Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty 3030948854, 9783030948856

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Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty
 3030948854, 9783030948856

Table of contents :
Praise for Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty
Notes on Contributors
List of Figures
Chapter 1: The Later Medieval English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty
Dynastic Dispute
Alice Perrers
Joan, Princess of Wales
Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester
Cecily, Duchess of York
Section I: The Consorts of the Hundred Years’ War
Chapter 2: The Consorts of the Hundred Years’ War
Chapter 3: Isabella of France: She-Wolf and Rebel Queen?
Early Life and Marriage to Edward
Edward’s Consort
Patronage and Piety
Rebel Queen
Isabella and Mortimer’s rule
Isabella’s “Retirement”
Chapter 4: Philippa of Hainault: Dignity, Duty, and Display
A Life of Service
The Dignity and Duties of Queenship
The Display of Majesty
Reputation and Afterlife
Chapter 5: Anne of Bohemia: Overcoming Infertility
Childhood and Arrival in England
The Office of Queenship: Intercession and Patronage
The Office of Queenship: Cultural Patronage
Death and Memorial
Overcoming Infertility
Chapter 6: Isabella of Valois: Child Queen
Birth and Marriage
Queen of England
Return to France
Chapter 7: Joan of Navarre: Beloved Queen and (Step)Mother or Unbeloved Witch?
Joan as Navarrese Infanta, Valois Princess, and Breton Duchess
Joan as a Beloved Consort and Unloved Queen
Joan as “the king’s beloved mother” and Accused Witch
Joan as Matriarch and Marginalised Queen
Chapter 8: Katherine of Valois: The Vicissitudes of Reputation
Early Life, Marriage, and Queenship
Widowhood and Remarriage to Owen Tudor
Katherine’s Remarriage and Her Reputation
The Beauforts and Katherine’s Remarriage
Death and Afterlife
Chapter 9: A Dower for Life: Understanding the Dowers of England’s Medieval Queens
Granting Dower
Holding Dower
The Value and Composition of Dower
The Queen as Landowner
Section II: Queens Consort of the Wars of the Roses
Chapter 10: Queens Consort of the Wars of the Roses
Chapter 11: English Queenship and the Wars of the Roses
The Role of Queen Consort
Margaret of Anjou as Queen Consort
Elizabeth Woodville as Queen Consort
Anne Neville as Queen Consort
The Effect of the War on the Three Queens Consort
Chapter 12: Margaret of Anjou: Passionate Mother
Chapter 13: Elizabeth Woodville: The Knight’s Widow
A Northamptonshire Gentlewoman
The Secret Marriage
Becoming Queen
The Business of Queenship
A Fragile Throne, 1469–1471
Mother of the Heir
The Crisis of 1483
Queen Dowager (again)
Chapter 14: Anne Neville: Heiress and Highest Ornament of Her House
Lancastrian Princess of Wales
Duchess of Gloucester
Queen of England
The Household of the Duchess and the Queen
Piety and Patronage
Chapter 15: Epilogue: Foreign Women as Consorts
Foreign Brides: Bringers of Peace or War?
Ties That Bind or Divided Loyalties? Examining Dynastic Connections
Fear of the Foreigner: Queens and Their “Alien” Retinues
Reflections on Foreign and Native Brides

Citation preview

Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts Power, Influence, and Dynasty

Edited by Aidan Norrie · Carolyn Harris J.L. Laynesmith · Danna R. Messer Elena Woodacre

Queenship and Power Series Editors

Charles E. Beem University of North Carolina Pembroke, NC, USA Carole Levin University of Nebraska Lincoln, NE, USA

This series focuses on works specializing in gender analysis, women’s ­studies, literary interpretation, and cultural, political, constitutional, and diplomatic history. It aims to broaden our understanding of the strategies that queens— both consorts and regnants, as well as female regents—pursued in order to wield political power within the structures of male-­dominant societies. The works describe queenship in Europe as well as many other parts of the world, including East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Islamic civilization.

Aidan Norrie  •  Carolyn Harris J.L. Laynesmith Danna R. Messer  •  Elena Woodacre Editors

Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts Power, Influence, and Dynasty

Editors Aidan Norrie University Campus North Lincolnshire England, UK J.L. Laynesmith University of Reading Reading, UK

Carolyn Harris University of Toronto Toronto, ON, Canada Danna R. Messer York, UK

Elena Woodacre University of Winchester Winchester, UK

ISSN 2730-938X     ISSN 2730-9398 (electronic) Queenship and Power ISBN 978-3-030-94885-6    ISBN 978-3-030-94886-3 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the ­publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and ­institutional affiliations. Cover Image by: Daniel Smith at Aspect Design This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

In memory of W. Mark Ormrod


We dedicate this book to Professor Mark Ormrod, who sadly passed away during the volume’s production. We are very grateful not only for the fascinating contribution that he made to the present collection through his chapter on Philippa of Hainault, but also for his outstanding influence on the field of medieval history. This included groundbreaking work on women and politics in later medieval England, some of which is referenced in other chapters. Mark not only published prolifically, but also mentored and encouraged countless students and scholars—including many of the authors in this volume. While he is very much missed, the copious publications that he has left behind will continue to positively impact and influence the field in years to come. We would also like to thank all of our contributors for sharing their scholarship with us in the excellent studies that they have provided on the later medieval consorts. We appreciate their time, patience, and efforts to help us bring this volume together. We hope it will form a key resource for those researching both queenship and later medieval English history. J.L. Laynesmith and Elena Woodacre This project has been supported by a number of grants and awards. We gratefully acknowledge the Dr Greg Wells Research Award provided by the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick, which covered the costs of producing the family trees for this volume. The Department of History at the University of Warwick employed Joshua Baumring-Gledhill as a research assistant for the project, and the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Warwick funded the project’s ix



incomparable editorial assistant, Luke Holloway, and we are grateful for this support. I also thank my valiant and indefatigable co-editors, who enthusiastically agreed to work with me on this project (a project that ended up consuming their lives for a significant amount of time), and whose insight, patience, and camaraderie have made this project much stronger than it might otherwise have been. Aidan Norrie

Praise for Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty “This impressive volume brings together the best new work on queens consort of late medieval England. A model for how to present a coherent overview of a subject as complex as these queens, a dozen scholars craft vivid and rich yet concise portraits of queens from Isabella of France to Anne Neville. The authors, attentive to the gendered nature of power and authority, are judicious in their discussion of controversial queens and ‘quasi-queens’—women whose influence at court and beyond is often underestimated. Each chapter can stand alone, making it a valuable resource for teaching. Taken as a whole, the essays highlight the complex interlocking ties that strained family loyalties amid the extreme pressures of dynastic wars.” —Theresa M. Earenfight, Seattle University, USA “This thought-provoking, accessible, and multifaceted volume is essential reading for anyone interested in the structures and practices of late medieval queenship, or in the queens themselves who stood at the heart of the dynastic conflicts that shaped fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England. Ranging from the ‘she-wolves’ Isabella of France and Margaret of Anjou to the child-bride Isabella of Valois to the English consorts Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville, these are fascinating lives.” —Helen Castor, University of Cambridge, UK


1 The  Later Medieval English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty  1 J.L. Laynesmith and Elena Woodacre Section I  The Consorts of the Hundred Years’ War  17 2 The  Consorts of the Hundred Years’ War 19 Elena Woodacre 3 Isabella  of France: She-Wolf and Rebel Queen? 27 Michael Evans 4 Philippa  of Hainault: Dignity, Duty, and Display 49 W. Mark Ormrod 5 Anne  of Bohemia: Overcoming Infertility 67 Kristen L. Geaman 6 Isabella  of Valois: Child Queen 87 Louise Tingle




7 Joan  of Navarre: Beloved Queen and (Step)Mother or Unbeloved Witch?105 Elena Woodacre 8 Katherine  of Valois: The Vicissitudes of Reputation123 Katherine J. Lewis 9 A  Dower for Life: Understanding the Dowers of England’s Medieval Queens145 Katia Wright Section II  Queens Consort of the Wars of the Roses 165 10 Queens  Consort of the Wars of the Roses167 J.L. Laynesmith 11 English  Queenship and the Wars of the Roses175 Anne Crawford 12 Margaret  of Anjou: Passionate Mother195 Carole Levin 13 Elizabeth  Woodville: The Knight’s Widow215 J.L. Laynesmith 14 Anne  Neville: Heiress and Highest Ornament of Her House237 Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs 15 Epilogue:  Foreign Women as Consorts259 Elena Woodacre Index279

Notes on Contributors

Anne  Crawford is an archivist and historian. She was formerly an Assistant Keeper at the Public Record Office, now The National Archives, and later archivist to Wells Cathedral. Among other works, she is the author of The Yorkists: The History of a Dynasty (2007) and editor of Letters of the Queens of England, 1100–1547 (2002). Michael  Evans is Assistant Professor in History at Delta College, Michigan. His research interests include medieval king/queenship, the crusades, the Robin Hood legend, and medievalism in social media. He is the author of The Death of Kings: Representations of Royal Death in Medieval England (2003) and Inventing Eleanor: The Medieval and PostMedieval Image of Eleanor of Aquitaine (2014), as well as many published articles on medieval history and medievalism. Kristen  L.  Geaman  is Associate Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio. She received her PhD in medieval history from the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on infertility, gender, and queenship in medieval England, and her book, Anne of Bohemia, was published in 2022 in Routledge’s Lives of Royal Women series. Carolyn Harris  is an Instructor in History at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. She received her PhD in History from Queen’s University at Kingston in 2012. Carolyn is the author of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada (2015); Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette (2015), which xv


Notes on Contributors

won the 2016 Royal Studies Journal book prize; and Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting (2017). J.L. Laynesmith  is a visiting research fellow at the University of Reading and author of the prize-winning monographs The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship, 1445–1503 (2004) and Cecily Duchess of York (2017). She has written extensively on English medieval queenship and noblewomen and is researching the politics of royal adultery in medieval Britain, 540–1140. Carole  Levin is Willa Cather Professor Emerita of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the author or editor of nineteen books. She is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of York in 2015. She is also the author of the one woman, one act play, “Elizabeth I in Her Own Words,” most recently performed as part of the United Solo Theatre Festival, New  York City, October 2019. Katherine  J.  Lewis  is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Huddersfield. She researches later medieval gender, religious, and cultural history. Her monographs include The Cult of St Katherine of Alexandria in Late Medieval England (2000) and Kingship and Masculinity in Late Medieval England (2013). She is the co-editor of A Companion to the Book of Margery Kempe (2003), Religious Men and Masculine Identity in the Middle Ages (2013), and Crusading and Masculinities (2019). Danna  R.  Messer  is a specialist in Welsh queenship in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and is the author of Joan, Lady of Wales: Power and Politics of King John’s Daughter (2021). She works for Arc Humanities Press as a Senior Acquisitions Editor and is also the Executive Editor for the Encyclopedia of the Global Middle Ages (Arc Humanities Press and Bloomsbury Academic). Aidan Norrie  is Lecturer in History and Programme Leader at University Campus North Lincolnshire and the Managing Editor of The London Journal. Aidan is the author of Elizabeth I and the Old Testament: Biblical Analogies and Providential Rule (2023) and has co-edited several collections, including Women on the Edge in Early Modern Europe (2019; with Lisa Hopkins) and From Medievalism to Early-Modernism: Adapting the English Past (2019; with Marina Gerzic).

  Notes on Contributors 


W. Mark Ormrod  was Professor Emeritus of History at the University of York. His career at York included roles as Director of the Centre for Medieval Studies, Head of the Department of History, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He wrote prolifically on late medieval politics, society, and kingship. His works include the definitive, 700-page biography Edward III (2011), Women and Parliament in Later Medieval England (2020), and “Winner and Waster” and its Contexts: Chivalry, Law and Economics in Fourteenth-Century England (2021). Mark was Principal Investigator on nineteen major research projects including England’s Immigrants, 1350–1550. He passed away on 2 August 2020 after a long illness.  Anne F. Sutton  was historian emerita of The Mercers’ Company, author of The Mercery of London: Trade, Goods and People, 1130–1578 (2005), and many articles on trade and fifteenth-century London. She co-edited The Coronation of Richard III and, with Livia Visser-Fuchs, co-authored or edited Richard III’s Books (1997), The Hours of Richard III (1990), The Book of Privileges of the Merchant Adventurers of England, 1296–1483 (2009), and many articles on the contemporaries and events connected to Richard III. Anne passed away on 18 June 2022 as this book was going to press.  Louise Tingle  holds a PhD from Cardiff University, with a thesis focusing on the patronage circles and intercessory links of Philippa of Hainault, Anne of Bohemia, and Joan of Kent, contrasting the differences between crowned queens, the mother of a king, and a childless queen. She is the author of Chaucer’s Queens: Royal Women, Intercession, and Patronage in England, 1328–1394 (2020), part of the Queenship and Power series.  Livia  Visser-Fuchs  is a Dutch independent scholar working mainly on Anglo-Burgundian relations in the fifteenth century. Her most recent book is a study of the life and work of the Burgundian chronicler Jean de Wavrin, who composed a history of England. With Anne Sutton she has written books and articles on many aspects of the life and times of Richard III, focusing on his book of hours and his library.  Elena  Woodacre  is Reader in Renaissance History at the University of Winchester. She is a specialist in queenship and royal studies and has written extensively in this area. Elena is the organizer of the “Kings & Queens” conference series, founder of the Royal Studies Network, Editor-in-Chief of the Royal Studies Journal, and co-edits the Gender and Power in the Premodern World series (Arc Humanities Press) and The Lives of Royal Women series (Routledge). 


Notes on Contributors

Katia Wright  completed her PhD at the University of Winchester on the lands and dowers of five English queens across the fourteenth century. She has worked on several joint projects including co-authoring a chapter on the sources of medieval English queens’ lands and co-editing a special issue of the Royal Studies Journal. Katia is the Assistant Curator (Archives) of The AGC Museum, Winchester.

List of Figures

Fig. 0.1 Fig. 0.2 Fig. 3.1

Later Plantagenet Family Tree. Daniel Smith at Aspect Design v Wars of the Roses Family Tree. Daniel Smith at Aspect Design vi A Fifteenth-Century Image of Queen Isabella and her Army from a manuscript of Jean de Wavrin’s Recueil des croniques et anciennes istoires de la Grant Bretaigne, BL Royal MS 15 E IV fol. 316v. (© British Library Board) 46 Fig. 4.1 Tomb Effigy of Philippa of Hainault, Westminster Abbey. (© Dean and Chapter of Westminster) 63 Fig. 5.1 Tomb Effigy of Anne of Bohemia, Westminster Abbey. (© Dean and Chapter of Westminster) 83 Fig. 6.1 The meeting of Richard II and Isabella of Valois. Froissart, Chroniques, c.1470, BL Harley MS 4380, fol. 89r. (© British Library Board) 94 Fig. 8.1 Katherine of Valois’s funeral effigy. (© Dean and Chapter of Westminster)125 Fig. 11.1 Elizabeth Woodville witnesses her brother, Anthony, Earl Rivers, presenting his translation of The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers to Edward IV, King of England. Lambeth Palace Library MS 265, fol. vi. (Bridgeman Images) 188 Fig. 12.1 Shakespeare’s Margaret of Anjou at her son’s death. Henry Courtney Selous, Cassell’s Illustrated Shakespeare, 1874. (Public domain) 211



List of Figures

Fig. 13.1 The court of Edward IV at the foundation of the Luton Guild of the Holy Trinity. Elizabeth Woodville on right with Cecily, Duchess of York, behind her. (Courtesy of the Culture Trust Luton)227 Fig. 14.1 Anne Neville and her husbands in Pageant 55, “The Descendants of the Countess Anne.” BL Cotton MS Julius E IV/3, fol. 28r. (© British Library Board) 239


Royal consorts have played an important role throughout English (and British) history. Yet, their lives and tenures have been treated unevenly by successive generations of scholars and popular historians. This volume, along with its three companions, aims to redress this uneven treatment. As the success of the Penguin Monarchs series has shown, there is much interest in more analytical biographies of royals—for academics and interested readers alike. While the last two decades have seen the publication of a plethora of both scholarly and popular biographies on England’s consorts, there is no single, scholarly compendium wherein all the consorts since the Norman Conquest can be consulted: it is this curious lacuna that these volumes seek to fill. In bringing together an international team of experts, we have endeavoured to create a vital reference work for scholars, students, and the wider public. While all consorts held an equal position—that is, they were all spouses of a reigning monarch—their treatment by both history and historians has varied considerably. Some, like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Margaret of Anjou, Anne Boleyn, and Prince Albert, have been the subject of countless biographies, articles, and cultural works and adaptations. On the other hand, non-experts could be forgiven for not being aware of Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Valois, Catherine of Braganza, or Adelaide of Saxe-­ Meiningen. Certainly, the surviving evidence for the tenures of each consort differs greatly, and other factors must be examined—it is no coincidence that each of these four unfamiliar consorts was not the mother of their husband’s successor. Nevertheless, these volumes treat the consorts as equitably as possible, offering biographies that provide an insight xxi



into how each consort perceived, and shaped, their role and how their spouse and subjects responded to their reign. While all occupying the same office, each consort brought their own interpretation to the role, and by contextualising a consort’s tenure against both their predecessors and successors, these volumes illuminate some fascinating continuities, as well as some unexpected idiosyncrasies. In putting these volumes together, numerous—and sometimes competing—factors were carefully considered. On the one hand, we erred on the side of inclusivity throughout, hence the inclusion of Margaret of France, Elizabeth Cromwell, and Dorothy Cromwell—the wives of Henry the Young King and Lords Protector Oliver Cromwell and Richard Cromwell, respectively. There can be no doubt that these women all functioned as a consort in the “traditional” sense of the term during their husband’s period in power. Conversely, we have not included Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, or Guilford Dudley—husbands of Empress Matilda and Lady Jane Grey, respectively. There is much more to be said on the issue of monarchical succession in England: scholars especially still have yet to really come to terms with how to conceptualise the succession when it deviates from the “ideal”—that is, when the deceased king (yes, king) was succeeded by his eldest son. The absence of Geoffrey and Dudley here should not be taken as an endorsement of the view that their wives did not rule England: rather, we acknowledge that regardless of the political power their wives wielded, they themselves did not function as consorts to their wives. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that they do not appear within these pages. These men certainly supported their wives—indeed, much more could be said about the “soft power” they exercised—but like Sophia Dorothea of Celle and Wallis Simpson, they themselves did not serve as the consort of a reigning monarch. In addition to the biographies of the consorts, the volumes contain several thematic essays, which present cutting-edge research on specific groups of consorts, showing the value in considering them both individually and collectively. Such essays are an important corrective to older, and in some places still engrained, notions that because most consorts were women, they were only concerned with producing heirs, gossiping, embroidery, and courtly entertainments. Such views, thankfully, are no longer in the mainstream, due particularly to the burgeoning work in the field of queenship studies. As these thematic essays, and the biographies themselves, show, a successful consort had to juggle multiple roles, including shrewd financial management, effectively overseeing diplomacy and



court intrigue, dealing with political upheaval, balancing the needs of their natal family against those of the English monarchy, and of course navigating pregnancy and childbearing—all the while ensuring that they retained good relationships with their spouse and their subjects. These chapters all demonstrate—to varying degrees—that a “successful” reign as monarch often correlated with a consort who was able to successfully juggle the diverse roles expected of them. The women and men whose lives are detailed in the following pages occupied a unique position at the side of their spouse. While the roles, rights, and privileges of a monarch have been understood and largely defined (although of course these have been fiercely debated and contested), the position of their consort has, and continues to be, far less regularised and much more nebulous. These biographies show that a monarch’s consort could have a profound effect on the nation—for both good or ill—and that the role was ultimately shaped by its incumbent in ways far more significant than have been previously recognised. Aidan Norrie


The Later Medieval English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty J.L. Laynesmith and Elena Woodacre

The Plantagenet dynasty ruled England for over three centuries. They left an indelible mark on the kingdom and profoundly impacted many of its neighbours. Yet most of the queens consort in this volume would have been surprised to find themselves called Plantagenets. Until the later fifteenth century, that name was primarily associated with Geoffrey le Bel (1113–1151), husband of the Empress Matilda. The family of their son, Henry II, had, understandably, chosen to shape their identity principally as descendants of Matilda’s father, Henry I.1 The name only resurfaced in 1  Jim Bradbury, “Fulk le Réchin and the Origin of the Plantagenets,” in Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. Allen Brown, ed. Christopher Harper-Bill, Christopher Holdsworth, and Janet Nelson (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1989), 27–41, 40. The earliest record of the later tradition that Geoffrey wore a broom stalk in his hat appears to be from 1605: William Camden, Remains Concerning Britain (London, 1870), 111–112.

J.L. Laynesmith (*) University of Reading, Reading, UK e-mail: [email protected] E. Woodacre University of Winchester, Winchester, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




1460, when Richard, Duke of York, wished to remind the political community that the royal family had earlier traced their inheritance through a woman.2 He adopted Geoffrey’s Plantagenet sobriquet as a surname and so created an identity for the entire dynasty, an identity sown in dynastic conflict. While the consorts of the early Plantagenet period, the Angevin queens Eleanor of Aquitaine and her daughters-in-law, and the wives of Henry III and Edward I are represented in the first volume of this series, the current volume is entirely composed of Plantagenet queens, ending with Anne Neville, wife of Richard III.  Richard’s niece, a Plantagenet princess, became the first Tudor consort and thus begins the third volume in our series. Here we have nine women whose tenures as consort were universally marked by conflict and warfare—both within the realm and between England and her neighbours—chiefly in the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses.

Dynastic Dispute A key theme that brings those wars together is dynastic dispute and within that the question of women’s eligibility to transmit sovereignty. The Hundred Years’ War was a prolonged and multi-faceted conflict that had its origins in long-standing tension between the early Plantagenets and the Capetian dynasty of France—a desire to heal this rift was a motivating force that drove the marriage of Isabella of France, our first consort, to Edward II in 1308.3 Yet the repercussions of that very marriage led England and France into a prolonged period of war, due in part to a dynastic dispute in Isabella’s own family. The death of her brother, Louis X (and Luis I of Navarre), in the summer of 1316 triggered the beginning of a Capetian succession crisis when his only living child was a young princess, Jeanne—while France did not yet have a law that barred female succession, Jeanne was the daughter of Marguerite of Burgundy, Louis’ first

2  Anne Curry and Rosemary Horrox, eds., The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, 1275–1504, XII: Henry VI, 1447–1460 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2005), 3   Elizabeth A.R.  Brown, “The Political Repercussions of Family Ties in the Early Fourteenth Century: The Marriage of Edward II of England and Isabelle of France,” Speculum 63, no. 3 (1988): 573–595.



wife who had died while imprisoned on a charge of adultery.4 Louis’ ­second wife, Clémence of Hungary bore a son, Jean I “the Posthumous,” but he died shortly after his birth in late 1316. Louis’ two brothers took the throne in turn—first Philip in 1316 and then Charles in 1322 after Philip died without surviving male issue. However, when Charles too died in 1328 without a living son, the direct male Capetian line was extinct, leaving several daughters of kings who could be potential heirs including Isabella herself as the only surviving child of Philip IV and Juana I of Navarre.5 There was the possibility of civil war if each of the now grown princesses and their powerful husbands fought to press their claim—perhaps even more worrying was the possibility that Isabella or her son, the newly crowned King of England, would come to press her claim to the throne. The decision to exclude both heiresses and claimants through the female line was arrived upon as a way to stem the potential chaos and the more distant Valois line was selected as an alternative. However, Isabella and Edward III refused to accept the invalidation of their claim—this dynastic dispute was later leveraged as part of Edward’s justification for invading France and beginning the Hundred Years’ War. Isabella was a catalyst for dynastic dispute in other ways as well. As Michael Evans’ chapter in this volume notes, Isabella remains noteworthy as the only English queen ever to dethrone her own husband, Edward II. In her efforts to secure allies on the continent to invade England to effect regime change, she contracted a marriage between her son and Philippa of Hainault, the second consort in our volume. Philippa’s tenure as consort took place against the backdrop of her husband’s campaigns in France, and those of her sons, including the Black Prince. Philippa’s impressive fecundity, giving birth to thirteen children, assured dynastic continuity in terms of providing Plantagenet heirs but this plethora of royal children also provided the seeds of another dynastic dispute, the Wars of the Roses, in terms of creating multiple potential lines of claimants to the English throne. 4  For Jeanne (later Juana II of Navarre) and her situation, see: Elena Woodacre, The Queens Regnant of Navarre: Succession, Politics and Partnership, 1274–1512 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 51–75. 5  For a recent evaluation of the Capetian succession crisis, see: Derek Whaley, “From a Salic Law to the Salic Law: The Creation and Re-creation of the Royal Succession System of Medieval France,” in The Routledge History of Monarchy, ed. Elena Woodacre, Lucinda H.S.  Dean, Chris Jones, Russell Martin, and Zita Eva Rohr (London: Routledge, 2019), 443–464.



This next internal dynastic dispute began to rear its head in the reign of Richard II, Philippa’s grandson, whose two consorts—the imperial princess Anne of Bohemia and the child bride Isabella of Valois—are featured in this volume. While Richard sought to achieve peace with France and stem the conflict of the Hundred Years’ War by his marriage to a Valois princess, his tyrannical behaviour towards members of his own family provoked his cousin, Henry of Lancaster, to usurp Richard in 1399. Henry thus became the first of the Lancastrian branch of the Plantagenets to rule. There was, however, a potential rival to Henry of Lancaster’s status as Richard’s heir—Edmund Mortimer—the great-grandson of Henry and Richard’s uncle, Lionel, Duke of Clarence. In the summer of 1399, Edmund Mortimer was only a seven-year-old boy, not remotely attractive as a king at this moment of political crisis. Moreover, although Edmund’s descent from Edward III was from a senior branch, it relied on inheritance through his grandmother, Philippa. There was in England no clear consensus about the validity of royal inheritance via a woman. Consequently, for as long as Henry IV could persuade the English nobility that he offered secure and just kingship, he could ignore the anomalous Mortimer claim, and he crushed rebellions championing Edmund in 1403 and 1405. Henry IV’s consort, Joan of Navarre, was no stranger to dynastic dispute and the Hundred Years’ War—her maternal grandfather Jean II “le Bon” had been captured and held in England by Edward III. Her father Carlos II of Navarre had also been a significant player in the conflict, due to his own strong claim to the French throne as the son of Jeanne, the young Capetian princess who was bypassed at the beginning of the succession crisis in 1316. Under the reign of her stepson, Henry V, Joan’s loyalties were divided at the famous battle of Agincourt in 1415—while her stepson claimed an impressive victory, she lost French and Breton relatives on the battlefield and her own son, Arthur de Richmond, was taken prisoner. Peace with France was again sealed with marriage—this time between Henry V and Katherine of Valois, sister of Richard II’s child consort. The reign of their son, Henry VI, began with the child king on the thrones of both England and France, theoretically guaranteeing an end to the long conflict—but by the end of his life, not only had he lost his French crown, but his English one as well. His consort, Margaret of Anjou, was later branded a “She Wolf,” like her predecessor Isabella of France, for fighting for the claims of her only son, against the heirs of



Edmund Mortimer.6 Mortimer’s sister, Anne, had married Richard, Earl of Cambridge, yet another grandson of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. Cambridge’s marriage to Anne Mortimer had bound her family’s potential claim to the throne through Lionel, Duke of Clarence, with his own family’s patrilineal descent from Edward III (and its associated ducal title) in the person of their only surviving son: Richard, Duke of York. As Henry VI’s fragile grip on France finally crumbled in the 1450s, it was Richard who emerged as the principal opponent of Henry’s closest aides and of his Queen. In the autumn of 1460, the Act of Accord disinherited Queen Margaret’s son in favour of the Duke of York. This Act was much like the 1153 Treaty of Winchester, which had secured England for the Plantagenets, in that it allowed Henry VI to remain as king until his death. Unlike the Treaty of Winchester, the Act of Accord was fiercely opposed. York was killed at Wakefield before the year was out, and his claims passed to his son, Edward, Earl of March, who swiftly established himself as Edward IV. The tenures of Margaret of Anjou and of Edward IV’s consort, Elizabeth Woodville, overlapped as Henry and Edward were on and off the English throne with power ebbing and flowing between the Lancastrian and Yorkist branches of the Plantagenet dynasty. Even when the House of York seemed supreme after the death of Henry VI in 1471, dynastic disputes continued when Richard III ousted his own nephews to take the crown himself in 1483. Anne Neville, our last consort, may have been the last Yorkist queen as well as the final Plantagenet one, but she could easily have become a Lancastrian consort instead, having been matched previously with Edward of Lancaster, Margaret of Anjou’s son. Her life, as the daughter of the “Kingmaker” Warwick and as both a Lancastrian and Yorkist bride, provides an illuminating reflection at the 6  See Helen Castor for a succinct explanation of how the “She-Wolf” epithet, applied to both women after their deaths, came to be applied to them: Helen Castor, She-Wolves: The Women who ruled England before Elizabeth (London: Faber and Faber, 2010), 31. This notion has in many ways dominated the historiography and particularly popular culture representations of both Isabella and Margaret. See: Michael Evans, “Queering Isabella: The ‘She Wolf of France’ in Film and Television,” in Premodern Rulers and Postmodern Viewers: Gender, Sex, and Power in Popular Culture, ed. Janice North, Karl C. Alvestad, and Elena Woodacre (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 263–282; and Imogene Dudley, “SheWolf or Feminist Heroine? Representations of Margaret of Anjou in Modern History and Literature,” in Remembering Queens and Kings of Early Modern England and France, ed. Estelle Paranque (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 199–218.



end of our volume on Plantagenet consorts on the role dynastic dispute played in the lives of these royal women, even if her tenure itself was very brief. Given the interwoven nature of these internal and external dynastic conflicts, it was difficult to place a dividing line in terms of grouping this conflict into clear thematic sections. However, in our first section, the Hundred Years’ War remains the predominant conflict that links the tenures of the first six consorts in our volume together, from Isabella of France, whose Capetian claim provided a pretext for invasion to Katherine of Valois, whose son Henry VI briefly realised Edward III’s ambition to be both king of England and France. While Margaret of Anjou could have been kept with her Lancastrian predecessors, Joan of Navarre and Katherine of Valois, she is instead grouped with the Yorkist queens Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville due to their involvement in the dynastic dispute of the Wars of the Roses. Anne Crawford’s thematic chapter reflects on the role of the conflict in the tenure of all three consorts and the extent to which the turbulence of the period impacted the practice of queenship itself. The practice of queenship or the exercise of the queen’s office is given further focus in Katia Wright’s thematic chapter on the dower lands of the medieval queens that demonstrates their agency as administrators of vast collections of lands and highlights their often overlooked position as one of the most powerful “lords” of the realm. Finally, Elena Woodacre’s Epilogue addresses another distinctive feature of the consorts of this period—the shift at the end of our volume from the more typical foreign queens, whose marriages were brokered to create alliances or seal the peace between England and its neighbours, to our final two consorts who were both Englishwomen, signalling a trend that continued into the Tudor consorts of the succeeding volume in the series.

Quasi-queens These English-born consorts were prefigured by a series of quasi-queens, women who took up the position of “First Lady” in times when there was no queen consort and who shaped both political events and attitudes towards consorts themselves. Common motifs of alleged adultery, disputed marriages, witchcraft, and ambitious parvenues spun back and forth between queens consort and these quasi-queens, both in contemporary propaganda and in later histories. So too did the more respectable themes of intercession, devotion, duty, patronage, peacemaking, and risking



everything for their heirs. The queens consort in this volume lived their lives in the shadow, or the company, of these uncrowned women whose roles resembled theirs so closely. The first of these quasi-queens was an exceptional royal mistress, Alice Perrers, who stepped into the limelight after Philippa of Hainault’s death. She was swiftly followed by a Princess of Wales, Joan of Kent, who was a king’s mother but never queen. During the next hiatus between queens it was Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, wife of the heir presumptive, who took up this role. Her successor as wife of an heir presumptive was Cecily, Duchess of York, although it was only as king’s mother that Cecily acquired the identity of “Queene by right.” A brief survey of these women provides essential context for comparison with the queens consort whose biographies follow.

Alice Perrers In the early 1360s Edward III took as his mistress Alice Perrers, the daughter of a London goldsmith and widow of one of the King’s jewellers, Janyn Perrers.7 Alice’s opponents would later viciously exaggerate her low birth—Thomas Walsingham claimed that her father was a thatcher—so it has only been in this century that her true identity was revealed by Mark Ormrod and Laura Tompkins.8 Alice became one of Philippa’s demoiselles, but supplemented her income from Philippa with a role as a moneylender to merchants and gentry. During Philippa’s lifetime she began investing her wealth in property that, Tompkins has estimated, would eventually approach £2000 per  annum in value—an income that exceeded that of some earls.9 Alice bore the King a son, John Southeray, in about 1365 and from 1367 she received a number of royal grants. Her name is notably absent from the list of Philippa’s ladies who received bequests in the Queen’s will. Philippa died in 1369 and, unlike other widowed kings of the later Middle 7  Laura Tompkins, “The Uncrowned Queen: Alice Perrers, Edward III and Political Crisis in Fourteenth-Century England, 1360–1377” (PhD thesis, University of St Andrews, 2013), 44. We are very grateful to Laura Tompkins for sharing her unpublished thesis. 8  W.M.  Ormrod, “Who was Alice Perrers?,” Chaucer Review 40 (2006): 219–229; W.M. Ormrod, “Alice Perrers and John Salisbury,” English Historical Review 123 (2008): 379–93; Laura Tompkins, “Alice Perrers and the Goldsmiths’ Mistery: New Evidence Concerning the Identity of the Mistress of Edward III,” English Historical Review 130 (2015): 1361–1391. 9  Tompkins, “Alice Perrers and the Goldsmiths’ Mistery,” 1361–1384.



Ages, Edward III seems to have made no attempt to look for a replacement queen. Alice then emerged as a public figure, richly rewarded by the King, and sought out by courtiers for her influence over him. In 1373 Edward gave her a collection of the queen’s jewels and the following year the Pope himself included her among those he petitioned to influence Edward III to engineer his brother’s freedom from captivity. Alice subsequently stole the show at a royal tournament at Smithfield when she dressed as “the Lady of the Sun.” Her choice of outfit was probably a deliberate spin on Edward III’s own sunburst emblem.10 Alice was indubitably a skilled businesswoman with an impressive grasp of property law, but she was also abusing her closeness to the King in order to build up her wealth.11 Moreover, contemporaries identified her as the heart of a disruptive and malign court clique. Tompkins has argued that Alice’s powerful and self-serving influence over the King was perceived as “inverting queenship.”12 During the Good Parliament of 1376, Alice was condemned for the use of maintenance, accused of taking thousands of pounds from the Exchequer, and ordered to stay away from the court, under threat of banishment. Thomas Walsingham reported that at this time her accomplice in seducing the King was also arrested, a Dominican friar who was an “evil magician” and had used wax effigies of the King and Alice to enable her to “get whatever she wanted from the King.”13 There is no corroborating evidence for this story of arrest, but the idea that low-status women could only attract the admiration of kings or nobles through witchcraft was a pervasive one, especially apparent in Elizabeth Woodville’s story, featured in this volume, and probably also in that of a later quasi-queen, Eleanor Cobham, discussed below. Joan of Navarre’s experience, also considered in this volume, indicates that royal women who were anomalous in other ways were similarly vulnerable to this association between women of power and witchcraft.

 W.M. Ormrod, Edward III (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 548.  Laura Tompkins, “‘Edward III’s Gold-Digging Mistress’: Alice Perrers, Gender and Financial Power at the English Royal Court,” in Women and Financial Power in Premodern Royal Courts, ed. Cathleen Sarti (Bradford: Arc Humanities Press, 2020), 59–72. 12  Tompkins, “Uncrowned Queen,” 217–230. 13  The St Albans Chronicle, Volume I, 1376–1394: The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham, ed. J.  Taylor, W.R.  Childs, and L.  Watkiss (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), 47–49. 10 11



Just months after the Good Parliament, the King had pardoned Alice, but he died the following year. At some point in the 1370s she had taken a second husband, Sir William Windsor, who spent most of his career in Ireland. In the autumn of 1377, Alice was accused of having persuaded Edward III to countermand an order to investigate charges against Windsor the previous year and to pardon one of her business associates. Alice was sentenced to banishment and forfeiture of all goods and lands. Although this banishment was revoked in 1379, her subsequent attempts to regain her possessions were consistently frustrated. She died in the winter of 1401–1402, bequeathing her “usurped” lands to her two daughters by the King. Their son had predeceased her.14 Unlike the later quasi-queens, Alice’s position came from sharing a king’s bed and was thus closer to that of an actual consort. By contrast, her low social status and ineligibility to produce an heir to the throne made her less like a queen consort than her successors. She was thus better physically positioned to exert influence but ideologically wholly separated from any authority to do so.

Joan, Princess of Wales As Alice’s star fell, so a new quasi-queen emerged: Richard II’s mother, Joan of Kent. Joan’s story interweaves those of several of the consorts in the present volume. As Mark Ormrod notes below, she grew up in Philippa of Hainault’s household. This was because her father, Edmund, Earl of Kent, had been executed for attempting to return his brother, Edward II, to the throne after Queen Isabella’s rebellion. In late 1340 Joan was married, aged twelve, to William Montague, future Earl of Salisbury. Their still-childless union was dissolved in 1349 because Joan claimed that she had secretly made a previous binding contract with a knight in the royal household. That knight was Sir Thomas Holland and their marriage produced five children before Holland’s death in 1360.15 Most historians have been willing to believe their pre-contract story despite the exceptionally young age at which Joan would have had to make that commitment.16

 C. Given-Wilson, “Perrers [other married name Windsor], Alice (d. 1401/2)” ODNB, 15  Penny Lawne, Joan of Kent: The First Princess of Wales (Stroud: Amberley, 2015), 87–89. 16  For the case against believing the pre-contract occurred, see: Joanna Chamberlayne, “Joan of Kent’s Tale: Adultery and Rape in the Age of Chivalry,” Medieval Life 5 (1996): 7–9. 14



When Joan then secretly married Edward III’s heir, Edward of Woodstock, her colourful marital past became a matter of national political significance. On several occasions, both before and after Prince Edward’s untimely death in 1376, there were rumours of papal threats to declare their son, Richard II, illegitimate.17 Nonetheless, after Richard became king in 1377, Joan took up the responsibilities usually required of consorts with exceptional aplomb. When her son was ultimately deposed, gossips seeking to explain his unfitness for kingship ignored her complex marital history and suggested more simply that his father had been a clerk in Bordeaux. This same implausible motif of a lowly father was later employed against Margaret of Anjou’s son who was alleged to have been the child of a wandering player.18 As the King’s mother, Joan appears to have been a markedly more successful and prolific intercessor than recent queens Philippa of Hainault and Isabella and Margaret of France.19 Yet Mark Ormrod has demonstrated that her liminal position and scandalous history (or the stories that engendered) contributed to making her ineligible to act as public mediator during the social crisis of the Peasants’ Revolt.20 Joan appropriately stepped into the political shadows at the time of her son’s marriage to Anne of Bohemia. She nonetheless engineered a reconciliation between the King and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, in the summer of 1385 when the men’s long-held mutual suspicion had erupted into a very public row. Joan died a couple of months later. Richard II was still only eighteen. Remarkably, rather than choosing to emphasise her royal status with burial beside Edward of Woodstock, she asked to be interred beside Thomas 17  Sidney Armitage-Smith, John of Gaunt (London: Constable, 1964), 135–136; Jean Froissart, Oeuvres de Froissart, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove, 25 vols. (Brussels, 1867–1877), 8:461. 18  Joanna Laynesmith, “Telling Tales of Adulterous Queens in Medieval England: From Olympias of Macedonia to Elizabeth Woodville,” in Every Inch a King: Comparative Studies on Kingship in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, ed. Lynette Mitchell and Charles Melville (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 206–209. 19  Anne Jeavons, “Queenship and Power in the Reign of Richard II: The Authority and Influence of Joan of Kent, Anne of Bohemia, and Isabella of Valois” (MA thesis, University of Reading, 2015), 23–25. See also: Louise Tingle, Chaucer’s Queens: Royal Women, Intercession and Patronage in England, 1328–1394 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), particularly Chapter 3 “Agency and Intercession,” 33–53. 20  W.M.  Ormrod, “In Bed with Joan of Kent: The King’s Mother and the Peasants’ Revolt,” in Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain, ed. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), 277–292.



Holland at “my chapel at Stamford,” a Franciscan house close to her own inherited lands.21 As Joanna Laynesmith’s chapter on Elizabeth Woodville here suggests, Joan’s clandestine marriage to Edward of Woodstock may well have encouraged Edward IV to adopt the same strategy to pre-empt opposition to his controversial choice of bride. Moreover, after centuries of arranged marriages with foreign princesses, the Black Prince’s love-match with an Englishwoman offered a new template for consorts that perhaps allowed Edward IV to visualise his own marriage as part of a romantic tradition practiced by chivalrous royal heroes.

Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester The next quasi-queen also emerged as a result of a royal minority. For the first fifteen years of Henry VI’s reign, the premiere lady in the land was the king’s mother, Queen Katherine. However both Katherine and the elder queen dowager, Joan of Navarre, died in 1437, opening the way for a new First Lady at court. The heir presumptive (since September 1435) was Henry V’s only surviving brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, whose marital history was almost as tangled as Joan of Kent’s. In January 1428, his marriage to Jacqueline of Hainault had been pronounced invalid on the grounds that she was still married to the Duke of Brabant. Gloucester almost immediately then married his mistress who was one of Jacqueline’s attendants—Eleanor Cobham (b. c.1400)—the daughter of a Surrey knight.22 Gloucester’s readiness to give up his marriage with Jacqueline provoked considerable public upset and even a poem that accused “fals Circes” and “cirenes” of using “incantacyouns” to destroy his love for Jacqueline.23 Yet his marriage to Eleanor appears to have been a success, aside from their lack of children. Their principal home at Greenwich became a “miniature court” supporting musicians, poets, and scholars, cultivating a reputation for an interest in learning and humanism.24 Some of their surviving manuscripts  N.H. Nicolas, Testamenta Vetusta, 2 vols. (London, 1826), 1:13–14.  K.H.  Vickers, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (London: Archibald Constable, 1907), 193, 205. 23  Henry Noble MacCracken, ed., The Minor Poems of John Lydgate (London: Early English Text Society, 1934), 610–611. 24  G.L. Harriss, “Eleanor [née Eleanor Cobham], duchess of Gloucester (c. 1400–1452),” ODNB, 21 22



suggest that Eleanor accompanied Humphrey in his admiration for books: two of them bear the motto “Loyal and fair A Gloucester.”25 (The A stood for Alianore, which is how her name was written in her lifetime). Shortly after Humphrey became heir to the throne, he created a jointure for Eleanor in his whole estate and the following year she received robes of the Order of the Garter.26 Shakespeare’s vision of Eleanor as a rival to Margaret of Anjou, however, was entirely anachronistic, because the Duchess had fallen from grace four years before Margaret set foot on English soil. In the summer of 1441 Eleanor’s clerk, Roger Bolingbroke, was accused of conspiring the King’s death through necromancy. He was arrested along with two other men on similar allegations. Eleanor herself was soon implicated. She was brought to trial at Westminster, accused of having encouraged the men both to find out when Humphrey might be king and to spread panic by sharing news of the King’s imminent death.27 She was also alleged to have employed one Margery Jourdemayne, known as the Witch of Eye, to enchant Humphrey into marrying her.28 This was a very different case from the vague allegations employed by Henry V against his step-mother that Elena Woodacre discusses in her chapter on Joan of Navarre. As Ralph Griffiths has noted, there is no contemporary evidence that the accusations against Eleanor were perceived as politically motivated.29 Interestingly, Eleanor and Joan were linked by more than just the charge of witchcraft—Joan was very close to Humphrey of Gloucester and Eleanor, generously gifting the Duchess the contents of her chapel in January 1428.30 However, the familial association between the two women was likely not a factor in Eleanor also being charged with necromancy. Eleanor’s crimes may have been exaggerated once opponents scented 25  “Loyale et belle A gloucestre.” BL Sloane MS 248, fols. 3r, 230r, 231v; Oxford, Bodleian Library, Hatton MS 36, fol. 120r; David Rundle, “The Good Duke Humfrey: Bounder, Cad and Bibliophile,” The Bodleian Library Record 27 (2014): 39; Alessandra Petrina, Cultural Politics in Fifteenth Century England: The Case of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 184–185. 26  Harriss, “Eleanor [née Eleanor Cobham].” 27  Ralph A.  Griffiths, King and Country: England and Wales in the Fifteenth Century (London: Hambledon, 1991), 233–252. 28  William Marx, ed., An English Chronicle, 1377–1461: A New Edition (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2003), 63. 29  Griffiths, King and Country, 237. 30  Household Accounts of Joan of Navarre (1427–1428), Society of Antiquaries SAL/ MS/216, fols. 56–59.



blood, but there can be no doubt that she had behaved recklessly. She denied most of the charges but admitted employing Margery to help her conceive a child. The pressure she must have felt, as the childless wife of the heir to the throne, is easy to imagine. As Margaret of Anjou struggled under that same pressure a decade later she was presumably aware of her “predecessor’s” calamitous response. All the accused were found guilty. Eleanor’s life was spared but her marriage was annulled, and she was required to perform a humiliating penance carrying tapers through the streets of London barefoot on three separate market days in mid-­ November.31 She was imprisoned for the rest of her life and died at Beaumaris Castle in 1452.32 Gloucester’s inability to protect his consort from her fate was shocking. The detail with which her case was recorded in contemporary chronicles is testament to its impact on the political community. It was perhaps only a year after her fall that “The Lament of the Duchess of Gloucester” was composed, portraying her, “browght up of nowght” by the Duke, “Amonge alle women magnyfyed,” and then destroyed by her own pride and the turn of fortune’s wheel: each verse ends with the refrain “Alle women may be ware by me.”33 Kavita Mudan Finn has drawn attention to the popularity of Eleanor’s story as de casibus tragedy over the following centuries.34 She suggests that the literary fascination with Eleanor reflects a “fixation on the dangers of disorderly women infiltrating the highest echelons of society.”35 These concerns about status were likely at play again when Eleanor’s sister-in-law, Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, was accused of witchcraft in 1469 in an attempt to destroy Jacquetta’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth Woodville. The motif reappeared in Richard III’s title to the throne in 1484 when Elizabeth herself was accused, like Eleanor, of bewitching a prince to marry her. The motive on these later occasions was blatantly political. Perhaps that fact led to later traditions in Eleanor’s story that imagined her the victim of conspiracy, too. Conversely, the more negative motif of Eleanor’s disastrous pride may well have helped

31  F.W.D. de Brie, ed., The Brut, or The Chronicles of England (London: Early English Text Society, 1906), 480–481. 32  Harris, “Eleanor [née Eleanor Cobham].” 33  T. Wright, ed., Political Poems and Songs (London, 1859), 205–208. 34  Kavita Mudan Finn, “Tragedy, Transgression and Women’s Voices: The Cases of Eleanor Cobham and Margaret of Anjou,” Viator 47 (2016): 277–303. 35  Finn, “Tragedy, Transgression and Women’s Voices,” 287.



shape Elizabeth Woodville’s later reputation, as well as that of the next of the Wars of the Roses’ quasi-queens.

Cecily, Duchess of York In 1447 Eleanor’s husband died, probably of a stroke, when he was arrested for treason. It was no longer entirely clear who was heir presumptive. Most seem to have favoured Richard, Duke of York, although the Beaufort and Holland heirs disagreed. Richard’s wife, Cecily (b. 1415), was herself half Beaufort—her mother, Joan Beaufort, had married Ralph, Baron Neville of Raby, who was given an earldom by Richard II when he married Joan but was among the first to support Henry IV’s usurpation in 1399. He was richly rewarded in subsequent decades with wealthy wards for his children to marry. Cecily was the youngest of Ralph’s daughters and was only nine when he arranged her union with Richard, Duke of York, the orphaned son of a traitor with a potentially stronger claim to the throne than the King himself. Throughout their marriage, Cecily appears to have been an exemplary wife. She bore twelve children, accompanied her husband on his travels, conducted estate business on his behalf, and attempted on more than one occasion to persuade the Queen to intercede for York with the King.36 There is no evidence that she harboured any ambition for the crown or that she pushed York into his opposition to the King’s favourites. Yet in the eighteenth century the idea emerged that Cecily, much like Eleanor Cobham, had chosen her husband “in hopes of being queen,” that her ambitions had driven him to the tragedies that followed, and that she was known as “Proud Cis.”37 This mythology shaped nineteenth-century histories and is still the predominant depiction of Cecily in historical fiction. Around the time that Richard, Duke of York, was declared Henry VI’s heir, John Hardyng dedicated a revised version of his Chronicle to Cecily, explaining that she was “Tyme commyng like to have the soverayntie,” and so needed to know England’s history.38 However, York’s death in December 1460 deprived her of any chance at real queenship. It was at this point that Cecily emerged as a passionate mother and quasi-queen,  J.L. Laynesmith, Cecily Duchess of York (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 16–67.  J. Nichols, The History and Antiquities of the Town, College and Castle of Fotheringhay in the County of Northampton (London, 1787), 13n; Laynesmith, Cecily, 3–4. 38  John Hardyng, Chronicle, ed. H. Ellis (London, 1812), 23. 36 37



committed to the cause of her eldest son, Edward. Her home at Baynard’s Castle became the Yorkist headquarters in London and was almost a court; there, men gathered to learn the news of the day and Cecily spent £1720 in gifts and hospitality on her son’s behalf.39 After Edward IV’s victory at Towton, Nicholas O’Flanagan, Bishop of Elphin, advised the disgraced papal legate, Francesco Coppini, to write to Cecily who “can rule the king as she pleases.”40 Edward IV provided her with lands and grants worth 5000 marks annually (more than two-thirds of the value of the dower he would later grant to his queen). Over the next three years, Cecily was frequently in the King’s company at Westminster but, just like Joan of Kent, she stepped back from her role at the King’s side as soon as Edward married. For the following thirty years, Cecily remained a significant political figure and, like Joan of Kent and Margaret of Anjou, repeatedly found her virtue slandered by her son’s opponents. Through the dramatic regime changes of 1469–1471, 1483, and 1485, she proved an impressive political survivor, engineering peace between her warring sons, protecting her affinity, inspiring exceptional loyalty, and ostentatious in her piety. In 1478, a herald recorded her status as “Queene of right.”41 As the Tudor age dawned, and Cecily re-invented herself with a new title as “the queen’s grandmother,” Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and mother of Henry VII, may have consciously modelled her own quasi-­ queenship on Cecily’s pattern.42 Yet while Margaret too claimed Plantagenet blood, her story belongs with the women in the next volume of the series—her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth of York, and the consorts of the Tudor dynasty that her son founded. Cecily died in 1495, the last surviving wife of a legally recognised Plantagenet heir to the throne, making her an ideal woman to complete our consideration of the later Plantagenet consorts. The experiences of Alice, Joan, Eleanor, and Cecily all point to the fluidity and fragility of their status. Queens consort did not operate in a vacuum, isolated from the ideologies and vulnerabilities associated with  Laynesmith, Cecily, 76–85.  Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts Existing in the Archives of Milan: Volume 1, 1385–1618, ed. A.B. Hinds (London: HMSO, 1912), 67. 41  Laynesmith, Cecily, 131. 42  Laynesmith, Cecily, 119–178; Michael K.  Jones and Malcolm G.  Underwood, The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 70. 39 40



other women of power. Edward III’s extraordinary mistress and those women whose husbands never quite made it to the throne provide essential context for examining queens consort in an age of so many depositions. The parallels and common themes in their experiences are striking, yet so too are the very different ways in which each of the consorts in the following chapters negotiated the situations of dynastic dispute. While these important conflicts form a useful construct to tie the consorts in this volume together, it is vital to acknowledge that a focus on warfare and political turbulence, even if central to the dynamics of this period, could appear to be reducing these women to bit players in a larger androcentric story. What these chapters show instead is that these women were central figures who played active and important roles in the political events of their time. These consorts’ biographies and Katia Wright’s chapter on the important role the queens played in administering vast landholdings provide further evidence that the later medieval period was a time of dynamic agency in queenship, not a moment when royal women were forced to play a reduced and largely maternal role as earlier scholarship had suggested.43 The dynastic dispute and political conflict of this period may have marked their tenures and impacted the course of their lives but it did not completely define their exercise of the queen’s office or their personal relationships with those around them. The individual studies of these women demonstrate their agency and personality as well as the impact that these women left on the cultural development of the court, their familial and political networks, and the practice of queenship itself. They were political players and significant patrons, but they were also people—women who were wives, mothers, sisters, daughters. This series has aimed, as far as we are able in terms of the evidence that survives, to draw out these women’s voices, to draw out what made their tenure in the role distinctive, and to better understand these individual consorts as well as the role that they inhabited.

 This argument of a law of diminishing returns for queenly power over the course of the Middle Ages can be traced back in part to the famous article of Marion Facinger, one of the earliest works in the academic field of queenship: Marion F. Facinger, “A Study of Medieval Queenship: Capetian France, 987–1237,” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 5 (1968): 3–48. However, these arguments have been refuted by more recent scholarship— see, for example, Miriam Shadis, “Blanche of Castile and Facinger’s ‘Medieval Queenship’: Reassessing the Argument,” in Capetian Women, ed. Kathleen Nolan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 137–161; and the articles in a special issue “Beyond Women and Power: Looking Backward and Moving Forward,” Medieval Feminist Forum 51.2 (2015). 43


The Consorts of the Hundred Years’ War


The Consorts of the Hundred Years’ War Elena Woodacre

The Hundred Years’ War looms large over the Plantagenet consorts in the first half of our volume, as the general introduction discussed at length. As we have already noted the ways in which that particular conflict serves as a binding thread that connects the consorts in this group, this introduction will examine the queens of this period in a different way, noting new connections between them that reveal more about their individual situations and what their tenures can tell us about the practice of queenship in the later Middle Ages. Our section, and indeed the volume itself, begins with Isabella of France who represents both a typical and utterly atypical example of medieval queenship, as Michael Evans demonstrates in his chapter. Her tenure began in an entirely usual fashion, as a bride whose marriage was intended to calm tensions and reinforce bonds between England and France that had been constructed by the marriage of her aunt, Margaret of France (see Paul Dryburgh’s chapter on her in Norman to Early Plantagenet Consorts) to Edward I. While Isabella’s marriage to Edward II would appear to have begun relatively well with the regular births of heirs and projected what

E. Woodacre (*) University of Winchester, Winchester, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




Lisa Benz termed “the image of a functional relationship,” in the late 1320s a dramatic shift occurred.1 Edward and Isabella’s personal and political partnership was impacted by the rise of his favourites—Evans notes that the pre-eminence of the Despensers at court saw a marked decline in Isabella’s influence. This dynamic, along with the seizure of her English estates, may have encouraged Isabella to turn “Rebel Queen,” using a diplomatic trip to the continent as a means to rally support to return to England and dethrone her husband to place her son on the throne, which she did successfully in 1327. This manoeuvre was completely atypical of the role of a queen consort, who was supposed to be her husband’s companion and helpmeet, supporting his reign, rather than overthrowing him. Isabella then proceeded to do something even more unusual for an English consort—she effectively became her son’s regent, ruling in his name as he was not yet of age at the time of his accession. While this was fairly typical of French consorts, who provided a model of regency that Isabella would have been aware of, it was atypical of their English counterparts, who did not have a tradition of female regency and had instead a more ad hoc scenario for minority rule that tended to rely more on guardians, protectors, and councils rather than rule by the king’s mother on his behalf.2 Once Edward III put an end to Isabella’s rule with Roger Mortimer in 1330, she “retired”—returning to the more typical situation of a dowager queen, which we will discuss further shortly. Isabella’s successor and daughter-in-law, Philippa of Hainault, proved to be an exemplary consort, exercising the office in a far more typical fashion than her controversial predecessor. As W. Mark Ormrod notes in his survey of Philippa’s tenure in this section, she “is widely acknowledged as one of the great success stories of medieval queenship,” fully meeting the expectations of queenship to be a model wife, mother, and woman in 1  Lisa Benz St John, “In the Best Interest of the Queen: Isabella of France, Edward II and the Image of a Functional Relationship,” in Fourteenth Century England VIII, ed. J.S. Hamilton (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2014), 21–42. 2  For an overview of the French situation that Isabella would have been familiar with, see: Andre Poulet, “Capetian Women and the Regency: The Genesis of a Vocation,” in Medieval Queenship ed. John Carmi Parsons (Stroud: Sutton, 1993), 93–116. For a wider view of royal minorities in England, see: Charles Beem, ed., The Royal Minorities of Medieval and Early Modern England (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). For a European survey, see: Emily Joan Ward, “Child Kings and Guardianship in North-Western Europe, c.1050– c.1250,” in The Routledge History of Monarchy, ed. Elena Woodacre, Lucinda H.S. Dean, Chris Jones, Russell E. Martin, and Zita Eva Rohr (London: Routledge, 2019), 551–565.



the context of medieval gender ideals. Philippa was immortalised by Froissart for her intercession on behalf of the burghers of Calais—while this fictionalised account was dramatised for effect, it does reflect both the importance of intercession in medieval queenship and Philippa’s facility with this key mechanism of co-rule.3 Philippa also fulfilled expectations of medieval queens by being an effective patron and of course through her ample fertility. While her production of heirs clearly supported her husband’s reign and ensured dynastic continuity, Ormrod notes another dimension in the use of the ritual of churching after her many pregnancies for “displays of splendour,” which helped the royal couple project majesty and was used as a key element of Edward III’s image crafting. After Philippa’s death in 1369, there was an extended period without a consort. This period was partially filled by two “quasi-queens,” as discussed in the introduction to this volume. One of these was Edward’s mistress Alice Perrers, who offered perhaps a counterpoint to Philippa’s “good queen” by being perceived as an avaricious mistress.4 Joan of Kent, the wife of the Black Prince, never had the chance to become a queen consort due to his untimely death in 1376 only a year before his father’s, also filled the interreginal void between Philippa’s death and the marriage of Joan’s son Richard II to Anne of Bohemia in 1382.5 In many ways, Anne of Bohemia was cast in the mould of Philippa of Hainault as a more typical consort who filled the brief of the “good queen” as an able intercessor and patron. Yet, a key difference between Anne and her predecessor Philippa was fertility—while Philippa’s tenure was marked by a substantial number of pregnancies, Anne struggled to conceive and bear an heir. Kristen Geaman’s chapter on Anne confronts this central issue of her tenure directly, arguing that her childlessness did not prevent her from exercising the office effectively, nor did it impact her popularity negatively

3  Anthony Musson, “Queenship, Lordship and Petitioning in Late Medieval England,” in Medieval Petitions: Grace and Grievance, ed. W. Mark Ormrod, Gwilym Dodd, and Anthony Musson (Woodbridge: York Medieval Press, 2009), 156–172, esp. 160. 4  Laura Tompkins, “Edward III’s Gold Digging Mistress: Alice Perrers, Gender and Financial Power at the English Royal Court, 1360–1377,” in Women and Economic Power in Premodern Royal Courts, ed. Cathleen Sarti (Bradford: Arc Humanities Press, 2020), 59–72. 5  For more on Joan of Kent, see: Anthony Goodman, Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent and her World (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017).



during her life or her memory in the long term as a consort beloved by her husband and their subjects.6 Richard II’s second marriage, to the young Isabella of Valois, did not produce issue—however, this was due to the fact that Isabella was a child herself when they wed and only ten years old when he was dethroned in 1399. In spite of her brief tenure and tender age, Louise Tingle demonstrates in her chapter on Isabella that the young queen did take up some of the mantle of her predecessor in terms of intercession, fulfilling some of the key aspects of queenship even if she was too young to provide an heir for Richard. Like Philippa of Hainault, Isabella was a focal point for queenly ritual and projecting majesty through splendour, as Tingle demonstrates in her discussion of the rich material culture that formed part of her trousseau and the gifts her husband lavished on her. Isabella was widowed as well as wed young—her situation and that of her two successors, Joan of Navarre and Isabella’s own sister Katherine of Valois, demonstrate the difficulties of being a dowager after their tenure as consort had finished. The issue with Isabella was the extensive and delicate negotiations between the new Lancastrian regime of Henry IV, who had dethroned her husband Richard II in 1399, with her Valois relatives regarding her future. The French were keen to secure the return of the young queen to redeploy in another marriage for their political benefit, instead of allowing Henry to make use of Isabella to shore up his own tenuous position as a newly minted king, who many viewed as an illegitimate usurper. Her Valois kin were even keener to secure the return of Isabella’s substantial dowry and the valuable jewels in her trousseau. Isabella remained an awkward guest at best or a diplomatic hostage, albeit one treated with respect due to her lineage and station, until the young dowager was allowed to depart in July 1401—the Valois regained her as a potential political pawn but not most of the material outlay that had gone into her English marriage. Her successor and cousin Joan of Navarre provided a more complex scenario in terms of the difficulties presented by dowager queens. Joan was already a dowager when she became Queen of England, as she was the 6  See also Geaman’s wider consideration of childless queens with Theresa Earenfight: Kristen L. Geaman and Theresa Earenfight, “Neither Heir nor Spare: Childless Queens and the Practice of Monarchy in Pre-modern Europe,” in The Routledge History of Monarchy, ed. Elena Woodacre, Lucinda H.S.  Dean, Chris Jones, Russell Martin and Zita Eva Rohr (London: Routledge, 2019), 518–533.



dowager duchess of Brittany—having been married to Duke Jean IV from 1386 to 1399. Joan and Henry embarked on secret negotiations to marry during her first widowhood—Henry was also a widower after his first marriage to Mary de Bohun ended in 1394, well before his campaign to take the throne from his cousin Richard II. While Henry and Joan appear to have had a strong personal partnership during their ten-year marriage, Joan became a dowager for the second time in 1413 on his death and remained in that state for another twenty-four years until she herself died in 1437. Elena Woodacre’s chapter on Joan demonstrates the challenges she faced as the stepmother and step-grandmother of Henry V and Henry VI, respectively, and her vulnerability due to her lack of blood tie to the Lancastrian line. This vulnerability was exacerbated by her connection to her own blood relatives—her Breton children were sometimes allies and sometimes enemies of her stepfamily and Joan’s close relation to the Valois made her even more suspect, leading to an extended period of house arrest on a nebulous charge of witchcraft. While Joan was eventually released, her reputation has forever been tarnished by the distinctive nature of being the only English queen ever accused of such a crime and she spent the rest of her long life fighting to regain her reputation, rights, and, importantly, revenues.7 Joan’s successor, Katherine of Valois, had an even shorter marriage and tenure as consort and proved to be another difficult dowager for very different reasons than her two predecessors as Katherine J. Lewis’s chapter aptly demonstrates. Like her sister Isabella, Katherine’s marriage was made to secure peace between England and France, but in entirely different circumstances after Henry V’s successful invasion and victories on French soil. Unlike Isabella, Katherine was of childbearing age when she wed Henry in 1420 and produced the desired son who was seen as the heir to both the English and French thrones. Yet when Henry died in 1422, Katherine was left a young widow and another awkward dowager—there was no clear role for her as she was not regent for her infant son, nor part of the council ruling on his behalf. There was the added difficulty of the presence of another dowager in the realm, the newly released Joan, who had recently had her substantial portfolio of territory restored to her. As 7  While Joan was the only English queen to be detained in potential connection to witchcraft, other contemporary royal women in this period were accused or associated with occult practices. See: Gemma Hollman, Royal Witches: From Joan of Navarre to Elizabeth Woodville (Cheltenham: The History Press, 2019).



