Elizabeth, the fourteenth or fifteenth child of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, and the fifth to survive childhood, was born at Rhuddlan in North Wales sometime in August 1282. She was three and half years younger than her closest sibling, Mary, and just twenty months older than Edward II. The name Elizabeth was unknown in the royal family before her birth, none of her relatives bore the name, and evidently Edward and Eleanor chose the name just because they liked it - very unusual!
Elizabeth was present at Caernarfon when her brother Edward was born in April 1284. The siblings spent much time together in childhood, sharing a household and attendants, and travelled everywhere together. In 1290, when Elizabeth and Edward were eight and six respectively, she gave him a silver cup (on what occasion, I don't know).
In April 1285, Elizabeth, aged two years and eight months, was betrothed to Jan, son and heir of Count Floris V of Holland. Jan was born sometime in 1284, so was a little younger than Elizabeth, and a baby at the time of his betrothal. Jan was sent to live in England at some point, in the late 1280s or beginning of the 1290s, and presumably was a companion of Edward of Caernarfon, who was the same age. His father was murdered in June 1296, and Jan, aged eleven or twelve, succeeded as Count Jan I of Holland. He returned to his homeland, leaving his fiancée behind in England.
Jan returned to England in early 1297 to marry Elizabeth, and their wedding took place in Ipawich on 18 January 1297. Elizabeth was fourteen and a half, Jan twelve. Her brother Edward, also twelve, gave them a gold cup as a wedding gift. Jan returned to Holland ten days after the wedding, but Elizabeth refused to leave England - taking a leaf out of her sister Margaret's book, as she had refused to depart for Brabant with her husband in 1294. Margaret sailed with her brother-in-law to finally join her husband Duke Jan II in Brussels, after more than two and a half years apart.
It was probably on this occasion that Edward I, sick of his daughters' wilfulness - two who refused to travel abroad with their husbands, and, soon after, another who married a squire without the king's consent - tore the jewelled coronet from Elizabeth's head and threw it on the fire. It was hurriedly retrieved, and Edward paid for the stones to be replaced. Elizabeth must have looked pretty spectacular at her wedding anyway - thirty-five tailors worked for four days and four nights to make her gown.
Elizabeth spent the next few months with her brother Edward, mostly at Windsor and Langley, and received a visit from her sister Mary in July. She finally departed for Holland on 23 August 1297, accompanying her father on one of his numerous military campaigns. Thirteen-year-old Edward remained behind as the (nominal) regent of England in their father's absence. Elizabeth was still in no rush to join her youthful husband, however, and stayed with her father until Christmas 1297.
Little is know about Elizabeth's life as countess of Holland and Zealand and lady of Friesland, except that she mostly lived in the Hague. Her husband was, of course, too young to rule in his own right, and died on 10 November 1299 at the age of fifteen. He was always a sickly boy, and given his ill health and his youth, it's quite probable that their marriage was never consummated.
Elizabeth was a widow at seventeen, and returned to England in 1300, visiting her sister Margaret in Brabant on the way. She travelled to Cawood in Yorkshire in August, to meet her stepmother Queen Marguerite, who had recently given birth to Elizabeth's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton. Marguerite had married Edward I the previous September, and the two women were around the same age. Elizabeth must also have seen her brother Edward, who sent her a sorrel horse for Christmas/New Year 1300/1301.
On 14 November 1302, at Westminster Abbey, twenty-year-old Elizabeth married Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, who was about twenty-six. This would prove to be a very fruitful union: Elizabeth bore ten children in thirteen and a half years.
Fortunately for posterity, Edward of Caernarfon's letters for 1304 and 1305 happen to survive - over 700 of them. He sent six to Elizabeth, and wrote another four concerning her affairs, addressing her as 'very dear sister' (treschere soer) which was merely conventional, and also as 'fair sister' (bele soer), which wasn't. In 1304, Edward sent Elizabeth two 'beautiful mares' from his stud, and their foals. Around this time, he also asked Elizabeth to send him her white greyhound bitch to mate with Edward's greyhound, as 'we greatly wish to have puppies from them'.
The following year, Edward asked her to ask Queen Marguerite to intercede with their father to return Piers Gaveston and Gilbert de Clare to him; along with most of the rest of his household, they had been ordered away from him at the orders of his father, with whom he had quarrelled passionately.
Elizabeth, as is usually the case with women, especially married ones, mostly disappears from the records after the early 1300s. In February 1308, she was present at Dover to welcome her brother and new sister-in-law Isabella to England after their wedding, and presumably attended their coronation a few weeks later. In June 1312, her husband Hereford was present at Piers Gaveston's murder. How Elizabeth felt about her husband's role in the death of her brother's great love can only be surmised. What kind of relationship she had with her brother after his accession, what she thought about his infatuation with Piers and the terrible conflict it caused, can only be surmised. Considering she was the sister closest to him in age, and had been his companion for much of their childhood, it's a real shame that we don't know more about their relationship as adults.
Elizabeth, as dowager countess of Holland, was entitled to a large dower, which should have been paid by Jan I's successors - his father's cousin Jan II and Jan II's son Willem III (father of Philippa of Hainault, who married Edward III). They proved most reluctant to pay it, and Edward II spent years chasing it up. As late as July 1315, nearly sixteen years after Jan I's death, a frustrated Edward was still sending letters to Willem, asking for his sister's rights, invoking Willem's sister Alicia, widow of the earl of Norfolk. The letters say, in effect, "You wouldn't like it if I withheld your sister's dower, so why are you withholding my sister's?"
Elizabeth died on 5 May 1316, at the age of thirty-three, shortly after giving birth to her tenth and youngest child Isabel, who also died. Her Wikipedia page says, oddly, "During Christmas 1315 Elizabeth, who was pregnant with her 10th child, was visited by her sister-in-law Isabella of France. This was a great honour, but the stress of it may have caused unknown health problems that later contributed to Elizabeth's death in childbirth." I really doubt that. Giving birth in the Middle Ages was somewhat akin to playing Russian roulette, and there's no need to blame poor Isabella for Elizabeth's death!
- Margaret, born late September 1303, died before 1 February 1304.
- Eleanor, countess of Ormond, born 17 October 1304, died 7 October 1363. Married James Butler and Thomas Dagworth, two sons and two daughters (and a son who died young).
- Humphrey, born about 20 October 1305, died 28 October 1305.
- John, earl of Hereford, born 23 November 1306, died 20 January 1336, married the earl of Arundel's daughter Alice in 1325 and Margaret Basset in 1331, died childless.
- Humphrey, earl of Hereford, born 6 December 1309, died 15 October 1361, unmarried and childless.
- Margaret, countess of Devon, born 3 April 1311, died 16 December 1391, married Hugh Courtenay and had about 94 children. (OK, about seventeen.) Margaret was the last-surviving grandchild of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile.
- William, earl of Northampton, born 1312 or 1313, died 16 September 1360. Married Elizabeth Badlesmere, widow of Roger Mortimer's son Edmund, and had one son and one daughter. His son Humphrey (1342-1372) succeeded his uncle Humphrey as earl of Hereford and Essex and his father as earl of Northampton, and was the half-brother of Roger Mortimer, second earl of March (1328-1360).
- Edward, born 1312 or 1313 (twin of William), married Margaret Ros, drowned on campaign in Soctland in 1334 while trying to rescue a drowning man-at-arms, died childless.
- Aeneas, born 1314 or 1315, oddly named and oddly obscure, still alive at his father's death in 1322, died before 20 September 1331.
- Isabel, born 5 May 1316, and died that day or shortly after.