Today, I am delighted to be posting an extract from Anne Neville: Richard III’s Tragic Queen by Amy Licence. This is day seven of Amy’s virtual book tour, which has been running throughout this week. As many of you already know, I have a particular interest in the places associated with key historical figures and so I am posting this, an extract from the chapter, Castle Life, 1456-1458, which touches upon Anne’s time, firstly at Warwick Castle, and then at Calais.
Of course, there is huge recent interest in Richard himself, but the story of his wife is perhaps as equally fascinating. In this book, Amy brings some flesh and blood to Anne’s story in her own wonderfully accessible style. For a chance to win a free copy of the book, just leave a comment and I will ask Amy to select a winner on Monday.
‘As the spring of 1457 approached, Anne was released from her swaddling bands and encouraged to take her first steps in the safety of her chambers. An illustration from a 1440 book of hours completed for Catherine of Cleves, showing the Holy family at work, places a toddling Jesus in an early walking frame. Made from twelve pieces of wood, in the form of an open box or cube, it is narrower at the top than the bottom where four large wheels help the child move, while giving some protection in an environment where carpentry and weaving is being done.
Anne may have learned to walk inside a similar frame or else been guided by her nurse. Her world would have encompassed little more than the great chamber, the solar and the family’s private living quarters, usually on the first floor above the Great Hall where servants and other castle employees were fed and slept.
The medieval manor house of Stokesay Castle in Shropshire has a well preserved solar of this type, reached by an interior wooden staircase. Warwick Castle had been extended during the late fourteenth century and the domestic buildings date from then, hung with tapestries and warmed by large fireplaces. A bed, recorded among the castle descriptions of 1400, was made of red damask embroidered with ostrich feathers, with a coverlet and dressings, three curtains of red tartarine, eighteen matching tapestries and six red damask cushions.
When improvements were made in the 1420s to these rooms, plaster of Paris was used to enhance the whiteness of newly built walls. As the daughters of an earl, who had access to the rich diversity of London’s international trade, the girls would have been surrounded by the best-quality furnishings and fashions of the day.
Anne wouldn’t have remembered her early months at Warwick. In any case, the family were about to relocate and the world she knew would be left behind. Before her first birthday, her father was appointed to the prestigious position of Captain of Calais, an important strategic territory which had been in English possession since shortly after Edward III’s victory against the French at the Battle of Crécy in 1346.
The eleven month siege, described by the chronicler Froissart, had resulted in the famous capitulation of the burghers of Calais and the town’s transference into English hands. Froissart records that one of the first ‘conquerors’ of the town was the then Earl of Warwick, so Anne’s father’s position had historical precedence, although he would not have been wise to emulate the previous earl’s record.
In 1347, the first English rulers of Calais were commanded to expel the town’s men: ‘Take here the kayes [keys] of the towne and castell of Calys … putte in prison all the knyhts that be there and all other soudyours [soldiers] that came there symply to wynne their lyveng, cause them to avoyde the towne and all other men, women and children, for I [Edward III] would re-people agayne the towne with pure Englysshemen.’
Such national cleansing was common in conquered territory but hardly made for an auspicious start, helping to exacerbate the conflicts which followed. Calais was still a much-desired territory, coveted by the French and Burgundians on either side, creating an uneasy tension for the English inhabitants, which Anne and her family now became. Packing up the household, they waited for weather conditions to be favourable before embarking on one of Warwick’s own ships across the Channel. Perhaps the six-year-old Isabel was old enough to be excited at her first glimpse of her new home, the walled medieval city with its imposing churches, towers and castle.
View of Medieval Calais
This ‘brightest jewel in England’s crown’ covered an area of about 20 square miles, including the fortified town and surrounding marshland, with the defensive castles of Guines and Hammes. Although Calais lies only 20 miles from England as the crow flies, the Channel crossing could represent considerable difficulties for a fleet of wooden vessels in bad weather. This meant that, although it was technically English territory, the geographical distance represented a real political limbo and sanctuary for its inhabitants, which Warwick would exploit.
By 1400, as many as 12,000 people lived within the city walls, while one map of 1477 shows the ‘pale’ extending north to include Ghent and Bruges and south beyond Arras and encompassing those residents too. Placed between the warring King of France Louis XI and Phillip III, Duke of Burgundy, it allowed England to maintain a European gateway for the staple trades of wool, tin, lead and cloth as well as relationships with both countries, neither of whom wished to see the area fall into enemy hands.
Calais itself was an impressive city. The manuscript illustrations from Jean de Waurin’s Chroniques d’Angleterre make a feature of the town’s high, smooth defensive walls and pointed turrets which the Warwicks would have glimpsed as their ship approached. A later map, drawn in the reign of Henry VIII, shows the walled town in some detail with its castle, church and marketplace, while the Cowdray engravings of 1545 give a vivid flavour of the port, forts and buildings.
The crenelated town walls with their many towers are passable through an impressive gateway, giving out into the closely packed streets where a significant number of smooth and crowstepped gable roofs are visible. In the picture, the thirteenthcentury Calais Castle is also drawn, outside the walls, a solid, square structure clearly built for defence with a tower in each corner. Its windows are tiny and high, along with a number of the traditional arrow slits.
Although the castle no longer stands, replaced by the sixteenth-century citadel, the comparable Castle Olhain north of Arras may give an impression of its appearance, with squat, round towers and drawbridge. Fort Risban, standing at the entrance to the harbour, was a reminder of the Crécy siege that could scarcely have been forgotten; then the fort had been a wooden structure; by Anne’s day it was walled and mounted with cannon.
Much of medieval Calais was destroyed in the conflicts of the twentieth century, but a description of the visiting Paul Hentzner in 1598 lists the still extant St Mary’s church, or Église Notre-Dame, with its early fifteenth-century tower. The twelfth-century Watch Tower is another rare survivor, despite being split into two by an earth tremor in 1580!’
Thanks to Amy for dropping by today, and for Amberley Publishing for permission to reprint an extract of the book. You can purchase Anne Neville: Richard III’s Tragic Queen from Amazon here. If you want to catch up with more of Amy’s book tour, visit the Amberley Facebook page here.
Synopsis of the book from Amazon:
Shakespeare’s enduring image of Richard III’s queen is one of bitterness and sorrow. Anne curses the killer of her husband and father, before succumbing to his marriage proposal, bringing to herself a terrible legacy of grief and suffering an untimely death. Was Anne a passive victim?
Did she really jump into bed with the enemy? Myths aside, who was the real Anne? As the Kingmaker’s daughter, she played a key role in his schemes for the throne. Brought up in the expectation of a glorious marriage, she was not the passive manipulated pawn of romantic legend; in fact, she was a pragmatist and a survivor, whose courage and endurance were repeatedly pushed to the limit.
Her first marriage, to the young Lancastrian, Prince Edward, should have brought her riches and a throne, but when she returned to England to claim her right, she found herself fatherless and widowed. Her second marriage, to her childhood friend Richard of Gloucester, proved to be a successful and peaceful union. Then, in the spring of 1483, everything changed. Anne found herself catapulted into the public eye and sitting on the throne beside Richard. The circumstances of their reign put an unprecedented pressure on their marriage; amid rumours of affairs and divorce, Anne died mysteriously, during an eclipse of the sun, just weeks before Richard’s death on the battlefield.
This fascinating and elusive woman is shrouded in controversy and unanswered questions. Amy Licence reassesses the long-standing myths about Anne’s role, her health and her marriages, to present a new view of the Kingmaker’s daughter.
- Hardcover: 255 pages
- Publisher: Amberley Publishing (23 April 2013)
- Language: English