The Tudor Society

Anne Neville’s Final Months by Alex Taylor

Richard III and Anne Neville, taken from the Salisbury Roll

Richard III and Anne Neville, taken from the Salisbury Roll

Anne Neville is one of the most inconspicuous queens in English history. There is little documentation with reference to her and few comments made by ambassadors, chroniclers or other contemporaries. There are no reliable portraits of Anne or personal letters that may express her opinions or beliefs. She also seems to have died under rather mysterious circumstances with no definitive cause of death being given. This article will encompass the last months of Anne's shadowy life, starting from the end of 1484.

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.

Richard III and Anne Neville, stained glass window from Cardiff Castle

Richard III and Anne Neville, stained glass window from Cardiff Castle

Queen Anne died on the 16 March 1485. It is rumoured that on the day she died there was an eclipse of the sun, which some took as an omen of her husband's fall from heavenly grace. Anne was buried in Westminster Abbey in an unmarked grave, which seems quite unfitting for a Queen of England.1 Soon after her death, further rumours circulated that Richard intentionally had Anne murdered in order to marry Elizabeth. Richard sent Elizabeth away from court to Sheriff Hutton Castle, probably so that the rumors would gradually lose popularity, and perhaps also to grieve. On 30 March, Richard called the Mayor and citizens of London and the available lords to the great hall of the Hospital of St. John to address the rumour that he had any intention of marrying his niece. Addressing them 'in a loud and distinct voice', he showed his grief and displeasure and stated ‘it never came into his thought or mind to marry in such manner wise, nor willing nor glad, of the death of his queen but as sorry and in heart as heavy as man might be.’ This clearly shows that Richard was truly distressed by the death of his queen. The two had been married for over ten years and through their marriage had experienced considerable challenges, from their elevation to the throne to the death of their only child. According to John Rous (Rows), writer of The Warwick Roll, an early family chronicle of the Beauchamp family, Anne was 'seemly, amiable and beauteous, and in conditions full commendable and right virtuous and, according to the interpretation of her name, Anne, full gracious.'

This ends of the life of Anne Neville, a queen lost in the depths of history. She had played her part to the best of her ability, but sadly failed in her first most important duty, providing a surviving male heir. I do not see Anne as an insignificant consort, she was the last Plantagenet queen of England and led a life of uncertainty and almost constant change, which she shared with her more famous contemporaries, Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville. She had a tragic end, with her last months being plagued by the court gossip that her husband would attempt to marry his niece. A question that arises is what would have happened to Anne had she lived? It is unlikely that her survival would have affected the result of Richard's loss at Bosworth in any way and it is highly doubtful that she would have produced anymore children. Perhaps she would have become Elizabeth of York's lady-in-waiting, or sought sanctuary until she was financially able to support herself or re-marry. Anne has remained an enigma, with her thoughts and opinions never heard.


  1. The Westminster Abbey website states:
    "She had a magnificent funeral and was buried on the southern side of the Abbey's High Altar, in front of the Sedilia (seats for the priests). No gravestone or monument marked her grave, possibly because Richard was killed that year at the battle of Bosworth. A brass plate and coat of arms, designed by J. Sebastian Comper, was erected in 1960 on the wall of the south ambulatory (the nearest area that was possible to the grave site), with the inscription:ANNE NEVILL 1456-1485 QUEEN OF ENGLAND YOUNGER DAUGHTER OF RICHARD EARL OF WARWICK CALLED THE KINGMAKER WIFE TO THE LAST PLANTAGENET KING RICHARD III. "In person she was seemly, amiable and beauteous...And according to the interpretation of her name Anne full gracious" REQUIESCAT IN PACE.The quotation is taken from the Rous Roll in the British Library. The heraldic shield is enamelled and surmounted by a coronet."
    So it is thought that the grave was unmarked because Richard did not have chance to mark it before his death in August 1485.

    In his book The Last Days of Richard III, John Ashdown-Hill writes "Richard III must have been well aware of the shortage of space at Westminster, since his brother, Edward IV, had been interred at Windsor, while Queen Anne Neville’s tomb at Westminster had been squeezed into a site in front of the sedilia, to the right of the high altar, where no funeral monument was possible other than a brass set into the pavement." He goes on to say "Queen Anne Neville’s grave was originally marked by a brass memorial in the Abbey Church at Westminster. This lost monument – the only brass memorial to a queen in England – may once have carried a figure similar to
    that shown in one version of the contemporary Rous Roll."

Alexander Taylor is an undergraduate history student from the south west of England. He initially found his interest in Tudor history around three years ago when he stumbled across one of his mother's historical biographies of Queen Katherine Howard, and since then he's been utterly fascinated by this unique and exciting period.

Tudor Life Magazine - March 2015 is a Richard III special

Talking of Richard III, did you know that the March issue of Tudor Life, the Tudor Society magazine, is going to be a special Richard III themed edition? It will feature articles from:

  • John Ashdown-Hill
  • Kristie Dean
  • David Baldwin
  • Susan Fern
  • Josephine Wilkinson
  • Toni Mount
  • Olga Hughes

Plus an article from historian Derek Wilson and articles from our 7 regular contributors. Another jam-packed edition!
You can find out more about joining The Tudor Society on our homepage - click here.

