ANNE (1456–1485), queen of Richard III, was the daughter of Richard Nevill, earl of Warwick, known in history as ‘the Kingmaker,’ and of Anne, the heiress of the former earls, of the Beauchamp family. She was born at Warwick Castle on 11 June 1456. She had an elder sister named Isabel, born also at Warwick in 1451, who was the only other child her father had. In 1461, when she was about five years old, Henry VI was deposed, and Edward IV crowned king by her father’s means. In 1466 she and her sister were present at the enthronement of her uncle, George Nevill, as archbishop of York; and it is to be noted that, at the banquet which followed, her future husband, Richard, then Duke of Gloucester, was placed at the head of the table (Leland’s Collectanea, vi. 4). In 1469 her father, the Earl of Warwick, intrigued against Edward IV, and seduced the king’s brother Clarence from his allegiance. He stirred up a rebellion in England and withdrew to Calais, of which place he was governor; and there Clarence married his daughter Isabel. The countess and her two daughters appear to have been at Calais before the earl and Clarence arrived there. Immediately after the marriage these two lords returned again to England, where they took the king prisoner, and put some of his wife’s relations to death at Coventry. Edward escaped soon after, and issued a general pardon; but next year another rebellion was raised in Lincolnshire, with the view of making Clarence king. It was quelled at the battle called Lose-coat field, fought near Stamford, and Clarence and Warwick escaped with some difficulty once more across the sea. The Duchess of Clarence fled with her husband, and was delivered of a child on board ship while crossing the Channel. They were obliged to land, not at Calais, where Warwick’s own lieutenant refused him entrance, but at Dieppe; and they were well received by Louis XI, with whom the earl had long been in secret correspondence.
And now began a negotiation of a kind unparalleled in history. The French king set himself to reconcile the high-spirited Margaret of Anjou with the man who had turned her husband off the throne, his object being to unite Warwick, Clarence, and the house of Lancaster in one confederacy against King Edward. His efforts were successful, and a treaty was at length agreed and sworn to at Angers, by which Margaret agreed to pardon Warwick, and Warwick engaged to maintain the cause of King Henry, while Louis, for his part, undertook to assist them to the utmost of his power. It was further arranged that after the kingdom had been recovered for Henry, his son Edward, Prince of Wales, should marry Warwick’s daughter Anne. Meanwhile they were solemnly betrothed at Angers, and Warwick and Clarence set out on their expedition for the conquest of England. They succeeded beyond all expectation, insomuch that King Edward was taken by surprise, and obliged to escape beyond sea. Henry VI was set at liberty and was king once more. Margaret of Anjou, her son, and her son’s fiancée, prepared at once to set out for England; but the weather was so stormy that they were detained seventeen days on the coast of Normandy before they could cross. At length they landed at Weymouth on the evening of Easter Sunday, 14 April 1471. But meanwhile a great change had taken place. Edward IV had obtained aid from his brother-in-law, the Duke of Burgundy, and had already effected his crossing into England while Margaret was waiting for a wind. He had, moreover, won the decisive battle of Barnet on the very day that Margaret landed; who learned to her dismay on Easter Monday that her new supporter, Warwick, was slain and her husband once more a prisoner. Moreover, she was deserted by Clarence, who had made peace with his brother Edward. Nevertheless, encouraged by the support of the Duke of Somerset, she went on into the West country, summoning the people to join her in defence of her husband’s rights. She was joined by a large company out of Cornwall and Devonshire, but was met at Tewkesbury by Edward at the head of a superior force, and utterly defeated. Young Edward, prince of Wales, was either slain in the field, or, as there is too much reason to believe, shamefully butchered after the battle; and Richard, duke of Gloucester, who afterwards married the lady to whom he had been affianced, is commonly believed to have been an accomplice in the deed. It is important, however, to observe that no early writer considers him the sole agent in this particular crime. He was at that time only in his nineteenth year, and his education in ferocity was only just beginning.
