Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and mother to Henry VIII, was buried in Westminster Abbey on 23rd February 1503.
Elizabeth was betrothed to Henry Tudor whilst he was in exile planning his return to England to face Richard III. Henry defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August 1485 and was proclaimed king.
Henry took Elizabeth for his wife on 18th January 1486 with a service in Westminster Abbey. Their marriage united the Houses of York and Lancashire and ended the Wars of the Roses.
Elizabeth died on 11th February 1503 on her 37th birthday, days after giving birth to a daughter, Katherine, who unfortunately also died just a few days after being born. After her death Elizabeth lay in state at the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London before being interred to Westminster Abbey. Henry VII gave his wife a magnificent state funeral and spared no expense.
Elizabeth’s funeral procession began on 22nd February and was led by 200 men and women dressed in black and carrying torches. Behind them followed Elizabeth’s household members and clerics and then came Elizabeth’s coffin on a horsedrawn carriage accompanied by knights and nobles.
Behind the carriage were the Queen’s four sisters on horseback with four other noblewomen in single file each escorted by a gentleman dressed in black damansk. The procession was followed further by noblewomen and members of the royal household.
Following a night resting within the Abbey, masses were said with the Bishop of Lincoln presiding over the final requiem mass. When all the sermons and masses were over the Bishop of London sanctified the grave for the coffin to be lowered into the ground. The Queen’s chamberlain and gentlemen ushers broke their staffs of offie and threw them into the grave to signify the end of their employment in her name.
Henry VII declared that every 11th February a requiem mass was to be sung, bells tolled and 100 candles lit in honour of his Queen.
Work on the Tudor vault in Westminster Abbey had only just begun at the time of Elizabeth’s death and so she could not be interred here, instead she was temporarily laid to rest in a specially built vault made just for her between the high altar and the choir in the Abbey. It was only after the death of Henry VII in 1509 that she was re-interred to her final resting place in the Lady Chapel.