QAB Guest Post:
Extract– ANNE NEVILLE, RICHARD III’S TRAGIC QUEEN
by Amy Licence
Boy and Girl
Three glorious suns, each one a perfect sun;
Not separated with the racking clouds,
But sever’d in a pale clear-shining sky.
See, see! they join, embrace, and seem to kiss,
As if they vow’d some league inviolable:
Now are they but one lamp, one light, one sun.
In this the heaven figures some event.1
Anne’s world, and that of her contemporaries, was changing. The fortunes of those four babies born in the 1450s had fluctuated as the rivalry between Lancaster and York deepened. Now aged four and a half, Anne was suddenly the daughter of the most powerful man in England, on whose shoulders rested the responsibility of defending the City of London and guarding King Henry VI, while the queen’s pillaging troops marched south. At a remove from the action in Calais, Anne would have been unaware just how critical the situation in London had become, although her mother’s sympathies must have been roused by the plight of York’s widow and children; perhaps their prayers were also extended to them in the castle chapel. In England, though, grieving for her husband and second son, with her eldest boy Edward, Earl of March, leading an army of his own, Cecily of York took steps to protect her babies. Following the defeat at Wakefield, she had been in the ‘custody’ of her sister Anne, Duchess of Buckingham, but now she sent her two youngest sons, Richard and George, to Utrecht under the protection of Philip the Good, whose son their sister Margaret would eventually marry. Aged eight and eleven, they arrived at the Burgundian household without any indication of the length of their stay, or whether they would even see their home again.
On the other side, the fortunes of Edward of Westminster had improved with the death of York. As the newly reinstated heir to the throne, his early years had been spent in flight from the scene of battlefields and he was used to scenes of conflict and bloodshed. Legend has it that the boy himself pronounced the death sentence on those knights who had failed to prevent his father’s capture. Queen Margaret had used him as a rallying point in the North, relying on his presence to draw men to his cause and rewarding them with badges of loyalty. Early in 1461 it appeared that he was about to be fully restored to his former life, with only the Earl of Warwick remaining of the old enemy. However, his mother and Henry Beaufort had mismanaged their armies, unable to control the continual looting as they progressed south. This meant that Westminster, after which the seven-year-old was named, was now terrified of the boy’s approach.
Three more battles early in 1461 sealed the Lancastrian party’s fate. On 2 February Edward, Earl of March, won a decisive victory at Mortimer’s Cross in Herefordshire against Henry VI’s stepfather, Owen Tudor. Following the death of Henry V, his widow, Catherine of Valois had contracted a secret match with her groom, Tudor, and borne him at least two sons, the now deceased Edmund, father of Henry VII, and Jasper, who fought at his father’s side. Now a widower aged about sixty, Owen Tudor appeared at the head of a Lancastrian army in order to defend his stepson’s right. The signs were not propitious though, with even the planetary forces seeming to support the Yorkists. Before the fighting began, Edward of March witnessed the phenomenon of a parhelion, or ‘sun-dog,’ which appeared as three suns in the sky, taken to be a sign of divine favour. Using Welsh recruits, he was able to prevent the different parts of his enemies’ forces from meeting up and captured Tudor, who was later beheaded. As the old man laid his head incredulously on the block, he commented that it had been used to ‘lie in Queen Catherine’s lap’. Jasper Tudor survived the encounter and escaped into exile, although his young ward, Henry Tudor, was left behind. The four-year-old boy was removed from his mother at the Tudor’s residence of Pembroke Castle and placed under the guardianship of the loyal Yorkist, William Herbert of Raglan Castle, who had fought for Edward’s victory.
Elsewhere in the country, the Earl of Warwick had met with less success. He and Edward of March had intended to join forces to defeat Margaret but Edward had been forced to engage with the Tudors at Mortimer’s Cross before they could meet up. This left the earl outnumbered. Only two weeks later, with Henry VI in his custody, Warwick’s army met a Lancastian force at St Albans and the unfortunate town was again subjected to intense fighting and destruction. Six years had passed since the destruction of that terrible first battle, time enough for the physical damage to have been cleared away, with properties and gardens repaired and replanted. The memories, however, remained. Aware of Warwick’s technique of dividing his army into three and his north-facing positioning, the Lancastrians swung round to take him by surprise. Fighting was again concentrated within the town and in the domestic settings of back yards and houses, lasting several hours until Warwick’s troops were finally repelled. Henry VI had supposedly spent the duration of the battle singing and laughing under a tree; now he was reunited with his wife and son, knighting the young Edward, who then went on to knight thirty more Lancastrians himself. Nothing should have prevented their victorious army marching straight into London and reclaiming the throne. Except they didn’t. Their hesitation was fatal to their cause, allowing Edward, Earl of March, fresh from his triumph at Mortimer’s Cross, to enter the city himself and gain its support. London welcomed the handsome, strong, 6-foot-4 warrior, who went on to declare his hereditary right to the throne.
Amy Licence is an English historian of medieval women, powerful and common, Queens consorts and monarchs, rich and poor — particularly women living in the late 15th and 16th centuries. Topics of special interest include gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. Besides Amy’s non-fiction historical books, she also is a prolific journalist, regularly contributing the New Statesman and The Huffington Post. For more information on Amy’s varied interests, check out her pinboard on Pininterest. Amy’s outstanding history books are listed below. Click to purchase your favorite today!