Before Elizabeth Wydeville married John Grey, supposedly her first ‘husband’, both Richard, Duke of York, and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (I refer, of course, to the ‘Kingmaker’), had urged the young woman to marry one Hugh John. It is often supposed that Elizabeth ignored their advice, as Lancastrian women usually did, but in fact, there is no evidence to suggest this. Rather, it appears that Elizabeth entered into a contract of marriage with Hugh John and then, craving greater wealth, married John Grey. Sensing that an even better match lay within her grasp, Elizabeth later used her magical powers to make John Grey die in battle, and then used love potions to snare the ultimate catch: Edward IV.
But alas, witches do not always think to read canon law or to tie up loose ends, and Hugh John was still very much alive. Thus, just as Edward IV was still the husband of Eleanor Butler when he and Elizabeth entered into their ‘marriage’, Elizabeth was still the wife of Hugh John.
As Hugh John was a rather obscure person, Elizabeth thought that her guilty secret was safe. But one person had found out–young Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the frail young boy with the misshapen back whom Elizabeth had always treated with haughtiness and scorn. How he found out we cannot know; perhaps he heard Elizabeth babbling the truth during one of the satanic rituals she regularly engaged in. All we do know is that he learned the truth, because when he fathered his own bastard child (long before he married Anne, and long before he had even thought of marrying Anne), he decided to name him ‘John’–an unmistakable signal to Elizabeth that he knew of her marriage to Hugh John. Yet he was too loyal to his beloved brother Edward to speak the truth aloud during Edward’s lifetime.
You may ask: Why does history not mention the precontract between Elizabeth Wydeville and Hugh John, which surely impelled Richard to assume his rightful crown? The answer is elegantly simple: it did, but when Henry Tudor usurped the throne, Hugh John, now in his employ, took care to eradicate all mention of his precontract from history during one of the popular ‘Destroying Evidence Favourable to Richard III’ bonfire parties that took place during the early years of Henry Tudor’s reign. Thus, Elizabeth’s shameful secret–about a precontract which she could have easily ended simply by writing a ‘Dear Hugh John’ letter–has been covered up until now. But as my granny always said, better late than never.
John Ashdown-Hill, Eleanor the Secret Queen
Paul Murray Kendall, Richard the Third
David Macgibbon, Elizabeth Woodville
My Gut Instinct
Jeff Borden still grieves about the fact that Edward IV chose to marry an English commoner instead of a French princess, since such marriages usually worked out so well.