Joan was holding most of the traditional queen’s lands as the senior of the two dowagers, new holdings had to be found to provide financial support for Katherine. Katherine’s situation as dowager was further complicated by her age, as she was still nubile and had great potential value as a marriageable asset, although there was no question of her being returned to France to make another marriage for Valois benefit as her sister Isabella had done. There was a concern that she might re-marry and create a new, potentially troublesome quasi-royal family as in the situation of King John’s widow Isabella of Angoulême (see Sally Spong’s chapter on Isabella in Norman to Early Plantagenet Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty). The issue of Katherine’s potential re-marriage became a political issue at court, leading to a statute in 1427–1428 that forbade the re-marriage of a dowager queen unless explicitly sanctioned by the king, which may have been intended to block a possible match with Edmund Beaufort. Katherine, however, did secretly marry Owen Tudor, creating a family that eventually came to the throne in the person of Henry VII in 1485. However, what Lewis’s chapter focuses on is the impact that her secret marriage has had on her reputation, casting her as a woman who was “oversexed” and unable to resist the temptations of lust, giving in or even seeking a relationship, even if forbidden due to her dowager status. Hence, both Joan and Katherine offer examples of the reputational damage that both women suffered due to unfair allegations that they used witchcraft to undermine the realm or were controlled by unseemly lust. These slanderous accusations and the situation of Isabella, Joan, and Katherine demonstrate the difficulties posed by dowagers at different points in their lifecycle in terms of how to re-adjust their role at court after their tenure as consort had finished and their vulnerability once they no longer exercised the queen’s office. Thus far, this discussion has highlighted how these queens both transgressed and fulfilled expectations of medieval queens as beloved wives, mothers, and/or intercessors and has also drawn attention to the difficulties for women as dowagers after their tenure as consort was complete. Yet another key aspect of the practice of queenship—which spans across the position of queens as consorts and dowagers—is their role as the administrators of substantial portfolios of lands, rights, and revenues, as Katia Wright’s thematic chapter in this section demonstrates. This understudied aspect of queenship is only recently receiving greater scholarly attention, increasing our understanding of medieval queens as powerful “lords” and



vital economic agents.8 Wright’s chapter in this section complements the individual studies of the Plantagenet consorts by providing a comparative study which gives a wider context of queenly landholding and draws focus to key issues faced by consorts and dowagers in the management of their lands, such as the challenge of collecting the full revenues that they were due. This study also demonstrates the important role that these revenues played in the practice of queenship in terms of giving queens the financial wherewithal to support their households and engage in patronage, which in turn reinforced their position and standing. Taken together, the chapters in this section—both biographical and thematic—deepen our understanding of these individual women as well as the challenges they faced as consorts and the ways in which they were shaped by the traditions of their predecessors and continued to shape the queen’s office itself. Through the examples of the consorts in this section that demonstrate both typical and atypical practices of queenship and women who were identified as “good queens” or vilified as “She-Wolves,” the ideals and expectations of medieval consorts become clearer. We have also seen the challenges of shifting status from consort to dowager and the vulnerability of royal women to attacks on their position, finances, and reputation as a recurring theme which our volume introduction has also noted. Yet, in spite of the political turbulence of the period created by the Hundred Years’ War and the individual challenges they faced, from the dominance of their husband’s favourites to accusations of witchcraft, the chapters in this section clearly demonstrate that consorts of this period were a resilient and resourceful group of royal women.

8  See Katia Wright’s work with Michele Seah on this topic: Michele Seah and Katia Wright, “The Medieval English Queen as Landholder: Some Reflections on Sources and Methodology,” in Women and Economic Power in Premodern Royal Courts, ed. Cathleen Sarti (Bradford: Arc Humanities Press, 2020), 9–34. For wider considerations, see: Attila Barany, “Medieval Queens and Queenship: the Present Status of Research in Income and Power,” Annual of Medieval Studies at the CEU 19 (2013): 149–199; and Amalie Fößel, “The Queen’s Wealth in the Middle Ages,” Majestas 13 (2005): 23–45.


Isabella of France: She-Wolf and Rebel Queen? Michael Evans

She-Wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs, That tear’st the bowels of thy mangled mate, From thee be born, who o’er thy country hangs The scourge of Heav’n.1

In his 1757 poem The Bard, Thomas Gray gave Isabella of France a label that has stuck until the present day. Isabella’s “she-wolf” reputation rests on her rebelling against and overthrowing her husband, Edward II; taking a lover, Roger Mortimer, who was her ally in rebellion and partner in government; and generally exercising authority beyond that considered appropriate for a woman. 1  Thomas Gray, “The Bard: A Pindaric Ode,” The Poetry Foundation,

M. Evans (*) Delta College, University Center, MI, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




The reign of Isabella’s husband, Edward II (1307–1327), included war with both Scotland and France, and a major famine, but was dominated by the ascendancy of Edward’s male favourites (and possible lovers) and resistance to them by baronial opponents. The Gascon knight Piers Gaveston was the King’s first favourite, enjoying ascendancy between 1308 and 1312, while the last years of Edward’s reign from 1319 to 1326 saw the domination of Hugh Despenser the Younger and his father. Baronial opposition coalesced in 1310 around the Ordainers, a group of lords named after the Ordinances (a set of regulations limiting royal power), leading to a conflict that ended with the killing of Gaveston in 1312. A second baronial uprising took place in 1321–1322, led by Edward’s cousin Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, until the latter was defeated and killed at the Battle of Boroughbridge. Isabella remained loyal to Edward throughout these events, but finally broke with him in 1325. Sent to France on a diplomatic mission to negotiate with her brother, Charles IV, Isabella met the exiled baron Roger Mortimer, who became her ally and supposed lover. Joined by her son Edward (later Edward III), she and Mortimer invaded England in 1326 with the aid of William I, Count of Hainault. They overthrew Edward II, who was deposed and probably murdered the following year. From 1327 to 1330, Isabella and Mortimer acted as de facto rulers of England on behalf of the young Edward III, until the latter in turn overthrew them and established his personal rule. Isabella subsequently enjoyed a largely uneventful period as dowager queen until her death in 1358. Given their role in shaping her place in historical memory, the events in Isabella’s life between 1325 and 1330 have tended to dominate our view of her, creating a distorted sense of exceptionalism and overshadowing the seventeen years in which she exercised the more conventional aspects of medieval queenship. Nonetheless, Isabella stands out as the only English queen to take part in the successful overthrow of her husband.

Early Life and Marriage to Edward Isabella was born in c.1295,2 the sixth child of Philip IV of France and Jeanne I of Navarre, and the only one of three daughters to live to adulthood. Isabella’s betrothal to the heir to the English throne occurred in the 2  P. Doherty, “The Date of the Birth of Isabella Queen of England, 1308–1358,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 48, no. 118 (1975): 246–248.



context of Philip IV’s conflict with Edward’s father, Edward I. The English crown held the French fiefs of Ponthieu and Gascony, and conflict over the latter led to war in 1294–1303. The betrothal was promoted by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298 as part of peace negotiations between England and France and was agreed in the treaties of Montreuil (1299) and Paris (1303).3 Following the death of Edward I in 1307, Edward II and Isabella were married on 25 January 1308 at Boulogne, with Edward receiving confirmation of his rule over Gascony and Ponthieu in lieu of a dowry, but bringing the English crown no additional lands.4 The royal couple’s coronation at Westminster, on 25 February 1308, led to criticism of Edward’s favourite Piers Gaveston, who had recently returned from an exile imposed on him by Edward I. Gaveston was resented by the nobility, who saw him as an interloper and baulked at his access to Edward and his high-handed behaviour. These issues, rather than Gaveston and Edward’s purported sexuality, seem to have been at the root of this opposition.5 Gaveston “rode among the guests in purple silk embroidered with pearls”6 and “outshone” the English nobility, who felt slighted by such a display.7 He carried the crown in the coronation procession and was seated next to the King at the subsequent banquet.8 Claims that Gaveston was decked in jewels intended for Isabella are, however, based on a misinterpretation of the sources.9 Given Isabella’s later role in the overthrow of Edward, it is tempting in hindsight to assume she was a focus for resistance to Gaveston. Isabella’s uncles were offended by Edward and Gaveston’s behaviour at the

3  E.A.R.  Brown, “The Political Repercussions of Family Ties in the Early Fourteenth Century: The Marriage of Edward II of England and Isabelle of France,” Speculum 63, no. 3 (1988): 574. 4  Brown, “Political Repercussions,” 575–576. 5  J.S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, 1307–1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1988), 110; Lisa Benz St. John, Three Medieval Queens: Queenship and the Crown in Fourteenth-Century England (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 38. 6  Annales Paulini, in William Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, 2 vols (London: HMSO, 1882–1883), 1:27. 7  Geoffrey le Baker, The Chronicle of Geoffrey le Baker, trans. David Preest, ed. Richard Barber (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2012), 4. 8  Annales Paulini, 1:261–262. 9  Kathryn Warner, Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen (Stroud: Amberley, 2016), loc. 748, Kindle ebook.



coronation,10 and Philip IV was in contact with the baronial opposition in 1308.11 However, there is no proof that Isabella (who was only about twelve years old at the time) was politically alienated from Edward by Gaveston or that the latter limited Isabella’s access to her husband.12 A claim that she complained tearfully to her father that she was “destitute of the honour due to her” comes from the much later chronicle of Thomas Walsingham, writing some hundred years after the fact.13 A newsletter from Philip IV naming Queen Margaret (Philip’s sister and Edward I’s widow) among the favourite’s opponents has been misinterpreted as a reference to Isabella.14 Claims that Philip’s hostility to Gaveston was based on his homophobia (in light of his suppression of the Templars amidst accusations that they engaged in sodomy)15 are speculative and unlikely given that Edward was known to be associated with Gaveston before his marriage to Isabella. Philip made concessions to Edward over Gascony in 1313, which may reflect the fall of Gaveston, but could also be explained by the birth of Edward and Isabella’s first son, the future Edward III, which strengthened the Queen’s position and guaranteed the heir to Gascony would have a Capetian parent.16 Edward was born at Windsor on 13 November 1312, followed by John, Earl of Cornwall (born Eltham, 15 August 1316); Eleanor, later Countess of Guelders (Woodstock, 18 June 1318); and Joan, later Queen of Scots (Tower of London, 5 July 1321).17

Edward’s Consort For the majority of her time as consort, Isabella fulfilled the typical roles of medieval queenship. A contemporary song described her conventionally as “generous, prudent, beautiful, and virtuous.”18 This is not to say,  Annales Paulini, 1:262.  Brown, “Political Repercussions,” 587. 12  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 38. 13  Brown, “Political Repercussions,” 583; Thomas Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, ed. H.T. Riley, 2 vols. (London: HMSO, 1863–1864), 1:125. 14  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 39. 15  Anthony Tuck, Crown and Nobility, 1272–1461 (London: Fontana, 1985), 55. 16  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 115. 17  Warner, Isabella of France, 1419, 2118, 2411, 2868. 18  Anne Rudloff Stanton, “The Psalter of Isabelle, Queen of England 1308–1330: Isabelle as the Audience,” Word and Image 18, no. 4 (2002): 25. 10 11



however that she was a passive figure; roles as royal deputy, diplomat, intercessor, and patron were all active functions of monarchy that allowed medieval queens a measure of authority.19 Even before her seizure of power in 1326–1327, Isabella played an active role in politics. She administered the kingdom during Edward’s wars with the Scots in 1319 and with the Marcher lords in 1321, acting (in Lisa Benz’s words) “as a substitute for the king and the chancellor,” and had possession of the Great Seal on both occasions.20 While “Isabella probably was not directing government business,” she was “a significant part of the administrative machinery that fulfilled the King’s orders.”21 Isabella’s close involvement in Edward’s affairs is illustrated by her presence on his campaigns in the north in 1312, 1319, and 1322, although two incidents from these travels have been interpreted as examples of Edward’s neglect. The royal couple were at Tynemouth Priory (Northumberland) in 1312 when Edward learned of the approach of the Ordainers’ army. The St Albans chronicler, John Trokelowe, claimed that Edward and Gaveston departed in haste, leaving a weeping Isabella to her fate.22 However, Trokelowe was the only author to report this and seems to have confused the incident with one during a later campaign against the Scots.23 At his trial in 1326, Hugh Despenser the Younger was accused of having “falsely and treacherously counsel[ed] the king to leave my lady the queen in peril of her person” in 1322.24 However, as Kathryn Warner has observed, no contemporary chronicler “mentioned her supposed predicament in 1322 … [so] it seems likely that [Isabella] exaggerated the danger she was in.”25 Therefore, neither occasion proves Edward’s disregard for his queen. A celebrated incident in Isabella’s queenship before 1325 occurred at Leeds Castle in Kent in 1321. Isabella was denied entry to the castle (held by Margaret, wife of Bartholomew de Badlesmere, an opponent of the

 Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 8–13.  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 135–136. 21  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 136. 22  John de Trokelowe, Johannes de Troklowe et Henrici de Blaneforde Chronica et Annales, ed. T.H. Riley (London: HMSO, 1865), 75–76. 23  Warner, Isabella of France, 1265. 24  Warner, Isabella of France, 3319; G.A. Holmes, “Judgement on the Younger Despenser, 1326,” English Historical Review 70 (1955): 265. 25  Warner, Isabella of France, 3265. 19 20



Despensers), leading to military intervention by Edward.26 Some historians have interpreted Isabella’s role in these events in terms of her personality; the Stricklands attributed the dispute to “some previous personal quarrel,” blaming her “haughty spirit” for dragging Edward into conflict with the anti-Despenser barons.27 More recent scholarship sees Isabella acting in partnership with her husband or even furthering his interests more than her own. In this interpretation, Edward, far from being dragged into a conflict by his queen, used the treatment of Isabella as an opportunity to renew his conflict with the opposition barons.28 However, she may also have been pursuing her own interests, believing that, following the departure of Hugh Despenser the Younger into (temporary) exile in 1321, the barons who had opposed the Despensers were now the greater threat to her position.29 As Katia Wright’s chapter in this volume demonstrates, the possession of dower lands was a key to medieval English queens’ ability to maintain a degree of independence.30 Isabella’s dower of 20,000 livres tournois (£5000) annually was raised equally from Ponthieu and England,31 although in fact she received estates worth only £4500 (comparable to the dower of previous queens)32 and would not receive these in full until the death of Edward I’s dowager queen, her aunt, Margaret of France, in 1318.33 The receipt of her full dower supplemented Isabella’s income, strengthened her position, and may have led to an increased political assertiveness on her part.34 She was only the second English queen to hold her dower lands independently of the king’s estates, allowing for the possibility of some independence from her husband.35  Trokelowe, Chronica, 110–111.  Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, 16 vols. (Philadelphia: George Barrie and Son, 1902–1903) 2:167–168. 28  Sophia Menache, “Isabelle of France, Queen of England–A Reconsideration,” Journal of Medieval History 10, no. 2 (1984): 109. 29  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 58. 30  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 82–83. 31  Brown, “Political Repercussions,” 578–579. 32  Katia Wright, “The Transformation of Lands and the Transformation of Power: Isabella of France and the Fluctuations of her Property,” paper presented at Kings and Queens 9, online, 3 July 2020, 3. 33  Warner, Isabella of France, 2410; Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward II: Volume 2, 1313–1318, ed. H.C. Maxwell Lyte (London, 1893), 527. 34  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 58–59. 35  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 82–83. 26 27



Isabella played a diplomatic role in both English and international politics. She acted as an unofficial ambassador for Edward in France during a visit to that country in 131436 and visited her homeland alongside her husband in 1320 when he performed homage to Philip IV for his French fiefs.37 Edward’s continued trust in Isabella was shown by his decision to send her to France on a diplomatic mission in 1325 to negotiate an end to the War of Saint-Sardos (1324–1325) with her brother Charles IV of France. It was, ironically, her absence from England on this diplomatic business that enabled her to meet Mortimer in exile in France, seek support from her brother, and plan her invasion to overthrow Edward. She continued to act as a diplomat on the continent, albeit now on her own behalf, as she built an alliance for the invasion. She negotiated an agreement with Count William I of Hainault, which included the marriage of her son Edward to William’s daughter Philippa.38 The role of diplomat was just one aspect of the medieval queen’s role as an intercessor, and it is in this context that we should view her role in domestic politics before 1325. Isabella acted as a mediator between the King and the baronial opposition, and in the years leading to the conflict between Edward and Thomas of Lancaster, she was associated with the “middle party” of the Earl of Pembroke.39 John Trokelowe, possibly a contemporary source, described her as a “nurse of peace and concord” between the King and the barons.40 Intercession was a key element of queenly authority in the Middle Ages, allowing the queen to act as intermediary between the king and his subjects.41 Historians have debated whether intercession in the later Middle Ages represented real queenly power or a ritualistic remnant of it.42 Isabella’s acts of intercession became less frequent during the ascendancy  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 33.  Warner, Isabella of France, 2685. 38  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 124–125. 39  Menache, “Isabelle of France,” 109. 40  Trokelowe, Chronica, 110: “nutrix pacis et concordiae.” Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England, Volume 2: c.1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), 5. 41  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 12–13. 42  Paul Strohm, Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of Fourteenth-Century Texts (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 99–105; Kristen L. Geaman, “Beyond Good Queen Anne: Anne of Bohemia, Patronage, and Politics,” in Medieval Elite Women and the Exercise of Power, 1100–1400: Moving beyond the Exceptionalist Debate, ed. Heather J. Tanner, Laura L. Gathagan, and Lois L. Huneycutt (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 67–89. 36 37



of the Despensers, suggesting intercession was a “real” act, not simply a tokenistic ritual, with the reduction of intercessory acts reflecting a lessening of the Queen’s influence.43 Isabella resumed her intercessions when she was the effective ruler between 1327 and 1330, disguising real ­authority under a legal fiction that she was interceding with the King, who was a minor.44 Two incidents illustrate the dynamics of Isabella’s intercessions. In 1316, during the election to the bishopric of Durham, she interceded for her fellow Frenchman Louis de Beaumont over Edward’s favoured candidate.45 In 1321, she successfully begged her husband to send the Despensers into exile and make peace with the rebels led by Thomas of Lancaster.46 The author of the Historiae Dunelmensis, describing the first of these incidents, has her saying to the King: “If you love me you will act so that my kinsman Louis de Beaumont will be bishop of Durham.”47 As Edward favoured his own candidate over Isabella’s, this was clearly no empty, formal act with a forgone conclusion. In her intercession asking for the removal of the Despensers in 1321, Isabella was described in the Annales Paulini as begging “on bended knee.”48 This was not a solo act of intercession by Isabella, but part of an appeal to Edward by the barons and prelates described as “mediators of peace” between the king and Thomas of Lancaster. Benz argues that the Queen’s actions are shown as “aggressive” in the first incident and more “submissive” in the second,49 reflecting the sources, with the author of the Historiae Dunelmensis hostile to Isabella for rejecting the Durham monks’ own choice of candidate, while the Pauline Annalist supported her intervention for peace.50 The differences may also reflect different political aims; Louis de Beaumont was related to Isabella and was associated with her household, as his sister Isabella de Vescy was a lady-in-waiting of the Queen (as was his sister-in-­law,  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 38–43.  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 151–153. 45  Historiae Dunelmensis Scriptores Tres, Gaufridus Coldingham, Robertus de Gratyestanes, et Willelmus de Chambre, ed. James Raine (London, 1839), 98; Warner, Isabella of France, 2140; Benz St. John, Three Medieval Queens, 54. 46  Warner, Isabella of France, 2885; Annales Paulini, 1:297. 47  Historiae Dunelmensis, 98. English translation from Benz St. John, Three Medieval Queens, 54. 48  Annales Paulini, 1:297. 49  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 55. 50  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 55–56. 43 44



Alice, Countess of Buchan). Isabella de Vescy and Louis de Beaumont were both identified in the Ordinances of 1311 among those who the Ordainers demanded leave court.51 Queen Isabella, therefore, seems to have pursued her own agenda in support of Louis de Beaumont, whereas her intercession against the Despensers was part of a larger appeal by the “middle party” of conciliatory barons and prelates. As such, it might have been a more performative act of political theatre than her Durham intercession. Isabella’s intercessions were not limited to baronial politics, however. She interceded for groups of burgesses, as when she requested a group of townsmen of Spalding, Lincolnshire, be quit of various dues in 1308,52 or when in 1345 she obtained a grant of liberties for the city of Coventry.53 She also successfully interceded with the papacy to obtain indulgences and privileges for herself and her household. 54 In 1319, she intervened (unsuccessfully) on behalf of her candidate for the bishopric of Rochester, appealing to the pope, who expressed amazement that she would write to him against her husband’s wishes.55 Isabella also played a role as intercessor in her home country, even after her marriage to Edward. Her intercession in 1311 on behalf of a Parisian merchant, Jean le Feutrier, saw his sentence for attacking Etienne Barbette, a burgher of Paris, commuted from banishment to imprisonment.56 The assault may have been connected to a riot in 1306 against the city’s patricians (including Barbette) that turned into an attack on royal authority, which could explain the interest of Philip IV’s family in the matter.57 51  The Household Book of Queen Isabella of England for the Fifth Regnal Year of Edward II, 8th July 1311 to 7th July 1312, ed. F.D. Brackley and G. Hermanson (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1971), xxiv. 52  Calendar of Charter Rolls, Henry III–Henry VIII [CChR], 6 vols. (London: HMSO, 1902–1927), 3:123–126. 53  CChR, 5:36. 54  Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, 1305–1342, ed. W.H. Bliss (London, 1893) 2:47; cited in Angela Clark, “Queens, Indulgences and Privileges: Isabella of France,” paper presented at Kings and Queens 2: Making Connections, Winchester, 9 July 2013, 5–6. 55  Warner, Isabella of France, 2147–2159. 56  Registres du trésor des chartes: inventaire analytique. Tome I, Règne de Philippe le Bel, ed. Robert Fawtier (Paris: Archives Nationales, 1958), 1295. 57  Boris Bove, “Y a-t-il un patriciat à Paris sous le règne de Philippe le Bel (1285–1314)?,” in Construction, reproduction et représentation des patriciats urbains de l’Antiquité à nos jours, ed. Claude Petitfrère (Tours: Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 1999), 62–63.



Patronage and Piety Piety was a key attribute of medieval queenship,58 and religious patronage enabled medieval queens to demonstrate piety but also to make dynastic statements. The Franciscans in England regarded Isabella as “the principle mother and protector of the order,”59 and her support for them connected her to Capetian traditions of patronage of the order.60 Isabella was a major benefactor of the house of the Grey Friars at Newgate in London, continuing to pay for the reconstruction of the church that had been initiated by her aunt Queen Margaret.61 Her support also gave her a connection to the city itself; the London bourgeoisie were key patrons of Greyfriars and supported Isabella in the revolution of 1326–1327.62 She was also a patron of the Poor Clares, the female order allied to the Franciscans, and the Lanercost chronicler claimed that she took the habit of the order after her fall from power.63 In some instances, Isabella was simply continuing traditional roles of religious patronage associated with queens of England, such as her position as patron of the hospital of St Katharine’s by the Tower in London.64 However, benefactions made in the name of her Franciscan confessors suggest genuine gratitude for their spiritual ministrations. For example, she made two petitions to the pope on behalf of Robert de Lambourne and made donations to Grey Friars church in London for prayers in remembrance of him and another of her confessors.65 Her role as a religious and cultural patron, and a highly literate woman, is revealed in an inventory of 1356, which shows that she owned thirty-six 58  Theresa Earenfight, Queenship in Medieval Europe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 36–37. 59  Michael Robson, “Queen Isabella (c.1295/1358) and the Greyfriars: An Example of Royal Patronage Based on Her Accounts for 1357/1358,” Franciscan Studies 65 (2007): 339: “precipua mater et protectrix ordinis.” 60  Laura Slater, “Defining Queenship at Greyfriars London, c.1300–58,” Gender and History 27, no. 1 (2015): 58–59; Robson, “Queen Isabella and the Greyfriars,” 325–348. 61  Robson, “Queen Isabella and the Greyfriars,” 341. 62  Slater, “Defining Queenship,” 54–55, 63. 63  Robson, “Queen Isabella and the Greyfriars,” 342; The Chronicle of Lanercost, 1272– 1356, ed. and trans. Herbert Maxwell (Glasgow: James Maclehose, 1913), 266. 64  Louise Tingle, “Personal or Perfunctory? Philippa of Hainault’s Legacy through Religious Patronage and St Katharine’s by the Tower,” paper presented at International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 2 July 2018. 65  Robson, “Queen Isabella and the Greyfriars,” 338.



books. One of these has been identified as the “Isabelle Psalter,” a bilingual Latin and French work.66 There is some evidence that Isabella played a role in the education of her children, and the psalter may have served a pedagogical purpose.67 She also took part in acts of pious charity. For instance, she was “moved by pity of heart” to support a Scottish orphan boy named Thomalyne in 1311.68 The author of one of the first serious attempts to re-assess Isabella pointed to this incident to challenge her “she-wolf” image.69 Isabella also demonstrated queenly piety as a pilgrim performing, for example, several pilgrimages to Canterbury,70 and one to “diverse places in the realm” in 1323.71 She continued to go on pilgrimage after her enforced retirement in 1330, including visiting Canterbury twice in the last year of her life.72 However, these pilgrimages may have sometimes acted as cover for political purposes. Her visit to France as a pilgrim in 1314 doubled as an unofficial embassy to her father, Philip IV.73 Likewise, she was travelling to Canterbury as a pilgrim when she clashed with Margaret de Clare at Leeds Castle in 1321.74 During her seizure of power in 1326, her march on Bury St Edmunds was described as being like a pilgrimage (quasi peregrinatio) by the Pauline Annalist.75

Rebel Queen Whereas Gaveston’s ascendancy seems not to have affected Isabella, the rise of the Despensers saw a real diminution of her influence. Chancery records confirm a decline in her access to Edward, as the number of her recorded incidents of intercession in the period 1321–1325 drops (to zero in some years),76 while she is barely mentioned in the Patent Rolls in 1322–1323 when the Despensers were attaining the height of their

 Stanton, “Psalter of Isabelle,” 1–27.  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 113; Stanton, “Psalter of Isabelle,” 7, 10–11, 23. 68  Warner, Isabella of France, 1048–60. 69  Hilda Johnstone, “Isabella, the She-Wolf of France,” History 21 (1936): 212. 70  Warner, Isabella of France, 1099, 1754, 1913, 2922, 3145. 71  Warner, Isabella of France, 3297. 72  Warner, Isabella of France, 5695. 73  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 33. 74  Trokelowe, Chronica, 110. 75  Annales Paulini, 1:314. 76  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 40. 66 67



­power.77 Isabella complained about their influence once she was in France in 1325;78 responding to Edward’s demands that she return to England, she wrote: someone has come between my husband and myself and is trying to break this bond; I declare that I will not return until this intruder is removed, but, discarding my marriage garment, shall put on the robes of widowhood and mourning until I am avenged of this Pharisee.79

While Isabella was clearly alienated by the rise of the Despensers, the proximate cause of her breach with Edward is obscure. One possible explanation is Edward’s seizure of Isabella’s English estates on the outbreak of the War of Saint-Sardos in 1324.80 She was given an income of 2920 marks per year in compensation, less than half the value of her seized dower lands.81 However, Edward’s decision to send her to France to negotiate peace strongly suggests that he had no suspicion of a serious breach. Furthermore, Edward trusted her enough to send his eldest son, Edward, to join her in France to perform homage to Charles IV for Gascony and Ponthieu. It is unclear whether Isabella had decided to plot the overthrow of Edward before her departure for France; Geoffrey le Baker, a hostile (and later) source, claimed as much,82 but other chroniclers were more reticent about Isabella’s motivations.83 Kathryn Warner finds it “extremely implausible” that a conspiracy was under way before the Queen left England.84 While in France, Isabella met Roger Mortimer, a leading member of the baronial opposition who had escaped captivity from the Tower of London. The exact reasons why Isabella formed an alliance with Mortimer at this point are unclear. Nor is the nature of their relationship entirely certain; the idea that they were lovers has been taken for granted but is not  Warner, Isabella of France, 3136.  Le Baker, Chronicle, 17. 79  Vita Edwardi Secundi Monachi Cuiusdem Malemsburiensis, ed. and trans. N. DenholmYoung (London: Thomas Nelson, 1957), 242–243. 80  Warner, Isabella of France, 3529. 81  Menache, “Isabelle of France,” 110. 82  Le Baker, Chronicle, 17. 83  Vita Edwardi Secundi, 240–241; Annales Paulini, 1:308–14; Adam Murimuth, Adae Murimuth Continuatio Chronicarum. Robertus de Avesbury De gestis mirabililbus regis Edwardi Tertii, ed. E.M. Thompson (London: HMSO, 1889), 45–46. 84  Warner, Isabella of France, 3688, 3698. 77 78



unambiguously supported by the sources.85 The extent of Mortimer’s influence over Isabella is also hard to determine. Geoffrey le Baker, the most hostile of all the chroniclers towards Mortimer and Isabella, accused him of being “the most secret and influential person in the queen’s private household” at this time, but he also presented Adam Orleton, the Bishop of Hereford, as “the principle plotter of this great disaster.”86 Once it was clear that Isabella had turned against him, Edward demanded she return to England, which she refused to do while the Despensers remained in place. Her brother, Charles IV, also refused Edward’s demand to send her back.87 Although initially supportive, Charles was not prepared to jeopardise peace with England by supporting an invasion.88 Forced to turn elsewhere, Isabella formed an alliance with William I, Count of Hainault and Holland. Their agreement included the betrothal of Edward, Isabella’s son and the heir to the English throne, to William’s daughter, Philippa. The two were married in 1327, after Isabella’s successful seizure of power. Isabella formed an army in the Low Countries consisting of men provided by William of Hainault, English exiles opposed to the Despensers, and mercenaries.89 Landing at Orwell, Suffolk, in September 1326,90 the invaders rapidly gained support and marched through the east of England towards London, which came out for the rebels amid the violent settling of scores against the Despensers’ supporters.91 Isabella was careful to direct her complaints against the “traitors” surrounding the King rather than against Edward himself,92 a use of the rhetoric against “evil counsellors” that was commonly employed to justify medieval baronial rebellion:93 [T]he state of the Holy Church and the Kingdom of England is in many respects much tarnished and degraded by the bad advice and conspiracy of 85  Le Baker, Chronicle, 20, xix; Murimuth, Continuatio, 44–45; Warner, Isabella of France, 4039–4050. 86  Le Baker, Chronicle, 20, 22. 87  Vita Edwardi Secundi, 242–3. 88  Paul R. Dryburgh, “The Career of Roger Mortimer, First Earl of March (c.1287–1330)” (PhD thesis, University of Bristol, 2002), 99–100; Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 125. 89  Warner, Isabella of France, 4257–4268; Dryburgh, “Roger Mortimer,” 98–99. 90  Warner, Isabella of France, 4269–4276. 91  Annales Paulini, 1:315; Le Baker, Chronicle, 23. 92  Chris Given-Wilson, Edward II: The Terrors of Kingship (London: Penguin, 2016), 94. 93  Joel T. Rosenthal, “The King’s ‘Wicked Advisers’ and Medieval Baronial Rebellions,” Political Science Quarterly 82, no. 4 (1967): 595–618.



Hugh le Despenser … and through the bad advice of Robert de Baldock [Edward’s chancellor] and others of his supporters.94

Edward and the Despensers were forced to flee the capital with Isabella’s forces pursuing them westward. Edward and Hugh Despenser the Younger were captured at Neath in November.95 Hugh Despenser the Elder was beheaded at Bristol, and his son was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Hereford.96 The brutal death of the latter was cited by Geoffrey le Baker as proof of Isabella’s female wickedness: “the virago gave orders for the earl to be put to death in grisly fashion without a trial or the chance to defend himself.”97 Edward was deposed by a parliament that met at Westminster in 1327, with the crown passing to his son, Edward III.98 Held captive at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, Edward II disappeared and was, presumably, murdered. The exact circumstances of his death are uncertain, and rumours of his survival circulated, inspiring a rebellion by his brother, the Earl of Kent, in 1330.99

Isabella and Mortimer’s rule From 1327 to 1330, Edward III ruled largely in name only. The regime of Isabella and Mortimer gained a reputation for corruption and was also blamed for making a “shameful peace” with the Scots in the Treaty of Northampton (1328), recognising Robert Bruce as king of a fully sovereign Scotland.100 The lack of real power given to the young king does not itself prove that the rule of Isabella and her allies was illegitimate or self-­ serving; after all, Edward was only fourteen years old at the time of his accession. Isabella’s role in government fit the Capetian model of a dowager queen acting as regent for her son—a position seen in France in the case of Blanche of Castile and Louis IX, but not in England. However, there was precedent for an English queen exercising authority on behalf of 94  Anne Crawford, Letters of the Queens of England, 1100–1547 (Stroud: Sutton, 1997), 88–89. 95  Warner, Isabella of France, 4442. 96  Warner, Isabella of France, 4384–4395, 4596–4655. 97  Le Baker, Chronicle, 24. 98  Warner, Isabella of France, 4479–4503. 99  Michael Evans, The Death of Kings: Royal Deaths in Medieval England (London: Hambledon and London, 2003), 126–134, 155–157. 100  Murimuth, Continuatio, 56.



her son in the role played by Eleanor of Aquitaine during Richard I’s absence on crusade. The government maintained the legal fiction that Edward III was ruler, making it difficult to ascertain what actions and decisions were those of Isabella and Mortimer.101 They held no official position as regents, with the realm governed by a regency council, of which Mortimer and the Queen may have been members,102 or from which they may have stood apart while exercising de facto power.103 Furthermore, there seems to have been a genuine attempt to gradually grant more responsibility to Edward III, who was acting independently on some matters after 1328.104 However, there is evidence of Isabella exercising effective rulership, including control of the seals of the realm,105 while chancery records from the period often used the formula “with the assent of Queen Isabel.”106 Queenly intercession was used in this period as a cover for the extent of Isabella’s real involvement in government. In the years 1327–1330, the number of her recorded intercessions rose to over ten per year, against fewer than four per year during her tenure as consort.107 Opposition to Isabella and Mortimer’s regime grew from 1328 onwards. Allegations of excessive greed by Mortimer are hard to verify, with the more scathing judgements having been written after his and Isabella’s fall from power in 1330. As Antonia Gransden noted, “the strictly contemporary writers were more pragmatic in their approach, and less theoretical and consistent than the writers of the next generation.”108 One source of resentment was Mortimer’s attaining the unprecedented title of Earl of March (giving him overlordship over the marcher barons) in 1328.109 He constructed a power-base for himself in Wales and the marches that had the potential to challenge royal authority, suggesting he followed his own agenda independently of Isabella or the interests of the

 Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 139, 160.  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 146–149; Dryburgh, “Roger Mortimer,” 109–110; Brut, 254. 103  Dryburgh, “Roger Mortimer,” 112. 104  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 157–159. 105  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 143–145, 153–154. 106  See, for instance, CChR, 4:2, 3, 5, 12. 107  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 153–154, 171–173. 108  Gransden, Historical Writing, 2. 109  Brut, 260. 101 102



Crown.110 Isabella improved her economic position in this period; the dower lands seized by Edward II were not only restored to her, but also extended until she held properties and income worth around £13,222 4s. 4d. (nearly three times the value of her original dower)—“an unprecedented amount for any dowager queen.”111 This made her the richest landholder in the kingdom after the King himself. This could be seen as proof that Isabella used her position to line her pockets, but it could equally be argued that she needed an income commensurate with her position as de facto ruler. The regime of Mortimer and Isabella was also accused of selling out English interests in the Treaty of Northampton with Scotland. However, Isabella was faced with a costly war inherited from her husband and father-­ in-­law, which had been going against England for at least twenty years. Significantly, the English treasury received £20,000 in return for Edward III relinquishing claims to Scotland.112 Isabella’s part in these negotiations was accepted by contemporaries, with the betrothal of her daughter, Joan of the Tower, to Robert Bruce’s son viewed as consistent with the Queen’s traditional role as an arranger of marriages.113 Furthermore, there is no evidence that the Treaty itself was unpopular at the time; rather, its aftermath—the question of compensation for English lords who had lost lands in Scotland—proved to be divisive, with those who lost out being more likely to turn against Isabella and Mortimer.114 The regime began to face opposition after 1328. Complaints were fairly typical of medieval baronial revolt: the exclusion of sections of the nobility from access to power and patronage and anger at “evil counsellors.” The raising of Mortimer to the earldom of March was criticised as contrary to the wishes of the barons and to the detriment of the King,115 while Henry, Earl of Lancaster, complained that the King lacked good counsellors.116 Lancaster, the younger brother of the leader of the barons in 1321–1322, initially supported Isabella and was responsible for the capture of Edward

 Dryburgh, “Roger Mortimer,” 133–137.  Wright, “Transformation of Lands,” 6. 112  E.L.G.  Stones, “The Treaty of Northampton (1328),” History 38, no. 132 (1953): 54–61. 113  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 125. 114  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 155–156. 115  Brut, 260. 116  Warner, Isabella of France, 5180. 110 111



II at Neath. However, he went on to lead an abortive rising in 1328117 and supported Edward III in his seizure of power in 1330. However, Lancaster’s opposition “scarcely deserves the name of rebellion” in the words of one modern historian, and he was soon restored and even entrusted with diplomatic missions.118 Edmund, Earl of Kent, the half-­ brother of Edward II, was convicted and executed in 1330 for conspiring against the King, accused of claiming Edward II was still alive and planning to restore him to the throne.119 Like Lancaster, Kent had supported the revolution of 1326–1327 but grew disillusioned with Isabella and Mortimer’s regime.120 Isabella’s relations with the papacy of John XXII in this period were complex. He asked her to intercede between England and France in 1325, commending her as an “angel of peace.”121 He worked to reconcile Isabella with Edward II in 1325–1326122 but accepted her successful seizure of power as a fait accompli, granting dispensation for the marriage of Edward III to Philippa of Hainault.123 When the young Edward III sought to assert his own power, Pope John worked to effect a reconciliation between him and his mother.124 However, the Pope approved of Edward III’s seizure of personal power in 1330 and was in communication with him beforehand. In this correspondence, Edward used the formula pater sancte to indicate letters that expressed his own will, not that of the government.125 Edward III seized effective power in October 1330, when Mortimer was captured by the King’s partisans at Nottingham Castle.126 A parliament at London condemned Mortimer to death, while Isabella was deprived of her lands and granted a pension, marking the effective end of her political career.127  Warner, Isabella of France, 5130–5182.  Tuck, Crown and Nobility, 101; Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 157. 119  Tuck, Crown and Nobility, 101. 120  Tuck, Crown and Nobility, 99–100. 121  Warner, Isabella of France, 3709–3721. 122  Warner, Isabella of France, 3723, 4146, 4543. 123  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 125. 124  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 56–57. 125  C.G. Crump, “The Arrest of Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabel,” English Historical Review 26, no. 102 (1911): 332. 126  Warner, Isabella of France, 5451–5488. 127  Tuck, Crown and Nobility, 103. 117 118



Isabella’s “Retirement” Isabella was neither a prisoner nor inactive after 1330, even if she was no longer a leading figure in government. Her lands were confiscated for only a year, and she was not kept under close confinement except for a brief period after Edward’s assumption of power.128 She was reasonably well provided for; most of her dower lands in England were restored to her in 1331 and her lands in France in 1334.129 Her income of £3000 per year amounted to two-thirds of her original dower and was increased to £4000 in 1337.130 She was kept at Windsor for two years after her fall but travelled freely after that; the final year of her life saw her household moving around London, Hertfordshire, and Kent.131 Edward probably wished to emphasise stability, dynastic continuity, and filial respect by not acting harshly against his mother. He also claimed the throne of France through his mother’s Capetian blood, another motive for not entirely distancing himself from her. His assertion of this claim in 1337 set in motion the Hundred Years’ War, re-opening the possibility for her to take part in diplomacy. Philip VI of France suggested that Isabella should act as a mediator between him and Edward in 1348, so she clearly had not entered an apolitical retirement.132 Her contact with John II of France during the latter’s captivity in England after 1356 also hints at a continued diplomatic role in Anglo-French relations.133 Isabella played no role in intercession in 1331 or 1332, but her resumption of intercessory activity after this indicates her partial rehabilitation. From 1340 to 1357, she averaged nearly three intercessions per year, compared to 3.57 as consort.134 She continued her support of the Franciscan order, including interceding for the London Greyfriars in a dispute with the monks of Canterbury.135 Isabella died on 22 August 1358, at Hertford Castle. She was buried in the house of the Grey Friars at Newgate in London on 27 November of that year. As her predecessor, Queen Margaret, was also buried there, it is possible that Grey Friars was intended as a necropolis for queens like the  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 4.  Wright, “The Transformation of Lands,” 7. 130  Wright, “The Transformation of Lands,” 7–8. 131  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 128. 132  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 4. 133  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 128–129. 134  Benz, Three Medieval Queens, 173. 135  Robson, “Queen Isabella and the Greyfriars,” 334, 337–339, 343–346. 128 129



Cordeliers in Paris, where her mother was buried.136 She was buried in an alabaster tomb in the middle of the quire, befitting her status as a queen and as a major patron of the house, and in imitation of Capetian queens. The tomb does not survive due to extensive damage to the church following the Dissolution of the Monasteries and in the Great Fire of 1666.137 She was buried in her wedding dress with her husband’s heart, which may appear surprising given her alleged adultery and her role in Edward’s overthrow, but should probably be interpreted as an assertion of her royal status.138 Her son, Edward III, had the anniversary of her death marked by the friars in their prayers.139

Reputation Isabella’s posthumous reputation was shaped into the “she-wolf” image, reflecting the unpopularity of her and Mortimer’s regime and its subsequent poor reputation. The most damning medieval assessment of Isabella comes from the pen of Geoffrey le Baker, who was writing perhaps as late as the 1350s.140 To him, she was an “enraged virago” and a “Jezebel.”141 It is worth noting, however, that this view was not universal even in the fourteenth century; contemporary chronicles such as the Vita Edwardi Secundi were more dispassionate in tone; the chronicle made no mention of her taking Mortimer as a lover and quoted her letter to Edward where she defended herself and called for the removal of the Despensers (Fig. 3.1).142 Post-medieval views of Isabella long remained negative.143 Christopher Marlowe in his Edward II (1594) portrayed her as Mortimer’s lover who shared in Edward’s overthrow and death, “that unnatural queen, false Isabel.”144 William Shakespeare coined the term “she-wolf of France,” but  Slater, “Defining Queenship,” 59.  Slater, “Defining Queenship,” 66–67. 138  Slater, “Defining Queenship,” 66–68. 139  Robson, “Queen Isabella and the Greyfriars,” 347–348. 140  Le Baker, Chronicle, xxiv. 141  Le Baker, Chronicle, 24–29. 142  Vita Edwardi Secundi, 243. 143  For many of these, see: Kit Heyam, The Reputation of Edward II, 1305–1697: A Literary Transformation of History (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020). 144  Christopher Marlowe, Edward II, 5.1.17. Perseus Digital Library, scene%3D1. 136 137



Fig. 3.1  A Fifteenth-Century Image of Queen Isabella and her Army from a manuscript of Jean de Wavrin’s Recueil des croniques et anciennes istoires de la Grant Bretaigne, BL Royal MS 15 E IV fol. 316v. (© British Library Board)

for a different medieval English queen, Margaret of Anjou;145 as we have seen, it was Thomas Grey in The Druid (1757) who applied the label to Isabella. The Victorian age saw Isabella as the archetypal wicked woman, as seen in the moralistic portrait of her in the Strickland sisters’ Lives of the Queens of England (1850–1859). They opined that “no queen of England has left so dark a stain on the annals of female royalty.”146 The twentieth century saw a continuation of the “she-wolf” image in cultural interpretations of Isabella. Bertolt Brecht’s The Life of Edward II of England, based on Marlowe’s play, represented her as “a she-wolf /

 Shakespeare, 3 Henry VI, 1.4.553–554.  Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, 2:148.

145 146



Ranging bare-toothed through the scrub.”147 Maurice Druon’s best-­ selling series of novels Les Rois maudits (The Accursed Kings, 1955–1960) presented Isabella as a malign influence whose actions threatened the inheritance of the Capetian dynasty and portrayed her with sharp, vulpine teeth.148 Derek Jarman’s film Edward II (1991) reimagined Marlowe’s play in the context of the contemporary struggle for LGBTQ+ rights. While not totally unsympathetic to Isabella, Jarman portrayed her as a malevolent female influence in a performance by Tilda Swinton that drew upon modern female authority figures such as Margaret Thatcher and Eva Perón.149 However, the twentieth century also saw a re-assessment of Isabella through scholarly articles by Hilda Johnstone (1936) and Sophia Menache (1984) that challenged the “she-wolf” stereotype and sought to interpret her life more dispassionately.150 This re-assessment has found its way into popular-culture images of Isabella, such as that in Braveheart (1995). The film has been criticised for its anachronisms and gender politics, but it presents Isabella sympathetically, and her historical role as a diplomat finds its way into her portrayal by Sophie Marceau. Despite the understandable attention given to Isabella’s overthrow of her husband and role as de facto ruler thereafter, it would be wrong to consider Isabella entirely an exception as queen. As a consort she fulfilled the traditional roles of royal deputy, intercessor, and patron and appears to have been a loyal supporter of her husband until 1325 through the factional conflicts of his reign. Likewise, she played a conventional role as dowager after 1330. Even her role as a ruler in 1327–1330 fits the Capetian model of a dowager queen’s regency for a minor son (even if this was partly a legal fiction). Only her coup against Edward II was exceptional— the only occasion since the Conquest that a queen had played a leading role in the removal and death of a king.

147  Bertolt Brecht, The Life of Edward II of England, trans. Jean Benedetti, in Collected Plays: One, ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim (London: Methuen, 1994), 221. 148  Maurice Druon, The Iron King, trans. Humphrey Hare (London: Harper, 2013); The Strangled Queen, trans. Humphrey Hare (London: Harper, 2013); The Poisoned Crown, trans. Humphrey Hare (London: Harper, 2014); The Royal Succession, trans. Humphrey Hare (London: Harper, 2014); The She Wolf, trans. Humphrey Hare (London: Harper, 2014); The Lily and the Lion, trans. Humphrey Hare (London: Harper, 2015). 149  Derek Jarman, Edward II (BBC Films/Working Title, 1992). 150  Johnstone, “Isabella, the She-Wolf of France,” 208–218; Menache, “Isabelle of France,” 107–124.


Philippa of Hainault: Dignity, Duty, and Display W. Mark Ormrod

Philippa of Hainault, consort of Edward III, is widely acknowledged as one of the great success stories of medieval queenship. This success has often been attributed to Philippa’s supposed submissiveness to contemporary expectations of her roles as wife and mother. As with all queens, there is a considerable challenge in determining whether Philippa was merely the channel of her husband’s ambitions or (at least in part) the designer of her own queenship. Sufficient evidence exists, however, to provide at least some hints of Philippa’s own agency. This chapter examines Philippa through the lenses of “dignity, duty, and display.” We begin, though, with a synopsis of Philippa’s own life.

W. M. Ormrod (*) University of York, York, UK © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




A Life of Service No one knows quite when Philippa of Hainault was born, but she was probably similar in age to, or likely a little younger than, her husband Edward III, who was born in 1312. Philippa was the daughter of William III (“the Good”), Count of Hainault, head of a principality in what is now northern France and southern Belgium, with its ceremonial capital at Valenciennes. William owed much to his marriage with Jeanne de Valois. She was the granddaughter of Philip III of France and thus niece both of Philip IV and of Margaret, the second wife of Edward I of England. She was also first cousin of the last three Capetian kings of France, Louis X (d. 1316), Philip V (d. 1322), and Charles IV (d. 1328), and of their sister, Isabella, wife of Edward II of England. The court of Hainault was therefore linked very closely to those of both France and England, though it recognised the suzerainty of neither. In fact, Hainault lay within the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire, so Count William recognised the overlordship of the Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig IV: significantly, one of Philippa’s sisters, Margaret, became Ludwig’s second wife. A marriage alliance between the future Edward III of England and one of the daughters of the Count of Hainault was considered as early as 1319, when a diplomatic mission reported back to Edward II on the physical features of the possible bride: a well-proportioned face, with a high forehead, a straight nose, and a wide mouth. This possibly relates to Philippa, though it is more likely that it refers to her older sister Margaret. Another feature of this report was its description of the Count’s daughter as being “brown of skin all over.”1 In modern times this has sometimes been read rather bizarrely as evidence that Philippa of Hainault was black.2 Whatever the case, neither the 1319 mission nor the subsequent discussions in 1320–1321 brought about a dynastic alliance. Instead, the marriage of Prince Edward and Philippa of Hainault was planned as part of Queen Isabella’s plot in 1326–1327 to overthrow her husband and put her eldest son on the throne of England. In 1325, Queen Isabella had been sent to France on a diplomatic mission to resolve the recent Anglo-French hostilities, known as the War of St Sardos (1323–1325). Once the young Prince Edward was transferred 1  David Trotter, “Walter of Stapeldon and the Pre-marital Inspection of Philippa of Hainault,” French Studies Bulletin 49 (1993): 1–4. 2  See, for example, “100 Great Black Britons,” queen_philippa.html, accessed 15 February 2020.



across the Channel into her care in order to give homage to Charles IV for the Duchy of Aquitaine, Isabella refused either to return to England herself or to release the young prince from her custody. The marriage alliance with Hainault therefore proceeded against the will of Edward II, who at that stage had in mind a marriage for his son with one of the ruling houses of the Iberian Peninsula. On 27 August 1326, at Mons, a marriage contract was drawn up between Prince Edward and Philippa of Hainault, who at this stage had met but once, at Paris in the previous year. This alliance guaranteed the military assistance that was promised by Philippa’s uncle, John of Hainault, for the invasion of England launched by Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer, in the autumn of 1326. In January 1327 the formalities were concluded whereby Edward II resigned the throne and was succeeded as King of England by the fourteen-­ year-­ old Edward III.  An immediate royal wedding was not possible because Edward and Philippa were within the limits of consanguinity, but the Pope eventually granted the dispensation for the marriage in August 1327. Philippa travelled from Valenciennes in December and spent Christmas in London. The wedding would ordinarily have taken place in a royal chapel in London and its environs, or perhaps in St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey; but there was a current vacancy in the archbishopric of Canterbury, and it was necessary to have the nuptials performed by the second-most senior cleric in England, the Archbishop of York, William Melton. Accordingly, Philippa was escorted north and the wedding finally took place at York Minster on 24 January 1328. The wedding was celebrated in some style. Gold, silver, and jewels were purchased in Paris for the event, and the King’s bankers, the Bardi of Florence, advanced over £2400 for other plate and jewels. The newly married couple presented each other with ostentatious gifts: one of these, a sumptuous manuscript given by Queen Philippa to her spouse, contained copies of two motets that were probably sung at the wedding, along with didactic texts such as the Secretum secretorum, an encyclopaedia of knowledge much read at the courts of the high and later Middle Ages.3 In spite of her newly acquired title of queen, Philippa lacked the full authority of her royal office. No arrangements were made for her to have a landed estate from which to derive her own income and support her 3  Michael A. Michael, “A Manuscript Wedding Gift from Philippa of Hainault to Edward III,” Burlington Magazine 127 (September 1985): 582–599.



expenditure, and as yet she had not been crowned. Since the revolution of 1326–1327, Queen Isabella had continued to take the role of queen to her young son, and it seems that she was somewhat reluctant to give way to her new daughter-in-law. It was Isabella and Roger Mortimer, rather than Edward III and Philippa, who effectively governed England for the first few years of the new reign. At the end of 1329, however, Philippa fell pregnant for the first time. News of the pregnancy immediately increased Philippa’s status at court, and on 25 February 1330 her delayed coronation finally took place. The first child of the marriage, Edward of Woodstock (later known as the Black Prince), was born in the following June. The young Edward III showed considerable solicitude for the Queen during her first confinement and kept noticeably close to the royal household, based at Woodstock, during and after the birth of the baby boy. A similar level of concern was exhibited over the birth of the second child, Isabella of Woodstock, in 1332. Thereafter, however, Edward III did not generally attend upon the births of his other children: Joan of the Tower (1333–1348), William of Hatfield (b. 1336; died in infancy), Lionel of Antwerp (1338–1368), John of Gaunt (1340–1399), Blanche of the Tower (b. c.1341; died in infancy), Edmund of Langley (1342–1402), Mary of Waltham (1344–1362), Margaret of Windsor (1346–1361), William of Windsor (b. 1348; died in infancy), and the proverbial late baby, Thomas of Woodstock (1355–1397). There are no recorded failed pregnancies for Philippa, and to have had nine children survive to maturity represented a major personal achievement in the fourteenth century. The many pregnancies that Philippa sustained over a period of twenty-­ five years did not prevent her from undertaking other functions of queenship. It is particularly to be noted that the Queen accompanied the King on many of his military expeditions. In 1333 Edward re-opened the wars with Scotland, and in 1337 he began the great conflict with France that came later to be known as the Hundred Years’ War. Whenever practicable, Philippa travelled with the King. For Scottish campaigns, she usually based herself at Bamburgh, in Northumberland, though on one occasion, at Christmas 1334, she is known to have visited the English-held stronghold at Roxburgh in the Scottish Lowlands for the seasonal celebrations. After Edward III moved his attention to the French war, the King and Queen’s households were transferred overseas in 1338 and settled at bases in Antwerp and Ghent, where their sons Lionel and John were (respectively) born. Philippa was also present, with her two older daughters, Isabella and Joan, at the siege of Calais in 1346–1347. During the King’s later



campaigns against Scotland and France, Philippa does not seem to have moved far from the royal houses scattered across south-east England, including her own major manor of Havering-atte-Bower in Essex. In spite of the fact that this was an arranged marriage, Edward III and Philippa seem to have developed a genuine affection for each other. As was the custom of the time, the King and Queen exchanged lavish gifts both at the New Year and at other major religious festivals or family events. At New Year 1331, for example, Philippa received from her husband an expensive sapphire set in a gold brooch.4 More telling of the affective bonds of their relationships are the ad hoc gifts of fresh meat and fish, hawks and horses, which they sent each other when apart. The royal couple were also avid letter-writers, using the courtly language of French as the medium of communication. In 1336, when Edward decided at the last minute to take part in an attack on the Scots, he wrote to the Queen about his dramatic journey through the Highlands.5 And in a letter written from Brittany in 1342, Edward repeatedly addressed Philippa as his douce cuer, or sweetheart.6 Philippa’s principal function during the middle years of her life was to deploy her household such that junior members of the royal family could be suitably protected and supported. As was conventional, her eldest son was provided with his own household from birth. The other royal children, however, remained under the custody of the Queen, with the boys transferring into the King’s household around the age of seven. In 1338, Philippa took the unusual step of taking her two daughters, Isabella and Joan, with her to the Low Countries. When security concerns were raised in 1340, the sisters, along with their two baby brothers, Lionel and John, were sent back to England under the care of one of the Queen’s ladies, Isabella de la Mote. After the Queen’s return to England and the birth of Prince Edmund in 1341, however, Philippa resumed general responsibility for her children. The royal nursery also fulfilled a wider function: the Queen acted as guardian of a number of young relatives and other high-born children who subsequently married members of the royal family. Edward III’s  TNA E 101/385/16.  Henry Ellis, ed., Original Letters Illustrative of English History, 4 vols. (London, 1846), 1:33–39. 6  TNA SC 1/56/79, printed in Eugène Déprez, “La mort de Robert d’ Artois,” Revue historique 94 (1907): 65. 4 5



cousin, Joan of Kent, left fatherless after the execution of her father by the Mortimer regime in 1330, seems to have been brought up from an early age in the Queen’s household. In 1361, in a famous love match, Joan was to marry Philippa’s oldest son, the Black Prince. Following the infant marriage of Prince Lionel with the Anglo-Irish heiress Elizabeth de Burgh in 1342, the young bride was also cared for by the Queen. Another child who benefited from this royal protection was John de Montfort, pretender to the Duchy of Brittany, who, along with his sister Jeanne, was brought up in Philippa’s household; in 1361 John married Philippa’s daughter, Mary of Waltham. Philippa also took on some responsibility for the marriages of her other children. A triple betrothal ceremony took place in the Queen’s chapel at Westminster Palace in the summer of 1358. John of Gaunt, now eighteen, was promised to the twelve-year-old Blanche, daughter and co-heiress of the Duke of Lancaster; their wedding took place the following year. Queen Philippa’s twelve-year-old daughter, Margaret of Windsor, was affianced to Edward III’s ward, the eleven-year old John Hastings, Earl of Pembroke; their marriage quickly followed but was cut short by Margaret’s death, perhaps in childbirth, in 1361. After this, Hastings married Anne, the daughter of Sir Walter Mauny, a countryman of Queen Philippa who had risen to prominence at court. The third member of the royal family involved in this betrothal ceremony in the Queen’s chapel was the Queen’s oldest granddaughter and namesake, Philippa of Clarence. This Philippa had been born a few months after Thomas of Woodstock, and the Queen had arranged that her own midwife, Margaret Gaunt, should attend upon the child’s mother, Elizabeth. In 1358, aged only three, Philippa of Clarence was betrothed to Edmund Mortimer, heir to the revived earldom of March. After the death of the young Philippa’s mother in 1363, the child was transferred into the care of the Queen, and she and her husband-­ to-­be were given expense accounts by the King in order to be able to maintain their positions at court. They were subsequently married in 1368, the year before Philippa’s death. The Queen also had other more public responsibilities during these years. Philippa’s brother, Count William IV, died without children in 1345, and the surviving sisters became competitors in a crisis of succession. Hainault and its dependencies eventually fell to William V, a younger son of Philippa’s sister, the Empress Margaret. But William descended into insanity in 1358, and his wife, Maud, the daughter of the Duke of Lancaster, helped re-energise Philippa’s claims to Hainault. In the early



1360s, Edward III began to negotiate the marriage of his fourth son, Edmund of Langley, with the heiress to the county of Flanders and used the prospect of Edmund’s succeeding to his mother’s ancestral lands in Hainault, Holland, and Zeeland as leverage in the discussions. Eventually, in 1371, Edward III was to renounce his then deceased wife’s rights as heir to the county of Hainault. But the continued negotiations, over a period of twenty years, about Philippa’s rights in the Low Countries made the Queen a real presence in the wider diplomatic framework of the Hundred Years’ War. Philippa of Hainault’s last years were difficult. The birth of Thomas of Woodstock in 1355, when Philippa was at least forty years old, may have left her physically weakened. This appears to have been exacerbated by a serious fall from a horse in 1358; thereafter, the Queen gave up her favourite sport of hunting. By the time she commissioned her tomb, in 1365–1366, her condition seems to have been deteriorating quite fast. In the spring of 1366, the King made gifts to various of the Queen’s ladies for their attendance on Philippa during a recent, and apparently quite serious, period of illness. The chronicler Jean Froissart conjured up a deathbed conversation between the royal couple in which Philippa exhorted Edward to be buried next to her.7 In fact, Edward had already committed to this in 1359, and the royal couple were to be linked in perpetuity in adjoining bays of the chapel of St Edward within Westminster Abbey.8 Philippa eventually died at Windsor Castle on 15 August 1369. Of her eight children who survived to adulthood, she had outlived four: Joan of the Tower (d. 1348), Margaret of Windsor (d. 1361), Mary of Waltham (d. 1362), and Lionel of Antwerp (d. 1368). It took almost five months to organise her elaborate funeral ceremony. The Queen’s body was moved from Windsor on 3 January 1370, travelling by water via the Bishop of London’s residence at Fulham to the church of St Mary Overy, Southwark. From there, it was taken over London Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral, where a vigil was held on 8 January. The next day, Philippa was buried in her part-completed tomb at Westminster Abbey. Through her devotion to her husband and children, Philippa had brilliantly conformed to the ideal type of the loyal wife and mother, the apparently submissive partner who complemented and completed the equally brilliant kingship of Edward III. 7  Jean Froissart, Oeuvres complètes: Chroniques, ed. J.M.B.C. Kervyn de Lettenhove (Brussels: Académie royale, 1867–77), 7:181–183. 8  London, Westminster Abbey Muniments, 6300*, printed in: W.M.  Ormrod, “The Personal Religion of Edward III,” Speculum 64 (1989): 868n109.



