Woodville Birth Order

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Brad Verity

Oct 31, 2007, 1:09:47 AM10/31/07
A query to the Richard III Society Research Library regarding the
birthdates of Elizabeth Woodville's sisters, led me to do some digging
into Woodville chronology, with interesting results.

When it comes to a good source for the birthdates of Elizabeth
Woodville's siblings, we are in luck only with Katherine Woodville,
Duchess of Buckingham. On 4 August 7 Henry VII (1492), an inquisition
post mortem was undertaken in Kent following the death of Richard, 3rd
Earl Rivers. By that point, all of the sisters of the late Earl were
dead save Katherine, whom the jury returned as "age 34 and more",
which would put her birth about the year 1458. This matches well with
her husband Buckingham's birth in 1455, her elder son's birth in 1478,
and the fact that (as you'll read in Smith's 'Coronation of Elizabeth
Woodville') she was a young child carried around at her sister's
coronation in May 1465. This makes Katherine Woodville younger than
her nephew Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset, whom the same 1492 I.P.M.
returned as "aged 37 and more", putting his birth in the year 1455.

As for the other siblings, the 4 eldest boys were born by 1446, with
Sir John Woodville born in 1444 (he was said to be age 20 when he
married the Duchess of Norfolk in January 1465). The girls are harder
to place.

Margaret is said (by Smith, I think originally, then repeated by David
Baldwin in his 2002 bio of Elizabeth Woodville) to have been the next
oldest sister after Elizabeth and to have likely been named for new
Queen Margaret of Anjou. But as the Woodvilles didn't meet Margaret
of Anjou until 1444, that makes at least a 8-year gap between
daughters. If Margaret Woodville was named for the new queen, and
born, say, 1445, then she would have been age 19 when her sister
became queen. Margaret's son and heir, William, Earl of Arundel, was
returned as "16 and more" in the 1492 IPM, so born in 1476. This
means he was born 11 years after his parents' marriage, which is
unusual, even if the two surviving daughters of the couple were born
before him. Margaret's husband Thomas, Earl of Arundel, was born in
1450, and though it was not unknown for the wife to be older than her
husband, the year of William's birth suggests this wasn't the case.
Margaret probably was named for Queen Margaret of Anjou, but likely
was born in 1450 or afterwards, so wasn't the next oldest daughter
after Elizabeth. The fact that she was the first to marry after
Elizabeth became queen may have led to the assumption.

An epitaph for Anne Woodville, quoted by Smith, states that she was
the 4th sister of the whole blood to Elizabeth Woodville. But the
epitaph itself needs to be tracked down and its date of composition
determined, for Anne seems a much likelier candidate to have been the
next sister, as her first husband, Sir William Bourchier, had to have
been born by 1432 (since the 3rd son of the Earl of Essex was born by
1435), and so in his early 30s when he and Anne were married. In
fact, it's remarkable that no marriage had been arranged for William
sooner, especially as he was cousin to the king and his father was
treasurer in 1455-56 and 1461-62, and very influential. Anne was lady-
in-waiting to her sister in 1466-67, which suggests she was at least a
teenager, if not in her early 20s. Henry Bourchier (later 2nd Earl of
Essex), her only son, was returned as "aged 19 and more" in the IPM of
his uncle Sir Thomas Bourchier taken on 28 Feb. 1492, and again
returned as "aged 19 and more" in the August 1492 IPM of his uncle
Richard, Earl Rivers, which suggests a birthdate of late 1472, 6 years
after his parents' marriage. They also had two daughters, Cecily and
Isabel, the latter of whom I have noted as born in 1477 (but don't
have a source). The Bourchiers are crying out for a full
prosopography, but the only modern study of the family has been the
1974 doctoral thesis of Linda Woodger-Clark, 'Henry Bourgchier, Earl
of Essex and His Family (1408-83)' which the Research Library doesn't

I thought it wouldn't take this long to answer the question, but the
more I look at the Woodville chronology, the crazier it becomes. It's
a shame David Baldwin didn't sit down and timeline the chronology of
Elizabeth Woodville's siblings, their spouses and their children, for
by doing so, long-established (well, at least since the 1930s)
assumptions are called into question. If Margaret was the next oldest
sister to Elizabeth, why was she given a 14-year-old husband in 1464,
as opposed to one in his early 30s?

