Friday, July 10, 2009

Myth: Richard and Anne were childhood sweethearts

Since, by his actions, Richard appeared to be faithful to Anne throughout his marriage (although there is some indication that he may have strayed once or twice) and he seemed to genuinely mourn his wife’s death, many Ricardians retrofitted these behaviors and flat-footedly declared that he therefore must have been in love with her since his childhood.

Regardless of Richard’s motivations to marry Anne--and surely Anne’s inheritance played some major part--his behavior is the more telling as to his feelings for his wife once they were married. For one, in order to marry Anne, Richard had to effectively accept a prenuptial that denied transfer of Anne’s inheritance to him (the amount granted as condition that Clarence drop his claim) should their marriage end in divorce. (I could only find second hand reference to this in Markham and Kendall and this from Croyland:
“...At last, their most loving brother, king Edward, agreed to act as mediator between them; and in order that the discord between princes of such high rank might not cause any hindrance to the carrying out of his royal intentions in relation to the affairs of France, the whole misunderstanding was at last set at rest, upon the following terms: the marriage of the duke of Gloucester with Anne before-named was to take place, and he was to have such and so much of the earl's lands as should be agreed upon between them through the mediation of arbitrators; while all the rest were to remain in the possession of the duke of Clarence...”

However, I found a mystery surrounding the marriage. Up until the publication of Peter Clarke’s article in 2005 on English Royal Marriages and the Papal Penitentiary, it was thought that Richard married Anne without the requisite Papal dispensation. According to this article: “...they had sought a dispensation to marry from the penitentiary in early 1472, for it was granted on 22 April that year, and they were probably married shortly afterwards.” So, by the date on the dispensation, they should have been married no earlier than the end of April of that year (allowing time for the dispensation to reach them). But according to a letter (690) written by John Paston on the 17th of February 1472, Richard and Anne had already married! This predates the dispensation. If the date on Paston’s letter is accurate, then Richard and Anne must have wedded without this document, but only with the assurance that they would get it soon.

Assuming these dates are correct and that Richard had less to gain from the marriage because the “spoils” were divided between Anne and her sister, Isabel and possibly because Richard would be left with little if they divorced, can one conclude that by the time of their marriage, Richard was following his heart?


Clarke, Peter D. English Royal Marriages and the Papal Penitentiary in the Fifteenth Century. English Historical Review Vol. CXX No. 488. 2005

Croyland Chronicle Continuations, 1453-1486. Richard III Society, American Branch

Gairdner, James. The Paston Letters 1422-1509 A.D. Volume III, Westminster. Archibald Constable and Co., Ltd. 1900. Letter 690

Kendall, Paul Murray. Richard the Third. New York. W. W. Norton & Company Inc. 1955.

Markham, Sir Clements R. Richard III: His Life & Character Reviewed in the Light of Recent Research. New York. Russell & Russell. First published 1906 (rescued 1968 by Russell & Russell).


  1. I just can't read the Paston letter as stating that Richard and Anne were already married. As I read it, in saying "that he may well have my Lady his sister in law, but they shall part no livelihood," Clarence is saying that Richard can marry Anne, but Clarence doesn't want him to gain any land that way. Paston seems to be quoting Clarence as speaking about a future marriage, not one that has already happened.

    Richard ultimately did quite well out of his marriage to Anne; though Clarence initially got a better share of the land, Richard was able to adjust the division more to his satisfaction later. He also took great care to make sure that he would keep Anne's land even if the marriage were annulled--a 1474 Act of Parliament provides explicitly for this.

    Personally, I think there could well have been some affection between the pair when they married, but that their marriage (like most others among the nobility) was dictated mainly by pragmatism on both sides--land for Richard, a powerful husband who could look after her interests for Anne.

  2. I really on't think "pragmatism" would have kept "affetion" out of a medieval marriage. It might simply have been enough that the two of them were atually aquainted with one another(btw, sorry for the spelling "errors" some of my keys are "stiky" today).
    Ann eG

  3. Yes, I think if you look at their options, Richard and Anne both made the best marriage available in the pragmatic sense. This does not rule out the possibility that they cared for each other. I should not love my wife any less if she was a millionairess!

  4. I too agree that Richard loved his wife and think that whether or not they were childhood sweethearts is irrelevant. Since it makes for good story telling, I don't begrudge the more romantically inclined author that "myth"--and for all we know, it could have been the case.

