Profile: Anne Neville, King Richard III’s Queen

Countdown: 10 days to go to King Richard III’s reinterment.

March 16 is the anniversary of Anne Neville‘s death. Anne was just 28 years old and the wife of King Richard III.

Anne was born in 1456 and was the younger of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick‘s two daughters; he had no sons. At the time, Warwick was one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, having won the First Battle of St. Albans for the Yorkists the previous year and appointed Captain of Calais. Anne’s mother was Anne de Beauchamp, 16th Countess of Warwick, who owned vast estates and was Countess in her own right.

Warwick and Edward IV, Richard’s brother, began to fall out after the secret marriage of the latter in 1464 became public. Eventually, Warwick rose in rebellion against Edward and married his eldest daughter Isabel to Edward’s treacherous brother, Clarence. The following year, Warwick had the then 14-year-old Anne betrothed to Edward of Westminster, son of Henry VI, Warwick ‘s new ally against Edward IV. In April 1471, Warwick and Edward IV fought one another at the Battle of Barnet. Warwick was captured and killed, leaving Anne fatherless. The following month, Edward IV fought Henry VI and his warrior queen, Margaret of Anjou, at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Edward of Westminster, Anne’s betrothed, was caught and executed.

At this point, Anne became a pawn of her brother-in-law, Clarence, as Anne was one of her father’s heirs and Clarence claimed her as a ward, in addition he sought Anne’s portion of her still-living mother’s estates. However, Richard stepped forward to marry Anne. The future King Richard III and Anne were first-cousins once-removed and they likely knew one another most of their lives. Richard had been sent to live with Warwick as a squire for about three years, although how well Richard and Anne knew one another and if they were on good terms during this period is unknown. Clarence hid Anne, some say as a kitchen worker, but Richard located her and they married. The two brothers fought over their father-in-law’s estate and in May 1741, Edward IV decided that his two brothers and their wives were to have the estates of the Countess “as though she were naturally dead.” Despite this, the Countess lived with her younger daughter.

Anne gave birth to her only child, Edward, in 1473 (although sources differ on the date). The family lived in the north, with Richard as Governor of the North until April 1483, when Edward IV died. Richard was announced as Lord Protector for his nephew, Edward V, and he journeyed south to take command. Anne followed a month later. After the new king’s illegitimacy was revealed, Richard became king and Anne his queen.

Anne travelled with Richard on his progresses across his new kingdom, including to York where their son was created Prince of Wales. Nine months later into Richard’s reign, the young Edward died. The Croyland Chronicle says, “On hearing the news of this, at Nottingham, where they were then residing, you might have seen his father and mother in a state almost bordering on madness, by reason of their sudden grief.”

Then, on 16 March 1485, less than two years after becoming queen, Anne herself died, likely of tuberculosis. That same day, a solar eclipse darkened the skies of England. Anne is buried in Westminster Cathedral.

Interesting Fact about Anne Neville:

  • In 1960, a bronze tablet was erected by the Richard III Society on a wall in Westminster to Queen Anne.
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