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Anne Neville, Richard III's Queen.

Anne Neville, Richard III’s Queen.

Anne Neville survived the political machinations of the Wars of the Roses, two marriages and died of tuberculosis, as Richard III deeply mourned her loss.

She was born at Warwick Castle on 11 June 1456, the younger daughter of Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick—the great ‘King-maker’—and Anne Beauchamp, a wealthy heiress. She spent most of her childhood with her older sister Isabel at Middleham Castle during the Wars of the Roses.

Her father sided with the House of York and he was rewarded for his services when Edward IV was proclaimed king in 1461.

Edward IV’s younger brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, entered Warwick’s household at Middleham in 1461 where he befriended Anne during their childhood.

Princess of Wales

Warwick was dissatisfied after Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, so he plotted with George Duke of Clarence, who married Isabel in 1470. They fled to France where they joined forces with Margaret of Anjou to help reclaim the throne for the deposed Henry VI. Anne, now fourteen, was betrothed to Henry VI’s son Edward of Lancaster* to cement the alliance, despite Margaret’s misgivings about her father.

Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick by John Rous

Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick by John Rous

The betrothal was formalised at Angers Cathedral on 25 July 1470 in Louis XI of France’s presence. A papal dispensation was required, as Anne and Edward were cousins descended from John of Gaunt. They married at Amboise in August 1470, but the marriage remained unconsummated.

Warwick and Clarence invaded England, forcing Edward IV into exile. Henry VI was briefly restored to the throne, so Anne accompanied her mother-in-law to England. Edward IV returned in March 1471 and annihilated the Lancastrian army at Tewkesbury where Edward of Lancaster lost his life.

Margaret and Anne immediately fled, but they were caught and arrested by Sir William Stanley. Edward IV sent Anne to live with her sister Isabel as a reluctant ward.

Family Feud

Anne was free to look after her own interests, but she was unable to regain her inheritance, as her settlements as a Dowager Princess of Wales were no longer valid. She was still entitled to half of her father’s estates, as her brother-in-law Clarence—through Isabel—retained the rest.

Richard III.

Richard III.

Anne fled into Sanctuary at at St Martin’s, near St Paul’s Cathedral, about the same time Richard arrived in London between December 1471 and February 1472, when Isabel and Clarence objected to her marriage to Richard.

A lengthy feud, almost bordering on violence, began between Clarence and Richard, as the latter defended Anne’s claim against his brother’s greed. Edward IV was eventually forced to intervene so Anne received the Yorkshire estates, including Middleham Castle.

Another papal dispensation was required since Richard and Anne were cousins. They married at Westminster on 12 July 1472, but no records survive of the actual wedding.

Richard and Anne soon left for Middleham where they maintained a royal establishment and invited Anne’s mother, who was left with very little, to join their household.

Their union proved happy as no evidence survives of Richard’s infidelity after his marriage. Their joy was complete when their son, Edward of Middleham, was born in 1473, as they took a genuine interest in their son’s welfare.

Queen Consort

Edward IV sudden death on 9 April 1483 triggered off a chain of events including his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was bigamous, so their children declared illegitimate. The crown was offered to Richard in an Act of Parliament known as the Titulus Regius (1483).

The Rous Roll shows a full-length portrait of Richard and Anne robed and crowned at their coronation. Anne appears serene and happy, contradicting claims her husband was a monster.

Tomb of Edward of Middleham at Sheriff Hutton by Steve Kent [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tomb of Edward of Middleham at Sheriff Hutton by Steve Kent [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Richard, like his brother Edward IV, maintained an impressive court where Cecily Duchess of York was often welcomed. Anne enjoyed a close relationship with her mother-in-law, as they often discussed religious books.

Their son Edward was created Prince of Wales on 8 September 1483 in a lavish ceremony, although the boy was carried in a litter due to poor health. It was a major PR exercise to win the people’s loyalty. Richard’s prestige received a further boost when Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain proposed a match between Edward and an Infanta of Spain.

The court was at Nottingham when news arrived of Edward of Middleham’s death on 9 April 1484. Most historians believe he died from tuberculosis. Anne and Richard were devastated by his loss, as historian Charles Ross describes their grief almost bordered on madness.

Anne’s health deteriorated and she also died, aged 28, on 16 March 1485, but Richard forced to issue a public denial he actually poisoned his wife to marry his niece!

Richard wept openly at Anne’s funeral. She was buried in Westminster Abbey, but no monument was erected until the Richard III Society commissioned a wall plaque near her burial site during the 1960s.

Middleham Castle, 2007 by CJW

Middleham Castle, 2007 by CJW


Hicks, Michael, Warwick the Kingmaker, Blackwell Publishers Ltd, Oxford, 2002

Hilton, Lisa, Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens, Weidenfeld  & Nicolson, London, 2008

Lamb, V B, The Betrayal of Richard III: An Introduction to the Controversy, Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, Stroud, UK, 1959 [Reprinted 1990]

Ross, Charles, Richard III, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1999

Weir, Alison, Lancaster & York: The Wars of the Roses, Pimlico, London, 1998

Weir, Alison, The Princes in the Tower, Pimlico (an imprint of Random House), London, 1992

Williamson, David, Debrett’s Kings and Queens of Britain, Webb & Bower (Publishers) Limited, London, 1986

*Also known as Edward of Westminster.

© 2010 Carolyn M Cash

This article was originally published by Suite 101 on 4 September 2010.