Anne Neville

Anne Neville (1456-85) was the younger daughter and co-heiress of Richard Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker, and of Anne Beauchamp. Anne Neville was briefly married to Henry VI’s son, Edward, as part of her father’s alliance with Henry VI’s wife, Margaret of Anjou. Her first husband died at the Battle of Tewkesbury and Anne later married Richard Duke of Gloucester. When Gloucester became king (Richard III) Anne was crowned beside him and was regularly at his side through his reign. She fell ill and died in March 1485.

The quarrel between Richard Duke of Gloucester and George Duke of Clarence over their wives’ inheritance was one of the defining features of Edward IV’s second reign. The rights and wrongs of this, their treatment of Anne’s mother, and the legitimacy of Anne’s marriage to Richard have all been matters of debate. At the time of Anne Neville’s death there were rumours that she had been poisoned because Richard planned to marry his niece, Elizabeth of York. These inevitably formed part of later denigrations of Richard III. Today scholars typically reject the suggestion of poisoning but his possible plan for remarriage is still debated.

Anne Neville was born at Warwick Castle on 11 June 1456 and probably grew up moving between her father’s midland and northern properties. By 1465, the king’s brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester (b. 1452), had entered her father’s household. The Burgundian chronicler, Jean de Waurin believed that, as early as 1464, Warwick intended each of his two daughters to marry one of the king’s two brothers. However, Edward IV was hoping to arrange foreign marriages for his brothers and opposed Warwick’s plans. We do not know how often Anne and Richard were actually in each other’s company at this period, except that they were seated together at the feast to celebrate her uncle George Neville’s enthronement as archbishop of York in 1466.

When Warwick launched his first rebellion in 1469, Richard remained loyal to the king but George married Anne’s sister, Isabel. In 1470, after the failure of the Lincolnshire Rebellion, Anne was with the rest of her family as they attempted to flee to Calais. They were refused entry and Anne must have been with her sister when Isabel gave birth to a stillborn child on board ship. After they managed to land at Harfleur, Louis XI of France arranged for Warwick’s astonishing alliance with Margaret of Anjou. On 25 July, at Angers cathedral, Anne was betrothed to the Lancastrian heir, Edward Prince of Wales. Only after her father had successfully reinstated Henry VI as king did their marriage take place, probably on 13 December at Bayeux.

Anne travelled to England with her new husband, arriving at Weymouth on 14 April 1471 to the news that her father had been killed at the Battle of Barnet. While her mother fled into sanctuary at Beaulieu, Anne remained with Margaret of Anjou. She was discovered with Margaret after the Battle of Tewkesbury, at which Edward Prince of Wales had been killed. George Duke of Clarence, having made his peace with Edward IV before Barnet, took Anne into his custody. According to the Crowland Continuator, he attempted to disguise Anne as a kitchen maid in order to prevent Richard Duke of Gloucester from marrying her and claiming her inheritance. Gloucester nonetheless discovered her and moved her to the more seemly sanctuary of St Martin’s le Grand, London.

Anne and Richard were probably married in the summer of 1472, although it was not until 1475 that the division of her family’s lands had been settled. All the surviving images of Anne include celebrations of her family lineage which was important to her husband’s popularity and legitimacy as Lord of the North. Her only surviving son, Edward of Middleham, was probably born in the early summer of 1476. She may later have had a child called George who did not live long.

Anne did not accompany her husband on his journey to meet Edward V’s household in the spring of 1483. She arrived in London in early June shortly before Richard was declared king. Their joint coronation 4-6 July is exceptionally well recorded and was attended by most of the English nobility. She was queen for too short a time to make much impact, other than in her generosity to Queens’ College Cambridge. On 9 April 1484 her son, Edward of Middleham, died. It was not only a tragedy for her as a mother but a disaster as a queen since it meant there was no direct heir to her husband’s throne. She fell ill herself the following spring and died on 16 March 1485. It seems her death had been expected for some time since the king dispatched Sir Edward Brampton to Portugal to negotiate a new marriage for himself less than a week after her death. This suggests that rumours of a plan for Richard to marry Elizabeth of York were mere malicious gossip.

Anne was buried on the south side of the high altar at Westminster Abbey with all the solemnity that usually attended queens’ funerals. Richard himself died too soon afterwards for a memorial to be constructed. The Richard III Society arranged for a brass plaque to be erected in her memory close to her tomb and it was unveiled on 1 October 1960.

The British Library have digitised a beautifully illuminated celebration of Anne’s grandfather, Richard Beauchamp Earl of Warwick, which was probably commissioned by Anne’s mother and includes an image of Anne in its genealogy (curiously she appears as the elder daughter of the family). You can read about it and find a link to the whole document here.

There is another image of Anne in the Rous Roll which is an illustrated description of the Earls of Warwick. It says of Anne ‘In person she was seemly, amiable and beauteous . . . and according to the interpretation of her name, Anne, full gracious’. This has been digitised in full too – see more here.


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