Biographies & Memoirs

CHAPTER FOUR

Between Princes 1471–5

Anne was scarcely married before she was widowed. Her acquaintance with her first husband Prince Edward was brief indeed: not more than nine months in all, at most six months of matrimony. Briefly, ever so briefly, she was a princess, by name and in the estimation of that limited company that was with Queen Margaret in France and returned with her to England and amongst Lancastrians generally, but without ever the courtly and luxurious life that should have gone with it. With her husband’s death at Tewkesbury, Anne found herself a widow. She was dowager-princess of Wales. She was entitled to dower from the possessions of her husband – the principality of Wales, duchy of Cornwall and earldom of Chester. She should have had a right to her jointure too, but no jointure had been settled on her. But of course there was a hitch: her husband Edward had been a Lancastrian prince and after 4 May England was Yorkist again. Anne was princess only to a Lancastrian audience. Who dared to be Lancastrian after Tewkesbury? Since 1460 Yorkists had discounted any hereditary rights to the house of Lancaster. In 1471 King Edward IV firmly rejected the house of Lancaster, the Readeption, and hence any claims that Prince Edward had possessed either to the crown or his principality. To King Edward IV and the Yorkist victors after Tewkesbury, Edward of Lancaster had never been prince of Wales. He had never taken seisin of any of the possessions that normally belonged to the king’s heir; had he done so, it would have been wrongfully. Thus Prince Edward had nothing with which to dower his princess. Moreover, he had perished an enemy and a traitor. If he was never attainted, this was because there was nothing to confiscate. Furthermore, King Edward now had his own infant prince, the future Edward V, on whom he was to confer all the properties earmarked for the heir of throne after resuming whatever had been granted to anybody else.1 As princess, therefore, Anne was entitled to nothing. Her title of princess of Wales was obsolete, empty, useless, probably unusable, and raised undesirable associations. Although more elevated, princess of Wales was a title that she ceased to use once she became duchess of Gloucester, if not before.

At least King Edward had received her, accepted her submission, and had pardoned her. He could do no less. The Wars of the Roses were not waged against women. None were slain in battle, only three attainted as traitors by parliament. Even the most partisan ladies were merely confined (usually in monasteries) and restrained from supporting their recalcitrant menfolk.2 Princess Anne posed Edward no threat. If the wife or widow of a traitor peer was reduced to begging, like Anne’s aunt Margaret, Countess of Oxford, King Edward was induced to relieve her:3 it was chivalric expectation. Just as Edward was expected to, and did, see his rival honourably buried, so too he had to tolerate Prince Edward’s consort and, if necessary, finance her. Until 11 June 1471, moreover, Anne was only fourteen years of age.

Laynesmith has revived speculation about what might have been had Anne been already pregnant by Prince Edward.4 That was certainly an objective of the marriage which Prince Edward surely strove for. If Anne had been with child, she could have renewed the Lancastrian line that had just been eradicated. Whilst nobody could have been certain, the fact that Henry VI perished unnaturally on 20 May, a murder that was pointless as long as he had an heir living, may be evidence that Anne was believed not to be with child. Had she been pregnant, an accident – life-threatening to her baby if not herself – might have been engineered. Such speculation, however, is more than usually groundless. There is no contemporary evidence of any such interesting condition, not even any contemporary suspicions.

Anne was above the age of majority. Although entitled in law to half the Montagu/Salisbury lands (less her mother’s dower and jointure), she was not a royal ward. She was also a widow and thus femme sole: a single woman entitled to manage her own affairs without male intervention, unlike any spinster or wife. A fifteen-year-old widow without property, however, had no means to exercise her theoretical independence. Nor could Anne look to her mother for sympathy, guidance or protection, except perhaps by post, since the Countess Anne was in custody at Beaulieu and was also unable to assert her own rights.

Anne Beauchamp, now dowager-countess of Warwick, could expect no dower from her late husband’s estate, since, to Yorkist eyes, her husband Warwick had been a traitor. She was still entitled to her jointure – the properties settled jointly on her and her husband at their marriage.5 Moreover, her vast Beauchamp and Despenser inheritances were still legally her own. That all the lands that Warwick held in his own or her right were seized in 1471 and occupied by Clarence was a common enough error that should have been corrected when better evidence of the actual title was produced. Whatever the legal situation, however, many bereaved ladies seem to have had difficulties with their jointures, apparently sometimes because they were not properly secured at law: the king’s own queen and two of his mistresses found their in-laws unwilling to honour the deals after their husbands’ death.6 Their inheritances, however, were different: their rights of inheritance were beyond debate – quite incontestable. These were rights that could not be denied. Understandably the countess found it difficult to secure livery of her estate whilst in sanctuary. She needed to come to the king and make her case direct as, for instance, the king’s future bedfellows Dame Eleanor Butler, Dame Elizabeth Grey and Dame Margaret Lucy had done.7 But the countess found that realising her rights was in practice quite unattainable. As she was to protest to parliament, she had not done anything wrong. She had not betrayed King Edward as Warwick himself had done. She had taken sanctuary for her own safety and to pray ‘for the weal and health of the soul of her said [deceased] lord and husband as right and conscience’ demanded. Within five days or thereabouts, therefore even before the battle of Tewkesbury, she had asked the king for a safe-conduct. Instead, ‘to her great heart’s grievance’, he had ordered her strict confinement, so that she was unable as she wished to come to court to sue for livery of her inheritance, jointure and dower. In October 1472 or even later, not less than eighteen months after she first took sanctuary, the countess was still not allowed to leave Beaulieu Abbey, where she was living poorly and lacked even a clerk, she said implausibly, to pen her plea. She

hath written letters in that behalf to the King’s Highness, with her own hand, and not only making such labours, suits and means to the King’s Highness, sothely also to the Queen’s good grace, to my right redoubted lady the King’s mother [Cecily Duchess of York], to my lady the King’s eldest daughter [Elizabeth of York], to my ladies the King’s sisters [Anne Duchess of Exeter and Elizabeth Duchess of Suffolk], to my lady of Bedford, mother to the Queen [Jacquetta Duchess of Bedford], and to other ladies noble of this realm.8

Obviously she expected other ladies to be sympathetic to her in her predicament: the Duchesses Cecily, Anne and Jacquetta had all struggled to recover their rights after their husbands’ death or forfeiture. She expected the intervention of this ladies’ union to be effective with the men. Given that the war was over, surely nobody thought that the widowed countess posed any further threat to national security? Yet she was confined to Beaulieu at the king’s command. Why did the king command it? Why did the countess not solicit the intercession of her daughter Isabel or her son-in-law Clarence? The answer in all cases is surely the same. Surely she did seek the support of Isabel and Clarence, to no avail. Actually it was Isabel and Clarence (and perhaps later Anne and Gloucester) who opposed her rights. It was in their interests that the king kept her confined to Beaulieu after any risk to the public had passed. The royal ladies, to whom the countess wrote, may well have put first the interests of their brothers and brothers-in-law Clarence and Gloucester. In the meantime, of course, the countess could be no effective help to her daughter Anne.

