Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick – Wife & Widow

Posted: April 13, 2011 in Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick

I want to look in some depth at a letter written by Anne Beauchamp, countess of Warwick, to the Commons after the Battle of Barnet. She wrote other letters, to several of the ‘ladies noble of this realm’. I haven’t been able to find any of them, but they probably don’t say much that isn’t said in the one I do have. What would be interesting to see would be any difference in tone. This is a formal letter, written to a formal government body. Anne had, by this stage, reached the end of the list of people (or bodies) she could appeal to. I get a strong sense of the woman herself from this letter. Anne knows her rights and knows they’re being violated. The decision taken by parliament to disinherit (impoverish) her, must have been extremely hard for her to take, especially as it was her daughters and sons-in-law who benefitted from it. I can’t help but think she felt betrayed by them.

Some background. The Countess of Warwick (Anne) remained in France as the guest of Louis XI when her husband launched his final invasion of England in 1470. She remained there during the Readeption of Henry VI, returning in April 1471. She landed in Portsmouth to the news of her husband’s death. Immediately, she took sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey. She was to remain there for the next two years. When she emerged, it was into the custody of her daughter, Anne, and son-in-law, Richard duke of Gloucester. The duke had conspired with Edward IV (and competed with his brother George duke of Clarence, husband of the countess’s daughter, Isobel) for control over her fortune and that of her late husband. While in sanctuary, she wrote several letters seeking both her release and control of her wealth.

The letter

To the right worshipfull & discrete comyns of this present parlement,


Shewith vnto your wisdomes and discrecions the kynges true liege woman Anne Countesse of Warrewyk whiche neuer offended his most redoghted highnes

Like her husband and brother-in-law, the marquis Montagu, Anne wasn’t attainted for anything she might have done during Warwick’s rebellions or the Readeption, and she makes no confession in this letter. This doesn’t suffice to clear her of any direct involvement, however. As stated in the Introduction to the parliamentary roll Edward IV 1472, “If Warwick had to remain unattainted, to allow his lands to pass by inheritance to his daughters, it would hardly be appropriate to attaint his followers”. As the bulk of their shared wealth was hers, Anne couldn’t have been attainted either.

for she immediately after the dethe of hir lord And husbond on whos soule God haue mercy for noon’ offence by her doon but dredyng only trouble beyng that tyme [whiche] within this realme entred into the Seintuare of Beaulieu for suertie of hir persone to dispose for the weel and helthe of the soule of hir seid lord and husbond as right And conscience required her so to doo

In this passage, are the first two of four references to Anne’s late ‘lord and husband’. She doesn’t qualify this with any of the usual words of affection, such as “well-beloved”, “right worshipful” &c. In this she’s probably being cautious and politic, though not quite trying to distance herself. She gives two reasons for being in sanctuary: 1. for surety of her person – to hold off any unnamed and unexplained ‘trouble’ that might be coming her way; and 2. to pray for her husband’s soul, ‘as right and conscience required’. This is a very interesting passage to me, as it suggests two things. Firstly, that she expected very real ‘trouble’. Given the 1459 attainder of her mother-in-law, her daughter’s marriage to the Prince of Wale and her constant geographical closeness to Warwick, it suggests that Anne was very closely associated with him and had genuine fears for the repercussions. Perhaps her months as guest of Louis XI weren’t spent in relative idleness. We have no surviving evidence, but Anne might have been a little more actively involved than we know. Just in what capacity is hard to even speculate from this distance. The second thing is that she is trying to disassociate herself from him a little – explaining away her prayers for his soul in formulaic terms. “I loved him dearly, wept for days after I got the news and spent so long in prayer that I bruised my knees” would hardly have won anyone over to her side. That she indeed did ‘dispose of the weal and health of [his] soul’ can hardly have been in dispute – there would have been many in the Abbey to witness it, and assist her, and none, surely, to condemn her for it.

It has been suggested that one of the reasons Anne was kept so long in sanctuary was to prevent her remarrying. This only makes sense if it was an attempt to prevent her from acquiring a strong (and self-interested) ally before the king and his brothers could finalise their plans for her wealth. There’s never any accompanying suggestion as to who might have been able, or willing, to provide that alliance. Anne herself may have feared, before the awful truth hit home, that she might be persuaded to marry someone of the king’s choosing. But if her remarriage was the king’s biggest fear, she could have been released the moment that danger passed. She wasn’t. Her daughters at the time were not in a strong position to support her. They may have tried to enlist their husbands’ aid in gaining her freedom and, given that she was eventually released into the duke of Gloucester’s custody, maybe his duchess finally succeeded in that, but once her money was gone, there really was no-one of any influence who need care about her. As it turns out, she never did remarry. This might have been because she just wasn’t an attractive prospect anymore – there was no-one to rescue her as Edward IV rescued his queen, or as Gloucester rescued her daughter. It may, of course, have been Anne’s choice not to remarry. Not all widows remarried. The duchess of York didn’t. Lady Alice Fitzhugh remained a widow for thirty years. After her second husband’s execution, Katheryn Hastings chose to stay single. Maud Stanhope, married and widowed three times, didn’t try it for a fourth. Whatever the nature of her relationship with Warwick, at the time of his death they’d been husband and wife for thirty six years, actively and independently husband and wife for around twenty five. He may simply have been a hard act to follow.

