Monday, April 12, 2010

Marriage and the Nevills - Anne Nevill and Richard Duke of Gloucester

[This blog has moved to]

Ok, she says sighing heavily, let's get this over with.

This is a marriage about which a great deal has been said, written and speculated.  For the True Believer, there are some basic 'facts' that no-one wants to question.  It would be so easy just to go with the flow - the shared childhood, the cookshop, the bitter tears at the funeral - but quite apart from whether any of it's even vaguely true, it's not nearly so much fun as trying to work the angles, weasel out the probable from the improbable and coming up with something that's real, believable and matches my own perspectives.  (And as the author, my perspectives are at least as important as anyone else's.)

First, here are the things we don't know:

•  how Anne felt about her first husband; how she felt about his death;
•  when the marriage actually took place;
•  how and when the couple communicated before Anne's complicit abduction (rescue?) to sanctuary;
•  which of them was the instigator of the plan;
•  just who might have been aware that not all the correct dispensations were acquired;
•  how they felt about each other;
•  why Anne agreed to what were some pretty unfavourable conditions to the marriage;
•  whether Richard would have divorced her (he actually had fairly strong grounds for an annulment) and what (if any) relationship they might have had subsequently;
•  how much Anne was aware of any thoughts he might have had about divorce.

The things we do know:

•  at the time they married, it was a mutually beneficial plan and they both went into it with their eyes open;
•  at least until the death of their son, the marriage seems to have been successful;
•  their grief at their son's death was profound, though how much of it was shared I'm not sure.

[My book will end with Anne's death and I might try to pull some kind of dying-person-catches-a-glimpse-of-the-future (ie Bosworth) in a weird-arse dream.  Or I might just leave it all up in the air, depending on how I feel at the time.  I'm not losing sleep over it just at the moment.]

Looking at their respective ranks, Anne and Richard were a natural pairing. He was the king's brother and she was the widow of the Prince of Wales, and Warwick's daughter, with everything that came with that.  Richard might have eventually married a minor foreign noblewoman, but the Nevill wealth was far too tempting a prize to let slip.  The Nevill brothers weren't attainted after Barnet, which was a lucky break for John's widow and a bonanza for whoever got their hands on Warwick's daughters.  George already had Isobel and I'm sure this was a factor in not only Richard's decision making processes but also Anne's.

Much has been said about the treatment of the countess of Warwick, which was appalling however you look at it, but I find I don't have quite the required level of sympathy for her.  I don't see her as an unwilling victim, dragged from pillar to post.  She was with her husband every step of the way, from good to bad to horrendous.  He died at Barnet; she scuttled into sanctuary.  I'd have a lot more sympathy for her if she'd stood up and faced what she feared so much was coming.  Anyway, her daughters' complicity in her dispossession is clear.  To me that points to a couple of things:  the girls had shifted their loyalties entirely from their parents to their husbands; and they were a couple of opportunistic, status and wealth driven women - very much their father's daughters.

Richard probably didn't give much thought to Anne until she made first contact.  No doubt he was irritated that brother George had both the Nevill girls in his control, but I'm not sure that  I know, I'll marry her was his first thought.  Remarriage would very much have been on her mind and in her interests.  She needed a champion who could match George and Isobel; she needed someone of status and rank; she saw both of these things in Richard. Edward IV's part in all this is intriguing.  Whatever might be said about the brothers' relationship, Edward's affection for George and Richard (at this point at least) can't be denied.  He did some pretty shonky things in order to enrich them.  Despite his stated disapproval of George's marriage to Isobel, he didn't try too strenuously to stop it, and seems to have accepted it with fairly good grace in the end (but that's a different post).

Despite claims from some that the difference in their ages would have meant they had very little to do with each other as children at Middleham, there can be no doubt that Anne and Richard were at least aware of each other's existence.  They were at the same table at Cawood for George Nevill's enthronement feast, for instance. They might even have got on well, given the half-grown boy, little girl dynamic.  That doesn't mean that they had any stronger feelings beyond a vague lopsided fondness.  He might have been the object of fluttery hero worship (I've been a young girl and I know how peculiarly their minds can work) but their future marriage doesn't need to be foregrounded in any way.  They knew each other, they probably didn't have any strong feelings of either affection or dislike. End of story.

