Our latest installment in the Wars of the Roses looks at the marriage of Richard Plantagenet and Anne Neville – among many other intrigues in the Wars of the Roses. This article follows our introduction to the Wars of the Roses available here and our article on Edward III’s descendants and the causes of the Wars of the Roses available here. Later were the battles of the war from 1455-1464, the Kingmaker, and Prince George’s treachery. Most recently were part 1 and part 2 of a love story.
Historians always warn us that we should never imagine the story of Richard Plantagenet and Anne Neville to be one of romance and true love. But it is hard not to. The two had known each other since infancy and had grown together under the tutelage of the Earl of Warwick at Middleham Castle. War and the choices of the Kingmaker forced these friends onto opposite sides after a life time of watching their fathers fight side-by-side. Anne’s marriage to the Lancastrian heir, Prince Edward, had only been a few months long and had resulted in no children. After the battle of Tewkesbury, Anne was left a fifteen-year-old widow so her sister’s husband, Prince George, took her in.
But George was anything but charitable. Anne was heiress to all the lands and castles in the north of England. A wonderful, rich fortune she shared with her sister. Since George had half these lands through marriage, he forcefully took the other half by keeping Anne as a prisoner in everything but name. This made George the wealthiest land owner in England. But history tells us that Anne didn’t take this lying down. According to legend, she dressed as a kitchen maid and escaped to the London home of one of George’s friends, where she continued to work in the kitchen while plotting her next move. That move would turn out to be Prince Richard Plantagenet.
The 18-year-old Duke of Gloucester had spent weeks looking for her, making a nuisance of himself in the household belonging to his brother, George. When Richard finally found our heiress, it is said that he spirited her away to a sanctuary in order to protect her from George. Legend tells us that he made it perfectly clear to Anne that his chivalrous rescue had no ulterior motives, and he wanted nothing from her. On May 14, 1472, she married him. The couple had a happy marriage lasting thirteen blissful years that gave them one son named Edward. Unlike the princes who came before and after him, Richard had no interest in London and the royal court. Richard’s heart belonged to his wife, his son and the northlands. Living mostly in Middleham castle, just as they had done as children, the couple rarely made it to London, rarely took up the mantle of royalty. Instead, they spent their days riding, commanding their farms and just generally enjoying one another’s company.
Unfortunately, life was to take one serious turn with the death of King Edward IV. Elizabeth Woodville was an enemy of Richard and an enemy of England. The Prince could not allow the unpopular Queen to crown her underage son and rule through him. Accompanied by 200 mourners, Richard kissed his wife and child good-bye and set out to London. Edward IV had made Richard the protector of the new King, but Elizabeth had sent her brother and 2,000 soldiers to fetch him before Richard could get anywhere near him. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, her brother marched his army directly into Richard’s mourners. The new young King changed guardians and entered London with his uncle and protector. Richard delivered the young King Edward V right to the Tower of London and left him there with his servants. This may sound sinister yet it was anything but. The Tower of London was the home of England’s royalty as well as a prison and even a zoo. As with all monarchs who had come before Edward V, he had been housed in the tower awaiting his coronation.
This is where history leaves us wondering. Richard, who had up until this point been unbelievably loyal to his brother, now suddenly steals the throne from his nephew and crowns himself King. What had happened to bring this about? Critics of Richard say he was simply showing his true colors by usurping a child. Richard’s supporters claim that he was pushed by his wife to take the crown, just as her father - the Kingmaker - would have done. Or that maybe Richard simply saw a chance to be King and took it. I, personally, think it is a bit more complex than that. Richard was loyal to his brother, and his brother had once been loyal to England. Then Elizabeth Woodville showed up. Was Richard, who would have still been in mourning, simply honoring his brother’s original plan? If Edward V had been King, the Woodvilles would have ruled and who knew what they would have done to the country. But if Richard ruled, he could undo all the damage the hated family had done and get England back on track. Was Richard - who hated court, hated London, hated royal life - putting his feelings and freedoms aside to become King and save England? Once again, history’s lips are sealed.
Before George had been executed, he had started a rumor about Edward IV being pre-contracted to another woman, meaning Elizabeth was not his true wife and making their children illegitimate. Richard dragged this rumor from the grave, used it as evidence and had all of Elizabeth’s children illegitimated. Richard was now heir to the throne. He was crowned Richard III on July 6 1483. Unlike Shakespeare tried to tell us, Richard was a much loved prince - if anything he was the people’s favorite prince - and London celebrated their new King and Queen with joyous excitement. After nearly thirty years of civil war, no one wanted a child King. But the idea of a decorated war hero leading the country was one they could get on board with.
So Richard toured his kingdom, with his beautiful and beloved Queen. They were joined by their son, the Prince of Wales, when his health allowed a trip with his parents. And they were happy.
If only Henry Tudor had stayed in France.
By M.L King, a history enthusiast and part-time blogger. You can connect with her on Facebook here.
Do you want to try your hand at some history writing? If so, click here for more information and then get in touch!
- British History by Miles Kelly
- Measly Middle Ages by Terry Derry