Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jacquetta of Luxembourg

Was the mother of Queen Elizabeth Woodville really a witch? According to author Conor Byrne:
Jacquetta and Elizabeth have often been linked in the public consciousness with witchcraft and sorcery. The White Queen supports these allegations, in both the TV series and in the book, by suggesting that both women engage in witchcraft to fulfil their ambitions - thus sorcery is practised to make Edward fall in love with and marry Elizabeth; to change the outcomes of battles; to wreak vengeance on enemies. Certainly, at the time rumours of witchcraft were linked to the new queen and her family. Contemporaries found it scarcely credible that their Yorkist king had married a woman so far beneath him, who had no royal blood and was, in fact, from a Lancastrian family. Richard III, brother-in-law to Elizabeth, and the Earl of Warwick both insinuated that Jacquetta and Elizabeth had inflicted sorcery on the king, rendering his marriage invalid. Thomas Wake, a Northamptonshire esquire, claimed in 1469 that Jacquetta had brought about the marriage of Edward and Elizabeth by witchcraft, having found two lead figures, one for the king and one for the queen. Jacquetta, however, when brought to trial proved her innocence and the case against her collapsed.

As with earlier medieval women such as Joan of Navarre and Eleanor Duchess of Gloucester, witchcraft was often used to irrevocably damage the reputations of powerful women. There is no evidence to suggest that Elizabeth and Jacquetta were witches. Jacquetta's family was linked to Melusina, a water goddess or 'serpent woman'. However, there is no conclusive evidence to show that Elizabeth or Jacquetta strongly celebrated their links with such a legend, despite Philippa Gregory's claims to the contrary. While Jacquetta did own a copy of the ancestral romance Melusine, other fifteenth-century ladies did too, which hardly suggests that she was unique.

The main reason why Elizabeth was believed to be a witch was because other nobles could not believe that she, a mere gentlewoman of no social standing, was genuinely worthy of the king of England and had caused him to fall in love with her by natural means. Certainly, Edward's cousin and former supporter the earl of Warwick was furious, for he had been negotiating for Edward to marry a foreign princess, who was believed to be far worthier of Edward. Warwick personally resented and hated the Woodvilles, mainly because, by virtue of their relatives marrying almost all the other nobles, there were no suitable nobles left for his two daughters Isabel and Anne to marry. (Read more.)

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