The Dignity and Duties of Queenship Philippa of Hainault was a key player in the process by which Edward III set about restoring the reputation of the English monarchy after the disruptions of his father’s reign. The breakdown in the marriage of Edward II and Queen Isabella in the mid-1320s fundamentally challenged conventional views of gender roles and of the office of queen. Isabella’s public denouncements of the relationship between Edward III and Hugh Despenser the Younger cast the latter as the third party who had effectively destroyed her marriage and alienated her from the King, without hope of reconciliation. At the same time, it was widely known that Isabella was engaged in her own extra-marital affair with Roger Mortimer. Isabella therefore emerged from the revolution of 1326–1327 with two conflicting reputations: one as a wronged wife who sought to champion the rights of her son over her estranged husband and the other as an adulteress whose partner, Mortimer, ruthlessly capitalised on his influence in matters of state by effectively taking England as his own. The importance attached by contemporaries to the restoration of normal relationships within the royal family is represented quite dramatically in letters sent by Pope John XXII to both Edward III and Queen Philippa at the time of Mortimer’s downfall in October–November 1330. The King, whom the Pope believed to be estranged from his mother, was exhorted to make his peace with her, bearing in mind that the actions she had undertaken were in support of her son’s rights. Philippa, by contrast, was cast as being on good relations with her mother-in-law and was exhorted to help Isabella recover from the negative press that she had suffered through her time as her son’s informal regent.9 Over the following decade, Edward showed little obvious sign of reconciliation with his mother, though after the early 1340s the ice seems to have broken sufficiently that the Queen Mother took her place again at court. There are a number of ways in which Philippa expressed the sense of duty and dignity of her office as a means of bolstering Edward III’s own reputation. First, as we have already noted, whenever possible she travelled with her husband, ensuring that the royal couple were frequently seen together not only in court circles but also in the wider polity of England.

9  W.H. Bliss and J.A. Twemlow, ed., Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland, 14 vols. (London: HMSO, 1893–1902), 2:492, 498, 500, 501.



Tournaments, especially those held in urban centres, were obvious moments for the expressions of solidarity within the royal family. Before her first pregnancy, Philippa rode in the processions that preceded royal tournaments. After becoming a mother, she took her place regularly in the stands: one such structure, for the King’s Cheapside tournament of 1331, fell down as a result of the crush of people attendant on the Queen. In 1358, Philippa acted as the patroness of an unusual night time, torch-lit tournament held in the city of Bristol. One important occasion on which the Queen was generally present in the second half of Edward III’s reign was the annual feast of St George at Windsor Castle, which from 1349 became the focus for meetings of the newly instituted Order of the Garter. Edward III gave generous gifts to his wife in order that she should be appropriately adorned for these occasions. Another way in which Philippa demonstrated her commitment to the functions of monarchy was in her role as intercessor for the King’s mercy or for the personal advancement of a third party. Here, we can see some of the ways in which Edward III’s consort worked out her relationship with her mother-in-law. Between 1327 and 1330, Isabella’s recorded acts of intercession significantly outnumbered those of Philippa. After 1330, however, the two queens performed roughly the same number of requests for the royal grace. Following Isabella’s death in 1358, moreover, there was no significant increase in the number of royal acts undertaken at the request of Philippa.10 This evidence suggests two things: that Philippa actively continued the tradition of intercession for mercy that had developed as a feature of queenship in earlier generations but that she was also perfectly content to share that role with the queen mother. Philippa’s most famous act of intercession was that performed on behalf of the burghers of Calais after the fall of that town to English hands in August 1347. The chroniclers Jean le Bel and Jean Froissart embellished the episode with ahistorical references, but the kernel of their story was probably true: the Queen represented the feminine, forgiving, side of monarchy in balance with the harshness of the justice that the King might otherwise have meted out against those who had resisted his siege of Calais.11 10  Lisa Benz St John, Three Medieval Queens: Queenship and the Crown in FourteenthCentury England (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 41. 11  Chronique de Jean le Bel, ed. J. Viard and E. Déprez, 2 vols. (Paris: Société de l’Historie de France, 1904–1905), 2:165–167; Froissart, Oeuvres complètes, 4:61–62; Paul Strohm, Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of Fourteenth-Century Texts (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 99–105.



A final demonstration of Philippa’s commitment to public expectations of a queen came in her periodic involvement in royal government. During the first half of his reign, Edward III was frequently absent from the realm on campaign in Scotland and France. When English monarchs went to Scotland, they did not appoint formal regents. When they crossed the seas either to their own territories in Ireland and continental Europe or to other lands across the English Channel, however, they generally named a “keeper” of the realm who had limited powers to fulfil some of the King’s responsibilities during his absence. Edward III made this into a nominal role by naming one of his infant sons as keeper of the realm. This convention meant that Philippa played a discernible if modest role in directing government during the King’s absence. In July 1336, for example, while the King was at Perth, the Queen summoned a council at Northampton, consisting of the Archbishop of Canterbury, seven others bishops, eight earls and barons, thirty-eight knights and other lords, in order to consider the state of Anglo-Scottish affairs.12 On several occasions during the King’s absence on the continent during the 1340s, Philippa acted on behalf of the keeper, the young Lionel of Antwerp, in directing the use of the royal seals and in forwarding to the chancellor decisions taken in theory by her son.13 Later, in 1360, when Edward III was on what proved to be his last campaign in France, Philippa appeared before the convocation of the ecclesiastical province of Canterbury, convened at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, to impress upon the delegates the urgency of the King’s request for a grant of clerical taxation.14

The Display of Majesty Edward III was one of the most image-conscious of all the medieval kings of England. It is therefore not surprising to find that the Queen played a key role in the campaign of royal magnificence instituted by Edward. The royal couple were already conditioned by contemporary practice to appropriate displays of splendour around the key life-events of any king and queen: Edward’s coronation in 1327, their wedding in 1328, and Philippa’s coronation in 1330 were all performed with suitably lavish provision of luxury cloth and gifts of gold, silver, and jewels. But once the young King and Queen took full control of the court in 1330, they significantly  TNA E 101/387/19.  Benz St John, Three Medieval Queens, 137. 14  TNA E 359/3, rot. 44. 12 13



increased the number of occasions that were exploited for displays of regal magnificence. This campaign drew inspiration from the courts of continental Europe, where fashions changed significantly around the second quarter of the fourteenth century, away from loose-fitting robes for both sexes and towards figure-hugging dresses for women and short, elaborately tailored jerkins and hose for men. Philippa was herself occasionally credited with this innovation by moralising churchmen; a strong hint of her association with continental fashions comes in a reference in 1331 to her sending a page of her household overseas to learn the art of tailoring.15 Prominent among the occasions exploited by the royal couple for displays of splendour were Philippa’s churchings, the ceremonies that accompanied the re-emergence of the Queen into the active life of the court after her confinement in childbirth. Philippa’s first churching and the baptism of Prince Edward were marked by a great profusion of display. The Queen wore a spectacular set of purple velvet robes embroidered with golden squirrels and lined with ermine and miniver. There was also a good deal of elaborate gift-giving: the Queen’s kinswoman and close associate, Marie de St Pol, the dowager Countess of Pembroke, gave the new-born prince a salt cellar made of jasper decorated with a serpent confected out of shell; and Lady St Amand, another of Philippa’s circle, bestowed on him a silvercovered cup and ewer. Two years later, for the churching following the birth of Princess Isabella, the King provided his wife with a flamboyant set of garments decorated with the letters E and P, along with a set of bed hangings depicting the sky and sea, with the ocean full of mermaids bearing the arms of England and Hainault.16 In the 1340s, Queen Philippa’s churchings also became occasions for tournaments. The tournament held at Windsor in June 1348 for Philippa’s churching following the birth of the brief-lived Prince William of Windsor was likely the occasion upon which Edward III instituted the Order of the Garter.17 After the Queen’s childbearing years were over, the King 15  Chris Woolgar, “Queens and Crowns: Philippa of Hainaut, Possessions and the Queen’s Chamber in mid-XIVth-century England,” Micrologus 22 (2014): 212. For contemporary comment on the new fashions of the 1340s, see: Stella Mary Newton, Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince: A Study of the Years 1340–1365 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1980), 21–40. 16  Caroline Shenton, “Philippa of Hainault’s Churchings: The Politics of Motherhood at the Court of Edward III,” in Family and Dynasty in Late Medieval England: Proceedings of the 1997 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. Richard Eales and Shaun Tyas (Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2003), 105–121. 17  Juliet Vale, Edward III and Chivalry: Chivalric Society and Its Contexts, 1270–1350 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1982), 173–174.



continued to provide her with luxurious materials for her ceremonial outfits. In 1364 he made her a gift of two sets of robes embroidered with mottoes apparently associated with the Queen: “Ich wyndemuth” (I twine myself [around you]) and “Myn biddeneye” (“My bidding”).18 In this way, Philippa’s clothing became a field upon which the values of Edward III’s court were literally inscribed. Alongside these calculated displays of magnificence, the royal couple also patronised a range of arts. The reign of Edward III marked a turning-­point in the language of the court, as French began to give way to English as a medium both of daily communication and of literary usage: Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his first major English poem, the Book of the Duchess, in response to the death of John of Gaunt’s first wife, Blanche of Lancaster, in 1368. Against this background, however, Philippa maintained what seems a quite determined preference for the French of her own upbringing. The Hainaulter Jean de la Mote, who had a successful twin career as poet and minstrel, visited the English court on a number of occasions, and in 1339 he dedicated to Philippa a lament on the death of her father, Li regret Guillaume.19 In 1361–1362, De la Mote’s fellow Hainaulter, Jean Froissart, arrived in England bearing a verse chronicle in French, which he dedicated and presented to his countrywoman, the Queen. Froissart remained in Philippa’s service until her death, composing what he called “pretty ditties and treatises of love” for the delectation of Philippa and her ladies.20 Philippa may have remained resolutely loyal to her husband’s positions of enmity to their relatives in the court of France, but she was also inextricably rooted in the international culture that had its traditional focus upon the court of Paris. Philippa also shared her husband’s interest in the promotion of learning. Her chaplain, Robert Eglesfield, established a hall at Oxford that was later taken under the official patronage of the Queen and became known as the Queen’s College. Like the King, Philippa financed at least one godson, Philip Beauchamp, through his studies at Oxford.21 This interest in universities and their constituent colleges was something new among queens, but chimed closely with the patronage provided in the same  TNA E 101/394/16, m. 12.  Nigel Wilkins, “En regardant vers le païs de France: The ballade and the rondeau, a crossChannel history,” in England in the Fourteenth Century: Proceedings of the 1985 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. W. Mark Ormrod (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1986), 299. 20  Froissart, Oeuvres complètes, 14: 1. 21  Alfred B.  Emden, Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to 1500, 3 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957), 1:136–137. 18 19



period by major figures such as Elizabeth, Lady Clare, foundress of Clare Hall (later Clare College) in Cambridge and Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke, who founded Pembroke College, Cambridge, and was herself a prominent member of Edward III and Philippa’s court. All of this self-conscious magnificence cost a good deal of money. At the time of her betrothal, Philippa had been promised an income £3000 a year to support her estate; but in spite of various grants between 1328 and 1330, she was unable to procure lands to that value while Roger Mortimer remained in power. Around the time that Edward III wrested control from his mother’s lover, it was reported that the young Queen had barely £150 a year and could not muster the cash to cover the food and robes that she ought to dispense to members of her household at Christmas.22 Between 1330 and 1335, Edward sought to rectify this situation with a series of land grants, some of them taken from his own mother’s large estate; the result was to establish Philippa with an annual income of around £4500, equivalent to that of a wealthy earl. It quickly became apparent, however, that this was insufficient to support a domestic establishment that may have numbered around a hundred people, and throughout the 1330s and 1340s Philippa’s household accounts continued to run at a serious deficit. By the end of the 1350s, the situation was dire: a long list of those awaiting payment for foodstuffs purveyed by the Queen’s officers, compiled in c.1357, provides striking evidence of Philippa’s impecuniousness.23 In 1360 it was therefore decided to merge the finances of the King’s and Queen’s households; while Philippa would contribute £10 a day to cover the basic costs of her ladies, waiting women and other servants, the crown would underwrite all the other expenditure of the Queen. This eased the pressure on Philippa’s financial officials, but it did very little to promote economy, since the royal couple still maintained separate entourages. Few contemporaries commented adversely on the Queen’s excessive expenditure, though a text known as the Prophecies of John of Bridlington, completed in c.1350, referred to an elusive figure of “Diana” who presided over the revelries in the royal camp at Calais in 1346–1347.24 This may be a reference to the Queen, though others suggest that Diana was simply the personification of the vice of luxury.  TNA SC 8/265/13210.  Manchester, John Rylands University Library, MS Latin 237. 24  Thomas Wright, ed., Political Poems and Songs Relating to English History, 2 vols. (London, 1859–1861), 1:158–159. 22 23



One of the principal ways in which Edward III aimed to ape the cultural practices of the French ruling house was in his decision to complete the building work begun by his grandfather and father on the major royal chapel within the Palace of Westminster, St Stephen’s Chapel. In the 1340s and early 1350s, as the construction work neared completion, the King commissioned a decorative scheme for the chapel that intentionally commemorated his sense of dynasty. On the east wall of the chapel, behind the high altar, the King’s painters created a depiction of Edward III and Queen Philippa, with their children supporting them, in poses of pious contemplation. The iconography of St George—the red cross upon a white background—was deployed just at the time that Edward was developing a cult of St George within the Order of the Garter and the chapel of St George in Windsor Castle. The principal message of the wall paintings at St Stephen’s Westminster, however, was the divine favour shown to a warrior king and his wife in bestowing upon them an abundance of fine offspring. The “family firm” of Edward III and Queen Philippa was thus enshrined in visual form until the covering of the wall paintings in the early modern period and the destruction of most of the Palace of Westminster in the great fire of 1834. The greatest testimony to Philippa of Hainault’s cultural interests—and the one that most obviously displays her own vision of monarchy—is the tomb that she commissioned to be built, in her own lifetime, within Westminster Abbey. This scheme may have been prompted by the deaths, in quick succession, of the Queen’s two youngest daughters, Mary and Margaret, in 1361–1362: it was Philippa herself who organised the building of a joint tomb for the two princesses at Abingdon Abbey. Philippa’s plans for her own mortality were in place sometime before February 1365, when the Queen asked the dowager countess of Pembroke to commission a tomb for her in Paris. By January 1366 at the latest, the contract had gone to Jean de Liège, a celebrated craftsman from Brabant much employed by the French court.25 The tomb was to be erected in the easternmost bay of the south side of St Edward’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, directly opposite that of Edward I’s first queen, Eleanor of Castile. 25  There has been much confusion over the key dates in the commissioning of the tomb. For explanation, see: W. Mark Ormrod, “Queenship, Death and Agency: The Commemorations of Isabella of France and Philippa of Hainault,” in Memory and Commemoration in Medieval England: Proceedings of the 2008 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. Caroline M. Barron and Clive Burgess (Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2010), 96–103.



While the positioning of the tomb was predictable enough, the style was quite different from anything previously witnessed in England. The effigy, in white marble, was not the conventional idealised depiction of queenship but instead represented Philippa in life-like manner, complete with the double chin and thick waist that had come upon her in her later years. The tomb effigy therefore has an important place in the development of portraiture as a European artistic phenomenon in the second half of the fourteenth century. The tomb’s iconography also told the story of Philippa’s ancestry and her numerous family connections with the courts of north-­ western Europe. This served to emphasise her own independent contribution to Edward III’s claims in his wars with France. In short, the surviving tomb of Philippa of Hainault suggests a queen very determined to dictate her own permanent memorial and to have a distinctive place in the dynastic history of the English monarchy (Fig. 4.1). Fig. 4.1  Tomb Effigy of Philippa of Hainault, Westminster Abbey. (© Dean and Chapter of Westminster)



Reputation and Afterlife Queen Philippa’s death in 1369 coincided with the re-opening of the AngloFrench war after a break of some nine years and the beginning of a series of devastating setbacks in the English position within France. The costs of war spiralled, and faced with a parliament reluctant to dispense lavish taxes, the King had to resort to widespread borrowing to keep his military commitments in place. One of those who emerged as a broker of these loans was the King’s mistress, Alice Perrers, the widow of a London goldsmith with extensive business connections in the metropolis. Edward’s relationship with Alice had begun in the early 1360s, when Perrers had been introduced into the Queen’s service as one of her “damsels” or ladies-in-waiting. Although the King later acknowledged Alice’s illegitimate son, John Southray, born in the mid-1360s, as his own, their liaison remained relatively discreet so long as Philippa lived. One of the few pieces of evidence pointing to open scandal in the 1360s is the commentary written before 1372 by the friar John Erghome on the earlier Prophecies of John of Bridlington; Erghome alluded to Alice Perrers as Delilah to Edward III’s Samson and Bathsheba to his King David.26 After the Queen’s death, all discretion was abandoned, and chroniclers and politicians alike were quick to identify Alice as one of the key sources of corruption at court. In 1376, the so-called Good Parliament forced the King to banish Alice (as it turned out, temporarily) from his side, and she was put to a more lasting judicial process in the first parliament of Richard II’s reign, held in October–December 1377. The general downturn in English fortunes in the 1370s, coupled with the domestic and financial scandals surrounding Alice Perrers, served to soften public memories of the deceased queen and to see her death as marking a watershed in the fortunes of the realm. An anonymous monk of Westminster penned a Latin verse tribute to Philippa, a portion of which reads: Let the whole of England have time for prayers Because Queen Philippa lies dead, closed up in death. While she flourished she was full of grace [gracia plena] to the English The people were not in want; neither was her country in need of grain. It is clear to everyone now that she was successful.27

 Wright, ed., Political Poems, 1:141, 142, 159, 161.  London, Westminster Abbey Muniments, 15169, printed in W. Mark Ormrod, Edward III (London: Yale University Press, 2011), 471. 26 27



The use of the phrase gracia plena evoked direct comparison with the Virgin Mary, who according to the Ave Maria was a lady “full of grace.” This, together with Edward III’s own well-known religious devotion to the Virgin, impressed upon posterity the righteous ways in which Philippa of Hainault had performed her roles as wife and mother not only to Edward III and their children but, indeed, to the realm at large. In 1377, the chancellor, in his opening speech to Edward III’s last parliament, asked “if ever any Christian king or other lord in the world ever had so noble and gracious a lady for his wife or such children—princes, dukes and others—as our lord the king has had.”28 During the early modern period, Philippa developed a twin persona that was at once celebratory and critical of this medieval queen. In the sixteenth century, one of Elizabeth I’s keepers of the records in the Tower of London inscribed a comment on one of Philippa’s extant household accounts: herein were revealed “the great riches, lavish expenses, and debts of the queen.”29 No doubt some parallel was implied with Gloriana herself. The Tudor view of Edward III moved away from the late medieval adulation of Philippa’s fecundity to point out that one of the causes of the Wars of the Roses had been the conflicting claims to the throne launched by the descendants of the many sons of Edward III. The first serious biography of Edward III, written by Joshua Barnes and published in 1688, was content to perpetuate the late medieval chroniclers’ view of Philippa as the divine instrument through whom Edward III produced his large family: Barnes conjured up an unreliable story that Philippa had eschewed the service of wet-nurses and breastfed her children herself.30 In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Philippa’s life was the subject of a number of historical studies that drew more readily on the public records and produced better understandings, for example, of the institutional history of the queen’s household. Most recently, Lisa Benz St John and Kathryn Warner have analysed aspects of Philippa’s performance of queenship to demonstrate the ways in which she projected her royal authority and

28  The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. Chris Given-Wilson, Paul Brand, Seymour Phillips, Mark Ormrod, Geoffrey Martin, Anne Curry, and Rosemary Horrox, 16 vols. (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2005), 5:395. 29  Manchester, John Rylands University Library, MS Latin 235, verso of cover. 30  Joshua Barnes, The History of That Most Victorious Monarch Edward III (Cambridge, 1688), 44.



exerted her own real political power.31 These and other works have helped rescue Philippa from the rather two-dimensional notions of the “fecund queen” and the “clothes-horse queen” and have given us a Philippa for the twenty-first century, an able and active partner in the practice and representation of Edward III’s monarchy.

31  Benz, Three Medieval Queens; Kathryn Warner, Philippa of Hainault: Mother of the English Nation (Stroud: Amberley, 2019).


Anne of Bohemia: Overcoming Infertility Kristen L. Geaman

On the day that Anne of Bohemia arrived at Dover in December 1381 to marry Richard II, a violent storm broke out and the future queen’s vessel was the first destroyed.1 According to the chronicler Thomas Walsingham, monk of St Albans Abbey, many interpreted this event favourably as “prophesying the coming of good fortune upon the land” because Anne survived. Others, however, maintained “it meant that she would cause the kingdom trouble.”2 Coupled with the Westminster Chronicle’s derisive

1  Thank you to Chelsea Griffis and Becky Cerling for their comments and revisions. I also thank the USC Provost’s Fellowship Program and the Schallek Awards, sponsored by the Richard III Society and the Medieval Academy of America, for their funding and support of my dissertation, which is where I started researching Anne of Bohemia. See: Kristen L. Geaman, Anne of Bohemia (London: Routledge, 2022), which further develops some of this chapter’s arguments. 2  Thomas Walsingham, The St Albans Chronicle: The “Chronica Maiora” of Thomas Walsingham, ed. and trans. John Taylor, Wendy R.  Childs, and Leslie Watkiss, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003–2011), 1:572–575.

K. L. Geaman (*) University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




description of Anne as a “small scrap of humanity,” it appears that chroniclers were certainly not eager to welcome the new queen.3 Yet Anne managed to weather the storm. At her death in 1394, the Queen was described as “gracious” and “was held to have been beneficial, to the extent she was able, to the glory and reign of England. Nobles and common people suffered greatly at her death.” Although this same chronicler blamed Anne for importing fashionable, but ridiculously long, shoes called “cracows” or “pykes,” one “execrable” fashion was far outweighed by all the good Anne did.4 Centuries later, Victorian historians called her “good Queen Anne.”5 To some extent, this seems unusual, given that Anne was childless and one of a queen’s primary duties was to bear children.6 Queens, however, did much more than bear heirs. As Christine de Pizan illustrated in The Treasure of the City of Ladies (1405), if a queen promoted peace in the realm, was charitable, and was wise in politics, she would still be considered to be an ideal princess and thereby craft a positive reputation.7 Christine’s sentiment of peace-making bears remarkable similarities to the intercessory activity engaged in by English queens. Anne of Bohemia, for instance, was used to reconcile rebellious subjects to Richard in the aftermath of the Peasants’ Revolt.8 Earlier writings promoted similar queenly virtues. The Life of St Margaret, written to educate Matilda of Scotland (first queen of England’s 3  L.C.  Hector and Barbara F.  Harvey, ed., Westminster Chronicle, 1381–1394 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 24–25. 4  Adam Usk, The Chronicle of Adam Usk, 1377–1421, ed. and trans. Chris Given-Wilson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 4–5 (translation). Latin on page 4: “reginam benignissimam”; George B. Stow, ed., Historia Vitae et Regni Ricardi II (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1977), 134: “Hec enim regina, quamuis sine liberis discessit, tamen gloriosa et regno Anglie, in quantam potuit, proficua tenebatur. Vnde proceres ac plebei in eius mortem ualde condolebant.” 5  George B. Stow, “Stubbs, Steel, and Richard II as Insane: The Origin and Evolution of an English Historiographical Myth,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 143, no. 4 (1999): 623–629. 6  For instance, when Richard II was about to re-marry, some of his nobles based their objections on the inability of his six-year-old bride to help him immediately secure the succession. See: Jean Froissart, Chronicles of England, France, Spain, and the Adjoining Countries, trans. Thomas Johnes, 2 vols. (London, 1839), 2:573–574. 7  Christine de Pizan, The Treasure of the City of Ladies, trans. Sarah Lawson (New York: Penguin, 2003), xx, 23, 24–27, 44, 48, 54. This book is also called The Book of the Three Virtues. 8  See: Helen Lacey, The Royal Pardon: Access to Mercy in Fourteenth-Century England (York: York Medieval Press, 2009), 154–155, 155n133.



Henry I) in queenship, advocated that a queen should ensure her kingdom had good laws. The text stated that queens should also promote religion, economic developments (such as trade), and intercede with the king. As Matilda helped rule, she “was seen as a mother figure for the realm at large”—not simply for her own children.9 St Anselm of Canterbury even advocated that Matilda see herself as a mother (as well as a nurse and queen) to the tenants on her lands who were under her care.10 Anne of Bohemia largely followed this model. The Queen became a noted intercessor who ensured reconciliation between rebellious subjects and her husband and promoted mercy. During Anne’s earliest days in England, the citizens of London gave the Queen a petition that asked her to intercede for them in the tradition of previous consorts. The petition further indicated that should Anne prove a successful intercessor, she would receive the Londoners’ favour.11 Anne took this to heart, as will be further explored. In addition, Anne dispensed charity and patronage— both monetary and cultural. And while Anne never became a biological mother, thereby leaving the succession insecure and denying her an outlet to power as the mother of a (future) king, her tireless mediation tapped into a different sort of motherhood. Just as Christine de Pizan described a princess who essentially mothered her subjects by visiting them when ill and setting a good example, Anne mothered her subjects through intercession and good works.12

Childhood and Arrival in England Anne of Bohemia was born 11 May 1366, the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (r. 1346–1378) and his fourth wife, Elisabeth of Pomerania. Anne’s parents had married in Krakow on 21 May 1363. Her 9  Lois L.  Huneycutt, “The Idea of the Perfect Princess: The Life of St Margaret in the Reign of Matilda II (1100–1118),” in Anglo-Norman Studies XII, ed. Marjorie Chibnall (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1990), 91. 10  Huneycutt, “The Idea of the Perfect Princess,” 88–93. 11  Calendar of Select Pleas and Memoranda of the City of London: Preserved Among the Archives of the Corporation of the City of London at the Guildhall, A.D. 1381–1412, ed. A.H. Thomas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1932), 7–8. 12  de Pizan, The Treasure, 25–26, 47. Some parts of this chapter are based on ideas developed and presented earlier in: Kristen L.  Geaman “Beyond Good Queen Anne: Anne of Bohemia, Patronage, and Politics,” in Medieval Elite Women and the Exercise of Power, 1100–1400: Moving Beyond the Exceptionalist Debate, ed. Heather Tanner (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 67–89 (see 69–71 for historiography).



father is one of the most famous Holy Roman Emperors and is still much feted in Prague today. Charles was the son of the old Přemyslid dynasty on his mother’s side (Elisabeth, daughter of Wenceslas II) as well as the new, less established Luxembourgs on his father’s side (John of Luxembourg, later called John the Blind).13 Her mother was the daughter of Bogislaw V, Duke of Pomerania, and her maternal grandfather was Casimir III, King of Poland. Anne could thus claim an impressive royal lineage, one of the most elite of any medieval English consort. Charles’ court was sophisticated and international: he welcomed scholars such as Petrarch to his court and was “undoubtedly one of the greatest patrons of art of his time.”14 In 1377, when Anne was eleven, Charles IV made overtures for a match between Anne and Richard, but the English were initially uninterested. The beginning of the Church’s Western Schism in 1378, however, divided Europe into pro-Roman-pope and pro-Avignon-pope camps. Urban VI, the Roman Pope, played a major role in the match, which was designed to create an alliance between two of his supporters. Wenceslas IV, Anne’s elder half-brother and her father’s successor as King of Bohemia, proposed the match again, and the English proved amenable. Preliminary negotiations began in 1379, English emissaries visited the continent in 1380, and the final treaty was sealed on 2 May 1381.15 Anne set off in September, although she did not reach Dover until 18 December.16 Anne spent time at Leeds, Kent, before arriving in London on 18 January 1382. She married Richard at Westminster Abbey two days later, on 20 January, and was crowned queen in the same place two days after that, on 22 January.17 After Anne’s coronation, there was a magnificent jousting tournament that lasted several days. Richard and Anne then went to Windsor where Froissart noted that the King “kept an open and noble house. They were very happy together.”18 13  Iva Rosario, Art and Propaganda: Charles IV of Bohemia, 1346–1378 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2000), 1–2. 14  František Kavka, “Politics and Culture under Charles IV,” in Bohemia in History, ed. Mikuláš Teich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 70–72; S.  Harrison Thomson, “Learning at the Court of Charles IV,” Speculum 25, no. 1 (January 1950): 6, 8. 15  Édouard Perroy, L’Angleterre et Le Grand Schisme D’Occident (Paris: J. Monnier, 1933), 136–139; Nigel Saul, Richard II (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997, 1999), 83–84, 86–87; Anthony Tuck, “Richard II and the House of Luxembourg,” in Richard II: The Art of Kingship, ed. Anthony Goodman and James L. Gillespie (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 205–229, esp. 214–217. 16  Froissart, Chronicles of England, 1:681. 17  Westminster Chronicle, 22–23. 18  Froissart, Chronicles of England, 1:682.



This happiness lasted throughout their marriage, as Anne and Richard became close companions. The two travelled about the kingdom together early in their marriage.19 During times of political turmoil, such as the Appellant Crisis, Anne was at Richard’s side. The Appellant Crisis lasted from 1386 to 1389. In brief, Richard lost power and five magnates (known as the Appellants) ruled in his place. They accused and prosecuted many of the King’s friends for treason.20 In late December 1387, in the throes of the Crisis, Richard and Anne dined with two of the five Appellants (all five had been invited) at the Tower of London. Mere days later, Richard was briefly deposed and held at the Tower; presumably Anne was with him at this fraught time.21 Anne also attempted to save Simon Burley, Richard’s former tutor, from being executed by the Appellants.22 Since Anne was not in a position of power at that time, the Appellants disregarded her pleas and even snidely suggested she should direct her energies towards saving her husband.23 Richard eventually regained power in May 1389. The couple’s companionate partnership provided Anne with frequent and trusted access to the King, which kept her near the centre of power and permitted her to exercise the office of queen with few restraints on her power.

Infertility When Anne died in June 1394, she and Richard had no children. Anne, however, seems to have been pregnant at least once. A letter from the Queen to her brother probably refers to a miscarriage or stillbirth, given that the Queen used a Latin word for childbirth rather than one meaning

 Walsingham, St Albans Chronicle, 1:688–689; Westminster Chronicle, 42–43.  The Appellants were Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester; Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel; Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick; Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby (later Henry IV); and Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham. 21  G.H.  Martin, ed. and trans., Knighton’s Chronicle, 1337–1396 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 424–427; Saul, Richard II, 187–190; Maude Violet Clarke and Vivian Hunter Galbraith, “The Deposition of Richard II,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 14, no. 1 (January 1930): 157. 22  An English Chronicle, 1377–1461: Edited from Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales MS 21068 and Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Lyell 34, ed. William Marx (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2003), 11. 23  Chronicque de la Traïson et Mort de Richart Deux Roy d’Engleterre, ed. Benjamin Williams (London, 1846), 133. 19 20



conception.24 In the early-to-mid 1380s, Anne wrote: “We thus describe our position to your highness as lacking nothing that could be desired, except that we write grieving that still we are not rejoicing in our childbirth, but, concerning this, hope of health works in the near future, if the Lord permits.”25 Having been pregnant once, Anne hoped to give birth soon. Unfortunately for the grieving Queen, she was never to become a biological mother. Anne, of course, did not know this, and she tried to become pregnant throughout her life. An apothecary bill from the last year of her life includes a number of items that, according to medieval medical texts, were probably purchased for their reputed efficacy in improving fertility.26 Given the nature of medieval medicine, the remedies Anne purchased had multiple uses, not all of which enhanced fertility.27 For instance, one of the compound medicines Anne bought was trifera magna, which the pharmaceutical treatise Antidotarium Nicholai noted would provoke “the menses in a woman who is not conceiving.”28 Trifera magna was also so named because “it confers great utility to women and makes them fruitful.”29 Anne tried multiple cures for her infertility—from a visit to the Marian shrine at Walsingham with Richard in 1383, to a donation of a ceiling at a hospital under the protection of St Anne, patron saint of the childless.30 Chroniclers commented on how often the couple were together, with Thomas Walsingham even claiming that Richard rarely allowed Anne to be absent from his side.31 Perhaps this closeness was not only a result of the 24  The word in question is puerperium, as opposed to conception. For details on translation choices, see: Kristen Geaman, “A Personal Letter of Anne of Bohemia,” English Historical Review 128, no. 534 (October 2013): 1092. 25  BL Add. MS 6159, fol. 156v. “Vestre igitur celsitudini sic describimus statum nostrum ut nullo careat quod optare deberet nisi hoc quod dolentes scribimus quia adhuc de nostro puerperio non gaudemus set de hoc laborat in proximo spes salutis domino concedente.” 26  TNA E 101/402/18. 27  Medieval medicine was based on the concept of the four humours (yellow bile, black bile, blood, and phlegm), which needed to be balanced based on each individual’s constitution. Herbal remedies and medicines were not used to treat just one ailment but could instead be used to treat a variety of problems. For details on this manuscript and the medical texts in question, see: Kristen L. Geaman, “Anne of Bohemia and Her Struggle to Conceive,” Social History of Medicine 29, no. 2 (May 2016): 224–244. 28   Monica Green, ed., The Trotula: A Medieval Compendium of Women’s Medicine (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), 202 (from Antidotarium Nicholai). 29  Green, ed., Trotula, 193, 201 (from Antidotarium Nicholai). 30  Geaman, “Anne of Bohemia and Her Struggle to Conceive,” 235–238. 31  Walsingham, St Albans Chronicle, 1:737.



couple’s successful arranged marriage but also a strategy to facilitate conception. Although children were not forthcoming, Anne worked diligently to fulfil other queenly roles such as that of intercessor and charitable patron.

The Office of Queenship: Intercession and Patronage Anne did not let her sorrow over her childlessness keep her from being an active queen. If anything, her childlessness might have enabled her to be more active. Louise Tingle has suggested that childbirth, and the attendant lying-in period that kept a queen secluded from court could hamper a queen’s ability to engage in typical queenly roles such as intercession.32 Since Anne was never a biological mother, she never had those periods of isolation. Perhaps ironically, Anne had plenty of time to focus on queenly duties such as intercession, which enabled her to play the role of a nurturing, albeit non-biological, mother. As queens sought to smooth over disputes, promote mercy (often gendered feminine and associated with the Virgin Mary, the mother par excellence), and generally help others, they enacted nurturing motherhood.33 Intercession’s connection with nurturing maternity provided a way for childless queens to exert influence and accrue some of the power queens often gained as mothers of heirs.34 As a childless queen, Anne thus had both practical and symbolic reasons to frequently intercede with Richard. Intercession was an established duty of England’s queens. They often obtained a pardon for a criminal selected by the king or his advisors on their coronation day and continued to secure pardons and mediate throughout their reigns.35 Given her closeness to Richard and 32  Louise Tingle, Chaucer’s Queens: Royal Women, Intercession, and Patronage in England, 1328–1394 (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), 71. 33  John Carmi Parsons, “The Pregnant Queen as Counsellor and the Medieval Construction of Motherhood,” in Medieval Mothering, ed. John Carmi Parsons and Bonnie Wheeler (New York: Garland Publishing, 1996), 39–61, esp. 45–46, 52. 34  John Carmi Parsons, “The Queen’s Intercession in Thirteenth-Century England,” in Power of the Weak: Studies on Medieval Women, ed. Jennifer Carpenter and Sally-Beth MacLean (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 151; Parsons, “Pregnant Queen as Counsellor,” 53. 35  John Carmi Parsons, “Ritual and Symbol in English Medieval Queenship to 1500,” in Women and Sovereignty, ed. L.O.  Fradenburg (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002), 64.



intercession’s connection with queenship, it is unsurprising that Anne was the most active intercessor of her husband’s reign, although the politically prominent John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who was Richard’s uncle, was a close second.36 As queen, Anne interceded for a variety of people, with her earliest pardons being for participants in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. In fact, the general pardon for the revolt had been issued, using Anne as an intercessor, before the future queen even arrived in England.37 This particular pardon highlighted the connection between intercession and queenship both in general and for Anne in particular. First, it reflected that intercession was an important duty for queens and that their intervention legitimised the exercise of mercy.38 In this regard, the pardon for the revolt was similar to the pardons previous queens secured at their coronations, when they too were new to England and likely did not have the opportunity to personally select whom to pardon. Second, the Peasants’ Revolt was an extraordinary event, for which no other intercessor was suitable. As W.M. Ormrod has argued, Richard’s mother, Joan of Kent, herself a noted intercessor before Anne’s arrival, was unable to fulfil this intercessory role both because she had been harmed by the rebels and because the arrival of a queen diminished Joan’s status (Joan was only a dowager Princess of Wales, rather than a dowager queen).39 For such an unusual and serious event, only the merciful, feminine intervention of a queen would do. Throughout her reign, Anne acted politically and fulfilled her traditional responsibilities as queen; her subjects reaped the benefits. She interceded for numerous men who obtained individual pardons relating to the revolt, such as Hugh de Garwell, John Mylot, and Richard Martyn, all in 1382.40 Later, she helped Adam Saunsom obtain a pardon for a killing he  Lacey, The Royal Pardon, 213–232.  “Richard II: 1381 November,” in Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. Chris Given-Wilson, Paul Brand, Seymour Phillips, Mark Ormrod, Geoffrey Martin, Anne Curry, and Rosemary Horrox (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2005), no-series/parliament-rolls-medieval/november-1381. 38  W.M.  Ormrod, “In Bed with Joan of Kent: The King’s Mother and the Peasants’ Revolt,” in Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain. Essays for Felicity Riddy, ed. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Rosalynn Voaden, Arlyn Diamond, Ann Hutchison, Carol Meale, and Lesley Johnson (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), 288. 39  Ormrod, “In Bed with Joan of Kent,” 289–290. 40  Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Richard II, 1381–1385 (London: HMSO, 1895–1909), 119–120, 159, 203. 36 37



was not present for.41 Anne likely learned of these pardon seekers through written petitions drafted by lawyers, a common way to request pardons.42 Unfortunately, only three petitions to Anne are extant, two involving her lordships and one involving supplication.43 Balthasar Obriake, a Florentine merchant, requested that Anne ask the King to provide him with a safe conduct to trade in England, which he received shortly thereafter.44 Two pardons Anne obtained, however, can be traced to petitions sent to the King. Robert Feer petitioned Richard for a pardon from theft and rape, arguing he had been falsely accused. His pardon was granted through Anne’s intercession in 1384.45 Adam Lygthfote also petitioned the King for a pardon for a killing and received his pardon through Anne’s intercession in 1389.46 Anne’s access to petitions presumably gave her opportunity to evaluate petitioners and their circumstances, but no clear preferred causes emerge. She was swayed at least twice by claims of innocence, which speaks well of her sense of justice. The falsely accused who were pardoned were probably particularly grateful the Queen decided to mediate on their behalf, and it provided Anne with an opportunity to cast herself as an advocate for justice and fairness, as well as mercy. After selecting her causes, Anne likely discussed them orally with Richard since they were together often.47 Her international mediation followed much the same path, with foreign elites writing her letters about their concerns, which Anne could then take up orally with Richard if she were sympathetic to the request or saw its political importance.48 Anne brought grace to Richard’s subjects, which was politically astute and served to increase her image as a benevolent queen. This most notably occurred in 1392 when Richard became enraged with the City of London for not granting him a loan. The subsequent pageant and reconciliation  CPR, Richard II, 1391–1396, 199.  Lacey, The Royal Pardon, 32. Most pardons were requested by the trial judge and processed by the chancellor. Those that involved people such as Anne and came from the king’s grace were bypassing the regular legal process. See: Lacey, The Royal Pardon, 20, 22, 26–27. 43  TNA SC 8/75/3718; SC 8/42/2075. 44  TNA SC 8/222/11079; CPR, Richard II, 1381–1385, 458. 45  TNA SC 8/183/9106; CPR, Richard II, 1381–1385, 433. 46  TNA SC 8/224/11161; CPR, Richard II, 1389–1392, 18. 47  Anthony Musson, “Queenship, Lordship and Petitioning in Late Medieval England,” in Medieval Petitions: Grace and Grievance, ed. W. Mark Ormrod, Gwilym Dodd, and Anthony Musson (York: York Medieval Press, 2009), 156–172, at 161. 48  The Teutonic Knights are one example: Codex Diplomaticus Prussicus, Volume IV, ed. Johannes Voigt (Königsberg, 1853), 124–125. 41 42



tableau were documented in chronicles, letters, and even a celebratory poem.49 In these, Anne takes centre stage (along with some bishops) to convince Richard to restore London’s liberties. In the Concordia, the poem based on the reconciliation pageant, the citizens of London specifically beg Anne to help them: “Therefore your people’s city, prostrate, begs your help / And kindness, for on these it mainly puts its hope.”50 At the poem’s culmination, a prostrate Anne begs Richard to forgive London, which he did. Even though the city’s pardon had been pre-arranged (the pageant was part of the agreement), the sources show the Queen acting on behalf of her subjects. Anne worked to turn Richard away from the harsh punishment he had exacted on London, which surely caused many Londoners to view the Queen favourably. The Londoners showed their appreciation for Anne’s maternal mercy during the Christmas season of 1392/1393, the first after the reconciliation, when they presented both Richard and Anne with unusual presents. The citizens gave Richard a camel and Anne a “remarkable bird with an enormously wide gullet.” Later, Richard, “prompted by the queen and by other persons of rank,” forgave the Londoners part of the fine he had levied earlier in the year.51 Such a description suggests that Anne’s gift was probably a pelican, which had a rich iconographic tradition in medieval Europe. Various texts and artworks represented the mother pelican as feeding her young with her own blood, sacrificing herself for them in a maternal act of devotion that prefigured Christ.52 Just as she had over the summer, Anne laboured to ease the punishment Richard had imposed. By giving Anne a pelican, the Londoners acknowledged the Queen’s maternal role and how she, just like a pelican, had made sacrifices for her children. In another parallel with Christ, Anne also sacrificed for her non-biological children. 49  Westminster Chronicle, 503–509; Richard Maidstone, Concordia: The Reconciliation of Richard II with London, trans. A.G. Rigg and ed. David R. Carlson (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2003); Helen Suggett, “A Letter Describing Richard II’s Reconciliation with the City of London, 1392,” English Historical Review 62, no. 243 (1947): 212. 50  Maidstone, Concordia, 73. 51  Westminster Chronicle, 510–511, see note 4 for pelican identification. 52  Anastasia Pineschi, “The Pelican, Self-Sacrificing Mother Bird of the Medieval Bestiary,” The Iris: Behind the Scenes at the Getty, May 11, 2018, (accessed 20 November 2020); “Pelican,” The Medieval Bestiary, January 15, 2011, beast244.htm (accessed 20 November 2020).



Anne also provided tangible, financial support from her own resources in order to build alliances and reward useful servants, a clear expression of good lordship. Sir Richard Abberbury was granted the reversions of the fees of manors in Oxford and in Berkshire in 1385. Although Abberbury was the Queen’s chamberlain, Anne stated the grant was “in compensation for the loss he sustained by selling his manors of Shorham and Tadham to support the king’s estate in his youth.”53 The Queen supported religious foundations, granting land to St Mary Graces by the Tower of London and assisting the convent of Bromholm in obtaining various licenses to appropriate churches.54 Anne also ensured that her treasurer, Thomas More, received a prebend in Wales, even making sure Richard reissued the letters patent pertaining to the original grant.55 Among other grants, the Queen provided annuities of twenty pounds to both her esquire James Schelya and her confessor James Beuesschaw.56 Little is known about Anne’s charity. According to Walsingham, Anne was “a woman of unbelievable devotion to God, a lover of almsgiving, supporter of the poor and of the Church, a devotee of the true faith and of justice, who carried out her penance in secret.”57 Financial accounts of Anne’s almsgiving do not survive, but she did support Joan de Aylston, an anchorite in Nottingham, with two pence a day from the Nottingham fee farm.58 After her death, laudatory eulogies of Anne praised her charity. According to the eulogy “Anglica Regina,” Anne “was always eager to give gifts to the poor: / There never lived a patroness so great in her bestowal of good.”59 A second eulogy, “Femina Famosa,” described Anne in saintly terms, noting “she gave nourishment to the sick, going to them  CPR, Richard II, 1385–1389, 15.  CPR, Richard II, 1381–1385, 306, 579; and CPR, Richard II, 1385–1389, 7. 55  TNA SC 8/186/9259; SC 8/222/11055. 56  CPR, Richard II, 1388–1392, 514; CPR, Richard II, 1391–1396, 285. 57  Walsingham, St Albans Chronicle, 1:960–961. “mulier, ultra multorum opinionem, Deo dedita, amatrix elemosyne, fautrix pauperum et ecclesie, cultrix uere fidei et iusticie, executrix furtiue penitencie.” This passage also appears in Annales Ricardi Secundi et Henrici Quarti, in John de Trokelowe and Anon, Chronica et Annales, ed. H.T. Riley (London, 1866), 168. Both were written by Walsingham. 58  CPR, Richard II, 1391–1396, 503. 59  Michael van Dussen, From England to Bohemia: Heresy and Communication in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 138, lines 9–10. For more on these eulogies, see chapter 1  in van Dussen, From England to Bohemia, or Michael van Dussen, “Three Verse Eulogies of Anne of Bohemia,” Medium Aevum 78, no. 2 (2009): 231–260. 53 54



on foot, however far off” and that she visited the ill and women in childbed while “poorly dressed.”60 Finally, a third eulogy, titled “Nobis Natura Florem,” referenced Anne’s virtue several times and claimed that her “piety runs to the aid of the destitute.”61 Although the eulogies were designed as works of praise for the late queen, Walsingham was less inclined to flatter Anne: directly following his praise, he noted that “many spoke ill of her and slandered her.”62 Thus contemporary evidence demonstrates that Anne was a conventionally pious queen, who gave alms, protected her subjects (such as those she interceded for), and supported the church.63 All of these were vital duties of queens, again emphasizing how Anne ably fulfilled her political and charitable roles.

The Office of Queenship: Cultural Patronage Anne and her heritage also added sophistication to Richard’s court. She is not known to have commissioned paintings, but her cosmopolitan status and some members of her train might have influenced English artists. The exact nature of Bohemian influence on English art during Richard’s reign is far from settled. Art historians such as Sabrina Mitchell believed there to be a clear influence. Mitchell argued that the Liber Regalis (an illuminated manuscript containing the coronation service that is housed in Westminster Abbey) evidences connections with the Bible of Anne’s half-brother, Wenceslas IV. Mitchell further suggests that Anne brought manuscript illuminators with her because many “late-fourteenth-century manuscripts have notes written in Low German.”64 It is possible Anne brought illuminators with her because by 1378 Prague had the second largest number of

 van Dussen, From England to Bohemia, 138, lines 9, 11–12.  van Dussen, From England to Bohemia, 139, line 27. 62  Walsingham, St Albans Chronicle, 1:960–961: “set tamen multorum obloquiis infamata.” 63  Anne potentially had a Bible in Latin, Czech, and German, although translations of the Latin of John Wyclif (who mentioned it) differ. From there, Anne’s legend grew into rumours that she had an English bible and was a reformer. For a succinct and readable discussion of Anne’s transformation into a reforming icon, see: van Dussen, From England to Bohemia, chapter 1. 64  Sabrina Mitchell, Medieval Manuscript Painting (New York: The Viking Press, 1964, 1965), 37. 60 61



manuscript illuminators of any European city, surpassed only by Paris.65 Margaret Rickert also contends that Anne brought manuscript illuminators with her to England and that they painted the miniatures in the Liber Regalis.66 Amanda Simpson, on the other hand, has argued that Bohemian influence in English art was minimal.67 In general, scholarly opinion seems to be swinging back towards an acknowledgement of Bohemian influence on English art, albeit a more restricted influence than previously claimed.68 Anne perhaps functioned more as an inspiration, with her status as the daughter of a famous artistic patron drawing artists to England or encouraging English artists to branch out stylistically. The reign of Richard II coincided with a great flowering of English literature, including notable works by Geoffrey Chaucer. Anne influenced English literature because of what she represented, rather than because she personally commissioned poetry. Andrew Taylor has argued that Anne was a “woman of significant cultural authority” and that scholars have underestimated that authority as a consequence of emphasizing Chaucer’s independence as an artist.69 Anne was a “historical surrogate” who inspired Chaucer to expand his horizons by exploring the concept of wifely eloquence and is a historical counterpart to creations such as Alceste in the Prologue to The Legend of Good Women.70 Anne was an imagined patron for Chaucer because she was representative of a more cosmopolitan, 65  Barbara Drake Boehm, “Called to Create: Luxury Artists at Work in Prague,” in Prague: The Crown of Bohemia, 1347–1437, ed. Barbara Drake Boehm and Jiří Fajt (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 78, quoting Josef Krása, Die Handschriften König Wenzels IV, trans. Herta Sowinski (Prague: Odeon, 1971), 73. 66  Margaret Rickert, Painting in Britain: The Middle Ages (1954; repr., Harmondsworth: Penguin,1965), 152. 67  Amanda Simpson, The Connections Between English and Bohemian Painting During the Second Half of the Fourteenth Century (New York: Garland Publishing, 1984). 68  For further information, see: Hanna Hlavácková, “The Bible of Wenceslas IV in the Context of Court Culture,” in The Regal Image of Richard II and the Wilton Diptych, ed. Dillian Gordon, Lisa Monnas, and Caroline Elam (London: Harvey Miller, 1997), 223–231; Paul Binski, “The Liber Regalis: Its Date and European Context,” in The Regal Image of Richard II and the Wilton Diptych, ed. Dillian Gordon, Lisa Monnas, and Caroline Elam (London: Harvey Miller, 1997), 233–246. 69  Andrew Taylor, “Anne of Bohemia and the Making of Chaucer,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 19 (1997): 96. 70  David Wallace, Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 376 (quote) and 6, 338, 376–377. Older scholarship argued that Anne commissioned The Legend, but there is no clear evidence for this.



European culture.71 Anne’s cultural authority inspired authors such as Chaucer to reach new literary heights and develop English literature into something special. Anne’s transmission of ideas and objects from her natal family’s glittering court might have helped to increase the prestige of Richard’s court and his sense of his place in the world. As Nigel Saul in particular has demonstrated, Richard’s court became more formal over time. One of the most obvious signs of this was a change in speech. Beginning in the 1390s, Richard encouraged his subjects to address him (at least in written form) as “prince” and “your majesty” rather than “your grace,” which applied to all lords.72 The emperor was generally referred to as “your majesty,” both by his own subjects and fellow monarchs. However, since the 1200s there was another king that was also called “your majesty”—the French king.73 The change of address can thus not be decisively attributed to either Imperial or French influence.74 Anne, however, might have encouraged or supported Richard. If Richard was pushing court address more towards continental standards, Anne might have seen this as natural and normal, rather than innovative. In this regard, attributing Richard’s more formal, elaborate court to French practices does not have to negate Anne’s influence. While she might not have been the sole, or even primary, source for the changes, she likely supported Richard as he moved his court in directions with which she was familiar.75 Richard certainly had an exalted view of his kingship, and he aimed to increase his earthly status after Anne’s death through his quest for the 71  Alfred Thomas, Reading Women in Late Medieval Europe: Anne of Bohemia and Chaucer’s Female Audience (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), especially 3, 10, 17, 206–207; Alfred Thomas, A Blessed Shore: England and Bohemia from Chaucer to Shakespeare (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007), 26, 28. 72  Nigel Saul, “Richard II and the Vocabulary of Kingship,” English Historical Review 110, no. 438 (September 1995): 858, 861, 876. The earliest instances were in 1391, when Anne was still queen. 73  Saul, “Richard II and the Vocabulary of Kingship,” 871. 74  See: Saul, Richard II, 346–358, for a detailed analysis in favour of the French over Bohemian influence at Richard’s court. 75  It is possible that Richard’s decorative scheme of thirteen kings for Westminster Hall owed something to the extensive dynastic aggrandizement Charles IV promoted, especially at Karlštejn Castle. However, kings promoting their dynastic and saintly links was rather common, so it would be wise not to make too much of both having commissioned similar art. See: Rosario, Art and Propaganda; and Philip Lindley, “Absolutism and Regal Image in Ricardian Sculpture,” The Regal Image of Richard II, 60–84, 288–296.



imperial crown.76 Although deceased, Anne likely influenced her husband in this, as she was Richard’s dynastic link with the empire.77 Three years after Anne died, Richard sent envoys to the Frankfurt diet in May 1397,78 and in June messengers from the Empire visited Richard and indicated he was soon to be elected emperor.79 However, this was hasty because Richard later offered gifts to the Archbishop of Trier and the Duke of Saxony, hoping to turn the final two to his side.80 Over a year later, in September 1398, Richard was still not emperor. In that month, Sigismund, then King of Hungary and Anne of Bohemia’s younger brother, wrote about Richard’s pretensions to Wenceslas, then King of the Romans. Sigismund had heard Richard had designs on the imperial crown, and he urged his older half-­brother not to permit the imperium “to be transferred from ours into an alien family.”81 Richard might be Sigismund and Wenceslas’ brother-in-­ law, but, in Sigismund’s eyes, he was not a member of the imperial Luxembourg dynasty. Try as Richard might, he was simply Anne’s husband and that connection, especially with Anne dead, was not enough to win the imperial throne. While an Englishman had previously been elected King of the Romans (the precursor to emperor),82 it would seem more likely that Richard’s interest in the empire came from his marriage. David Wallace suggests that Richard felt imperial prestige by having an interceding Anne kneel to him when she was alive, and after her death, he made overtures to become emperor in order to maintain access to that prestige.83 Anne’s imperial heritage thus supported Richard in both his quest to formalize his court protocol and obtain a second crown, although only one was ultimately successful. 76  See: Saul, “Richard II and the Vocabulary of Kingship” and Saul, “The Kingship of Richard II,” for further information. Aside from more formalised terms of address, Richard also pushed concepts of his subjects’ obedience and his own sovereignty. 77  Thomas, A Blessed Shore, 14, 65. 78  Bueno de Mesquita, “The Foreign Policy of Richard II in 1397: Some Italian Letters,” English Historical Review 56, no. 224 (October 1941): 632. 79  Walsingham, St Albans Chronicle, 2:61. 80  de Mesquita, “The Foreign Policy,” 632; Michael Bennett, Richard II and the Revolution of 1399 (Stroud: Sutton, 1999), 93–94. 81  Deutsche Reichstagsakten unter König Wenzel, Volume 3: 1397–1400, ed. Julius Weizsäcker (Munich: Rudolph Oldenbourg, 1877), 61. “imperium ex nostra in alienam familiam transferatur.” 82  This was Richard, Earl of Cornwall, younger brother of Henry III. Richard and Alfonso X of Castile were both elected King of the Romans in 1257. 83  Wallace, Chaucerian Polity, 374.



