Part II: Remarks on the Privy Purse Expenses and Memoirs of the Siblings of Elizabeth of York

Primary Texts and Secondary Sources On-line

This document is linked to ORB: The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies. Use this link to reach the project’s home page.


The remarks by which the The Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth, the Queen of Henry Seventh, will be illustrated, chiefly consist of biographical notices of the children of King Edward the Fourth, because these Accounts relate to, and throw much light upon, their history; and because all previous notices of them are extremely imperfect.

King Edward the Fourth married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Richard Wydeville, and widow of John Lord Grey of Groby, at Grafton, Northamptonshire, on the 1st May, 1464, and by her had issue, three sons, Edward, Richard, George, and seven daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, Cecily, Margaret, Anne, Katherine, and Bridget.

I. Edward, Prince of Wales, was born on 14th November, 1470, and his unhappy history as King Edward the Fifth, is too well known to require any farther notice of him. All which occurs about this prince in the Wardrobe Accounts of 1480 is an entry of the delivery of some yards of cloth of gold tissue. The articles issued from the Wardrobe for him to wear at the coronation of his uncle Richard the Third, are commented upon in Walpole’s “Historic Doubts.”

II. Richard of Shrewsbury. The date of birth of this prince has not been exactly ascertained, but it may be assigned to the year 1472 (17). As early as the 28th May, 1474, he was created Duke of York, and on the 7th of February, 1476-7, he was created Duke of Norfolk and Earl Warren. On Thursday, 15th January, 1477-8, he espoused Ann, the daughter and heiress of John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, she being then about six and he about four years of age. A description of the ceremony on the occasion is printed in Sandford’s “Genealogical History of the Kings of England,” from a MS. in the College of Arms. The duke was appointed Lieutenant of Ireland for two years, on the 5th May, 1479, and in the instrument nominating his deputy, he is styled, “Recardus secundus filius Illustrissimi Principis Edw: quarti, &c., Dux Ebor: et Norff: Comes Warren: Surr: et Nottingham: Comes Marescallus, et Marescallus Angliæ, ac Dominus de Segrave, de Mowbray, et de Gower.” The Wardrobe Accounts for 1480 contain the following entries relating to the young prince. A horse harness and saddle of crimson velvet, and cloth of gold (18), together with cloth of gold, velvet and satin for his gowns, were delivered to his chamberlain Sir Thomas Grey (19); and a mantle of the Order of the Garter was issued for his use on the 17th August, which perhaps fixes the date of his installation at about that time (20). He is supposed to have been murdered with his brother in the Tower, though some writers have contended that he escaped, and was the individual so well known to history as Perkin Warbeck.

III. George of Shrewsbury, the third son, was born at Shrewsury, and was created Duke of Bedford in his infancy, but he died soon afterwards, and was buried at Windsor.

The daughters were,

I. Elizabeth of York, afterwards Queen of Henry the Seventh, a memoir of whom will be found in a subsequent page.

II. Mary of York, the second child of Edward the Fourth (21), was born at Windsor, in August, 1466, and Cardinal Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, was one of her sponsors (22). On the 9th of October, 1468, 400l. a year were granted to her mother the Queen for the expenses of the Princesses Elizabeth and Mary, but nothing more is known of her than the statement of Sandford, that she was present at the marriage of her brother the Duke of York, in January, 1477; that it was intended she should become wife of the King of Denmark (23); that her father by his will, dated in 1475, bequeathed her 10,000 marks to her marriage; and that she died at Greenwich, on Thursday, before Whitsunday, i.e., the 23rd of May, 1482 (24). On the Monday following, her corpse was brought to Greenwich, “and there had her dirige began by James Goldwell, Lord Bishop of Norwich, who also sung mass the next morning, there being present several lords and ladies; and in the afternoon the body was conveyed into a mourning chariot, drawn by two horses, also trapped with black, and adorned with lozenges of her arms. Thus from Greenwich they set forward to Kingston, where the corpse rested that night; and from thence, the next morning, towards Windsor, where being met by the parish in procession, at the foot of the bridge next Eaton, they proceeded to the chapel at Windsor, where the body was buried with the usual offices thereunto belonging (25).”