We left Anne in the king’s company at Tewkesbury or at Worcester in early May 1471. Whilst we cannot delve into her first marriage, we may safely presume a succession of emotions – fear during the long pursuit and decisive battle, apprehension at the result, grief at her husband’s death, trauma at the bloodshed, and undoubtedly also concern for her own safety and for her own future. What was to befall her was far from clear. If safe from actual destitution or execution, her prospects now looked very bleak. Personally dowerless, she had only her expectations of inheritance to sustain her and to attract a male protector. At midsummer 1471, in view of her father’s death at Barnet and her mother’s flight, that heritage was purely speculative. Under such circumstances, the protection of her powerful brother [-in-law], her sister Isabel’s husband Clarence, was surely very welcome. All the more so if, as seems likely, he took her in at Tewkesbury itself, immediately after the battle and her submission to the king, and conveyed her home to Warwick en route for London, whence he engaged in a further campaign in Kent against the Bastard of Fauconberg. Clarence was Anne’s guardian angel. As with other wives of traitors, the king may well have consigned Anne to Clarence’s custody by word of mouth or in some undocumented way, but he cannot have granted him the wardship and marriage of a widow who was of age.

COURTSHIP OF A PRINCESS

Unfortunately we have no detailed knowledge of where Anne was and what she did for the next eight crucial months. We must deal in likelihoods. Clarence’s easiest course of action was to receive his widowed sister-in-law into the household of the Duchess Isabel. We may doubt how agreeable were the relations now resumed of the two reunited sisters, the elder of whom was married to the man who had betrayed the younger’s father and husband, both with fatal results. Probably Anne accompanied her sister wherever she went, to London, and into society. A widowed princess was an honoured guest. Also probably it was during this period and at London, most probably at the Christmas and New Year celebrations of 1471–2, that Anne again encountered her brother[-in-law] Richard, Duke of Gloucester, resumed their acquaintance, and determined to take him as her second husband.

Anne cannot have planned all this in advance. Doubtless she was relieved initially to be rescued and was pleased to lie low. Her mother remained in sanctuary at Beaulieu. Isabel was to hand, but the interests of the two sisters were not identical. When Clarence had deserted Warwick and rejoined King Edward, the two royal brothers were reconciled. Clarence’s offences were wiped out. Subsequently he had served in the king’s army at Barnet, a close-run battle in which the duke’s contingent, estimated by the Arrival as 4,000 strong, was essential for victory. As reward for his defection and services at Barnet, Clarence had immediately been granted all the Warwick inheritance which Isabel had been entitled to inherit. A court was held in their name at Erdington in modern Birmingham as early as 16 April.9 The Neville lands in the North, to which Isabel had no claim, were excluded. Having secured everything to which she had rights of inheritance, naturally George and Isabel wanted to keep it all – it was the heritage of their unborn children – and did not want to surrender any of it to the Duchess Isabel’s mother, nor indeed to divide it with her sister Anne. In her distant sanctuary at Beaulieu, the countess of Warwick was out of the picture: indeed, she was kept out of the picture, the abbot receiving ‘right sharp commandment’ from the king to hold her there.10 Naturally also George and Isabel wished to prevent Anne marrying again, for any husband would surely wish to assert her rights and recover for himself her half-share. Their case cannot be put more succinctly than it was somewhat later by the Milanese ambassador: ‘because his brother King Edward had promised him Warwick’s country, [Clarence] did not want the former [Gloucester] to have it, by reason of the marriage with the earl [of Warwick]’s second daughter’.11 They wanted to keep what was theirs, their entitlement, what the king had given them. Presumably it was only after Gloucester had showed an interest in Anne that they concealed her from the prying eyes of aspirant husbands. This apparently was at the duke’s London house, Coldharbour, near Dowgate. Whether she was concealed as a maid in the duke’s kitchen, as Crowland claimed, sounds unlikely12 – women were not normally employed in great households and Anne cannot have possessed many relevant skills – but the concealment story is surely authentic. Crowland’s kitchen story is reminiscent of the Cinderella rags to riches story. It implies that Gloucester was a knight errant who rescued her rather than, alternatively, a predatory seducer. We cannot know what the Clarences had in mind for Anne next. In similar circumstances we know of male heirs who consigned their nieces to nunneries – William, Earl of Suffolk in 1423, for instance13 – and of brothers-in-law who tried to exclude their sisters-in-law from their inheritance.14 If the Clarences offered Anne the alternative of taking the veil, we must presume that she declined. As an heiress, in theory, she was materially secure, but to make good her rights she needed a male protagonist and to marry.

The pressure that George and Isabel, her protectors, could exert on the fifteen-year-old Anne may have appeared almost irresistible: though we cannot know, of course, whether they coerced her at all. The best evidence of such pressure, perhaps, is that Anne was to greet Clarence’s brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester as her saviour, her rescuer, and that she allowed him to whisk her away to sanctuary. In medieval parlance, this abduction was a rape – as so often committed, in medieval terms, with the full consent of the lady. By then, presumably, Anne had reconciled herself to remarrying – the destiny after all to which such aristocratic ladies were born and brought up. Independence, as a helpless and destitute femme sole, could not do the trick and had no attraction for her.

Whether Anne was right to see Richard in such a favourable light, however, is not so certain. Doubtless she embarked on the course that she took with her eyes open. Obviously there was an irony to such a match. Whether or not Richard had a part in her husband’s death and whether this was publicly known, both of which now appear more likely in view of the redis-covered Burgundian illumination, and whether or not he had presided over the elimination of her father-in-law Henry VI, nevertheless the duke had certainly fought on the side adverse in the battles at which Anne’s father, husband and uncle had been slain. This was as one of many, against a cause that was now obsolete and beyond revival. To the Yorkists and hence everybody else who mattered politically in 1471, Anne’s menfolk had been traitors legitimately slain in the rightful Yorkist cause. A post-Lancastrian and post-Warwick reality had to be accepted. There was nothing to be salvaged or revived from the Lancastrian cause and no mileage in resentment or vengeance. If revenge ever featured in Anne’s thoughts or emotions, she lacked the power to exact it and let it drop even when, in bed, Richard was at his most vulnerable. In the perilous limbo in which Anne found herself in 1471, such reflections were pointless, indeed counterproductive, and best forgotten. Moreover Anne had as many kindred on the winning as the losing side. Until 1470 it had been the winners whom she knew and the Yorkists with whom she interacted. The answer to Shakespeare’s rhetorical question – ‘Was ever woman in this humour wooed?’ – was surely no, not even in this case. However ironical, the issues were never as stark or as conflictive as Shakespeare was to imagine.

