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Entertainment: The forgotten tactical mind of Elizabeth Woodville, also known as The White Queen

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As the wife of Edward of York, Elizabeth Woodville was given the unofficial title of the 'White' Queen, which is how she is remembered today.

It was a name bestowed upon her during the British civil war of the 1400s, known as 'The Wars of the Roses' — a white rose was the symbol of the house of York.

At the time, the country was at war with the Lancastrians (the reds) and the Yorks (the whites), who were fighting for the crown. But Elizabeth is also remembered as the mother of the missing 'Princes in the tower.'

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A portrait of Elizabeth Woodville, thought to be drawn in 1465. © Getty A portrait of Elizabeth Woodville, thought to be drawn in 1465.

Her young children Edward, Prince of Wales, and Richard, Duke of York were locked away in the Tower of London and murdered in what remains, to this day, a devastating piece of British history.

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In the beginning, Elizabeth was seen as an unacceptable choice of bride for Edward IV.

Although nobody could deny she was blessed with beauty and charm, Edward was strongly advised against the marriage for several reasons — she was five years older than her husband and, even more worrying, she was already a mother and a widow.

And yet, Elizabeth Woodville eventually became the symbol of the picture-perfect Queen; she was submissive, beautiful and she already had the crucial proven ability to bear children. Elizabeth came to the marriage with two sons from her late husband, Sir John Grey, who was killed on the battlefield.

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The scene of what is thought to be Edward and Elizabeth's first meeting, where Elizabeth is seen with her two young sons from her previous marriage. © Getty The scene of what is thought to be Edward and Elizabeth's first meeting, where Elizabeth is seen with her two young sons from her previous marriage.

Historians have differing opinions about where Elizabeth first met Edward. Some believe they might have met at an important event in the 1450s, while others guess that they might have met as children.

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According to Amy Licence, author of Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville: A True Romance, Elizabeth's parents served in Rouen at the same time Edward's father was living there, as Lieutenant of Normandy.

Amy Licence writes: "For much of Edward's youth, Elizabeth was married and unavailable, a situation which only changed shortly before he became king. It is possible that he admired her before this point but, even if they had never previously seen one another, their attraction was quickly and decisively established."

Edward is believed to have stayed at the home of Elizabeth's parents in 1461 when, in the wake of the battle of Towton, he granted Elizabeth's father a pardon.

This was seen as an important time in Edward's relationship with Elizabeth, who had been recently widowed. She was forced to move with her children to her parent's home when her land was taken away from her. So the timing was perfect; moving back home at the same time the King happened to be in town.

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A portrait of Elizabeth Woodville, painted around 1463. © Print Collector/Getty Images A portrait of Elizabeth Woodville, painted around 1463.

There's a story about Elizabeth pleading with the King to have her land returned to her, and Edward being so taken by her beauty he fell instantly in love. We'll never know what really happened — and some historians believe the King was already married at this time — but a couple of years later, the couple married in secret.

The ceremony took place in the chapel at Groby and while Elizabeth's mother helped plan the ceremony, her father was kept in the dark, and only five people attended.

Although the wedding was a simple one, the couple was said to be madly in love. In fact, the marriage was such a fiercely-guarded secret, it wasn't until the King's advisor, Lord Warwick, suggested Edward propose to a French princess, that Edward told the truth. He revealed he'd already tied the knot with Elizabeth — she was crowned Queen of England on May 26, 1465.

Even though Elizabeth came to the marriage with two sons, she was under great pressure to produce Edward's son and heir. She soon had three daughters, but she was desperately praying for a son.

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Elizabeth surrendering her sons to King Richard III. © Universal Images Group via Getty Elizabeth surrendering her sons to King Richard III.

Meanwhile, the King's advisor Lord Warwick was working behind the scenes to oust the King, teaming up with the opposing forces, the Lancastrians.

When Edward caught wind of this betrayal, he fled overseas, leaving his heavily-pregnant wife in London. Fearful for her life, Elizabeth took her five children to Westminster Abbey, where she gave birth to her baby, naming him Edward after his father.

When the King returned to England to lead the battle against the Lancastrian forces, his former advisor Warwick was killed and the Lancastrian King and Queen were captured. King Henry VI was executed in the Tower of London, and Edward and Elizabeth ruled peacefully — until the King died of pneumonia in April 1483.

Edward and Elizabeth's son was too young to take over the crown, so Edward's brother Richard was given the title of Lord Protector. But Richard, fearing Elizabeth's family might attempt to seize power, had her brother Anthony arrested, along with her son from her first marriage, Richard Grey. Then he put the new King Edward in the Tower of London.

With his rivals in the Tower, Richard proclaimed himself King Richard III.

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Another artistic rendering of Elizabeth surrendering one of her sons, both of whom are assumed to have been murdered. © Getty Another artistic rendering of Elizabeth surrendering one of her sons, both of whom are assumed to have been murdered.

Paranoid that Elizabeth was scheming to murder him, King Richard declared her sons illegitimate. He hid the young boys, Edward V and Richard of York, in the Tower of London, when they were aged just nine and 12.

They were never seen again. Nobody really knows what happened to them, but it's generally assumed they were murdered by Richard so he could secure his hold on the throne.

Richard also had Elizabeth's brother, Anthony Woodville, and her younger son Richard Grey, executed.

Elizabeth was devastated to learn of the executions. And here is why she is a key figure in British history; she immediately formed an alliance with Margaret Beaufort, the mother to the only Lancastrian heir, Henry Tudor. It was agreed that Elizabeth would get Henry on the throne if he'd marry Elizabeth's eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York.

Historians claim it was a brilliant tactical move, orchestrated by the Queen, that affected the outcome of the Wars of the Roses. In 1485, Henry Tudor invaded England, and Richard III was defeated.

Britain soon had a new King, Henry VII, and so began the infamous Tudor dynasty. You could say it was a happy ending of sorts, despite the tragic executions; Henry married Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth was given her full title and honours back, just as she deserved.

She then retired to a peaceful life in an abbey, and lived long enough to see the Tudor line secured before her death in April 1492.

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