makyng within v dayes or ner’ ther’ abowtes after her entre into the seid seyntuare her labores suytes and meanes to the Kynges Highnes for her safe garde to be had as diligently and effectuelly as her power wold extend she not saisyng but after her power contynuyng in such labores suytes and meanes in so moche that in absence of clerkes she hathe wretyn lettres in that behalfe to the kynges highness with her owne hand

Here’s where it starts to get really interesting. Five days after entering sanctuary, six days after her husband’s death, the woman who is so often portrayed as overwhelmed, outshone and dominated by her husband, picks herself up, dusts herself off and sets about (without the help and advice of ‘experts’) throwing herself on the king’s mercy, rehabilitating herself and getting her hands on the property she was entitled to. Her success in this was not spectacular. The speed with which she begins this quest suggests two things to me. Firstly, that she was aware of a potential threat to either herself, her freedom or her wealth and title. Secondly, that she was a woman used to having money, status and influence. She didn’t break down and decide that, with Warwick gone, her life was over. At forty five, she could still see a future for herself. She’d enjoyed the things that money and position had brought her and, grieving or not, she wasn’t about to give them up.

And not only makyng suche labores suytes and meanes to the Kynges Highnes sothely also to the Quenes good grace to my ryght redoghted lady the kynges moder to my lady the kynges eldest doughter to my lordes the kynges brethren to my ladyes the kynges Susters to my lady of Bedford moder to the Quene and to other ladyes noble of this realme

I would love to get my hands on some of these letters! Particularly those to the king’s brothers. Perhaps, if nothing else, all this letter writing took her mind off the loss of her lord and husband. (I’d also love to see any responses she might have received.)

This list of recipients of the countess’s letters is heartbreaking. Six of those listed (including the king) are cousins-by-marriage, one is her husband’s aunt and two are (also) sons-in-law (one definitely, the other at least contractually). Though his York kin clearly meant little to the earl of Warwick during his years of rebellion, his widow might have expected better treatment from them than she got. Mind you, I have no idea whether the queen, the duchesses of York, Exeter, Suffolk and Burgundy made any approach to the king on her behalf. The king’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, was five years old and an unlikely ally. Jacquetta of Bedford, whose husband and son died on Warwick’s orders, was hardly likely to stir herself too energetically on his widow’s behalf. Elizabeth Wydeville, despite similar feelings to her mother, might have taken up Anne’s cause in her traditional queenly role of intercessor, but perhaps not too doggedly. And ‘self interest’ is almost too neutral a term to describe the actions of the dukes of Clarence and Gloucester. Anne really was on her own.

In whiche labores suytes and meanes she hathe contynued hyderto and so wyll contynue as she owes to doo tyl it may please the kynge of his most good and noble grace to haue consideracion that duryng the lyfe of her seid lord and husbond she was couert Baron’ whiche poynt she remyttes to your grete wisdomes And that after his deceasse all the tyme of her beyng in the seid seyntuare she hath duly kept her fidelite and ligeaunce and obeied the kynges commaundementz

There’s more than a little bit of steel in this girl’s backbone! She’s going to dig her heels in and keep writing letters until she gets what she wants – what she’s entitled to, as countess of Warwick by right of inheritance, and loyal subject of the king by justice. What might be a telling point here is that she stresses her ‘fidelite and ligeaunce’, and her obedience, as of her husband’s death and her entry into sanctuary. She makes no attempt to claim that for herself before this time. Whatever her involvement in her husband’s rebellions and treasons, it’s hard to see how she could have been anything other than faithful, loyal and obedient subsequently, shut up as she was under the watchful eye of the abbot. Still, it’s worth stressing this to the commons. They were, after all, overtly one of her husband’s great concerns throughout his political career. While she could expect them to have no residual loyalty or affection for him, maybe – just maybe – they’d remember their champion and cut his widow some slack. There’s also a reminder that as ‘couert Baron’ she was subject to her husband’s will. Was it fair and reasonable to hold that against her now? This isn’t quite ‘I was only following orders’ but, as a defence, it as well worth the attempt.

