When Anne Neville Was Lancastrian

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Anne Neville is a curious figure in history because she is essentially a blank canvas who happened to be at the epicenter of intrigue throughout the Wars of the Roses. She was a queen consort of England, but one who wore the crown for less than two years and is understandably overshadowed by her more famous peers: Marguerite of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York. She is dynastically insignificant – her only son died during childhood. She was not born into royalty, but rather married into a conquering family. And she did not hold power long enough to have any lasting impact on England.

And yet, she is an intriguing figure. For nearly 12 years she was married to one of England’s most famous (and infamous) monarchs: Richard III. She was in the eye of the mysterious storm that surrounded the disappearance of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York (aka the Princes in the Tower). And she was the only figure to have married into both royal houses at war: Lancaster and York. Anne was born a Yorkist and died a Yorkist, but from December 1470 until May 1471 she was the Lancastrian Princess of Wales.

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Princess Philippa & the Scandinavian Match

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Both this post and tomorrow’s tie in Sweden, which is very apropos in light of recent news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are due to visit the country. It’s a coincidence since these posts have been on the books for a while now, but a happy coincidence. Today we’re taking a look at Philippa of England, daughter of Henry IV and sister of Henry V.

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The Fidelity of Marguerite of Anjou

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Henry VI’s wife, Marguerite of Anjou’s legacy has been tinged with the question mark of infidelity since her own time. Assessing “why” or attempting to suss out the veracity of those accusations is more complicated than simply picking apart her relationships with the various men put forth as contenders, because the charges – whether true or not – are politically motivated. But dismissing them as scurrilous claims by her enemies is also not so easy given the nature of her marriage – or rather, the nature of her husband. Today, most of us look back at the hand of cards Marguerite was dealt and think something along the lines of, “Well, if she did, I don’t blame her.”

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Did John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset Commit Suicide?

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On May 27, 1444 an Englishman named John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset died at the age of 40. Ever since then, the question has been raised whether or not his death was a suicide. While it’s impossible to answer the question in complete confidence, it’s significant that the notion was initially floated by contemporaries and the events leading up to it played a considerable role in the political ecosystem leading up to the Wars of the Roses.

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Blanche: The Woman Behind the House of Lancaster

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In the usurpation of Richard II’s throne in 1399 and the establishment of the House of Lancaster, much credit is given to Henry IV (obviously) and his father, John of Gaunt. But it’s worth recognizing that without the wealth and inheritance of Blanche of Lancaster, neither would have been as well-positioned to challenge their Plantagenet cousins.

Blanche was born in March 1347 to Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster and Isabel de Beaumont. She was the youngest of two daughters, her elder sister, Maud, having been born in 1339. Given the gap between the two girls’ birth and the lack of subsequent children, including a male heir, it’s clear that the couple suffered from fertility issues, a situation that led to their daughters growing up to be extremely desirable heiresses on the English marriage market.

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Before Woodville: John, Duke of Bedford & Jacquetta of Luxembourg

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The pairing of John, Duke of Bedford and Jacquetta of Luxembourg is one which never fails to jar me in hindsight. What are the odds that the Duke’s second wife would go on to become the mother of a queen of England via her own second marriage, particularly given the outrageousness of each match? Well, they’re nil. Much like how it can still be difficult to fathom that the marriage of Katherine of Valois’s that became most dynastically significant was hers to Owen Tudor and not Henry V.

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Lancaster’s Decision to Stay in England After the Battle of Barnet

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Today in 1471 the Battle of Barnet was fought in England between the House of York’s Edward IV and the House of Lancaster’s Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. The battle resulted in Lancaster’s defeat and Warwick, the “Kingmaker,” was killed while attempting to escape the field. At the time of the battle, Edward IV had recently been deposed thanks to Warwick’s betrayal when he defected to the Lancastrian cause, turning his back on the House and family on which he had built his career.

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The Lost Childhood of Marguerite of Anjou

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This past Wednesday (March 23rd) marked the anniversary of Marguerite of Anjou’s birthday. Wife of Henry VI and pivotal figure in the so-called Wars of the Roses, Marguerite enjoyed a fair amount of notoriety in life, and has seen her reputation molded to reflect the ethos of the time. Today, when there is greater room, and perhaps almost a demand for stronger women, one version of Marguerite has been allowed to emerge: the politico, the matriarch, the leader asserting herself in the masculine world of a Medieval court.

We know more about Marguerite than we do about many of her peers, including her predecessor and successor, Katherine of Valois and Elizabeth Woodville, respectively. Her activity was well-documented and she was active enough that there was enough to record. You can glean a great deal from those actions – what she chose to do speaks to her thought process, but it doesn’t tell the complete story. And, indeed, what’s missing from the story of Marguerite is that we have no idea how much she wanted to take on the role that she did. We know only that when push came to shove, she chose to protect her son’s birthright, and before that she chose to stand up for her husband in the best way she knew how.

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The Madness of Henry VI & His Son

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In the long list of things that made Marguerite of Anjou’s life tragic is the fact that after waiting eight years for any sign of a much-needed heir, her husband, Henry VI, would go “mad” when she was seven months pregnant, turning what should have been a time of genuine celebration into a period of incredible stress and political uncertainty.

By 1453 Henry desperately needed a son. He was a weak king, controlled by a coterie of unpopular men with varying degrees of skill, and married to a Frenchwoman who many saw as a tangible symbol of England giving up its right in France. That the marriage was fruitless certainly didn’t help matters, particularly when Henry’s closest heirs were his half-brothers, Edmund and Jasper Tudor, born from his mother’s second marriage to a Welshman in her household, or his cousin, Richard, Duke of York, who was older than him by a decade and politically opposed to nearly all of his government’s policies.

But Marguerite was no traditional queen consort and it would be this period of time which mobilized her into a woman who made no pretense about actively politicking on behalf of her family’s interests.

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The Coronation of Katherine of Valois

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Katherine of Valois was only queen for 26 months before Henry V died unexpectedly in France and she was suddenly tasked with the lofty job of mothering the king of England and France, staying out of the way and lending her hand as Christendom’s greatest ornament, as needed. Don’t be jealous.

Needless to say, in that short window of time, Katherine didn’t have much opportunity to play at being the king’s wife, but her coronation did provide an opportunity for her to carry out a traditional act of queen consort: Pleading for mercy on behalf of her husband’s prisoners.

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