There are 22 comments Go To Comment

  1. K

    In the stained glass window portrait of Anne in Cardiff Castle, why is she portrayed wearing two crowns?

    1. a

      Because she was the Princess of Wales to the former king’s, Henry VI, and queen’s, Margaret of Anjou’s, son the Prince of Wales who was killed as well as Queen Consort to Richard. So, she was all by rights, a crown princess and a crowned queen.

  2. B

    This was very interesting. I’ve always been interested in Anne Neville and think it’s a pity that more isn’t known of her. Before marrying Richard she had been Princess of Wales as the wife of Edward, son of Henry VI. So, she must have had many stories to tell.
    I imagine Anne may have decided on sanctuary in a convent had she lived.

    1. C

      Henry Tudor eliminated sanctuary. No more could any man or woman find protection in a church. I like to think of her fleeing north and raising an army and deposing old Henry.

      1. R

        What are you talking about? First of all Henry Tudor did not abolish Santuary. In fact even after the reformation the idea of sanctuary was not abolished until the 1640s.
        Anne Neville died in 1485, on 16th March, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
        You imagine whom deposing Henry and which one?

        Why can’t people write sensible posts which are connected to the actual article they are reading?

      2. R

        I assume you mean if she outlived Richard as his Queen. There is nothing but rumours that Richard wanted to annul his marriage to Anne Neville, written after her death. It is of course possible, given that Richard needed an heir and their only son had died. Richard only actually sought a second wife after her death of tuberculosis.

        Elizabeth Woodville retired to an Abbey so yes it is possible Anne would have done the same. There was provision for lay people to take religious vows near the end of their lives or to retire to religious houses in widowhood or in order to dissolve a marriage. Katherine of Aragon was offered this honour but refused as Queenship was her vocation.

        Although she had been only briefly married to Edward, Prince of Wales, she spent time in exile in France, had fled with her family there, she had been held as a hostage practically by her sister and George Duke of Clarence and Richard was something of her knight in shining armour. They were married for over a decade and they grieved the loss of their son, Edward in seclusion. I see her as stronger than people think. She would certainly have a few tales to tell.

  3. L

    Kerrie Donlan..
    It’s possible that one of the crowns is that of Welsh marcher lands, as she was previously known as Princess of Wales, before her marriage to Richard.

  4. J

    Elizabeth of York and her sister Cecily were not the “Woodville” girls. Their last name was Plantagenet

    1. C

      Umm, no. They were illegitimate. Therefore they did not have their father’s name. Edward had precontracted to TWO women before he tried the same trick on Elizabeth Wydville.

      1. P

        Undoubtedly Edward Plantagenet did promise to marry those two other girls in an attempt to trick them into going to bed with him. And shame on him for such awful behavior towards those young ladies! But Edward IV did marry Elizabeth Woodville, there were witnesses to it and he made her his Queen Consort and if I’m not mistaken she had a coronation as well. Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s daughters were most certainly not illegitimate and it was quite mean of you to say what you did about them in your comment. Children should never have to suffer for their parents sins!!!

        1. S

          He was married to Eleanor Talbot when he married Elizabeth Wydwille, so basically the marriage is invalid. Edward iv himself was illegitimate, he was some archer’s bastard that his mother had affair with when she was in sanctuary. Her husband, richard of york and her first born son, Edmund were in the battle back then.

          1. A

            There are no surviving documents to prove that Edward IV was or was not married to anyone, not even Queen Elizabeth. Their marriage was recognized as valid by the majority of his court until his death, when the invalidity rumors started. It is historically undocumented.

            As for the birth status of Edward IV, that is also not entirely known. Evidence has been produced that says that Edward could not have been conceived by his parents and been born when he was, and many historians have said there is no evidence that he was born early, but without knowing the condition of his mother during her pregnancy, it will never been known for certain. Two examples of how this may have happened are thus: Pre eclampsia, aka toxemia, can cause a baby to mature faster in the womb which makes them appear to be term, but in fact they may be early… gestational diabetes can also cause a larger than normal baby to be born and if that child is born early, then they may appear to be a normal weight for a newborn while they are in fact early. From the evidence that I have seen regarding this matter, Edward could have been as little as three weeks early and been his father’s son. Also, no historian has ever put forth the idea that perhaps Edward was born late instead. It is not impossible for a baby to be born late, even if it is a third child. Sometimes, the mother’s womb just is not ready to begin the process of labor when the baby is supposedly due (I know this from personal experience, as my fourth child was born a month late due to a miscalculation of her due date by my OBGYN and the fact that I was told she was late after she was born). Plain and simple fact, we will never know the entire truth of either situation.