how be it hit hath pleased the Kynges Highnes by some synester informacion to his seid Highness made to directe his most drad letters to the Abbot of the monastere of Beaulieu [which] with right sharpe commaundement that suche persones as his highness sent to the seid monastere shuld haue garde and strayte kepyng of her persone whiche was and is to her grete hertys grevaunce she specially feryng that the priuileges & libertees of the churche by suche kepyng of her persone moght be interrupt and violate where the priuileges of the seid seyntuare were neuer so largly attempted in to this tyme as is seid

‘Sinister information’… There was either something real that Edward IV was using, or something entirely made up – either way, the whole thing stinks of ‘pretext’. There’s no hint here Anne knows what this information is, nor, indeed, that she doesn’t! Either way, sanctuary was not designed to be a prison and this, Anne declares, is how it’s being used in her case. And she further fears that it could be violated at any time in order to remove her by force. Being removed isn’t what she wants – being able to walk out the door is.

yet the seid Anne & Countesse vnder protestacion by her made hath suffred strayte kepyng of her persone and yet doth that her fidelite and ligeaunce to the Kynges Highnes the better moght be vnderstand hopyng [th] she myght the rather haue had larges to make suytes to the Kynges Highnes in her owne persone for her lyuelode and suche full inheritaunce whiche lyuelode and inheritaunce with all revenous and prouentus therto perteynyng with her Joyntour also and dower of the Erldome of Salesbury fully and holy hath be restrayned fro her from the tyme of the dethe of her seid lord and husbond in to this day

Anne knows just what’s hers, and just what she’s entitled to. From the time of her niece’s death, her husband fought hard on her behalf (and his own) to secure everything that was hers (and some which, strictly speaking, wasn’t). I have no doubt that Anne knew as much about their joint wealth as he did. And she’s not going to let something as trifling as being ignored and kept a prisoner stop her from getting it! I suspect Edward knew he wouldn’t be able to steal it all away from her to give to his brothers if she had been able to ‘make suits … in her own person’, hence the ‘strait keeping’.

John Nevill’s widow, Isobel, wasn’t treated anywhere near as badly as this. In fact, it can hardly be said she was treated badly at all. She was allowed to keep her own property as well as wardship of her son, George. Further – and this, I must stress, is my own speculation – given his position in Edward IV’s household, I strongly suspect that her second marriage, to William Norreys, was brokered by the king himself. He was fond of her, it would seem, and didn’t want to see her disadvantaged. That might reflect some regret at Montagu’s ultimate defection and death. I think Edward felt some regret over Warwick as well – he allowed George Nevill, archbishop of York, to bury both his brothers at Bisham – but it seems to have been somewhat less than that felt for the loss of Montagu. To indulge for a moment in the murky world of cliche, maybe Isobel was just a more delectable morsel than Anne, one whose moistened eyelashes the king could not resist.  Either way, Anne clearly wasn’t to benefit from any sentiment in the king’s heart.

And for as moche as our souerayn lord the Kynge of his grete grace hath sette and assembled his high[t] Court of parlement for reformacions right and equite to all his subjettys and liege people duly to be mynystred The said Anne and Countesse humbly besechith your grete wisdomes to pondre and waye in your consciences her right and true title of her inheritaunce as the Erldom of Warrewyk and Spencers londes to whiche she is rightfully born by lyneal succession And also her iointour and dower of the Erldom of Salesbury forseid And to [shewe] her youre benyvolence that by the kyngis good grace and auctorite of this his noble parlement she may to her forsaid lyuelode and rightfull inheritaunce Duly be restored and it enioye as the lawes of all myghty God and of this noble realme right also and conscience doth require

I’m not sure what she thought the Commons could do for her. Perhaps she wasn’t aware (for she doesn’t mention it, even obliquely) of the machinations of the York brothers. Whatever is going on, Edward IV was never in a stronger position than he was just after Barnet and Tewkesbury – he could pretty much do as he liked, whatever the Commons thought about it. And, in the end, all of her appeals came to nothing.

Besechyng hertely your grete goodnesses in the reuerence of allmyghty God and of his most blessed moder well of grace to consider the pore estate she standes in how in her owne persone she may not sollicite the premissez as she wold and she moght ner is of power any sufficient sollicitour in this byhalf to make and thogh she moght as may not ther is noon that dar take it vpon hym To haue also this pore bylle in your tendre remembraunce that your parfyte charite and good will may sollicite theffecte of the same whiche to doo her power at this tyme may not extend And shal pray and do pray to God for you”

Anne is on her own. Whether she exaggerates the lack of help in either writing or drafting her letters, she certainly doesn’t have the resources at her fingertips that she’s used to. The thought of being left with none of the vast fortune she has enjoyed since 1449, vaster still since 1461, must have been hard to bear. The loss of her title, the one enjoyed so thoroughly by her husband, her greatest gift to him, must have been difficult in the extreme. It was hers and no-one had the right to take it from her! Yet they did. Much has been made of the restoration of her estates by Henry VII – it’s often expressed as a belated righting of a Yorkist wrong (and there’s no doubt it was a wrong). But she immediately handed most of it over to the crown. There was to be no last minute justice for the countess of Warwick.

