In fifteenth-century England, lords earned loyalty by winning ‘worship,’ a good reputation gotten on account of their effective leadership. Yet they could also lose their loyalty if they received ‘disworship,’ a damaged reputation caused by either real or alleged scandalous actions.
This paper looks through the lens of worship and disworship to provide another interpretation of Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. Through an examination of fifteenth-century literature, letters, chronicles, and parliamentary rolls, this paper argues that Edward could have married Elizabeth in order to disworship the Earl of Warwick. In disworshipping Warwick, Edward left him with a paucity of support and prevented an alliance between England and France. This paper redefines the traditional feminine view of medieval marriage as a mechanism of peace-keeping and reveals that fifteenth-century English noblemen could have used marriage as a useful political tool in creating organized conflict.