Anne Neville: widowed heiress in sanctuary

Following the Lancastrian defeats of April and May 1471, amongst those whose fortunes were in disarray was Anne Neville, daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker and widow of Prince Edward, both killed in battle.

Co-heiress with her sister to the Warwick inheritance, Anne had been a much sought-after marital prize from childhood. She had originally been intended for Richard, duke of Gloucester, Edward IV’s brother…


… but when her father switched sides to support Henry VI, she was married instead to Henry VI’s heir, Edward, in December 1470.


A few months after her marriage to the Prince Edward she was widowed, aged only fifteen. According to the Crowland chronicler, Richard, duke of Gloucester (then eighteen) was again interested in taking her as wife. But Richard’s brother George, duke of Clarence, wasn’t in favour because he was married to Anne’s sister, and if Anne remained unmarried he could take the whole Warwick inheritance. The chronicle says he disguised Anne as a kitchen-maid in London so Richard couldn’t find her.

Anne as kitchen maid in The White Queen

Richard was – the chronicler says – “so much the more astute” than George and was able to find her. He moved her into sanctuary in St Martin le Grand to keep her out of his brother’s clutches. They married by 1474 and Richard did receive her half of the Warwick inheritance.

It’s easy to make this story into a romantic one and lots of novels and television shows (see above) have done so: Richard and Anne promised from childhood, overcoming innumerable obstacles and family opposition finally to unite. But that’s likely just projection, stoked by arguments that Richard III was really a nice guy and not a nephew-murderer. (And make no mistake: he definitely was a nephew-murderer.)


When Richard III usurped the throne in 1483, Anne became queen. She died in early 1485, some months before her husband was overthrown.

Nicholas Pronay and John Cox, eds., The Crowland Chronicle Continuations: 1459-1486 (London: Alan Sutton Publishing for the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 1986), 133. Top image: Source

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