The Anne in this letter is not a sudden creation. She didn’t spring into being on or about 20 April 1471 – she was there all the time. The wife of Richard Nevill could only be one of two things: a non-entity who remained utterly in the background; or a strong woman who stood (as much as was possible at the time) shoulder to shoulder with her husband. This letter points me much more to the latter than the former. There are, in my view, too many historical novels that choose Weak Pale Anne, blown hither and yon by Cyclone Warwick. There is precious little about her in the more serious works, and maybe that’s why so many writers have chosen the Anne that they have. There are clues, however, that this is the Wrong Anne entirely.

Here are some bits I’ve managed to glean:

First, Paul Murray Kendall, Warwick the Kingmaker, 1987. Just, coz.

(1457) The Earl of Warwick, taking his wife and two small daughters with him, at last went over the sea to his town of Calais. p 34

(1460) The Earl and Countess [of Warwick] went on to visit their estates, which had been plundered by the Lancastrians. p 77

(1461) He was now in his thirty-third year. He had fathered only two frail daughters, Isabel, aged nine, and Anne, four years younger; and it was apparent that his wife, Anne, would bear him no more children. p 105

(1469) Richard Neville was now forty years old. His daughter Isabel was seventeen and Anne, four years younger. His Countess would never give him a son to carry on his name and hold whatever he might achieve. p 266

(1470) Warwick and Clarence made their way safely to Warwick Castle, where their ladies were anxiously awaiting news of them. p 295

(1471) Even as his army began to break before his eyes, a ship carrying the Countess of Warwick was standing in to Portsmouth harbour…
p 367

(1471) When the news of Warwick’s end reached the south coast, his Countess took sanctuary in Beaulieu Abbey.
p 370

(epilogue) Warwick’s Countess lived in obscurity until about 1490. p 371

There are two other, very minor, references.

Kendall’s countess is a passive wife and a broken widow. The clues (her going with him to Calais in 1457 and just about every other time he was in residence; their shared journey to inspect their estates in 1460; her sharing of his flight and exile in 1470) are not picked up. Her daughters are ‘frail’ and she failed to ‘give him’  a son. That he failed to give her a son to carry on her Beauchamp and Despenser legacy isn’t even considered.

Kendall’s countess disappears when she enters sanctuary. She has one short line in the epilogue. Just why she might have sought sanctuary isn’t explored. She was a woman, dependent on her husband in every way, arrived in England to crushing news and fled. Though by no means its primary function, during the Wars of the Roses many nobles used sanctuary to try to avoid charges of treason. (In fact, I believe that this was, officially at least, not a function of sanctuary.) If Anne feared a charge of treason laid against her, if she expected to be attainted, I find myself asking: Why? What had she done? Kendall doesn’t.

Michael HicksWarwick the Kingmaker, 1998

The first twelve references to Anne are to do with her inheritance, and I haven’t listed them here.

(1456) Warwick attended [great council], apparently commuting from nearby Warwick, where he was on 30 October and 16 November, and where he received the king, who joined him and his countess in making offerings at St Mary’s. Perhaps they visited the temporary tomb of the king’s late governor the countess’s father and must certainly have witnessed the progress of the Beauchamp Chapel. p 130

(1457) Probably it was not until May 1457, after John’s marriage, accompanied by a ‘fayre ffellaushipp’ that he, his countess and Fauconberg took up residence [in Calais], which none of his predecessors had done. p 141

(1459) There [Warwick, Salisbury and March] were well-received by Fauconberg and by the Countess Anne, who had heard of their flight and feared the worst. p 169

(1460) Warwick was able to continue to Calais, where he was received joyously, not least by his countess. p 176

Warwick returned to Calais, where he was reunited with his countess and mother and was nobly received by the town’s patricians, bourgeois and soldiers, whom he thanks for guarding the colony so well against his enemies. p 181

(1461) Warwick sped to Calais, sealing his agreement with Somerset on the 8th, feasted those who loved him both there and at Sandwich. His wife, mother and Wydeville prisoners accompanied him. p 184

(1462) [On the funeral of Warwick's father, brother and mother.] … where [were] … Warwick’s own countess and daughters?

