 1138, she called troops from Boulogne and Flanders, besieged Dover Castle, and went north to Durham where she made a treaty with David I of Scotland in 1139. 

When Stephen was captured in February 1141, she played a critical role in keeping the king’s cause alive. She generated sympathy and support from Stephen’s most loyal followers and raised an army with the help of William of Ypres. While Empress Matilda was waiting in London to prepare her coronation, Matilda and Stephen’s brother, Henry of Blois, chased her out of the city. Empress Matilda then besieged Henry of Blois at Winchester, causing Matilda to command her army to attack the besiegers. Her army captured the Empress’s half-brother, Robert of Gloucester. The two Matildas attempted negotiation but neither was willing to compromise. They ended up simply exchanging Robert and the king. Stephen began re-establishing his authority and he and Matilda both had a fresh coronation at Christmas 1141.

It should be significant that during their marriage, Stephen had no illegitimate children. Considering this and Matilda’s actions during the Anarchy, it’s said that the couple had great devotion for each other.

Matilda died in May 1152 of a fever and was buried at Faversham Abbey which she and her husband founded. (x)


Queens of England + Anne of Bohemia (1366-1394)

Anne was born in 1366, the eldest daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and Elizabeth of Pomerania.

Anne married Richard II in 1382 as a result of the Great Schism in the Papacy. The marriage was encouraged by Pope Urban VI in attempt to create an alliance with Anne’s father who was the most powerful monarch in Europe at the time. Many members of the nobility and members of parliament were against the marriage and it occurred primarily at the urging of Richard’s intimate, Michael de la Pole. Anne brought no direct financial benefits because she had no dowry and in return for her hand in marriage Richard gave 20,000 florins in payment to Anne’s brother, Wenceslas. There were also few diplomatic benefits although English merchants could now trade freely within both Bohemian lands and lands of the Holy Roman Empire. This was not much compared to the usual benefits that came from a diplomatic marriage made as a result of the war with France. It’s unsurprising then that the marriage was unpopular.

Although originally disliked by chroniclers, Anne became more popular in time. She was a very kind person and was known for her tireless attempts to intercede on behalf of the people, procuring pardons for participants in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. She made several high-profile intercessions in front of the king for John Northampton and Simon Burley. Her most famous act of intercession was on behalf of the citizens of London in the ceremonial reconciliation of Richard and London in 1392.

Despite 12 years of marriage, Anne never bore any children. A contemporary chronicler said, “this queen, although she did not bear children, was still held to have contributed to the glory and wealth of the realm, as far as she was able.” This suggests that her lack of children was relatively unimportant especially when combined with her popular legacy as “Good Queen Anne.”

Anne died in 1394 from plague and her death was a devastating blow to Richard whose subsequent conduct would lose him the throne. (x)


Queens of England + Anne Neville (1456-1485)

Anne was born in 1456, the younger daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Lady Anne de Beauchamp. Her father was one of the most powerful noblemen in England and supported the House of York. Anne met the sons of Richard, Duke of York, George and Richard, at Middleham Castle where she spent most of her childhood.

Her father helped Edward IV win the throne in 1461 but by 1470 the two had fallen out, mostly due to Edward’s marriage. Warwick switched his allegiance to the House of Lancaster and Anne played an important role in cementing it as Margaret of Anjou was suspicious of Warwick’s motives. Anne was formally betrothed to the son of Margaret and Henry VI, Edward of Westminster. She became the Princess of Wales in December 1470 when they were married in Angers Cathedral.

Warwick succeeded in briefly restoring Henry to the throne but the king was captured and he himself was killed in March 1471 when Edward returned to England. Anne returned to England with Margaret and Prince Edward with more troops but they were soundly defeated. Prince Edward was killed and Anne was taken prisoner. She ended up in the household of her sister Isabel and her husband, George, Duke of Clarence.

Anne became the subject of a dispute between George and his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Richard wanted to marry her, but Clarence wanted the whole inheritance to which she and Isabel were heiresses. He attempted to make Anne his ward to control her inheritance and opposed any marriage. Edward IV also opposed the marriage and refused Anne safe conduct to plea her case. In circumstances that are unknown, Anne managed to escape the household and married Richard in July 1472.

