Known for: heiress who was the wife of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick and the mother of Anne Neville, queen consort of Richard III of England
Title: 16th Countess of Warwick (in her own right)
Dates: July 13, 1426 – September 20, 1492
Also known as: Anne Neville, Anne de Beauchamp
- Mother: Isabel Dispenser.
- Isabel Dispenser’s father was Thomas le Despenser, descended from Hugh Despenser the Younger (and the Elder). Hugh Despenser the Younger was infamous during the reign of King Edward II as a favorite of the king.
- Isabel’s mother was Constance of York, whose mother was Isabella of Castile, a daughter of King Peter of Castile by his mistress Maria de Padilla. Constance of York’s father, thus Isabel’s maternal grandfather, was Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, a son of Edward III.
- Father: Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick. He was a godson of Richard II and was knighted at the coronation of Henry IV. Among his many noble ancestors was Roger Mortimer.
- full brother: Henry Beauchamp (1425 – 1446), 14th Earl of Warwick, 1st Duke of Warwick. He married Cecily Neville, a granddaughter of Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort. Joan Beaufort was the daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. Cecily was named for her paternal aunt, also Cecily Neville.
- half-sister, shared mother: Elizabeth de Beauchamp (1415 – 1448). She married Edward Neville, a son of Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort, daughter of of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford
- half-sisters, shared father:
- Margaret Beauchamp (1404 – 1468), married to John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury
- Eleanor Beauchamp (1407 – 1467), married to Thomas de Ros, 9th Baron de Ros, and then married Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, whose father, John Beaufort, was son of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, and thus brother of Joan Beaufort
- Elizabeth Beauchamp (1417 – 1480), who married George Latimer, 1st Baron Latimer, another son of Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort, daughter of of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford
- husband: Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, whose paternal grandparents were Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort, daughter of of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. His maternal ancestors included Henry III of England and Louis VIII of France.
Anne Beauchamp Biography:
Anne’s mother, Isabel Despenser (or le Despenser), was the posthumous daughter and heir of Thomas le Despenser, beheaded in 1399 for conspiring against King Henry IV. She brought considerable wealth and property to the marriage.
Anne’s father’s military service made him a favorite of Henry VI, and was one of Henry’s tutors. His son Henry Beauchamp was a childhood playmate of the king.
Anne’s mother and father, who married in 1423, had each been married before; Anne had four half-sisters from those marriages. Her full brother, Henry, was born in 1425, the year before Anne’s birth.
When it came time to find marriages for the children, most were married into the Neville family. Two of the half-sisters were married to sons of Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort. A third married, for her second husband, a son of the brother of Joan Beaufort.
In 1434, Henry and Anne were married to siblings, Cecily and Richard Neville, children of Alice Montacute and Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, himself another son of Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort. As was the custom at the time, Anne was married even though she was only 8 years old, and her husband only 6. While Richard Neville’s marriage to Anne was a good marriage for a younger son, he had no reason to expect that it would bring him much direct power or wealth, as her father was only 46 years old, and her brother would be heir to her father’s extensive land and titles. He himself was the expected heir of the title of Earl of Salisbury, through his mother, heiress of her father, Thomas Montacute.
As his father’s only son, Anne’s brother Henry Beauchamp was the sole heir when their father died on April 30, 1439, in Rouen, Normandy. Their mother accompanied the father’s body from France, brought to Warwick for burial. Isabel Despenser died on December 1 of that year, and was buried with her first husband.
Henry’s daughter Anne was born in 1443/4, and was the heir in turn of his titles and fortune when her father died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1446. Then in 1448/9, the young Anne, her aunt’s namesake, herself died.
Before his death, Richard Beauchamp’s will had specified that if Henry predeceased his father, the estate would be split evenly between his three daughters from his first marriage and Anne, daughter of his second marriage. But not only had Henry survived his father and inherited, his daughter had survived him and inherited until her death.
That left the elder Anne Beauchamp, 21 years old, as the only full-blood survivor of her niece and her brother. And left her 19 year old husband, Richard Neville, a very lucky and wealthy man. Anne became the 16th Countess of Warwick by right of inheritance, and her husband became the 16th Earl of Warwick by marriage (jure uxoris), and one of the largest landowners in England.
The half-sisters were not satisfied to have Anne be the sole heir, and fought the inheritance. Talbot, married to the eldest of the late Earl’s daughter, claimed that he was the legitimate next Earl of Warwick. The other half-sisters tried to claim part of the inheritance. Eventually the husbands of the half-sisters brought their case to the king who found for Anne and her husband Richard. Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, married to one of the older half-sisters, continued to contend for a share of the inheritance, creating a lasting enmity between him and Anne’s husband.
Anne’s husband was probably knighted at the coronation of Margaret of Anjou in 1445, and he and his father supported King Henry VI against Richard, Duke of York, in an uprising in 1452.