[On Warwick's embassy to Scotland.] Failing to secure the co-operation that he sought, he retired to York, where he left his countess, and thence to Middleham… p 241

(1464) Presumably it was now that he, his countess and the king made offerings at St Mary’s Warwick. p 245

(1469) [Warwick and Clarence's] flight was not precipitate, but deliberate. Warwick was accompanied by his artillery as far as Bristol. He picked up his countess and daughter on the way. Flight was not his sole thought. p 286

(1471) Barnet was admittedly a disaster for Warwick’s countess, who lost her husband, her inheritance and her independence. p 312

We get more of a glimpse of Anne here. Though the references to do with her inheritance were all about Warwick (and, after all, he was the one doing the legwork), there’s no suggestion that she was utterly passive. She attended various inquests, along with her husband. We see a woman who accompanied her husband just about everywhere he went. In another work (and I’ll dig out the reference if I have the strength), Hicks suggests that one of the reasons they were so much together was that he didn’t want to ‘waste her childbearing years’. Again, this makes it all sound terribly one sided. Warwick no doubt didn’t want to waste those years, but I hardly think she did! Children would have been as important to her, and their lack of a son as devastating, as they were to him. We also get a small sense, through the Waurin quote, of at least some affection between husband and wife, or, if not affection, relief at Warwick’s safe return to Calais. The choice of whatever word translates best to joy is a telling one (I haven’t seen Waurin in any detail, even in translation) – Anne expressed ‘joy’ that could be seen and witnessed when her husband came home after a difficult voyage during a difficult time. It’s a slender twig on which to hang a thesis of a happy marriage (or at the very least, a happier than otherwise marriage), but it’s there.

Again, Anne’s reason for entering sanctuary isn’t explored.

AJ Pollard Warwick the Kingmaker, 2007 (come on guys! come up with a new title, already)

Pollard has a good deal more to speculate about Anne than either Hicks or Kendall (though there are fewer references). Again, in the early chapters, there is a good deal of discussion about the securing of her title and inheritance after the death of her niece.

(on her marriage) The marriage of his son to [Beauchamp] Warwick’s daughter at the same time was possibly a further part of the bargain [made regarding the marriage of his son, Henry, to Salisbury's daughter, Cecily] required by Beauchamp, for Salisbury might have preferred to find a bride who was an heiress. p 12

It was also, quite clearly, not a love match; although the law did allow for them to terminate the contract before consummation if both parties agreed. However, as they grew up, they clearly accepted each other and their parents’ decisions. p 12

(1457) Shortly afterwards, the earl [of Warwick], his countess and Lord Fauconberg crossed to Calais where he took up residence for an extended stay. p 34

(1470) Passing through the midlands, where they were joined by Warwick’s countess, his daughter the duchess of Clarence and his daughter Anne, they continued south to Devon. p 68

(general observations – I think it’s worth quoting this in full, mainly because it’s difficult to tweeze out the soundbites.)

His widow lived until 1492. Having landed at Weymouth in the train of Margaret of Anjou on the day of his death, she hastened into sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey. There she was kept for two years under guard, pleading to whoever would listen for their support in securing her release and restoration of her rights. At length, in 1473, she was taken into the care of Richard of Gloucester, who had married her daughter Anne, and was removed to Middleham Castle, where she was probably able to live a more normal life, but still denied her rights. She was disinherited by Edward IV so that his brothers could share the spoils of the Warwick inheritance. Only after the succession of Henry VII did she receive any kind of justice, and that on the condition that she ‘voluntarily’ made over her inheritance to the crown. Little is otherwise known of her. She seems to have been close to her husband, although this did not prevent him from fathering at least one illegitimate child. She shared his exiles with him in 1459-60 and 1470, though it appears she did not enjoy living in Calais. In the summer of 1460, it was reported that ‘my lady of Warwick comes but little abroad but keeps her always in the castle’. [letter from Calais to a Thomas Thorpe - not *the* Thomas Thorpe - my note] She was a great promoter of her father’s name and reputation, commissioning the Beauchamp Pageant later in her life, and may well have encouraged her husband to identify with the Beauchamp traditions in the early years of his earldom, although after 1460 he balanced this with his inherited Neville interests. She was much admired by John Rous, who was of the same age. He stressed in his note on her that she was by true inheritance countess of Warwick and that she had suffered great tribulation for her lord’s sake (as she had). He picked out that she was ‘free of her speech to every person familiar [ie of her household, and presumably especially him] according to her and their degree’. He recorded too that she was glad to be with women that ‘travailed of child’ and was ‘full comfortable and plenteous there of all things that should be helping to them’.