        2. H

          Richard III declared them illegitimate in order to ascend the throne. Whether or not they were actually illegitimate, I don’t think we know. But legally, they were declared illegitimate. People area still debating based on rumors, which just goes to show that a rumor can be dangerous and potent even hundreds of years later. But referring to them as “The Woodville Girls” is technically accurate because they wouldn’t have their father’s last name. Nasty thing to do? Yes. Political move? Yes. It was probably all political propaganda. Without all of these rumors and ruling them as illegitimate, Richard III would have seen a lot more opposition to taking the throne from his nephews

    2. B

      Thank you for saying that!

  5. R

    Of course Richard had no intention of marrying Elizabeth. He may have found her attractive, but that was as far as it went. It was a mark of high honour for Anne to provide Elizabeth with matching clothing. Very interesting article, thanks.

  6. R

    The window was given by Geoffrey Wheeler and the Richard iii Society but I am not entirely clear on why two crowns, but one is more likely a coronet than a crown. Anne was Lady of Glamorgan, which is why she has a connection to Cardiff Castle. Although Richard held it in right of his wife from 1472, it was the inheritance of her mother, through the Beauchamp family. Glamorgan was an old Kingdom and had previously been independent. It was at this time technically part of Wales, but the title was still granted as a separate hereditary lordship. This would entitle her to a coronet.

    Anne was also Princess of Wales and would wear a crown as such before she married Richard.

    Richard as a royal Duke…Duke of Gloucester would also have a ducal crown. Anne as his Duchess would also have a ducal crown.

    Richard and Anne were jointly crowned as King and Queen of England in July 1483. As both Duchess of Gloucester and Queen of England Anne would have two crowns. Although Richard is shown without his crown, probably to emphasise his natural birthright the full glass window shows a triumphant Richard crushing the red rose beneath his feet and surrounded by the white rose.

    Another explanation I read was it just shows off her hair style. Whatever the symbolic nature of the glass window it is meant to show off their connection to Glamorgan and Wales.

  7. C

    If you check a solar eclipse calendar of the past there was indeed a solar eclipse Mar 16 1485.

  8. E

    Re comments why is Anne wearing two crowns. She is not. It’s a coronet and looks as if it’s two because the lead is passing through it. Good article.

  9. J

    Now that Richard III’s body found and properly buried in Leister, could his Queen be moved to be buried near him instead of the sad unmarked site at Westminster?

    1. R

      Its no longer unmarked. A brass plaque was put up in 1960 by the Richard iii society. However, its not actually confirmed that this is the correct place. Richard gave her a grand funeral and her coffin has been noted next to the shrine of Edward the Confessor. He died five months later at Bosworth before he could complete her memorial. Henry Vii actually had her moved to make way for his Chapel and it is on the modern site or close to it that the plaque rests.

      With hindsight it possibly may have been an idea to confirm her resting place and buried her with Richard, but in fact there isn’t the room for a second royal tomb at Leicester so it would not be practical. It may also cause too much disruption at Westminster as well.

  10. L

    So i’m REALLY into genealogy and my family history and recently I found out that i’m related to the Neville family! 🙂 From my DNA test I took, my research, looking at documents and quadruple checking everything Marmaduke Neville is my 14th great grandfather (love his name by the way haha). Marmaduke was the second son of Richard Neville 2nd Baron Latimer and Marmaduke’s mother was Anne Stafford so i’m related to the famous Stafford family too! Also fun fact the castle (Snape Castle) where my ancestor was born was the same castle Catherine Parr lived in when she was married to her husband John Neville (If I remember correctly John was Marmaduke’s older brother). Marmaduke sadly passed away in 1545 he was only in his late 30’s but he lived long enough to have been around when Cathrine was so there’s a chance that he actually met her which is crazy to think about especially as someone who’s really passionate about the Tudor period 😍 If only our DNA could talk and show us our ancestor’s memories and experiences.

    By the way I don’t know if you can answer this for me but I was able to go back all the way to the 1300’s on Marmaduke’s mother’s side and found out that there’s some Neville’s on her side too (no surprise since back then it was normal for people to marry within their own families- even in the Tudor period almost everyone was connected in one way or another) but I noticed that instead of it being ‘Neville’ it’s listed as ‘de Neville’ so it got me wondering either it wasn’t related and they were completely different names that just happened to be similar or more then likely maybe they were of French decent and over time got rid of the ‘de’ part for some reason? My ancestors with ‘de Neville’ were born and passed away in England so they weren’t French at least going by what was recorded but I do know that France played a big part in England especially in the earlier centuries. I wasn’t able to go further back then the mid 1300’s either because nothing came up and I hit a dead end or I couldn’t confirm the information so I couldn’t see ancestors that came before them to see if they were born in France or not. So as a history expert lmao do you know if the Neville’s were of French decent? If you don’t know do you know if it was common back then to change your name and make it sound more “English”? It’d make sense if that was the case since at the time that’s when France and England started their long time feud and they were living in England at the time so maybe they wanted to not draw attention to themselves but just curious. Thanks 💕

    1. A

      It would seem we might share common DNA . I am in direct line with Anne.

      While i have always known my family had roots that spread throughout the Royal History, we knew very little about Anne as a child.

      Should you have data on her i would truly love to know .
      Thanks in adv

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Anne Neville’s Final Months by Alex Taylor