Whatever Richard’s physical limitations – we know him to have been short, slight, and perhaps even a hunchback – Anne had everything to gain materially from matrimony with him that she could hope to attain. She would have the ducal and royal rank her father had planned with a bridegroom that he may originally have favoured and (according to Waurin) had actually selected; respect; a princely establishment and great wealth; and the prospect of motherhood, the normal fulfilment of any late medieval lady. It was her birthright and her destiny. Given all that, her hereditary rights were of secondary importance for her, but they were crucial for Duke Richard. Without her, they were inaccessible. Neither the duke nor any other potential husband could secure Anne’s inheritance except by marrying her. That was her best hope for the future and her security. Marriage, of course, was only a first step. It was perhaps attainable by mere squires, like Owen Tudor who had notoriously coupled with Henry V’s queen Katherine of France or Richard Wydeville, who had wed Jacquetta of Luxemberg, the widow of the Regent Bedford. There were many for whom marriage to a princess was exaltation: already a prince, Gloucester was not among them. To secure Anne’s inheritance in the teeth of the royal duke of Clarence required her to marry not just any genteel squire, but somebody equally powerful and just as influential with the king as Clarence was. Sir John Risley was later warned by Edward IV not to buy land with a suspect title from Gloucester, which demanded all the power of the duke to retain it.15 All these necessary criteria in this case were satisfied by Richard, Duke of Gloucester and, perhaps in the early 1470s, only by him. No other potential suitor could be so confident of success.

Undoubtedly Richard wanted Anne for his wife. Crowland tells us so, adding how astutely he tracked her down, found her whereabouts, and spirited her into safekeeping.16 He was not deterred by any obstacles, personal or political, familial or moral, and he confronted his brother Clarence head on. The abduction was another crucial upheaval and another decisive turning point in Anne’s short life. We merely know, thanks to Crowland, that Duke Richard removed Anne initially from Clarence’s custody to the celebrated sanctuary in the city of London of the College of St Martin-le-Grand, which was located between the Guildhall and St Paul’s.17 That was sometime before 16 February 1472.18 Anne may have spent half a year or more in Clarence’s care. Actually we may deduce rather more. After receiving the submission of the Kentish rebels at Sandwich on 26 May, Richard was sent to combat the last vestiges of resistance in the North, where he tried and executed the Bastard of Fauconberg. At Norwich about 23 August,19 he dated from the North grants on 30 August, 4 and 6 October, 20 November and 11 December 1471.20 Unless therefore he reached his understanding with Anne in the early summer, in June and July 1471 and immediately after the death of her first husband, the whole courtship had to be fitted into the two months from late December 1471 to the Sheen council of 16 February 1472. A whirlwind wooing indeed!

It is unfortunate that this episode is so ill-documented, since it was the pivotal moment when Anne made the choices that shaped the rest of her life. If Anne was undoubtedly a victim, she was not helpless. Within the limited scope apparently left to her, she was also in charge. Widows were legally free of masculine control and free to contract their own courtships and marriages. There seems to have been nobody to whom she could turn for disinterested counsel. Gloucester, who did advise her and whose blandishments were crucial, was certainly no disinterested party. Yet it was Anne’s self-conscious decision not to remain where she was, in Clarence’s kitchen or wherever. She also decided self-consciously not to become a nun and against whatever future, probably not including marriage, that her brother-in-law Clarence had in store for her. It was her decision to permit her abduction to St Martin’s, almost certainly with the rider that this was merely a first step towards marriage to Duke Richard. It was her decision also to marry far within the prohibited degrees. There can have been very few fifteen-year-old ladies, let alone princesses, who chose their marriage partners for themselves. Anne did. She transferred herself from one royal duke to another and duly married the second, tying her fortunes henceforth to his. All her ambitions were thereby fulfilled.

Why Anne did this is only too obvious. Her current situation and prospects were unacceptable. We have seen what she had to gain. Only Gloucester dared to outface his brother of Clarence and only he could retrieve her inheritance. She had no alternative, certainly none if she wanted the wealth, prestige and rank to which she was born and bred. Without her inheritance, even Gloucester was not available. Anne could have aspired no higher. It helped of course that Anne was acquainted with Duke Richard: they had shared experiences from his sojourn in 1465–8 in her father’s household. Perhaps they knew one another quite well, despite their difference in years. In March 1472, when she was only fifteen and he was nineteen, a difference of nearly four years in age (fortyfour months) was substantial. How much more significant was the gap in age in 1468, when the sixteen-year-old duke had moved out of Warwick’s household and away from his twelve-year-old cousin! Any romantic interest dating back to that era appears improbable. Romance makes better sense in 1472, providing that they had the opportunity to develop their relationship, most probably before Clarence – understandably alarmed – secreted Anne away, but perhaps only following the abduction and after Anne’s initial flight. How irritating that we cannot know! Evidence of any sexual attraction – or indeed sexual starvation following the abrupt termination of Anne’s conjugal rights – is irretrievable. It is twenty-first-century standards that have made modern historians hope for the love-match that we take for granted today. For Anne, with her upbringing and contemporary expectations, love was not the prerequisite that we have subsequently made it. A love match appears unlikely here.

