Mary of York
Mary was born on the 11th August 1467 at Windsor Castle. She was the second daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Mary was christened the next day, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Bourchier, was her Godfather. Her Godmothers are not recorded although it is thought Mary was named after Elizabeth’s sister Mary, who could possibly have been one of her God-mothers. Shortly after her birth, Mary’s Uncle, Anthony Lord Rivers successfully held back the Bastard of Fauconberg during his attack on London.
Elizabeth secured in 1468, an income for her two daughters, of £400 a year, and the two were governed by Lady Berners until her death in 1475. That year, Edward IV, in anticipation of his journey to France, and faced with the possibility of conflict, drew up a will. He left a considerable sum for Mary, 10,000 marks, on condition that she made a good marriage in accordance with the wishes of her mother. If she went against this condition, her bequest would be turned over to pay her father’s debts.
Although some sources claim a betrothal was proposed between Mary and Hans, heir to Denmark, it has also been cited that as part of Edward’s 1475 treaty with Louis XI, a betrothal would be made between the Dauphin, Charles, later Charles VIII and Edward’s eldest daughter Elizabeth, or upon her unforeseen death, Mary would be to stand in her place in the match. In any event neither of these eventualities took place, as both Edward and Louis died within a few months of each other in 1483. Charles was 13 years old at the time, and upon reaching his majority, in 1491, scandalised the monarchy somewhat by marrying Anne of Brittany who had already been married by proxy to Maximillian I of the Hapsburgs, in a dubious ceremony. Elizabeth meanwhile married Henry Tudor in 1486 to become Queen of England. The proposed match between Hans and Mary must not have been formalised as he married Christina of Saxony in 1478. One other suitor has been named for Mary, Hans’ younger brother and co-Duke, Frederick I.
In 1480, Mary and her younger sister Cecily, joined their older sister with the honour of being named as Lady of the Garter. Elizabeth having received the same honour three years previously. Two years later, on May 23rd 1482, at the age of fourteen, Mary died suddenly from an unknown cause. She was laid to rest at the side of her younger brother George, who pre-deceased Mary by three years. George died aged two, probably of plague.
Over time, the tombs of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, and those of George and Mary were amongst several whose location within St George’s Chapel Windsor, had not been recorded. The tombs of Edward and Elizabeth was discovered during work in 1789, and subsequent remodelling of the vaults for the tomb of George III between 1810 and 1813, turned up the coffins containing the remains of Mary and George, who were subsequently placed in the vault adjoining that of their parents.
During this work, Mary’s coffin was found to be breached in one area, showing her pale blonde hair remained in one area, and the coffin on being opened, revealed her eyes were pale blue and open. However the admission of air to the remains caused her eyes to disintegrate almost immediately. Allegedly a quantity of Mary’s hair was then cut off and subsequently passed to famous English writer, Agnes Strickland, before she was laid once more to rest.