Lady Anne Neville (11 June 1456 – 16 March 1485) was an English queen, the daughter of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (the “Kingmaker”). She became Princess of Wales as the wife of Edward of Westminster and then Queen of England as the wife of King Richard III.
As a member of the powerful House of Neville, she was caught up in the Wars of the Roses fought between the House of York and House of Lancaster for the English crown. Her father Warwick betrothed her as a girl to Edward, Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VI. The marriage was to seal an alliance to the House of Lancaster and continue the civil war between the two houses of Lancaster and York.
After the death of Edward, the Dowager Princess of Wales married Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother of Edward IV and of George, Duke of Clarence, the husband of Anne Neville’s older sister Isabel. Anne Neville became queen when Richard III ascended the throne in June 1483, following the declaration that Edward IV’s children by Elizabeth Woodville were illegitimate. Anne Neville predeceased her husband by five months, dying in March 1485. Her only child was Edward of Middleham, who predeceased her.
Anne Neville was born at Warwick Castle, the younger daughter of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, and Anne de Beauchamp. Her father was one of the most powerful noblemen in England, and the most important supporter of the House of York. Her grandfather’s sister, Cecily Neville, was the wife of Richard, Duke of York, who claimed the crown for York.
Much of Anne Neville’s childhood was spent at Middleham Castle, one of her father’s properties, where she and her elder sister, Isabel, met the Duke’s two younger sons, the future Richard III and George, Duke of Clarence. The Duke of York was killed in 1460, but with Warwick’s help, his eldest son became Edward IV in 1461. In 1469, Lady Isabel married Clarence, and in 1470, Anne Neville was betrothed and married to Edward of Westminster, the Lancastrian heir to the throne of England.
Anne Neville and Queen Elizabeth
Princess of Wales
Warwick had been for some time at odds with Edward IV when he allied himself with the ousted House of Lancaster in 1470. With King Henry VI imprisoned in the Tower of London, the de facto Lancastrian leader was his consort, Margaret of Anjou, who was suspicious of Warwick’s motives. To quell these suspicions, Anne Neville was formally betrothed to Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou’s son, Edward of Westminster, at the Château d’Amboise in France. They were married in Angers Cathedral, probably on 13 December 1470 making Anne Neville the Princess of Wales.
Warwick had restored Henry VI to the throne in October 1470, however on Edward IV’s return to the country in March 1471 he quickly secured London and the person of Henry VI. The mentally troubled Henry VI was taken by Edward IV as a prisoner to the Battle of Barnet where Warwick was killed. Edward IV then incarcerated Henry VI in the Tower of London and following his victory at Tewkesbury on 4 May Henry was reported to have died of “pure displeasure and melancholy” although “The Great Chronicle of London” reported that Richard, Duke of Gloucester was responsible.
Margaret of Anjou had returned to England with Anne Neville and Prince Edward in April, bringing additional troops. At the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471, Edward IV crushed this last Lancastrian army. Prince Edward was killed in or shortly after the battle and Anne Neville was taken prisoner. She was taken first to Coventry and then to the Duke of Clarence’s house in London. She became the subject of some dispute between Clarence and Gloucester, who still wanted to marry her. Anne Neville and her sister, the Duchess of Clarence, were heiresses to their parents’ vast estates. Clarence, anxious to secure the whole inheritance, treated her as his ward and opposed her getting married, which would strengthen her position to claim a share. Edward IV refused her safe conduct to plead her case and she wrote to Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth of York and several others to no avail. There are various accounts of what happened subsequently, including the story that she escaped from Clarence’s custody and sought refuge in a London cookshop, disguised as a servant. Gloucester is said to have tracked her down and escorted her to sanctuary at the Church of St Martin le Grand.
Duchess of Gloucester
The exact date of the wedding of Anne Neville and Richard, Duke of Gloucester is not known, although some sources placed as a marriage date 12 July 1472 in Westminster. They made their marital home in the familiar surroundings of Middleham Castle, Gloucester having been appointed Governor of the North on the king’s behalf. Upon her marriage, she was styled Duchess of Gloucester. They had only one child, Edward, born at Middleham in around 1473.
Queen of England
On 9 April 1483, Edward IV died. Gloucester was named Lord Protector for his 12-year-old nephew Edward V. However, on 25 June 1483, Edward V and his siblings were declared illegitimate, and Gloucester ascended the throne as King Richard III. Anne Neville was crowned alongside her husband on 6 July 1483 by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, and her son was created Prince of Wales. She was accompanied by less than half the knights that her predecessor had, which might have reflected the reluctance of many to embrace the new regime. She was on good terms with her mother-in-law (who was also her grandaunt), Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, with whom she discussed religious works, such as the writings of Mechtilde of Hackeborn.
Edward of Middleham died suddenly on 9 April 1484, at Sheriff Hutton, while his parents were absent.
After the death of his son and heir, rumours arose that Richard III planned to divorce Anne Neville and marry his niece, Elizabeth of York. There is little evidence for this, however, and none at all for the later rumour that Richard III had poisoned his wife.
After the death of her son, Anne Neville effectively adopted Edward, Earl of Warwick, the mutual nephew of Richard III and Anne Neville. Richard III made the boy his heir presumptive, probably in deference to Anne Neville’s wishes. Edward of Warwick was described as “simple-minded”, and after Anne Neville died, Richard promptly named another nephew, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, as his heir presumptive.
Anne Neville died on 16 March 1485, probably of tuberculosis, at Westminster. The day she died, there was an eclipse, which some took to be an omen of her husband’s fall from heavenly grace. She was buried in Westminster Abbey, in an unmarked grave to the right of the High Altar, next to the door to the Confessor’s Chapel. Richard III is said to have wept at her funeral. Nevertheless, rumours circulated that Richard III had poisoned her in order to marry his niece Elizabeth of York.
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