There is no need to inject sentiment as an ingredient into Richard’s actions. He was a royal duke and he wanted the estates, wealth, and power within England to go with it. Not for him to be a pawn in King Edward’s foreign policy! Most of the lands that he had been given in the 1460s had been returned to their original holders or resumed by the crown. That was why he ceased to operate in Lancashire and Cheshire. The chief offices in Wales received in 1469 now reverted to the 2nd Earl of Pembroke. Edward IV gave Gloucester everything that he had to bestow arising from the forfeitures of the renegade Yorkists and the Lancastrians who had been defeated in 1471. Thus Richard accrued Warwick’s Neville estates in the North – Middleham, Sheriff Hutton and Penrith – to which neither Isabel nor Anne had ever been entitled: this was at the expense of their cousin George Neville, Duke of Bedford, the son of Warwick’s late brother John, Marquis Montagu. Richard was also granted all those lands in eastern England that had belonged to the earl of Oxford and a clutch of county gentry,21 which he had little use for and most of which he later renounced. There was little to recover from the returning Lancastrians, who had been attainted once already. Many of their possessions were restored to Clarence, who had held them before, whilst the possessions of the traitor duke of Exeter reverted to his estranged Duchess Anne, eldest sister to the king and to the royal dukes. If all Richard’s grants were added altogether – and assuming that Richard could overcome complications in the titles to certain estates – these grants could have brought Richard somewhat more than the qualifying income for a duke: 2,000 marks or £1,666 13s 4d. Altogether they fell well short of the revenues of the greatest magnates, such as Clarence and Buckingham. To match them – and Richard definitely wanted to match them – the duke needed to marry well within England. No potential partner offered more than the Princess Anne. From the start of his courtship, therefore, her inheritance was his key objective. Richard, moreover, was not prepared to wait for Anne’s mother to die. He wanted it all now. And that meant that Richard was not interested solely in securing Anne’s rights, largely prospective, but also in dispossessing Anne’s mother, his intended mother-in-law the countess of Warwick.

Such an interpretation has appeared too cynical for some supporters of Richard III, who would much prefer a love match. It was ‘a delicate and honourable consideration for her feelings’ that prompted Richard to remove Anne from sanctuary, wrote Miss Wigram long ago, rather than his desire for her inheritance.22 Unfortunately, this is one point about which we can be certain. John Paston II reported that Clarence conceded her person, but not her livelihood:23 Richard, however, declined. He insisted on the inheritance also. If this appears heartless and calculating to modern eyes, bestowing women in marriage with property was commonplace in late medieval arranged marriages. Their endowment frequently determined the choice.‘Love matches sometimes occurred’, wrote Jennifer Ward, ‘but were frowned on by noble society’.24

It is surprising how quickly Anne progressed from her first husband to her second. If Anne’s first marriage was definitely not a love match – she cannot have known the bridegroom before her betrothal – yet Edward of Lancaster was her husband and, however briefly, he had shared her bed. Her mourning was brief indeed. Within eight months at most, Anne had adjusted to her loss – to all her losses, her father included – and had pledged herself to another. Whilst it is not difficult to think of other young widows who moved on to further consorts with such precipitate haste, it was not what was expected – not seemly conduct – even by fifteenth-century standards. Is not a cynical and calculating materialism on Anne’s part implied here? Was she one of those girls who succumbed to the material or sexual temptations that the conduct books warned against? Or was Anne merely an unstable and/or emotional and/or impressionable fifteen-year-old on whom Duke Richard had imposed his stamp? We cannot be sure.

One must moreover deplore the immorality of the match. A custodial sentence and registration as a sexual offender would result today for any man like Duke Richard guilty of sexual intercourse with a fifteen-year-old girl, but fifteenth-century standards permitted such relations and indeed regarded them as normal and legitimate. In another way, however, this match did offend contemporary values. Whilst always aware that Anne and Richard were related within the prohibited degrees, historians have downplayed the significance. The medieval Catholic Church forbade marriages between kinsfolk who were much more distantly related than those that exercise us today. Often we are scarcely conscious of our first cousins, let alone aware who are our second cousins and more remote relatives, and, in this age of divorce, we are generally unfazed by the coupling of in-laws and even step-siblings unconnected by any blood ties. Such unions are not infrequent in soap operas, feature films, and real life. Incest, for us, involves parents and children, siblings, uncles and nieces. Hence we regard Clarence’s need for a dispensation to marry his first cousin once removed as a curious technicality. Even less objectionable, to us, was Anne’s first match, when neither party was closer than four generations from their common ancestor John of Gaunt (d.1399). A dispensation had to be obtained for that too. We have seen that Warwick would allow neither of his daughters to marry until impediments had been removed. The spiritual kinship created by Clarence’s mother as Isabel’s godmother appears scarcely conceivable to us. Dispensation, from our angle, was simply a necessary mechanism to remove technical obstacles to what ought to have been perfectly acceptable. That, however, was not how fifteenth-century people regarded the issue. For them, marriage within the prohibited degrees was incestuous and therefore rightly prohibited. It was because they were related in the third and fourth degrees that the wedding of Edward IV’s second son in 1478 was barred at the door of the chapel royal at Westminster, an impediment that was removed very publicly when the dean produced the requisite papal bull.25 Breaches were sinful even if accidental. To contract such matches deliberately and in full consciousness of the offence was a heinous sin and potentially damnable. Such unions ran the risk of being compulsorily dissolved and any consequent children bastardised. Bastards were excluded from inheritance. The Calendar of Papal Letters contains many instances of partners who discovered the defect after their marriages and were so troubled by conscience that they revealed their offence to the papacy and secured papal authority to remain married and for their offspring to remain legitimate. Often, admittedly, impediments were set aside and illicit matches were confirmed retrospectively, but dispensations were sometimes refused, even for princes.26 Warwick had had great difficulty in securing the necessary dispensation for Clarence and Isabel. Dispensations could not be presumed.

Gloucester and Anne were already related in the same degrees as their siblings Clarence and Isabel, to which a further distant tie was created by Anne’s first wedding to a distant cousin of them both, and they were yet more closely connected by the marriage of Richard’s brother to Anne’s sister. The impediments multiplied. Anne and Richard were brother-in-law and sister-in-law, related in the first degree of affinity. In fifteenth-century parlance, Richard was Anne’s brother and Anne was Richard’s sister. This was not just a matter of words: to their contemporaries, that was their relationship. Any sexual encounter between them, in or out of wedlock, was incestuous, sinful, prohibited, deeply shocking and probably incapable of being dispensed. Neither Richard nor Anne can have been ignorant of this. Each should have rebuffed anything beyond fraternal friendship. To persist nevertheless, to pledge to each other and to resolve on marriage, required both parties to reject contemporary standards of morality – to flout what others thought – and to override the law in pursuit of their own wishes. Whether Anne was motivated by sexual attraction, ambition or merely by a desire to escape from an impossible situation, she was, by contemporary standards, quite wrong. She ran the risk, moreover, that her marriage would be dissolved after the event, that she would be left in limbo – unmarried, property-less, unmarriageable – and her children illegitimate. However difficult her situation may have appeared, it cannot, on current evidence, have been sufficiently impossible to justify such a step. As for Richard, desperation cannot be pleaded in extenuation. That they appear to have escaped the penalties for a dozen years does not alter the case.