Death and Memorial Anne of Bohemia died of an unstated illness (perhaps plague) on Pentecost Sunday, 7 June 1394, at Sheen in Surrey. She was only twenty-eight years old, and Richard was devastated.84 In his grief, the King ordered Sheen razed to the ground, although this ultimately did not occur for almost a year after Anne’s death.85 Anne’s funeral at Westminster Abbey did not take place until 3 August. Walsingham sniped that the funeral cost more than any other of the era, although the event was surely more notable for Richard’s angry outburst at the exceedingly rude Earl of Arundel.86 Richard was angered: so taking his attendant’s cane, he struck the earl violently upon the head with such force, that he collapsed and his blood flowed profusely over the pavement. The king would have liked to kill him in the church if he had been permitted. This act was perpetrated at the beginning of the funeral office. He was obliged to delay the funeral while the priests of the church hastened to the solemn service of reconciliation. It was nightfall before the funeral ended. The result was that everything was in a turmoil, the whole atmosphere confused. The reason for the king’s anger was that the earl was not present at the procession and the carrying of the queen’s body when it was taken from the church of St Paul’s to Westminster. And when he arrived late, he was first of everybody to ask permission to withdraw because of certain matters which were causing him concern.87

After Anne’s death, Richard commissioned, and saw the completion of, the couple’s joint tomb (Fig. 5.1). This indicates Richard approved of the epitaph left for Anne on the monument.88 It reads:  Usk, Chronicle of Adam Usk, 18–19; Walsingham, St Albans Chronicle, 1:960–961.  Historia Vitae et Regni Ricardi II, 134; Usk, Chronicle of Adam Usk, 18–19; The Reign of Richard II: From Minority to Tyranny 1377–97, ed. A.K.  McHardy (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012), 304. 86  Walsingham, St Albans Chronicle, 1:961. 87  Walsingham, St Albans Chronicle, 1:960–963. 88  Mark Duffy, Royal Tombs of Medieval England (Stroud: Tempus, 2003), 168; and van Dussen, “Three Verse Eulogies of Anne of Bohemia,” 236, citing Lindley, “Absolutism and Regal Image,” 60–84, 288–296. Some of the ideas here were presented in: Kristen L. Geaman and Theresa Earenfight, “Neither Heir nor Spare: Childless Queens and the Practice of Monarchy in Premodern Europe,” in The Routledge History of Monarchy, ed. Elena Woodacre, Lucinda H.S. Dean, Chris Jones, Russel E. Martin, and Zita Eva Rohr (London: Routledge, 2019), 518–533. 84 85


Fig. 5.1  Tomb Effigy of Anne of Bohemia, Westminster Abbey. (© Dean and Chapter of Westminster)

Under this wide stone lies Anne now buried, While living in this world married to Richard II, Devoted to Christ, she was noted for good deeds: Always prone to render her gifts to paupers:




She settled quarrels and relieved pregnant women, With beautiful body and beautiful, meek face, Supplying solace to widows, medicine to the sick She departed to heaven June 7 1394.89

In her epitaph, Richard praised Anne for her traditionally feminine good works. Anne smoothed disagreement, a reference to intercession, and assisted the pregnant, widowed, poor, and ill. As Michael van Dussen has noted, Anne’s epitaph was probably based on three verse eulogies for the Queen; all three are now only extant in a manuscript in Prague.90 The epitaph condenses the sentiments of the eulogies, which can provide additional information on the meaning behind the epitaph. One of the eulogies (mentioned above), entitled “Anglica Regina,” declared, “Hence, as we ought who lose such a mother, / Let us shed tears for her and often pray.”91 Anne was here cast as a spiritual mother to those who mourned her.92 The tomb itself, providing as it did an official, monumental body for the Queen, also “realised ritual emphasis on her ageless nurturing-­ intercessory function,” again highlighting Anne’s nurturing maternity.93 The Queen’s commemorations thus promoted her as a mother, just not of the biological variety.

 Duffy, Royal Tombs, 172. My translation. Original Latin:


Sub petra lata nunc Anna iacet tumulata, Dum vixit mundo Ricardo nupta secundo. Christo devota fuit hec factis bene nota: Pauperibus prona semper sua reddere dona: Iurgia sedavit et pregnantes relevavit. Corpore formosa vultu mitis speciosa. Prebens solamen viduis, egris medicamen: Anno milleno ter C, quarto nonageno Junii septeno mensis, migravit ameno. 90  van Dussen, “Three Verse Eulogies,” 232, 234–237. 91  van Dussen, “Three Verse Eulogies,” 252 (lines 25–26). 92  van Dussen, “Three Verse Eulogies,” 252 (quote), 250. 93  John Carmi Parsons, “‘Never was a body buried in England with such solemnity and honour:’ The Burials and Posthumous Commemorations of English Queens to 1500,” in Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe, ed. Anne J.  Duggan (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1997), 333.



Overcoming Infertility Although Anne never had children to keep her memory alive, she has a good posthumous reputation.94 This perhaps reached its peak in the Victorian era, when the influential historian William Stubbs first floated the unfounded idea that Richard II was insane and that his reign deteriorated without Anne to provide a check on her husband.95 Although it is an odd way to acknowledge Anne’s importance and influence, such wild speculations testify to the favourable role Anne was able to carve out for herself and for her English subjects. In addition, these ideas suggest that Anne was more likely to have been a help to Richard, rather than an agent of his downfall. Anne might not have given Richard a son, potentially weakening the king, but sons, as Edward II experienced, were no safety against deposition. Furthermore, there is the distinct possibility that Richard’s childlessness saved him from deposition during the Appellant Crisis. With no clear successor in 1387, the Appellants Thomas of Woodstock and Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) could not agree on the succession, and Richard remained on the throne.96 Through her intercession, patronage, and charity, Anne fulfilled most of the major requirements of a queen, while also serving as a nurturing mother. Because Anne mothered her subjects and inspired poets, she has achieved a reputation as a good queen. In Anne’s case, childlessness ended up not being detrimental, either in life or in death. Her life demonstrates that queenship had space for both the fertile and the childless.

94  On women and keeping alive family memory, see: Elisabeth van Houts, Gender and Memory in Medieval Europe, 900–1200 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999). 95  For the details of this historiographical myth, see: Stow, “Stubbs, Steel, and Richard II as Insane,” 601–638. 96  Clarke and Galbraith, “Deposition of Richard II,” 157.


Isabella of Valois: Child Queen Louise Tingle

Isabella of France is one of England’s most obscure and forgotten consorts.1 Marrying Richard II at the age of six in 1396, her most distinguishing feature is that she remains the youngest English royal consort, ever. She also experienced one of the shortest tenures as a consort and was only nine when Richard II was deposed in 1399. She has received little scholarly attention other than to the circumstances of her marriage as the confirmation of a truce between England and France, and  often  remains a postscript to Richard II’s first wife Anne of Bohemia in biographies.2 In Shakespeare’s Richard II, the unnamed queen character is a composite of Anne and Isabella, retaining only Isabella’s nationality and the reason for her selection as Richard’s wife, which has contributed to Isabella’s erasure from history. 1  Isabella is known to history as Isabella of Valois to differentiate her from her husband’s great-grandmother, another Isabella of France. 2  Lisa Hilton, Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008), 326–353.

L. Tingle (*) Cardiff, UK © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




Little administrative evidence survives for Isabella due to her age, and in her survey of medieval queens’ households Hilda Johnstone notes the obscurity of Isabella’s in particular.3 Isabella appears sporadically in chronicles, as well as chancery rolls and inventories. Despite her youth, Isabella seems to have harboured a genuine affection for Richard, who in turn lavished expensive gifts upon her. An examination of the Treasure Roll of Richard II details many of the items in Isabella’s lavish trousseau, most poignantly the inclusion of dolls and their miniature furniture, which highlights Isabella’s youth and provides evidence for the material upbringing of royal daughters and the training of future queens.4 Negotiations regarding the size and conditions of Isabella’s dowry, and then over the return of the gold and jewels, marked either side of Isabella’s time in England, after which she returned to life in France.

Birth and Marriage Born on 9 November 1389, at the Louvre in Paris, Isabella was the eldest surviving child of Isabeau (Isabella or Elisabeth) of Bavaria and Charles VI, King of France, who later suffered from episodes of psychosis. Despite accusations that Isabeau was a neglectful mother, which were probably the result of negative public opinion and rumours due to court politics, Isabeau certainly spent lavishly on her offspring.5 Household accounts demonstrate that she purchased books of hours and psalters for her daughters, and a mill of gold decorated with pearls and brooms specifically for Isabella’s entertainment.6 Isabeau’s generosity to Isabella continued after her daughter’s marriage. While Isabella was in England, her mother sent her a lockable gold casket, probably to celebrate the New Year in 1398.7 Despite departing France at such a young age, Isabella maintained a 3  Hilda Johnstone, “The Queen’s Household,” in Chapters in the Administrative History of Mediaeval History: The Wardrobe, The Chamber, and the Small Seals, ed. T.F. Tout, 6 vols. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1920–1933), 5:263. 4  Jenny Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2012), 325; TNA E 101/411/9. 5  Rachel Gibbons, “Isabeau of Bavaria, Queen of France (1385–1422): The Creation of an Historical Villainess: The Alexander Prize Essay,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6 (1996): 57. 6  Tracy Adams, The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2010), 232. 7  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 23.



connection with her mother, exchanging letters through Isabella’s secretary, Pierre Salmon.8 Frequent accounts occur for payments to couriers taking letters from Isabeau to her children, and the Queen also made arrangements to send them away for their safety when plague threatened Paris in 1399. As adults, her daughter Jeanne later visited her mother in 1415, and Isabella in 1409, suggesting lasting affection between offspring and parent, despite Isabella spending several years away from her mother at a young age.9 Isabeau’s other purchases for her children included parrots for Isabella and her next two sisters, Jeanne and Michelle, in 1401, after Isabella’s return from England.10 In 1403, each child received three outfits in fine woollen cloth, one each in scarlet, green, and black, with grey hose for Isabella. The three colours essentially formed a royal colour scheme, and Rachel Gibbons argues that Isabeau used her spending to solidify her own position, particularly as her husband grew more mentally unstable, which would also have been important for securing the status of her children.11 As for any royal daughter, negotiations for Isabella’s marriage began early, perhaps especially because of Isabella’s status as the king’s eldest surviving daughter. Charles’ instability also created an anxiety to strengthen the political security of the kingdom and royal family. Aged only six, when Isabella was betrothed to Richard II in 1396, she was already engaged to Jean, the heir to the count of Alençon, probably with a view to expanding French influence in Brittany and Normandy.12 In contrast, Richard II was an adult, who had already been married before to a woman of his own age. The lack of children from the marriage between Anne of Bohemia and Richard II has led some scholars to suggest that their marriage was a chaste one, perhaps in imitation of the childless marriage between Edward the Confessor and his wife Edith. Others such as Nigel Saul and Kristen  John Taylor, ed., The Kirkstall Abbey Chronicles (Leeds: Thoresby Society, 1952), 120.   Gibbons, “Isabeau of Bavaria,” 58; Adams, The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria, 233. 10  Adams, The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria, 232; Tracy Adams, “Medieval Mothers and their Children: The Case of Isabeau of Bavaria,” in Childhood in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: The Results of a Paradigm Shift in the History of Mentality, ed. Albrecht Classen (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2005), 265–290. 11  Rachel C. Gibbons, “The Queen as ‘Social Mannequin’: Consumerism and Expenditure at the Court of Isabeau of Bavaria, 1393–1422,” Journal of Medieval History 26, no. 4 (2000): 384. 12  J.J.N. Palmer, “The Background to Richard II’s Marriage to Isabel of France (1396),” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 44, no. 109 (1971): 5. 8 9



Geaman disagree, citing the importance of producing heirs for a medieval king.13 In support of the chaste marriage theory, Richard particularly admired Edward, as shown in the symbolism in the Wilton Diptych, an altarpiece created for Richard after Anne’s death.14 Richard also adopted Edward the Confessor’s retrospectively attributed arms, quartered with his own, from 1394, after Anne’s death.15 Richard’s second marriage in 1396 to the child Isabella seems a more likely timing for his new image as a virgin in imitation of the Confessor, as opposed to during his marriage to Anne, offering a possible explanation for his marriage to a child. In fact, Christopher Fletcher suggests that his second marriage may have provided the opportunity for a more successful renewal of a masculine rite of passage, particularly because there was little criticism directed at the large expenditure for the wedding and ceremonies.16 Anthony Steel has suggested that Richard mourned Anne too deeply to want another adult wife at that point, meaning that he chose a child bride deliberately.17 However, Richard II’s original choice for a second wife, identified as Yolande of Aragon, was five years older and much closer to the age of consent. John Palmer has since argued against the suppositions of earlier nineteenth-century historians that the marriage to Isabella was foolhardy and Richard’s own idea, refusing to consider any alternative brides.18 Evidence for an Aragon expedition before negotiations even began with France and possible overtures to the Wittelsbach family for another German wife after Anne demonstrate that France was not the only 13  In addition to Kristen Geaman’s chapter on Anne of Bohemia in this volume, see: Caroline M. Barron, “Richard II: Image and Reality,” in The Wilton Diptych: Making and Meaning, ed. Dillian Gordon (London: National Gallery, 1993), 15; John M.  Bowers, “Chaste Marriage: Fashion and Texts at the Court of Richard II,” Pacific Coast Philology 30, no. 1 (1995): 16; Nigel Saul, Richard II (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 324; Kristen L.  Geaman, “Anne of Bohemia and Her Struggle to Conceive,” Social History of Medicine 29, no. 2 (2016): 2. 14  Katherine J. Lewis, “Becoming a Virgin King: Richard II and Edward the Confessor,” in Gender and Holiness: Men, Women and Saints in Late Medieval Europe, ed. Samantha J. E. Riches and Sarah Salih (London: Routledge, 2002), 87. 15  Nigel Saul, “Richard II and Westminster Abbey,” in The Cloister and the World: Essays in Medieval History Presented to Barbara Harvey, ed. John Blair and Brian Golding (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 208. 16  Christopher Fletcher, Richard II: Manhood, Youth, and Politics 1377–1399 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 222, 244. 17  Anthony Steel, Richard II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1941), 214. 18  Palmer, “The Background to Richard II’s Marriage,” 1–2.



alliance considered.19 An embassy despatched to Aragon to secure the hand of the king’s daughter aimed to consolidate English influence in Iberia and prevent Yolande’s marriage to the King of Naples.20 Palmer argues that this triggered a “crisis,” with the French fearing an English claim to the Aragonese throne, and Charles VI began pressuring Juan of Aragon against the marriage. At this point two Iberian rulers were already married to daughters of Richard’s uncle, John of Gaunt, and for Yolande to marry Richard would mean that almost all of the Iberian kingdoms would fall under English influence. Richard was then offered a choice between three French princesses.21 None of these, however, were the daughter of the French king, and Charles VI then offered the hand of his own daughter—the eldest, Isabella. Despite a long history of English kings marrying French wives, the fact that peace between France and England was already underway meant that a French bride had not seemed necessary at that point. However, the French reaction to the Aragon match and a rebellion in Aquitaine made the extra confirmation necessary, resulting in the match with Isabella.22 Marriage between Richard and Isabella was championed as bringing peace to Christendom, as emphasised by Philippe de Mézières in a letter addressed to Richard II promoting the match. Mézières accounted for Isabella’s youth with comparisons to animals being more easily moulded from a young age and that the trainer, Richard, would derive the greatest benefit. In reference to Isabella’s inability to bear children for several more years, Mézières pointed out that men were not able to choose when they conceived, even if married to a lady of the right age, alluding to Richard’s previous marriage.23 In comparison, Isabella’s next youngest sister, Jeanne, was married in 1397 to the future duke of Brittany, but remained with her birth family until 1405, when she was aged fourteen. Jeanne’s husband was, like her, still a child, and Jeanne had a much smaller dowry than

19  J.J.N.  Palmer, England, France and Christendom, 1377–1399 (London: Routledge, 1972), 167. 20  Palmer, England, France and Christendom, 166–167. 21  Palmer, “The Background to Richard II’s Marriage,” 5–6. 22  Palmer, “The Background to Richard II’s Marriage,” 16. 23  Philippe de Mézières, Letter to King Richard II, ed. G.W.  Coopland (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1975), 67–68; Rosemary Howard Gill, “Saving the King: Philippe de Mézières’ Representation of Charles VI of France in Le Songe du Vieil Pelerin and L’Epistre au Roi Richart,” French History 31, no. 1 (2017): 1–19.



Isabella of 150,000 francs.24 Her marriage to the heir to a duke also had less significance than Isabella’s marriage to a king with the goal of securing peace between France and England. Ultimately, however, Christopher Phillpotts argues that the truce sealed by this marriage was unsuccessful and that Richard had never intended to keep it, at least once the dowry instalments had been completed, and it would have acted as an interlude rather than a lasting peace.25 Richard’s initial demands of two million gold francs and territorial claims comparable to the stretch of the earlier Angevin empire were rejected by the French. Palmer argues that demands for land and military support against Scotland were designed to extract a higher dowry and to offset reluctance in England regarding a French marriage.26 Earlier scholarship, including T.F. Tout and J.H. Ramsay, emphasised the instruction to the negotiators to secure French aid against English unrest, arguing that this alliance marked a turning point in Richard becoming tyrannical, which was also noted at the time by the chronicler Adam of Usk.27 In January 1396, terms were finally agreed for a truce lasting twenty-eight years, among other political arrangements, and the dowry confirmed on 9 March 1396 at a total of 800,000 francs, with 300,000 paid on the day of the wedding and five further annual instalments of 100,000. Future children of the marriage would have no claims to the French crown, and Richard would keep her whole dowry if she refused the marriage when she turned twelve, but return double the amount if he rejected her.28 The terms and amount of this dowry would have great significance in the negotiations regarding Isabella’s return to France, ultimately prolonging her stay in England essentially as a hostage. In return, Richard offered to endow Isabella with lands worth £6666 13 s 4 d—or 10,000 marks—per year. This was more than the £4500 traditionally bestowed on medieval queens, as Katia Wright’s chapter in this  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 64–65.  Christopher John Phillpotts, “John of Gaunt and English Policy Towards France, 1389–1395,” Journal of Medieval History 16 (1990): 384. 26  Palmer, England, France and Christendom, 168–170; TNA E 30/326. 27  Tout, Chapters in the Administrative History of Mediaeval History, 4:5; James H. Ramsay, Genesis of Lancaster, 1307–1399 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1913), 305; Chris GivenWilson, ed., The Chronicle of Adam Usk 1377–1421 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 20–21. 28  Palmer, England, France and Christendom, 168–170; Thomas Rymer, Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae etc., ed. George Holmes, 20 vols. (London, 1704–1735), 7:812–820. 24 25



volume discusses, and it probably reflects the large size of her own dowry. Isabella was to have 500,000 francs of her dowry for her own use, of which the king could keep 400,000 if she died without children. If she only produced daughters, the entirety of her 800,000 franc dowry was to be used for their endowment.29 On 8 December, Isabella was granted possessions formerly belonging to the deceased Earl of Pembroke, including the castle, country, and lordship of Pembroke, the towns of Tenby, Cilgerran, Ystlwyf, St Clears, and Trahayne and their rights and profits, “for life… as part of her dower.”30 She was also later granted the proceeds of all the property of the Earl of March until his heir came of age.31 These properties had not been the dower of previous queens, and if Richard had survived Isabella might have been granted other, more permanent properties, but in the meantime such grants did not reduce the finite royal holdings. Under Philippa of Hainault and Edward III, the queen’s household had become combined with that of the king’s, with the queen expected to contribute ten pounds per day to the wardrobe. This condition had continued under Richard’s first wife, with less regular payments, and Chris Given-Wilson notes a lack of instalments under Isabella, probably due to her young age.32 Isabella’s holdings would probably have grown as her circumstances changed and her expenses increased. During the negotiations, the English representatives requested to visit Isabella. The Earl Marshal knelt before her and said that she was to be their queen. Froissart described her as “well-educated,” with Isabella responding “Sir, if it please God, and my lord and father, that I be queen of England, I shall be well pleased, for I have been told that I shall then be a great lady.” The English were reportedly impressed by her answer and her manners.33 The Earl Marshal stood as the king’s proxy for the betrothal in Paris on 12 March 1396, with Froissart relating that “young as she was, she knew well how to act the queen.”34 When the two kings later met at the plain of Ardres, Isabella was accompanied by the duchesses of Lancaster  Palmer, England, France and Christendom, 169, 174.  Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1272–1413 (London: HMSO, 1891–1905): CPR, 1396–1399, 40. 31  CPR, 1396–1399, 403, 408 and 431. 32  Chris Given-Wilson, The Royal Household and the King’s Affinity: Service, Politics and Finance in England, 1360–1413 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 93. 33  Jean Froissart, Chronicles of England, France and Spain, trans. Thomas Johnes, 2 vols. (London, 1839–1844), 2:583. 34  Froissart, Chronicles, 2:599. 29 30



Fig. 6.1  The meeting of Richard II and Isabella of Valois. Froissart, Chroniques, c.1470, BL Harley MS 4380, fol. 89r. (© British Library Board)

and Gloucester and the countesses of Huntingdon and Stafford. She was carried to the council by the dukes of Berry and Burgundy. Isabella was wearing a blue velvet dress embroidered with fleurs-de-lis and a crown described as of great value (Fig. 6.1).35 Twelve coaches filled with ladies and maids accompanied her to Calais, where the two married on 4 November 1396. Richard apparently spent 10,000 marks on gifts alone and 300,000 marks on expenses, including lavish materials. On their way home, many of the tents and furnishings were lost in a storm.36

35  John Taylor, Wendy R.  Childs, and Leslie Watkiss, eds., The St Albans Chronicle: The “Chronica Maiora” of Thomas Walsingham, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003–2011), 2:48. 36  St Albans Chronicle, 2:50; Thomas Walsingham, The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham (1376–1422), trans. David Preest (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2005), 297; Palmer, England, France and Christendom, 174; Lisa Monnas, “Silk Cloths Purchased for the Great Wardrobe of the Kings of England, 1325–1462,” Textile History 20, no. 2 (1989): 291; TNA E 361/5/7r 18–21.



When the Queen arrived in London, she spent the night at the Tower, before proceeding through the streets, receiving generous gifts from the Londoners, and arriving at the Palace of Westminster, where Richard waited. One chronicler reported that a number of people were crushed to death in the crowds trying to see their new queen as she passed through the city.37 Isabella was then crowned in London on 7 January 1397.38

Queen of England A major part of medieval queenship included the queen acting as an intercessor between the king and his subjects, whether for requesting pardons for crimes, the relief of rents, or the award of grants, positions, and other rewards. Despite Isabella’s young age, she soon began participating in the cycle of intercession and pardoning at court. A tradition of “arrival intercessions” also existed, where the queen requested a pardon soon after arriving in her new kingdom or on the day of her coronation.39 Isabella requested pardons for Thomas Enlenewyke, convicted of house-breaking, assault, and thievery, on 1 December 1396, and for William del Parke, on 14 February 1397.40 Either may have been designed to reflect positively on Isabella close to her coronation on 7 January 1397. Although pardons for all felonies usually stopped short of absolving murder, rape, or treason, a pardon at Isabella’s supplication dated 30 January 1398 relieved John Milborne for the murder and robbery of John Godefray.41 Richard’s first wife had also been a very active intercessor for pardons, which perhaps explains Isabella’s activity. Despite her youth, Isabella requested an average of at least one pardon per year for the three years of her tenure as queen, a higher average than some earlier, older queens. Isabella’s duties as an intercessor began even before she reached England. Although the king was not involved, soon after her marriage, her new status meant that she was asked to act as intercessor in another case. Sir Peter de Craon had been imprisoned for failing to pay 100,000 francs  George B. Stow, ed., Historia Vitae et Regni Ricardi Secundi (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1977), 136. 38   J.L.  Kirby, “Isabella [Isabella of France] (1389–1409),” ODNB, https://doi. org/10.1093/ref:odnb/14486. 39  John Carmi Parsons, “Ritual and Symbol in the English Medieval Queenship to 1500,” in Women and Sovereignty, ed. Louise Olga Fradenburg (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1992), 64. 40  CPR, 1396–1399, 41, 71. 41  CPR, 1396–1399, 289. 37



which he owed to the Queen of Naples, Marie de Blois. The Duke and Duchess of Burgundy advised him to ask the new Queen of England to intercede with the Queen of Naples. Marie agreed to Isabella’s request that de Craon be freed for fifteen days, as long as he spent his nights at the prison, so that he might seek the help of his friends and relatives in paying his debt.42 Isabella’s young age demonstrates that the title of queen provided her with an aura of influence, despite the fact that her youth prohibited genuine agency. Helen Lacey has suggested that petitioners were able to approach individuals close to the queen, such as her servants and members of her household, in order to request her help in receiving pardons.43 Nevertheless, the continued role of queens as intercessors, even removed from the early medieval roots of the custom, provided validation and confirmation of their role as a key part of medieval monarchy. The restoration of liberties to the citizens of London on 12 June 1397, negotiated by the new mayor, Richard Whittington, in return for 10,000 marks, was also cited as being at Isabella’s supplication.44 As discussed in Kristen Geaman’s chapter on Anne of Bohemia, an earlier restoration of the city’s liberties in 1392 had been attributed to Richard’s first wife, as noted in the pardon of a fine of £100,000, as well as the ritual submission of London as depicted particularly in Richard Maidstone’s contemporary poem.45 In both cases the queens were useful agents of intercession rather than active participants, the first reconciliation having been arranged probably by the royal warden and the second by Whittington. Likewise, the Kirkstall Chronicle records that it was Isabella’s plea in 1397 that saved the life of one of the Lords Appellant, a group of nobles who had sought control of the government. Thomas, Earl of Warwick, had been arrested on a charge of treason. Instead of executing him, Richard banished him to the Isle of Man, having already taken possession of all his goods. In a similar way, Anne of Bohemia had previously interceded to commute the life sentence for John Northampton, a former mayor of London, to life  Froissart, Chronicles, 2: 600.  Helen Lacey, The Royal Pardon: Access to Mercy in Fourteenth-Century England (Woodbridge: York Medieval Press, 2009), 46. 44  CPR, 1396–1399, 136; Caroline M. Barron, “The Quarrel of Richard II with London 1392–1397,” in Medieval London: Collected Papers of Caroline M. Barron, ed. Martha Carlin and Joel T. Rosenthal (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute, 2017), 43. 45   Barron, “The Quarrel of Richard II,” 39; Richard Maidstone, Concordia: The Reconciliation of Richard with London, trans. A.G.  Rigg and ed. David R.  Carlson (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2003), 50–80; CPR, 1391–1396, 146, 206. 42 43



imprisonment.46 Richard may have moulded Isabella’s intercessions in the model of his previous wife, but reducing the severity of Warwick’s punishment meant that Richard could take his property for himself without attracting criticism for executing another noble. Just as Isabella took over Anne’s duties and her position as queen, so she also inherited staff from Anne. Thomas Sydenhale, for example, had served Anne as a valet of wagons and litters for seven years and then Isabella from her coronation.47 As befitting a royal consort, Isabella had several “broudrers,” embroiderers, cordwainers, goldsmiths, tailors, and silkwomen to maintain her luxurious lifestyle as queen.48 Isabella may have received some of her predecessor Anne’s jewels, particularly her crowns, which could have functioned as symbols or accessories of the queenly office, as well as some of her collars. Collars were worn around the neck or shoulders by both men and women and often bore symbols and badges which also functioned as a method of identification of the owner’s loyalties. The most expensive of five collars mentioned among Anne’s possessions was valued at £334. It featured ferns with diamonds, pearls, and rubies and later passed to Isabella. Another collar belonging to Isabella featured an ostrich, possibly drawing on her predecessor’s livery, as well as Isabella’s badge of broomcods.49 Collars with badges were given to prospective allies as well as household members. When confirming peace with France in 1396, Richard II gave Charles VI of France a collar that was described as being of the late Queen Anne’s livery.50 This particular collar may have been an especially genuine gift given Richard’s affection for his late wife and suggests possible connotations that he planned to treat his new wife, Charles’ daughter Isabella, equally as well as he had treated Anne. Many jewels and other possessions linked to Isabella appear in an inventory, undated but probably compiled after Richard II’s death in 1400 during the early years of Henry IV’s reign, and partially based on a previous list from earlier forfeited estates.51 The English had demanded an extra 46  Taylor, The Kirkstall Abbey Chronicles, 120; The Westminster Chronicle, 1381–1394, trans. L.C. Hector and Barbara F. Harvey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 92. 47  TNA SC 8/181/9021. 48  CPR, 1396–1399, 68, 74, 150, 153, 329, 414, 424. 49  Chronicque de la Traïson et Mort de Richart Deux Roy d’Engleterre, ed. Benjamin Williams (London, 1846), 109; Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 16, 52, 151–152, 274–275. 50  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 52, 389. 51  TNA E 101/411/9; Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 6.



100,000 francs in jewels in addition to the dowry, and if the king died, Isabella could return to France with her jewels. Relatives of the king, including the future Henry IV, then Earl of Derby, had confirmed in writing that she would have no obligations.52 Richard also noted in his will that Isabella was to keep the jewels she brought with her if he predeceased her.53 Altogether, the objects mentioned in the Henry IV inventory from Isabella’s trousseau were worth almost £10,000 and would have included furnishings such as tapestries and beds, horses, and carriages in addition to jewels and plate.54 As well as illustrating the material culture with which Isabella was surrounded, the lists also demonstrate the importance of gift-giving and the luxury at the court of Richard II. Saul notes Richard’s warmth and generosity towards both his wives, arguing that Richard treated her like a daughter, buying her presents. When the Bishop of Durham presented Richard with a bejewelled whistle, he in turn gave it to Isabella, and Saul suggests that the relationship between Richard and Isabella was more akin to a parent-child dynamic, due to his lack of offspring and her age.55 Most gifts were given or received from her husband, for New Year and coronation celebrations, but many important magnates and members of her husband’s family are also linked to various  objects, demonstrating the prominence of gift-giving. Gift-giving was reciprocal, meaning that whenever Isabella gave a gift, she could expect to receive one in return. According to a list for New Year 1398, Isabella’s purchased gifts included a gold enamelled book cover, jewellery, and plate.56 Richard’s gifts to Isabella started even before their marriage. Richard had sent two devotional tablets to Isabella in France, including one that incorporated mother-of-pearl, which Jenny Stratford argues was particularly suitable for Isabella due to its connotations of purity.57 His first gifts included a diamond ring and a sapphire and ruby betrothal ring, as well as a “garter to wear on her arm,” one of the earliest mentions of a bracelet. These rings remained in the possession of the English royalty, and Henry

 Palmer, England, France and Christendom, 174.  John Nichols, ed., A Collection of All the Wills Now Known to be Extant of the Kings and Queens of England (London, 1780), 198–199. 54  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 57, 64–65. 55  Saul, Richard II, 457–458; TNA E 101/411/9, m. 14. 56  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 84–85; TNA E101/403/15. 57  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 30, 36. 52 53



IV later sent them to his prospective wife, Joan of Navarre.58 Isabella likewise gave gifts to Richard, such as a nouch (brooch) probably for New Year in 1398, and a chaplet, as well as two ruby and pearl gold clasps from her trousseau.59 Other gifts to Isabella came from prominent and wealthy men of the royal court. The future Henry IV gave her a golden greyhound bejewelled with a ruby and pearl. Brooches were a common gift at ceremonial occasions, including one with a white eagle given by Thomas of Woodstock, one of Richard’s uncles. Brooches with a ruby, worth a thousand marks, and with a diamond and pearl were given by John, Duke of Brittany, and Edmund, Duke of York, another uncle, again for the New Year.60 All of these luxurious possessions would ensure that Isabella would remain in the opulent surroundings to which she had grown up accustomed. Other objects belonging to Isabella as part of her trousseau were everyday household items or intended for her chapel use, but in a more lavish form. These included cups, ewers, and hanaps or goblets, often decorated with her arms, as well as or instead of the harts and broomcod badges associated with her marriage to Richard. Described in more detail was a gold cage for burning perfume balls in the shape of feathered birds.61 For her chapel Isabella had silver-gilt objects, including a cross, chalice, holders for candles, basins, and a bell. In addition, Isabella was provided with a golden rosary, lavish devotional books, crowns, chaplets, belts, clasps, and a purse, many decorated with broomcods in green and white, colours linked with Isabella, as were white lilies, and occasionally with Isabeau of Bavaria’s pimpernel symbol.62 The Bishop of Chichester gave her a statue of the Virgin in silver, described as the size of a small child.63 Many of these items would have been owned in a similar form by other royal women or noble women, but also included in the list of Isabella’s possessions were dolls, as well as their furniture and accessories made of silver-­ gilt, emphasising Isabella’s youth.64 The symbols and heraldry of Isabella’s family would remind viewers of the power of her family and of the treaty between England and France. Such lavishness would portray the French royal family as wealthy, powerful, and stable.  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 63, 290.  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 85. 60  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 19, 20, 65. 61  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 22, 290. 62  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 33, 66, 86. 63  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 105. 64  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 325. 58 59



Return to France In 1399, Richard began preparing to depart for a campaign in Ireland. Despite problems with peace negotiations with France, Christopher Phillpotts argues that Richard’s main reason for maintaining the truce agreed with his marriage was to continue receiving the dowry payments, which helped to fund his Irish expedition.65 Before leaving for Ireland, the author of the Traison et Mort, probably a Frenchman in Isabella’s retinue, records that Richard ordered the Queen’s chamberlain, Sir Philip la Vache, to appoint Master Pol, Richard’s own physician, and his confessor as Isabella’s guardians. Richard then requested that the men provide their opinions of the Queen’s governess, Lady de Coucy. The men replied that they did not consider Lady de Coucy “discreet” or “prudent.” Master Pol stated that the lady “lives in greater state … than does the Queen; for she has eighteen of your horses at her command,” as well as multiple goldsmiths, embroiderers, dressmakers, and furriers.66 Lady de Coucy was also charged with the loss of several objects from Isabella’s trousseau, including a belt in coloured fabrics with gold buckles, as well as individual jewels.67 Richard then ordered his treasurer to pay Lady de Coucy’s debts whilst he was in Ireland, provide money and a ship for her transport to Paris, and appoint Eleanor Holland, Lady Mortimer, as her replacement. Lady Mortimer was Richard’s niece, through his half-brother Thomas Holland.68 Isabella’s new governess would therefore be an Englishwoman as opposed to a Frenchwoman and presumably loyal to Richard by virtue of their family connection. The Chronicler of Saint-Denys, however, records that it was the council Richard left in charge of England who drove out Isabella’s French retinue, leaving her with only her confessor and one lady-in-waiting, as well as reducing her household expenses and keeping her in Wallingford Castle, where she was not permitted to receive any French visitors privately or speak to them publicly.69 Regardless of who was responsible for the dismissal, it was emblematic of England’s changing relations with France and demonstrates that Isabella was not permitted 65  Christopher Phillpotts, “The Fate of the Truce of Paris, 1396–1415,” Journal of Medieval History 24, no. 1 (1998): 65. 66  Traison et Mort, 163–170. 67  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 291–292. 68  Traison et Mort, 163–170. 69  Chronique du Religieux de Saint-Denys 1380–1422, ed. Louis François Bellaguet, 6 vols. (France, 1840), 2:704.



agency even in the makeup of her own household. The previous Isabella of France had also had her own attendants returned to France during a low point in relations between the kingdoms, meaning that the younger Isabella’s position as queen confined her just as much as her youth. On departing for Ireland, the king reportedly kissed her more than forty times, at which the Queen wept. The author of the Traison et Mort claimed, “I never saw so great a lord make so much of, nor show such great affection to, a lady,” as did the King to the Queen.70 After the departure of the King, the Queen was reportedly ill with grief for more than a fortnight. Isabella planned to join Richard in Ireland, according to a writ that mentioned that her household had purchased wine at that time.71 However, before the couple could reunite, Richard’s cousin, the previously exiled Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby, returned from Paris. Although he claimed to be recovering the lands he had inherited, he gathered a number of allies while travelling through England, and Richard’s men surrendered at Bristol. Henry first informed Richard that he would assist him in governing, before announcing that Richard had abdicated in favour of Henry. Parliament assented to his rule on 30 September, meaning that Isabella was no longer the wife of a reigning king.72 After Henry’s usurpation, he moved Isabella to Wallingford, and then, by January 1400, to Sonning, near Reading. In August that year, Henry issued a mandate to his clerk to send £400 from the hanaper for Isabella’s expenses, describing her as the king’s kinswoman.73 While at Sonning, the Queen was visited by the earls of Kent and Salisbury, who were conspiring against Henry to restore Richard to the throne. Henry had heard of their plan and had already left Windsor, so they rode to Sonning and urged the Queen to join them, claiming that Henry had fled to the Tower of London and Richard had escaped from prison and was ready to fight. Kent then took the Lancastrian collars from Henry’s men there and the crescent moon, symbol of Henry IV’s allies, the Percy family, which some of the ladies wore on their arms. The earls were subsequently captured at

 Traison et Mort, 163–170.  CPR, 1401–1405, 218. 72  A.L.  Brown and Henry Summerson, “Henry IV [known as Henry Bolingbroke] (1367–1413), king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine,” ODNB, https:// 73  CPR, 1388–1401, 353; TNA E 101/404/12, warrant to Stephen Ingram, treasurer of Isabella’s household. 70 71



Cirencester.74 Isabella was left awaiting the negotiations for her future without Richard. Henry IV  probably wanted to arrange another English marriage for Isabella, likely to his eldest son, Henry. However, the French refused to discuss further marriages or to allow her to marry again while in England. Henry was now liable to repay the two instalments paid of Isabella’s dowry, totalling 200,000 francs, and was further obligated in that he had been one of the noblemen to sign a contract to that effect at the time of the marriage negotiations.75 Again Isabella’s age proved significant, for at eleven she had almost reached the age at which she could consent to a marriage. Although the French king did not want to acknowledge Henry as king and devalue his daughter’s marriage and position, he had to negotiate for her return. Henry wanted to maintain good relations and the truce with France, but keeping Isabella in England meant that he could use her as a bargaining chip.76 Much of the delay in Isabella’s return to France was caused by the negotiations over the return of her dowry and the objects she had brought with her to England. In late 1400, Charles VI sent an ambassador, Jean de Hangest, the Lord of Hugueville, to negotiate Isabella’s return along with 200,000 francs of her dowry, the two paid instalments which should have been returned because of Richard’s death before the consummation of the marriage. Given-Wilson argues that Isabella was crucial to the truce between England and France, and Henry IV had been advised that he had to send Isabella back with her jewels, but he could not afford the 200,000 francs.77 Charles did not want Isabella to marry any of Henry’s sons, and the French did not permit their ambassador to address Henry IV with the title of king. The French ambassadors were able to meet the king, who permitted them to visit Isabella, but made them promise not to tell her of recent events or of her husband’s fate. Hangest was able to see Isabella in person where she was kept at Havering-atte-Bower in Essex, where she assured him that she would not agree to a marriage in England, despite several attempts by the English. Before they returned to France, according to Froissart, Henry told them, “tell those who have sent you, that the queen 74  Henry Thomas Riley, ed., Johannis de Trokelowe et Henrici de Blaneforde Chronica et Annales (London, 1866), 324; Walsingham, Chronica Maiora, 316. 75  Phillpotts, “The Fate of the Truce of Paris,” 69. 76  S.P. Pistono, “Henry IV and Charles VI: The Confirmation of the Twenty-Eight-Year Truce,” Journal of Medieval History 3, no. 4 (1977): 359–360. 77  Chris Given-Wilson, Henry IV (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 171.



shall never suffer the smallest harm or any disturbance, but keep up a state and dignity becoming her birth and rank, and enjoy all her rights; for, young as she is she ought not as yet to be made acquainted with the changes in this world.”78 These words would have meant that the French could not use accusations of Isabella’s mistreatment in England to demand her return. Writs were issued for horses, beef and mutton, and hay and oats in May and June 1401 for the departure of Isabella and her household.79 Adam of Usk described Isabella on her departure as “dressed in black and scowling with deep hatred at King Henry, but scarcely saying a word.”80 Claiming to be an eyewitness, Usk recorded that some of the people were “cursing the fact that she had ever come and claiming that her arrival had been the cause of all the trouble in the kingdom, others saying that she would, in her burning desire for revenge… stir up even more trouble once she had returned.”81 Eventually, Isabella departed Dover for Calais in July 1401, apparently attended by 500 people, with her jewels but none of her dowry. Another sixty objects, probably gifts to Isabella during the course of her marriage, were unsuccessfully claimed by the French.82 From there she was taken to nearby Leulinghen, where Richard and Charles had arranged the building of a chapel in 1396 when Isabella was presented to Richard, and the English ambassadors gave Isabella back to the French. The Metrical History reports that Isabella then had the English ladies brought to the French tents to dine and presented them with jewels. A French force was reportedly waiting several miles away in case the English failed or changed their minds.83 Isabella then returned to Paris, where she re-­ entered the household of her mother.84 Despite having married and been widowed, she was still a child. 78  Froissart, Chronicles, 2:704; Stephen P. Pistono, “The Diplomatic Mission of Jean De Hangest, Lord of Hugueville (October, 1400),” Canadian Journal of History 13, no. 2 (Summer 1978): 199–203. 79  CPR, 1388–1401, 503–504. 80  Given-Wilson, The Chronicle of Adam Usk, 132–133. “Nigris induta, regi Henrico multum depressum et maleuolum in recessu, uix os apperiens, exhibendo uultum.” 81  Given-Wilson, The Chronicle of Adam Usk, 132–133. “Quibusdam aduentui eius ad regnum quia ipsius totam turbacionem causanti maledicentibus, quibusdam aliis quod post eius recessum… maiorem causaret uindicte fomite inferri molestiam asserentibus procurari per eandem.” 82  Stratford, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure, 2. 83  Traison et Mort, 225–237; Given-Wilson, Henry IV, 172–173. 84  Adams, The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria, 233.



In 1402–1403, Henry’s former ally, Louis, Duke of Orléans, the brother of Charles VI, issued a series of accusations that Henry had mistreated Isabella, as well as being responsible for Richard’s death and taking his throne, which Phillpotts argues was an attempt to provoke Henry into breaking the truce. A year later, Isabella was betrothed to Louis’ son, Charles, then Count of Angloulême, five years her junior, and married him on 29 June 1406 at the age of sixteen. Her dowry included a claim to the 200,000 francs that the English had yet to pay back and the remains of the same trousseau.85 On 13 September 1409, Isabella died in childbirth and was buried firstly within the Chapel de Notre-Dame de Bonnes Nouvelles at the abbey of St Laumer. In the seventeenth century, her body was moved to the Orléans chapel, in the Convent of the Celestines, Paris, which was later destroyed in the French Revolution.86 Isabella’s only child, Jeanne, survived to marry the son of Isabella’s first betrothed, also named Jean, and became Duchess of Alençon. Isabella’s youngest sister, Catherine, married Henry V, who had once been suggested as a husband for Isabella herself. Isabella’s marriage had taken place as the confirmation of a treaty that provided her with the status of queen, property, and lavish possessions. But the same political circumstances also left her essentially under house arrest in England while the courts of her birth and marital countries debated the future of her dower. Despite her short life, Isabella leaves an impression on history as having a sincere affection for Richard and being fierce in his defence and already fulfilling one of the chief responsibilities for a medieval queen, that of intercessor, despite her youth.

 Traison et Mort, 168; Phillpotts, “The Fate of the Truce of Paris,” 70.  Père Anselme, Histoire Généalogique et Chronologique de la Maison Royale de France, des Pairs, Grands Officiers de la Couronne et de la Maison du Roy et des Anciens Barons du Royaume, 9 vols. (Paris, 1726–1733), 1:208. 85 86


Joan of Navarre: Beloved Queen and (Step)Mother or Unbeloved Witch? Elena Woodacre

Joan of Navarre, one of England’s least well-known consorts, might seem to be a “typical” medieval queen—another foreign bride from the continent. Yet there were many unique aspects to her tenure as queen that mark her out as distinctive from many of her predecessors and successors in the role. She was, for instance, the first widow to become a queen since the Conquest and she is certainly the only English queen to have been supposedly accused of witchcraft, even if other royal women were rumoured to have dabbled in dark arts. Joan could also claim other unusual, if not exclusive qualities—she is one of only two brides from the Pyrenean kingdom of Navarre, the other being the equally obscure Berengaria, wife of Richard I “the Lionheart,” featured in the previous volume. As noted previously, Joan was widowed and thus her marriage to Henry IV of England was her second match: her first husband was Jean IV, Duke of Brittany who died in 1399—the same year that Henry usurped the English crown from his cousin Richard II. While both Henry and Joan

E. Woodacre (*) University of Winchester, Winchester, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




had several children in their first marriages, they had none together and thus Joan played stepmother to Henry V and his siblings—her own children, including Jean V of Brittany, had to be left behind when she came to England in 1403. This last element—her somewhat tenuous position as a childless consort and a stepmother (and then step-grandmother)—became the defining features of her queenship. These unusual features could be seen as the crux of many of the difficulties she faced during her thirty-four years in England and is arguably the reason why she is so little known today. This chapter will focus on Joan’s long period in England as first a consort, then a dowager queen. As this collection is dedicated to English consorts, Joan’s period as duchess of Brittany and her relationship with her Breton children will be largely excluded here to keep the focus on her role as queen of England.1 Her tenure, from her arrival in January 1403 until her death in July 1437, spanned the reigns of three English kings— her second husband Henry IV, her stepson Henry V, and her step-­grandson Henry VI. Joan’s relationship with all three men will be discussed, with particular focus on how her previously close connection to Henry V, who called her “the king’s beloved mother,” suddenly changed in 1419 when he accused her of treasonous activity and seized her lands. While Joan could be considered to be the ultimate Lancastrian queen, given her significance in the reigns of all three kings of the dynasty, she has been overshadowed by Katherine of Valois’s romanticised memory in Shakespeare and as the Tudor progenetrix and by the drama of Margaret of Anjou’s tenure during the Wars of the Roses. This chapter aims to restore Joan to her rightful place at the heart of the Lancastrian dynasty, as a key figure with political influence and significance due not only to her position as queen of England but also to her wide-ranging familial connections across Europe that gave her deeply divided loyalties during the Hundred Years’ War. Her life provides a fantastic case study for queenship in the Middle Ages and highlights the challenges that foreign consorts and dowager queens faced—particularly when they were not the mother of the king. Two major themes will be highlighted here: first, the vital importance of a queen’s finances and second, that we need to take a holistic view and continue to examine a royal woman’s life beyond tenure as consort. Joan’s experience demonstrates that one of the most significant portions of her long life was the period after she was “queen.” 1  For a full biography of Joan’s life, see: Elena Woodacre, Joan of Navarre: Infanta, Duchess, Queen, Witch? (London: Routledge, 2022).



Joan as Navarrese Infanta, Valois Princess, and Breton Duchess Joan was born in Navarre, mostly likely in 1369, the daughter of Carlos II of Navarre, often called Charles “the Bad” for his political manoeuvring in the Hundred Years’ War and the French princess Jeanne de Valois. While Joan might have been named for her mother, she could have equally been named for her grandmother and great-great grandmother, both regnant queens of Navarre, who also bore the name Juana or Jeanne.2 Yet Joan was much more than just the daughter of the ruler of a geographically small, if strategic, realm that straddled the rugged Pyrenees—she had great value as a potential bride due to her wider dynastic connections. Joan was doubly related to the French throne—through her mother, who was the daughter of Jean II “le Bon” of France she could claim a close relation to the Valois kings. Yet through her father—and more importantly—her grandmother, she was a Capetian and part of a line that claimed to have a better right to the French throne than the Valois themselves. Joan’s grandmother, Juana II of Navarre, was the only surviving child of Louis X “le Hutin.” His death in 1316 began an extended succession crisis for the Capetian dynasty as both he and his younger brothers Philip V and Charles IV followed one another onto the throne due to their lack of surviving male issue. Juana II effectively became the test case for female succession—due to her tender age and possible illegitimacy as her mother Marguerite de Bourgogne had been charged with adultery—she had been bypassed by her uncle who became Philip V in 1317. By 1328, when the last of the three brothers died, there were no direct male Capetian heirs left and several potential female claimants—one of whom was Isabella of France, mother of Edward III of England. In an attempt to prevent the young English king from claiming the French throne through his mother and stymie a civil war between the various Capetian princesses and their

2  Note that we will refer to her as “Joan” here as she is most frequently referred to by this Anglicized version of her name, although she is occasionally referred to in Anglophone sources as Joanna or even Joanne. She would have most likely been referred to by contemporaries as Jeanne or possibly Juana during her early years. In documentary sources her name is most often given as Jehanne—she also signed her own name in this way.



supporters, the crown was passed to the more distant Valois line.3 However, Juana II and her son Carlos II never forgot the claim they had to the French throne—Carlos’ efforts to push his own ambitions to the crown forward during the Hundred Years’ War led to several reverses of fortune for the Navarrese and, as mentioned previously, to his nickname of “the Bad.” Moreover, it was not just the kings of France that Joan was related to but the wider Valois clan including the influential dukes of Burgundy and Berry. Through blood and matrimonial ties, she was connected to the most powerful nobles of France including the counts of Foix and Armagnac. Beyond Joan’s French heritage, she could lay claim through her maternal grandmother, Bonne of Luxembourg, to connections with Holy Roman Emperors and through the marriages of her family and stepchildren, she could claim links to the kings of Bohemia, Castile, Aragon, Portugal, and Sweden, as well as the dukes of Milan. This heritage is very important when considering Joan’s value on the marriage market. She was chosen by Duke Jean IV of Brittany in 1386 not only for these political connections but also because Joan was a young woman from a fertile house—after two childless marriages to Englishwomen, Jean was desperate for an heir to secure the contested place of his Montfort dynasty as the rulers of the duchy.4 While Joan’s first child, a daughter born in 1387 who carried the familial name of Jeanne, died young, Joan eventually assured the Montfort dynasty’s survival with a large brood of surviving children—four sons and three daughters, including the next duke, Jean V, and Arthur de Richemont, who played an important role in the Hundred Years’ War. Joan and her husband developed a strong bond during their marriage and due to this and arguably her political abilities, Jean IV named her as regent for their young son when he died in November 1399. Joan proved to be an able regent, healing divisions between the ducal family and key nobles of the realm, marshalling support to strengthen her son’s position as duke against the rival Penthièvre clan, and resolving disputes with the church. 3  See: Elena Woodacre, The Queens Regnant of Navarre: Succession, Politics and Partership (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 51–61; and Derek Whaley, “From a Salic Law to the Salic Law: The Creation and Re-creation of the Royal Succession System of Medieval France,” in The Routledge History of Monarchy, ed. Elena Woodacre, Lucinda H.S.  Dean, Chris Jones, Russell E. Martin, Zita Eva Rohr (London: Routledge, 2019), 443–464. 4  Jean’s first wife was Mary of Waltham, daughter of Edward III of England, who died months after their wedding in 1361. In 1366 he married Joan Holland, daughter of Joan of Kent and thus stepdaughter to the Black Prince, who died in 1384.



Joan as a Beloved Consort and Unloved Queen Yet while she had a comfortable position in Brittany, she ultimately made the decision to give up the regency—and the custody of her children—to marry Henry IV of England in 1403. Henry and Joan’s decision to wed has long baffled historians. Joan may have gained a crown but at enormous cost, leaving her children and the comfortable life—and power— that she had in Brittany behind.5 Henry had no need to wed as he already had several heirs—Joan brought no dowry and their marriage created a diplomatic storm that ultimately weakened relations with France and brought war, not peace, between England and Brittany.6 If Henry sought to control Brittany by marrying the regent, his strategy failed miserably. Thus many, particularly given the secret negotiations between the King and the widowed Duchess to arrange their marriage, have assumed that the pair were motivated by romance—that their previous meetings sparked a desire in Henry to wed Joan as soon as she was free.7 However, Henry might well have had a different set of motivations in mind. As an insecure king, whom many still saw as an illegitimate usurper, Joan’s illustrious pedigree, her unquestionably royal status, and her extensive dynastic connections may have been very attractive to Henry. He may have also had other considerations in mind—political, financial, or even emotional—but while Joan may have been a controversial choice, she was a very fitting candidate to become England’s first Lancastrian consort. Joan left Brittany in early January 1403—a challenging time of year to cross the English Channel. The trip took several days longer than expected and the fleet of ships bringing the new queen to England landed in Falmouth instead of Southampton. Henry came to Exeter to meet her and they travelled back via Bridport, Dorchester, and Salisbury en route to 5  See: Elena Woodacre, “The Perils of Promotion: Maternal Ambition and Sacrifice in the life of Joan of Navarre, Duchess of Brittany and Queen of England,” in Virtuous or Villainess? The Image of the Royal Mother from the Early Medieval to the Early Modern Eras, ed. Carey Fleiner and Elena Woodacre (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 125–148. 6  For a discussion of the issue of her lack of dower, see: Paul Strohm, England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399–1422 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 154–157. 7  See, for example: Jeanne-Marie Poupart, “Un mariage Anglo-Breton au XVe siècle,” Nouvelle Revue de Bretagne 2 (March-April 1951): 81–91, esp. 84–85, where she claims that the two were attracted to each other during Henry’s visit to the Breton court in 1399. See also: E. Carlton Williams, My Lord of Bedford, 1389–1435 (London: Longmans Green and Co, 1963), 10.



Winchester, where they were married on 7 February.8 Winchester was chosen not only for its proximity to Joan’s intended landing port of Southampton, but also for its long-standing royal connections—it had been the site of important ceremonies for centuries before the Conquest, when it was the capital of ancient Wessex. Feting his royal bride here, in a key locus of royal history and with considerable pomp and ceremony, with expensive rayed or striped cloth down the long aisle of the cathedral to a feast with elaborate “subtleties” to finish each of the many courses— including one fashioned in the shape of a crowned eagle—allowed Henry to project majesty and legitimacy.9 Joan’s coronation at Westminster followed shortly after on 26 February. Henry spent lavishly on both events, including a massive jewelled collar worth 500 marks as a present for his bride, but again his motivation for the expenditure was to affirm his own royal status as much as establishing his wife in her new position as Queen of England.10 While we cannot be certain that Henry and Joan’s marriage was driven by romance, it is clear that their union was a strong one. Henry’s behaviour could be described as uxorious—there is no indication of any extra marital affairs during their marriage and he bestowed on his wife a large dower of 10,000 marks per  annum, a lavish sum that as Katia Wright’s chapter on dower in this volume demonstrates was impressive when compared to the majority of her predecessors.11 In the year that they married, Henry began work on a suite of rooms for Joan at his favourite palace at Eltham, the palace where they “honeymooned” for eight weeks together and where they spent every Christmas during his reign except that of 1410.12

8  Michael Jones, “Between France and England: Jeanne de Navarre, duchess of Brittany and queen of England,” in Between France and England: Politics, Power and Society in Late Medieval Brittany (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 12. 9  The menu from the wedding feast has been preserved in BL Harleian MS 279 and is reprinted in Thomas Austin, ed., Two Fifteenth Century Cookery Books (London, 1888), 58–59. 10  Expenditure for both events can be found in the Issue Rolls. See: TNA, E 403/574. For the collar, see: E 403/576; and Jessica Lutkin, “Luxury and Display in Silver and Gold at the Court of Henry IV,” in Fifteenth Century England IX, ed. Linda Clark (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2010), 155–178, esp. 168. 11  The original dower grant of 4 June 1403 is in Calendar of the Patent Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office, Henry IV: Volume 2, 1401–1405 (London: HMSO, 1907), 234–235, 268–269, 271–272. 12  Chris Given-Wilson, Henry IV (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 389–390.



Yet Henry was spending money that he did not have and making promises that he could not keep—Henry’s reign was plagued by financial difficulties and the expenditure for this new bride, coupled with the generous dower and the funding needed to maintain her large retinue, including many foreigners who came with her from Brittany, created problems at court. While the xenophobic aspects of this concern over Joan’s continental and cosmopolitan household will be discussed further in the chapter on foreign consorts, in this context it was the sheer amount of money that the king was spending on feting, dowering, and maintaining his new wife that was at issue. This spending, however, can be seen as part of Henry’s wider programme to assert his kingly status. Effectively, he was doing this through his wife—while her queenly status was confirmed by a large dower, a substantial retinue, and the lavish ceremonies that installed her as his wife and consort, his kingly standing was reinforced by these same methods. Indeed, had he minimised or failed to hold ceremonies for their wedding or Joan’s coronation or given her a paltry dower, it would have confirmed the view that he was an illegitimate king and been fodder for those who opposed him. As Henry’s biographer, Chris Given-Wilson, has noted: “No king—certainly no usurper—could afford to be thought of as a cheapskate.”13 Yet this expenditure on the Queen did little to endear her to her new subjects even though she sought to fulfil expectations of a consort through acts of intercession. Joan was particularly active in this regard in the initial years of her tenure, interceding for the benefit of graduates of Oxford and Cambridge to sue for benefices and for the pardon of several notable individuals who were caught up in a plot against the King, including Geoffrey, Abbot of Colchester and Maud de Vere, Countess of Oxford.14 Indeed, Joan’s early years as consort were marked by political conflict with Brittany and internally as Henry was bogged down fighting a rebellion led by Henry “Hotspur” Percy almost immediately after their wedding. The other major issue that dominated her tenure as consort was financial difficulties. The promised dower dismally failed to supply the Queen with the 10,000 marks per  annum that she had been promised, leading to additional grants to try make up the shortfall—but in January 1404 the Queen was already short of funds, and she petitioned Parliament to complain that

 Given-Wilson, Henry IV, 423.  CPR Henry IV 1401–1405, 325, 465, 480.