III. Cecily of York. The exact time of the birth of this princess is not known, and the first notice of her is in July, 1474, when a negociation commenced for her marriage with James, the eldest son of the King of Scotland (26), the treaty for which was concluded in the October following (27), and part of her dowry was paid. By a subsequent treaty, it was arranged that in the event of Edward’s not wishing the marriage to be consummated, the money should be repaid, and, on the 12th of October, 1482 (28) he claimed the sums advanced; but on the 11th of the preceeding June, a negociation was entered into with Alexander Duke of Albany, styling himself King of Scotland, in which, among other articles, pledging Edward to support his interests, it was agreed in the event of Alexander’s establishing himself on the throne of Scotland, that if within a year “he could make himself clear from other women, according to the laws of the Christian church, Edward would give him his daughter Cecily in marriage; but if he could not do so, then he would not marry his son and heir, if he had one, excepting by the ordinance of the King of England to some lady of his blood. (29)” Cecily was present with her sisters Elizabeth and Mary, at the marriage of their brother the young Duke of York, which was performed with much state on the 15th of January, 1478 (30).

The death of Edward the Fourth, and the deposition of his son, changed the fortunes of his daughters. Instead of becoming Queen of Scotland, Cecily Plantagenet married John Viscount Welles, an especial favorite and uncle of the half-blood of Henry the Seventh (31), through whose influence he obtained her hand. It has not been discovered when their marriage took place, but it must have been before December, 1487, as at the festival of Christmas in that year, when the Heralds “cried” the guests into court, they addressed her in these words, “Largesse, de noble Preincesse la sœur de le Reyne notre soveraigne dame, et Comtesse de Wellys,” and Lord Welles is stated to have given “for him and my lady wife” twenty shillings (32). In the 7th Henry VII., 1491-2, an act of parliament was passed which recited that the Viscount promised on marrying Lady Cecily to settle certain lands on her and the heirs of their bodies, out of the estates to which he was restored in the 1st Henry VII.; but as he was then about to accompany the King in his voyage royal, it was enacted, to avoid expense, that they should hold the lands in question to them and the heirs of his body (33). In the 19th Henry VII., 1502, after the viscount’s decease, another settlement was made securing those lands to her for life (34). At the christening of her nephew Prince Arthur, at Winchester, on the 24th of September, 1486, Lady Welles carried him to the font, he being wrapped in a mantle of crimson cloth of gold, furred with ermine, with a train, which was borne by the Marchioness of Dorset (35). When her sister was crowned, she was in immediate attendance on her person, and supported her train during the whole ceremony (36).

Viscount Welles died on the 9th February, 1498-9, and had issue two daughters, Elizabeth and Anne, who both died young, and their mother married to her second husband, a gentleman of the name of Kyme, of Lincolnshire. At the marriage of Katherine of Aragon to Arthur, Prince of Wales, Lady Welles bore the princess’ train (37).

It is not a little remarkable that the precise date of the birth, of the marraige, of the baptismal name of the second husband, and even of the death of Princess Cecily, the sister-in-law of one King and aunt of another, should never have been ascertained. An entry on the 13th May, 1502, of her having lent her sister the Queen 4l. 13s. 4d. on some occasion, is the only notice which is to be found of her in the Privy Purse Expenses of that year. In those of Henry the Seventh, from 1492 to 1505, her name does not occur; and this account of her, imperfect as it is, must be closed with the remark, that she is said to have died at Quarera, in the Isle of Wight (38).

IV. Margaret of York, Edward’s fourth daughter was born on the 19th of April, 1472, and dying on the 11th of December following, was buried at Westminster Abbey. This epitaph was placed on her tomb:

Nobilitas et forma, decorq: tenella juventus
In simul hic ista nortis sunt condita cista
Ut genus et nomen, sexum, tempus quoq: mortis
Noscas, cuncta tibi manifestat margo sepulchri.

V. Anne of York. The Princess Anne must have been born subsequent to June, 1475, as she is not mentioned in her father’s will. On the 18th of July, 1479, it was agreed that Philip, the eldest son of Maxmilian Duke of Austria, should not, for three years, form a contract of marriage with any other woman than Anne daughter of the King of England (39); and on the 5th of August following, the treaty for that alliance was concluded (40). The marriage, however, did not take place, and nothing more is known about her until after her sister Elizabeth became Queen of England. At the christening of her nephew Prince Arthur, in November, 1486, she carried the chrisom, which was pinned on her right breast, and hung over her left arm (41). At the feast of the Order of the Garter, in 1488, she was in attendance on the Queen (42), and was present at the celebration of the feast of Whitsuntide by the court at Shene, in that year (43). Her Majesty’s child, Margaret, was baptized at Westminster on the 30th November, 1489, when the Princess Anne again bore the chrisom, “with a marvelous rich cross lace (44).”