Despite the strictures placed on the consummation of her first marriage, I think it's possible that the hormones of the teenagers were hard to subdue. It makes it more interesting if Anne didn't go to her second marriage a virgin.  It strengthens, for me, the likelihood that she had reasons other than I've already stated for wanting to be a wife once more.  I'm not sure how I see Edward PoW at this point. He's as one dimensional in most fiction as a lot of the minor characters.  The whole "he likes to chop heads off" thing is usually quoted out of context and not in full.  There's more to this boy than meets the eye.  I think her first marriage meant a lot to Anne, not least it being one in the eye for big sister.  (There's a lot of fun to be had there, two sisters, all they have left of family, who don't draw together for comfort.  I think Anne's birth was a huge blow to Isobel, one she never quite recovered from.  If she'd had a little brother, I don't think it would have been quite so bad, her position as first child and Daddy's Little Girl would have been safe.)

The marriage of the duke and duchess of Gloucester was, for the most part, a successful one.  Whether they loved each other deeply or not, they suited each other in many ways.  Anne got the status and security she wanted, Richard got the wealth and the reflected glory in the north of his late father-in-law.  Any thoughts he might have had about divorce (he was a childless king; he'd disinherited his brother's children on the grounds of bastardy; his own marriage wasn't quite as unchallengeable as he might have liked) need not imply that he didn't care about her.  Business, as they say, is business.  Anne would have thought very differently about it, but her death overtook events and, in the end, that was one humiliation she didn't have to face.

Whatever their feelings for each other might have been, the death of their son was a watershed.  It blew the marriage out of the water (if I can be allowed the occasional mixed metaphor) however much they drew together at first.  This wasn't just a much loved child who died, it was the sole hope that Richard had of a dynasty.  The countess and earl of Salisbury had ten surviving children; the duke and duchess of York had seven.  The granddaughter of one and the son of the other managed one between them. The sole male hope of the Nevills was John's son George.  (That Alice, Alianor, Katheryn and Joan had sons meant nothing in this context; the existence of the young earl of Warwick hardly mattered; the duchess of Suffolk's abundance of sons meant a little more, but had John de la Pole succeeded his uncle that would have been a whole nother kettle of fish.)

I think Richard did quietly grieve for his queen when she died - for lost opportunities; for the support she surely was to him in the turbulence of his reign; for their son, both her hope and his of immortality; and for the strength of mind and personality she must have had in order to instigate their marriage and pave the way for him to rule so successfully, as duke of Gloucester, in the Nevill heartland.

A marriage that evolves, changes from pragmatic considerations, to a strong sense of shared purpose, if not love, to grief and breakdown and almost to divorce is a far more interesting proposition than dewy eyed youngsters, adoring each other since childhood.  I'll leave that for the Suffolks, they deserve it far more than anyone else.

I am much indebted to Michael Hicks (as usual) and would recommend his biography of Anne Nevill to anyone.  It is cogent and well considered, though of necessity highly speculative.  It certainly pulls Anne out of the shadows and into a sometimes harsh light.


Su_H said...

Excellent post - couldn't agree with you more - it would have been expected that Anne marry again, particularly as she was so young, and as she was unlikely in the context of Barnet and the treatment of the Countess to have control over her share of the Nevill inheritance she had little choice. Also they would have been brought up to expect to marry for wealth and status - that's just what you did! John's widow Isabel Ingoldsthorpe also married again. Almost a year to the day after John's death at Barnet she married Sir William Norreys, yet as you say John was not attainted so in theory at least Isabel had nothing to fear for her property etc.
It didn't always follow though; Katherine Nevill aka Hastings didn't marry again after William's murder, although he was her second husband already!

Ragged Staff said...