Moving along, Elizabeth Woodville's date of marriage to Sir John Grey
of Groby isn't known, but with their elder son Thomas born in 1455, it
was presumably in the early 1450s. The following document posted to
the newsgroup 3 years ago by Douglas Richardson shows that the
marriage jointure was being arranged in 1454, so they likely co-
habited & consummated that year, though the marriage could have been
arranged & performed even earlier, when Elizabeth was a child. Sir
John Grey was found to be age 25 and more in 1458, so born about 1433.

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office:
DR 37/2/Box 73/34 - date: 8 Jan 1454/5

"Letters patent from Richard, Duke of York,, Earl of Ulster, Lord
[Mortimer] of Wigmore and Clare [Protector of the realm] that Richard
Castleford, cousin and heir of Richard Castleford, clerk has sworn in
his presence that release made of manor of 'Mew &
Gyngjoyberdlaundry' [modern Buttsbury], Essex to Edward Gray, Lord
Ferrers, for the settling of a jointure on the son of Lord Ferrers and
the daughter of Lord Rivers [later Queen to Edward IV], is to be
disavowed if found to be to the prejudice of Edward Ferrers of

Complete Peerage states that Jacquetta Woodville was married to John
Strange, 8th Lord Strange of Knokyn by 27 March 1450, citing Calendar
of Patent Rolls 1446-1452, p. 311 as its source. David Baldwin
dismisses this evidence: "It seems highly improbable that a younger
sister would have been married to a member of the nobility this
early." Baldwin is off base. Firstly, the Stranges of Knokyn, though
barons, weren't particularly powerful or wealthy (though they
increased their lands by inheriting the barony of Mohun in 1431), and
are exactly the type of family (like the Greys of Groby) that a newly-
created baron (in 1448) like Richard Woodville would look to for
marrying off his two eldest daughters. Richard Strange, 7th Lord
Strange of Knokyn died in August 1449, at which point the wardship and
marriage of his 5-year-old son and heir John Strange would belong to
the king. A look through the Patent, Close and Fine Rolls of 1449-50
could help determine how exactly this played out. If there's no
mention of young John's marriage being bought or sold, then it was
likely arranged in 1449 before his father died. That Jacquetta
Woodville's marriage seems to have been arranged before eldest sister
Elizabeth's was, could be accounted for by a) Elizabeth's marriage to
John Grey being arranged at the same time, just not consummated until
1454, or b) Jacquetta was deemed the more appropriate bride for John
Strange as she was closer in age to him than Elizabeth, who was 7
years his senior. Jacquetta's only surviving child Joan, Lady
Strange, was said to be "aged 15 and more" in the 1492 IPM of her
uncle Richard, 3rd Earl Rivers, but that age is wrong, for Joan was a
mother by 1485. In the 1479 IPM of her father John, 8th Lord Strange,
Joan was returned as age 16 and more, so born 1463, which matches her
childbearing and appears to be correct. This means that Baldwin is
wrong: Jacquetta Woodville was married and a mother before her sister
ever became queen. Indeed the evidence would indicate that Jacquetta
was the next oldest daughter after Elizabeth, certainly born by 1446.

Joan Woodville, however, was apparently married to Sir Anthony Grey
after her sister became queen. Anthony was born between 1440 and 1443
(there were 2 daughters and "sons" of Lord and Lady Grey, who was born
in 1423, mentioned in 1444), so in his early 20s in 1465. They were
childless, so it's impossible to determine any kind of parameters for
Joan's age at marriage. But the fact that were no children (or at
least no surviving children) by the time Anthony died in 1480 could be
explained by Joan being a child too young to consummate at the
beginning of their 15-year marriage.

Mary Woodville's marriage to William Herbert was arranged in September
1466 and took place on 20 January 1467 (per Baldwin), the last of the
queen's sisters to marry. William Herbert was born 3 or 4 March 1455,
and their only child, daughter Elizabeth Herbert, was returned as "age
16 and more" in the August 1492 IPM of her uncle Richard, 3rd Earl
Rivers, so born in 1476. This indicates a birthdate for Mary around
the same time as her husband's.