After the marriage, Anne and Richard made their home in Middleham Castle. They had one child, Edward, born in 1473. Anne later took in her sister’s two children after the Duke of Clarence was executed for treason in 1478. Isabel had died in 1476 after childbirth. 

When Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector for his nephew Edward V. However, Richard had Edward and his siblings declared illegitimate and seized power as Richard III in June 1483. Anne was crowned with her husband and her son was made the Prince of Wales. Edward IV’s sons were taken to the Tower of London and never seen again. There are theories on their disappearance that include Anne’s involvement. 

In April 1484, Anne’s son unexpected died at Sheriff Hutton while both his parents were absent. His death was a personal tragedy as well as a dynastic blow since they had no other children. Rumors arose that Richard planned to divorce Anne and remarry in the hopes of gaining another heir. Instead, he named their mutual nephew, Edward, Earl of Warwick, as heir presumptive. After her death he named another nephew heir, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln.

Anne died less than a year after the death of her son in March 1485 from what was likely tuberculosis. The day she died, there was an eclipse which some took to be an omen of her husband’s fall from grace. She was buried in Westminster Abbey in an unmarked grave to the right of the High Altar. (x)


Queens of England + Anne, Queen of Great Britain (1665-1714)

Anne was born in 1665, the second daughter of James, Duke of York, and his first wife, Anne Hyde. Along with her older sister Mary, she was brought up in a separate establishment from her parents. On the instructions of their uncle Charles II, they were both raised as Protestants. Her mother died in 1671 and her father married Mary of Modena in 1673 after his conversion to Catholicism. Anne was third in the line of succession for many years after Mary and James.

Charles II chose Prince George of Denmark to be Anne’s husband and a marriage treaty was negotiated. James consented to the match and the two were married in 1683. Anne and George kept residence in England and though it was an arranged marriage they were faithful and devoted to each other. Anne’s first pregnancy ended with a stillborn but she later had two daughters, Mary and Anne Sophia.

Anne’s father ascended the throne in 1685 as James II & VII. She shared the concern of the English people when he moved to weaken the Church of England’s power by giving Catholics military and administrative offices. Anne and her family were the only members of the royal family attending Protestant services in England. When her father tried to get Anne to baptize her youngest daughter into the Catholic faith, she burst into tears.

Early 1687 was a difficult time for Anne. Within a matter of days, she miscarried, her husband caught smallpox, and their two daughters died from the same infection. While she and George were deep in grief, public alarm at James’ Catholicism increased with Mary of Modena’s pregnancy. In letters to Mary, Anne shared her suspicions that the queen was faking her pregnancy to introduce a false heir. The queen gave birth to a son, James Francis Edward, in June 1688. Anne was notably absent from the birth and despite witnesses, she and Mary continued to believe that the child was not their natural brother.

In November 1688, Anne’s brother-in-law William of Orange invaded England and deposed James. She had been forbidden to visit her sister but was aware of plans for the invasion through correspondence. Anne and George both wrote to William to approve his action. She showed no concern at her father’s plight. Mary and William ascended the throne as Mary II and William III and as they had no children, Anne and her descendants were next in the line of succession. In 1689, after a series of miscarriages and stillbirths, Anne gave birth to a son, William, Duke of Gloucester.

Tensions grew between the sisters when Anne requested a residence and an allowance, both of which Mary refused. Anne’s resentment became worse when William would not allow George to serve in the military in an active capacity. Mary and William feared that Anne’s independence would weaken their influence over her and allow her to set up a rival faction. Anne’s continued friendship with people that Mary did not approve of led to the complete dissolution of their relationship. When Anne gave birth to another son that shortly died, Mary visited her and they had an argument that led the sisters to never see each other again. Mary died of smallpox in 1694 and Anne became William’s heir apparent. They publicly reconciled and he restored her previous honors that Mary had taken away.

Anne’s son William died in 1700 at the age of eleven. Overwhelmed with grief, she ordered her household to observe a day of mourning every year on the anniversary of his death. To address the issue of succession that was now put in question, it was decided that the crown would pass to Protestant descendants of James VI & I. Other claimants who were closer to the throne were excluded for being Catholic.