Anne and Richard’s first child, a daughter Isabel, was born on September 5, 1451, at Warwick Castle. Their second daughter, Anne, was born on June 11, 1456, also at Warwick Castle. It is likely Anne also had one or more miscarriages as well as the two live births. In 1464, Richard had an illegitimate daughter, Margaret, born to a mistress.
Wars of the Roses
Anne’s husband, Richard Neville, who would gain the nickname “the Kingmaker,” came to play an important part in the Wars of the Roses. Having supported Henry VI in 1452, he aligned himself with Richard, duke of York (married to Cecily Neville, his paternal aunt), by 1453, perhaps in part to oppose Somerset’s influence while Henry VI proved unable to rule. Somerset was a favorite of both Henry VI and Queen Margaret.
In 1454, Warwick was part of a group that supported replacing Somerset with the Duke of York as the protector of England. But Somerset returned to power in 1455. Warwick and York raised troops, and in May, Warwick fought with York at the Battle of St. Albans, defeating the Lancastrian supporters of Henry VI who were under the command of Somerset. Somerset was killed and Henry VI captured. Presumably, Anne Beauchamp was at Warwick Castle at the time.
The next year, the king rallied and resumed his own control over England, and appointed Warwick as Constable of Calais, still under English control and with a considerable standing army. Warwick went to Calais, presumably with his family. He used his position to fight several naval battles protecting the English coast. He attacked Castilian and Hanseatic forces on his own initiative. And he developed relationships with France and Burgundy.
Warwick returned to England in 1459 to join forces with his father who had defeated the Lancastrians at Blore Heath. Warwick, his father and York’s son Edward returned to Calais. Henry VI appointed the younger Somerset — son of Anne’s half-sister — to replace Warwick at Calais, but he was unable to take over the post.
In 1460 Warwick brough Anne and, presumably, their daughters and his mother from Calais to Warwick Castle in England. Warwick pursued Henry VI and took him captive. An attempt to clarify the crown’s future by making York the heir of Henry VI failed; this would have disinherited Edward, Prince of Wales, Henry’s son.
In December, York was killed in battle at Wakefield, along with Warwick’s younger brother. Warwick’s father was executed after the battle. But Warwick pursued the fight and was defeated Second Battle of St. Albans. But York’s son and heir, Prince Edward, won his battle at Mortimer’s Cross, and Warwick and Edward both moved on to London where Edward was proclaimed king as Edward IV.
Warwick now had not only titles and land from Anne Beauchamp’s inheritance, but from his father and, in 1462, his mother. He was the wealthiest man in the kingdom after the king. Edward rewarded his service with honors and offices for himself and his brothers.
In 1463, Warwick left home again to put down an invasion by Margaret of Anjou and a rebellion. Warwick became involved in marriage negotiations to find a favorable European marriage for Edward IV; however, Edward secretly married a widow, Elizabeth Woodville, beginning an estrangement of Edward and Warwick, who feared the influence of the large Woodville family.
Estrangement from the Yorkists
Warwick began to promote a marriage between his eldest daughter, Isabel, and Edward’s brother George, Duke of Clarence. Warwick had probably by this time realized that Anne Beauchamp was not going to bear him any sons, and Clarence was, in the absence of any sons of Edward, the heir apparent to the crown. Was Anne Beauchamp party to the plans to marry Isabel to Clarence? Party to Warwick’s growing estrangement from Edward? We don’t know. What we do know: the king would not support this marriage.
During this period, Warwick still had the trust of Edward, though he may already have been planning to move against the king. Edward entrusted his younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to the care of the Warwicks, and sent him to stay at Warwick Castle from 1465 to 1468 or 1469.
By 1469, Warwick had turned against Edward. The king’s young brother Richard moved out of Warwick Castle. In July, Warwick and Clarence sailed to Calais, where Clarence and Isabel were married against Edward’s orders. Presumably Anne Beauchamp and her younger daughter Anne Neville were also in Calais. Warwick and his family, including Clarence, returned to England where Warwick and Clarence joined the rebellion there, overturning Edward’s rule, with Warwick taking him prisoner, then somewhat inexplicably releasing him in September when it was clear that the rebellion had not consolidated power yet.
Warwick fled to France with Clarence and the rest of his family, but they were not permitted to land at Calais. Isabel miscarried her first child in the harbor at Calais, and the infant was buried at sea. The family went on to join Louis XI and Margaret of Anjou at Honfleur. Warwick agreed to marry his younger daughter, Anne Neville, to Henry VI’s son, Edward, and restore Henry VI to the throne, and the marriage apparently took place in France. (There is some doubt as to whether it was merely a betrothal or an actual marriage. Records from those events are not easily found.)
Warwick and his allies returned to England and succeeded in defeating Edward IV and restoring Henry VI, and Warwick became the de facto ruler for Henry. But the victory did not last long; Margaret of Anjou and her son did not send the expected reinforcements from France, delayed by weather. Clarence returned to the side of his brother Edward, abandoning Warwick’s cause, perhaps because he knew that now Warwick had an interest in Henry VI’s son becoming king instead of Clarence. Anne Neville returned to England with her new husband, the Prince of Wales and with his mother Margaret, but they were too late.