She and Richard Neville had but two daughters: Isabel, born in 1451, who married Clarence, and Anne, born in 1456, who was married to Edward Prince of Wales. It is perhaps because after 1465 Warwick despaired of producing a male heir that he became obsessed with making first one and then the other of his daughters queen of England, an ambition he was to achieve posthumously when the younger became queen consort of the third Yorkist king, Richard III. pp 190-1

and finally:

What lived on was Warwick’s reputation, initially sustained by his widow and her chaplain John Rous. p 191

Anne Beauchamp may have been swept along by the force of nature that was her husband, but she was no rudderless waif caught in the wind. From the scant details of her life, a picture can be built up of a loyal, and perhaps loving, wife. She benefitted enormously from the ambitions of her husband, from the energy, persistence and intimidatory force he was able to bring, along with that of his father, to secure her inheritance. It says something about the 15th century worldview that, within a fortnight of his granddaughter’s death, Salisbury had secured the Warwick title for his daughter-in-law and son. Young Anne was in the hands of God and her grandfather could do nothing to change that. He could, however, do a good deal to change the fortunes of his son, then sir Richard Nevill. The young couple went from relative obscurity to the immense wealth, power and prestige that had never been intended for them. For the next twenty odd years they were to make good use of all three.

On the other hand, Anne suffered greatly in the end from her association with Warwick. In 1471, she had no-one to come to her rescue, to sweep her out of sanctuary and into his arms. Whatever residual fondness Edward IV might have sneakingly felt for Warwick, it wasn’t enough to save her. Perhaps if she had had the opportunity to speak with him in person, things would have gone very differently. Perhaps the king was well aware of this – that it might be impossible for him to do face to face what he managed at a distance.

Though she lived in her daughter Anne and son-in-law Gloucester’s care, we don’t know how she lived – whether she had a separate residence or apartments at Middleham. The nature of her relationship with the duchess of Gloucester is also unknown to us. It might well have been strained from the very start. After all, the Warwicks had worked hard to achieve stupendously good matches for their daughters and put each of them in a position where they might be queen – Anne might have been bitter at what she saw as ingratitude and disloyalty. She might have been stiff with resentment – her daughter the duchess weighed down by guilt, or light of heart and uncaring about her mother’s suffering – who knows? Or maybe things mended and they enjoyed a warm and close relationship. The duchess may have had to work hard on her husband to gain her mother’s release and been dreadfully sorry that things had worked out the way they did. There doesn’t seem to be any suggestion that, once she was queen, she tried to convince her husband to restore her mother to her title and estates.

Anne didn’t attend their coronation when Gloucester became king. Perhaps she wasn’t invited, though that seems rather odd. It might have been her choice not to be there for her daughter’s big day, either to make a point or save herself embarrassment. Whatever was going on in those years, I can’t imagine that she didn’t grieve first for Isobel then for Anne when they died before her. Add to this the death of Richard III’s only son, and (however she felt about him) Richard’s at Bosworth, and you end up with a woman with no-one left in all the world.

How much Anne had to do with her grandson is something else we don’t know much (or anything?) about. No doubt she was proud of him and greatly sorrowed by his death. Her husband’s great ambition – to see his daughter a queen – had been achieved, though not by him. Though she might not have expected to live to see the day, the thought of her grandson as king of England must have meant a great deal to Anne. Maybe that was partly why she commissioned the Beauchamp Pageant – so that, in the grand scheme of things, when Edward of Middleham succeeded his father to the throne, the earl of Warwick’s place in his heritage would not be forgotten. Perhaps that was her fervent hope – that, one day, her husband would be rehabilitated, turned from defeated traitor into an ancestor of kings by this small boy, the slender thread that would carry Warwick’s blood and legacy into the future. However, it wasn’t to be.

Warwick became a byway in history, for some the Last of the Barons, an overmighty subject, Kingmaker. For Anne he was husband, father of her children, the man she gave her title to, whose wealth, power, triumphs and tragedies she shared. One day he was there, the next he was gone.

After Warwick’s death, Anne had no champion, no-one who cared enough (even out of partial self interest) to help her fight to keep what was hers. I see her as a lonely figure after Barnet, though not a tragic one. It might have been better for her not to have taken to sanctuary, but to have submitted to the king – and what she feared was coming – with her head held high. But to try and put myself in her shoes for a moment, landing in England to the most horrific news possible, her part (whatever that may have been) in her husband’s treason known, or at least suspected, by everyone, perhaps for a moment truly lost… Sanctuary had sheltered Elizabeth Wydeville during Edward IV’s brief exile. In the end, it was to prove no shelter for Anne Beauchamp.

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Comments
  1. Great post! I would love to see a good novel about Anne. (Hint.)