13 14



she was not receiving the income that the King had endowed her with.15 Joan also submitted several petitions to receive lands and wardships to supplement her income, such as her request in 1405 to hold the Isle of Wight and Carisbrooke Castle after they were taken from the Duke of York to compensate her for the funds that were not forthcoming from her dower.16 Her petitions could not have come at a worse time—concern over royal expenditure was creating considerable tension with the Commons, which came to a head in the Long Parliament of 1406 where the speaker Sir John Tiptoft called for serious economies in the royal household. Calls to expel foreigners from the royal household, particularly the Queen’s, which had first been raised in 1404, were brought up again and the Queen was asked to fund the expenses of her own household, even when in residence with the King, to minimise the pressure on the exchequer.17 Yet Joan was caught in a condundrum: how could she and her household be self-sufficient when her dower was producing so little revenue? Tiptoft, however, was aware of her difficulties and raised awareness in Parliament that the Queen was not receiving much of the income that she was due. His efforts could be linked to records from 1406 to 1410 that indicate an increase in revenue for the Queen and more consistent income from her dower.18 Even though her situation was improving, Joan was still fighting to attain her rightful revenues to maintain her household. Joan’s strenuous efforts include two supplications in 1408 that she made over disputed lands that were part of her dower, including the castle of Barton Seagrove and the patronage of the priory of Ware. The Queen won both of these suits.19 She petitioned Parliament again in January 1410, noting that she 15   “Henry IV: January 1404,” in Parliament Rolls of Medieval England (hereafter PROME), ed. Chris Given-Wilson, Paul Brand, Seymour Phillips, Mark Ormrod, Geoffrey Martin, Anne Curry and Rosemary Horrox (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2005), http://www. 16  TNA SC 8/231/11512. Joan was granted the lands on 5 April 1405. See: CPR Henry IV 1401–1405, 501, but only held them for a short period before they were restored to the Duke. 17  Peter McNiven, Heresy and Politics in the Reign of Henry IV (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987), 174. 18  “Henry IV: March 1406,” PROME. For examples of receivers’ accounts from this period that show her improved finances, see TNA SC 6/844/14 from Havering-atte-Bower 1407–1408, and for Melton Mowbray see SC 6/1092/18 (1405–1407), SC 6/1092/17 (1406–1407), and SC 6/1092/21 (1408–1410). 19  CPR Henry IV 1405–1408, 413–414 (both 2 March 1408).



was still not receiving two-thirds of her promised income and was involved in more suits regarding disputed lands.20 Joan was also failing to receive income from the traditional fine of the queen’s gold, a levy of 10% on all voluntary fines made to the king. Joan protested in a letter to her husband that she was not receiving that which all queens of England had “by right of their crown and which they have been in possession of for such time that memory cannot count it.”21 Henry, for his part, was keenly aware of Joan’s financial problems and sought to assuage them as best as he could. His own financial situation was a constant concern, as was his deteriorating health—a major health crisis in 1408 clearly heightened his own concern about securing his wife’s precarious finances. In January 1409, the King made a will that stipulated that the Queen’s dower should be paid from his own Duchy of Lancaster revenues when he died—Joan was already receiving a £1000 annuity from duchy lands that had been transferred to her when Henry’s stepmother Katherine Swynford died shortly after he married Joan.22 In April of the same year, Henry sent a handwritten note to the chancellor to secure his support regarding Joan’s income: “Reverend and well beloved cosin, I send yow a bylle for the Quene towchyng her dower, wych I pray yow micht be sped, and ye shall do us gret ese ther inne, wherefor we woll thank yow with al owre hert.”23 Shortly after, in July 1409, Henry granted Joan yet more income, this time from alien priories and their apports as well as fee farms from cities and customs duties from ports, aiming to ensure that the Queen had the money she needed to maintain her household and queenly dignity so she would not have to continue to plead to parliament and the King for the funds which had been promised to her.24 Henry also responded to Joan’s letter regarding the queen’s gold by re-asserting her right to these fines and initiating a retroactive search for fines upon which the queen’s gold should have been levied. The list that 20  “Henry IV: January 1410,” PROME. For an example of suits in 1410–1411, see: TNA C 44/23/6 regarding the manor and advowson of Beversbrook. 21  Letter of Joan of Navarre to Henry IV, in BL MS RP 6767, dated 7 January 1412. My loose translation above, original text is “de droit de lour Corone et elles ount este en possession dicelles du temps dont memorie ne court.” 22  For the annuity, see: TNA DL 42/15 fols. 150v and 158r. 23  TNA C 81/1362/46, quoted in J.L. Kirby, Henry IV of England (London: Constable, 1970), 223. 24  Calendar of the Patent Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office, Henry IV: Volume 4, 1408–1413 (London: HMSO, 1909), 85–87.



emerged detailed thirty-six instances which ought to have yielded £629 or nearly 1000 marks. It is unclear, however, if any of that money ever reached the Queen.25 William Prynne, who wrote a treaty on the queen’s gold in the seventeenth century, claimed that Henry’s efforts to collect these fines were “very zealous, out of his affection to his Queen.”26 The King’s continued work to assist his wife and support her collection of her rightful revenues does appear to demonstrate that Joan was a beloved consort or at least that their personal partnership was a strong one. Yet Joan’s strident efforts to reclaim her lands and improve her income did not make her a beloved queen—instead, it has created the lasting impression that she was avaricious. Agnes Strickland claimed that “Avarice was certainly the besetting sin of Joanna of Navarre”—a claim that has been repeated, nearly verbatim, by twentieth-century writers like E.  Carlton Williams.27 Yet given Joan’s tenuous position as a foreign queen, who was the wife of a rather insecure and increasingly ailing king and not the mother of his heir, her desire to reinforce her queenly position by ensuring she had enough income to maintain her household, build an affinity, and engage in expected activities such as patronage and gift giving seems entirely understandable.

Joan as “the king’s beloved mother” and Accused Witch On Henry IV’s death in March 1413, Joan began her second widowhood—her twenty-four-year period as dowager queen was ultimately two and a half times as long as her period as consort and is arguably both the most challenging and significant period of her long life. Yet because queens normally receive the greatest amount of attention from contemporary chroniclers during their tenure as consort—often at key moments such as their wedding, coronation, or when they give birth to heirs, which Joan clearly did not do—dowager queens are often overlooked in both the  TNA E 159/288, Memoranda Roll 13 Henry IV, Michelmas to Trinity.  William Prynne, Aurum reginæ, or, A compendious tractate and chronological collection of records in the Tower and Court of Exchequer concerning queen-gold evidencing the quiddity, quantity, quality, antiquity, legality of this golden prerogative, duty, and revenue of the queenconsorts of England (London, 1668), 64. 27  Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, 12 vols. (Philadelphia, 1841), 3:96. Carlton Williams claimed that “A streak of avarice ran through her nature,” Carlton Williams, Bedford, 10. 25 26



historical record and by later scholars. Joan’s turbulent dowager years, which often found her at the centre of political events in both England and France, demonstrate how important it is not to lose focus on the lives of queens after they finish their term as consort. Joan’s stepson, Henry V, appeared keen to continue his father’s adamant support of the Queen’s rights and carried on the project initiated by Henry IV to ensure that Joan received the fines from the queen’s gold. A group of over 120 slips include sums due to the Queen—the majority of these date from the first year of Henry V’s reign.28 These slips not only document the efforts to regain money owed to the Queen, but they also demonstrate Joan’s changing status from consort to dowager queen. Joan is referred to as “our beloved mother”—interestingly, on a few of the slips the word “matris” appears to have been written in after another word was rubbed out, possibly indicating that the clerks were struggling with their habit of referring to her as “beloved consort” instead. The documentation from Henry V’s reign demonstrates that Joan was referred to as “the king’s mother” which she technically was not, rather than “the king’s widow.”29 This affectionate reference begs the question as to whether it was purely formulaic or if it indicates a close relationship between Joan and her stepchildren. Generally, the contemporary evidence and the evaluation of modern scholars tend to concur that Joan’s relationship with her stepchildren appears to have been a positive one.30 In a surviving letter of Joan to her stepson John, Duke of Bedford, she calls him her “very dear and very beloved son” several times.31 While this again could be formulaic, or merely used to ensure that Bedford responded to her request in the letter, the repetition of these endearments and her generally effusive language appears to demonstrate some affection for him. Her favourite stepchild may have been Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester—his continued contact  See TNA E 5/575.  For selected examples, see: Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Henry V: Volume 1, 1413–1416 (London: HMSO, 1910), 220, 237, 238, 335, 340, 342, 350. 30  For further consideration of Joan’s relationship with her stepchildren and how it has been evaluated in historiography, see: Woodacre, “Perils of Promotion”, 136–140. 31  BL Cotton MS Vespasian F III, letter 5. Also reprinted in Anne Crawford ed., Letters of the Queens of England 1100–1547 (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1997), 115, although she has translated the original French to mean “dearest and best-beloved son,” whereas I have opted for a more direct translation of the original “tresch[e]r[e] et tresame filz.” 28 29



with and support of Joan over her long life certainly indicates a close relationship. As noted, Henry V initially affirmed Joan’s rights to her dower and revenues, confirming her grants, with some minor modifications, in January 1414.32 As Henry was unmarried at the outset of his reign, Joan continued to act as the first lady of the court and when he departed for France, to begin the campaign which culminated in his great victory at Agincourt, he granted Joan the right to use the castles of Windsor, Wallingford, Berkhamsted, and Hertford during his absence, which gave her considerable options beyond her own residences at King’s Langley and Havering-atte-Bower.33 Indeed, it could certainly be said that Joan was on far closer terms with her stepsons than she was with her own children back in Brittany whom she had seen little of since she departed for England in 1403. Yet the situation changed rapidly in autumn 1419, when Henry V made a sudden decision to place his stepmother under house arrest on a charge treason, possibly even necromancy. The Parliament Rolls record the charge that “Joan, queen of England, had plotted and schemed for the death and destruction of our said lord the king in the most evil and terrible manner imaginable.”34 While the Parliament Rolls do not explicitly mention witchcraft, the contemporary Chronicles of London claimed it was the basis of the charge and its result: And in this yeer ffrere Randolff, Maistre off Dyvynyte, that some tyme was Quene Johannys confessour, wrouht, as men seyn thurh the exacytyng off the sayde Quene, by sorcerye and nygromancye fforto haue dystroyed the kyng. But as god wolde alle his vnthryffty werking was espyed. Wherefore the same Quene loste her landes, and was putte into the castell off Ledys vndir the kepyng off Sir John Pelham, knyht.35

While Joan did not spend the entire period of her incarceration at Leeds Castle, she did spend the majority of her house arrest there. Yet Leeds was her own property and as A.R. Myers has noted, she was kept quite comfortably there—her household was reduced in size but she had access to luxury goods and hosted visitors including the Archbishop of Canterbury  CPR Henry V, 1413–1416, 164–167.  CPR Henry V, 1413–1416, 342. 34  “Henry V: October 1419,” PROME. 35  The Chronicles of London, ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), 73. 32 33



and her stepson Humphrey of Gloucester.36 Joan was never formally charged or tried with witchcraft either—or with any other crime, which, given the treasonous accusation in the Parliament Rolls, is surprising. If there was a genuine concern that the Queen was either a witch or a traitor, clearly more serious action would have been taken than merely letting her languish in her own apartments at Leeds. However, if the charge of witchcraft and treason was a spurious one, the Queen’s arrest calls into question whether Joan was indeed “the king’s beloved mother” and what the true basis of the accusation was. Clearly, there were alternative reasons for her house arrest that were founded in two areas—politics and money—and both were deeply connected to Henry’s ongoing campaign in France. While Joan had supported Henry’s efforts, even leading a procession to Westminster Abbey to celebrate a mass of Thanksgiving after his victory at Agincourt in 1415, the King might have been concerned about Joan’s divided loyalties. She was, after all, the first cousin of the French king, and the great Princes of the Blood in France—including the Duke of Burgundy—were her uncles too. While her son Jean V of Brittany had been wavering and inconstant in his loyalties, her son Arthur de Richemont had fought for the French at Agincourt and had been captured after the battle. He was brought back to England as a prisoner and had been briefly reunited with his mother Joan—according to one contemporary account, their reunion had been an emotional one, particularly as Arthur was unable to recognise his mother after their long separation.37 Henry might have been worried that Joan may have been tempted to use her central place in the English court to exercise influence on behalf of her Breton and Valois family—or even that her household might be involved in intrigues or even outright spying, as had been alleged in yet another petition to remove foreigners from the Queen’s household in 1416.38 However, another key reason was financial. As noted by the chronicler above, the Queen’s dower lands and all of her revenues were seized by Henry at the time of her arrest. As Katia Wright has argued in her chapter on the dower lands in this volume, the Queen was entirely vulnerable in 36  A.R. Myers, “The Captivity of a Royal Witch: The Household Accounts of Queen Joan of Navarre, 1419–21,” in Crown, Household and Parliament in Fifteenth Century England, ed. Cecil H. Clough (London: Hambledon Press, 1985), 263–284. 37  Guillaume Gruel, Chronique d’Arthur de Richemont, Connetable de France, Duc de Bretagne (1393–1458), ed. Achille le Vavasseur (Paris, 1890), 19–20. 38  “Henry V: March 1416,” PROME.



this regard—as her lands were granted by the King and formed a subset of Crown lands and revenues, the King had the ability to retake them at any time in case of his need or displeasure. Joan’s sizable dower, even if she was not receiving the full 10,000 marks per annum originally promised, was a significant amount of money that Henry could put to good use to support his campaign in France. Indeed, the documentation demonstrates that the King was keen to take stock of exactly what the Queen held and ensure that the revenues from these lands were diverted to his own coffers.39 Henry’s actions in this regard clash with his reputation for being a chivalrous king; indeed, one of his biographers notes that “Henry’s treatment of his stepmother scarcely did him honour—he seems to have regarded her as a royal property which could be converted into welcome cash.”40 Henry noted he felt a “charge unto oure conscience” that he was still holding the dower of “our moder Quene Johanne” and in July 1422, already ill with dysentery which proved fatal the following month, he released the Queen and charged the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of Winchester and Durham (the latter was also the Chancellor) to see to the restitution of the Queen’s dower.41

Joan as Matriarch and Marginalised Queen The death of Henry V in August 1422 created a significant transition in Joan’s life. She was released from her house arrest, and though never formally tried or cleared of the charges made against her, she was (in theory) fully restored to her queenly status. However, Joan now had competition for this position as Katherine of Valois, her own cousin, was another widowed dowager queen in the realm. Joan was no longer the premier woman in the land—she was left in an odd and rather tenuous position as the relic of two reigns past, the step-grandmother of the new king Henry VI who was still tainted by the charges of witchcraft and treason made against her. Moreover, there was a difficult situation as Henry V had left clear instructions that Joan’s lands and revenues should be restored to her, leaving Katherine of Valois to petition parliament as to how her own promised 39  See records in TNA E 199 series, which took stock of the Queen’s properties in various counties between 1419 and 1421 (e.g., E 199/41/30 for Staffordshire). 40  Harold F. Hutchison, Henry V: A Biography (London: Eyre & Spottiswode, 1967), 201. 41  Henry’s original letter was appended to the Parliament Rolls in support of Joan’s petition. See: “Henry VI: October 1423,” PROME.



dower would be granted.42 As Wright notes in the chapter on queenly dower, the answer to this dilemma came from the duchy of Lancaster, which provided an additional pool of properties that could be drawn on to provide income for the younger dowager. Yet while Henry V had made a promise to restore Joan’s dower fully to her, the reality of that restoration proved far more complicated as many of these lands had been granted away to others, leaving Joan with a battle on her hands to regain her lost lands and rights. Ever one to defend her rights, Joan immediately petitioned her stepson Humphrey of Gloucester and the regency council in November 1422 and concurrently sent her officials out to collect rents and fees owed to her.43 Another petition regarding her lands was brought forward in the Leicester Parliament of 1426 regarding the restitution of her lands—while her right to the lands was reaffirmed by the council as per the terms of Henry V’s 1422 mandate, the fact that the petition was needed demonstrates that she was still struggling to regain all of the lands and revenues that had been ostensibly returned to her.44 Indeed, we can see Joan involved in property disputes and even bringing suits before the Court of Chancery into the 1430s regarding lands and rents that she asserted were part of her dower grants.45 This ongoing strife over Joan’s dower demonstrates two key things. The first is the vital importance of the queen’s revenues for the maintenance of not only her household but also her queenly status. Second, it demonstrates Joan’s tenacious personality. She was unwilling to go quietly into the sunset in her later years, and instead she fought vociferously for what she believed was owed to her and to ensure that her rights and position as dowager queen were recognised. While her position was increasingly tenuous and marginalised by her advancing years and weakening link to the centre of power, Joan was determined not to be forgotten and not to concede her prerogatives and position.  For Katherine’s petition, see: “Henry VI: November 1422,” PROME.  “Henry VI: November 1422,” PROME. For an example of documentation sent out to cities over fee farms and customs due to her, see these examples from Winchester and Southampton: Hampshire Record Office W/A2/7/1, 12 November 1422, and Southampton Archives SC 1/4/9. 44  The petition and responses are enrolled in the Close Rolls. See: Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry VI: Volume 1, 1422–1429 (London: HMSO, 1993), 363–366. 45  For example, see disputes of the alien priories of Modbury and St Clear in 1431 in CPR Henry VI, 1429–1436, 119, 141–142; and Joan’s suit vs. the Abbess of Shaftesbury over rents in Dorset TNA C 44/27/12. 42 43



We can learn more about Joan, including details about her day-to-day life in this period, from another financial source—her household account books from 1427 to 1428 which have been preserved in their entirety, including both her incoming revenues and outgoing expenses.46 While an account book might seem like a dull and dry source, looking at what Joan spent her money on during this period tells us a great deal about her lifestyle and what was important to her. One of the areas where Joan spent the most money was on gifts and annuities to those in her household and affinity—her outlay on annuities alone came to £442 17s 11d. Her stepson Humphrey of Gloucester, who had visited her during her house arrest and supported her petitions for the restoration of her lands, was given the largest annuity of 500 marks a year from the customs duties she received from Southampton and St. Botolph’s. One of her ladies, Margaret Trumpyngton, who had served her loyally throughout her entire period of house arrest and appears to have still been part of her household in 1427–1428, was rewarded with an annuity of £18 4s 8d from the Queen’s fee farm of Portsmouth. John Periaunt, who had been connected to the Queen since the secret negotiations for her marriage to Henry IV began, was also given a £5 annuity from the rents of the manor of Langley Marish. Such gifts and grants demonstrate two key things. Joan was determined to reward those in her affinity who served her well and loyally and that the income from her dower lands, which she had fought so hard to retain, gave her the basis to maintain these loyal connections. Money is a vital aspect of all forms of patronage and is a key element of queenship—here we can see it in terms of political patronage, rewarding those who served and assisted her, but Joan’s cultural patronage can also be seen in this account book in a gift of cloth to the composer John Dunstable, whom she and Humphrey of Gloucester both patronised.47 While the full detail of this account book cannot be explored here, it is worth noting some of the other facets it reveals about Joan’s life in this period. One is what she and her household wore, through an extended inventory and list of payments for clothing and furs, which included rich fabrics like miniver fur, damask, and cloth of gold—indicating that Joan was using clothing to 46  Society of Antiquaries (SoA) MS SAL/MS/216, “Primus compotus Johannis Bugge Armigeri” (1427–1428). 47  Dunstable was gifted cloth in the 1427–1428 accounts, see also Judith Stell and Andrew Wathey, “New Light on the Biography of John Dunstable,” Music & Letters 62, no. 1 (1981): 60–63.



demonstrate her queenly status.48 As Michelle Beer has argued, clothing was a key means of projecting majesty, which could be particularly helpful when a queen’s position was insecure or under threat.49 At the time that these accounts were kept, Joan was often in residence at the palace of King’s Langley, which she had held since 1415 when she was granted the manor and palace in exchange for Hertford Castle.50 However, in 1431 a serious fire, which was allegedly started by a minstrel who fell asleep with a lighted candle, caused considerable damage to the palace and thereafter her primary residence appears to have been Havering-­ atte-­Bower, which had also belonged to many of the medieval queens in this volume.51 While Joan was no longer a permanent fixture at court, she entertained the most powerful figures in the realm at her residences, including her favourite stepson, Humphrey of Gloucester, the Duchess of Holland, and the Bishop of Winchester, Cardinal Beaufort.52 Her grandson, Giles of Brittany, was at court between 1432 and 1434, likely at the invitation or through the influence of his grandmother Joan. Giles spent time under the tutelage of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and appears to have bonded with the young king during this period, ultimately proving to be a great favourite with Henry VI.53 Joan died at Havering on 10 July 1437, just over six months after the other dowager queen Katherine of Valois and was buried in the double tomb at Canterbury Cathedral that she had commissioned for Henry IV and herself.54 A letter of Henry VI survives requesting attendance at “[th]e fun[er]elles of oure graundmodre Quene Johane whom God assoille to be holden and solempnized at Caunterbury [th]e xj [11th] day of August next

 SoA 216, fols. 36–44.  Michelle Beer, Queenship at the Renaissance Courts of Britain: Catherine of Aragon and Margaret Tudor, 1503–1533 (Woodbridge: Royal Historical Society, 2018), 45–46. 50  See: TNA SC 8/308/15366; and CPR Henry V 1413–1416, 38, 351. 51  John Amundesham, Annales Monasterii S.  Albani, ed. Henry Thomas Riley, 2 vols. (London, 1870), 1:61–62. 52  Amundesham, Annales, 1:8, 12–13, 28. 53  See, for example, a gift of 125 marks made to Giles by the king; Issue Roll, Michaelmas, 1 December 11 Henry VI, 419. See also: A. Bourdeaut, “Gilles de Bretagne-entre la France et l’Angleterre-les causes et les Auteurs du drame,” Memoires de la Société d’Histoire et de l’Archaeologie de Bretagne 1 (1920): 53–145, esp. 55–56. 54  For more on her tomb, see: Jessica Barker, Stone Fidelity: Marriage and Emotion in Medieval Tomb Sculpture (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2020), 162–164. 48 49



comyng.”55 The list of attendees at her funeral included her stepson Humphrey of Gloucester and his wife, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a host of important clergymen, the Earls of Huntingdon, Northumbria, and Oxford and their wives, and the Duchess of Norfolk, among others. At nearly 70 years old, Joan had proved the great survivor—twice widowed, she forged a new and enduring place for herself as a dowager queen, bouncing back from an accusation of witchcraft and a prolonged period of detention to reclaim her queenly status and fight tenaciously for her dower lands and the prerogatives of her position. Joan’s position might have been under serious threat, and increasingly tenuous as she aged and grew more distant from the centre of power but she never forgot that she was queen of England. Her elegant alabaster tomb, emblazoned with her motto “A temperance,” ermines connecting to the Breton chivalric order and Navarrese heraldry and ensures that posterity will never forget that she was not only the consort of Henry IV but also the Duchess of Brittany and an infanta of Navarre. Ultimately, this summary of Joan’s life highlights not only the significance of this overlooked individual, but also the importance of the latter stages of a queen’s life that can be equally fascinating and fundamental to the exercise of queenship as her period as consort. This study has also demonstrated how central the queen’s finances are to her exercise of the queen’s office, her standing and status, and even to her reputation. As we have seen, Henry IV was prepared to spend lavishly on his beloved consort, in terms of her gifts, ceremonial, apartments, and dower. However, her struggle to make good on her husband’s financial promises made her appear to be grasping and avaricious which made her unloved both by her subjects, chroniclers, and later historians who have largely omitted her from the narrative of the events of the period. Joan may have been called Henry V’s “beloved mother” but was treated as an unloved stepmother when he placed her under house arrest and seized her dower on a trumped­up charge of treasonous sorcery so that he could gain access to her revenues. Loved or unloved however, Joan endured—living longer than many of her contemporaries including two husbands, two Lancastrian kings and even her step-daughter-in-law, and cousin, Katherine of Valois, whose biography follows in the next chapter—making Joan a durable, if not indomitable, dowager queen.

 N.H.  Nicolas, ed., Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council, 7 vols. (London, 1834–1837), 5:56. 55


Katherine of Valois: The Vicissitudes of Reputation Katherine J. Lewis

Katherine of Valois was queen of England for less than two years, so she had little opportunity to exercise that office before Henry V’s death in August 1422.1 Nor did she play any formal role in the minority government of her son, Henry VI. As a result, accounts of Katherine written by contemporaries and later commentators have focused on her not as a queen, but as a woman. Katherine has often been discussed in one-­ dimensional terms as the embodiment of qualities judged both desirable and deplorable in women. In particular, she is regularly characterised as a young widow subject to unbridled carnal passions that led her into illicit sexual relations first with Edmund Beaufort and then with Owen Tudor. This chapter will re-visit these attitudes to Katherine and their basis in the evidence. It suggests alternative readings that challenge the rather dismis1  I would like to thank the editors for their extremely helpful comments on drafts of this chapter.

K. J. Lewis (*) University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




sive and sometimes critical assessments of her regularly articulated in both academic and more popular accounts of her life. It also explores the vicissitudes of Katherine’s posthumous reputation and the treatment of her body for what these reveal about perceptions of her character and of her significance within English royal dynastic history.

Early Life, Marriage, and Queenship Katherine was born on 27 October 1401, the youngest daughter of Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria. Her life has been pieced together from a variety of narrative and administrative sources, many of which offer only brief mentions of her activities.2 In the absence of other information, Agnes Strickland’s highly romanticised account continues to influence interpretations of Katherine.3 Almost nothing is known of Katherine’s upbringing; Strickland’s claim that she and her siblings were neglected by Isabeau has, however, been disproved.4 There are very few sources that allow us more than indirect access to Katherine’s thoughts and priorities; no letters of hers survive, only her will. The sole manuscript known to have belonged to Katherine is her book of hours.5 It is a lavishly illuminated manuscript of the Use of Paris, displaying Katherine’s arms as queen of England four times, but containing no other distinctive elements. Another book of hours has been associated with Katherine, including the suggestion that she copied some Latin prayers into it. This claim is based entirely on the appearance of the name “Catherine” within it, and there is no other indication that this was Katherine of Valois.6 The lack of direct evidence for Katherine’s character has led to divergent appraisals of her, generally influenced by the mind-set of the author and the mores of their own time. Both popular and academic accounts have often presented 2  Michael Jones, “Catherine [Catherine of Valois] (1401–1437),” ODNB, doi:10.1093/ ref:odnb/4890. 3  Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, 4th ed., 8 vols. (London, 1854), 2:106–161. 4  Strickland, Lives, 2:107; Tracy Adams, The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2010), 230–237. 5  Now British Library Additional MS 65100. 6  This is now Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Lat. liturgy. F. 9. John C. Hirsh, “Latin Prayers as a Lesson in Writing and Devotion for a Lady of Standing,” The Chaucer Review 41, no. 4 (2007): 445–454. Jones, “Catherine,” mistakenly refers to the British Library book of hours as the one containing prayers possibly written by Katherine.



opinion about Katherine as fact when any account of her character is inherently conjectural. Unusually for a medieval queen, we may know what Katherine looked like, due to the survival of her wooden funeral effigy (Fig. 8.1). The face was perhaps drawn from life or a death mask.7 Those writing about Katherine always refer to her appearance. From 1409 she was discussed as

Fig. 8.1  Katherine of Valois’s funeral effigy. (© Dean and Chapter of Westminster) 7  Philip Lindley, “The Funeral and Tomb Effigies of Queen Katharine of Valois and King Henry V,” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 160, no. 1 (2007): 165–177.



a prospective bride for Prince Henry (the future Henry V), as an aspect of Anglo-French diplomacy.8 Her elder sister Isabella, discussed by Louise Tingle in the present volume, had previously performed the same function, being married to Richard II in 1396 and thus becoming queen of England at the age of only 6. Katherine and Henry eventually married on 2 June 1420 as part of the terms of the Treaty of Troyes.9 It has become well established that Katherine was very beautiful, that Henry fell in love at first sight, and, as a consequence, married her without a dowry.10 The main support for this is Titus Livius Frulovisi’s Vita Henrici Quinti, written in around 1437. Frulovisi claims that their first meeting at Meulan on 2 June 1419 was inconclusive: “except that the flame of love for the first time somewhat entered this martial king at the sight of the royal Katherine.”11 However, Frulovisi’s account was addressed to Katherine and Henry’s son, Henry VI, which likely explains its depiction of their relationship as a love match. Other contemporary accounts highlight Katherine’s beauty, for example, Enguerrand de Monstrelet describing her as “very beautiful, of high birth and of decorous comportment.”12 Yet they do not state that Henry’s interest in marrying her was a matter of love, but rather of the manifold political benefits of the match.13 Katherine may not have had a cash dowry, but her marriage to Henry was part of the deal struck at Troyes whereby he was recognised as Charles’s heir to the throne of France. Shakespeare’s depiction of Henry wooing Katherine has greatly influenced the popular perception of a love match between them.14 Katherine was married to Henry and queen of England for twenty-six months. They were not together for all of that time: when Henry returned to campaign in France in June 1421, Katherine remained in England until  Jones, “Catherine.”  C.T.  Allmand, Henry V (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 66–68, 131–132, 128–150. 10  See, for instance: Jones, “Catherine”; Anne Crawford, ed., Letters of the Queens of England, 1100–1547 (Stroud: Sutton, 1994), 116; Margaret Wade Labarge, Henry V: The Cautious Conqueror (London: Secker & Warburg, 1975), 147. 11  Titi Livii Foro-Juliensis Vita Henrici Quinti, ed. Thomas Hearne (Oxford, 1716), 75. 12  La Chronique d’Enguerran de Monstrelet, ed. L.  Douët-D’Arcq, 6 vols. (Paris, 1860), 3:320. 13  Also noted by J.L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship, 1445–1503 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 64. 14  William B. Robison, “The Bard, the Bride, and the Muse Bemused: Katherine of Valois on Film in Shakespeare’s Henry V,” in The Palgrave Handbook of Shakespeare’s Queens, ed. Valerie Schutte and Kavita Mudan Finn (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 475–502. 8 9



May 1422. When Henry left for France, he likely knew that Katherine was pregnant. A relic of Christ’s foreskin, reputed to aid women in labour, was sent to her from France to assist the delivery and Henry VI was born in Windsor Castle on 6 December 1422.15 This relic had previously been brought to Katherine’s mother Isabeau for each of her childbirths.16 Sources give us very little indication of the nature of Katherine and Henry’s personal relationship. On Katherine’s return to France in May 1422, Monstrelet claims that when Henry and his chief men met her, “she was received by them joyously, as if she were an angel of God.”17 This may be evidence of genuine affection, especially as this was the first time Henry had seen her since the birth of their son. There is also a hint that Henry and Katherine shared musical interests, since in October 1420 Henry ordered them a harp each to be sent from England to France.18 Whatever the truth of the royal couple’s feelings for each other, the central purpose of their marriage was to embody the Treaty of Troyes and Henry’s procurement of the French crown. Lavish pageantry surrounded their return to England, and especially Katherine’s coronation on 23 February 1421.19 There were reservations in England about the Treaty and concerns about the place of England within a double monarchy. Thus, Katherine’s coronation was exploited as an opportunity to sell the Treaty to Henry’s subjects.20 John Lydgate’s Troy Book, dedicated to Henry V and completed in 1420, presents Katherine thus: “And on that is called Kateryne, / … Shal be mene [intermediary] atwixe bothe two [England and France], / Of grace enprentid [endowed] in hir wommanhede, / That to compleyne we shal have no nede.”21 He then describes Katherine as the harbinger of peace and prosperity, placing

 Bertram Wolffe, Henry VI (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 27–28.  Murielle Gaude-Ferragu, Queenship in Medieval France, 1300–1500, trans. Angela Krieger (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 57. 17  La Chronique d’Enguerran de Monstrelet, 4:99. 18  Strickland, Lives, 2:130. 19  A Chronicle of London from 1089 to 1483, ed. Nicholas Harris Nicolas and Edward Tyrrell (London, 1827), 162–165. 20  Joel Francis Burden, “Rituals of Royalty: Prescription, Politics and Practice in English Coronation and Royal Funeral Rituals c. 1327 to c. 1485” (PhD thesis, University of York, 1999), 195–220. 21  John Lydgate, Troy Book: Selections, ed. Robert R. Edwards (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1998), lines 3424, 3426–3427, text/edwards-lydgate-troy-book-book-5. 15 16



her into a well-established discourse of queenship.22 This extract forms part of a lengthy articulation of Henry’s rightful claims to France, which implies awareness of English misgivings about the Treaty.23 Shortly after Katherine’s coronation, Henry set off on a two-month-long royal progress around England, and Katherine joined him at Leicester in late March. This tour was designed to garner support (both money and manpower) for further French campaigns.24 Showing off the new Queen was central to this tactic. Notable among the areas that contributed most generously were those through which Katherine passed alone on her way to meet Henry.25 Additionally, in December 1421, a parliamentary subsidy was granted to Henry, when earlier in the year he had been told that such a subsidy would likely be refused. It was probably agreed now because of the birth of Prince Henry.26 Thus, Katherine had swiftly fulfilled two of her chief queenly roles: securing the succession and providing support and validation for her husband’s kingship.27 Katherine’s tenure as queen of England, short though it was, can certainly be regarded as successful.

Widowhood and Remarriage to Owen Tudor Henry’s unexpectedly early death left Katherine in the unique position of being a twenty-year-old queen dowager, mother to a baby king. Katherine paid for Henry’s tomb in Westminster Abbey, but we do not know whether she had any role in its commission or design.28 What this indicates about her feelings on his death can only be surmised. Katherine had no official role in the minority government established for Henry VI, but in England it was not customary to involve women formally in the arrangements made for rule on behalf of minor kings.29 Henry V’s brother Humphrey, 22  See Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 74–112, for detailed discussion of rituals framing the arrival and coronation of English queens in the fifteenth century. 23  Lynn Shutters, “Truth, Translation and the Troy Book Women,” Comitatus 32, no. 1 (2001): 87. 24  James Doig, “Propaganda and Truth: Henry V’s Royal Progress in 1421,” Nottingham Medieval Studies 40 (1996): 167–179. 25  Allmand, Henry V, 398. 26  Allmand, Henry V, 377. 27  Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 30–36. 28  The Brut, or The Chronicles of England, ed. Friedrich W.D. Brie, 2 vols. (London: Kegan Paul, Tench, Trübner, 1906–1908), 1:494. 29  Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 156–162.



Duke of Gloucester, was appointed defender and protector of the realm.30 This role implied a male incumbent, unlike that of regent, which had been occupied by French queens including Isabeau.31 Thus, even had Katherine been older and more experienced, she could not have occupied it.32 Isabella of Angoulême was about thirty when King John died in 1216, yet she played no role in the regency government for her son Henry III. Isabella returned to France, married Hugh of Lusignan, and they had nine children. Some of these half-siblings of Henry III proved troublesome for the King, illustrating the problems that could transpire from a dowager queen’s remarriage. As we shall see, there was clearly concern that any second husband of Katherine’s would unduly influence the infant Henry VI. Despite having no formal governmental role, Katherine was central to Henry VI’s upbringing. In the codicil to his will drawn up only days before his death, Henry V stipulated that Katherine should reside with Henry VI.33 Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, was appointed by Henry V as his son’s chief custodian, with Henry Fitzhugh and Walter Hungerford given charge of his household.34 However, these men were not involved in Henry’s upbringing on a daily basis. This was supervised directly by Katherine, who was also involved in appointing individuals to various offices within his household.35 Katherine also carried baby Henry to parliamentary sessions in 1423 and 1425 amid much ceremony.36 There is a good deal of administrative evidence relating to Katherine’s financial affairs and domestic arrangements.37 Following Henry V’s death, parliament granted Katherine a substantial dower of more than £6000 a year, a grant complicated by the fact that the previous dowager queen, Joan of 30  R.A.  Griffiths, “The Minority of Henry VI, King of England and of France,” in The Royal Minorities of Medieval and Early Modern England, ed. Charles Beem (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 161–193. 31  Katherine J.  Lewis, Kingship and Masculinity in Late Medieval England (London: Routledge, 2013), 220–224. 32  Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 158–159. 33  Patrick Strong and Felicity Strong, “The Last Will and Codicils of Henry V,” English Historical Review 96, no. 378 (1981): 99. 34  Strong and Strong, “Last Will,” 99–100. 35  Ralph A.  Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI: The Exercise of Royal Authority, 1422–1461 (1981; repr. Stroud: Sutton, 1998), 51–57. 36  The Brut, 1:452; Robert Fabyan, The New Chronicles of England and France, ed. Henry Ellis (London, 1811), 592–593, 594. 37  Griffiths, Henry VI, 56–57.



Navarre, was still alive. This issue is considered in more depth by Katia Wright and Elena Woodacre elsewhere in the present volume. From this dower income, Katherine contributed to the costs of Henry VI’s household. She also had several residences, including those at Hertford, Waltham, Wallingford, and Leicester, which she and Henry periodically visited, in addition to sojourns at royal residences, especially Windsor and Eltham. This evidence tells us where and how Katherine lived in the 1420s, but it is impersonalised and does not reveal what she felt about her circumstances. Frustratingly, there is no surviving contemporary evidence regarding the event that has rendered Katherine so fascinating to generations of commentators: the origins of her relationship with Owen Tudor. Nothing is known of when or how they met, although Owen was probably part of her household.38 Their marriage date is unknown, but Katherine gave birth to three, possibly four children before her death on 3 January 1437, which suggests a marriage date in the later 1420s. No information survives about her pregnancies or when her children were born. The eldest, Edmund, married Margaret Beaufort and their son was Henry VII. Edmund’s younger brother, Jasper, became a staunch supporter of Henry VI and of Henry VII.  Sixteenth-century sources claim that the third son, Owen, became a monk at Westminster, and the fourth child is generally identified as a daughter who died young.39 Due to the lack of evidence, the origins of Katherine and Owen’s relationship have become a matter of speculation and invention, based on stories first recorded from the mid-sixteenth century.40 The tradition that they first met when Owen fell into Katherine’s lap while dancing at a ball derives from Hugh Holland’s Pancharis: the Firste Booke. Containing the Preparation of the Love between Owen Tudyr and the Queene, which he had originally intended for Elizabeth I, but dedicated to James VI and I in 1603.41 James was Henry VII’s great-great-grandson and thus, like Elizabeth, a descendant of Katherine and Owen. It is impossible to judge whether there is any trace of genuine events in such stories. Claims of mutual attraction between 38  Ralph A.  Griffiths and Roger S.  Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (Stroud: Sutton, 2005), 1–39, outline the main hypotheses for their meeting, based on Roger S.  Thomas, “The Political Career, Estates and ‘Connections’ of Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke and Duke of Bedford” (PhD thesis, University of Swansea, 1971), 1–37. 39  Thomas, “Political Career,” 19–20. 40  Thomas, “Political Career,” 8–10. 41  Thomas, “Political Career,” 9.



them are certainly plausible. Given the disparity in Katherine and Owen’s status, it is likely that the impetus came from her. It has sometimes been supposed that Katherine and Owen were not actually married.42 Michael Bennett has discovered evidence confirming that they were indeed wed. This is a record of the responses made by Sir John Steward to questions that the council posed regarding his knowledge of Katherine’s remarriage.43 Crucially, the document reveals that Katherine was still alive at the time of this inquiry. Steward had been in Katherine’s service since 1421, so was ideally placed to know what had been going on in her household.44 However, Steward denied any involvement with Katherine and Owen beyond what was appropriate for a loyal knight, stating he had no idea they intended to marry and that, in any case, he was serving in France when the wedding happened. Bennett argues that they were probably married between November 1427 and November 1429, while Steward was at Fort Rysbank in Calais.45 Therefore, while the marriage only became public knowledge after Katherine’s death (the earliest chronicle reference comes from the early 1440s), it was certainly known to the council before that.46 The idea that the marriage was entirely secret until 1436, that on its discovery Katherine was forcibly separated from Owen and her children then sent to Bermondsey Abbey, where she died in misery and disgrace, is a later invention.47 Katherine was ill and likely went to Bermondsey to receive medical treatment. Days before she died, Henry sent his mother a New Year’s gift of a gold bejewelled tablet engraved with a crucifix.48 Soon after Katherine’s death, Henry VI summoned Owen to his presence, but Owen only attended after Henry guaranteed that he

42  For instance, Claire Sponsler, The Queen’s Dumbshows: John Lydgate and the Making of Early Theater (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), 179, 188, refers to Katherine’s “affair” with Owen, never specifying that they were married. 43  Michael Bennett, “The Son of Scotangle: Sir John Steward (d. 1447),” Journal of the Sydney Society for Scottish History 15 (2015): 32–33. I am very grateful to Professor Bennett for giving me a copy of this article and a transcript of Steward’s responses, which he will discuss at greater length in a forthcoming article. 44  Bennett, “Son of Scotangle,” 27–33. 45  Bennett, “Son of Scotangle,” 33. 46  Chronicle of London, 125. 47  Strickland, Lives, 152. 48  Excerpta Historica, or Illustrations of English History, ed. Samuel Bentley (London, 1831), 148.



would be allowed to leave freely.49 Owen was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in Newgate, from which he escaped, but was recaptured, and imprisoned at Windsor.50 The council’s prosecution of Owen was likely the means by which the marriage became widely known. In 1439 Owen was pardoned and became a member of Henry’s household, and Henry paid for Edmund and Jasper to be cared for by Katherine de la Pole, Abbess of Barking.51 They were later acknowledged as half-brothers by Henry VI, who ennobled them in 1452. Owen Tudor was executed after fighting on the Lancastrian side at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross 2/3 February 1461. According to one London chronicle, Owen expected a reprieve, but on realising that he was about to die said “That hede shalle ly on the stocke that was wonte to ly on Quene Kateryns lappe.”52

Katherine’s Remarriage and Her Reputation The council records do not state why Owen was arrested in 1437, but the grounds may have been a statute enacted by parliament in 1427–1428 that outlawed marriage to a dowager queen, unless approved by the king. One anonymous fifteenth-century chronicle claims that the statute was a response to Katherine’s wish to marry Edmund Beaufort: the lords of the king’s council would not consent to her marrying anyone while the king was young, because she wished to have lord Edmund Beaufort, Count of Mortain; but the Duke of Gloucester and many others opposed this, ordaining that whoever presumed to marry her contrary to the letters of the council, would be punished by the forfeiture of all his goods and by the death penalty. She herself, unable fully to control her fleshly passions [non valens passiones carnales penitus refraenare], took Owen the squire, who had too little in the way of possessions to have to forfeit them, and in secret, so that she did not claim honourable title [of marriage] during her lifetime.53

49  Nicholas Harris Nicolas, ed., Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council of England, 7 vols. (London: HMSO, 1834–1837), 5:46–50. 50  Thomas, “Political Career,” 22–26. 51  Thomas, “Political Career,” 27–28. 52  The Historical Collections of a Citizen of London, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1876), 211. 53  Incerti Scriptoris Chronicon Angliæ, ed. Joannes Allen Giles (London, 1848), part IV, 17. Death was not actually a penalty decreed by the statute.



Modern assessments of Katherine have been unduly influenced by this passage. The claim that Katherine was “unable fully to control her fleshly passions” is habitually quoted or paraphrased. For example, Ralph Griffiths and Roger Thomas state: “She was young and of such a lively and vivacious character that one chronicler asserted that she was ‘unable fully to curb her carnal passions’.”54 While Colin Richmond affirms, “[Edmund] was a dashing young man,” Katherine “was a lonely Frenchwoman in England, and, at thirty or thereabouts was, the rumour ran, oversexed.”55 The assumption that Katherine was actually lascivious has been given more weight by G.L.  Harriss’s claim that the choice of Edmund as name for Katherine’s first son “must raise the suspicion that the father was Edmund Beaufort and that she contracted her disparaging marriage to Owen Tudor to save her lover the penalties of the statute of 1427.”56 In fact, there is no contemporary suggestion that Edmund Tudor was not Owen’s son, not even in the later fifteenth century when propagandist attempts were made to denigrate Henry Tudor’s ancestry.57 Yet Harriss’s hypothesis has entered academic discussion surrounding Katherine and her son nonetheless and is consistently mentioned if only to be refuted.58 This has been injurious to Katherine’s reputation. Richmond judges that “It seems unlikely that Edmund Beaufort would have taken so great a political risk as getting the queen dowager with child.”59 But he then offers the assessment of Edmund as “dashing” and Katherine as “oversexed” quoted above, continuing “Many stranger things have happened.” It is also notable that Edmund alone is here presented as being sensible of the risk involved in a sexual relationship. Whereas Katherine’s purportedly “oversexed” nature renders Harriss’s theory plausible by implying that she was willing to risk pregnancy in order to satisfy her desires. Thus, the line about Katherine’s inability to control her fleshly passions has regularly been taken not as the expression of a chronicler’s opinion,  Griffiths and Thomas, Tudor Dynasty, 33–34.  Colin Richmond, “Beaufort, Edmund, first duke of Somerset (c.1406–1455),” ODNB, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1855. See also: Griffiths, “Henry VI’s Minority,” 173–174; Crawford, Letters, 118; Sponsler, Queen’s Dumbshows, 179. 56  G.L.  Harriss, Cardinal Beaufort: A Study of Lancastrian Ascendancy and Decline (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 178n34. 57  Griffiths and Thomas, Tudor Dynasty, 36–37. 58  See R.S.  Thomas, “Tudor, Edmund [Edmund of Hadham], first earl of Richmond (c.1430–1456),” ODNB, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27795. 59  Richmond, “Beaufort, Edmund.” 54 55



but as evidence for a genuine dimension of Katherine’s character. There are, however, other ways of interpreting this statement than as confirmation of what she was really like. This chronicle is the only direct contemporary evidence both for the claim that Katherine wanted to marry Edmund and for any taint on her morality and reputation. The passage is often identified as “rumour” about Katherine, implying that its allegations about her were circulating more or less widely.60 However, given its singularity and detail, it is more likely that the passage constitutes insider information about Katherine that was not publicly known. The source may have been Robert Fitzhugh, Bishop of London, who was a member of Henry VI’s council, and on whose manor of Much Hadham Edmund Tudor was born.61 Moreover, even if this passage does derive from contemporary observation made in the 1420s, the chronicle in which it is preserved was not compiled until around 1460, which is rarely mentioned by those quoting it.62 It drew its content from earlier materials, but we have no way of knowing the extent to which these were editorialised. There is another factor that has not previously been discussed in relation to this passage: the gendered implications of the chronicler’s vilification of Katherine. The comment about Katherine’s rampant immorality expresses a standard medieval antifeminist notion: that women were naturally inclined to lust, and rendered irrational by it, hence they must be subordinate to male authority.63 This is articulated at length in Giles of Rome’s De Regimine Principum, translated into Middle English by John Trevisa at the end of the fourteenth century: “wymen folowen passions when þei mowe [can] and ben intemperate, for in hem lackeþ resoun and hauen not whareby he [they] scholde be withdrawe fro lust and likyng as a man haþ þat is ireweled by resoun.”64 While chastity was expected of all women it was even more essential in a queen: “for of i­ntemporatnesse of 60  See: Jones, “Catherine”; Richmond, “Beaufort, Edmund”; Sponsler, Queen’s Dumbshows, 179. 61  Thomas, “Political Career,” 20–21. 62  Charles Lethbridge Kingsford, English Historical Literature in the Fifteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), 155–158. Exceptions are: Ralph A.  Griffiths, “Queen Katherine of Valois and a Missing Statute of the Realm,” Law Quarterly Review 93 (1977): 254; and Bennett, “Son of Scotangle,” 32n58. 63  Alcuin Blamires, ed., Woman Defamed and Woman Defended: An Anthology of Medieval Texts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), for illustrative examples. 64  The Governance of Kings and Princes: John Trevisa’s Middle English Translation of the “De Regimine Principum of Aegidius Romanus,” ed. David C.  Fowler, Charles F.  Briggs, and Paul G. Remley (New York: Garland, 1997), 199.



[kings’] wyues  may come more harme þan of intemporatnesse of  oþere menne  wyues.”65 These ideas also feature in propagandist attacks on queens; Katherine’s own mother, Isabeau, is a prime example.66 It is often claimed, without supporting evidence, that Isabeau was notoriously promiscuous, sometimes in discussions of Katherine.67 Strickland strongly implies this, calling Isabeau a “wicked woman” and a “degraded woman.”68 None of the scholarship on Katherine has explicitly drawn comparisons with her mother. Yet the two have received parallel treatment because the claim that Katherine was governed by her fleshly passions is taken at face value, without acknowledgement of the ideological implications of such obviously gendered criticism. Furthermore, it is significant that Katherine’s wishes govern the chronicle’s account: she wants to marry Edmund and when the lords prevent this, she circumvents them, secretly marrying Owen instead. It is her refusal to submit to male authority, as much as her wish to remarry, that lays her open to the accusation that she was governed by her lust, because her behaviour, from the lords’ perspective, was unwise, ill-advised, and reckless. In addition to Katherine’s disobedience they likely also felt disappointed in her. She had been married to a revered king, around whose memory an intense culture of commemoration flourished.69 Even without the potential problem of an influential stepfather for Henry VI, Katherine’s wish to marry any man, let alone a mere Welsh squire, was a profound betrayal of Henry V’s memory. It is conceivable that Katherine’s actions were viewed by those lords as proof of her wrongheadedness and expressed by them in the misogynistic terms conveyed by the chronicler. While this may have been how Katherine was regarded by some at court, there is no evidence that this was how she was viewed more widely. As noted above, her marriage was not publicly known, and she was not in disgrace. At just the time at which she must have become involved with Owen and married him, Katherine’s image, alongside Henry V’s, played a conspicuous role in propaganda issued to celebrate Henry VI’s coronation

 Governance of Kings, 189.  Tracy Adams, “Powerful Woman and Misogynistic Subplots: Some Comments on the Necessity of Checking the Primary Sources,” Medieval Feminist Forum 51, no. 2 (2015): 69–81. 67  For instance, Griffiths and Thomas, Tudor Dynasty, 32. 68  Strickland, Lives, 2:107, 152. 69  Allmand, Henry V, 426–432. 65 66



in Westminster in 1429 and in Paris in 1431.70 In a ballad written by Lydgate to celebrate his English coronation Henry is encouraged to emulate both his parents: “Lat him [Henry V] beo þy [your] myrrour and þy guyde,/ With þe [the] goode lyf of qweene Katheryne,/ þy blessed moder, in þat [that] oþer [other] syde.”71 Katherine was certainly present at this coronation.72 It has been argued that she did not accompany Henry to France, yet while she is not mentioned in chronicles, administrative records indicate that she was with Henry in Rouen at least, if not at the French coronation itself.73 This is a reminder that Katherine’s absence from narrative sources should not be taken as evidence that she was no longer important. Likewise, the fact that Katherine left Henry’s household following his return from France has been interpreted as Henry being removed from her care due to her remarriage, but there is no direct evidence to support this.74 Convention dictated that Henry was now of an age where his upbringing and education would be transferred from women to men, and his status as a child king made it all the more important that he adopt the attributes of adult manhood as soon as possible.75 While it appears that Katherine and Owen lived quietly away from court, she continued to take part occasionally in royal events and ceremonials during the 1430s.76 If Owen was arrested for breaking the statute, it is notable that this was only after Katherine’s death. It was not until the sixteenth century that the misogynistic framing of Katherine’s marriage to Owen Tudor became publicly established. In his chronicle, first published in 1548, Edward Hall stated that after Henry V’s death, Katherine: beyng  young and lusty, folowyng more her awne appetite, then frendely counsaill, and regardyng more her priuate affeccion, then her open honour, toke to husband priuly a goodly gentilman, & a beautyful person, garnished with many Godly gyftes, both of nature & of grace, called Owen Teuther, a 70  John W. McKenna, “Henry VI of England and the Dual Monarchy: Aspects of Royal Political Propaganda, 1422–1432,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 28 (1965): 145–162. 71  The Minor Poems of John Lydgate: Part 2, Secular Poems, ed. Henry Noble MacCracken (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934), 628 (lines 102–104). 72  The Brut, 1:451. 73  Griffiths, Henry VI, 60. 74  As pointed out by Wolffe, Henry VI, 45. 75  Lewis, Kingship and Masculinity, 141–169. 76  Griffiths, Henry VI, 61.



ma[n] brought furth and come of the noble lignage, and au[n]cient lyne of Cadwaleder, the laste king of the Brytons.77

Hall’s depiction of Katherine acting to satisfy her lust, at the expense of her honour, is likely independent from the fifteenth-century chronicle.78 Yet Hall is careful to establish that although she was lecherous and foolish, her choice of Owen Tudor was nonetheless fitting, because of his personal virtues, appearance, and lineage. Given that Owen’s great-grandson Henry VIII was on the throne when Hall wrote, this praise is hardly surprising. But it is telling that, despite establishing Owen as a suitable spouse, Hall still castigates Katherine in stereotypically gendered terms for daring to marry him. Hall’s account of Katherine was copied into Holinshed’s Chronicles, first published in 1577, which was a vital source for subsequent historians and other writers including Shakespeare.79 The emphasis on Katherine’s immorality feeds into Shakespeare’s depiction of Henry wooing her, which is full of sexual double entendres.80 There is also evidence of a popular perception of Katherine as wanton expressed in a deposition from 1541 in which a certain Nicholas Fox is accused of asserting treasonous slander about Henry VIII’s lineage and stating that he had no right to be king.81 As part of this he tells a ribald and somewhat confused story about “Ewyn Tedder” and a woman described as “the quene,” who is clearly supposed to be Katherine. This includes the detail: “the said Lady our Kings Grandmother tooke the same Ewyn Tedder to bed with her beying like a very dronkyn whore.”82

 Edward Hall, Hall’s Chronicle, ed. Henry Ellis (London, 1809), 184–185.  Hall’s account of Katherine is copied from Polydore Vergil’s Anglica Historia, but the reference to her lust is Hall’s addition: Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia: A Hypertext Critical Edition, ed. and trans. Dana F.  Sutton, polverg/23eng.html. 79  The Holinshed Project, 1577_5324. 80  Lance Wilcox, “Katherine of France as Victim and Bride,” Shakespeare Studies 17 (January 1985): 61–76. 81  Michael J.  Bennett, “Table Tittle-Tattle and the Tudor View of History,” in People, Places and Perspectives: Essays on Later Medieval and Early Tudor England in Honour of Ralph A. Griffiths, ed. Keith Dockray and Peter Fleming (Stroud: Nonsuch, 2005), 155–165. 82  Bennett, “Table Tittle-Tattle,” 155–157; the scribe corrected “quene” to “kings grandmoder,” but Katherine was actually Henry VIII’s great-grandmother. 77 78



The Beauforts and Katherine’s Remarriage Thus, from the sixteenth century onwards, Katherine’s remarriage was commonly attributed to her lust and heedlessness, rendering her illustrative of traditional female failings. However, if we remove the element of moralistic disapprobation, it is possible to read the evidence for Katherine’s involvement with Edmund Beaufort and marriage to Owen Tudor differently. Rather than regarding her relationships as proof of her inability to control herself, these may instead disclose the difficulties of her situation as a young dowager queen, and even her strategies for navigating these. While the fifteenth-century chronicle is the only direct evidence for Katherine’s connection with Edmund, circumstantial evidence makes it plausible. Katherine regularly saw Edmund’s uncle Bishop Henry Beaufort in the 1420s and Edmund was periodically part of his household.83 Bishop Beaufort was also Henry VI’s great-uncle, a prominent member of his council, and Lord Chancellor between 1424 and 1426. The chronicle states that Katherine wanted to marry Edmund, and this has often been associated with the Commons petition made to parliament in 1426 which requested, inter alia, that the Lord Chancellor should: “grant to king’s widows permission for them to marry at their will.”84 Significantly, this parliament was held at Leicester, which formed part of Katherine’s dower.85 It is therefore conceivable that the petition originated with her and it also indicates that there was some support for the prospect of her remarriage. However, as discussed earlier, in response the parliament of 1427–1428 enrolled a statute stipulating, “for the preservation of the honour of the most noble estate of queens of England,” any man who married the queen without the king’s permission would forfeit all his lands and goods.86 Moreover, it was stated that the king could only give his permission when he was at the age of discretion. This would mean waiting until he was in his mid-teens at best, and Henry was currently six—meaning that Katherine  Griffiths, “Statute,” 250–251.  “Henry VI: February 1426,” in The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. Chris Given-Wilson, Paul Brand, Seymour Phillips, Mark Ormrod, Geoffrey Martin, Anne Curry, and Rosemary Horrox (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2010), no-series/parliament-rolls-medieval/february-1426. 85  Griffiths, “Statute,” 249, 251. 86  “Henry VI: February 1426,” PROME, parliament-rolls-medieval/february-1426. 83 84



would have had an almost decade-long wait before she could secure his permission. The statute also states that this legislation “will give the greatest comfort and example to other ladies of rank who are of the blood royal that they might not be so lightly disparaged.” Thus, a queen’s illicit remarriage is plainly established as degrading her. Lydgate’s “Disguising at Hertford,” performed in front of Henry and Katherine at Christmas 1427, may reflect the statute and its concerns.87 Within the disguising, an apparent challenge to patriarchal hierarchy is dismissed by a conclusion that ridicules women’s attempts to claim authority in marriage.88 The performance could therefore have been intended as a caution to Katherine and any potential suitors by underlining that women’s aspirations must always be subject to male authority.89 This all fits the sequence of events outlined in the chronicle: Katherine wished to marry Edmund but Gloucester and other lords prevented this with the statute. If there was a relationship between Edmund and Katherine, this might explain why he was part of the force that left for France in March 1427 under the leadership of Gloucester’s elder brother John, Duke of Bedford. This would get Edmund out of the way.90 Another possibility is that the 1426 petition addressing Bishop Beaufort actually originated not with Katherine, but with the Bishop himself. It is crucial here to highlight the intense political rivalry between the Bishop and his nephew Gloucester, who frequently clashed over the direction of royal policy. It is entirely possible that a potential marriage between Katherine and Edmund was an aspect of this conflict.91 If Edmund were to marry Katherine and become Henry’s stepfather, it would considerably strengthen Bishop Beaufort’s position. The Bishop had recently played a decisive role in arranging the marriage of his niece Joan to another royal spouse, King James I of Scotland, which took place in 1424.92 The identity  Sponsler, Queen’s Dumbshows, 174–180.  John Lydgate, “Disguising at Hertford,” in Mummings and Entertainments, ed. Claire Sponsler (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2010), https://d.lib.rochester. edu/teams/text/sponsler-lydgate-mummings-and-entertainments-disguising-at-hertford. 89  Sponsler, Queen’s Dumbshows, 180. 90  Nathen Amin, The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown (Stroud: Amberley, 2017), 156. 91  Griffiths, “Statute,” 250. I am very grateful to Nathen Amin for useful discussions on this point. 92   M.H.  Brown, “Joan [née Joan Beaufort] (d. 1445),” ODNB, doi:10.1093/ ref:odnb/14646. 87 88



of the groom and the involvement of the Bishop may also account for Gloucester’s opposition to the match. Perhaps he was not averse to Katherine marrying per se, but he certainly would not want her to marry a Beaufort. This raises the further possibility that, despite the wording of the chronicle, the impetus for the marriage did not come from Katherine at all. Griffiths suggestively states that Katherine “had been courted by Edmund Beaufort,” which renders Edmund the active party.93 Certainly, the statute focuses on the agency of the man who would aspire to: “make contract of betrothal or matrimony to marry himself to the queen of England,” and the punishment is his alone. The queen is passive, except insofar as her honour, and that of other royal women, is being championed and safeguarded from depredation. The chronicler’s report that Katherine wished to marry Edmund does not necessarily convey Katherine’s own wishes. Perhaps the projected marriage was not her inclination at all, but something into which Bishop Beaufort was attempting to manoeuvre her. Rather than telling us about Katherine’s appetite for sex, it may tell us that she was in a politically vulnerable position. This sheds alternative light on Katherine’s marriage to Owen Tudor. If Katherine had been pressured by the Beauforts, she may have decided to marry Owen, in part, to take herself off the market and obviate her involvement in any future intrigue. Indeed, within this scenario, Gloucester would have been relieved that she had remarried a man of little consequence who posed no threat to his own position, nor bolstered Bishop Beaufort’s. Furthermore, J. Allan Mitchell reads Lydgate’s Temple of Glass as an allusive expression of Lydgate’s sympathy for Katherine’s position in the 1420s.94 The poem is an allegorical dream vision in which an unnamed queen confesses her secret yearning for a man whom she is forbidden to love. In the end, Venus joins them together, telling them that they will eventually be able to consummate their love, but only after some undefined barrier is eradicated.95 Mitchell argues for Lydgate’s comprehension that “Katherine’s relationship with Owen represented an alternative future and personal freedom that the regency government attempted to thwart  Griffiths, Henry VI, 61.  J.  Allan Mitchell, “Queen Katherine and the Secret of Lydgate’s Temple of Glas,” Medium Ævum 77, no. 1 (2008): 54–76. 95  John Lydgate, The Temple of Glas, ed. J.  Allan Mitchell (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2007), 93 94



by means of explicit proscriptions.”96 Thus, in marrying Owen, Katherine may have been following her heart, but there could also have been a measure of calculation in her decision.