In the battle at Barnet on Easter Sunday, April 14, 1471, the Lancastrian army became confused by fog and was defeated. Warwick was killed while attempting to escape the battlefield. Anne Beauchamp, returning to England on a different vessel from that bringing her daughter Anne Neville back, had landed at Portsmouth and was at Southamptom when she heard of her husband’s death. She immediately took sanctuary at an abbey for protection of her own life, perhaps speaking to the possibility that she herself might be charged with treason for actively conspiring in the rebellion.
After the Yorkists displayed in London the near-naked bodies of Warwick and his brother who was also killed in the battle, they returned Warwick’s body to be buried at Bisham Priory. Edward IV’s forces prevailed at the Battle of Tewkesbury in May. In or after that battle, Anne Neville’s husband, Henry VI’s son Prince Edward, was killed and Anne Neville taken prisoner.
Anne Beauchamp, Widow
Suddenly, the fortunes of Anne Beauchamp, widow, had changed significantly. No longer the wife of a powerful military champion and kingmaker, she was a widow of a leader of the losing side. One daughter was widowed, no longer the Princess of Wales; the other was married to a brother of the again-triumphant Edward IV, but that brother’s loyalty to that king was under a reasonable cloud of suspicion. Anne Beauchamp remained in sanctuary for about two years, her inheritance completely in the hands of her son-in-law, Clarence. From sanctuary, Anne petitioned Parliament for return of her property, reminding them that Warwick lands and the Warwick title were rightfully hers by lineal succession.
After the Yorkists prevailed, Anne Neville was taken from her temporary imprisonment, and handed over to the custody of the Duke of Clarence and his wife, Anne Neville’s sister Isabel. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and brother of both Clarence and Edward IV, wanted to marry Anne Neville, whom he knew well from his time spent at Warwick Castle, and who was a potentially rich heiress. Clarence did not want her to marry, as that would mean that his own wife’s inheritance was lessened. Edward IV also opposed the marriage of Anne Neville to his brother Richard.
Historians disagree as to exactly how it came about, but Richard and Anne Neville managed to get married in July of 1472 at Westminster Abbey, despite the opposition of his brothers. Their child, Edward, was born the next year. Anne Beauchamp left the abbey in 1473, and went to live with Richard and Anne. That same year, Parliament passed an Act granting Richard and George rights to the Countess’ lands — as if Anne Beauchamp were actually dead.
In 1476, Isabel Neville died a few months after the birth of her fourth child, who himself died the following month. Isabel’s husband accused one of her ladies of murdering her, and later Edward IV had to issue a pardon for that lady. Clarence continued to behave erratically, and his brother had him arrested and “privately executed” at the Tower of London. Richard of Gloucester was now Edward IV’s only surviving brother.
We don’t know much about Anne Beauchamp’s life from her arrival at Richard and Anne’s home until the events of 1483. Some accounts show that she had some freedom and that purchases were made of clothing and other items for her benefit, so she was not completely humiliated and imprisoned.
Mother of the Queen
In April of 1483, Edward IV suddenly died. Richard became Lord Protector of Edward’s son, declared king as Edward V, but in June Richard declared Edward IV’s children illegitimate, and made himself king as Richard III. Anne Neville and Richard III were crowned in July, and their son made Prince of Wales. There is no record that Anne Beauchamp participated in any of these events, so she probably was not part of them.
The newly-declared Prince of Wales died in 1484, leaving Richard III without any direct heirs. Anne Neville had virtually adopted her nephew, Edward, son of Isabel and Clarence, and Richard III had him declared his heir. Anne Neville, by some accounts always sickly, died in 1485, and Edward named a different nephew as heir.
This left Anne Beauchamp with no children and only two grandchildren surviving: Isabel’s son Edward and his older sister, Margaret.
Later in 1485, Richard III was defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field by Henry VII. Two years later, Anne Beauchamp’s fortunes changed again. In 1487, Henry VII partially restored to Anne her lands and a pension, and rescinded the 1474 Act of Parliament that took away her lands and treated her as if she were dead. As a condition of her restoration, she signed over the lands to revert to the crown at her death.
Anne lived quietly until 1492. She was buried at Bisham Abbey.
Her grandson, Edward Plantagenet, son of George Plantagenet and Isabel Neville, inherited the title of 17th Earl of Warwick, though he was kept prisoner at the Tower of London as a potential rival to the Tudor king. In 1499, he was accused of plotting with the pretender Perkin Warbeck, tried and beheaded for treason. He too was buried at Bisham Abbey.
Anne Beachamp’s granddaughter, Margaret, was married in 1487 to a cousin of Henry VII. She was a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon and a mother of five, including Reginald Pole, the last Roman Catholic archbishop of Canterbury, an opponent of Henry VIII’s separation of the Church of England from the Church of Rome. Margaret was executed in 1541 by Henry VIII, and was beatified by the Roman Catholic church in 1886.