Saturday, December 5, 2009

Elizabeth of York

Elizabeth of York appears to be chiefly known for being the daughter, sister, niece, wife, and mother of kings. How could a queen be more family connected and oriented? These happenstances are definining in how she is seen in a medium depth historical novel I recently finished called "The Tudor Rose" by Margaret Campbell Barnes, whose work has been reissued of late, which body was originally written in the late 40s to early 50s.

Elizabeth spends an awful amount of time preoccupied with other's needs to the exclusion of her own. She acquiesces in a joyless marriage because she has no choice, and, because she has always sublimated her desires, this is done without lasting regret. Her sheerest happiness comes at the sight of her son Harry (to be the 8th).

In another novel of this first Tudor Queen, "The King's Daughter" by Sandra Worth, her connection to Richard III is more deeply imagined, and Henry VII is much more menacing. The royal pair's firstborn, Arthur, is Elizabeth's core raison d'etre, and the gushing over him is the more poignant because his eventual death, most probably known to the reader, lurks in the consciousness throughout. Henry to be VIII is much more darkly drawn, as a boy reveling in the suffering of others, a source of deep worry to his mother.

The two treatments of Elizabeth may be indicative of the times when the novels were written. Elizabeth's suffering seems to be the defining factor of her life, with love lost being the central cause in the current rendition, whereas her strength and attention to duty is paramount in the Barnes novel. The Barnes novel, written during early postwar Britain, stresses the duty angle, and the American author stresses Elizabeth's response to her sufferings.

The three Elizabeths, the Yorkist Elizabeth Woodville, the York/Tudor Elizabeth, and the glorious Tudor Elizabeth her granddaughter span the emergence of England from the internecine strife of the Wars of the Roses to the early modern age styled the Elizabethan, the greatest point in English history to that time.