Past historians have had good reason to deduce that Anne and Richard had no papal dispensation to validate their marriage. Long ago, C.A.J. Armstrong twice searched the Vatican archives in search of one, unsuccessfully. In his day, the registers of the papal penitentiary were not accessible. Now that they are, it has been discovered that a dispensation was actually applied for on behalf of Richard, of Lincoln diocese wherein he had been born (at Fotheringhay), and Anne Neville, woman (mulier) of the diocese of York. This was to dispense impediments in the third and fourth degrees of affinity. His petition was approved by the papal penitentiary on 22 April 1472. A declaratory letter was also issued,27 which doubtless stilled the objections of Cardinal Bourchier, the officiating clergyman, or any other cleric present at their subsequent wedding. Richard and Anne were related in the same degrees as their siblings Clarence and Isabel in 1469: that is, in the second degree (as first cousins) and twice in the fourth degree of consanguinity. As Richard, like Anne’s first husband Edward of Lancaster, was a great-grandson of John of Gaunt, there was yet another fourth degree of consanguinity to be dispensed. Finally, of course, Richard and Anne were brother-in-law and sister-in-law, related in the first degree of affinity. What they needed was a dispensation that covered impediments in the first degree of affinity, another in the second and three in the fourth degrees of consanguinity. This one, which dispensed only in the third and fourth degrees of affinity, not consanguinity, was therefore insufficient to validate their marriage. If the clerks of the penitentiary routinely dispensed impediments in the third and fourth degree, the second degree of consanguinity (as Clarence had found) was more serious, and affinity in the first degree was yet more so. Such a dispensation was more difficult to obtain. It would certainly take more lobbying, more time, and might indeed prove unattainable. Rejection was predictable.

The 1472 dispensation was therefore inadequate, as Richard must have perceived. At no point can he have been unaware of the consanguinity that linked Anne to him, that they were first cousins once removed and siblings-in-law. Another, more wide-ranging dispensation was needed before Anne and Richard could contract a valid union, but they did not wait for that. That they decided to marry in defiance of canon law is astonishing. To marry before securing a valid dispensation – and, indeed, in full knowledge of it – was a further sin to be absolved. Both partners had to be eligible to marry one another and to make a valid marriage, even though by 16 February 1472 (at the latest) they had evidently pledged themselves to one another, all that in normal circumstances was required to make an unbreakable contract in this period. Even Clarence was obliged to accept that the marriage would happen – John Paston’s phrasing, however, indicates that it had not happened yet.

The King entreats my Lord of Clarence for my Lord of Gloucester, and (as it is said) he answers that he may well have my lady his sister-in-law, but they shall divide no livelihood, as he says.28

Even though Clarence thought of both parties as his siblings, the morality, so it appears, was at this stage not his concern. Whilst the dukes themselves debated in council, they represented Isabel and Anne and not necessarily purely formally. At this stage Clarence fought to keep all the property, but found himself opposed by the king. Posing improbably as arbiter and ‘loving brother’, so Crowland ironically reports,29 Edward imposed a settlement that was much to Clarence’s disadvantage. At this royal council it was determined that the whole Warwick inheritance was to be divided, not just the lion’s share in tail general that Clarence was occupying.

It was the best possible outcome for Anne. Duke Richard may have been her father’s preferred choice for her during the 1460s. She shared the vicissitudes in Warwick’s fortunes, into forfeiture and exile and then to next in the Lancastrian line of succession, and ‘after his decease’, as Rows put it, ‘marvellously conveyed by all the corners and parts of the wheel of fortune’. Widowed, childless, ruined, dependent on her foes and with only the most unpromising prospects, yet was ‘she exalted again’ to be duchess of Gloucester and subsequently (as Rows was aware) ‘higher than ever she was to the most high throne and honour’.30 It was an amazing transformation. Certainly Anne had made the right choice for herself.

PARTITION OF THE WARWICK INHERITANCE

The principles of the partition were already agreed. Evidently Gloucester was to have everything in the North and Clarence the lands in the Midlands and the South – he was created earl of Warwick and Salisbury. By deduction, Gloucester was to have the marcher lordships in Wales. The division was convenient, since Gloucester already occupied the Neville castles in the North, where the king had allocated him military responsibilities, and Clarence those in the West Midlands. Historians have usually presumed that this was the dukes’ preference, properties in Wales, the South, and elsewhere being little more than makeweights. Actually, however, the West Midlands had been more obviously home to the Duchess Isabel, the eldest sister who was entitled to have the first pick, whilst Anne’s youth, after Warwick came into his father’s Neville inheritance, may have been spent mainly in the North. The partition of the Warwick inheritance may therefore have conformed to the preference of the two ladies, who could indeed have had some input in the result. Surely Isabel did.

Next the estates had to be valued, the detailed division agreed, the legal niceties determined, and the actual transfer of properties carried out. When parliament next met (October 1472), only after Anne had pledged herself to Richard and the partition was agreed in principle, it was petitioned by Anne, Countess of Warwick for livery of her jointure and inheritance, without success. The only copy of her petition is in Gloucester’s cartulary: presumably he had a copy taken when the issue was still in the balance.31 But her plea came too late. The decisions had been made. Discussion of the petition and its progress were presumably halted and certainly came to nothing. Clarence, who was the loser, obstructed implementation of the partition of the inheritances by refusing to give up what he held and perhaps also with violence, comprehensibly since Gloucester was not yet legally married to his new duchess. Hence the stakes were raised. Early in June 1473, Gloucester’s agent Sir James Tyrell removed the Countess Anne from sanctuary in Beaulieu Abbey to Gloucester’s castle at Middleham. It may well be, as Rows was later to state, that she ‘fled to him as her chief refuge’, in which case she was to be sadly disappointed.32 At the time it was reported that the king was to restore her inheritance, so that she could grant it to Gloucester. That King Edward was indeed complicit is suggested because the abbot of Beaulieu had to be released by him from her custody.33 Gloucester already had a track record of coercing old ladies. Implicit in this action was the king’s backing for the countess’ restoration to her whole inheritance and its transfer to the duke and duchess of Gloucester, leaving Clarence with almost nothing. Perhaps this threat was sufficient. Perhaps it was the additional penalty of the resumption of Clarence’s prized honour of Tutbury (Staffs.) in December 147334 – or maybe that was Edward’s punishment of Clarence for non-compliance – that brought Clarence to heel and enabled the implementation of the 1472 agreement. The whole estate was valued, a partition was agreed – we possess the list of Gloucester’s share – and the legal formalities were concluded in 1474 and 1475.35

There can be no doubt that both parties were greedy. Both Clarence and Gloucester were acquisitive. Whether their duchesses were also we cannot tell. Isabel and Anne may have been fully consenting parties: more probably, they were merely the means that their husbands exploited as they acted nominally on the ladies’ behalf. Possibly, however, Anne played a larger role, since Rows writes, with reference to the treatment of her mother the countess, of Anne’s ‘election’ (electio) or choice.36 Crowland was present in the royal council at which the two dukes pushed their cases in person.

