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Anne Neville

Anne Neville (11 June 1456 – 16 March 1485) was Queen consort of King Richard III of England 1483-1485.

Early life

Anne was born on 11 June 1456, at Warwick Castle, the younger daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Anne Beauchamp. Throughout her short life, she would be used as a political pawn. Much of her childhood was spent at Middleham Castle, one of her father's properties, where she and her elder sister, Isabella Neville, came into contact with the younger sons of Richard, Duke of York. These boys would play a major role in the destiny of both sisters.

Princess of Wales

At fourteen, Anne was betrothed by her father to Edward, Prince of Wales, heir to Henry VI of England. Anne's father, dissatisfied with the rewards he had received for helping King Edward IV of England gain the throne, compared with the favours lavished on the parasitic Woodvilles, had changed sides and allied himself with Margaret of Anjou, Queen consort of Henry VI. Margaret harboured suspicions about Warwick's motives, particularly since Anne's sister, Isabel, had by now married the reigning king's brother, George, Duke of Clarence. It is not certain that a formal marriage ceremony ever took place between Anne and Edward — and, if so, whether their marriage was ever consummated.

As part of the formal agreement, the fifteen year old Anne was formally betrothed (the legal equivalent of marriage) to the seventeen year old Edward at the Chateau d'Amboise in France, and married in Angers Cathedral probably on 13 December 1470.

The Earl of Warwick, who had been dispatched by Margaret to England to restore King Henry to the throne, succeeded in this task but was defeated and killed in battle a few months later. Anne arrived back in England with her new husband and mother-in-law to find herself fatherless.

With the death of Edward at the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471, she was taken prisoner along with Queen Margaret. She was taken first to Coventry and then to the Duke of Clarence's house in London where she became the subject of some dispute between Clarence and Richard. There are various accounts of what happened subsequently.

Clarence, already married to Anne's sister and anxious to secure the whole of the Neville inheritance, treated her as his ward. His brother Richard is said to have tracked her down and escorted her to sanctuary at the Church of St Martin le Grand. They were married early next year and immediately left for Middleham Castle.

Duchess of Gloucester

The marriage of Anne Neville and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, took place on 12 July 1472, at Westminster Abbey, and they made their marital home in the familiar surroundings of Middleham Castle, Richard having been appointed Governor of the North on the king's behalf. They had only one child, Edward, born at Middleham in around 1473. Anne's health was never good, and she probably suffered from tuberculosis.

Queen consort of England

On 9 April 1483, Edward IV died and Richard was named Lord Protector for his minor nephew Edward of London. On 25 June 1483, Edward and his siblings were declared illegitimate, on the grounds that his father had been contracted to Lady Eleanor Butler at the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. Richard inherited the throne as King Richard III. Anne was crowned Queen consort and her son was created Prince of Wales; however, Edward of Middleham died suddenly on 9 April 1484 at Sheriff Hutton, while his parents were absent. Following their bereavement, Anne effectively adopted her nephew, Edward, Earl of Warwick, and Richard made the boy his heir, probably in deference to her wishes.

Rumours that Richard planned to divorce Anne and marry his niece, Elizabeth of York, arose after the death of their son and heir, but there is little evidence for this and none at all for the later rumour that he had poisoned her. Anne died, probably of tuberculosis, on 16 March 1485, at Westminster, where she was buried to the right of the High Altar next to the door leading back into the Confessor's Chapel in an unmarked grave. There was no memorial to her until the late 20th century, when a bronze tablet was erected on a wall near her grave by the Richard III Society in 1960.

Depictions in fiction

Anne is portrayed by Rose Hobart in the 1939 film Tower of London, and by Joan Camden in the 1962 remake. The story of Anne and Richard is portrayed in the 1982 novel The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman, which presents a strongly sympathetic portrayal of Richard. Anne Neville's relationship with Richard is also depicted in the award-winning The Rose of York: Love & War by Sandra Worth (2003). The early lives of Anne and Richard are dramatized in parallel fashion in Rhoda Edwards' Fortune's Wheel and their marriage and last years in The Broken Sword (alternately Some Touch of Pity), both published in the 1970s. Desire the Kingdom: A Story of the Last Plantagenets (2002), by Paula Simonds Zabka, features Anne as the protagonist in a story set towards the end of the War of the Roses. The book The Reluctant Queen: The Story of Anne of York is by Jean Plaidy. In Jan Westcott's Set Her on a Throne (1972), Anne is portrayed as self-willed and independent, Edward Prince of Wales is the romantic hero, and Richard III is an ambiguous figure.

Anne features only fleetingly in William Shakespeare's Richard III, in the early scenes when she is persuaded to consider Richard as a husband, in one brief scene just before Richard's coronation, and towards the end of the play as a ghost. She is portrayed by Claire Bloom in Laurence Olivier's Richard III, Kristin Scott Thomas in Ian McKellen's 1995 adaptation of the play and by Winona Ryder in the 1996 movie Looking for Richard.

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