Elizabeth’s decision in 1473 to give birth to the King’s sixth child at the Dominican Friary in Shrewsbury, rather than returning to the royal palaces at Westminster or Windsor, reflects not only a mother’s desire to stay close to her son Edward at Ludlow, but a deep-seated trust and belief in the Blackfriars.
At the height of her glory as Queen, Elizabeth’s retreat to the Dominican Friary speaks volumes about the ideals she embraced.
In 1477, Elizabeth revealed a particular interest in the solitary, ascetic order of the Carthusians, when she obtained a licence to attend services at all Carthusian monasteries founded by the kings and queens of England. Her manor at Sheen enclosed the Great Charterhouse, where the monks studied, prayed, worked, ate and slept in their private cells, congregating only for Vespers and Sunday dinner. On 1 April 1479 she granted its Prior, John Ingelby, forty-eight acres of her land in West Sheen, and in 1492 she named Prior Ingelby the leading executor of her will.
So, too, the signature device associated with Elizabeth in several portraits has significant religious connotations. The gillyflower symbolised the Virgin Mary, and its choice as a device points to Elizabeth’s devotion to the purity, love, motherhood and ideals of the Holy Mother. Her special feelings for the Virgin are confirmed by an indulgence for the general populace issued by the Pope at Queen Elizabeth’s request, which states ‘that she has a singular devotion for the feast of the Visitation [of] St Mary the Virgin to St Elizabeth’.