Death and Afterlife However they came to marry, Katherine and Owen had, at most, a decade or so together before her death. In her will, Katherine addresses Henry VI, anticipating “the silent and fearful conclusion of this long grievous malady, in the which I have been long, and yet am, troubled and vexed by the visitation of God.”97 The malady is not explained and there is no other information about it. Given her father’s well-documented mental illness, it is often suggested Katherine’s ailment was similar.98 Katherine is thereby implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) identified as the conduit via which Charles’s illness passed to Henry VI, although it is not certain that the two kings suffered from the same condition.99 Katherine’s will makes no mention of Owen or their children, focusing instead on the payment of her debts, bequests for her servants, and provisions for her soul. Medieval wills often express only part of an individual’s plans for their property and are heavily inflected by devotional concerns.100 Thus, the omission of Katherine’s second family is not anomalous. Perhaps she had discussed her children with Henry VI in person, or else with Gloucester or Bishop, now Cardinal Beaufort, who were both supervisors of her will. Certainly, as we have seen, Edmund and Jasper were provided for. Katherine was buried in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey. There is no record of the funeral service, although her effigy, dressed in purple satin, wearing a wig and crown would have featured within it.101 Nothing is known of the tomb’s appearance, but the epitaph described Katherine as  Mitchell, “Queen Katherine,” 62.  Strickland, Lives, 2:158–159. The will is British Library Cotton MS Tiberius E VIII, fols. 187–188. 98  See: Griffiths and Thomas, Tudor Dynasty, 39; Crawford, Letters, 119. 99  As discussed by Lauren Johnson, Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI (London: Head of Zeus, 2019), 309–311. 100  Clive Burgess, “Late Medieval Wills and Pious Convention: Testamentary Evidence Reconsidered,” in Profit, Piety and the Professions in Later Medieval England, ed. Michael Hicks (Gloucester: Sutton, 1990), 14–33. 101  Susan Jenkins and Krista Blessley, “Royal Wooden Funeral Effigies at Westminster Abbey,” Burlington Magazine 161 (January 2019): 30. 96 97



Henry V’s wife, Henry VI’s mother, and “as maid and widow both a perfect flower of modesty esteemed.”102 Around 1460, when Henry VI visited the Abbey to decide on his own burial place, he ordered that his mother’s tomb “be more honorable apparellyd then it was,” suggesting it was modest, or perhaps dilapidated.103 Given the political circumstances, it is unlikely Henry made any renovations to it. In the early sixteenth century, Henry VII rebuilt the Lady Chapel as a proclamation of his dynasty’s legitimacy and Katherine was the fulcrum. Henry’s will specifies his burial among his royal progenitors at Westminster, “and specially the body of our graunt Dame of right noble memorie Quene Kateryne, wif to King Henry the Vth, and daughter to King Charles of Fraunce.”104 Katherine linked him to Henry V and Henry VI (whose body Henry VII planned to translate from Windsor to Westminster) and also embodied his French royal descent.105 A new epitaph was created which again identified Katherine as the wife of Henry V and mother of Henry VI, but also the wife of Owen Tudor, mother of Edmund, and grandmother of Henry VII.106 At some point during the rebuilding, Katherine’s coffin was disinterred and placed within Henry V’s chapel, next to his tomb. This was evidently intended to be temporary, but Katherine remained there for nearly three centuries and her body became a tourist attraction. On his thirty-sixth birthday, 23 February 1669, Samuel Pepys visited the Abbey with his wife and daughters. He took a private tour of the royal tombs and paid extra for access to the locked Henry V chapel and Katherine’s body: “and I had the upper part of her body in my hands, and I did kiss her mouth, reflecting upon it that I did kiss a Queen.”107 The notion of Katherine’s lustful nature, by now well established, likely played a role in rendering this treatment acceptable. Katherine’s body was certainly a source of income for tour guides, who told various stories to

102  Strickland, Lives, 2:155. For the original Latin, see: Joseph Stevenson, Letters and Papers Illustrative of the Wars of the English in France during the Reign of Henry the Sixth, King of England, 2 vols. (London, 1861–1864), 2:761–762. 103  Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, “On the Deposition of the Remains of Katharine de Valois, Queen of Henry V, in Westminster Abbey,” Archaeologia 46, no. 2 (1881): 283. 104  Stanley, “Depositions,” 283. 105  Thea Tomaini, The Corpse as Text: Disinterment and Antiquarian Enquiry, 1700–1900 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2017), 59–60. 106  Strickland, Lives, 159–160; Tomaini, The Corpse, 76. 107  Tomaini, The Corpse, 71.



account for Katherine’s disinterred state.108 The dominant version claimed that Katherine had never been buried at her own request, as a punishment for having disobeyed Henry V’s command that their son should not be born at Windsor, due to a prophecy that this would lead to disaster.109 Again, this story was probably informed and rendered plausible by the popular perception of Katherine’s unruliness. By the eighteenth century, Katherine’s body was a plaything for the boys of Westminster School and virtually destroyed before being interred in the Percy family vault in 1778.110 Katherine’s remains were removed once more in 1877 and were interred in Henry V’s chantry chapel, under the altar. The Dean, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, oversaw this, later describing the care taken to imbue the reburial with appropriate reverence.111 Also present was the antiquarian D.C.  Bell, who two years before had overseen the excavation of Anne Boleyn’s grave at the Tower of London.112 George Scharf, director of the National Portrait Gallery, was called in to sketch Katherine’s remains.113 Katherine’s final resting place is not visible to the general public. Her epitaph reads: Under this slab (once the altar of this chapel) for long cast down and broken up by fire, rest at last, after various vicissitudes, finally deposited here by command of Queen Victoria, the bones of Catherine de Valois, daughter of Charles VI, king of France, wife of Henry V, mother of Henry VI, grandmother of Henry VII, born 1400 [sic], crowned 1421, died 1438 [sic].114

Thus, Katherine’s identity is established via the stages of her lifecycle and her relationships to kings. It highlights her position as direct forbear to all those who ruled England from Henry VII onwards, down to Victoria and beyond. This is understandable given Westminster’s status as royal mausoleum, but Owen Tudor’s omission is nonetheless telling. Notwithstanding  Tomaini, The Corpse, 74–77.  Stanley, “Depositions,” 285. 110  Tomaini, The Corpse, 78. 111  Stanley, “Depositions,” 291. 112  Tomaini, The Corpse, 82. 113   Some of the sketches are in the National Portrait Gallery’s online archive, accessed 28 February 2021, aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=NPG7%2F1%2F3%2F1%2F2%2F21. 114  There is a photograph on the Westminster Abbey website, accessed 28 February 2021, 108 109



the inevitable emphasis on Katherine’s kingly connections, it speaks to ongoing unease about her extraordinary marriage to a mere squire. It is not only Katherine’s body that has experienced various vicissitudes, but her reputation too. The misogynistic criticism voiced by a lone fifteenth-­ century chronicle, amplified by sixteenth-century elaborations, continues to be repeated without qualification in scholarship. Concurrently, the idea of Katherine as wayward yet brave and willing to risk all for love has made her very appealing to modern audiences. Both versions depict her as ruled by her emotions, denuding her of the capacity for rational thought. Perhaps Katherine gave up her public position as queen dowager not purely, or heedlessly, for love; perhaps she married Owen in order to be able to step away from that position and lead a more private life. This is conjecture, but so are all assessments of her motivations. By considering that Katherine may have been thoughtful, rather than impulsive, we can try to understand her circumstances from her own perspective, rather than privileging the authority of a single prejudiced observer.


A Dower for Life: Understanding the Dowers of England’s Medieval Queens Katia Wright

A queen’s power has often been discussed in terms of her role as mediator and intercessor in her connections to her marital and natal families and her position as the guardian of royal children. Beyond these key elements of her office, a queen’s authority was also drawn from her ability to control money.1 As with any monarch or magnate, a queen’s income was an essential factor in both her economic and political power. Both Amalie Fößel and Attila Bárány have identified the connection between a queen’s income and her agency, noting a definitive need for a greater understanding of the connections between a queen’s political and economic situations.2 1  Theresa Earenfight, “Without the Persona of the Prince: Kings, Queens and the Idea of Monarchy in Late Medieval Europe,” Gender and History 19, no. 1 (2007): 5. 2  Amalie Fößel, “The Queen’s Wealth in the Middle Ages,” Majestas 13 (2005): 25; Attila Bárány, “Medieval Queens and Queenship: A Retrospective on Income and Power,” Annual of Medieval Studies at CEU 19 (2013): 149.

K. Wright (*) The AGC Museum, Winchester, UK © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




England’s medieval queens received income from numerous sources: grants of port customs, wardships, and materials; the rights to queen’s gold—a 10 per cent surcharge levied by the exchequer and collected on voluntary fines to the king—and other rights and privileges granted by the king.3 However, beyond these grants and rights, the predominant source of income for the queen was her landholdings. From the early medieval period onwards, England’s queens consistently held lands as both consorts and dowagers (and occasionally heiresses), and from these lands they drew both economic and political power. Marc Meyer’s study of the early medieval queenly demesne notes that the “power and influence of the royal consort was tethered to a landed estate,” and Lisa Benz has observed that this landed power enabled queens to “exercise authority in their own right, dispense patronage directly, and to attract a retinue”—essentially facilitating them to act in a similar manner to a male magnate.4 As with her other forms of income, a queen’s lands were provided to her by the king. These lands were granted in numerous ways: “during pleasure” (temporarily), for a queen’s lifetime, or “in dower.”5 Dower was granted to all medieval queens as a key source of income for their households, however the customs surrounding queenly dower across the medieval period shifted over the centuries.6 This chapter will discuss the customs surrounding medieval queenly dower, highlighting the continuous traditions and changes that took place, before examining the queen’s position as a landowner.

3  Kristen Geaman, “Queen’s Gold and Intercession: The Case of Eleanor of Aquitaine,” Medieval Feminist Forum 46, no. 2 (2010): 11; Louise Tingle, “Aurum Reginae: Queen’s Gold in Late Fourteenth-Century England,” Royal Studies Journal 7, no. 1 (2020): 77–90. 4  Marc Anthony Meyer, “‘The Queen’s Demesne’ in Later Anglo-Saxon England,” in The Culture of Christendom: Essays in Medieval History in Commemoration of Denis L. T. Bethell, ed. Marc Anthony Meyer (London: Hambledon Press, 1993), 76; Lisa Benz, “Conspiracy and Alienation: Queen Margaret of France and Piers Gaveston, the King’s Favourite,” in Queenship, Gender and Reputation in the Medieval and Early Modern West, 1060–1600, ed. Zita Eva Rohr and Lisa Benz (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 126. 5  See: Calendar of Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Edward II: Volume 2, 1313–1317 (London: HMSO, 1894), 5; Calendar of Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Edward II: Volume 3, 1317–1321 (London: HMSO, 1903), 116, 270. 6  Anne Crawford, “The Queen’s Council in the Middle Ages,” English Historical Review 116, no. 469 (2001): 1193–1194.



Granting Dower By 1200, English custom stated that dower was to be granted at the church door at the time of the marriage and was to be provided by the husband resulting in a life estate for the widow, which returned to the heirs of the husband upon the widow’s death.7 The dower itself was to be composed of either specifically nominated property or a third of the lands “of which the husband had seisin on the day of the marriage,” and it was not possible to increase or decrease the dower constituted at the church door.8 Indeed, the widow had a right to lands specifically assigned to her in dower even if they had been alienated during the term of the marriage, though she would require proof of right to do so.9 It should be noted that “dower” was not the same as “dowry,” which was provided by the bride’s father or guardian to the groom’s family upon the marriage.10 Beyond providing income predominantly through property, queenly dower was very different from the dower customs of the nobility. It was rarely granted at the marriage of a queen, the value could vary quite considerably, and at times it was utilised as a source of income for both the consort and the dowager. Moreover, queenly dower itself did not follow a strict set of customs but rather fluctuated across the entire medieval period. Though some grants of dower, namely those of Margaret of France, second queen of Edward I, and Isabella of France, note the granting of dower “at the church door,” in keeping with English custom, in truth this was rarely the case.11 Instead, dower was often granted to queens sporadically and predominantly based on the availability of property, as highlighted by the dates in which each queen received her dower grant. Margaret of France received her dower upon the day of her marriage. Margaret, however, was very much the exception.12 While Isabella of France’s official grant included the phrase “at the church door,” her dower 7  Janet S. Loengard, “‘Of the gift of her husband’: English Dower and its Consequences in the Year 1200,” in Women of the Medieval World, ed. Julius Kirshner and Suzanne F. Wemple (Oxford: Blackwell, 1985), 216–218. 8  Loengard, “‘Of the gift of her husband’,” 224; Conor McCarthy, Marriage in Medieval England: Law, Literature and Practice (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004), 147. 9  McCarthy, Marriage, 147. 10  Jennifer C.  Ward, English Noblewomen in the Later Middle Ages (London: Longman, 1992), 25. 11  CPR 1292–1301, 453–454; CPR 1317–1321, 115–116. 12  CPR 1292–1301, 4514–4553, 453–454.



was granted to her ten years after her marriage, in March 1318.13 This delay in the receipt of queenly dower was common: Philippa of Hainault’s dower was granted in February 1330 and later increased in January 1331, at least two years after her marriage, and Katherine of Valois received her dower only as a widow, granted during the minority of her son in November 1422.14 However, though the delay in granting of Isabella’s, Philippa’s, and Katherine’s dowers was evidently connected to the surviving dowager retaining her estates, this was not always the case. Neither Anne of Bohemia nor Joan of Navarre received their dower immediately upon their marriage, despite there being no living dowager queen for the king to support.15 Moreover, as will be discussed below, neither queen received their full dower estates immediately: Anne’s properties required immediate supplementation from port customs and Joan’s dower was initially drawn from the exchequer until property could be provided.16 The delays in the granting of both Anne’s and Joan’s dowers were predominantly connected to the availability of suitable crown estates, and evidently issues surrounding availability were not solely due to the survival of a dowager, but also the financial situation of the crown.

Holding Dower Each queen was granted dower lands, and this generally took place during their tenure as consort. However, though the grant of dower was made during their time as consort, the reality of whether the queen administered and received income from her dower lands as a consort or solely as a dowager shifted across the later medieval period. Hilda Johnstone has stated that all late medieval queens, from Eleanor of Provence, queen of Henry III, onwards, had access to their dowers as consorts, as one of three

 CPR 1317–1321, 115–116.  CPR 1327–1330, 501; CPR 1330–1334, 55–56; “Henry VI: November 1422,” in The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. Chris Given-Wilson, Paul Brand, Seymour Phillips, Mark Ormrod, Geoffrey Martin, Anne Curry, and Rosemary Horrox, 16 vols. (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2005), 15  CPR 1381–1385, 125–126; CPR 1401–1405, 213. 16  CPR 1381–1385, 127; CPR 1401–1405, 213. 13 14



main sources of revenue.17 This, however, was not quite the case: instead, there was a shift between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries in which dower became not only the sole source of revenue for the dowager but a fundamental source of income for the consort as well. In discussing Eleanor of Provence’s sources of income, Margaret Howell notes that she did not access her dower lands until thirty-seven years after they were assigned to her, once dowager queen.18 Instead, during her tenure as consort, Eleanor received income from queen’s gold, wardships, grants of income, and other acquired property, including an inheritance in 1268 from her uncle, Peter of Savoy, and “through her exploitation of other people’s debts to the Jews.”19 Similarly, Eleanor of Castile never accessed her dower lands: Carmi Parsons notes that Edward I’s revenues would have been reduced to an unmanageable amount had both his consort and the dowager queen drawn income from the estates of the Crown.20 Following the example of her mother-in-law, Eleanor of Castile received income instead from queen’s gold, wardships, the purchasing of property, including acquisitions through the purchasing and collecting of debts owed to the Jews, and amercements of eyres (circuit courts) on the properties she did hold.21 Though consorts were unable to access their dower at the end of the thirteenth century, by the fifteenth century, it is evident that they predominantly relied upon their dower lands as a source of income. Though dower lands were definitively granted as “dower” in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, by the fifteenth century dower was instead granted as an immediate life grant.22 Michele Seah has discussed the confusion surrounding the language of these life grants of property to later fifteenth-­ century queens. Seah highlights that though scholars often refer to these initial grants of property as “dower,” within the records the term was used 17  Hilda Johnstone, “The Queen’s Household,” in The English Government at Work, 1327–1336, ed. James F.  Willard, William Alfred Morris, Joseph R.  Strayer, and William Huse Dunham, 3 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Mediaeval Academy of America, 1940–1950), 1:253. 18  Margaret Howell, “The Resources of Eleanor of Provence as Queen Consort,” English Historical Review 102, no. 403 (1987): 380–384. 19  Howell, “Resources,” 372–378, 385, 387, 389–391; Margaret Howell, Eleanor of Provence: Queenship in Thirteenth Century England (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), 263. 20  John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society in Thirteenth-Century England (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), 122. 21  Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, 69, 75–76, 96, 141–143. 22  Rotuli Parliamentorum, 6 vols. (London, 1767–1777), 5:118–120; CPR 1446–1452, 56; CPR 1361–1467, 430, 433–434, 445, 480–482, 525.



sporadically, with grants “for life” featuring predominantly.23 Nevertheless, these grants highlight that the properties granted were intended to financially support the queen throughout her lifetime as both consort and dowager. This shift in the language of dower grants over the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is displayed in the calendars of the chancery rolls. Anne of Bohemia and Isabella of Valois were granted lands as “dower for life”; Joan of Navarre was originally granted income “for life or until the king shall provide her with lands, rents or other possession to that value in the name of dower or otherwise,” with later initial grants of land being termed “for life,” and Katherine of Valois was granted property “for the term of her life as part of her aforesaid dower.”24 Margaret of Anjou was the first queen to receive lands immediately granted for life rather than in dower.25 This terminology within the initial grants was then continued in the grants to both Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York, who both received property “for life.”26 Further evidence that dower was directly granted as income to the consort is indicated in surviving records of their administration, which demonstrates that these three later fifteenth-century queens maintained these holdings during their tenure as consort.27 Clearly, a shift in the holding of dower took place across the fourteenth century, and although Benz St. John has argued that Margaret of France was the first queen to hold her dower as a consort, a deeper look at the records of fourteenth-century queens’ lands reveals that it is not as clear-­ cut as this.28 As noted above, queens held lands in three different ways: “in dower,” “for life,” and “during pleasure,” and these terms feature in the grants of lands to fourteenth-century queens. The existence of separate grants of dower and lands held for life across Margaret of France’s tenure as consort, as well as later queens in the century, implies that these queens may well have held select crown properties as consort that later became

23  Michele Seah, “The Material Foundations of Queenship in Late-Medieval England, 1445–1503” (PhD thesis, University of Newcastle, Australia, 2019), 25–26. 24  CPR 1401–1403, 213; “Henry VI: November 1422,” PROME. 25  Rotuli Parliamentorum, 5:118–120. 26  See: CPR 1461–1467, 430; CPR 1485–1494, 75–76; “Edward IV: June 1467,” PROME, 13. 27  Seah, “Material Foundations,” 121–168. 28  Lisa Benz St. John, Three Medieval Queens: Queenship and the Crown in FourteenthCentury England (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 82.



additional properties to their dower during widowhood.29 In addition to this, the exchange of certain dower properties for alternative lifetime holdings highlight a need for a greater comprehension as to precisely what properties these consorts held and how they held them.30 Nevertheless, the inclusion of holdings during the lifetimes of these consorts may well symbolise the beginning of this later medieval shift in the holding of queenly dower to become such an important source of revenue for the consort in the fifteenth century. Interestingly, this change in the holding of queenly dower in the later medieval period is not the first. Pre-conquest queens held select properties with their husbands alongside their dower lands as consorts, with the dower becoming their sole income as widows.31 Anglo-Norman queens followed in this tradition, holding dower as both consorts and dowagers, and by the twelfth century, dower could become a supplementary income for a consort if she also inherited property.32 By the end of the thirteenth century, however, consorts clearly did not hold their dower lands. The direct cause for these shifts in the holding of dower in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is unclear, though the answer is certain to lie within the revenues of the consort. A queen’s income was inherently connected to her political position as the king’s wife, and it was vital that her revenues remained sufficient for her expenditure without draining the king’s own coffers. From the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, the sources of the queen’s revenue beyond their landholdings fluctuated; the rise of queen’s gold in the twelfth century alongside reliance on inherited holdings as a source of queenly income may have led to the king collecting the issues of the queen’s assigned dower himself, with the queen only receiving her dower once a widow, as in the case of Eleanor of Provence.33 Likewise, the loss of these additional inherited properties and the reduced returns 29  See: CPR 1301–1307, 118–119; Calendar of the Close Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Edward I: Volume 5, 1302–1307 (London: HMSO, 1908), 276. 30  See: CPR 1330–1334, 439; CPR 1381–1385, 203. 31  Meyer, “Queen’s Demesne” 85–86, 90; Pauline Stafford, Queens, Concubines and Dowagers: The King’s Wife in the Early Middle Ages (London: Leicester University Press, 1980), 102–103. 32  Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, 71; Heather Tanner, “Queenship: Office, Custom, or Ad Hoc? The Case of Queen Matilda III of England (1135–1152),” in Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady, ed. Bonnie Wheeler and John Carmi Parsons (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 136–138. 33   Geaman, “Queen’s Gold,” 18–24; Tanner, “Queenship,” 136–138; Howell, “Resources,” 383–384.



received from queen’s gold, coupled with other drains on the Crown’s revenue, may well have resulted in a need to supplement the queen’s income with her dower holdings.34 Though this cause is largely supposition, these shifts and changes across the entire medieval period demonstrate that queenly dower was nowhere near as rigid as the dowers of the English nobility in terms of its customs and uses. Instead, it fluctuated across the centuries, reflecting its purpose as an essential source of revenue, when required.

The Value and Composition of Dower Alongside fluctuations in the holding of dower across the medieval period, often the properties and income granted to queens shifted as well. A queen’s dower was granted as a specified amount, often defined within her marriage agreement: Isabella of France’s dower agreements were included in both the Treaty of Montreuil (1299) and the Treaty of Paris (1303), and Katherine of Valois’s dower was stipulated within the Treaty of Troyes of 1420.35 Indeed, though an increase in income was expected across the centuries, precedent often determined a queen’s dower, with a new consort being granted the same value of dower as her predecessor. Once a queen received a larger dower, this set a benchmark for the dower of future queens; this did not mean, however, that the value could not decrease again. Isabella of Valois was the first queen to receive 10,000 marks (£6666 13s. 4d.) as her dower, and this was likely connected to the sheer size of her dowry. As part of the Anglo-French peace treaty, Isabella’s dowry was agreed at 800,000 gold francs (£130,000), a phenomenal sum in comparison to the £7000 promised as Anne of Bohemia’s dowry.36 In response, 34  Howell, “Resources,” 372, 385; Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, 250; Louise Tingle, “Royal Women, Intercession, and Patronage in England, 1328–1394” (PhD thesis, Cardiff University, 2019), 138, 164, 168–169; J.L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: England Queenship, 1445–1503 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 239–240. 35  Elizabeth A.R.  Brown, “The Political Repercussions of Family Ties in the Early Fourteenth Century: The Marriage of Edward II of England and Isabelle of France,” Speculum 63, no. 3 (1988): 578–579; Anne Curry, “Two Kingdoms, One King: The Treaty of Troyes (1420) and the Creation of the Double Monarchy of England and France,” in ‘The Contending Kingdoms’: France and England, 1420–1700, ed. Glenn Richardson (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 35–41. 36  Anne Curry, “Richard II and the War with France,” in The Reign of Richard II, ed. Gwilym Dodd (Stroud: Tempus, 2000), 35.



Isabella was promptly crowned despite the marriage remaining unconsummated due to her young age, and she was awarded an unprecedentedly high dower. Isabella’s dower set a new precedent and Joan of Navarre, Katherine of Valois, and Margaret of Anjou all received the same sum, despite both Joan and Margaret bringing either a minimal or no dowry with them. Indeed, this lack of a sufficient dowry combined with an inflated dower may well have contributed to their unpopularity early in both Joan and Margaret’s tenures as consort. Nevertheless, the precedent set by Isabella’s dower changed again, when Elizabeth Woodville received a much smaller dower of around £4500, in keeping with her fourteenth-century predecessors.37 This decrease in the value of queenly dower was likely connected to both the Crown’s finances and the political atmosphere. Throughout the 1460s, the Crown’s income was severely impacted by the cost of the civil war and after his accession to the throne, Edward IV was incredibly generous in gifting his allies with Crown holdings.38 It is likely that providing Elizabeth with the precedented 10,000 marks in dower was an impossibility for Edward—at least not without severely impacting the Crown’s coffers. Combined with the struggles experienced by Joan of Navarre in receiving her dower, and Margaret of Anjou’s unprecedented power throughout the 1450s, Edward likely capped Elizabeth’s dower income to prevent future complications in his consort’s income. Moreover, Elizabeth was not a foreign princess, with the support of a foreign negotiating team, nor did she bring additional benefits to England through familial connections to a foreign power. Edward had rejected politically astute marriage proposals for his match to Elizabeth, thus leaving her unpopular amongst his advisors. Therefore, by granting Elizabeth a lower dower income that mimicked the earlier dowers of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century queens, Edward IV acted to protect both his finances and the wider royal public image.39 Alongside this variation in the value of dower, the properties and other forms of income granted to make up the necessary dower grants could similarly vary. Fourteenth-century queens received their dowers from crown estates dotted across England and Wales: in September 1299, Margaret of France was granted £4500 in the form of eighty properties  Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 235.  Michael Hicks, The Wars of the Roses (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 172. 39  Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 235. 37 38



and nine fee farms, ranging from Hampshire to Leicestershire. Philippa of Hainault, however, was granted £3000  in February 1330 through two large holdings in Yorkshire and Wales, before being increased to £4000 in 1331 through forty properties ranging across England from Dorset to Yorkshire. From Anne of Bohemia onwards, however, there appears to be a slight shift in the granting of dower. Anne was granted £4500 in dower, which included twenty-eight properties, twenty-two fee farms, two customs, and one additional right that provided income. Shortly after the initial grant of dower, Anne’s income was deemed to be woefully insufficient due to incorrect valuations of her properties, and Richard II further bolstered her revenue with additional grants of customs. The inclusion of the customs and rights was primarily due to the crown’s lack of both funds and property early in Richard’s reign, and Anne’s twelve-year tenure saw ongoing grants of property to replace the customs in Anne’s original dower grant.40 Issues surrounding the immediate supply of lands continued into the fifteenth century, with Joan of Navarre originally receiving her full 10,000 marks dower from the exchequer in cash until Henry IV was able to supply her with suitable holdings from crown estates across England and Wales, ranging from Cornwall to Yorkshire.41 Joan’s longevity as a widow and her extensive holdings resulted in further changes to queenly dower. With the accession of Henry IV to the English throne, the Duchy of Lancaster officially became part of the Crown’s estates but remained a separately administered entity.42 However, in 1422, Joan’s dower lands raised an issue when the newly widowed queen, Katherine of Valois, also required sufficient dower holdings. Despite the Duchy remaining a separate entity to other Crown estates, Katherine’s dower, assigned in November 1422, included a large amount of Duchy estates, in keeping with the assignments laid out within Henry V’s will.43 The inclusion of the Duchy lands was predominantly to ensure that both Katherine and Joan were suitably  See: CPR 1381–1385, 511; CPR 1385–1389, 338; CCR 1392–1396, 3.  Elena Woodacre, “Mapping the Lands of an Acquisitive Queen: Joan of Navarre,” paper presented at the Kings and Queens 5 Conference at Clemson, Greenville, USA, 8–9 April 2016. 42  Robert Somerville, History of the Duchy of Lancaster, Volume 1: 1265–1603 (London: Chancellor and Council of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1953), 140–154; Helen Castor, The King, the Crown, and the Duchy of Lancaster: Public Authority and Private Power, 1399–1461 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 38–39. 43  TNA SC8/116/5775; “Henry VI: November 1422,” PROME; Castor, The King, 40. 40 41



endowed without additional financial burden to the crown. However, Katherine’s dower grant set a precedent, and despite the death of both dowagers in 1437, a large proportion of Margaret of Anjou’s dower included income from the Duchy.44 In addition to the inclusion of Duchy of Lancaster lands in queenly dowers, further fluctuations ensued across the fifteenth century. Margaret of Anjou’s dower, set in March 1446 similarly at 10,000 marks, was not solely allocated from landholdings: £2000 from landholdings and fee farms, £1000 cash annuity from the estates of the Duchy of Lancaster, and £3666 13s 4d from port customs, the royal Exchequer, and the issues of the Duchy of Cornwall.45 Margaret was the only fifteenth-century queen to have such diverse sources of dower income, and both Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York received much smaller dowers. Though their dowers remained unspecified, it is likely that both received around £4500, in keeping with earlier fourteenth-century queens, and this similarly came purely in the form of lands, estates, and fee farms.46 Despite these differences in how dower grants were fulfilled from crown estates, an element of continuity does appear across the property of the medieval queenly dower. Across all queenly holdings, including those acquired through grants other than dower, several properties consistently reappear. In the early fourteenth century, forty-five properties were all held by Margaret of France, Isabella of France, and Philippa of Hainault.47 Similarly, twenty of the same properties were also held by Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, and Elizabeth of York in the latter half of the fifteenth century.48 Indeed, some properties were held almost continuously by queens across both centuries: most notably Devizes in Wiltshire, Odiham in Hampshire, and Havering-atte-Bower in Essex.49 Moreover, some properties appear amongst queenly holdings across the entire medieval period: the fee farm of Queenhithe, London, was held sporadically by  TNA C49/30/2; Seah, “Material Foundations,” 96–97.  Seah, “Material Foundations,” 84–85. 46  Seah, “Material Foundations,” 28–32, 86–90; Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 235. 47  CPR 1358–1361, 237–239; CCR 1313–1318, 527, 538, 543; CCR 1318–1323, 57. 48  Seah, “Material Foundations,” 276–294. 49  CPR 1307–1313, 96, 216–217; CPR 1317–1321, 46, 131–132, 201–203; CPR 1321–1324, 40; CPR 1327–1330, 66–69; CPR 1330–1334, 161; CPR 1334–1338, 206–207; CPR 1381–1385, 192; CPR 1396–1399, 40; Calendar of the Fine Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, 22 vols. (London: HMSO, 1913–1939), 4:173; “Henry VI: November 1422,” PROME; Seah, “Material Foundations,” 276–294; Woodacre, “Mapping the Lands.” 44 45



queens from the twelfth to the fifteenth century; and the manor of Winterbourne, Wiltshire, appeared intermittently across the entire medieval period including in the lands of Ӕlfflӕd, queen of Edward the Elder, Isabella of France, Philippa of Hainault, and Elizabeth of York.50 Even though there was clear continuity across medieval queenly holdings, this did not mean that all queens were consistently granted the same properties. Across the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, queens were continually granted the same properties in dower as those of their predecessors.51 Indeed, some scholars have claimed that this tradition continued into the fourteenth century—this was not, however, entirely the case.52 Though many fourteenth-century queens received dowers that were very similar to their predecessors, the grants of property were not identical, unlike their twelfth-century predecessors. After her death in November 1290, the lands previously held by Eleanor of Castile, first queen of Edward I, were maintained as a separate entity, recorded in the Pipe Rolls as the terre Regine, and granted directly to Margaret of France, making up just under half of Margaret’s dower holdings, with a further fifty-one properties and fee farms being granted from other crown estates.53 This disparity in the granting of dower properties continued across the fourteenth century: analysing the original grants of dower in 1318 and 1331 show that both Isabella of France and Philippa of Hainault received similar properties to Margaret of France and to one another. Of the sixty-two properties granted to Isabella in 1318, fifty-five were previously held by Margaret of France in some capacity, and in 1331, thirty-seven of the forty properties granted to Philippa of Hainault had previously been part of Isabella of France’s inflated income. Despite these clear connections between the consort’s dower and the dowager’s 50  CPR 1327–1330, 66–69; CPR 1330–1334, 195, 529–530; 1343–1345, 447–448; CPR 1358–1361, 237–239; CPR 1381–1395, 125–126; CPR 1388–1392, 157; Seah, “Material Foundations,” 276–294; Lois Huneycutt, “Alianora Regina Anglorum: Eleanor of Aquitaine and Her Anglo-Norman Predecessors as Queens of England,” in Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady, ed. Bonnie Wheeler and John Carmi Parsons (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 126; Meyer, “Queen’s Demesne,” 113. 51  Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, 76. 52  Lisa Benz, “In the Best Interest of the Queen: Isabella of France, Edward II and the Image of a Functional Relationship,” in Fourteenth Century England VIII, ed. J.S. Hamilton (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2014), 31; Hilda Johnstone, “The Queen’s Household,” in Chapters in the Administrative History of Mediaeval England: The Wardrobe, the Chamber and the Small Seals, ed. T.F. Tout, 6 vols. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1920–1933), 5:269. 53  CPR 1292–1301, 451–453, 453–454; Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, 157–197.



properties, there was not a tradition of granting the exact same dower to each successive queen. Looking beyond these initial grants of dower to include the entirety of each queen’s holdings, the similarities across all three queens’ estates were much smaller. While forty-five properties were held by all three queens, these made up a small proportion of their overall dower. Furthermore, after a thirteen-year “interreginal period,” Anne of Bohemia’s dower was not immediately identical to her predecessors, meaning there was little continuity in the makeup of the queen’s lands over this period. Further conclusions can be drawn from the estates of fifteenth-century queens: the twenty properties held by Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, and Elizabeth of York once again only include a fraction of the full estates of all three queens. Likewise, though Elizabeth of York was granted her mother’s properties, she did not receive them all, and of her ninety-two holdings, only thirty-five were previously held by Elizabeth Woodville. These connections across both the dower and full landholdings of later medieval queens was more likely due to all queens’ properties being drawn from the same pot: the Crown’s estates, rather than a tradition of “inheritance” of queenly holdings. Indeed, the examples discussed above highlight that though there was certainly continuity amongst their holdings, the queens’ lands were constantly subject to change. The variable nature of the lands of medieval English queens stands in stark contrast to the property holdings of the medieval queens of Portugal, highlighting that the lands of European medieval queens could differ greatly. From 1387 onwards all Portuguese queens were granted the same six urban areas which were to be split with the princess upon the marriage of the crown prince.54

The Queen as Landowner Though dower was not always a clear source of income for England’s medieval consorts, queens consistently remained landowners either through their dower or other properties granted temporarily or for their lifetime. The revenue these lands provided was incredibly important as it 54  Ana Maria S.A.  Rodrigues and Manuela Santos Silva, “Private Properties, Seignorial Tributes and Jurisdictional Rents: The Income of the Queens of Portugal in the Late Middle Ages,” in Women and Wealth in Late Medieval Europe, ed. Theresa Earenfight (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 212.



funded the expenses of the queen and her household.55 Alongside her other forms of income, these properties ensured that the queen—in theory—remained self-sufficient and was not a drain on the Crown’s finances.56 The role of the queen as landlord was unusual: she was the only married woman in the realm to hold lands outright and thus she held a position similar to a femme sole, a position generally held only by spinsters or widows. Amongst the landowning classes, a femme sole could take livery and seisin and alienate her lands. However, upon marriage, a woman became a femme couvert and ceded control of her lands into the hands of her husband.57 So how exactly could a queen, by rights a femme couvert, hold the position of an unmarried woman in terms of her properties? Seah discusses the legal framework of the queen’s position as a landholder in the fifteenth century, noting that the royal grants awarding the queen her properties emphasised the queen’s authority over those lands and estates granted to her.58 More specifically, her authority was highlighted through the clarification of her rights and responsibilities as landowner and in identifying the autonomy of the queen’s administrative officials, and evidence of this can be seen across the records of the later medieval period.59 However, though the queen held her properties outright this did not mean that she held the legal status of femme sole. Rather, the queen’s position was unique in comparison to all other married women: though the queen was legally a femme couvert, her status as the wife of the king elevated her position to enable direct ownership of her properties.60 This legal flexibility further highlights the queen’s special status: as a married woman she held and maintained extensive estates akin to the greatest of male magnates, and as the king’s wife her office and position was greater than any other noble landowner in the country. She was, in essence, a “superautocratic” woman  Crawford, “Queen’s Council,” 1193–1194.  Anne Crawford, “The King’s Burden?: The Consequences of Royal Marriage in Fifteenth Century England,” in Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England, ed. Ralph A. Griffiths (Gloucester: Sutton, 1981), 41. 57  Michael Hicks, “Crossing Generations: Dower, Jointure and Courtesy,” in The FifteenthCentury Inquisitions ‘Post Mortem’: A Companion, ed. Michael Hicks (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2012), 38. 58  Seah, “Material Foundations,” 81. 59  See: CPR 1292–1301, 451–453, 453–454; CPR 1358–1361, 237–239; CCR 1313–1318, 527; Seah, “Material Foundations,” 81–82. 60  Seah, “Material Foundations,” 83, 117–120; Howell, Eleanor of Provence, 263. 55 56



simultaneously maintaining her position as a wife, the embodiment of a royal office, and an independent landlord. As the legal owner of her estates, the queen exercised all the responsibilities and benefits experienced by any other magnate; she was expected to administer her properties effectively and to benefit from their outgoings and profits. Evidence of the queen’s involvement in her administration can be seen within surviving records: in 1352, Philippa of Hainault requested the replacement of a coroner who had been improper to herself and her tenants, and between 1446 and 1447 Margaret of Anjou ordered the sale of beech trees to pay for needed repairs to her property.61 These letters reveal not only the queens’ involvement in their estates, but also highlight aspects of their characters through their interest in the management of their holdings. Queens, like any other magnate, usually became involved in the well-oiled machinery of their administration only when necessary. These letters, however, show a specific interest in the events of their estates: Philippa’s letter reveals her interest in protecting her tenants from an official who “has behaved … underhandedly and maliciously towards us and our tenants,” and Margaret’s instructions to her steward to “make by the wodesale of our beches in our wode” in order to complete the necessary repairs disclose a keen focus in the comings and goings of her estates.62 These rights and privileges exercised by English queens varied in comparison to their Portuguese counterparts who were granted full jurisdictional power over all the monarch’s possessions within the six towns and surrounding countryside.63 This included the royal rights to collect numerous taxes, the administration of justice and the collection of the income it generated, and the patronage over four collegiate churches.64 Though English queens certainly had authority over their holdings, they did not hold the same jurisdictional authority as the queens of Portugal. Nevertheless, though the English queen held her properties and estates in the same way as any male magnate or landlord, they were in truth the property of the king, and as such there were limitations to her administration. The queen held her lands only for her lifetime, and upon her death 61  TNA SC1/41/85; Helen Maurer and B.M. Cron, eds., The Letters of Margaret of Anjou (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2019), 58. 62  Anne Crawford, ed., Letters of the Queens of England, 1066–1547 (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1994), 99; Maurer and Cron, Letters, 58. 63  Rodrigues and Santos Silva, “Private Properties,” 213. 64  Rodrigues and Santos Silva, “Private Properties,” 214–219.



they automatically returned to the Crown, similar to dowager peeresses, whose dower automatically returned to the heir at her death. As such, the queen’s estates were essentially inalienable, and though she could grant property, these grants could only last the term of her life and it was down to the king to both confirm and, at his pleasure, extend those grants. Evidence of this is scattered throughout the chancery rolls: in January 1368, Philippa granted keeperships to Roger Ferrour and Roger de Bovyndon for the term of her life, which Edward III extended to the lives of both Rogers; in 1394, Anne of Bohemia granted to her usher, John Parker, certain rights and privileges, and the keepership of one of her properties for her life, which Richard II enlarged for “the term of the said John’s life.”65 These grants highlight the queens’ patronage, as a key aspect of her role as a landlord, and were originally recorded on the queen’s own letters patent. Unfortunately, these no longer survive, and the evidence of the queen’s grants is revealed only in the king’s confirmation of them. These records highlight the process in which a queen was able to grant properties or issues from her estates, showing not only the workings of her administration, but also the control the king exerted over these acts of patronage. Though the queen was the definitive landlord within her estates, her properties were held not as a tenant-in-chief, but under the direct umbrella of the Crown. Her administration was essentially a smaller copy of the king’s, and many of her officials had previously worked within her own household or the king’s household and administration.66 Though the queen’s actions could be limited through her connection to the Crown, there were also many benefits. Benz St. John notes that in the fourteenth century the queen’s relationship with the king was equal to any male magnate within her estates, yet as the king’s wife or mother she enjoyed certain privileges and immunities not granted to other landlords.67 The queen was immune from liability in common law courts, and when she did end up in court, she could expect the full machinery of the Crown to support her.68 Beyond these aspects of her lordship, the queen’s position as landowner further supported her position as the king’s wife, thus granting her far  CPR 1367–1370, 84; CPR 1391–1396, 387.  Crawford, “Queen’s Council,” 1194–1195. 67  Benz St. John, Queens, 89, 93–94. 68  Benz St. John, Queens, 91–94. 65 66



more than income.69 The considerable revenues received from a queen’s estates and opportunities to appoint office holders granted her substantial political and economic influence, enabling her to both bestow patronage and maintain a retinue.70 Evidence of this can be seen throughout the extant correspondence of medieval queens. In the case of Margaret of Anjou, Maurer and Cron note that her letters reveal the Queen’s focus on her “good ladyship,” promoting advantageous marriages, advancing the interests of her officials and petitioners, providing protection and support as needed, and through acts of charity.71 These actions maximised the benefits of Margaret’s position as a landowner. Through these means, a queen was able to build her own power base in the form of an affinity that centred around her household, extending both her patronage and her influence.72 The development of an affinity, however, was based both on the queen’s prolonged dominance over her estates and her direct involvement in building the necessary connections amongst her officials and tenants. Queens such as Isabella of Valois, who had an incredibly short tenure and for whom there is little evidence of her dower and administration, likely never created such an affinity.73 A developed affinity certainly furthered the queen’s own political position, but the institutional ties between the king and the queen’s households enabled the queen to remain an important influence in the political arena.74 Furthermore, the extension of the queen’s influence and holdings did not solely benefit the queen. Rosemary Horrox has argued that Elizabeth Woodville’s networks and influence across East Anglia were so extensive that her dominance there was considered the main source of royal authority in the region.75 Moreover, Joanna Laynesmith has identified that when the queen was successful in administering her estates, she ultimately facilitated the king’s own administration in creating a vast spread of royal influence.76  Meyer, “Queen’s Demesne,” 76, 104.  Bárány, “Medieval Queens,” 173. 71  Maurer and Cron, Letters, chapters 1 to 7. 72  Michelle Beer, “A Queenly Affinity? Catherine of Aragon’s Estates and Henry VIII’s Great Matter,” Royal Studies Journal 6, no. 2 (2019): 5–25; Benz St. John, Queens, 65. 73  CPR 1396–1399, 40; Laynesmith, Medieval Queens, 236. 74  Benz St. John, Queens, 63–65. 75  Rosemary Horrox, Richard III: A Study of Service (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 80. 76  Laynesmith, Medieval Queens, 238. 69 70



Despite the queen’s legal independence within her own estates, her properties remained within the wider possessions of the crown and thus revealed a vulnerability in her position not experienced by other landlords. By the later medieval period, a queen did not inherit her properties unless she was an heiress, such as Anne Neville. Rather, the queen received her holdings solely due to her position as the wife of the king. As such, though it was necessary and beneficial for her to remain a landowner, the retention of her properties was dependant on the goodwill of the king and regularly subject to fluctuations. Changes to a queen’s landholdings were common, and though invasive, the queen was generally compensated in equivalent property or a temporary stipend from the exchequer or through customs until suitable property was available.77 Though the redistribution of lands could impact the nobility, often due to the king resolving land disputes, these instances were nowhere near as frequent as they were with the queen.78 Moreover, unlike other landlords, the king was also at free will to seize the queen’s lands in their entirety. Three queens across the later medieval period endured the seizure of their full estates, predominantly due to both economic and political causes. In 1324, Isabella of France’s holdings were seized by Edward II, apparently in response to the threat of war with France, and she did not receive full compensation of her properties until early 1327.79 In 1419, Joan of Navarre’s lands were similarly seized, with Henry V accusing his step-mother of witchcraft. Again, the need for funds for the war with France is the most likely explanation. The accusations were evidently false and her lands were to be returned to her following the direction of Henry’s will.80 In 1487, Elizabeth Woodville suddenly surrendered her full estates and retired to Bermondsey Abbey. This was likely at the directive of Henry VII, who both lacked the property to suitably finance his consort and may well have wanted to limit the reach and means of a potential political rival as the queen was a potential focal point of Yorkist loyalists.81 Though the queen was in a unique  See: CPR 1301–1307, 118–119; Benz St. John, Queens, 87–88.  Benz St. John, Queens, 87. 79  CFR 1319–1327, 300–302, 308, 335; CCR 1323–1327, 223–260; TNA E403/210, m.14. 80  Michael Jones, “Between France and England: Jeanne de Navarre, Duchess of Brittany and Queen of England (1368–1437),” in Between France and England: Politics, Power and Society in Late Medieval Brittany, ed. Michael Jones (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), 19–20. 81  William Campbell, ed., Materials for a History of the Reign of Henry VII, 2 vols. (London, 1873–1877), 2:148; Sean Cunningham, Henry VII (London: Routledge, 2007), 54–55. 77 78



position as a married woman and landowner, equal to the greatest male magnates across the country, there were both benefits and limitations to her role as a landlord that could simultaneously strengthen her political position or cause extreme financial limitations.

Conclusions A queen’s income, which was vital to her political position as the king’s wife, was drawn from numerous sources of which her landholdings were often predominant. Indeed, all medieval queens held property: either Crown holdings granted for their lifetime or temporarily or alternatively acquired holdings through purchases or inheritance. However, alongside these holdings, queens were granted dower lands from the Crown’s estates as a fundamental source of revenue. Though the dower customs of the nobility barely altered across the centuries, queenly dower fluctuated across the entire medieval period in response to the needs of the Crown and the queen’s own revenues. These fluctuations are represented in the use of dower by consorts in the early medieval period through to the twelfth century, the restrictions of dower to purely the dowager queen in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, and the inclusion of dower as the essential source of a consort’s income in the fifteenth century. Moreover, though there was an element of continuity within the lands of medieval queens, the dower, and other holdings, of fourteenth- and fifteenth-­ century queens was not regimented as a specific group of estates, with many of these queens holding property across both England and Wales. Despite these differences in queenly dower, and by extension their other property holdings, the authority drawn from the position as landowner was vitally important to the queen. Though she was a married woman, the queen was unique in that she directly held and administered her royal estates. These properties granted the queen both the economic and political ability to grant patronage, maintain a retinue, and extend her political influence. Moreover, this authority could benefit both the king and queen, prolonging and extending royal dominance in certain areas across the country. Evidently, as with other magnates, the holding of property placed the queen in a unique and incredibly beneficial position, but her properties were simultaneously vulnerable to the king’s needs. As such, the queen’s position as landowner was anomalous to all other magnates; she both benefitted and potentially suffered for her connections to the Crown and thus had an entirely unique experience compared with any of her gender or any other landowner.


Queens Consort of the Wars of the Roses


Queens Consort of the Wars of the Roses J.L. Laynesmith

The final generations of the Plantagenet dynasty have frequently become unmoored from their place in its story. This is in part a result of a sixteenth-­ century narrative of dynastic fracture that depicted the later fifteenth century so mired in bloodshed and political disarray that Tudor kingship inevitably glittered more brightly by comparison. That narrative shaped generations of teaching, vividly satirised by Sellar and Yeatman in 1930: Noticing suddenly that the Middle Ages were coming to an end, the Barons now made a stupendous effort to revive the old Feudal amenities of Sackage, Carnage and Wreckage and so stave off the Tudors for a time. They achieved this by a clever plan, known as the Wars of the Roses … During the Wars of the Roses the Kings became less and less memorable (sometimes even getting in the wrong order).1


 W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, 1066 And All That (London: Methuen, 1984), 54–55.

J.L. Laynesmith (*) University of Reading, Reading, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




Today, as teachers in the UK increasingly attempt to cover a millennium of British history in a mere two years at Key Stage 3, the major late medieval themes of castles and crusades, plague and the Peasants’ Revolt can all be covered without stepping foot into the muddy waters of the fifteenth century. The queens of the Wars of the Roses are consequently more generally familiar as literary characters than as historical figures. Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, and Anne Neville, the queens of Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III, respectively, have all been powerfully re-imagined in Philippa Gregory’s novels and the television series The White Queen. Here, women become the primary strategists in dynastic feud. At the same time, George R.R. Martin has re-purposed and embellished the most lurid depictions of these women in his A Song of Ice and Fire, televised as Game of Thrones. His Cersei Lannister is not only an archetypal evil queen of fairy tale, but is also recognisably a caricature of Elizabeth Woodville, occasionally channelling Margaret of Anjou’s darkest moments (albeit with hints of Anne Boleyn). The most influential literary depictions of these queens are to be found in Shakespeare’s history plays: the supreme articulation of that brutal sixteenth-century narrative of their age. The queens of Shakespeare’s second tetralogy are shadowy at best: Richard II’s queen is an amalgam of Anne and Isabella; Joan of Navarre is absent altogether; and Katherine of Valois, as Katherine Lewis’s chapter noted, is a romantic cipher. By contrast, Margaret of Anjou is the most charismatic and forceful character in the Henry VI plays and one of Shakespeare’s great tragic heroines. The closing lines of Henry VI, Part 1, identify her as England’s Helen of Troy. Shakespeare even brings her anachronistically into the final play of this tetralogy to spar with Richard III. Elizabeth Woodville is introduced there as one of a family of “wrens” that “make prey where eagles dare not perch,” reminding the audience of her lowly origins.2 Most of Elizabeth’s lines are eloquent laments and curses on Richard for ousting her son and murdering him, yet she is persuaded to permit Richard to marry her daughter, leaving the stage for the last time as he mocks this “shallow, changing woman!”3 Even Anne Neville, brief though her appearance is, makes a bruising impact on the audience’s emotions, an icon of every fragile girl blinded by the charisma of an evil man who will break her. 2  William Shakespeare, Richard III, ed. Burton Raffel (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 161 (4.4.430). 3  Shakespeare, Richard III, 32 (1.3.170).



There has been more recent scholarship on Margaret of Anjou’s role in Shakespeare’s plays than on any of these women’s place in fifteenth-­ century politics. Indeed, Carole Levin, the author of our chapter on Margaret of Anjou here, has previously examined Margaret in that context. As Levin observes there, the seeds of Margaret’s “she-wolf” reputation lie in the propaganda of her own age.4 Yet it was also in Margaret’s lifetime that Chastellain wrote Le Temple de Bocace, at the heart of which is a deeply moving lament by Margaret for the terrible misfortunes that had befallen her and the slander that “leaves a perpetual wound in my honour and reputation.”5 Very many of the contemporary sources for the lives of all three of these queens were so fundamentally shaped by political conflict that the women themselves seem to stand in a hall of fairground mirrors, constantly distorted in dramatically different ways. Earlier Plantagenet consorts were by no means immune to politically skewed depictions, but these last queens have suffered more than most, not least because of a lingering tendency in writers of later generations to favour York or Lancaster (usually York). This has included a centuries long tension between ‘received history’ and apologists for Richard III, the latter especially inclined to condemn Elizabeth Woodville for ambitions to “usurp the sovereignty.”6 Historians have consequently reached some substantially different and often irreconcilable conclusions about these women’s roles. Until the later twentieth century, representations of the queens in narrative biographies and more scholarly history tended to reflect the depictions by Shakespeare and, for Elizabeth Woodville, Thomas More: Margaret was an impressive but transgressive woman who dominated men and paid the price; Elizabeth an ambitious and inconstant upstart, but to be pitied for her children’s fate; Anne a tragic pawn, scarcely worth mentioning.7 Alec Myers assessed the evidence of Margaret and Elizabeth’s surviving household accounts in articles published in 1957 and 1967, 4  Carole Levin, “Queen Margaret in Shakespeare and Chronicles: She-wolf or Heroic Spirit,” in Scholars and Poets Talk about Queens, ed. Carole Levin (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 122–142. 5  Frederick Hepburn, “The Queen in Exile: Representing Margaret of Anjou in Art and Literature,” in The Fifteenth Century XI, ed. Linda Clark (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2012), 79. 6  George Buck, The History of King Richard the Third, ed. Arthur Kincaid (Gloucester: Sutton, 1982), 26. 7  J.L.  Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship, 1445–1503 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 9–20.



respectively, but it was not until 1981 that these queens were constructively interrogated within the context of their office.8 This was in an article by Anne Crawford, which she followed up four years later with an assessment of their piety.9 Her studies became the foundation stones for the next forty years of scholarship on these queens. We are consequently delighted that she has provided a chapter here on queenship during the Wars of the Roses, which sets the scene for the biographical chapters in this last section. Most modern historians represent Margaret of Anjou emerging as the dominant figure in Henry VI’s kingship at some point in the 1450s, although the exact date ranges right through the decade.10 As the twentieth century drew to a close, a slew of scholars argued that she was neither as transgressive, inept, or unpopular as had previously been averred, but they still identified her as the principal political player in the late Lancastrian administration.11 By contrast, Anthony Gross maintained that between 1453 and 1471 Margaret was merely the figurehead for a group of lawyers and administrators who actually controlled the Lancastrian party.12 More recently, Gross has also challenged the conventional narrative that Margaret’s idea of queenship was shaped by a childhood in the company of her remarkable grandmother, Yolande of Aragon, in the Loire valley— he instead draws attention to evidence for an upbringing in her mother’s company in Italy, surrounded by her father’s enemies and influenced by Antoine de la Sale’s bleak view of womanhood.13 In 2010, Michael Hicks went even further, arguing that Margaret’s powerful reputation was nothing more than Yorkist propaganda: “there is very little to substantiate 8  A.R. Myers, Crown, Household and Parliament in Fifteenth Century England, ed. Cecil H. Clough (London: Hambledon Press, 1985), 135–209, 251–318. 9  Anne Crawford, “The King’s Burden? The Consequences of Royal Marriage in FifteenthCentury England,” in Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England, ed. R.A. Griffiths (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1981), 33–56; Anne Crawford, “The Piety of Late Medieval English Queens,” in The Church in Pre-Reformation Society: Essays in Honour of F.R.H.  Du Boulay, ed. Caroline M.  Barron and Christopher Harper-Bill (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1985), 48–57. 10  See summary in Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 13–14. 11  Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 14–15. 12  Anthony Gross, The Dissolution of the Lancastrian Kingship (Stamford: Paul Watkins, 1996), 46–69. 13  Anthony Gross, “A Mirror for a Princess: Antoine de la Sale and the Political Psyche of Margaret of Anjou,” in The Fifteenth Century XVII, ed. Linda Clark (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2020), 61–80.



Margaret’s agency in the records and much to discount it,” he concluded.14 Meanwhile, Rosemarie McGerr published a fascinating analysis of the Yale Law School manuscript of the Nova Statuta Angliae in 2011. This argued that Margaret played an active role in defending and promoting her husband’s kingship and added a new manuscript to the eclectic and intriguing collection already associated with her, a collection that has continued to grow since.15 Helen Maurer and Bonita Cron’s rigorous and detailed edition of Margaret’s many letters, published in 2019, subsequently provided a rich lode for further analysis of her queenship.16 Unpersuaded by Hicks or Gross, Cron’s sympathetic 2021 biography argues that Henry VI consciously conferred significant extra authority on Margaret from the autumn of 1456.17 The opposing interpretations of Elizabeth Woodville have often focused on her natal family, particularly analysing contemporaries’ perception of their social status and the extent to which their behaviour may account for the rekindling of the Wars of the Roses in 1469 and 1483.18 As A.J. Pollard has demonstrated, Elizabeth Woodville’s own later reputation as a grasping and manipulative temptress was significantly developed in interpretations made by Richard III’s eighteenth-century defenders.19 In contrast, her early twentieth-century biographers, writing for the new Queen Elizabeth (Bowes-Lyon), asserted her “spotless virtue” and defined her by

 Michael Hicks, The Wars of the Roses (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 123.  Rosemarie McGerr, A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes: The Yale Law School New Statutes of England (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011); Raluca Radulescu, “Preparing for Mature Years: The Case of Margaret of Anjou and her Books,” in Middle Aged Women in the Middle Ages, ed. Sue Niebrzydowski (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2011), 115–138; Jenni Nuttall, “Margaret of Anjou as Patron of English Verse?: The Liber Proverbiorum and the Romans of Partenay,” The Review of English Studies 67 (2016): 636–659. See also: Rachel Delman, “The Queen’s House before the ‘Queen’s House’: Margaret of Anjou and Greenwich Palace, 1447–1453,” Royal Studies Journal 8, no. 2 (2021): 6–25, for a fascinating exploration of the evidence of Margaret’s influence and identity to be found in the records for her manor at Greenwich. 16  Helen Maurer and B.M. Cron, eds., The Letters of Margaret of Anjou (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2019). 17  B.M.  Cron, Margaret of Anjou and the Men Around Her (Gloucester: History and Heritage Publishing, 2021), 221–223. 18  See: Hannes Kleineke, Edward IV (Abingdon: Routledge, 2009), 83–4. 19  A.J. Pollard, “Elizabeth Woodville and her Historians,” in Traditions and Transformations in Late Medieval England, ed. Douglas Biggs, Sharon D.  Michalove, and A.  Compton Reeves (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 145–158. 14 15



the tragic losses she endured.20 General histories of the period, unmoved by these defences, tend to depict Elizabeth along the lines of Thomas Penn’s “cold, lynx-eyed beauty” who was Edward IV’s greatest political mistake.21 Anne Neville’s reputation has been shaped more by her husband’s actions than her own—one contemporary observer believed she had been married to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, by force, and immediately after her death there were rumours that he had poisoned her—yet only Richard’s fiercest detractors are still inclined to argue this today.22 His defenders are apt to paint their marriage as a love match.23 The stories of all three women are inevitably marked by the fact that they outlived their royal sons (or at least appear to have done). Motherhood is a major theme throughout these consorts volumes, and Carole Levin has here specifically entitled her chapter on Margaret “Passionate Mother,” arguing that this queen’s relationship with her only son was the defining factor of her life. His birth transformed Margaret’s position in the kingdom; her determination to protect his birth-right shaped her response to the noblemen jostling for power around the vacuum created by her husband’s ineptitude; she devoted a decade of her life to trying to reclaim his lost throne; and the Prince’s death deprived her life of meaning. Elizabeth Woodville is most famous as the mother of “the Princes in the Tower” and the chapter here suggests that her determination to protect her eldest (non-royal) son, Thomas Grey, may have been a devastating miscalculation that forced Richard, Duke of Gloucester, into usurpation. Nonetheless, the chapter title is “The Knight’s Widow” because it was Elizabeth’s status as an English gentlewoman that made her unique among late medieval consorts. Her family’s background meant that ambitious men could claim to be trying to restore right order when they attacked her husband and son: regime change was justified by arguing that Woodville royal councillors were inevitably malign because of their low birth. Moreover, later writers’ assumptions about the nature of “low-born women” have persistently shaped Elizabeth’s reputation for arrogance and ambition despite contemporary evidence of her subjects’ affection for her. 20  David MacGibbon, Elizabeth Woodville (1437–1492): Her Life and Times (London: Arthur Baker, 1938), 204. 21  Thomas Penn, Winter King: The Dawn of the Tudor Age (London: Penguin, 2011), 3. 22  Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts existing in the Archives of Milan, Volume 1: 1385–1618, ed. A.B. Hinds (London: HMSO, 1912), 177. 23  Paul Murray Kendall, Richard the Third (London: Cardinal, 1973), 106–110.