Anne became queen when William died in March 1702 and was immediately popular. She was crowned in April at Westminster Abbey and had to be carried there in a sedan chair due to her gout. At the time of Anne’s ascension, Scotland was still an independent sovereign state where there remained a strong minority who wished to preserve the Stuart dynasty. After a series of disagreements, the Scottish and English parliaments both approved articles of union that united Scotland and England into the single kingdom of Great Britain.

Though preoccupied by health problems, Anne attended more cabinet sessions than any of her predecessors. Her reign provided stability and prosperity that allowed for the advancement of economics, politics, and the arts. The absence of constitutional conflict between monarch and parliament during her reign shows that she wisely chose ministers and exercised her prerogatives.

Anne died in 1714 from a stroke after a year of serious health calamities. She was buried beside her husband and her children in the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey. (x)


Queens of England + Isabella of Angoulême (1188-1246)

Isabella was born in 1188, the only daughter and heir of Aymer Taillefer, Count of Angoulême and Alice of Courtenay. She became Countess of Angoulême in her own right in 1202 after she was already Queen of England.

She married King John in 1202 after his first marriage was annulled. Even at 12 years old she was renowned for her beauty and has sometimes been called the Helen of the Middle Ages by historians. John was infatuated with her and often neglected state affairs to spend time with her.  Together they had five children, including the future Henry III.

King John died in 1216 and Isabella’s first act was to arrange the coronation of her 9 year old son. As John’s treasure had been lost, she supplied her own golden circlet in lieu of a crown. Less than a year after Henry’s crowning she left him in the care of his regent, William Marshall, and returned to France to assume control of her inheritance.

In 1220 she married Hugh X of Lusignan, Count of La Marche to whom she had been betrothed before she married John. It had been previously arranged that Hugh would marry Isabella’s eldest daughter Joan. Upon seeing Isabella, however, Hugh preferred the mother to the daughter. In marrying Hugh, Isabella had not waited for the consent of the King’s Council which was the required procedure for a former Queen of England. In response the Council confiscated all of her dower lands and stopped the payment of her pension. She and Hugh then threatened to keep Joan, who was promised in marriage to Alexander II of Scotland, in France. Young King Henry himself decided to come to terms with Isabella for the sake of avoiding conflict with the Scottish king.

Isabella could not reconcile with her lesser status as mere Countess of La Marche. In 1241, Isabella and Hugh were summoned to France to swear fealty to Louis IX’s brother Alphonse, who had been invested as Count of Poitou. The Queen Dowager Blanche openly snubbed Isabella at this event which infuriated her. She had a previous hatred of Blanche from her involvement in the First Barons’ War in 1216 and this act pushed her to actively conspire against King Louis. She, Hugh, and other disgruntled nobles attempted to create a confederacy with the south and west provinces united against the king. This failed and in 1244 Hugh made peace with the king. When two cooks were arrested for attempting to poison the king and confessed to being in Isabella’s pay, she fled to Fontevraud Abbey. She died in 1246 before she could be taken into custody. (x)


Queens of England + Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290)

Eleanor was born in Spain in 1241, the daughter of Ferdinand III of Castile and Joan, Countess of Ponthieu. She grew up in the courts of her father and her half-brother Alfonso X of Castile, both known for their literary atmospheres. This likely influenced her later literary activities as queen. 

Eleanor married the future Edward I in 1254 as part of a negotiation between Henry III and Alfonso X. Alfonso had made claims on the duchy of Gascony; they agreed that Alfonso would transfer his claims to Gascony to Edward in exchange for him marrying Eleanor. 

During the Second Barons’ War in the 1260s, Eleanor strongly supported her husband’s interests and imported archers from her mother’s county of Ponthieu in France. When Edward and his father were captured in 1264, she herself was honorably confined at Westminster Palace. In 1265 Edward escaped captivity, defeated the baronial army, and took a major role in reforming the government. Eleanor rose to prominence at his side and this only improved in 1266 when she finally bore a son, John, after having three short-lived daughters. Over the next three years Eleanor had two children, Henry and Eleanor. 

When the kingdom was pacified after the Barons’ War, Eleanor joined Edward and his uncle Louis IX of France on the Eighth Crusade in 1270. Louis died before they arrived and they went on to Sicily and Acre in Palestine where Eleanor gave birth to two daughters. One was short-lived and the other was known as Joanna of Acre for her birth-place.