Thanks Su. Isobel I married Norreys (if I'm not entirely mistaken) on the same date she married John. Either anniversaries didn't matter, her memories of John didn't matter (which I doubt, considering she was buried with him) or she didn't want to risk forgetting her new anniversary! I don't know enough yet about Katheryn and Hastings. With two husbands dying violently, she might not have wanted to risk a third. (I feel for Maud Stanhope in this regard as well, and she had no children to console her.) The more I read, the more convinced I am that the Nevills were either extremely lucky when it came to marriage partners (by and large) or they were just bloody minded enough to make things work. Even the Stanleys seem to have made a pretty good fist of things. I'm not sure who I'm going to look at next, but it won't be the Warwicks. I'm still trying to get my head around that particular dynamic.

Susan Higginbotham said...

Great post! It's nice to see someone taking a dry-eyed look at Anne and Richard's marriage.

Ragged Staff said...

Thanks for that, Susan. I get annoyed that sometimes both the Nevill girls are portrayed as hapless pawns. You don't survive the kind of childhood they had and not come out of it strong, determined and more than just a little bit like Daddy. i think I'm going to have the most fun with these girls.

Elizabeth said...

I agree with the earlier comments that it's nice to read about Anne Neville's marriages from an objective point of view without throwing assumed emotion on top of everything. I think it's maybe hard for us modern readers to sometimes remember/understand that marriage was security for a woman, not the choice that it is today.

As the Prince of Wales, where was Edward being raised before his marriage to Anne Neville and would they have had much/any contact before they were contracted to each other?

Ragged Staff said...

Elizabeth, according to my WOR Encyclopedia (quick reference, always needs following up and occasionally not as right as it could be), wherever Margaret was, Edward was. So I doubt if they met at all before their marriage. (I think there was a proxy at the betrothal, but my memory on that might be corrupt.) Susan would know more than me about this.
I've never had a problem in fiction with married characters developing a deep attachment, but there seems to be a desperate need in some quarters for couples to defy everyone and marry for love. Some did, but they are all documented and caused a great deal of upset. (I must admit that I cheat a bit with one of my girls - she doesn't openly marry for love, but in her backstory she does drop a few choice hints in her father's ear and voila!, but that's more about friendship and not wanting to leave home than romantic love.)

Susan Higginbotham said...

Thanks for the link! Edward was in exile with his mother at Koeur Castle from September 1463 to June 25, 1470, when they traveled to the French court at Amboise (there's a great book called The Lancastrian Court, edited by Jenny Stratford, that has a timeline). Hicks has Anne and Edward being betrothed at Angers on July 25, 1470, possibly by proxy; according to him, Anne was in Edward's company by July 31. He gives the date of their actual wedding as December 13, 1470. I also doubt that Anne and Edward could have met before July 1470.

Ragged Staff said...

Not a problem, Susan. I'm just worried we could set up a feedback loop that causes the universe to swallow itself.

Caroline said...

Great post-I think it's likely Anne's fertility issues affected their marriage in some way. Richard must have been frustrated by Anne's inability to produce more heirs, and he could very well have harbored secret resentment towards his older brother because of it- here he was, a devout and faithful husband, with only one child (even though his one child was a son), and yet his brother, who wasn't as pious and seduced women left and right, had ten children.
About your book- I think a deathbed premonition by Anne about Bosworth would be cool!

Ragged Staff said...

Caroline, you make a good point. This sort of resentment, once the initial grieving died down a little, was more likely to come out after young Edward's death. Anne's family history of infertility was there for him to see, maybe it didn't matter so much while E4 was alive, or while their son lived. He kind of traded the wealth and influence for posterity, if you look at it like that.

At this point I don't know if I'll want to tie up loose ends when the time comes, but it's certainly an option.

Anerje said...

Thanks to Susan Higginbotham for pointing me in the direction of your blog. Really enjoyed your post. I do think that Anne and her sisters were pawns in the marriage game - but both would have been aware of their role and their duty - and were possibly as ambitious as their father.

Ragged Staff said...

Anerje, thanks. Warwick was very good at making the best of what he had, including his daughters. I don't think either of them were disappointed with his choices (except maybe after he decided to ditch Clarence as potential king - Isobel seems to have been quite miffed by that).