Part Two: Richard III’s Introduction to War & Burgundy

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Ok, we’re picking up where we left off yesterday with Richard III. You can catch up on how I’m approaching him here. As I mentioned yesterday, we know very little about Richard’s early years save that they were predominantly spent at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, and that his most constant companions were his sister, Margaret, and his brother, George. Our next glimpse of him comes in October 1459 when Richard was seven, by which time the first half of the Wars of the Roses was well underway.

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The Marriage of Richard III & Anne Neville

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If you have an opinion on the marriage of Richard III and Anne Neville, then it’s very likely that it fall into one of two extremes: a love match or a ruthless money-grab by Richard. This is mostly due, as we have discussed before, on the controversy that still surrounds Richard, from those who believe he usurped the crown and murdered his nephews to those who believe he has been falsely maligned by history. Richard was a powerful man with royal blood, not to mention one who wielded considerable political power even before he became king – as such, it’s fairly straightforward to track his movements. Less so his motivation.

As for Anne, she disappears with regularity from the historical record despite her high birth and lofty marriages. We know even less of her character, from the level of her ambition to her feelings towards her family, including her husbands. As I noted back in December, she is essentially a blank canvas on to which much has been projected. Her real personality is sadly lost to us.

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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 during 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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When Did Edward IV Marry Elizabeth Woodville?

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Well, traditionally the answer is today in 1464. According to some versions of the story Edward IV happened upon Elizabeth Grey (née Woodville) under an oak tree near her family home in Northamptonshire where she played the damsel in distress card and petitioned the king for help in reclaiming her son’s inheritance. Taken by her beauty, Edward tried to make her his mistress and when she refused, he married her, kept it to himself for five months and then dramatically announced it at court when his cousin and first councilor, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, was pressuring him to marry King Louis XI of France’s sister-in-law.

But there are some problems with this narrative. First, the whole oak tree imagery is a bit over the top. Second, the date of May 1 or “May Day” is very romantic, but the very fact that it is romantic should raise some eyebrows. Third, there is clear indication from events in the summer of 1464 that there was no plan to present Elizabeth as queen. And four, it is unlikely that Edward and Elizabeth only met for the first time that year.

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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 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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