Eleanor and Edward were still out of England in December 1272 when they learned of Henry III’s death. They returned to England and were crowned together in August 1274. By all evidence Eleanor and Edward were a devoted couple. Edward is one of the few kings not known to have had affairs or fathered children out of wedlock. They were rarely apart and she accompanied him on military campaigns in Wales where in 1284 she famously gave birth to their son Edward (the future Edward II) in a temporary dwelling.

Eleanor had little political influence but her queenship is significant for the evolution of a stable financial system for the king’s wife. Edward wanted her to hold lands sufficient for her financial needs without drawing on government funds. He helped Eleanor acquire lands by giving her debts that landlords owned to moneylenders and she foreclosed on lands pledged for the debts. These estates became the nucleus for dower assignments made to later queens of England into the 15th century. Few queens after her exerted the same amount of economic activity, but any that did were able to do so because of precedents that Eleanor helped set.

After surviving sixteen pregnancies, Eleanor died in 1290 from what was likely a strain of malaria. Edward was at her bedside to hear her final requests. For three days afterward, the government came to a halt and no writs were sealed. As Edward followed her body to burial in Westminster Abbey, he erected memorial crosses at the site of each overnight stop between Lincoln and Westminster. These became known as the “Eleanor crosses” and three of the twelve original crosses survive today. Edward did not remarry until 1299 and attended memorial services for Eleanor until his death. (x)


Queens of England + Mary of Modena (1658-1718)

Mary was born in 1658, the elder child of Alfonso IV, Duke of Modena, and Laura Martinozzi. She had an excellent education; she spoke French and Italian fluently, had a good knowledge of Latin, and would later master English.

Mary was sought as a bride for James, Duke of York, the younger brother and heir of Charles II of England. James was 25 years her senior, scarred by smallpox, and afflicted with a stutter. While initially reluctant, Duchess Laura eventually accepted the proposal on her daughter’s behalf and Mary and James were married by proxy in 1673. She received a cold welcome in England where the entirely Protestant Parliament disliked the news of a “Catholic marriage.” Both Mary and her husband were avowed Roman Catholics. She gave birth to their first child, Catherine Laura, in 1675 but she was only the first in a string of children that would die in infancy.

In 1678, Mary’s Catholic secretary was implicated in the Popish Plot which led to the Exclusionist movement that sought to bar the Catholic Duke of York from the throne. Their damaged reputation forced the Yorks into exile in Brussels. They returned to England when Charles II became ill and they feared that his illegitimate son would usurp the throne. Charles thought they returned too soon so Mary and James were then sent to Edinburgh where they stayed for the next few years. It was during this time that Mary was separated from her young daughter, Isabella, the only child of hers so far to survive infancy. When Isabella died in 1681 it sent Mary into a religious mania that worried her physician. She gave birth to another daughter in 1682, Charlotte Mary, who died only three weeks later.

In spite of the Exclusionist movement, James easily succeeded the throne as James II when Charles died in 1685. They had a join coronation ceremony and precedents were sought for Mary because a full-length joint coronation had not occurred since the ceremony performed for Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Mary’s health had still not fully recovered and people conjectured on who James would marry after she died.

Mary became pregnant again in 1687 and Protestants who only tolerated James because he had no Catholic heirs were unhappy with the news. When a son, James Francis Edward, was born, many Protestants chose to believe the child was illegitimate. It was purported that the child was snuck into the birth chamber as a replacement for Mary’s real but stillborn child despite the fact that the chamber was packed full of 200 witnesses, both Protestant and Catholic. James’ daughter from his first marriage, Mary, Princess of Orange, was one of the people that believed this. Several leading Whig nobles then issued an invitation for William of Orange, the Princess of Orange’s husband, to invade England. This signaled the beginning of the Glorious Revolution which culminated in James’ deposition. James and Mary went into exile in France and stayed at the expense of Louis XIV who supported the Jacobite cause.

Mary became a popular fixture at the French court and as there was no French queen or dauphine, she took precedence over all female members of the French court and royal house. She gave birth to her last child, Louise Mary, in 1692. When James died in 1701, Mary acted as nominal regent for her son until he was 16. Before her death from cancer in 1718, she saw her son forced from France and her daughter killed by smallpox. She died in poverty at the Convent of Visitations, Chaillot where her remains were interred. (x)