  2. Brian Wainwright says:

    I think the problem for Anne Beauchamp was that she was up against the three most powerful men in England, King Edward and his two brothers. Clarence and Gloucester wanted her lands, and Edward wanted them to have them as it was a cheap way to reward them/support their dukedoms. Edward couldn’t really afford to endow them (especially Gloucester) out of his own lands as he needed to think about his sons and to some extent other family members.
    Edward had complete contempt for private property rights as he was to show with a) the Exeter inheritance and b) the Mowbray inheritance. Richard II gets absolutely hammered by historians for much less stark meddling with private property, but Edward IV barely gets his knuckles wrapped. Personally I think the Mowbray fiddle was one of the things that led to his son’s overthrow.
    Anne Beauchamp was completely innocent in law, yet had her substantial property stolen from her. Some kings would get called ‘tyrant’ for less.
    Edward IV never seems to get the ‘tyrant’ appellation from historians. Is it because he was charming and ladies liked to kiss him? Or is it just that he died in his bed and therefore can’t have been a ‘tyrant’?

    • anevillfeast says:

      He was handsome, tall, utterly romantic (all that fleeing to Burgundy stuff) and too many people are fooled by all that ‘married for love’ nonsense, which was about the dumbest decision he ever made! I completely understand that he felt the need to reward Gloucester, but his way of doing it was about the nastiest piece of kingly theft going!

      Do tell me more about the Mowbray fiddle. (I haven’t started to dig very deep post 1471, and my knowledge of the intricacies really is quite sketchy.)

      • anevillfeast says:

        And yes, whatever Anne may or may not have been up to, whatever the ‘sinister information’ was (if it existed at all), the very fact that she was never accused of treason or attainted preserves her innocence. The whole exercise was cynical in the extreme and one really does wonder why Isobel Ingoldisthorpe got off so lightly. Mind you, that was rectified by Gloucester in the end, anyway.

        (You see, certain Lady Historical Romance Authors? You *can* love these people yet have no illusions about them or feel the need to turn them into sickening saints!)

  3. Brian Wainwright says:

    The Mowbray inheritance was vast. To secure it, Edward married his son, Richard Duke of York to little Anne Mowbray. So far, so good. However he also ‘persuaded’ the Duchess of Norfolk (who just happened to be Eleanor Talbot’s sister!) to give up part of her dower as he was greedy to secure even more than the natural inheritance. Then (and this is the naughty part) he passed an act through parliament stating that if Anne Mowbray died without children (which of course she did) her lands would go to her ‘husband’. This effectively disinherited John, Lord Howard (one of Edward’s most loyal supporters) and Lord Berkeley the Mowbray co-heir. One of Richard III’s first acts was to nullify this, which can’t have done his relationship with Howard and Berkeley much harm.

    There was a similar fiddle with the Holland (Exeter) lands which were given first to Edward’s sister, Duchess Anne, and then to her non-Holland daughter, Anne St.Leger, to the deprivation of the right heir.

    All this is in Ross – I think there were a couple more dubious land issues too, but I can’t recall the detail. I have in mind Pembroke, which I think was taken from the Herberts and given to Edward’s son and some land Edward wrongly held back from Lovel. Bottom line is, Edward had no regard for the sanctity of landed property – supposedly a deal-breaker for medieval kings and their nobles.

    • anevillfeast says:

      Thanks, Brian. I knew about the Exeter shenanigans (and kind of feel for the St Legers, father and child), but very little about the Mowbray nonsense. And wasn’t that the whole problem with giving John Nevill the earldom of Northumberland? That it belonged to someone else and no-one had the right to hold it, forfeited or not, while the Percies were still alive and (potentially, in the end actually) free to find a way to get it back? The more I look into his life, the less sense dear old tall ‘n’ gorgeous seems to have had!

  4. Caroline says:

    Karen, thanks for another great post. I admit that as much as I like EIV, there have been times when I’ve rolled my eyes and shook my head after reading about some of the things he did, especially concerning women and money. His hoarding of the Exeter and Mowbray inheritances speaks for itself. He allowed himself to become an obese trainwreck in his late 30′s, which hastened his death and left his sons vulnerable to the machinations of their uncle. And while I don’t believe he was a bigamist, his recklessness in pursuing whichever woman he desired certainly helped put enough doubt in people’s minds that the plight troth with Eleanor Butler could be true.
    I think almost all of the late Plantagenet men (Clarence and Gloucester included) lacked sense to some degree, and that led to the demise of the dynasty.

    • anevillfeast says:

      Thanks, Caroline. It’s impossible to say, of course, but I think these lads represent one good argument in favour of ‘Some young men need a strong father figure in their lives” – while Clarence & Gloucester had, to some extent, Warwick, had their father survived Wakefield, they may have turned out a little differently!

