This post continues from my previous post on Elizabeth Woodville and Cersei Lannister.
Elizabeth, like Cersei, had her share of sorrows. Elizabeth was the mother of twelve children, including the heir to the throne, the blonde-haired Prince Edward. After Edward IV died, his brother Richard (later Richard III) effectively kidnapped Prince Edward and imprisoned him in the Tower along with his brother. Neither boy was ever seen again.
While Elizabeth experienced grief, she also shared in the moral ambiguity seen in Cersei’s character. Admittedly, however, Elizabeth Woodville’s motivations are hazy and hard to make out – especially five hundred years later.
Elizabeth Woodville may have tried to broker a marriage between the man who may have murdered her sons (Richard III) and her daughter. Elizabeth may have encouraged the match and put her daughter clearly in Richard’s sights.
According to Croyland, Elizabeth sent five of her daughters to court in Christmas 1484 to keep great state and attend to Richard III’s dying Queen Anne. Shortly after this, in January 1485, the attraction between Elizabeth and Richard III became known at court.
As Alison Weir writes, “For all the former Queen’s ambition, it must have cost her dearly to contemplate marrying her daughter to the man who had murdered her sons, but with such advantages in view, scruples had to be suppressed.”*
For me, Elizabeth Woodville orchestrating a match between her daughter and Richard III puts Elizabeth in a very murky light. Did she believe Richard murdered her son? Did she know somebody else murdered them? If she thought Richard killed her sons, what does it say about her if she was willing to marry her daughter to him?
Was Elizabeth Woodville the ultimate survivalist? Or, was she a woman who would metaphorically eat her young to satisfy her ambition? Admittedly, there could be something else at play here. Elizabeth might have known her sons were alive and well and secreted out of the tower.
George RR Martin may also draw from mythology to create a loose thread to Elizabeth Woodville. The name Cersei is reminiscent of Circe — the witch in Greek mythology who murders her husband and is exiled to live alone on a remote island. Skilled with herbs, drugs, and magic, she often turned those who angered her into animals and turned Odysseus’ crew into pigs.
Interestingly, at the beginning of the series, Cersei is shown obtaining some sort of potions from Grand Maester Pycelle. Nobody is ever turned into a pig, but Robert Baratheon is killed by a pig.
Cersei’s name also sounds a little like “sea siren.” Legend had it that Elizabeth Woodville and her mother, were descended from the melusine, a mermaid-like water creature whose legs would turn into a tail whenever they were soaked in water.
The melusine legend is connected to that of sea sirens, whose allure causes sailors to crash their ships. Many historians believe that Edward caused many of the problems in his reign and ultimately the downfall of the house of York through this exceptionally unwise marriage. Essentially, this marriage made his dynasty crash against the rocks.
*p. 203. The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir.
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Mesuline on Wikipedia
By Jamie Adair