On this day, January 14, in 1382, Richard II, King of England and his first wife, Anne of Bohemia, were married at Westminster Abbey in London. The wedding was the fifth royal wedding to take place in the Abbey and, coincidentally, the last until Lady Helena Cambridge, a niece of Queen Mary, was married to Major John Gibbs in 1919.
At the time of the wedding, Richard II was 15-years-old and had been king since the death of his grandfather, Edward III, five years before. Due to his minority, however, he only held power nominally, governing being led by various councilors, marked by growing unpopularity that culminated in the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. Richard II emerged from the Revolt defiant and ready to rule, and one of his first acts was to marry Anne of Bohemia, the 15-year-old daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and his wife, Elizabeth of Pomerania.
The marriage was not a popular choice. Though Anne’s father was the most powerful monarch in Christendom, she brought with her no dowry and the union was viewed as bringing little direct benefit to England. The Western Schism, which resulted in two popes, also prompted the choice, with Urban VI in Rome hoping that an alliance between the Holy Roman Empire and England would weaken the French pope, Clement VII, in Avignon.
As a result, most members of Richard II’s court were against the match. At the time of Anne’s arrival in England in December of 1381, the Westminster Chronicler described her as a “tiny scrap of humanity,” a sentiment from the chroniclers that would be little-improved over the years of Anne’s queenship. Following the wedding ceremony the next month, tournaments and banquets were held in London, and Anne was crowned queen of England in the Abbey on January 22.
Yet, while the marriage would never be viewed favorably by the European chroniclers and she, herself, held little political power in her husband’s government, she was successful on two fronts: her solid relationship with her husband and her reputation among the English people. Over time, Anne’s popularity with the general public grew thanks to her intercessions on their behalf with her husband, most notably pleading mercy for rebels involved in the Peasants’ Revolt before her marriage and for the life of John Northampton, a former mayor of London. Indeed, as Richard’s popularity with his people waned, he would benefit from the warmth with which they viewed his wife, as evidenced in 1392 when she played a pivotal role in officially “reconciling” the City of London with their king.
Anne died on June 7, 1394 at Sheen Palace, likely from the plague. Despite 12 years of marriage, the union was childless and Richard II would go on to ally himself with Charles VI, King of France by marrying his eldest daughter, Isabelle of Valois, in 1396. That marriage, too, ended up childless as the bride was only six at the time and Richard II was deposed three years later and shortly thereafter assassinated.
Anne is buried in Westminster Abbey alongside Richard II, whose body was interred there shortly after the ascension of Henry V. While their tomb has subsequently been damaged over time, its effigy originally showed the couple with their hands clasped.
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