Anne was now, according to most writers, a widow. But the marriage arranged at Angers between her and Prince Edward does not appear ever to have been solemnised. She was at this time not quite fifteen years of age, and she must have looked upon her brother-in-law Clarence as her chief protector, who seems to have treated her as his ward. For he, perceiving that his own brother Gloucester desired to have her for his wife, not only disapproved the match, but induced her to put on disguise in order to escape his attentions. Richard, however, discovered her place of concealment, where he found her in the attire of a kitchenmaid, and took her to the sanctuary of St. Martin’s. The dispute between the brothers was carried before the king’s council. Clarence selfishly declared that Richard might have his sister-in-law if he pleased, but they should part no livelihood; he himself meant to be sole heir of all the Earl of Warwick’s property, except some portions which had already been granted by patent to his brother. Little regard was paid by either brother to the claims of their mother-in-law, the widowed Countess of Warwick, who was at this time living in the sanctuary of Beaulieu, and petitioning parliament and the king for restitution of her own inheritance. In 1473, apparently, the king had some thought of doing her justice. In that year she left sanctuary, and was conveyed into the north by Sir James Tyrell, when she apparently put herself under the protection of Gloucester. ‘The king,’ says a contemporary letter-writer, ‘has restored the Countess of Warwick to all her inheritance, and she has granted it unto my lord of Gloucester, with whom she is.’ In May 1474 the dispute between the brothers was settled at her expense. An act passed in parliament that they should divide the whole inheritance between them and succeed to it at once ‘as if the said countess were now naturally dead.’ A singular provision was also added ‘that if the said Richard, duke of Gloucester, and Anne be hereafter divorced, and after the same be lawfully married,’ they should still have the full benefit of the act just as if no divorce had taken place. What this could have implied it is not very easy to divine, unless it be that there was some doubt whether a real marriage had taken place. There seems to be no precise record of the date of the event, and perhaps a dispensation should have been procured to make it valid. Their only son, Edward, was born at Middleham Castle (Rows Roll, 64) in 1476, as we may infer from his having been a little over seven when created prince of Wales (Hearne’s Ross, 217).
At Middleham Richard and Anne made their principal abode during the latter part of his brother’s reign. The locality was convenient for him as warden of the West Marches against Scotland, an office to which he was appointed by the king, and in which he acquitted himself so well that it was confirmed to him and the heirs male of his body by parliament in 1482 (Rolls of Parl. vi. 204). At Middleham we may presume that Anne remained during her husband’s very successful campaign in Scotland; and here, no doubt, they were both staying (for Richard, at least, was in Yorkshire according to Polydore Vergil) when the death of Edward IV called him suddenly up to London.
That was in April 1483. In June Richard usurped the crown, and Anne was queen. On 6 July she was crowned along with him at Westminster Abbey with peculiar splendour. He soon after left her at Windsor to go on a progress, at first towards the west of England; but she rejoined him at Warwick and went on with him to York, where the citizens gave them a magnificent reception. Here they stayed some days, and on 8 September Richard created their son Edward prince of Wales. This was the occasion that is sometimes inaccurately spoken of as Richard’s second coronation, when he and Queen Anne walked through the streets in solemn procession, with crowns upon their heads. Next year, on 9 April, the young prince died at Middleham, and Richard and Anne were childless. It was a bitter disappointment, and no doubt tended to make the ill-won throne still more insecure. Whether it affected Anne’s health we do not know; but she did not outlive her son a whole year. Her end, according to some accounts, was hastened by foul play; and there seems to be no doubt that even while she was alive a shameful rumour was propagated that after her removal Richard might possibly marry his niece Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV, and so defeat the designs of Richmond. After she fell ill, Richard abstained from her bed, alleging that he was advised to do so by physicians. It is said, also, that he complained to several nobles of her barrenness, and thereby created a belief that she would not be allowed to live long. Nevertheless, it is clear that her illness lasted some time. Her death occurred on 16 March 1485, the day of a great eclipse of the sun.
Three portraits of Anne exist, two of them drawn by her chaplain, Rous of Warwick, in an illuminated roll, now in the Herald’s College. The third is in a similar roll, belonging to the Duke of Manchester. She seems to have been a lady with well-formed regular features and long flowing hair.
[Paston Letters; Hist. Croyland Contin.; Jo. Rossi Hist. Regum, ed. Hearne; Polydore Vergil; Hall and Grafton; Excerpta Historica (S. Bentley), 380; Cott. MS. Julius B. xii. 317.]
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 01
Anne (1456-1485) by James Gairdner