Early in the year 1495, she became the wife of Thomas Lord Howard, eldest son of Thomas Earl of Surrey, as on the 14th February in that year Henry the Seventh paid 6s. 8d. for his offering at her marriage (45). On the Rolls of Parliament of the 11th Hen. VII., October 1495, the agreement “between the Queen, with the assent of the King and Thomas Earl of Surrey, for a marriage to be had and solemnized between Thomas Lord Howard, son and heir apparent of the said earl, and Anne sister to the said Queen, which marriage is now had and solemnized,” is recited, and validity was given to some of its provisions by the authority of Parliament (46). The Princess Anne is frequently mentioned in the Queen’s Privy Purse Expenses for 1502; whence it appears that she was mainly, if not entirely, supported at her Majesty’s expense. Her husband, Lord Howard, was allowed 120l. per annum for “her diet (47):” materials for her clothes were, on one occasion, purchased (48), and besides ten marks a year (49), her sister gave her 6l. 13s. 4d. annually for her own purse (50).

Two sons were the result of her marriage, one of whom died immediately after his birth, and the other, named Thomas, dying on the 3rd of August, 1508, was buried at Lambeth. The date of Anne Lady Howard’s decease is unknown, but is must have been before 1515, as her husband married, secondly, Elizabeth, daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, and had by her the renowned Earl of Surrey, whose eldest son was born in 1536.

VI. Katherine of York. Though the Princess Katherine was born before August 1479, it could not have been long previous to that time, because there is an entry in the Wardrobe Accounts between April and September, 1480, of nails being purchased to cover the font at her christening at Eltham (51); and in November of that year, Joan, the wife of Robert Colson, her nurse, obtained a grant from the King of five pounds per annum (52). While in her infancy, her marriage was determined upon with John the son and heir-apparent of Ferdinand King of Castile and Leon, the contract for which was signed on the 28th August, 1479 (53); and on the 2nd March, 1482, ambassadors were appointed to complete the treaty (54). This alliance did not, however, take place; and in November, 1487, it was agreed she would become the wife of James, second son of the King of Scotland, by which treaty it was also determined, that one of her sisters should marry the elder brother of her intended husband, whilst his father espoused her mother (55). The death of the Scottish monarch, in 1488, defeated these plans, and before October, 1495, when she was not more than seventeen, she married Lord William Courtenay, eldest son of Edward Earl of Devon (56), this being the second time that the heir of that illustrious house married a sister of the heiress to the throne of England. The settlement made by the Earl of Devon, of his estates on his son and daughter-in-law, and the heirs male of the body of his son, was confirmed by parliament (57). Their issue were two sons, Henry, and as appears from the Privy Purse Expenses of the Queen, Edward, and a daughter Margaret.

Katherine Lady Courtenay was present at the marriage of Prince Arthur, in November, 1501 (58), and at the betrothment of her neice the Princess Margaret to the King of Scotland, at Richmond, on the 10th of January, 1502 (59).

Not only was Katherine partly maintained by her sister the Queen, but her Majesty also paid the expenses of her children, the notices of whom are of some interest. Her pension from the Queen’s Privy Purse was 50l. per annum (60): satin was on one occasion purchased for the covering of her saddle (61); and from entries of money being paid her for the Queen’s purse, in July, 1502, at Woodstock, and in January, 1503, at Richmond, it may be inferred that she was frequently her companion. Her brother-in-law, Henry the Seventh, sent her a present of 10l. in September of the same year.

The children of Lord William and Lady Katherine Courtenay were placed under the care of Margaret Cotton, and resided chiefly at a place belonging to Sir John Hosy, near Havering-at- Bower, in Essex, until the beginning of December, 1502, when they were removed to London (62). They were attended by two female servants and a groom, and for the expenses of the whole establishment Lady Cotton was allowed no more than 13s. 4d. a week, a striking proof of the immense difference between the value of money at the commencement of the sixteenth and in the nineteenth century. All their clothes and other necessaries were paid for by the Queen, and several entries occur of the purchase of coats, gowns, petticoats, hoses, shoes, medicines, bonnets, &038;c., for their use (63).

Lord Edward Courtenay, her second son died on the 12th or 13th of July, 1502 (64), and a servant was despatched to the Queen, to know her pleasure as to where he should be buried (65); at which time his mother appears to have been with her Majesty, on her journey to Woodstock. The expense of his funeral, which amounted to 4l. 18s. 4d., was also defrayed by the Queen, and a present of 1l. 6s. 8d. was made to his nurse and the rocker on the occasion (66).