So much disputation arose between the brothers and so many keen arguments were put forward on either side with the greatest acuteness in the presence of the king, sitting in judgement in the council-chamber, that all who stood around, even those learned in the law, marvelled at the profusion of the arguments which the princes produced for their own cases.37

It is hard to realise that the elder of the two dukes who debated so confidently was aged only twenty-three and that Richard, Duke of Gloucester was not yet twenty!

Clarence wished to hang on to the whole of the Beauchamp (Warwick), Despenser and Montagu (Salisbury) inheritance in right of his wife Isabel rather than divide it with his sister-in-law Anne, the other co-heiress. Having pocketed the Neville inheritance, to which Isabel had no hereditary claim, Gloucester exploited his wife Anne to secure additionally her half-share of the Beauchamp, Despenser and Montagu estates as well. Both parties were agreed on the need to exclude the male heir of the Neville estates – Warwick’s nephew George, Duke of Bedford, son of his brother John, Marquis Montagu – and also, of course, their mother-in-law, the Countess Anne, rightful possessor of the Beauchamp and Despenser estates. If Clarence wanted to keep more than his duchess’ strict entitlement, in line with plenty of precedents, Gloucester also aimed to end up with all the Neville lands and half the rest, together much more than half. It is to Edward’s limited credit that the settlement he imposed treated them equally. Not too much praise should be heaped on him, however, for the whole quarrel, the aspiration of both dukes and duchesses, and especially the conclusion, affronted contemporary standards – property rights, rights of inheritance, filial respect, brotherly and sisterly etiquette, sexual and marital morality, chivalry and doubtless much else besides. Certainly Crowland, an informed and disinterested observer, was shocked: recognising that the inheritance properly belonged to the countess, whose rights were disregarded, and ‘leaving these wilful men to exercise their will’, he abandoned ‘further inquiry into this hopeless business’.38 Just as shocked was Rows, whose prime loyalty was to neither sister, nor their husbands, but the Countess Anne. ‘Which good lady had in her days great tribulation for her lord’s sake’, he wrote. ‘In her tribulations she was ever to the great pleasure of God full patient, to the great merit of her own soul and example for all others that were vexed with any adversity’.39 If oblique, muted and less than explicit in the Rows Roll that he may have presented to Queen Anne, he does not spare her in the History that he wrote after her death.40

Invaluable though Clarence’s services were in 1471, they would not have secured him such an enormous recompense – the greatest single act of patronage of any medieval English king – had not his Duchess Isabel been the real heiress. Similarly Edward IV would not have forced Clarence to disgorge so much for Gloucester – and probably, indeed, nothing – had not the latter married the other heiress Anne. Probably neither had the option of securing all they sought by a grant by their brother the king. Once the whole Warwick inheritance was reserved to them, however, it would have been much easier – technically much less difficult legally – for them each to have received their share by royal grant. All that was required was for Warwick to be attainted as a traitor: no problem there, as he undoubtedly was a traitor. He could be included in the act of attainder that was passed against other traitors of the Lancastrian Readeption. So could his brother John, Marquis Montagu: that would have terminated the rights as next in line of John’s son George Neville, Duke of Bedford. But this would have served only part of the purpose of Clarence and Gloucester and their wives, partly because it would not have given them everything – not, in particular, the lion’s share that properly belonged to the dowager-countess – and partly, as Professor Lander long ago showed, because title by royal grant was less secure.41 Inheritance was forever. Royal grants were subject to regular review and revision by acts of resumption. Had the Neville lands been forfeited and granted to the dukes in their entirety, it would have been at the price that at some later date, when the dukes themselves were out of favour or deceased, the crown might take back from them or their heirs what had been given. In 1473 Clarence had lost his favourite lordship of Tutbury to such an act, Warwick had suffered similarly in 1467, and both dukes had ample experience of Edward’s changes of mind and consequent revisions of his patronage.42 Hence the dukes did not want Warwick and Montagu attainted. Without these attainders, however, the two royal dukes had no right to the Neville lands, since Isabel and Anne had no rights over them. Moreover, some attainders were necessary, since forfeiture was the basis for instance of Gloucester’s title to the lands of the De Veres, earls of Oxford. Ironically the only way in which the royal dukes could have their way was by authority of parliament, by special acts of parliament, which could be revoked by parliament in future just as easily as by acts of resumption. Ultimately they were.43

The circle of impossibility was duly squared. Parliament was induced to enable the two dukes to divide equally the whole inheritance, whatever the title and at once. First, in July 1474 Parliament accelerated Isabel and Anne’s inheritance of the Montagu/Salisbury, Beauchamp and Despenser lands and the two earldoms by debarring the Countess Anne ‘as if the said Countess were now naturally dead’.44 Despite the blatant injustice to her, there was nobody powerful enough to put her case. The ladies she addressed apparently declined to intervene or did so ineffectively.45 The Neville inheritance, which primarily interested the Gloucesters, had to wait for its act until the next parliamentary session in 1475. So did the act of attainder against the thirteen unfortunates selected for forfeiture out of all the rebels of 1469–71.

The Neville act was much more controversial, because it conferred by inheritance on the dukes lands to which neither they nor their duchesses had any rights and denied the inheritance to those who were entitled to it and who were, moreover, blameless and undeserving of such penalty. The next heir, George Neville, Duke of Bedford, had done nothing wrong himself, but would have lost out anyway had his uncle Warwick and father Montagu been attainted. No problem there, perhaps, except that through his mother he was a great heir of whom some account had to be taken. More seriously, however, he was not the last of the male line of the Nevilles covered by the entail created by Ralph, Earl of Westmorland (d.1425), because that earl had fathered other sons and indeed the youngest still has a male heir extant today in the marquis of Abergavenny. Next in line after George Neville was Richard Lord Latimer, born in 1469, who had powerful protectors in his guardian Thomas Bourchier, Cardinal-Archbishop of Canterbury and the cardinal’s brother the earl of Essex, treasurer of England, both uncles of the king. It was their pressure surely that compelled even the royal dukes to compromise. Parliament was induced to accept the disqualification of George Neville, but not to extinguish the rights in reversion of the other Neville male heirs after his death. The Neville inheritance was therefore assured to the dukes for as long as George Neville had male heirs living. Gloucester’s strategy thereafter was to buy out such reversionary rights before they arose. He failed.46