    I had a hard time deciding whether John Paston's letter meant they were already married when he wrote it, or that this was Richard's intent. I chose the more controversial interpretation because we don't know exact date of when they married, only that it was a small wedding. Given that, it's entirely possible that they married with only the assurance that their dispensation was assured because of their fear that Clarence would somehow get his hands on Anne again and that this time, he'd secrete her out of the country to some nunnery where Richard wouldn't be able to get to her. That would make quite a story, even if completely fictitious.

  5. Hi - Annette here again: Regarding feelings between Richard and Anne, this is a favourite topic of fiction writers and personally I don't see why not. However, in reality I often wonder to what extent any couple in mediaeval times enjoyed the luxury of 'love' as characterized today. But that's a metaphysical question, and perhaps I may substitute the idea of 'affection' in my comment? If so, I think we can assume that as long as each partner was kind and dutiful, a great deal of affection was possible. Richard and Anne had many close ties, and he certainly saved her from the prospect of life as a hapless appendage of the Clarence family, so (assuming he wasn't an evil, deformed monster!) there's every reason to suppose they shared a mutual affection. I haven't heard anything about Richard taking mistresses during the marriage, although there are known bastards whose ages suggest they were conceived beforehand.

    I'd like to pursue the question of the dispensation(s), but this is a technical matter and a bit off topic. It's covered in pages 254-5 of "The Maligned King". To make a long story short, dispensations for Richard and Anne were needed on two grounds: that of consanguinity (blood relationship) and that of affinity (relationship by marriage). Clarke discovered a dispensation only for affinity. No one imagines they would be so daft as to overlook the impediment of consanguinity, so either the clerk at the Vatican made a mistake or, as Marie Barnfield suggests (The Ricardian, 2007), a dispensation on these grounds already existed. We know that her father Warwick secretly obtained a dispensation in the 1460s for her elder sister Isabel to marry Richard's elder brother Clarence, and it seems he had hopes from an early date for a similar marriage between the younger couple - hence it would have made sense for him to get dispensations for both putative marriages at the same time (there was nothing preventing anyone with suitable credentials from doing this). If so, Richard and Anne knew that the major impediment of blood relationship was already covered, and they could confidently expect the one for affinity to go through on the nod.

    What probably was more of a worry was that Clarence was forever rushing around trying to find grounds to challenge the validity of the marriage ... but you'll need to read Barnfield for that (or my book for the short version!).

  6. Annette, I agree that he probably was monogamous once he and Anne were married, but I have read that he may have fathered a "natural" child after he was married--some do believe he had.

    I didn't understand that what Clarke found was limited to affinity. So it was entirely possible that he and Anne did marry with the dispensation for consanguinity in hand, but not the affinity, knowing it was really "in the mail".

  7. Annette again - Yes, Joan, exactly so. I assume Edward IV had someone representing him at the Vatican, who could have sent him word that the Pope had indicated he was content to issue the dispensation for affinity which would arrive via the usual channels.

    Also worth bearing in mind is the informality of marriage vows at the time: Richard and Anne could have plighted their troth merely by saying to each other "I do marry you" and therewith they were a married couple. Or they could have said "I will marry you", whereupon they were committed to each other; they then became married as soon as they had intercourse thereafter. Seeing that their marriage didn't constitute some important political alliance, I'm sure there was no need for it to have been a public ceremony of any kind, and in view of Clarence's wrecking attempts I expect they thought the sooner the better!

  8. Annette wrote: "...and in view of Clarence's wrecking attempts I expect they thought the sooner the better!"

    That occurred to me as well, Annette. Regardless of how much affection Anne really had for Richard, she could well have thought being married to someone she knew was far better than a potentially dismal future if Clarence regained control of her. As Richard's wife, she could at least go "home" and would be in a more powerful position.

  9. Sorry to be late coming back on this, but we need to check when Easter fell in 1472. They could not have married in Lent, so it would have had to be before or after. That could be a reason for haste in itself.

  10. That's an interesting point, Brian. A quick search for Easter in 1472 turned up this interesting calendar that will convert to Gregorian date from the Julian date. According to that reference, Easter occurred on March 29 in that year. Backing off 40 days for Lent brings us back to February 17th (or 16th if Easter can't figure into the equation). So, depending on how anxious they were that George would regain control of an unmarried Anne, it's certainly possible that they married mid-February.