Unlike her predecessors, Anne Neville lost her son to illness. As Anne Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs demonstrate, her story was shaped by a much wider lack of sons in that she was an heiress whose fortune came from other heiresses. Their chapter is consequently entitled “Heiress and Highest Ornament of her House.” This chapter reveals the complexity and value of Anne’s kinship networks, providing a rich context for this elusive queen. It was not who Anne was, but who she was related to that shaped her fate. Before they lost their sons, Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville both also suffered the humiliation of allegations that their boys were bastards. Margaret was accused of adultery, Elizabeth of an invalid marriage that meant that she had merely been the King’s mistress. Rumours of adultery and illegitimacy were a commonplace of medieval propaganda at times of royal depositions. The meanings of these stories were multi-­ layered. One persistent thread is a link between a king’s loss of control of government and his failure to possess the rightful queen’s body, an idea powerfully articulated by Thomas Malory who was writing his version of King Arthur’s legend in the midst of the Wars of the Roses.24 As noted in the Introduction, it was not only queens consort who were vulnerable to such allegations but kings’ mothers as well: Joan of Kent was alleged to have borne Richard II to a clerk of Bordeaux, and one story claimed that Edward IV’s father was an English archer in Rouen.25 Those kings’ mothers, like the last two medieval queens consort, were Englishwomen. Yet, as Anne Crawford notes, English queens were themselves an anomaly, an experiment repeated by early Tudor kings but not again for centuries. Elena Woodacre’s Epilogue looks at this theme of nationality. She investigates the political landscape that led to so many French brides and examines the consequences both in wider politics and for the queens themselves of their foreign birth, particularly examining the often negative responses to their alien entourage and families. This provokes an interesting comparison with similar resentment against Elizabeth Woodville’s family in which Woodacre suggests that the root cause of dislike was perhaps not xenophobia (or, by implication, snobbery) but a 24  Joanna Laynesmith, “Telling Tales of Adulterous Queens in Medieval England: From Olympias of Macedonia to Elizabeth Woodville,” in Every Inch a King: Comparative Studies on Kingship in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, ed. Lynette Mitchell and Charles Melville (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 195–214. 25  Laynesmith, “Telling Tales,” 206–207.



concern that a queen’s family inevitably gained an unfair advantage, whoever they were. This conclusion resonates with concerns over the re-­marriage of widowed queens that Katherine Lewis has already explored. What is abundantly apparent throughout these chapters is that none of these women can be clearly understood in isolation from one another, despite the substantial differences in their personalities and experiences. By placing their stories within the entire sweep of modern scholarship on England’s consorts, it is to be hoped that more fresh understandings will emerge and that the queens of the Wars of the Roses will finally throw off the shackles of their literary avatars.


English Queenship and the Wars of the Roses Anne Crawford

The Role of Queen Consort What effect, if any, did the political and military strife called the Wars of the Roses have on queenship and the roles of the kings’ consorts concerned, namely, Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, and Anne Neville? It is perhaps worth noting that the Wars of the Roses did not end in 1485 and although she is not included here, Elizabeth of York was also a consort marked by it. While the formal role of consort had remained unchanged throughout the Middle Ages, each queen to some extent adapted it to suit her own personality and circumstances. Was she a foreign princess or of English birth, did she fulfil her primary duty of providing the king with a male heir, did she have daughters to instruct, was she more than conventionally pious, was she financially prudent, did she show much interest in the administration of her dower lands? Several of these issues are covered in the chapters by Katia Wright and Elena Woodacre in this volume. The role of queen consort in England, as in much of western Europe, had several aspects. One, and perhaps the most important, was to bear an

A. Crawford (*) London, UK © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




heir in time for him to be adult at the death of his father and then preferably to provide a younger son and daughters who could be used for diplomatic matches to seal a treaty or neutralise a rival. Others were more symbolic. If the king was God’s representative in England, then his queen became the manifestation of Mary, the Mother of God, legitimising his kingship and able to mediate between him and his subjects, plead on their behalf for his mercy, and set them a truly pious and charitable example. Culturally, the queen’s role at court was in encouraging the gentler arts, and her influence on fashion and style was significant. The estates allocated to the queen in dower made her one of the largest landowners in the country, which brought her into contact with large numbers of her husband’s subjects. On her marriage, a foreign-born consort would make a formal arrival into England, attended by a small entourage of her fellow countrymen. The pageants and processions that saw her brought to London would have enabled people to see their new queen and the pageants could also be used for propaganda purposes. Those for Margaret of Anjou’s arrival, for example, emphasised the benefits of peace with France that the marriage was designed to bring.1 The solemn rituals of the new queen’s coronation and anointing affirmed her role in the eyes of God and man. Soon afterwards most of her own entourage was replaced by Englishmen and women, from whose number she would thereafter take her friends and intimates, though she was permitted to retain a few of her own countrymen and women. There were several golden rules for her future conduct: she was expected to live within the income provided for her, never to interfere in foreign policy, even if it involved relations with her own country (unless asked to intervene as when Edward II sent Queen Isabella as his ambassador to France), never to oppose the king’s wishes, and certainly never let her views on domestic politics become known, let alone be seen to favour any one aspect or person. The marriages of Margaret, Elizabeth, and Anne all took place under very different circumstances. Henry VI married by proxy in 1444 when he was twenty-two, and given England’s heavy political and military involvement in France, it was inevitable that his bride would be French. The offer of Margaret, fifteen-year-old daughter of René of Anjou, titular King of Naples and Duke of Anjou, proposed by Charles VII of France, was 1  Helen E.  Maurer, Margaret of Anjou: Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2003), 20–21.



accepted, although all it brought the English was a temporary truce rather than a more lasting peace and a very small dowry. When Edward IV took the throne in 1461, he was 18 and, as a usurper, a dubious quantity on the international marriage market, one no foreign ruler would be eager to pursue for his daughter or sister. As his hold on the throne grew stronger, this situation changed and several foreign royal brides were being considered when the King surprised everyone in 1464 by announcing he had just secretly married Elizabeth, Lady Grey, a Lancastrian widow five years his senior and already the mother of two sons. It was the first match of an English king with one of his own subjects since the Conquest, although Edward the Black Prince married his cousin Joan of Kent, who would have been queen if the prince had not predeceased his father, and King John’s first wife was Isabella of Gloucester (though this marriage was annulled less than a year after he succeeded); for Edward IV it was a serious political blunder. Anne, younger daughter and co-heiress of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, was the biggest catch on the English marriage market in 1470. Her older sister was already married to Edward IV’s brother George, Duke of Clarence, when the latter, in conjunction with Warwick, rebelled against Edward and later began negotiations with Queen Margaret to restore Henry VI to his former throne. The reconciliation was sealed by the marriage of Henry’s son and heir, Prince Edward, to Anne. When the young prince was killed a year later at the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, preceded by Warwick’s death at Barnet, the widowed heiress Anne quickly became the wife of Edward’s younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and was crowned queen with him in 1483. All three consorts gave their husband a son. Margaret’s only child, Edward, was long-delayed, arriving in 1453, nine years after her marriage, at a time when Henry VI had descended into madness. Elizabeth’s first three children by Edward were girls and the long-awaited son, the future Edward V, was not born until 1471, followed two years later by a brother, Richard. Anne did not have a child by Prince Edward, but her only child by Richard of Gloucester was a boy, probably born in 1473 and named Edward for the king. He became Prince of Wales after his father’s usurpation, but died in the spring of 1484, followed a year later by his mother. His father, Richard III, was actively seeking a new wife at the time of his death in 1485. Then, as now, the queen’s looks and personal style were regarded as important. The only likeness of Margaret to survive is a medal cast, her successor being the first consort for whom a portrait exists, but she was



described as “a most handsome woman, though somewhat dark,”2 while Elizabeth’s beauty and her ability to set fashion is not in doubt. For Anne Neville, there is no real likeness or description other than John Rous’s assertion that “In persone sche was seemly, ameabyll and bewteus,” and several stylised images.3 When Margaret arrived in England, the kingdom had effectively been without a queen since Katherine of Valois’s retirement from court following her marriage to Owen Tudor in about 1431, giving her ample scope to influence the refurbishment of royal dwellings, particularly the queen’s own suites of rooms, providing work for English craftsmen and bringing the important feminine element to the court. Her household, as was customary, was closely linked with that of the king, its officials moving seamlessly between the two, and it provided positions for the wives and daughters of leading men at court. Margaret’s household included a number of men in the Duke of Suffolk’s party, not perhaps surprising given his escort of the bride to England.4 Elizabeth’s household provided employment for a few of her relatives.5 Like her predecessor, Elizabeth became queen after a long hiatus when Margaret had not been resident in London, so she had plenty of scope for refurbishing, while Anne was queen for too short a time, much of which was spent in the north, to have a similar effect, but for details of her household, see the chapter by Anne Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs. The queen’s role in setting an example of piety and charitable works was a significant one. While it was unlikely that she would initiate any new mode of pious expression, how she chose to perform those duties would influence other leaders of society. She would therefore both reflect the trends of her time and be responsible for the spread of those she favoured. Margaret’s role in such trend-setting had already been usurped by Henry VI by the time he married, and nothing that Margaret could do in these fields would ever be anything but a pale shadow of her husband’s. There 2  Calendar of State Papers Milan, Volume 1: 1385–1618, ed. A.B. Hinds (London: HMSO, 1912), 18–19 (report to Bianca, Duchess of Milan, 24 October 1458). 3  BL Add MS 48976. 4  Ralph A.  Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI (London: Benn, 1981), 360–361; A.R. Myers, “The Household of Queen Margaret of Anjou, 1452–3: I,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 40, no. 1 (1957): 79–113; A.R. Myers, “The Household of Queen Margaret of Anjou, 1452–3: II,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 40, no. 2 (1958): 391–431; and A.R. Myers “The Household of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, 1466–67,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 50 (1967): 207–235. 5  David Baldwin, Elizabeth Woodville (Stroud: Sutton, 2002), 74.



is evidence of her personal piety, but less for what may perhaps be categorised as queenly save for her only major charitable foundation, Queen’s College, Cambridge, which was educational as well as religious and emulated her husband’s great foundation of King’s.6 However, she was assiduous in promoting the interests of members of her household and as a patron she was determined, prepared to compete with others—even the King—for a benefice and office or a wealthy marriage. No fewer than four members of her household were promoted to the episcopal bench, and many of her surviving letters were in response to an appeal for her intervention or mediation and inspired considerable loyalty in gratitude.7 Elizabeth, in contrast, often dismissed as completely worldly, showed signs of piety beyond the standard normally expected of queens: she founded a chantry chapel in Westminster Abbey, particularly supported the Carthusians, and chose to end her days within the Abbey of Bermondsey.8 Anne, always a more shadowy figure, does not seem to have initiated any major benefactions in her brief period as queen, but was closely associated with those of her husband, a genuinely pious man. Together, they founded a chantry at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and were planning a college of canons at Barnard Castle.9

Margaret of Anjou as Queen Consort Having briefly summarised how each of the three consorts fitted the traditional role of queen, how did they each react to the changed circumstances brought about by political and military conflict in their time? When the young Margaret arrived in England, she was largely in ignorance of the ways of the court and the governance of the kingdom. One of the most serious charges levelled against her in later years was her supposed role in the surrender of the county of Maine, one of the last English holdings in France, to the French king, Charles VII. Since the surrender benefitted both her father and the King of France, it was alleged that she had been 6  Anne Crawford, “The Piety of Late Medieval Queens,” in The Church in Pre-Reformation Society: Essays in Honour of F.R.H. Du Boulay, ed. Caroline M. Barron and Christopher Harper-Bill (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1985), 49–51. 7  Griffiths, Reign of King Henry VI, 258; Helen Maurer and B.M. Cron, eds., The Letters of Margaret of Anjou (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2019). 8  Calendar of Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III: 1476–1485 (London: HMSO, 1901), 90–91, 563, 582–583. 9  Michael Hicks, Anne Neville, Queen of Richard III (Stroud: Tempus, 2007), 165–166.



one of the prime movers behind the scenes.10 In fact, a fairer interpretation would be that while she did write directly to Charles, she was simply supporting her husband and his ministers in trying to obtain a permanent truce with France, and there is no credible evidence that she ever sought to influence foreign policy in the early years of her marriage, since her views accorded with those of her husband. The death in 1447 of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the King’s uncle, heir, and sole remaining male representative of the House of Lancaster other than Henry himself, intensified the pressure on Henry and Margaret to produce an heir. Henry’s disinterest in politics and the inadequacies of his personal rule had led to serious rivalries between Richard, Duke of York, who had been governor of the English territory in Normandy, and Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, whom Henry had installed in York’s place and who had subsequently been responsible for the loss of Normandy. The long-awaited birth of a prince happened almost immediately after Henry’s descent into madness and Margaret therefore had no opportunity to establish a role for herself as mother of the heir. In both France and Scotland, a queen might be appointed regent for her husband or son in the event of the former’s incapacity or the latter’s minority, although this was dependent on her personality and abilities. In England there was no precedent more recent than 1216 for one person being given sovereign power in such circumstances, which was instead vested in a council.11 York claimed the right to head the government in the King’s place, not only because of his seniority as head of the junior branch of the royal family, but by his proven abilities, and, he claimed, support from his fellow magnates. Somerset was arrested and sent to the Tower, but his supporters were still active and many of the nobility were gathering men and arms for self-protection with the result that the country looked dangerously close to descending into civil war.12 Margaret, in defence of her incapacitated husband and infant son, sought to avert this by seeking the power to exercise royal authority herself on their behalf, acting as regent in all but name.13 It was what both her mother and grandmother before her had done in France, but in England it was not an acceptable solution.  Maurer, Margaret of Anjou, 25–38.  William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, for the young Henry III. 12  Griffiths, Henry VI, 646–648. 13  The Paston Letters, ed. James Gairdner, 6 vols. (London: Chatto and Windus, 1904), 2:295–296. 10 11



A conciliar government was installed, with York at its head and named as Protector, and Margaret was mollified by the creation of her son as Prince of Wales and the specific protection of the rights and grants she had received from the Crown.14 York did his best to govern as even-handedly as he could, but the existing problems created by the King’s ineffectual personal rule and Somerset’s allies waiting in the wings imposed limits on what he could achieve. On Christmas Day 1454, Henry came out of his catatonic state as suddenly as he had lost his wits nearly eighteen months before. If losing them was a catastrophe for the kingdom, regaining them was equally disastrous. York ceased to be Protector and government, such as it was, was restored to the men of the King’s household, led by Somerset, who had every intention of curbing his rival’s powers. Crucially, the Queen was beginning to see York as a threat to the royal family. He had foiled her attempt to become regent, and as Protector he had assumed a role that underlined his position as the adult male heir presumptive, even if he did swear allegiance to Prince Edward as the heir. One of the reasons for her hostility to York may have been the Protectorate Council’s attempt in 1454 to introduce some economies and reforms of the royal household. At the time of her marriage in 1445, an ordinance for the regulation of the royal households had listed sixty-six persons as the appropriate number for that of the Queen. In 1454, the Council re-iterated that the size of the king’s household should be that given in the ordinance but demanded that the queen’s be reduced to 120, almost double the number set in 1445.15 It is therefore clear that Margaret either could not or would not reduce her household and it was therefore a much heavier expense on the Crown’s finances than it should have been. Margaret had therefore failed in one of her primary duties as a consort, namely to live within her means. As the political situation deteriorated, the Queen and Prince moved northwards towards her Midlands estates and those of his earldom of Chester, and Margaret was able to raise troops in Cheshire in the Prince’s name, rather than the King’s. Cheshire was a county palatine (the king’s writ did not run there), and the Prince had his own independent administration. It was customary for the heir to the throne to have his own household based outside London in some part of the realm that was seen to require a royal presence, though unusual for the prince to be quite so  Rotuli Parliamentorum, 6 vols. (London, 1767–1777), 5:243–244.  Myers, “The Household Accounts of Queen Margaret of Anjou, 1452–3,” 80–84.

14 15



young when it was set up, nor was it unusual for his mother to play a leading role in it. For various reasons this had not happened in the earlier fifteenth century (the future Henry V was almost adult when his father took the throne, while his own son, Henry VI became king as an infant), but many of the Plantagenet heirs had their household based in France, particularly in Gascony, while that of the future Edward V was in Ludlow on the Welsh Marches set up when the boy was only two; likewise, Richard III’s son was based in Yorkshire, at Middleham. The boys’ mothers would visit as often as their duties and inclinations allowed. Henry soon followed his wife and son out of London and for much of the time they were based, not in Cheshire but in the midlands, centred on Coventry. As the country descended into civil war, it should be remembered that Margaret believed that sovereignty was vested not in the king alone but in the royal family as a unit.16 If the king was not capable of acting and her son too young to do so, then she could and would. There was little doubt in anybody’s mind by this stage that the King was a mere figurehead, incapable of ruling, and that Margaret was the prime mover behind royal decisions. As early as 1456 one observer reported “The Queen is a great and strong laboured woman, for she spareth no pain to sue her things to an intent and conclusion to her power,” and by 1459 the Yorkist author of the English Chronicle could talk of a queen “who with such as were of her affinity ruled the realm as she liked.”17 In the last few years of Henry’s reign military successes were achieved on both sides in the course of seven battles and at one stage in 1460 the King was briefly captured by the Yorkists, meekly acquiescing in the disinheritance of his small son in favour of York as heir to his throne. In political terms, Margaret’s inability to compromise and work with York in the unprecedented situation in which they found themselves had led directly to civil war. She believed that those who would not stand with her against him were quite simply enemies of the crown. Once Henry was rescued and back with the Queen, the Lancastrians had a major military success with the death of Richard, Duke of York, at the battle of Wakefield, but this was followed by a major political error by the Queen. As her army moved south, she gave it permission to loot and 16  J.L.  Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship, 1445–1503 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 165. 17  The Paston Letters, 3:75; An English Chronicle of the Reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI, ed. J.S. Davies (London, 1856), 79–80.



pillage Yorkist towns on the way, making London determined not to allow the Lancastrian forces to enter the city but to support York’s son, Edward, in his move to seize the throne. Inheriting his father’s claim as heir presumptive, but untarnished by York’s ultimate failure to govern on behalf of the King, Edward and his powerful backers, the Neville family, led by Richard, Earl of Warwick, “the Kingmaker,” had learned the lesson that only the king could rule and that since Henry was personally incapable of it, they had to take power by force. The defeat of the Queen’s forces at Towton secured it for him. The royal family retreated northward again and for the whole of the first decade of Edward IV’s reign, Margaret never gave up her attempts to regain the throne for her husband or, more importantly, her son. King Henry was captured again in 1465 and from then until his death the couple never saw each other again. When the Yorkist government split in 1470, she agreed, with French encouragement, to a political alliance with one of her greatest enemies, the Earl of Warwick, Edward IV’s leading magnate, sealed by the marriage of her son, Prince Edward, to Warwick’s younger daughter, Anne. Henry VI’s brief Readeption was over before Margaret and the Prince could arrive in England and join forces with Warwick, which proved fatal to their cause. The death of the Prince at the battle of Tewkesbury and of her husband in the Tower a few days later removed any incentive the former Queen had to continue the struggle. She had failed partly because of the political failures and poor governance of late Lancastrian rule, for which she effectively became a scapegoat, partly because of Edward’s military success, but ultimately because the political community would not accept her view that sovereignty was vested jointly in the king, the queen, and their son. Margaret was imprisoned, albeit in the relative comfort of the custody of her old friend, Alice, Duchess of Suffolk. She remained there until 1475 when a deal between Edward and Louis XI saw her ransomed and moved to France, on the proviso of giving up all her dower rights in England, a demand by Edward that she was powerless to refuse. She lived out the remainder of her life in obscure retirement, living on a small French pension and dying in 1482, too soon to see the downfall of the House of York.

Elizabeth Woodville as Queen Consort Elizabeth Woodville, the first recognised English consort since the Conquest, came from the upper reaches of society. Her mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, was the widow of Henry V’s second brother, John, Duke



of Bedford, and she and Elizabeth always remained close. Jacquetta, like her sister-in-law, Queen Katherine, had gone on to marry a member of her household; Richard Woodville was her husband’s former chamberlain. The couple proceeded to produce a large family of five sons and eight daughters, of whom Elizabeth, probably born in 1437, was the eldest. The widowed Elizabeth was beautiful, the young king Edward handsome and charismatic and already noted for his womanising. Whatever the exact details of their courtship, there is no doubt that she held the King at bay long enough for him to commit the folly of marrying her in a private ceremony and keeping it secret for four months before announcing it to his council and calling down on his head the condemnation of that body, his greatest supporter and commander, Warwick, and his own mother, Cecily Neville, Duchess of York.18 Cecily was a lady to be reckoned with: she was the only major figure to live right through the Wars, surviving several major reversals of fortune. As the wife of York when he was governing France in the King’s name and later when he was Lieutenant of Ireland, she had been to all intents and purposes the first lady in those lands. At Wakefield she lost her husband, one of her sons, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and her brother, the Earl of Salisbury (father of the Earl of Warwick) in one catastrophe. As a wealthy widow she controlled extensive estates and was either related to or knew every important political figure, while her religious and literary interests added further connections to her network. After her eldest son Edward became king, she regularly described herself as the wife of the rightful inheritor of the realm of England. Until Edward’s marriage she was undoubtedly the first lady of the kingdom and a very strong influence on him. Her reaction to his secret marriage to an older Lancastrian widow can be imagined. Her London home of Baynard’s Castle remained a family centre and in her later years she lived a retired life of noted piety.19 The Yorkist establishment had to make the best of their king’s fait accompli. They did this by ensuring that the traditional rituals of queenship were rigorously observed for the new consort. Elizabeth’s coronation was probably carefully timed until her mother Jacquetta’s noble European 18  Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England II: c.1397 to the Early Sixteenth Century (New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982), 293; Dominic Mancini, The Usurpation of Richard III, ed. and trans. C.A.J. Armstrong (1969; repr., Gloucester: Sutton 1984), 60–63. 19  C.A.J.  Armstrong, “The Piety of Cicely, Duchess of York,” in England, France and Burgundy in the Fifteenth Century (London: Hambledon, 1983), 138.



relatives were able to attend, the pageants that greeted her formal entry into London probably emphasised her likeness to the Virgin Mother, since her fertility was not in question, and at the tournament that rounded off the coronation, Edward invited some of the Burgundian knights who had accompanied Elizabeth’s uncle, the Count of St. Pol, to take part, again emphasising her European connections. Likewise, the Queen’s subsequent dining in formal silent state after her first churching, which so impressed the overseas visitor, Leo von Rozmital, conformed to long-­ recognised rituals. Once crowned as queen, Elizabeth received her dower, set at the earlier sum of £4500 p.a. rather than the much higher one of 10,000 marks p.a. given to the Lancastrian queens. Unlike Margaret, she proved quite capable of living within her means, although to be fair, her income was received from lands, while Margaret’s came largely from less reliable sources and it may well be that the actual income of the two queens was not dissimilar. Elizabeth also took a close personal interest in the administration of her dower lands. Her household account for the year 1466–1467 shows that her household consisted of 100 persons, considerably smaller than that of her predecessor.20 The advancement of the new Queen’s family was entirely to be expected. Her father, Richard, was raised from a barony to an earldom and proved a useful political servant to the new King, while her eldest brother, Anthony, Lord Scales, later Earl Rivers, was a significant military figure as well as a scholar. The biggest drawback for many of those at court, however, was the sheer size of her family; the Queen’s relatives became a political issue. Elizabeth had seven sisters and five brothers, as well as her two Grey sons by her first marriage to establish. It was understandable that she wished the position of her family members to reflect her new status. Edward did not have land available to grant them but provided for them in others ways. The girls were married off to peers or their heirs, depriving other noble girls of suitable matches and alienating their families, and her brothers had to be found rich widows (her brother John gained the wealthy dowager Duchess of Norfolk, a lady old enough to be his grandmother and a Neville by birth).21 In 1466, the 20  A.R.  Myers, “The Household of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, 1466–7,” in Crown, Household and Parliament in Fifteenth-Century England, ed. C.H.  Clough (London: Hambledon, 1985), 287, 294. 21  J.R.  Lander, The Wars of the Roses (1965; repr., Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1990), 145–146, quoting Annales Rerum Anglicarum.



Queen paid 4000 marks to Edward’s sister, Anne, Duchess of Exeter, for the marriage of her elder son, Thomas Grey, to the Duchess’s daughter and heiress, Anne Holland, who was already betrothed to George Neville, nephew of the Earl of Warwick, and the latter probably regarded it as an affront to his family’s dignity.22 Lucrative posts at court or in the church that were given to the Woodvilles had a similar effect on disappointed rivals and this was to have political repercussions. Elizabeth was shrewd enough to ensure that any relative appointed to her own household was given an established post rather than a newly created one, deflecting any charge that the Crown was involved in extra expenditure to support them. She also learned quickly to perform the rituals of queenly behaviour as though she had been born to them. As long as Edward IV was in power, the Woodvilles had little to worry about from the jealousy they had aroused and much to celebrate. When the Earl of Warwick and the King’s brother, George, Duke of Clarence, turned against King Edward, the situation became radically different. The Queen’s father and brother John were executed in 1469 and when Henry VI was returned to his throne, she was forced to flee with her three small daughters to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey, where she gave birth to Edward’s long-awaited heir, the future Edward V.  Her dignity and patience during this period was widely admired: later, in October 1472 the speaker of Parliament declared “the desyre of his Comyns, specially in the comendacion of the womanly behaviour and the great constance of our Sovereign Lady, the Quene.”23 This second reversal of her fortunes did not last long and when Edward regained his throne, all seemed right with her world again. In 1473 she bore a second son, Richard, created Duke of York. Despite Edward’s mistresses, her influence on him remained strong, and she continued to bear his children; her last daughter, Bridget, was born in 1480. Yet this influence seemed to his subjects to have been often used for the advancement of her family in wealth and power. Her brother Anthony, second Earl Rivers, became one of Edward’s most trusted supporters in his second reign and as the King’s brother-in-law, was considered suitable to be

 Charles Ross, Edward IV (1974; repr., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 93–94.  C.L. Kingsford, English Historical Literature in the Fifteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1913), 382. 22 23



suggested as a husband for Mary, Duchess of Burgundy, and to be proposed by the King of Scotland as one for his sister; neither match took place.24 A damaging rumour about the Queen was that her fear for the safe succession of her son lay behind Edward’s decision to eliminate his brother, George, Duke of Clarence. However, this is reported only in the narrative of Mancini, an Italian who visited London at the time of Richard III’s usurpation and was probably part of propaganda put about by the latter.25 It was also believed that the young prince Edward was being brought up surrounded by his Woodville relatives, but this again was grossly exaggerated. Naturally, the Queen played a large part in his upbringing while he was very young, and once his own household was settled in Ludlow, her brother, Earl Rivers, was his tutor and governor, a position entirely fitting for one recognised as both a soldier and a scholar, but the inclusion of her son, Richard Grey, was less defensible since he had very little to recommend him other than his relationship to the Prince, the rest of whose household was largely seconded from that of the King (Fig.  11.1). His council, responsible for governing the Welsh marches in the King’s name, was balanced between the royal family, with both his royal uncles members, select peers, both spiritual and temporal, knights and lawyers.26 While in most ways, Elizabeth fulfilled her role as consort in an exemplary manner, it was her large family and her perceived actions in promoting their interests for which she was remembered. While it would be very unfair to blame the Queen for the downfall of the House of York, she and her relatives bear a certain amount of responsibility for it. Like Queen Margaret before her, Elizabeth paid a heavy price for her actions. The usurpation of Richard of Gloucester was made easier by the suspicion many peers held of the Woodvilles. It led immediately to the arrest and ultimate deaths of her brother, Earl Rivers, and her younger Grey son, Richard, while she, her daughters, and the young Duke of York, together with her eldest son, Thomas Grey, once more took sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. Persuaded against her better judgement to allow York to join his brother the King in the Tower prior to the latter’s planned coronation, the boys never emerged and their mother never saw them  Ross, Edward IV, 251, 289.  Mancini, Usurpation of Richard III, 62–63. 26  For details, see: Michael Hicks, Edward V: The Prince in the Tower (Stroud: Tempus, 2003), 93–104. 24 25



Fig. 11.1  Elizabeth Woodville witnesses her brother, Anthony, Earl Rivers, presenting his translation of The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers to Edward IV, King of England. Lambeth Palace Library MS 265, fol. vi. (Bridgeman Images)

again. Richard III’s usurpation deprived her of the position of queen dowager and her royal dower. When she and her daughters finally left sanctuary, she was granted a pension as Dame Elizabeth Grey.27 This was another of Richard’s manoeuvres to bolster his claim to the throne, rather than an attack on Elizabeth personally, but coupled with the almost certain knowledge that her sons were dead, it led the former queen to concentrate her hopes for the future on her eldest daughter, Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth is the only one of our consorts to have borne and raised daughters. One of the roles of queens was to educate her daughters to fulfil the role of 27  British Library Harleian Manuscript 433, ed. Rosemary Horrox and P.W. Hammond, 4 vols. (Gloucester: Richard III Society, 1979–1983), 3:190.



consort to kings or princes, usually foreign. That Elizabeth was successful at this task is illustrated by her daughter, Elizabeth of York, later wife to Henry VII, who was regarded by his subjects as the perfect wife and queen, as Lauren Browne’s chapter in the Tudor and Stuarts Consorts volume details.28 With the death of Henry VI, the nearest male heir of the House of Lancaster, albeit distant and on his mother’s side, was Henry Tudor, exiled since the failure of the Readeption. His formidable mother, Margaret Beaufort, heiress of the Duke of Somerset and widow of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, was at this point married to her fourth husband, Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby. Although Margaret had not seen her son for the years of his exile, they maintained a close and loving relationship by letter and negotiations had been taking place with Edward IV before his death for a pardon and a marriage to the King’s daughter, Elizabeth.29 Margaret hoped that something similar could be arranged with the new King, but the opposition to Richard, which grew into what became known as Buckingham’s Rebellion, seemingly offered her an even greater opportunity for the advancement of her son. At first, the rebels’ aim was the restoration of the young Edward V, so initially the uprising cannot really be seen as a continuation of the civil war, but this changed as its leaders came to believe that the boys were dead. Margaret and her newly acquired political ally, Queen Elizabeth, were able to promote the earlier idea of a marriage between their children with the ultimate aim of the throne for them. The collapse of the rebellion put a temporary end to this, but it ultimately succeeded at Bosworth in 1485. Under the new king, Henry VII, Richard’s act invalidating her marriage was repealed and Elizabeth regained her status as queen dowager, and a substantial grant of lands, though not her former dower lands.30 A year or so later, she surrendered them for the benefit of her daughter and entered Bermondsey Abbey on the grounds of ill-health and in receipt of a pension from the King, who continued to show her favour until her death in 1492 at the age of fifty-­ five. The deaths of three of her four sons may have made the life of quiet 28  See: Lauren Rose Browne, “Elizabeth of York: Tudor Trophy Wife,” in Tudor and Stuart Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty, ed. Aidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, J.L. Laynesmith, Danna R. Messer, and Elena Woodacre (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), 19–40. 29  Michael K.  Jones and Malcolm G.  Underwood, The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 61. 30  Rotuli Parliamentorum, 6:288–289.



retirement in religious surroundings attractive. Elizabeth Woodville had lived through turbulent political times, sometimes the innocent victim of war, sometimes playing a more active political role. Like her great rival, Margaret of Anjou, she ended her days living in retirement on a pension, deprived of her rightful dower, but unlike Margaret, she lived in honour not obscurity.

Anne Neville as Queen Consort Anne Neville, like her two predecessors, experienced marked reversals of fortune brought about by the civil war during her short life. There is little documentary evidence about her, and she is therefore probably the least known of the post-Conquest queens, in addition to occupying her position for the shortest time. Consequently, she has often been dismissed as a mere cipher, but that would be to do her an injustice. From the time of her birth she was one of the most significant girls in the kingdom. She and her elder sister, Isabel, were the daughters and co-heiresses of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. The girls were brought up by their mother, the heiress Anne Beauchamp, and were well and piously educated. For four years, Richard, the future king, was in Warwick’s household so the two would have known each other as children. One of the reasons for Warwick’s rebellion against Edward IV was the latter’s refusal to countenance a marriage between Isabel and his brother George, Duke of Clarence, still at that point his male heir, when Woodville marriages had appropriated all other suitable matches. The couple were married during the course of the rebellion. When his bid for power proved ultimately unsuccessful, attainted and with all his lands forfeit, Warwick and his family fled into exile and the Earl played his last hand with the aid of Louis XI—the alliance with Queen Margaret to restore Henry VI to his throne. To seal the agreement, his daughter, Anne, was betrothed to Henry’s son, Prince Edward. In one brief period Anne had gone from being a protected daughter and future heiress to an exile facing an uncertain future of likely penury without marriage prospects and then to a princess who could one day expect to be queen of England. A few weeks later, her husband and her father were dead. Few women can have experienced so many changes of fortune in such a brief period or, indeed, at all. Following Isabel’s marriage to Clarence and Anne’s to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the King’s younger brother, Warwick’s lands were divided between the two couples, Richard and Anne receiving the Neville lands in



the north. They spent much of their time there, chiefly based at Middleham in Yorkshire, where their only child, another Edward, was born in 1473. It was therefore her inheritance that gave Richard his powerbase in the north that was later to make his usurpation possible. As a married couple, Richard and Anne were crowned in the same ceremony for which detailed accounts survive of the magnificence of the new Queen’s attire and attendance, and it is highly unlikely that any of the appropriate rituals of queenship were omitted.31 Her household was probably run along lines similar to those of her predecessor. Most of those who appear to have been members of it came from northern families and had probably served her as Duchess of Gloucester. There are glimpses of her piety and patronage both as duchess and queen, in particular her support of Queens’ College, Cambridge, making her one of its chief benefactors. The young prince’s household was settled at Middleham, much like his cousin Edward’s had been at Ludlow, and it is likely that Anne spent a considerable amount of time there with him. He died there in April 1484 and the King and Queen were described as “almost out of their minds … when faced with the sudden grief,” compounded by the fact that they had not had sufficient notice of his illness to be with him when he died.32 Given that there had only been one child in the course of their decade-­ long marriage, it seemed very unlikely that Anne would bear another. By Christmas 1484, the Queen’s health was clearly poor, and on 16 March 1485, Anne died aged 28, probably of tuberculosis, but rumours that Richard had had her poisoned were rife. It is not necessary to believe them, but coupled with the strong belief in many quarters that Richard had murdered his nephews, they were to prove fatal to his tenure of the throne. If Anne appears as a more shadowy figure than either of her two predecessors, this may be due to lack of evidence, but in many ways she embodied the fifteenth-century idea of how a wife and queen should conduct herself.

31  The Coronation of Richard III: The Extant Documents, ed. A.F.  Sutton and P.W. Hammond (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1983), 1. 32  The Crowland Chronicle Continuations, 1459–1486, ed. Nicholas Pronay and John Cox (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1986), 170–171.



The Effect of the War on the Three Queens Consort In the course of the conflict known as the Wars of the Roses, all three consorts lost husbands to violent deaths, either on the battlefield or, in Henry VI’s case, in prison, and Margaret and Elizabeth both lost sons in like manner. Neither of her successors took such an active role in political and military affairs as Queen Margaret, but Elizabeth and her family had a considerable effect on the course of events. In terms of the traditional role of queens, all three largely fulfilled their duties, but in the eyes of their husbands’ subjects, only Anne could be said to have been the ideal consort, at least until the death of her son. Modern commentators may honour Margaret and Elizabeth for their strength and determination—contemporaries judged them rather more harshly. Margaret was condemned by many of them for taking her husband’s place as the real ruler of the kingdom, raising armies and making foreign alliances, but even in the early years of her marriage, she did not set a particularly pious example, failed to live within her income, and while she produced a son, there were no other children. Elizabeth fulfilled all her queenly duties in an exemplary manner, and it was only as a widow that she was forced to involve herself in politics during the reign of Richard III, but she was never forgiven for the size and ambition of her family and the influence she was believed to have wielded on their behalf. As far as the evidence goes, Anne seems to have had no financial difficulties, was never involved in politics, followed her husband’s pious lead, and bore the crucial heir, but the early death of her son illustrates the difficulties that were inherent in the position of a queen who only had one child. Did any of our three consorts change ideas of queenship? Margaret took the role in political terms to the utmost limit possible, but in some ways that could be said only to reinforce existing views of the undesirability of queens playing a part in politics. Her example did not change the custom of seeking a consort from foreign royalty. While Henry VII married Elizabeth of York to bolster his claim to the throne, he sought a Spanish match for his heir, Prince Arthur. Likewise, the role of Elizabeth’s family illustrated the dangers of an English marriage and underlined the long-held belief that a queen’s relatives should not become influential and favoured at court. This view was hardly likely to have been altered by the



history of Henry VIII’s English marriages. It is worth noting that after Henry VIII’s death, there was no English-born queen consort until the twentieth century. The Wars of the Roses had traumatic effects on the lives of all three of our consorts, but they did not change the essential nature of queenship in any permanent way.


Margaret of Anjou: Passionate Mother Carole Levin

Margaret of Anjou, who married Henry VI of England in 1445 when she was fifteen years old, was the mother of one son. This child became the most important factor in Margaret’s life. Born in 1430, Margaret’s parents were René, Duke of Anjou, and Isabelle, daughter and heir of Charles II, Duke of Lorraine. She was the niece of Charles VII of France’s wife, Marie of Anjou. Her father’s unsuccessful efforts to expand his holdings meant he was away for much of Margaret’s childhood. As a result, she spent much time with her mother Isabelle and her grandmother, the formidable Yolande of Aragon.1 The influence of these women was an important inspiration for Margaret as she became a powerful woman who headed the Lancastrian cause during the Wars of the Roses, supporting the rights of her dearly beloved son. Had she not been a mother her history would have been very different. The Lancastrians were eventually defeated, leading to the death of her husband and son and her own lonely death. Her enemies, 1  Zita Eva Rohr, Yolande of Aragon (1381–1442) Family and Power (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

C. Levin (*) University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




Edward IV and his Yorkist supporters, did all they could to demonise Margaret’s reputation. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Margaret cemented this view of Margaret as a monstrous queen, which would have strong influence for centuries in terms of how Margaret was presented. More recently, some scholars have re-evaluated Margaret more positively, though as early as the 1640s Thomas Heywood described her as a woman “of a brave and Heroicke Spirit.”2 Margaret’s role in the Wars of the Roses has made her a contested figure for centuries.3

Marriage From the time when she was a small child there were discussions of potential marriages for Margaret. Starting in 1439, these discussions focused on Henry VI of England as one way to end—or at least pause—an expensive war that had been going on for a very long time: the Hundred Years’ War. In 1444, William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, came to France to meet with Charles VII and René of Anjou. The truce they negotiated led to a solemn betrothal between Margaret and Henry. A proxy wedding was celebrated on 24 March and a twenty-month truce between the two countries was agreed. Many in England were upset by the meagre dowry Margaret brought to the marriage—20,000 francs. In subsequent years, with Margaret’s failure to become pregnant and her role in the battles between Lancastrians and Yorkists, English people complained that Margaret had come with no dowry at all. After the proxy wedding, Margaret started the move to England. As J.L. Laynesmith points out, “the process emphasized her symbolic severance” from her country and her family: “At Pontoise almost all of her French companions departed and responsibility for her party was assumed by Richard, Duke of York.”4 This meant that one of the first significant

2  Thomas Heywood, Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine: The Most Worthy Women of the World: Three Jewes, Three Gentiles, Three Christians (London, 1640), 156. 3  Scholars who have taken a traditionally negative view of Margaret include: Bertram Wolffe, Henry VI (London: Eyre Methuen, 1981); and Anne Crawford, “The King’s Burden? The Consequences of Royal Marriage in Fifteenth-Century England,” in Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England, ed. Ralph A. Griffiths (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1981), 33–56. 4  J.L.  Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship, 1445–1503 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 76.



English courtiers she met, after Suffolk, was the man who would become her most powerful enemy. William Aiscough, Bishop of Salisbury and the King’s confessor, performed the marriage ceremony of Henry and Margaret at Titchfield Abbey on 23 April 1445. They then travelled to London and Margaret spent the night before her coronation at the Tower of London. She was gorgeous in her procession through the streets of London the next day, wearing a circlet around her head made of gold with pearls and other precious gems. Her dress was white damask powdered with gold. On 30 May she was crowned queen at Westminster.5 The specific reason for the marriage was to bring peace between England and France and more generally, the reason for a king to marry was so his wife could provide an heir. Soon after the marriage, attempts at negotiating a long-term peace were falling apart. Henry was a poor negotiator, and he came into conflict with his own advisors for his leniency towards the French. War broke out again in July 1449, and anger at Margaret intensified, especially as, despite years of marriage, there was still no pregnancy. This was especially a problem as none of Henry VI’s uncles had had legitimate sons either. In 1447, Thomas Hunt, one of the Duke of Gloucester’s servants, is said to have angrily stated that he would be a happy man if Margaret drowned, as no good had come from her since she arrived in England.6 In the early years of their marriage there appeared clear affection between the King and Queen. Margaret was a dutiful wife who dedicated herself to her husband. She skilfully managed her household and was devoted to her servants, effectively distributing patronage. She had a close relationship with her lady-in-waiting Lady Katherine Vaux. Katherine Panizzone, in England called Penison, came with Margaret to England as a small child. She was about ten years younger than the Queen. Around 1456, she married Sir William Vaux. The relationship of the Queen and her lady gives us an insight into Margaret that she inspired such loyalty. Katherine’s loyalty to Margaret continued for the rest of the Queen’s life. Margaret’s closest allies were Suffolk and Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and she encouraged the King to listen to them. Suffolk was one 5  The Brut, or The Chronicles of England, ed. Friedrich W.D. Brie (London: Early English Text Society, 1906), 489. 6  TNA, KB 9/256/12, quoted in Ralph A.  Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI: The Exercise of Royal Authority, 1422–1461 (London: Ernest Benn, 1981), 255.



of the leaders of Henry VI’s government, but he was blamed for the losses in France, and in 1450 he was banished for five years. On his way to the Low Countries he was captured by privateers, and on 2 May was beheaded as a traitor, much to Margaret’s sorrow, as he had been her friend and ally since she came to England. Tudor writers suggested that Margaret and Suffolk were lovers, but there was no evidence that Margaret was ever unfaithful to her husband.7 The crisis after Suffolk’s death led to Jack Cade’s rebellion against the King and upper classes. In the late 1440s Somerset became more and more powerful. In December 1447 he was governor-general of France and the duchies of Normandy and Guyenne. After Suffolk’s fall, Somerset and York, cousins both descended from Edward III, were the two most powerful men in the country. They also became bitter enemies. While Somerset had the trust of both King and Queen, like Suffolk, he was very unpopular because of his role in the loss of Normandy. As the years passed the English people were more and more upset that there was no heir. In the premodern period infertility was usually blamed on the wife, but in this case some thought that the problem was Henry’s. Thomas Gate claimed that Margaret was not able to be truly queen—by having a son—because Henry was weak. Alison Basil has carefully described how Henry’s weakness led to a belief in sexual dysfunction.8 There was also gossip that the Bishop of Salisbury wanted to keep Henry from Margaret’s bed.9 Salisbury would almost certainly have wanted an heir, but he apparently strongly encouraged Henry to strictly observe all days forbidden by the Church for sexual relations. These included Christmas and other feast days. This prohibition also included fast and processional days. Devout Catholics also fasted and abstained from sex during Lent and Advent, as well as all Fridays and Sundays, and on days that a person was performing penance. Husband and wife were also told to abstain from marital relations between three and seven days before taking the sacrament of the Eucharist. Adding these various days up mean that at least 150 days

 Hall’s Chronicle, ed. Henry Ellis (London, 1809), 219.  Alison Basil, “Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou: Madness, Gender Dysfunction and Perceptions of Dis-ease in the Royal Body,” in The Image and Perception of Monarchy in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Sean McGlynn and Elena Woodacre (Newcastle-­ upon-­Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), 177. 9  Lauren Johnson, Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI (New York: Pegasus Books, 2019), 242. 7 8



out of the year devout married couples would have been barred from intercourse.10 Another pressure on Margaret came from Henry’s cousin, Richard, Duke of York, whom some believed had a better claim to the throne than Henry himself. York wished to be formally named as the King’s heir. If Henry was childless this could be a good solution, but Margaret still hoped to have a son of her own. Though Margaret had been married for years without a pregnancy, it was not all that unusual for couples to have been married for years before the wife became pregnant. Finally, in early 1453, after having been married for eight years, Margaret was pregnant. In April 1453 Margaret visited the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham and left as a gift a gold plaque of an angel holding a cross; it was decorated with pearls, sapphires, and rubies and was the most expensive item of jewellery for Margaret that year.11 This pilgrimage and gift may as much have been prayer for the safe delivery of a son as gratitude for finally becoming pregnant. In July 1453, the last major battle of the Hundred Years’ War was the failure of the English to relieve the siege at Castillon and resulted in a complete rout of the English army. Within a few months all of Gascony was lost. After the great victories of his father Henry V, all his son was left with was the port city of Calais and the surrounding County of Guines. For Henry, these losses were so devastating that he suffered a complete mental collapse, which has been called a form of hysterical catatonia, acute catatonic schizophrenia, or depressive stupor.12 Most of the time he just stared into space and appeared not to recognise anyone. When Margaret gave birth to their son on 13 October 1453, the feast day of Edward the Confessor for whom the baby was named, the King gave no response. Now, at the age of 23, Margaret was finally a mother.

10  Robert Obach, The Catholic Church on Marital Intercourse: From St. Paul to Pope John Paul II (Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2008), 70; Joelle Mellon, The Virgin Mary in the Perceptions of Women: Mother, Protector and Queen Since the Middle Ages (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008), 86. 11  A.R. Myers, Crown, Household and Parliament in Fifteenth Century England, ed. Cecil H. Clough (London: Hambledon, 1985), 215. 12  Peter Burley, Michael Elliott, and Harvey Watson, The Battles of St Albans (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2013), 13; Diana Dunn, “The Queen at War: The Role of Margaret of Anjou in the War of the Roses,” in War and Society in Medieval and Early Modern Britain, ed. Diana Dunn (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), 149; Wolffe, Henry VI, 270.



Particularly because of the length of time before Margaret’s pregnancy, and Henry’s perilous health, almost immediately there were rumours about the baby. At first, people whispered that Margaret had not really been pregnant at all, but a base child had been smuggled in. Later, encouraged by the supporters of the Duke of York, many argued that the child was Margaret’s but the father was not Henry.13 The birth of her child gave Margaret a very different perspective of her role as queen, especially with her husband incapacitated indefinitely. As Helen Castor has suggested, Margaret came “to stand on the political stage as a player in her own right, acting under her own independent agency.”14 She asked in January that she be made regent, but the Council refused. The following March Parliament named York, as a close relation to Henry and powerful noble, as Protector and Defender of the Realm. Perhaps as a way to placate Margaret, at the same time her five-month-old son Edward was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. Thus, even though York was in charge, Margaret’s son was publicly confirmed as heir to the throne. At the same time, however, York did all he could to strengthen his own position. But then, as suddenly as the King’s illness had come, Henry recovered in the Christmas season 1454 and was delighted to learn of the birth of his son. He thanked York and accepted his resignation. Henry had Somerset released from the Tower: no formal charges had ever been brought against him and he was again a close advisor to the King and ally of the Queen. For York and his allies this was disturbing. They had not only lost power but also feared what the Queen and her supporters would convince the king to do in retaliation. By May 1455 York and his allies, especially his nephew by marriage Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, were ready to fight against the Queen and her allies, convinced that Somerset was poisoning Henry’s mind against York. Both sides met at St. Albans. Margaret and her young son went to Greenwich to keep safe. When Henry became aware of the closeness of the Yorkist army, he and his advisors had to decide if they would negotiate to achieve a compromise without fighting or to prepare 13  Kristen Geaman, “A Bastard and a Changeling? England’s Edward of Westminster and Delayed Childbirth,” in Unexpected Heirs in Early Modern Europe: Potential Kings and Queens, ed. Valerie Schutte (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 11–33. 14  Helen Castor, She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth (New York: Harper, 2011), 347.



for battle. Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, strongly wanted Henry to proceed to St. Albans and negotiate, while Somerset wanted to fight. Had Margaret been with them she might have convinced her husband to agree with Somerset. Instead, the King appointed Buckingham Constable of England and put him in charge of negotiations. The negotiations then failed, as the King refused to turn Somerset over to his enemies. The ensuing battle was not on Lancastrian terms, and in the resulting violence Somerset was killed. His eldest son Henry became the new Duke of Somerset. Because he too was greatly loyal to Margaret there were later unfounded rumours that he was Margaret’s lover. Henry made his peace with York, who accompanied the King back to London. With his increased power, in November 1455, York was again Protector, quite possibly because Henry was again not able to rule. There were some whispers that the King needed to sleep most of the time after St. Albans.15 By the end of February 1456, however, York had lost the position in part due to his inability to deal well with the factionalism at court. A weak King, a child heir, and an adult Plantagenet alternate ruler caused great anxiety and uncertainty. Also in February, John Helton, who had been an apprentice at Grey’s Inn, was hanged, drawn, and quartered for stating and publicising the statement that Prince Edward was not Queen Margaret’s son.16 Helen Maurer argues that though there is no direct link between the Duke of York and Helton, the charges were part of a dynamic to push York forward. There was also an inquiry into the slanders of John Wode “against the persons and honour of queen Margaret and prince Edward.”17 Despite the earlier anger over Margaret’s childlessness, had Margaret not had a child, many felt, having someone ruling for the weak King and dealing with the succession would have been so much easier. For Margaret, the Duke of York posed an enormous threat to her son. Looking for an area where she would have more support, Margaret brought her son to Kenilworth Castle, a royal residence near Coventry in the midst of her dower estates. More and more, Margaret was becoming the leader of the Lancastrian faction. Not only was Margaret at Kenilworth, but in 1456–1457 the Great Council was called to meet at Coventry, and  Wolffe, Henry VI, 305.  John Benet’s Chronicle, 1399–1462: An English Translation with New Introduction, ed. Alison Hanham (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 216–217. 17  Helen E. Maurer, Margaret of Anjou (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2003), 46. 15 16



the members knew they were expected to show Queen Margaret the same deference they showed King Henry. On 14 September 1457, for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the King and Queen entered into Coventry. It was a triumphant entry for Margaret. There were pageants in her honour depicting prophets, patron saints, and cardinal virtues. Nine conquerors were depicted including Alexander, David, Arthur, Charlemagne, and Julius Caesar. After them was St. Margaret miraculously slaying a dragon. While Queen Margaret was feted, Henry “went silent and unnoticed,” as Bertram Wolffe has remarked.18 The conflicts between the Queen and her allies and the Duke of York and his continued. Margaret and her supporters were still very angry about those who died at the battle of St. Albans. Fearing a French attack on Calais and deeply desiring harmony, Henry VI wanted to bring the warring factions back to together. After a number of contentious council meetings, there was finally an agreement. Henry VI made it very clear that those who were to blame were the Yorkists. Their behaviour at St. Albans was an “execrabill and moost detestable dede,” and they acted because of “the moost diabolique unkyndnesse and wrecched envye in theym, and moost unresonable appetite of such estate as of reason ought not to be desired nor had by noon of theym.”19 The Duke of York and his allies had to take full responsibility for the battle of St. Albans and make payments to the widows and children of the dead lords. They also had to pay for masses for the souls of those who had died. Henry’s government, however, owed these lords funds so the Yorkist lords forgave the loans and the government was in fact responsible for the payment. The King then recognised the Duke of York, the Earl of Salisbury, and Salisbury’s son the Earl of Warwick his true lieges. The King attempted to end this long conflict with the ritualistic reconciliation, the Loveday of 1458, on 25 March—the feast of the Annunciation—at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Though called “Loveday,” this was intended to last much longer than a day. A whole group walked in pairs from Westminster to St. Paul’s hand in hand. Each pair were enemies  Wolffe, Henry VI, 306.  “Henry VI: November 1459,” in Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. Chris Given-Wilson, Paul Brand, Seymour Phillips, Mark Ormrod, Geoffrey Martin, Anne Curry, and Rosemary Horrox (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2005), 18 19



now walking as friends. The sons of the dead Lancastrian lords marched in their fathers’ memory. Leading the procession was the Earl of Salisbury with the young Duke of Somerset, representing his dead father. The young Duke had fought at St. Albans beside his father, and in addition to his father had being killed, he had been seriously wounded. In the midst of the procession King Henry, gloriously attired, walked alone. The final pair was the most significant—and most divisive. Queen Margaret and her most bitter enemy the Duke of York walked hand in hand. In a procession of powerful men, Margaret was the only woman. St. Paul’s was filled with people glad to be at a service where God was thanked for bringing peace to England. There was further celebration with tournaments. Henry had wanted a lasting peace, but some scholars see the Loveday as a major step towards war. John Sadler argues that “Loveday may in fact mark the point at which the continuation or development of the existing factional discord slid into the abyss of civil war. The ceremony, however hollow, clearly recognised that two separate factions existed and that one could not prevail without encompassing the destruction of the other.”20 The failure of the Loveday demonstrated Henry VI’s lack of competence and understanding. In the spring of 1459 the situation was so strained that Henry and Margaret again moved the court to Coventry. A chronicle that was clearly sympathetic to the Yorkist cause stated of Margaret “the queen with such as were of her affynte rewled the realm as her liked, goderyng riches innumerable.”21 Pope Pius II described Henry as “more timorous than a woman, utterly devoid of wit or spirit, who left everything in his wife’s hands.”22 At the great council meeting in late June, attended by the Queen and her young son, the Duke of York and his close followers were in absentia indicted for treason at Margaret’s insistence. This was followed up by a parliament held in Coventry in November, later referred to by the Yorkists as “the Parliament of Devils,” given its attacks on them.23 Parliament had been summoned the month before because there had already been armed violence. In September, the Earl of Salisbury, with his troops, was heading 20  John Sadler, The Red Rose and the White: The Wars of the Roses, 1453–1487 (London: Routledge, 2014), 71. 21  An English Chronicle of the Reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI, ed. J.S. Davies (London, 1856), 79. 22  Constance Head, “Pope Pius II and the Wars of the Roses,” Archivum Historiae Pontiface 8 (1970): 145. 23  “Henry VI: November 1459,” in PROME.



to join the Duke of York at Ludlow. James Tuchet, Lord Audley, and his Lancastrian supporters intercepted them at Bloreheath and they were defeated by Salisbury’s forces and Lord Audley died in the battle. The royal army, led by both the King and Queen, went to meet the Yorkists at Ludlow. The King offered a pardon to anyone who deserted the Yorkists. Six hundred soldiers who had come from Calais went to join the King, as did their commander Sir Andrew Trollope, who brought with him the Yorkist battle plans. The Yorkists were hopelessly outnumbered and their leaders decided they had no chance of victory, so that night they slipped away. The Earl of Salisbury and his son Warwick escaped to Calais with York’s eldest son Edward, Earl of March. York and his next son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, headed to Ireland, where he had been the lieutenant, abandoning not only his men but also his wife and younger children. So all the Yorkist leaders were out of England by the time parliament met and condemned them. York, however, found great support in Ireland and the others found the same in Calais. The Earls in Calais planned to invade England to capture Henry VI with the claim that he had to be rescued from the control of his evil advisors. They did capture Henry at the battle of Northampton in July 1460, with Warwick ordering the slaughter of a number of Henry’s loyal lords. For the next seven months, Henry ruled by doing whatever he was told. Margaret fled with her son. They first went to Harlech Castle in Wales and eventually took refuge with the Scottish dowager queen Mary of Gueldres, who was regent for her young son, James III. In September, parliament was called for October to meet at Westminster. This parliament repealed all the acts passed by the previous parliament at Coventry, claiming that that parliament had been made up of men who were seditious and covetous. In the first days of parliament, York arrived from Ireland and made his claim that he had the right to be king. This caused great consternation even with York’s allies, who had pledged allegiance to Henry VI, and eventually a compromise was worked out. Henry would remain king but after him the next king would be York, not his own son Edward. Henry, who was utterly isolated, agreed, thus disinheriting his own son. The Duke of York and his sons then swore their allegiance to Henry, who in turn bound himself to keep the agreement. Though Henry was still king, York would be the ruler. Then all royal officers were ordered to give the same obedience to the new heir as they gave to the King himself.



Margaret, not surprisingly, was furious, as were a number of her allies, including the Duke of Somerset and the Duke of Exeter. In looking for support she strongly mentioned her son and described him not only as the King’s son but also associated herself with him, even though he was only seven years old. She argued that the Yorkists were spreading “divers untrewe and feyned surmises, and in especiall that wee and my lords said sone and our shoulde newly draw toward you with an unsen power of straungeres disposed to robbe and to dispoile you of your goodes and haveurs.”24 York must have aware that he would have to immediately face the Queen’s forces. In December, York and his forces marched north. A large Lancastrian force met him; the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December was a disaster for York. Despite the widely held belief of her presence, Margaret, still in Scotland, was not at the battle. Nor did the captured York have a confrontation with Margaret where, in Shakespeare’s words, he called her a “she-wolf.”25 She did not derisively crown the executed York with a paper crown. York and his son Rutland were killed in battle. But his head was taken from his dead body and displayed on the walls of York with a paper crown. As soon as Margaret heard of the Lancastrian victory, she gathered her supporters to start a march to London. Under the Earl of Warwick the Yorkists intercepted the Lancastrians at St. Albans. Unlike the first battle back in 1455, on 17 February there was a decisive victory for the Queen’s party and Margaret was able to take control of the “puppet of a king,” as George Neville, Bishop of Exeter, described Henry VI to Francesco Coppini, Bishop of Terni.26 The Yorkist propaganda became ever more intense about Prince Edward being the son of the Queen’s lover not the King, and the attacks on her chastity were a way to destroy her power. As Maurer points out, “allegations of adultery were potentially damning to Margaret; insinuations of disorderly sexuality suggested that other aspects

24  The Letters of Margaret of Anjou, ed. Helen Maurer and B.M. Cron (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2019), 225. 25  William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3,­ works/henry-vi-part-3/ (1.4.112). 26  “Venice: 1461–1470,” in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 1, 1202–1509, ed. Rawdon Brown (London: HMSO, 1864), 92–126. British History Online, vol1/pp92-126.



of her conduct and activities were disorderly as well. The label of sexual transgression effectively defined her as a woman out of place.”27 In mid-March, Prospero di Camulio, the Milanese ambassador in France, wrote to Cicho Symonete, the secretary of the Duke of Milan, that Margaret had convinced Henry VI to abdicate in favour of his young son and she then poisoned him, so that she and Somerset could rule. Of the King dying he stated, “At least he has known how to die if he did not know what to do else.”28 But when Margaret and the troops reached London they were refused admission, as her army was seen as dangerous and out of control. Margaret retreated northward as York’s son, Edward, Earl of March, was approaching. The Lancastrians were disastrously defeated at Towton on 29 March 1461. Margaret, Henry, and their son again fled to Scotland. Edward, on his return to the capital, declared absent Henry VI unfit to rule, and he was crowned king of England 28 June 1461. Brut’s Chronicle, which had noted how lovely Margaret looked when she came to England, had a very different perspective about what happened fifteen years later: “For marriage of Quene Margaret, what losse hath the realme of Englond had, by losyng of Normandy and Guyan, by division of the realme, by rebelling … So many, a man hath lost his life.”29 The Duke of Somerset joined the royal family in Scotland. In July 1461, Margaret sent the Duke to France to negotiate with Charles VII. But when Somerset arrived he learned that Charles had died, and his son Louis XI supported the Yorkists. The French King ordered Somerset be imprisoned for some months. Eventually, he was allowed to leave France but stayed on the continent for months. He eventually returned to Scotland, and by the end of 1462 had come to terms with the new king Edward IV and was restored to favour. But by 1464 he was again fighting for the Lancastrians. After a defeat at Hexham in May of that year he was executed. Figuring that the only way to gain support from her cousin Louis was to see him personally, in August 1463 Margaret and her son left for France, leaving Henry behind. She was never to see her husband again. Though she would not know it at the time, she would be in France for more than  Maurer, Margaret of Anjou, 178.  “Milan: 1461,” in Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts in the Archives and Collections of Milan, 1385–1618, ed. Allen B.  Hinds (London: HMSO, 1912), 37–106. British History Online, 29  The Brut, 512. 27 28



seven years. Katherine Vaux came with her, leaving her two small children to be raised in the household of Margaret Beaufort, then married to Sir Henry Stafford. Louis XI was unwilling to help Margaret, but she travelled around the country trying to gain support. By 1464 Margaret was then settled at her father’s château of Koeur at St. Mihiel with a pension of 6000 crowns from him. Though many of the Lancastrian nobility had already died in the struggle, a number of those who survived went to Koeur to pledge support to Margaret, including the Duke of Somerset’s younger brother Edmund, who, despite the Parliamentary attainder after his brother’s death, styled himself Duke of Somerset. Margaret would have been kept abreast of news in England. At the end of 1463 Scotland signed a truce with Edward IV and Henry had to leave Scotland for Northern England; he was captured in July 1465 and was taken to the Tower of London. It must have been terrifying to Margaret when her son became ill, as he did at least twice during the time she was living at Koeur. In 1464 it was serious enough that her father’s physician came to attend him, and when Edward recovered, Margaret went on pilgrimage to St. Nicholas de Port to give thanks. The shrine was not quite fifty miles away, and one that was often used by royalty. A number of French kings made their way there on pilgrimage for centuries. In 1467 Edward was seriously ill again, either with measles or smallpox, but again luckily recovered. Though the restoration of Henry VI was theoretically the goal of the Lancastrians, for Margaret by this time, all her hopes centred on her son, and he shared her goals. The Milanese ambassador in France, Giovanni Pietro Panicharolla, wrote to the Duke and Duchess of Milan in February 1467, “This boy, though only thirteen years of age, already talks of nothing but of cutting off heads or making war, as if he had everything in his hands or was the god of battle or the peaceful occupant of that throne.”30 That same year Louis XI was very upset to learn about the planned marriage of Edward IV’s sister Margaret to Charles, Duke of Burgundy, seeing the alliance as strengthening his two enemies. Despite doing all he could to prevent it, the two married in July 1468, and Louis became much more supportive of Margaret of Anjou’s goals to regain the rule of England. 30  “Milan: 1467,” in CSP Milan, 117–122. British History Online,­papers/milan/1385-1618/pp117-122.