If the partition delivered the inheritance to the two couples immediately and made them the wealthiest magnates of their age, it satisfied neither of them. Both had wanted more and both still hoped for more. Certainly Clarence (together presumably with the Duchess Isabel) was aggrieved by what he had lost. Already the father of a legitimate daughter and by the 1475 act of a legitimate son, Clarence had heirs by Isabel’s body and most likely hoped that if his rivals failed to secure a valid dispensation, the whole would revert to his own line on the deaths of Anne and Richard. The acts protected the reversionary rights of each line to the other’s share by forbidding any alienations out of it. Certainly Gloucester (and perhaps the Duchess Anne) received less than he had wanted. They compiled a wish-list of what they would have liked to have. Several times the settlement was adjusted by further acts of Parliament and a wish list of at least nine items was served on King Edward in 1478. By then, Anne’s sister Isabel was dead, probably the result of childbirth, and her brother-in-law Clarence was in prison, shortly to be attainted as a traitor and executed. Ahead of Clarence’s conviction and even his trial, and most probably in return for his support in it, Richard was allowed to consolidate Anne’s lordships in Wales, to adjust other boundaries, to degrade George Neville from the peerage and to wrest the earldom of Salisbury from Clarence for his own son. If nobody benefited more from Clarence’s death than Gloucester, adjustment to Anne’s inheritance was a crucial part of it.47

Even so, the arrangement as a whole suffered from several flaws. Parliament agreed to debar George Neville, but not any subsequent male heirs. Gloucester had somehow to keep the boy alive and harmless and to buy out any contingent rights, which was to prove too difficult and which he failed to achieve. Duke Richard did secure the degradation of George Neville from his dukedom and indeed the peerage in 1478, and, following the death of his mother Isabel, Marchioness Montagu in 1476, obtained his wardship and marriage by 1480. He also did succeed in preventing the youth from marrying anyone dangerous. Unfortunately, however, George died without male heirs on 4 May 1483, at which point his rights passed to Richard Lord Latimer. All Gloucester’s efforts had failed to wrest Latimer from his guardians and, as a minor, he was not capable of surrendering his heritage to the duke. On 4 May 1483, Anne and Richard’s hold on the Neville lands that underpinned their northern hegemony was reduced to a life estate.48 At that point Anne’s home, heritage, and even the college they were jointly founding at Middleham ceased to be a part of their son’s inheritance.

Secondly, the countess of Warwick declined to die. At least the Gloucesters provided for her, but that may have been because potentially she was too dangerous and could yet overthrow the 1474–5 settlement. She was confined in the North ‘with the greatest strictness’, according to Rows soon after 1483, at her daughter Anne’s direction; a few years later it was Richard, Rows thought, who had ‘locked her up for the duration of his life’.49 She does not occur in any of our sources for the whole decade 1473–83. Was the Duchess Anne afraid that her mother, whose fiftieth birthday fell only in 1476, might remarry like many other noble dowagers to someone able to insist on livery of at least some of her inheritance and jointure? Actually the countess, who survived until 1492, outlived both her daughters and both her sons-in-law and, following another dynastic revolution, was able in 1487, with parliamentary support, to disinherit the next generation of her grandchildren.50 Again the unfortunate lady had no choice.

Thirdly, and crucially for Anne Neville, it depended on the legality of her marriage to Richard. It was never valid.

THAT DISPENSATION

Duke Richard had taken Anne into his custody by 16 February 1472 when, as we have seen, Clarence reluctantly conceded that they could marry. At that point, therefore, Anne and Richard were definitely not married. Apparently they were still unmarried on 18 March. They are first unambiguously recorded as married on 6 June 1474.51 Within this twenty-seven-month timeframe the precise date of their marriage is unresolved. No wedding is recorded. Since it used to be supposed that their son Edward was born in 1473, some past historians located the wedding in 1472. Pauli in 1858 plumped boldly for 12 July 1472, the third anniversary of Isabel’s marriage to Clarence, but gave no reason and none has been uncovered since. The Complete Peerage agreed.52 The ceremony has often been located in the spring of 1472 although, actually, canon law forbade marriage during Lent. Since actually Edward’s birth was probably some years later,53 such speculation is unfounded. That the Warwick inheritance dispute still raged in November 1473 does not mean, as Peter Hammond wrongly supposed, that Anne and Richard were still unmarried then and that the marriage took place in 1474.54 Where was Anne in the interim? Did she remain in sanctuary throughout, which Crowland’s chronology did not exclude? Did she cohabit with the duke or reside under his protection, scarcely less morally dubious? Sheer convenience points to marriage as soon after the March council as possible. Allowing for the dispensation of 22 April 1472 and its transmission from Rome, it is likely that, as Clarke has deduced, the wedding took place in the late spring or early summer of 1472.55 Certainly it was concluded ahead of the comprehensive dispensation, since the act of June 1474, which settled Anne’s inheritance, made provision for their divorce.56 For divorce, read nullity. The act tells us that Anne and Richard had not yet secured a papal dispensation adequate to remove the impediments to marriage that was necessary for first cousins and siblings in law. It also foresees that if a dispensation was not granted, they might yet be put asunder. Richard protected himself against that eventuality.

Richard’s brother Clarence and Anne’s sister Isabel had required a papal dispensation for their marriage because they were closely related several times over. Clarence’s mother Cecily, Duchess of York and Isabel’s grandfather Richard, Earl of Salisbury were sister and brother. Both of them and Clarence’s father Richard were descended from Edward III. They were related once in the second degree and twice in the fourth degree of consanguinity. There was moreover a spiritual tie, because the Duchess Cecily had been George’s godmother. The necessary dispensation had required hard negotiation: it was not at all to be taken for granted and indeed Edward IV thought that he had stopped it.57 Anne and Richard, also first cousins once removed, were also related in the second degree of consanguinity. Moreover, Richard was third cousin of Anne’s first husband Edward of Lancaster, who had been Anne’s third cousin: two further impediments in the fourth degree to add to those that Clarence and Isabel had to overcome. Numerous though these impediments were, none of them was proscribed by divine law – Leviticus – but only by the human laws, which popes routinely dispensed for people of their rank. Yet this was not all, because their siblings George and Isabel had also married. On this account Anne and Richard were related in the first degree of affinity. From 1469 to 1472 Anne and Richard must have been accustomed to regard one another, albeit briefly and intermittently, as brother and sister. Certainly Leviticus barred marriage to a blood sister and to a wife’s sister and such unions were to be specifically forbidden by statute in 1540.58 Canon lawyers were not agreed whether cases covered by Leviticus or similar to those in Leviticus could be dispensed by the Pope. There could be no certainty what would result from an application for a full dispensation that removed all the impediments. Perhaps that was why Richard applied initially for a dispensation that would enable him to marry Anne, but which he must have known did not address all the impediments. Surely here he was cynically manipulating the rules? Moreover, these impediments were exacerbated by blatant cohabitation when aware that the previous dispensation was insufficient. Perhaps the proximity of kinship and this multiplicity of impediments meant that no such dispensation could be forthcoming. Certainly another dispensation was absolutely necessary to validate such a union. Apparently no such dispensation was ever secured. Perhaps none was ever sought.

