To visit places where people you´ve only read about once lived or visited during important times of their lives can give a new understanding both of the individuals and the period in which they lived and died.
In her book Kristie Dean takes her readers to the places that in different ways helped to shape the House of York. Below an excerpt from the book which will be out for sale today, March 15th 2016:
On the Trail of the Yorks – Amberley Publishing.
Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire
This tiny village, amid the breathtaking scenery of the hills of Northamptonshire, seems too small and peaceful to have been the scene of one of the more momentous events in the history of England. Prior to King Henry VIII’s changing its name, Grafton was known by Grafton Woodville and was home to the Woodville family. Here in Grafton manor, Edward IV’s future queen was born. The eldest child of Jacquetta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford, and Richard Woodville, Elizabeth was born soon after her parents’ marriage.
Elizabeth first married Sir John Grey, a Lancastrian supporter. Following his death at the second battle of St Albans, Elizabeth tried to gain control of her jointure, but was unsuccessful. From here, the story takes on legendary quality.
One variation of the story is that Elizabeth stood by an oak tree with her two young sons and begged Edward to help her. Hall says that Elizabeth was with her mother when Edward, out hunting, stopped by the manor.
She pressed her suit to him, and he was fascinated. He thought her to be an ‘excellent beautie’ and neither too ‘wanton nor to humble’. Impressed by her body and her ‘wise and womanly demeanour’, he asked her to be his mistress. Elizabeth rebuffed him, saying that if she was not good enough to be his wife, she would not be his mistress.
Mancini pushes the image further, having Edward pull a dagger, with Elizabeth coolly resisting his advances. Impressed by her character and enflamed with desire, Edward decided that she would make a fitting royal spouse.
The most accepted date for the marriage is 1 May 1464. Edward left Stony Stratford and hurried to Grafton. Here, Edward and Elizabeth were married, quietly and privately, with only the bride and groom, her mother, the priest, two gentlewomen and a young man who assisted the priest in singing. Whether this happened at the manor, the Hermitage or in the parish church is unclear, but Edward and Elizabeth did marry before she was publicly proclaimed his queen in September of that year.
The manor at Grafton officially came to the Woodville family in 1440, but it is believed they had been tenants there prior, since the family had lived in the village for years. After Earl Rivers was killed, the manor passed to his son, Anthony, who was executed after King Edward’s death. His brother, Richard, inherited, and once he died, the estate came to his nephew Thomas Grey, Elizabeth’s son by her first marriage. His son gave up the property to Henry VIII, who largely extended and renovated the existing manor home. The house was set on fire and ruined during the Civil War.
Sadly, there is little to see of the Grafton Elizabeth would have known. The manor lands are not open to visits. It is possible to visit the parish church of St Mary, however. Some historians speculate that Elizabeth and Edward were married at the Hermitage, which was a small friary. However, the parish church was adjacent to the manor and would have offered a more private venue, especially at an early hour.
Elizabeth was almost certainly christened in the Norman font that still stands in the church today. The family was unquestionably active in church affairs, and Elizabeth’s grandfather, John Woodville, built its tower. The church warden speculates that a Woodville chapel may have stood to the left of the high altar. John Woodville’s alabaster altar tomb may still be seen in the church.
Grafton Regis is located just off the main Northampton road. If headed north, take the second right into the village; if headed south, take the first left. Park near the village hall and walk down the quiet country lane. After a short stroll through beautiful scenery, the church will be on the left, just past the entrance to Grafton Manor. Prior arrangements should be made by email to see the interior.
For as long as she can remember, Kristie has had her nose buried in a book about history, especially medieval history. It was this passion that led her to earn her master’s degree in history. Today, she writes about the medieval period at night and teaches history to students during the day. In her rare spare moment, she can be found at home with her husband, three dogs and two cats.