  5. Philippa says:

    I’m intrigued by the thought of who first came up with the idea of disinheriting Countess Anne and when.

    I picture a scene in the heedy days after Tewkesbury; Edward jubiliant with victory, Richard with the knowledge that Anne the wife who had been lost to him was free again and George with the relief of being on the winning side. The three brothers are sitting there together enjoying a rare moment of bonhomie when someone bursts in with the news that Anne is in sanctuary. What an opportunity! They couldn’t have come up with a ruse like that if they had asked her to go there and Anne has, by her own actions, just solved all the problems and made everything so easy.

    This is yet another occasion when it would be so helpful to know more about why the people involved did what they did. I can’t help thinking that Anne’s decision to go to Beaulieu was made in sorrow and in haste and that it was possibly the biggest mistake she made in her life.

    • anevillfeast says:

      Hi Philippa! I agree that, in hindsight, it was a serious mistake on Anne’s part to take sanctuary. I think Edward rather hoped she might take holy orders if he kept her pinned down there long enough, but she was probably too worldly and possibly too proud to do that. Edward really needed to find a way to reward young Gloucester. With his mother still alive (bless her!) he didn’t have access to his father’s resources and he was a bit on his uppers, what with giving sooo much away to the grasping Wydevilles and all. ;-D Hard to say who came up with it, but you’ve got me thinking… I’m not of the Anne-and-Richard-childhood-sweethearts school, though I do think the idea was planted in young Richard’s head by her father and he knew a good marriage when he saw one. Maybe that was part of the deal he and Anne struck. Oh, wouldn’t that put the cat among the pigeons, if some enterprising novelist suggested that the idea to fleece her mother came from the oh so innocent and helpless Anne Nevill! Not sure that they’d have rushed to share it with George, though.

      • Philippa says:

        I’m assuming the suggestion about Anne Neville fleecing her mother was made in jest but could it be true? Michael Hicks says the Gloucesters exercised a greater measure of choice about their marriage than many other nobles of their age, they each wanted something that only the other one could give them. If Anne was her father’s daughter, the daughter who shared his drive and determination as well as his ambitions, if Anne was ‘the young woman of considerable spirit’ that Anne O’Brien portrays in Virgin Widow, if Anne was not – and here I agree totoally with your assessment – the helpless pawn after all…… Could she ?

  6. anevillfeast says:

    The comment was partly in jest, Philippa. but I do think you’re dead right about the Gloucesters. As a widow, Anne’s remarriage was (in theory at least) entirely in her own hands. If Clarence was beginning to scheme (with or without the collusion of his duchess) to get his hands on his father-in-law’s entire estate – and his close custody of Anne suggests he had something up his sleeve – then for her the lesser of two evils might have been to make sure she got her share. If that was at her mother’s expense… I think the Nevill sisters were ambitious. And I think that their father worked out pretty early that through advantageous marriages, they could do at least as much for the family’s future fortunes as a son of his could. (He’d have been lobbying for his son to be betrothed to young Elizabeth of York the minute she was born, I reckon!)

    I haven’t read O’Brien’s book, but it’s on my list of ones to pick up if I stumble across it. Reading fiction while I’m writing fiction, esp historical, esp esp WoR, doesn’t work very well for me.

  7. Excellent and informative post, Karen! I’m pleased and heartened to learn that the Countess put up such a fight (and yeah, Warwick was probably a tough act to follow. All other men pale in comparison! :P ).

  8. Somewhat late to the party here, but I just wanted to point out that the York lads were not the first (and as Henry VII shows, not even the last) people to covet Anne de Beauchamp’s possessions. Her three older half-sisters were the first people to have a go at it, starting with Lady Eleanor, Edmund Beaufort’s wife. Eleanor, Elizabeth and Margaret Beauchamp all resented the fact that their father favored the child of his second marriage (Anne) over them.

    • anevillfeast says:

      Had their brother died before their father, the inheritance would have been divided evenly among the sisters, the title going into abeyance until there was one clear heir (preferably male). As it was, what was in dispute wasn’t Richard Beauchamp’s title and property, but his son’s. (Or, more properly, his granddaughter’s.) As Anne was his full sister, she was declared (in inquisition after inquisition) her niece’s clear heir. That didn’t stop the other sisters wrangling and continuing to fight for what they saw as their rights for years. I can understand their point of view. That wealth, divided five ways, (not including Anne’s inheritance from her Dispenser mother) wouldn’t then have been concentrated in Warwick’s hands and, I suspect, things would have turned out a little differently. He’d not have been the earl of Warwick, for a start, but the earl of Salisbury only, after his father’s death. I don’t think would have changed the fundamentals of his personality, but he’d have had a hell of a lot less clout!

      And comments are always welcome!

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