Thursday, 14 August 2008

Cruel and unusual punishment

The Royal Council met to discuss what to do about Elizabeth Woodville. It was not clear how much involvement she had, if any, with the attempted restoration of her son Edward V, but Henry thought it safest to assume the worst.

Henry: She must be beheaded.

Oxford: Your majesty, there is no precedent for executing a woman of the nobility.

Henry: Servants follow precedents; masters set precedents.

The king was impervious to his wife's tears for her mother. Lady Margaret Beaufort had a different taste in cruel and unusual punishment from her son, and as her opinion prevailed it was left to three of Henry's children to establish chopping off female heads as a Tudor contribution to sexual equality.

Elizabeth was obliged to take a vow of chastity and spend the remainder of her days in the celibacy of Bermondsey Abbey.

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