Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Last Days of Anne Neville

From The Tudor Society:
Anne and her husband, King Richard III, were together for the Christmas celebrations of 1484. Her attendants now included the former King Edward IV's daughter Elizabeth and perhaps a few of her younger sisters, such as Cecily, who had been freed from sanctuary by her mother the previous March. We are not sure of Anne's feelings about having the Woodville girls with her at Christmas, perhaps she found it pleasant having their company, or maybe she was wary of their motives. Alison Weir remarks in her book The Princes in the Tower that the Princess Elizabeth ‘was ranked familiarly in the queens favour, who treated her as a sister." Anne was ten years Elizabeth's senior and had experienced the trials of queenship, which Elizabeth had grown up being prepared for. The Crowland Chronicler states that at the Christmas feast 'far too much attention was given to dancing and gaiety' and to frequent changes of matching clothes by Queen Anne and the Lady Elizabeth. Rumors had already started to circulate that Richard wished to marry his niece, Elizabeth. After the favour shown to the vivacious York princess at Christmas, The Crowland Chronicler continues, a tale spread that the king was determined to marry her either after Anne's death 'or by means of a divorce for which he believed he had sufficient grounds.' However, the chronicler offers no suggestion as to what these grounds may have been, and this was probably no more than popular gossip throughout court. These rumors undoubtedly found their way back to Anne and must have made her question their reliability. The queen was well aware of her inability to produce any more children, and Princess Elizabeth was the daughter of a woman who had produced at least twelve children with many surviving infancy. A marriage to his niece would more than likely produce an heir for Richard if Elizabeth had inherited her mother's fertility.

By the late winter of 1484 Anne was suffering from a ‘mortal illness.’ There are few clues as to the identification of Anne's illness. All we know is that its duration was two months and that Richard was advised by his physicians to avoid her bed. From this piece of information, a number of illnesses can be considered. Anne may have been suffering from tuberculosis, a common airborne illness which in the medieval period had a high mortality rate. Another possibility could be an attack of influenza, which combined with a weak immune system and other ailments could be fatal. There was even vicious gossip that Richard wished to poison Anne so he could finally marry his niece. However, there is no evidence to prove this rumour's authenticity.

During this time, a marriage deal involving Elizabeth was being considered for Richard's widowhood. It was to be a double marriage between Richard and the Portuguese Princess Joanna, and Elizabeth and the Portuguese Prince Manuel. Joanna was a highly pious woman and had already vehemently refused several marriage propositions, but these plans came to nothing anyway because Richard died in 1485. It would have been virtually impossible for Richard to marry Elizabeth due to opposition in the North, where much of his property lay and where Anne was much admired by the people, being the last surviving daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker. (Read more.)

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