Lord William Courtenay, having been attainted in 1504, he did not succeed to the Earldom of Devon on his father’s decease in 1509; but on the 10th May, 1511, Henry the Eighth created him Earl of Devon, with remainder to the heirs male of his body. The earl did not survive his creation many weeks, as he died at Greenwich on the 9th of June following, and was interred with honours due his rank, in St. Paul’s cathedral, on the 12th of the month.

The Countess of Devon, his widow, though not more than three-and-thirty at his decease, never married again, having on the 13th of July, 1511, just a month after her loss, made a vow of chastity before the Bishop of London, of which the following is a copy:

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I, Katherine Courtneye, Countess of Devonshire, widow, and not wedded, ne unto any man assured, promise and make a vow to God, and to our Lady, and to all the Company of Heaven, in the presence of you, worshipful Father in God, Richard Bishop of London, for to be chaste, for this time forward, as long as my life lasteth, after the rule of St. Paul.In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti (67).

She survived the earl sixteen years, dying at her manor of Tiverton, at three in the afternoon of the 15th of November, 1527. Hall says that the Countess was a “long time tossed in either fortune, sometime in wealth, after in adversity, till the benignity of her nephew, King Henry the Eighth, brought her into a sure estate, according to her degree and progeny. (68)”

A minute account of her funeral is preserved in the College of Arms, and is partly printed by Sandford, whence it appears that she was interred with great pomp, on the 2nd of December, 1527, in Tiverton church, where her son, the Marquess of Exeter, erected a chapel and tomb, near the high altar, to her memory, but which no longer exists. The countess’ seal, which is engraved in Sandford’s “Genealogical History,” is deserving of notice for its legend. Within the escutcheon, having on the dexter side a dolphin, on the sinister a lion rampant gardant, and surmounted by a demi rose en soleil, the badge of the House of York, are her arms impaled with her husband’s: per pale, Baron, Or, three torteaux Gules for Courtenay, quartering Or a lion rampant azure for Rivers; , quarterly, 1st France and England; 2nd and 3rd, Burgh, and 4th, Mortimer, surrounded by the inscription,Katherina Comitessa Devon: Filia: Soror: et Amit: Regum. In the indenture to which that seal is attached, dated 24th October, 6 Hen. VIII., 1514, she uses the same style, “We, Katherine Countess of Devonshire, Daughter, Sister, and Aunt of Kings.”

Her daugher Margaret died young, being choked with a fish bone. Henry Earl of Devonshire, her only surviving son, was raised to the Marquisate of Exeter, on the 18th June, 1525, and in consequence of his royal descent through his mother, received an augmentation to his arms, by placing in the first quarter the royal arms within a brodure quarterly of the same. He was attainted and beheaded in 1538, and left, by Gertrude, daughter of William Lord Mountjoy, and only child,—-

Sir Edward Courtenay, who was restored in blood on the accession of Queen Mary, having on the 3rd of September, 1553, been created Earl of Devon, to hold to him and his heirs male for ever, a limitation which was, it is presumed, intended to restore the Earldom of Devon to the male descendents of Hugh Courtenay, who was allowed the dignity by Edward the Third in 1335. The Earl of Devon died at Padua, on the 4th of October, 1556, unmarried, when all the issue of the children of Edward the Fourth, except of his eldest daughter Elizabeth, became extinct, and the male representation of the house of Courtenay devolved upon the Powderham branch.

VII. Bridget of York, the seventh daughter and youngest child of Edward the Fourth, was born at Eltham, in Kent, on the 10th of November, 1480, and the next day was baptized by the Bishop of Chichester. In the Wardrobe Accounts of the reign of Richard the Third, between the 9th of April, 1483, and the 2nd of February, 1484, the following entry occurs relating to her: “To the Lady Brygit, one of the daughters of K. Edward IIIIth., being sick in the said Wardrobe for to have for her use at that time two long pillows of fustian, stuffed with down, and two pillow beres of Holland cloth unto them (69),” whence Walpole concludes that this child was not then in sanctuary with the Queen (70); but these articles may have been delivered before her Majesty sought shelter there. From her earliest years, she seems to have been devoted by her mother to a nunnery, and when very young she took the veil at Dartford. On the 6th July, 1502, 3l. 6s. 8d. were paid by her sister the Queen to the Abbess of Dartford, towards the charges of Lady Bridget there (71); and in September following, a person was paid for going from Windsor to Dartford to Lady Bridget, with a message from her Majesty (72). The Queen contributed to her support out of her Privy Purse, the amount allowed her being 13l. 6s. 8d. per annum (73).

The Princess Bridget continued at Dartford, spending her days in the seclusion and tranquility of a convent until her death, which occurred about the year 1517, when she was thirty-seven years of age.