The absence of an adequate dispensation is implied by the 1474 act that settled the countess of Warwick’s lands on the two dukes. This is a public document; however, it does not appear to have become public knowledge. It may well be that it was Clarence who, having established the details of the 1472 dispensation, secured the provision in the 1474 act that if no valid marriage was contracted his own children – strictly Isabel’s children – would secure Anne’s share of the inheritance on Duke Richard’s death. If so, Clarence was gambling, calculating, perhaps even expecting, that no dispensation would be forthcoming. If not hitherto aware of the defects in his dispensation, Gloucester certainly knew about them afterwards. Alternatively, it may have been the duke himself who here was ensuring his continued tenure of Anne’s estates. Because officially the countess was dead, both dukes stood to gain from the clauses allowing them to keep the estates for life should their spouses predecease them: in Clarence’s case the clause corresponded to the normal convention of courtesy of England because he had a child by Isabel, but in Gloucester’s case no child was yet born to them. If he were to retain Anne’s lands after her death, it would be at the expense of the Clarences or their heirs.

John Rows states that Richard was the product of ‘true matrimony without discontinuance or any defiling in the law’.59 Richard was thus distinguished, by implication, from Edward V, who had just been dethroned on the grounds that his parents were not properly married and whose father’s legitimacy had also been impugned. Rows had no doubts that Anne and Richard were properly married, that Edward of Middleham was their ‘son and heir’, and ‘inheritor to both royal possessions’60 – that is, to both his parents’ possessions. Anne and Richard were accepted as such. Maybe there had been a public wedding of which we know nothing conducted by a priest conned by the papal letter declaratory, unaware of or unconcerned by the extent of their relationship. The undispensed impediments were not publicly known, neither to Rows, nor even (as we shall see) to Crowland. Evidently, Anne and Richard lived together openly as man and wife. None of the critics of Richard III in his own time ever queried his marriage. Its invalidity is a modern discovery.

Yet without a second dispensation, the marriage was never valid. Duke Richard protected himself. The 1474 act provided that if they ‘be hereafter divorced’– if the marriage was declared null as though it had never happened – he could nevertheless hang on to Anne’s share of the Warwick inheritance for life. Whether he would have provided for and protected Anne, once she was no longer his consort, we cannot know. For Anne, it was a matter of trust. She would have been the principal loser, since it was her inheritance – not Richard’s – that the duke was to retain for life. Anne knew Richard better than we do and whether he was worthy of such confidence. Richard had committed himself very little to her to leave the validity of their marriage – its permanence and her security – in doubt. Anne was fully aware of the impediments when she embarked on this contract: how could she be otherwise? The 1474 act indicates that any dispensation sought must have been for the couple already married to be allowed to remain in matrimony. Not to wait for a sufficient dispensation, like not to wait for a partner’s divorce today, to jump the gun and to anticipate the legal formalities, is a type of decision with which we are familiar nowadays. Contemporary examples are not uncommon. The famous match that unified modern Spain in 1469 between Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile involved second cousins: originally justified by a forged dispensation, it was not validated by a proper one until 1471. Isabella’s rival Juana La Betraneja was married to her cousin King Alfonso of Portugal ahead of a dispensation that never arrived.61 Anticipating dispensations was not unusual amongst royalty: not to seek a valid one at all, however, was wholly exceptional.

There are four alternative explanations of what happened next. The first option, that an adequate dispensation was indeed secured, can be discounted by evidence from 1485.62 Moreover, Clarke failed to find a second dispensation for Anne and Richard in the penitentiary registers. The second option, that Anne and Richard were indeed divorced, obviously did not happen: Anne died as Richard’s queen. To continue married after a further dispensation was refused, which was the third possibility, was forbidden as sinful by the Church, which was expected to take action to separate such couples after the verdict. Since Anne and Richard were not forcibly separated, it seems unlikely that their dispensation was declined. Yet surely a sufficient dispensation was never obtained, for in 1485, Crowland unwittingly reported, Richard thought a divorce easily attainable – thought the marriage easily declared invalid.62 Not to seek an adequate dispensation at all, the fourth possibility and the one argued here, was surely very different.

Originally, no doubt, Anne and Richard meant to have their union ratified. Hence the initial petition that resulted in the 1472 dispensation. The couple had not then consulted their lawyers. Yet, afterwards, Anne and Richard perhaps, but far more probably Richard by himself, decided not to remedy the defects to a valid marriage and to continue living together as husband and wife without proceeding with the legal niceties. There is no evidence of the pangs of conscience that affected others who sought absolution from the Pope. Just possibly, a dispensation was sought but not pursued. If an application to the papacy had ever been made, a verdict – presumably unfavourable – must have been declared well before 1485 when Richard apparently considered setting Anne aside. Rather than risk divorce, Richard decided not to seek a dispensation that would probably have been denied. Their invalid union denied Anne the security to which she was surely entitled. Surely she was the victim here? If she was not Richard’s spouse, Anne had no right to dower. Apparently she received no jointure. Normally she could have kept her own inheritance, but the 1474 act had assured it to Richard for life. Probably Anne did not know of that. The arrangement also denied legitimacy to their children. Surely Richard must have been concerned as he brazened it out, had Anne crowned as queen and their son invested as prince of Wales? Later, in Anne’s last months, the illicit nature of their relationship and her dubious status caused her great anxiety. By then, at least, she knew her whole married life to be a lie. Yet it is hard to see how it could ever have turned out all right. Without a valid marriage, their offspring were bound to be illegitimate and unable to inherit, as any rival claimants – such as her sister’s children – were certain to stress when the appropriate opportunity arose. Providing, that is, they knew: dispensations are seldom invoked in inheritance cases. As time passed and their marriage was accepted at face value, Anne and Richard may have hoped to get away with it. It was on this basis that Richard forged his political future.

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