Finally, there's the case of Martha Woodville, said to have married
Sir John Bromley of Hextall, Shropshire. She never existed. Her
origin lies in a 1623 Visitation pedigree, at a time when heralds
held lax standards of evidence in the information provided them by the
gentry. Had she existed and had children, she or (if she were dead)
her heir would have appeared in the 1492 IPM of the 3rd Earl Rivers.
Is it possible she did exist but (like Joan Woodville Grey) died
without issue before August 1492? No. There was a pedigree of
Woodville taken at a Visitation in the early 1480s by a northern
herald. The issue of Richard Woodville and Jacquetta de Luxembourg is
not listed in the pedigree, but an interesting note was added by
Somerset Herald Robert Glover in the 1580s:

"Richard Erle Ryvers and Jaquett Duchesse of Bedford hath yssue
Anthony Erle Ryvers, Richard, Elizabeth first wedded to Sir John Grey,
after to Kinge Edward the fourth, Lowys, Richard Erle of Riueres, Sir
John Wodeuille Knight, Jaquette lady Straunge of Knokyn, Anne first
maryed to the Lord Bourchier sonne and heire to the Erle of Essex,
after to the Erle of Kent, Mary wyf to William Erle of Huntingdon,
John Woodville, Lyonell Bisshop of Sarum, Margaret Lady Maltravers,
Jane Lady Grey of Ruthin, Sir Edward Woodville, Katherine Duchesse of

No Martha. The order the Woodville offspring are listed in Glover's
note above is fascinating. He clearly was using some other source,
possibly another late 15th-century pedigree. Could the above be the
Woodville siblings in their order of birth? Anthony, Earl Rivers, is
often said to be born 1440, based on the fact that he was returned as
age 30 and more at his mother's 1472 IPM, and was the eldest of 4 sons
in 1446. Elizabeth Woodville is given a birthdate of 1437 based on a
portrait of her dated 1463 which indicated she was then 26 (per
Baldwin). These are hardly firm dates, and there's no other reason to
assume Elizabeth was the first-born Woodville. Other than those two,
we know Sir John Woodville was said to be age 20 when he married in
January 1465 (so born about 1444), Lionel Woodville was age 25 when
elected dean of Exeter in 1478, so born about 1453, and Katherine
Woodville was age 34 and more in August 1492, so born about 1458.
Since the Duchess of Bedford was age 42 in 1458, Katherine would had
to have been the youngest child.

If the above list is the correct birth order, it makes for some
interesting points when it comes to the marriages of Elizabeth's
sisters after she became queen. The first marriage was in October
1464, with Margaret (born after 1453 in the above scenario, and with
two older unmarried sisters) married to the 14-year-old heir to the
earldom of Arundel. Anne (likely born before 1450) may have been
considered too old for him, but what about Mary? Then at some point
before May 1465, Katherine is married to the 10-year-old heir to the
dukedom of Buckingham. Why her, the youngest, and not, say, Joan
(born after 1454 in the above scenario)? Then Sir William Bourchier,
in his early 30s, is married to Anne (the oldest unmarried sister
after Elizabeth became queen) - a marriage which, by the way, may have
been in the works before 1465, since Anthony Woodville's wife Lady
Scales (whom he was married to by 1461), was the widow of William
Bourchier's younger brother. And Anthony Grey, in his early 20s, is
married to a child under 12, Joan (born after 1454 in the above
scenario) - why not Mary (born 1447-1451 in the above scenario)?
Finally late teenage Mary is married to a 11-year-old William Herbert
in 1466. It would make more sense chronologically if Mary and Joan's
positions were switched in the birth order.

But not everything in life runs like clockwork. If, for example, Mary
Woodville was "off the market" in 1464-1465, due to marriage
negotiations that didn't come to pass, then the above sequence makes
more sense. And the timeline of the marriage negotiations involving
Anthony Grey and Joan Woodville is not known - it may have begun as
early as the autumn of 1464, thus making youngest daughter Katherine
the best match up for young Buckingham.

Hopefully others can make further sense of the Woodville chronology.

Cheers, --------Brad

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