Anne Neville, Queen of England

Born: June 11, 1456

Warwick, Warwickshire, England

Died: March 16, 1485

Westminster, London, England (Age 28)

Anne in History

Anne Neville was born in 1456 during the beginning of a very tenuous time in England's history now known as the War of the Roses between the rival houses of Lancaster and York. In 1461, the Yorkists were able to overthrow the reigning Lancastrians and Anne's father, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, a staunch Yorkist supporter and the man most responsible for putting the Yorkist leader Edward IV on the throne, was by far the most powerful man in the country. The original plan for Anne and her elder sister Isabel was to marry them off to the king's younger brothers Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and George, Duke of Clarence, respectively, and Isabel did ultimately marry Clarence, much to the king's displeasure. Throughout the first portion of Edward IV's reign, the king and Warwick continued to distance themselves from one another and Warwick officially rebelled against Edward, with the help of Clarence, who was now his son-in-law, in 1469. Warwick captured the king temporarily but was chased away to France shortly after Edward regained his freedom. With his Yorkist allegiance clearly at an end, Warwick joined forces with Louis XI  of France and Queen Margaret, wife of the deposed Henry VI, in a plot to depose Edward IV and place Henry VI back on the throne. As part of the treaty between the two sides, it was agreed that Anne was to marry Henry VI's only son, Prince Edward, and ultimately become his queen. Warwick and Clarence were successful in deposing Edward IV and forcing him to flee England, temporarily reinstating Henry VI, but the success would be short lived. Clarence defected back to his brother and the Yorkist forces defeated those of Warwick at Barnet in 1471, the earl himself being killed in the battle. Shortly after Warwick's defeat, Queen Margaret and Prince Edward returned from France and were decisively defeated themselves. Prince Edward was killed in the battle and Henry VI was executed soon after, making Anne the widow of a deceased traitor.

Luckily, Anne's sister Isabel and her husband Clarence agreed to take in both Anne and her mother Margaret, making it a crucial move for Clarence to have rejoined his brother's faction. By 1474, Anne was married to the Duke of Gloucester, Edward IV's other brother, as had been originally planned, and Gloucester and Clarence engaged in a somewhat drawn out argument over who should inherit a bulk of the Neville inheritance. This argument was ended when Isabel died in 1476 and Clarence was executed for treason in 1478. Anne and Gloucester's marriage was thought to have been a fairly happy one and a son, Edward, was born around 1476. In 1483, Edward IV died and was succeeded by his young son, Edward V, who, in turn, was deposed, bastardized and, most likely, murdered, by Gloucester, who had himself crowned as Richard III. Anne had gone from being the wife of a deceased traitor to being Queen of England. Unfortunately, Anne's health seems to have been deteriorating by this point and the situation was made worse when her son died in 1484. As Anne continued to get worse, rumors spread that Richard III was planning on setting her aside in order to marry his own niece, Elizabeth, so that a new heir could be born. These rumors may have had a grain of truth to them, but the king vehemently denied them. The following year, however, Anne passed away at the age of twenty-eight. Immediately following her death, yet more rumors spread that the king had his wife poisoned. This seems highly unlikely considering Anne's already grim health and was most likely created by Richard's enemies. Although Anne had risen to the highest position any woman could possibly have achieved during that period, one will still look at her death as a tragedy.

Anne in Shakespeare

Appears in: Richard III

Anne first appears in Richard III at the funeral for Henry VI. Gloucester interrupts the proceedings in order to attempt to seduce Anne and make her his eventual queen. At first, Anne is completely disgusted by Gloucester, the man who killed her husband and father-in-law, but is ultimately wooed by him and the two are married. When Gloucester usurps the throne, Anne becomes Queen of England. However, when Richard III becomes increasingly paranoid about the eminent invasion of the Earl of Richmond to steal his throne, he has Anne poisoned to death in order to marry his niece Elizabeth and strengthen his claim to the throne by producing an heir. Anne's poisoning, however, is most likely an event created by enemies of Richard III and was later magnified in the works of Thomas More and Shakespeare to portray the king as much more of a villain than he actually was.

References

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