What had also greatly shifted the landscape was the falling out between the Earl of Warwick and the King, which had begun with Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and continued as the King increasingly marginalised him. Warwick also had Edward’s brother George, Duke of Clarence, on his side. Edward was opposed to George marrying Warwick’s elder daughter Isabel, but Warwick arranged their marriage in Calais 12 July 1469. Struggles between the King and the Earl continued as the situation became more chaotic, and eventually Warwick and Clarence with their wives and Warwick’s younger daughter Anne fled to France where they became the guests of Louis XI. Louis immediately began to attempt to reconcile Margaret to one of her worst enemies. She finally agreed to meet with Warwick at Angers. The ambassador Sforza de Bettini wrote to the Duke of Milan, describing Louis’s presentation of Warwick to Margaret: “With great reverence Warwick went on his knees and asked her pardon,” and Margaret “graciously forgave him and he afterwards did homage and fealty there, swearing to be a faithful and loyal subject of the king, queen, and prince as his liege lords unto death.”31 But as Maurer and Cron point out, Margaret did not trust Warwick, especially with the care of her son. A contemporary account, the Manner and Guiding of the Earl of Warwick at Angers, was most probably planned by Warwick to convince his friends and allies how fine he was doing in France that summer. Michael Hicks argues that this piece of propaganda “depicted [Warwick] as persuading the queen to do his will whilst conceding to her only essentials.”32 It actually took about two weeks for Margaret to agree that her son, then seventeen, would marry Warwick’s younger daughter Anne, who was fourteen. But she insisted that Warwick must take over England and restore Henry VI, and at that point Prince Edward would be regent and governor of the country.33 To add more prestige to Prince Edward, Louis asked him to be the godfather for his son Charles, who was born on 30 June. Once Warwick had agreed to these terms, however much he might or might not intend to keep them, Prince Edward and Anne Neville were formally betrothed at Angers Cathedral on 25 July. For Louis, what was most  Letters of Margaret of Anjou, 276.  Michael Hicks, Anne Neville: Queen to Richard III (Stroud: The History Press, 2011), 82. 33  Cora Louise Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward the Fourth, King of England and France and Lord of Ireland, 2 vols. (London: Longmans, 1923), 1:531; Johnson, Shadow King, 512. 31 32



important was Warwick’s commitment to an alliance against Burgundy. Warwick returned to England with an army and much of the country rose in support as he promised to restore Henry VI, the true king. Edward IV, his brother Richard, and a small party of the faithful abandoned their troops and fled to the Netherlands. Henry VI was released from the Tower in October 1470. He was installed at the Bishop of London’s Palace and on 13 October he was led in procession to St. Paul’s for a crown-wearing ceremony. During the five months of his restoration it does not appear that Henry exercised any royal power. Warwick served as king’s lieutenant, and, as Wolffe suggests, “uneasily shared” power with his son-in-law Clarence.34 In France, on 14 October, Louis publicly announced an alliance with Henry VI and ordered three days of thanksgiving for Henry’s restoration. Margaret and Prince Edward came to Paris to participate in the celebration, but she did not want to return to England until she was sure that it would be safe for Edward. There was a small private wedding performed between Prince Edward and Anne Neville on 13 December 1470. When Margaret had finally decided to return to England, bad weather further delayed her. She was held up on the coast of Normandy from February until April because on a number of occasions when they tried to set sail the headwinds forced them back. With Margaret was her son as well as the Countess of Warwick and her two daughters. The situation in England had become far more perilous. Edward IV returned to England in March. Warwick was convinced that he could easily defeat him, but at the last moment, encouraged by his siblings, Clarence betrayed Warwick, whose army faced Edward’s in the fog on the morning of Easter Sunday 14 April. Edward prevailed. Warwick was killed fleeing after the battle. Margaret landed at Weymouth the same day. She and her party were immediately taken to Cerne Abbey, fifteen miles away, to meet with Edmund, Duke of Somerset, and John Courtenay, who styled himself Earl of Devon. They informed her of the terrible news of the Lancastrian defeat and the death of Warwick. But though the Queen was “right hevy and sory,” Somerset and Devon also convinced Margaret “that for that los, theyr partye was nevar the febler, but rathar strongar,” and they should prepare for another battle.35 They strongly encouraged  Wolffe, Henry VI, 342.  Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV in England and the Finall Recoverye of his Kingdomes from Henry VI, ed. John Bruce (London, 1838), 23. 34 35



her to fight Edward IV’s army as soon as possible. Somerset was able to raise troops in Cornwall, while the Earl found many men in Devon. Somerset was at the head of Margaret’s troops as they decided on their battle plan at Tewkesbury on 4 May. Queen Margaret and her daughter-­ in-­law Anne Neville, along with Laura Bourchier, Countess of Devon and her devoted lady-in-waiting Lady Katherine Vaux took shelter in a close by religious house—we do not know its exact location—during the battle. Tragically for the Lancastrians, Somerset did not have the support he needed from his army, as the captains were fighting with each other, and it was a devastating loss. Devon was killed in battle as was Sir William Vaux. Somerset managed to get to Tewkesbury Abbey after the battle and took sanctuary. Shockingly, Edward IV ordered some men to drag him out. On 6 May Somerset was executed at the marketplace. For Margaret, the greatest tragedy of the debacle at Tewkesbury was the death of her seventeen-year-old son Edward. Since his birth the most important factor in Margaret’s life was protecting her son and advancing his interests. Now that that was over, her life seemed to have little meaning. While contemporary accounts note that Edward was killed in battle, later anti-­ Yorkist and early Tudor propaganda had the young prince brought a prisoner to the king and his brothers, who taunt him and murder him with the killing blow coming from Richard, Duke of Gloucester.36 In Shakespeare’s version Margaret is a witness, who when she sees the murder of her child cries “O, kill me too”37 (Fig. 12.1). It took three days for King Edward’s men to find Margaret and her widowed companions but Margaret did not try to flee, as truly, she had no place to go, and no motive to keep on fighting. She was brought to Coventry, where earlier she had been feted, in grief and in humiliation. Several days later she was part of Edward IV’s triumphant procession into London, sitting in a carriage as a prisoner. That very night Henry VI was murdered in the Tower. Now Margaret had neither son nor husband. Her political importance was finished. At the age of 41 her life was essentially over. Though there were rumours in France in the months after Tewkesbury that Edward had had Margaret killed also, she was no longer important enough for him to bother with her. Margaret was kept at Windsor Castle 36  Robert Fabyan, Fabyans Cronycle Newly Printed (London, 1533), ccxx; Hall’s Chronicle, 301; Polydore Vergil’s English History, ed. Henry Ellis (London, 1846), 152; Lisa Hilton, Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens (New York: Pegasus Books, 2010), 375. 37  Shakespeare, 3 Henry VI, 5.5.41.



Fig. 12.1  Shakespeare’s Margaret of Anjou at her son’s death. Henry Courtney Selous, Cassell’s Illustrated Shakespeare, 1874. (Public domain)



and then in the Tower of London. Her most faithful servant Lady Katherine Vaux was with her. She was finally placed in the custody of her old friend Alice, Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, at Wallingford Castle. In 1475, Edward and Louis made an agreement to send her back to France. Margaret had to agree to renounce all title to the crown of England, to her dower lands, and to any other claim she might have considered she had to any land in England. The French king paid the English king £10,000 in ransom. But Louis was hardly generous to Margaret either and her father, who married his mistress after his wife’s death, had no interest in aiding in his daughter. Louis insisted that Margaret renounce all claims of inheritance from both her father and her mother, saying he deserved it after the expenses he had incurred supporting her. He provided her with a small pension of 6000 crowns (£1200) and she was housed at the château of Reculée until her father’s death in 1480, when she moved to the château of Dampierre. Broken in health, but still clear in mind, Margaret made her will on 2 August 1482. In her will Margaret stated that “however weak and feeble” she was of body, she was still “sound of mind, reason, and thought.” She asked that King Louis “if it pleases him” allow her to be interred at Angers Cathedral, where her parents were buried. She asked that the few goods given to her by God and the French King be used to pay for her funeral and for paying her debts to her servants. Once her servants had received what they were owed, the Queen also wanted to pay her other creditors. In a plea, but also perhaps a nudge at his conscience, she stated that “I implore the said lord, the King, to meet and pay the outstanding debts as the sole heir of the wealth which I inherited through my father and my mother and my other relations and ancestors.”38 Had Louis not taken everything, Margaret might have been able to take care of her servants and others herself. Her devoted Lady Vaux was one of those who signed the will, and Margaret’s concern about her servants no doubt included her. Only three weeks later Margaret was dead, and she was indeed interred at Angers Cathedral. Edward Hall, writing in the mid sixteenth century, and certainly not one to praise Margaret’s deeds, said that towards the end of her life what she experienced was “more lyke a death then a lyfe, languishyng and morning in continuall sorrowe, not so much for her selfe and her husbande, … but for the losse of prince Edward her sonne … to whome  J.J. Bagley, Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England (London: H. Jenkins, 1948), 240.




in this lyfe nothing coulde be either more displeasant or grievous.”39 Margaret of Anjou was the strong queen of a weak king. She was a French woman in an England that considered France its enemy. For many of her contemporaries, Margaret’s actions transgressed the traditional role of queen and wife. During her lifetime, as a strong woman in a time of conflict, Margaret was vilified, and there were many damaging rumours about her. It became worse after her enemy became king, and in the century after her death the view of Margaret as “she-wolf,” as Shakespeare called her, greatly intensified. But the wolf is also the fierce mother of her cubs, and for Margaret motherhood was the most important aspect of her life. Despite the rumours and slander that Margaret had taken lovers, she was a faithful wife, and unlike many royal premodern mothers, she kept her son with her and did all she could to protect him and his rights. That she could not do so was her greatest tragedy.

 Hall’s Chronicle, 301.



Elizabeth Woodville: The Knight’s Widow J.L. Laynesmith

In September 1464, plague had driven Edward IV and his councillors out of London into the Thameside village of Reading where they gathered in its majestic Benedictine abbey.1 When discussion turned to the King’s ongoing marriage negotiations with France, Edward astonished his councillors by announcing that he had chosen a wife of his own, without their advice, and had already married her in secret. Moreover, this wife was no foreign princess but an English gentlewoman with two sons from a previous marriage. She was the widow of a knight who had died fighting for Henry VI at St Albans in 1461. Lady Elizabeth Grey, née Woodville, was a queen whose origins broke all established conventions for English queenship. Later allegations of her family’s malign influence and a perception that she was “no wife” for a king would make this marriage “one of


 I am very grateful to Mark Laynesmith for his advice and suggestions on this chapter.

J.L. Laynesmith (*) University of Reading, Reading, UK © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




the defining factors” of Edward IV’s reign and would play a critical part in the tragic endgame of the Plantagenet dynasty.2 Elizabeth’s is a remarkable story: she lost her status as queen and regained it, not once but twice. Most of her very closest kinsmen died violently and the disappearance of her youngest sons has been a matter of public fascination ever since. Yet, unlike five of the queens in this volume, the modern royal family are her descendants. The terrible losses that Elizabeth endured evoked sympathy in some early reporters of her story, but elsewhere jealousy and the political needs of her family’s opponents created a more powerful narrative of ambition, greed, murder, witchcraft, and betrayal that has proved popular among more recent writers. A.J. Pollard identified these traditions as the mater dolorosa and the femme fatale: common stereotypes that marginalise women in a male-dominated discourse, but only rarely co-exist as they have for Elizabeth.3 In 1995, Anne Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs convincingly refuted traditions that included Elizabeth’s supposed responsibility for the deaths of the Earl of Desmond and the Duke of Clarence, as well as her alleged greed in pursuing her rights to queen’s gold, yet the slanders continue to be repeated in more recent books.4

A Northamptonshire Gentlewoman Few details of Elizabeth Woodville’s early life have survived. Her mother was Jacquetta of Luxembourg, daughter of Pierre, Count of St Pol, and of Margeurite des Baux, a Neapolitan noblewoman.5 Jacquetta’s first husband was Henry VI’s uncle, John, Duke of Bedford. Shortly after Bedford’s death in 1435, Jacquetta secretly married one of the knights in her household, Sir Richard Woodville, whose family had been Northamptonshire

2  Jehan de Waurin, Recueil des croniques et anchiennes istories de la Grant Bretaigne, a present nomme Engleterre, ed. W.  Hardy and E.L.C.P.  Hardy, 5 vols. (London, 1864–1891), 5:455; Hannes Kleineke, Edward IV (London: Routledge, 2009), 81. 3  A.J. Pollard, “Elizabeth Woodville and her Historians,” in Traditions and Transformations in Late Medieval England, ed. Douglas Biggs, Sharon Michalove, and Compton Reeves (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 145–158. 4  Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs, “A ‘Most Benevolent Queen’: Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s Reputation, her Piety and her Books,” The Ricardian 10 (1995): 214–245. 5  Lucia Diaz Pascual, “Jacquetta of Luxembourg, duchess of Bedford and Lady Rivers,” The Ricardian 21 (2011): 67–91.



gentry since the thirteenth century.6 Despite this mésalliance, Jacquetta retained her status as the highest ranking noblewoman in England, only eventually surpassed by Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou. It is commonly assumed that Elizabeth was born very shortly after her parents’ marriage became public knowledge in 1437. However, it is equally possible that she was slightly younger than her brother Anthony, perhaps born in 1441, and was consequently much closer in age to Edward IV than most historians allow.7 Elizabeth is likely to have received a better education than many women: one of the Stonor letters noted that on occasion she would write letters “with her awn hand,”8 and Jacquetta retained some of the French royal library that her first husband had purchased, including Isabeau of Bavaria’s sumptuous presentation copy of Christine de Pisan’s works.9 Elizabeth’s eldest brother, Anthony, was to become one of William Caxton’s most important patrons and collaborators, and Elizabeth herself owned a copy of Caxton’s first English book. The full extent of the siblings’ engagement with Caxton is a matter of continuing debate.10 Elizabeth’s only surviving household accounts mention that she had arranged for the chancellor of the University of Cambridge, William Wulflete, to purchase a book for her at the cost of £10 (the sum then considered necessary to support a gentleman for a year).11 This predates all of Edward IV’s known book purchases. Jacquetta surely arranged for her children to grow up in the same cultural milieu as herself, despite their smaller income. The earliest mention of Elizabeth’s first marriage, to Sir John Grey, occurs in 1455 in letters patent of Richard, Duke of York (under whom her father had served in France).12 Sir John Grey’s father was a younger son of Reynold, Baron Grey of Ruthin, and the family’s wealth came primarily from John’s mother, Elizabeth, Lady Ferrers of Groby. John and 6  Lynda Pidgeon, “The Wydeviles, 1066–1503: A Reassessment” (PhD thesis, University of Southampton, 2011), 23. 7  Susan Higginbotham, The Woodvilles (Stroud: The History Press, 2013), 14; C.H. Hunter Blair, ed., Visitations of the North, Part III (London: Surtees Society, 1930), 58. 8  Christine Carpenter, ed., Kingsford’s Stonor Letters and Papers, 1290–1483 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), no. 120. 9  Pascual, “Jacquetta,” 87. 10  Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, “Benevolent Queen,” 227–232. 11  A.R.  Myers, Crown, Household and Parliament, ed. Cecil H.  Clough (London: Hambledon Press, 1985), 318. 12  Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust, Archer of Tanworth, DR 37/2/Box 73/34.



Elizabeth’s sons, Thomas and Richard, were probably born in 1456 and 1460, respectively. After only five years of marriage, Sir John Grey was killed at the Second Battle of St Albans. Weeks later Edward IV was triumphant at the Battle of Towton. Elizabeth’s father, now Lord Rivers, and her brother Anthony (Lord Scales) were locked in the Tower.13 The newly widowed Elizabeth was exceptionally vulnerable. Several of the trustees responsible for her jointure refused to hand over the manors that were meant to sustain her in her widowhood.14 Moreover, her brother-in-law, Edward Grey, had seized estates that her son Thomas should have inherited from his paternal grandfather, while her mother-in-­ law’s new young husband, Sir John Bourchier, had prevailed on Lady Ferrers to settle her principal properties on them jointly for life, ensuring that Thomas would have to wait far longer for this inheritance too. Rivers and Scales were pardoned in July 1461 and swiftly moved into the Yorkist establishment, which perhaps explains the success of the chancery suits Elizabeth launched to regain her jointure.15 Her son’s inheritance proved harder to recover. By 1463, Rivers was often in the King’s company and on his council, but Elizabeth needed someone with much stronger influence over the King.16 She turned to a distant kinsman, William, Lord Hastings, the King’s chamberlain. Hastings drove a very hard bargain for his aid but it was probably amid these negotiations that the King’s desire for Elizabeth was kindled.17 Whether they had only just met or had been distantly aware of each other for their entire lives is impossible to know.

The Secret Marriage Almost every account of their secret wedding includes details that seem to be contradicted elsewhere. The dates of Elizabeth’s arrangements with Hastings suggest that the marriage may have occurred only a few days or weeks before it was announced. Most reports assumed that Edward had tried to persuade her to be his concubine and she had impressed him with her virtuous refusal and her beauty. The earliest copies of her portrait 13  Calendar of State Papers, Milan, Volume 1, 1385–1618, ed. A.B.  Hinds (London: HMSO, 1912), 100. 14  TNA C 1/27/268–271. 15  Michael Hicks, Edward V: The Prince in the Tower (Stroud: Tempus, 2003), 43–45. 16  J.R.  Lander, “Councils, Administration and Councillors, 1461–85,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 32, no. 86 (1959): 157, 167. 17  Hicks, Edward V, 44–45.



depict a woman with honey-blonde hair, plucked to create a fashionably high forehead, dark grey-blue eyes, and an elegantly long neck.18 Within four years of her marriage, Elizabeth had become an exemplar of chastity in Antonio Cornazzano’s De mulieribus admirandis, which depicted her threatening suicide if forced to become the King’s concubine.19 Virtue was of course a standard queenly attribute, but one that it was especially important to emphasise for a queen of debatable social status. This depiction played into fifteenth-century literary arguments about the relative merits of noble behaviour and noble blood.20 Elizabeth herself fostered her reputation for virtue by choosing a deep red clove pink or “gillyflower” as her device which stood for “virtuous love and marriage and was also a devout reminder of the Virgin Mary’s own chastity and motherhood.”21 For some, the idea that Elizabeth’s personal qualities merited her status was clearly persuasive: decades later, a servant of the Howard family who had been at court later in the 1460s wrote that Edward had “attemptid the stabilite and constant modesty of dyvers ladies and jentilwomen” and could find none “of such constant wommanhode, wisedome and beaute as was dame Elizabeth.”22 For Elizabeth, the King’s proposal must have seemed a glorious opportunity to triumph over avaricious in-laws, protect her children’s future, and assume the role of queen that her own mother had come so close to. For twenty-two-year-old Edward their romance was clearly more enticing than the prospect of marrying the sister of Louis XI’s famously unattractive queen. It was perhaps also an impetuous demonstration of his independence as king. He must have been well aware that European courts imagined his cousin, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, was the real ruler of England. Edward of Woodstock’s secret marriage to Joan of Kent in 1361 very likely provided an influential precedent, but Joan was a 18  Royal Collection, RCIN 406785, oil on panel, c.1513–1530. For the way this conformed to contemporary ideas of beauty, see: D.S. Brewer, “The Ideal of Feminine Beauty in Medieval Literature, especially ‘Harley Lyrics’, Chaucer and some Elizabethans,” The Modern Language Review 50 (1955): 257–269. 19  C. Fahy, “The Marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: A New Italian Source,” English Historical Review 76 (1961): 660–672. 20  J.L.  Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship, 1445–1503 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 53–58. 21  Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs, “The Device of Queen Elizabeth Woodville: A Gillyflower or Pink,” The Ricardian 11 (1997): 23. 22  Thomas Hearne, ed., Thomæ Sprotti Chronica (Oxford, 1719), 293.



countess in her own right and a descendant of Edward I. Edward IV’s announcement of his love match was a revolutionary moment in English queenship. In October 1464, Venetian merchants who had just left London and John, Lord Wenlock, who was in Reading at the time the marriage was announced, both left records of the “great displeasure” that the King had aroused by acting without his council’s advice.23 The news in Danzig was that English custom required a king to marry “a maiden … not a widow, yet the king took this one against the wish of all his lords.”24 Edgar, Cnut, Harold Godwinson, and, more recently, Edward of Woodstock and Henry IV had all married widows (Henry II even married a divorcee), yet this complaint about Elizabeth’s marital status proved so persistent that Thomas More imagined the King’s mother, Cecily, Duchess of York, arguing that it was “a very blemish, and highe disparagement to the sacre magesty of a prince … to be defouled with bigamy in his first marriage.”25 It was perhaps the combination of widowhood with her father’s social status that rendered widowhood more objectionable in Elizabeth’s case than it had been previously. By contrast, John, Lord Howard, drafted a letter not long after the marriage noting that the people of East Anglia were “despossed in the beste wysse and glade ther of.”26 As with more recent royal marriages, it seems that responses varied. The regime acted swiftly to try to limit the potential damage. On 30 September 1464, Elizabeth was escorted into the quire of Reading Abbey by the King’s eldest brother, George, Duke of Clarence, and his cousin, the Earl of Warwick. Here she was “openly honoured as queen by the lords and all the people.”27 This was a make-shift ritual to provide public affirmation of her status and of the King’s right to marry her. It was later reported that their secret marriage had happened a 23  Calendar of State Papers, Venice, Volume 1, 1202–1509, ed. Rawdon Brown (London: HMSO, 1864), 114; Jehan de Wavrin, Anchiennes Cronicques d’Engleterre, ed. M. Dupont, 3 vols. (Paris, 1858–1863), 2:326. 24  Livia Visser-Fuchs, “English Events in Caspar Weinreich’s Danzig Chronicle, 1461–95,” The Ricardian 7 (1986): 313. 25  Thomas More, The History of King Richard III, ed. Richard S. Sylvester (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), 62. 26  Anne Crawford, ed., The Household Books of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, 1462–1471, 1483–1485 (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1992), 196–197. 27  J. Stevenson, ed., Letters and Papers Illustrative of the Wars of the English in France during the Reign of Henry the Sixth, 2 vols. (London, 1861–1864), 2:783.



full five months earlier, on Mayday, the quintessential occasion for romance in the medieval calendar. Edward IV’s itinerary indicates that this was not impossible. Yet it is surely significant that such a date wove the marriage into the King’s wider public image, propagated in songs and illuminated genealogies, as a hero of romance, and King Arthur’s heir.28 The following spring, Elizabeth and her ladies reinforced this image by engaging in public theatre at the palace of Shene, challenging her brother Anthony, Lord Scales, to arrange a tournament for the “augmentacion of knyghthode & recomendacion of nobless.”29 Scales and his father already had an international reputation for their jousting so this was an obvious means of enhancing public perception of the queen’s family. Scales’s challenge was delivered to the Duke of Burgundy’s bastard son, Antoine, Count de la Roche, and it was probably no coincidence that his reply “to Lorde Scales my brothir” was formally presented to the King at Greenwich on the eve of Elizabeth’s entry into London for her coronation, weaving this noble enterprise firmly into the festivities for her anointing.30 Elizabeth had a legendary bloodline of her own. The house of Luxembourg claimed descent from the heroic Antoine, fourth son of the half-fairy Melusine who founded the house of Lusignan. Both Melusine and her mother, Presine, were encountered by their royal mortal husbands at the edge of forests when they were out hunting, a common romance trope that would find its way into stories of Elizabeth’s meeting with Edward too.31 The Lusignan lion was included in Elizabeth’s new coat of arms, along with those of St Pol and Luxembourg, and both of her maternal grandparents (Baux and Orsini). There was barely room for her father’s Woodville fess and canton.32 We do not know what Elizabeth’s motto was but if, as seems likely, she was the Queen who once owned Life of our Lady (Beinecke MS 281), it was perhaps “aymer et a tandyr” (to love and to wait)—the perfect motto for a romance heroine.33

28  Jonathan Hughes, Arthurian Myths and Alchemy: The Kingship of Edward IV (Stroud: Sutton, 2002), 116–161. 29  S. Bentley, ed., Excerpta Historica (London, 1832), 180. 30  Bentley, Excerpta, 192. 31  Jean d’Arras, Melusine, trans. Donald Maddox and Sarah Sturm-Maddox (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012), 22, 31–33. 32  Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 183. These arms can be seen in the Royal Window (NXXVIII e13) at Canterbury. 33  Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, “Benevolent Queen,” 232.



Becoming Queen Within days of the announcement of their marriage, Edward had issued a safe conduct for Elizabeth’s maternal uncle, Jacques de Luxembourg, to visit England with a company of one hundred persons (of any degree but not French).34 Jacques was fully aware of Edward’s need for distinguished foreign in-laws and arrived for Elizabeth’s coronation in May 1465 with an impressive entourage. Meanwhile, the King and his council had been liaising with the civic authorities in London to choreograph an occasion of particular splendour that began by celebrating some of Elizabeth’s unique characteristics, but gradually reconfigured her in a template of traditional queenship.35 At London Bridge she was greeted by angels in flaxen wigs dyed with saffron, their wings fashioned from 900 peacock feathers, and actors representing St Elizabeth and Mary Cleophas.36 These biblical mothers provided implicit parallels with Elizabeth’s own proven fertility, her most obvious virtue in the circumstances. St Elizabeth was of course also the Queen’s name saint while Mary Cleophas was believed to have been twice married and thus affirmed the Queen’s own unconventional marital status. The following day, newly created Knights of the Bath escorted Elizabeth to the Palace of Westminster. Implicitly this was as much a celebration of new-found peace as the coronations of many of her predecessors had been, for chief among the new knights were the young sons of prominent Lancastrian families. These were led by nine-year-old Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and his brother Humphrey, whose grandfather had been slain at the battle of Northampton in 1460. Buckingham had recently married the Queen’s younger sister Katherine, and the brothers had joined Elizabeth’s own sons in her household. The Staffords were followed by the twenty-two-year-old John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, whose father and elder brother had both been executed for treason only three years earlier.37 On Sunday 26 May the Queen walked to Westminster Abbey dressed in a purple mantle, her train carried by the elder Duchess of Buckingham who 34  Cora L. Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward the Fourth, 2 vols. (Croydon: Fonthill, 2016), 1:372. 35  Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs, “The Entry of Queen Elizabeth Woodville over London Bridge, 24 May 1465,” The Ricardian 19 (2009): 1–31. 36  Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, “The Entry of Queen Elizabeth Woodville,” 28, 31. 37  Stevenson, Letters and Papers, 2.2:783–784; G.  Smith, The Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville (Cliftonville: Gloucester Reprints, 1975), 8–10.



was both a Lancastrian widow and the King’s own aunt. Elizabeth’s anointing and crowning in the abbey were followed by a similarly ritualised banquet with fifty-one dishes in the great hall of Westminster Palace.38 Even before her coronation, Elizabeth’s family were inevitably the source of considerable attention. Spectacular marriages were arranged for her five sisters, her eldest son, and youngest brother. Much has been made of this act of social climbing, although it would be hard to argue that they were any more impressive than the matches Joan of Kent had arranged for her Holland offspring or indeed the grand alliances masterminded by Joan Beaufort for her Neville children on the strength of her kinship to Henry IV.  The greatest beneficiary of Elizabeth’s second marriage was her father, Lord Rivers, who was created Earl Rivers in May 1466. Nonetheless, the income he required for this position came not from grants of lands but from offices that required a considerable commitment of service. He was made Treasurer of England in 1466 and Constable of England in 1467. Edward’s lavish generosity early in his reign to secure his throne had left him with few estates to dispense at this point. It swiftly emerged that properties granted to Elizabeth for her maintenance before her coronation were so burdened with expenses that they could not provide a satisfactory income. A new settlement was made in July 1465, replaced by another in January 1466.39 The total receipts that reached her household the following year, including those from queen’s gold, amounted to £4540 18  s 11½ d.40 As Katia Wright notes in her chapter on queen’s dower, this was significantly less than the 10,000 marks that had been promised to Margaret of Anjou as her annual income, yet it was probably very similar to Margaret’s actual receipts.41 Elizabeth received various additional grants throughout Edward’s reigns and Rosemary Horrox has argued that by 1475 her interest in East Anglia may have been regarded as “the main instrument of royal authority there.”42

 Smith, Coronation, 14–15.  Calendar of State Papers Preserved in the Public Record Office, Edward IV: Volume 1, 1461–1467 (London: HMSO, 1897), 430, 445, 480. 40  Myers, Crown, Household and Parliament, 287. 41  Myers, Crown, Household and Parliament, 137. 42  Rosemary Horrox, Richard III: A Study of Service (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 80. 38 39



The Business of Queenship Elizabeth was clearly actively engaged in managing these estates and finances herself. In a letter to Sir William Stonor, rebuking him for “uncourteisly” hunting deer on her land, she disputed Stonor’s claim that the King had granted permission for this and required him to show his evidence “if any suche ye have” either to her council or to her directly.43 Similarly, marginal notes in her household accounts indicate that several payments her receiver general had expected to pay out had been “disallowed by order of the lady the queen.”44 A letter she sent to William Harleton, her steward in Norfolk, showed how her decisions were made: evidence had been presented to her council on behalf of a tenant who was asking for exemption from a fine and “we be credibly enformed” of the “uttyr distrucion” the tenant faced “withoute our grace especiall to hym schewyd” so, “be thavise of the same our counsell,” he was to be permitted to remain in his property at Thetford paying no more than his previous rent.45 The business side of queenship was of course not limited to managing her own estates but was very often about patronage and for Elizabeth even her withdrawal from court for childbirth was not allowed to distract from these responsibilities. In June 1467, she had written to the Earl of Oxford to support the claims of one Simon Blyant to a manor that Sir John Paston also claimed. That August, Oxford asked George Neville, Archbishop of York, to discuss the matter directly with the Queen but her confinement made this impossible. Consequently, the Archbishop delivered his message with “a rynge for a tokyn” to the Queen’s father who presumably passed it on via his wife.46 The Queen’s involvement in this dispute seems to have been at the request of Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk, who was trying to reclaim this manor, which her husband had sold to Sir John Fastolf decades earlier.47 Helen Maurer has drawn attention to Margaret of Anjou’s practice of working through other women to support both her  Carpenter, Stonor Letters, 319.  Myers, Crown, Household and Parliament, 294. 45  TNA DL 30/105/1490. I am grateful to Jonathan Mackman for drawing this letter to my attention. 46  James Gairdner, ed., The Paston Letters, A.D. 1422–1509, 6 vols. (London: Chatto & Windus, 1904), 6:105–108. 47  Colin Richmond, The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century, Volume 2: Fastolf’s Will (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 119. 43 44



own and her husband’s interests and Elizabeth Woodville seems to have operated in similar female networks.48 In 1469, Sir John Paston became engaged to her kinswoman Anne Haute, prompting the Queen to support his ongoing struggles to make good his claims to Fastolf’s possessions. While the King put pressure on the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk to achieve a resolution, Elizabeth wrote to Alice, Duchess of Suffolk, and Elizabeth, Duchess of Norfolk, asking them to “commune with” their respective dukes to the same end.49 It appears from the Stonor letters that Elizabeth could also be exceptionally persuasive: a letter that is probably from Joan Stonor mentions that she had ordered her daughter to serve in a household at the Queen’s desire (in response to a request from the lord or lady of that household), even though this would not have been the Stonors’ own choice. When Joan had initially tried to refuse, the Queen was “ryght gretly displisyd” since it thwarted Elizabeth’s attempts to please the host family.50 The incident highlights not just the strength of the Queen’s personality, but also the careful balances that had to be made in the negotiations of patronage. An important arena for patronage was of course the Queen’s own household. As Anne Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs demonstrate in the following chapter, it was expected that a noblewoman’s household would provide employment for men and women with family connections. In practice, because the Woodvilles had themselves been royal servants since Edward III’s reign, it was inevitable that the household of Edward IV’s queen would include their relations and in most cases it is hard to determine how significant their personal connections to the Woodvilles actually were in achieving their positions. Even her Venetian physician Dominic de Serego could have entered her service either through his connections in Northamptonshire, her home county, or through the patronage of the long-time Yorkist John, Lord Dynham.51 Only one of her sisters, Anne, attended her and their brother John became the Queen’s master of horse.52 Clearly a small number of her family did benefit from this new opportunity 48  Helen E. Maurer, Margaret of Anjou: Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2003), 60–62. 49  Gairdner, Paston Letters, 5:24. 50  Carpenter, Stonor Letters, no. 120. The queen is unnamed and the letter undated and unsigned, but the editor suggests a date of c.1472. 51  Hannes Kleineke, “Some Evidence for the Early Career and Practice of Dominic de Serego, Physician to Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth Woodville,” The Ricardian 26 (2016): 121–126. 52  Myers, Crown, Household and Parliament, 288–289, 310.



for employment, but, contrary to the popular image, these were a slender element in a large administration dominated by career administrators who had long-standing connections with Edward IV or with the Duchy of Lancaster.53 The Queen’s new subjects were swift to offer opportunities for her to engage in the traditional queenly role of intercessor with the king. Even before her coronation she had established herself as a patron of what was then called “the Queen’s College,” which Margaret of Anjou had helped to found in Cambridge.54 A decade later she issued its first statutes so that subsequent records considered Elizabeth herself “fundaresse of the said college.”55 On other occasions she supported planned religious foundations in London, interceded to reduce debts owed by the Merchant Adventurers’ company to the King, made generous gifts to Eton College, and petitioned the pope to extend the circumstances in which indulgences could be acquired by observing the feast of the Visitation.56 Her piety as queen seems to have been broadly conventional for a fifteenth-century royal, encompassing pilgrimages, membership of various fraternities, a particular devotion to her name saint, notable generosity to the Carthusians, and the foundation of a chantry at Westminster after her son was born there (Fig. 13.1).57 One possible indicator of a more personal, and more sophisticated, thread in her piety is a book of Hours of the Guardian Angel which Sutton and Visser-Fuchs have argued was commissioned for her, very possibly at her request.58 Elizabeth’s first royal child was born on 11 February 1466, a daughter who shared her name. The occasion was an opportunity to reassure the Earl of Warwick of his pre-eminent position by inviting him to be the baby’s godfather. The Queen’s subsequent churching and banquet were witnessed by Bohemian visitors who were concealed in an alcove to watch the women-only silent feast. It was one of a number of occasions on which  Myers, Crown, Household and Parliament, 260–318.  W.G. Searle, The History of the Queens’ College, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1867–1871), 1:70. 55  Searle, Queens’ College, 1:90. 56  Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, “Benevolent Queen,” 224, 233–234. 57  Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, “Benevolent Queen,” 232–235; Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 254–260. 58  Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs, “The Cult of Angels in Late Fifteenth-Century England: An Hours of the Guardian Angel presented to Queen Elizabeth Woodville,” in Women and the Book: Assessing the Visual Evidence, ed. Lesley Smith and Jane H.M. Taylor (London: The British Library, 1996), 230–265. 53 54



Fig. 13.1  The court of Edward IV at the foundation of the Luton Guild of the Holy Trinity. Elizabeth Woodville on right with Cecily, Duchess of York, behind her. (Courtesy of the Culture Trust Luton)



Edward used privileged access to Elizabeth’s presence in spaces that were constructed as private in order to impress or honour his guests.59 Elizabeth bore her second daughter, Mary, in August 1467 and a third, Cecily, on 20 March 1469. As Luchino Dallaghiexia told the Duke of Milan, this last “rejoiced the king and all the nobles exceedingly, though they would have preferred a son.”60 That summer, as King Edward travelled north to quell what appeared to be a local rebellion in Yorkshire, Elizabeth journeyed to East Anglia, accompanied by her elder daughters. The authorities in Norwich were advised that “she woll desire to ben resseyved as wurshepfully as evir was Quene a fore hir.”61 Any sovereign expected as much worship as their predecessors, but, as a gentlewoman who had married a usurper, Elizabeth’s concern to present a convincing spectacle as queen was understandable.

A Fragile Throne, 1469–1471 Elizabeth’s anxieties proved well founded. While she was being fêted in Norwich, Warwick and Clarence dispatched a letter from Calais supporting the northern rebels and naming the Queen’s parents and brothers among evil counsellors to the King. Comparison was made with earlier kings who had only taken advice from those “not of thaire blood” and lost their thrones as a consequence.62 The King’s disappointing rule was being blamed squarely on the low birth of his Queen’s kin and a small number of others which made them unfit to guide government. Dallaghiexia now reported that, the king here took to wife a widow of this island of quite low birth. Since her coronation she has always exerted herself to aggrandise her relations … and had brought things to such a pass that they had the entire government of this realm, to such an extent that the rest of the lords about the government were one, the Earl of Warwick.63

He was clearly parroting Warwick, who he considered “as astute as Ulysses.”64 The claim of Woodville domination was demonstrably wildly  Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 118, 247–249.  CSP Milan, 1:129. 61  Gairdner, Paston Letters, 5:34. 62  K. Dockray, ed., Three Chronicles of the Reign of Edward IV (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1988), 68–69. 63  CSP Milan, 1:131. 64  CSP Milan, 1:131. 59 60



exaggerated and it is surely here, in Warwick’s propaganda, that Elizabeth’s reputation as a femme fatale originated. Contemporaries were divided on the reasons for Warwick’s rebellion. In 1486, one of Edward’s former councillors wrote a continuation to the Crowland Chronicle in which he argued that “the real cause of dissension” had been Edward’s preference for an alliance with Burgundy instead of France.65 The Howard family servant was adamant that the “first motiffe and originall cause” was Warwick’s own ambition: “his insaciable mynde could noȝt be content.”66 Whatever the reasons, the social status of the Queen’s family made them easy scapegoats in a familiar narrative of righteous rebellion. Elizabeth was back in London when she heard the devastating news that her father and her twenty-four-year-old brother John had been summarily executed at Northampton after the royalist defeat at Edgcote; that the King was the Earl of Warwick’s prisoner; and that her mother was being charged with witchcraft, having apparently used lead figures of the King and Queen.67 Charges of witchcraft had of course been made against the Dowager Queen Joan of Navarre in 1419, as Elena Woodacre discusses above. Even more pertinently, in 1441 Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, another gentlewoman who had married into the royal family, had had her marriage annulled after she was found guilty of bewitching her husband into their union. It is most likely that Warwick hoped to annul Elizabeth’s marriage in similar fashion. “The queen keeps very scant state,” Dallaghiexia reported with brutal brevity.68 She had every reason to be terrified of what the future held. In the midst of this nightmare, the London Mayor and Aldermen voted to send the Queen a gift of wine, perhaps a token of their continuing loyalty.69 At the French court Sforza de Bettini, the Milanese ambassador, heard that in London “the Earl [of Warwick] is hated.”70 Ironically, it was a rebellion on Henry VI’s behalf by one of Warwick’s own kinsmen that forced the Earl to release the King because he could not muster sufficient forces to restore peace.

65  Nicholas Pronay and John Cox, eds., The Crowland Chronicle Continuations 1459–1486 (London: Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 1986), 114–115. 66  Hearne, Sprotti Chronica, 299. 67  David MacGibbon, Elizabeth Woodville (1437–1492): Her Life and Times (London: Arthur Baker, 1938), 82–83. 68  CSP Milan, 1:131. 69  Scofield, Edward the Fourth, 1:498. 70  CSP Milan, 1:132.



The following September, Warwick launched his final bid at kingmaking, this time in alliance with Margaret of Anjou to restore Henry VI. He and Clarence landed in Devon while the King was in Yorkshire. Elizabeth’s initial reaction was to prepare for a siege in the Tower of London where she had already retired in expectation of the imminent birth of another child. But on 1 October news reached the capital that the King was preparing to set sail from Bishop’s Lynn, abandoning his kingdom. With no hope of imminent rescue, Elizabeth moved swiftly into the Sanctuary of Westminster Abbey with her mother and her daughters. She sent Abbot Thomas Millyng to advise the Mayor and Aldermen that she was surrendering the Tower, and consequently Henry VI, into their custody. The council’s journal recorded that the Queen feared that the approaching army would “despoil and kill the said queen.”71 After the traumas of the previous summer, she could scarcely be blamed for such anxiety, although to kill a queen would have been unprecedented: was this a measure of her insecurity or dramatic overstatement? The terms of surrender included safe conduct for all within “with their goods” to the sanctuaries at Westminster or St Martin’s.72 Even so, after the Readeption was over, Elizabeth had to bring a court case against John Marlburgh, gentleman of London, and others for a debt of £100, explaining that the paperwork proving her claim had been left in the Tower “in the tyme of the last rebellion” and “was take a way” by persons unknown.73 The new Lancastrian regime chose to pretend they did not see Elizabeth as a threat, perhaps because they feared the repercussions from Londoners if they moved against her. Instead, Henry VI’s new council contented themselves with sending the widowed Lady Elizabeth Scrope to “attend,” or spy, on “Elizabeth late calling hir Quiene.”74 At the beginning of November, Elizabeth at last bore a royal son, Edward. The Abbot and Prior of Westminster were his godfathers. The Duchess of Bedford would have been the most obvious candidate for godmother, but the Queen instead chose Lady Scrope.75 This was probably a gesture of reconciliation with the new regime and was all that she could do to protect her infant 71  Reginald R.  Sharpe, London and the Kingdom, 3 vols. (London, 1895), 3:386; Cora Scofield “Elizabeth Wydevile in the Sanctuary at Westminster, 1470,” English Historical Review 24 (1909): 90–91. 72  Sharpe, London, 3:386. 73  TNA C 1/43/54. 74  Scofield, “Elizabeth Wydevile in Sanctuary,” 91. 75  Scofield, “Elizabeth Wydevile in Sanctuary,” 91.



son. The Crowland Continuator recalled that “those faithful to King Edward drew some consolation and hope” from the news of the prince’s birth.76 The literature that celebrated Edward IV’s return to the throne the following year made much of the “great trowble, sorow, and hevines” that the Queen had endured, sharing the “vexacioun” experienced by all Londoners.77

Mother of the Heir Elizabeth continued to bear children regularly through Edward’s second reign: Margaret (19 April 1472) who died a few months later; Richard (17 August 1473); Anne (2 November 1475); George (1477) who was only two when he died; Katherine (1479) and Bridget (10 November 1480).78 Elizabeth’s new position as mother of a male heir swiftly brought additional responsibilities. On 3 July 1471, Edward was created Prince of Wales and five days later the Queen was among those appointed to be administrators of his principality.79 When the Prince moved to Ludlow in February 1473, the Queen travelled with him as a senior member of his council and may have remained in the Marches for much of that year.80 On 10 November her brother Anthony, now Earl Rivers, was appointed “governor and ruler of the king’s first begotten son … that he may be virtuously, cunningly and knightly brought up.”81 It was an eloquent rejection of Warwick’s narrative of the Woodvilles’ unworthiness. Ahead of his expedition to France in 1475, the King summoned Prince Edward back to London to take up the position of “keeper of the realm” and Elizabeth was granted £2200 for the additional costs of his presence in her household, but actual decision-making power rested in a Great Council led by John Alcock, Archbishop of Canterbury.82 Elizabeth’s eldest son, Thomas, now Marquess of Dorset, accompanied the King to France. Elizabeth had recently arranged a lucrative marriage for him with William Lord Hasting’s step-daughter, the heiress Cecily Bonville. In  Pronay and Cox, Crowland, 123.  Laynesmith, Last Medieval Queens, 173–174. 78  MacGibbon, Elizabeth Woodville, 112, 117, 121, 129, 130. 79  CPR 1467–77, 283. 80  D.E. Lowe, “Patronage and Politics: Edward IV, the Wydevilles, and the Council of the Prince of Wales, 1471–83,” Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 29 (1981): 562. 81  CPR 1467–77, 417. 82  Scofield, Edward the Fourth, 1:125. 76 77



January 1478 Dorset and Rivers took leading roles in the flamboyant celebrations that attended the wedding of Elizabeth’s youngest son, Richard Duke of York, to five-year-old Anne Mowbray.83 Only one member of the royal family was conspicuously absent: George, Duke of Clarence, who was in the Tower of London awaiting trial for treason. Like the King’s remaining brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Dorset eventually benefited significantly from the wealth available after Clarence’s death.84 Dorset’s consequent increasing authority provided a challenge to his stepfather-in-­law which contributed to tensions between the families, tensions that erupted in April 1483 on Edward IV’s sudden death.

The Crisis of 1483 The Crowland Continuator, who was concerned about the undue influence of the Woodville men, nonetheless saw Elizabeth as a neutral figure at this point: he explained that “the most benevolent queen, desirous of extinguishing every spark of murmuring and unrest,” endeavoured to mediate between the opposing parties on the king’s council.85 The motives and details of the events that followed may be the most fiercely debated in English medieval history. On 1 May 1483, news reached London that the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Buckingham had arrested several of the young King Edward V’s household. These included Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony, Earl Rivers, and her son, Richard Grey. It was reported that these men had been plotting to kill Gloucester so that they could dominate the new regime.86 Elizabeth was apparently blindsided by events. All her previous relations with Gloucester seem to have been cordial.87 Her decision then to return to the Westminster Sanctuary with Dorset was very likely primarily out of fear for Dorset’s safety rather than her own. There was a real risk that the Dukes would break sanctuary to arrest Dorset but far less so if the Queen and her other children were present with him. 83  W.H.  Black, Illustrations of Ancient State and Chivalry (London: Roxburghe Club, 1840), 27–40. 84  T.B. Pugh, “Grey, Thomas, first marquess of Dorset (c. 1455–1501),” ODNB, https:// 85  Pronay and Cox, Crowland, 154. 86  Pronay and Cox, Crowland, 154–157; Dominic Mancini, The Usurpation of Richard III, ed. C.A.J. Armstrong (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1989), 74–9. 87  Horrox, Richard III, 80–81; A.J. Pollard, “Dominic Mancini’s Narrative of the Events of 1483,” Nottingham Medieval Studies 38 (1994): 152–163.



In entering sanctuary for the sake of the children of her first marriage, Elizabeth effectively ceded the political neutrality that queenship should have afforded her. The Crowland Continuator recalled supporters gathering outside the Abbey in the Queen’s name while Hastings’ adherents assembled at the Tower.88 Her actions also implied that she believed Gloucester posed a threat to much of the royal family, a message that could weaken his authority and so made her a threat to him. Following his arrival in London, Gloucester was declared Protector and assumed leadership of the Great Council meeting at Westminster Palace, while the young King Edward V was lodged in the Tower. Immediately contemporary reports are scarce but anxious letters from Simon Stallworth, a canon in the service of the newly appointed Chancellor, commented on 8 June that the Queen had been excluded from discussion about the forthcoming coronation and then, on 21 June, he wrote, “with huse is much trouble and every manne dowtes other”: Lord Hastings had been beheaded and men in armour had removed the young Duke of York from sanctuary.89 Meanwhile, Gloucester was writing to the Corporation of the City of York asking for their assistance in “correcting and punisshing the quene” and her adherents who meant to murder him and others “of the olde royal blode of this realm” having “by many subtill and damnable ways forecasted the same.”90 Here was a familiar medieval rhetoric of the threat posed to traditional authority by those of low birth made more disturbing with implications of sorcery. It is perfectly possible that Gloucester genuinely believed what he was writing. Elizabeth’s silent enclosure in sanctuary in 1470–1471 had served to locate her in a template of ideal womanhood. This time, it was undercut by the association between secrecy and sorcery (a charge subsequently levelled at her publicly in Parliament, too), as well as the implication of deceit in events that were hidden, specifically her clandestine marriage to the King which was about to be declared a sham: it was announced that before their wedding Edward had already been legally bound to another woman so that “their entire offspring was unworthy of the kingship.”91 Common Law had evolved to protect the rights of children as far as  Pronay and Cox, Crowland, 156–157.  Carpenter, Stonor Letters, nos. 330, 331. 90  Lorraine C. Attreed, ed., The York House Books, 1461–1490, 2 vols. (Alan Sutton: Stroud, 1991), 2:713–714. 91  Mancini, Usurpation, 62–63, 94–97. 88 89



­ ossible so that in such a case as this the courts would usually still have p considered the children legitimate, except when the second union had been clandestine too.92 The secret ceremony Edward had used to force his councillors into accepting his unconventional choice of wife could now provide justification for disinheriting their children. Whether these legal intricacies were actually examined at the time is not recorded. On 26 June 1483, Richard was acknowledged as King in Westminster Hall and Elizabeth was once more “dam[e] Elizabeth Gray.”93 Her brother, Earl Rivers, and her son, Richard Grey, had been executed the day before. The Marquess of Dorset had fled shortly after Hastings’ death and, after the new King left the capital, Elizabeth was presumably involved in the plans to help her daughters escape too. On discovering these, Richard arranged for so many guards around the Abbey that, in the Crowland Continuator’s view, “the whole neighbourhood took on the appearance of a castle.”94 According to the Tudor historian Polydore Vergil, a physician, Lewis Caerleon, was nonetheless able to enter the Abbey without arousing suspicion and consequently enlisted Elizabeth’s involvement in the rising that became known as Buckingham’s Rebellion.95 The rising failed and the following January Richard’s only Parliament declared Elizabeth’s marriage to Edward IV an adulterous union. In March she finally accepted terms by which her daughters would leave sanctuary with promises of protection and of marriages appropriate to their new status. Vergil indicates that many who were in exile after Buckingham’s rebellion resented her “light-mindedness” in making her peace with Richard.96 Yet prioritising her children’s interests regardless of politics had always been her modus operandi. The agreement did not specify that Elizabeth herself was required to leave with her daughters, but it promised her an annual income of 700 marks.97 It may be that she remained at Westminster for the next eighteen months until Richard’s death at Bosworth and the arrival of Henry VII. 92  R.H. Helmholz, “The Sons of Edward IV: A Canonical Assessment of the Claim that they were Illegitimate,” in Richard III: Loyalty, Lordship and Law, ed. P.W. Hammond (London: Richard III & Yorkist History Trust, 1986), 91–103. 93  Rosemary Horrox and P.W. Hammond, eds., British Library Harleian Manuscript 433, 4 vols. (Gloucester: Richard III Society, 1979), 3:190. 94  Pronay and Cox, Crowland, 162–163. 95  H. Ellis, ed., Three Books of Polydore Vergil’s History (London, 1844), 195–196. 96  Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia (1555 version), ed. Dana F.  Sutton (2005–2010); section 6. 97  Horrox and Hammond, Harleian 433, 3:190; Pronay and Cox, Crowland, 162–163.



Queen Dowager (again) Restored to the status of Queen Dowager and now the mother of Henry’s queen, Elizabeth is nonetheless difficult to trace through these final years. This has led to speculation of complicity in rebellion and a rift with the King.98 She was present at Winchester and Westminster for the births of her grandchildren Arthur (1487) and Margaret (1489). A proposal in November 1487 that she enter a third marriage, with James III of Scotland, was forestalled by rebellion and that King’s violent death the following year. Early in 1487, Henry VII had resumed her dower lands in order to fund her daughter’s dower and he granted “oure dere moder Quene Elizabeth” an annuity of 400 marks, later raised to £400 (about £268,000 in today’s money).99 She seems now to have cultivated a lifestyle of comparative simplicity. On 10 July 1486 she had taken out a forty-year lease on the mansion of Cheynegates in Westminster Abbey (for the sum of £10 a year), but by 1492 she was a resident at Bermondsey Abbey as Katherine of Valois had been before her.100 Elizabeth made her will on 10 April 1492 “seyng the worlde so transitorie, and no creature certayne whanne they shall departe frome hence.”101 It was nine years and one day since Edward IV’s death. She claimed to have “no wordely goodes” with which to reward her children as she wished, but nonetheless requested that “suche smale stufe and goodes that I have” be dispersed in paying off any debts, “for the helth of my sowle,” and among “any of my bloode” who might want specific items. The surrender of her estates should not have meant the loss of her jewels, books, or clothes so it may be that she had chosen to part with many of the trappings of her glittering days at the heart of a court that had proved as transitory as Camelot. Her will made no reference either to Richard Grey or to her youngest sons, who were widely assumed to be dead.

 MacGibbon, Elizabeth Woodville, 192–194.  MacGibbon, Elizabeth Woodville, 214–221. 100  J.  Armitage Robinson, The Abbot’s House at Westminster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911), 22–23. I have found no evidence that she entered Bermondsey on 12 February 1487. I suspect this tradition arises from confusion with the date of the council that Vergil said was the occasion on which her estates were resumed. I have also been unable to verify the tradition that her husband’s de Clare ancestry meant that she had a right to stay at Bermondsey by virtue of the abbey’s foundation charter (which does not survive). 101  TNA PROB 11/9/207. 98 99



When she died two months later her executors honoured her request that she be buried with Edward IV at Windsor “without pompes entreing or costlie expensis donne there abought.”102 A herald who described the five days of ritual repeatedly drew attention to the lack of expense, although whether this was a critique or to emphasise that her pious wishes had been observed is impossible to determine.103 Her grandson Henry VIII, who was not yet a year old at the time, seems later to have believed that she had died of plague.104 There are no other recorded cases of plague in London that summer so this may have drawn on a confused recollection of comments about the simplicity of her funeral. However, her body first arrived at the college “prevely” at 11 at night and was buried immediately rather than lying on the hearse throughout the following ceremonies, which would seem to suggest there was indeed a fear of contagion.105 The pinewood coffin was laid on top of her husband’s lead sarcophagus in the vault beneath his tomb and chantry.106 Elizabeth’s social and marital status were threads in the web of circumstances in which the Plantaganet dynasty crumbled, and this larger story will always overshadow her queenship. Yet a focus on her everyday practice indicates much that was exemplary: she was fertile, pious, cultured, and beautiful, a successful intercessor, and an able administrator. She participated time and again in public theatre of an idealised court and tolerated her husband’s infidelities to the extent that one of her final attendants was his bastard daughter, Grace. Perhaps her most remarkable quality was one not recognised as a virtue in her own day: she had the courage to reject a discourse shaped by class-consciousness and misogyny and so assert herself as a worthy consort for England’s King.

 TNA PROB 11/9/207.  Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs with R.A.  Griffiths, The Royal Funerals of the House of York at Windsor (London: The Richard III Society, 2005), 72–74. 104  Euan C. Roger, “‘To Be Shut Up’: New Evidence for the Development of Quarantine Regulations in Early-Tudor England,” Social History of Medicine 33, no. 4 (2020): 1081–1083. 105  Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, Royal Funerals, 72–73. 106  Vetusta Monumenta III (1790), Pl. VII, 3. 102 103


Anne Neville: Heiress and Highest Ornament of Her House Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs

Anne Neville, wife of Richard III, was queen consort for less than twenty-­ one months.1 It was the shortest tenure of any of the queens in this volume. Her impact on English history is harder to trace than most, yet she was certainly distinctive among England’s late medieval queens. She was the only English heiress to become queen consort in this period and her northern connections were a significant dimension of Richard III’s authority. Uniquely, she twice married potential kings of England. Her first marriage was a result of her father’s “kingmaking” ambitions: a short-lived union with Edward, Prince of Wales, heir to Henry VI. She was, in the 1  For additional information on many of the topics covered here, see also: Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs, “‘Of lordis lyne & lynage sche was’: Notes on the Lives of Queen Anne Neville and the Countess of Warwick, her Mother,” The Ricardian 30 (2020): 13–68.

A. F. Sutton The Mercers’ Company, London, UK L. Visser-Fuchs (*) Baarn, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




words of one contemporary, “conveyed by all the corners and partyes of the whele of fortune” after Edward’s death in battle.2 No one anticipated that her second marriage would eventually lead to a coronation since her husband Richard, then Duke of Gloucester, was the younger brother of a king with several children. Inevitably, this chapter is dominated by the turbulent politics in which Anne herself was often little more than a pawn. It is, however, possible to glimpse something of Anne herself through what we know of her relationships with her household as well as records of her piety and her patronage. Anne’s is the story of a great heiress, whose inheritance was made up of the estates of other great heiresses. She was the second child of Anne Beauchamp, the last Beauchamp Countess of Warwick. Through her marriage, Anne Beauchamp had taken her title and lands to Richard Neville, the eldest son of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury. His was another title acquired by marriage to an heiress, Alice Montagu. Anne Beauchamp’s own mother had been the heiress Isabel Despenser, Lady of Glamorgan, second wife of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. Anne Neville was born at Warwick Castle on 11 June 1456 and christened in the nearby church of St Mary.3 The elevation of her birth has not ensured the survival of many details of her life. Apart from her elder sister Isabel (b. 1451), no other children are known to have been born to Anne Beauchamp and Richard Neville. Their lack of a son was to shape the fate of both daughters, co-heiresses of the greatest patrimony of the country and pawns in the dangerous political career of their father, the Kingmaker. Anne’s education would have been in the hands of her mother. Anne Beauchamp was recorded by the family chronicler: “to the gret plesure of God full pacient, to the grete meryte of her own sowl and ensample of all ordere that were vexid with eny adversyte … ever companable and liberal and in her own persone semly and bewteus … full gode and gracious.”4 Better testimonies are the spirit and planning that lay behind the chantry chapel founded for her father, Richard Beauchamp, at Warwick, and the “Beauchamp Pageant,” a picture book celebrating his career, a gift for Queen Anne’s son, the Prince of Wales (Fig. 14.1).5 Anne Beauchamp’s household management skills, courtesy, and piety were passed on to her  John Rous, The Rous Roll, introd. Charles Ross (Gloucester: Sutton, 1980), para 62.  Rous Roll, para 56 (mother), 62 (Anne). 4  Rous Roll, para 56. 5  Beauchamp Pageant, BL Cotton MS Julius E iv. See: The Beauchamp Pageant, ed. Alexandra Sinclair (Donington: Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 2003). 2 3



Fig. 14.1  Anne Neville and her husbands in Pageant 55, “The Descendants of the Countess Anne.” BL Cotton MS Julius E IV/3, fol. 28r. (© British Library Board)



daughters. Anne Neville’s future husband, Richard of Gloucester, also benefited from her mother’s tuition while he was in the Warwick household from the age of about eleven to fifteen (1463–1467); he visited Warwick Castle in 1464–1465 and offered at the altar of St Mary’s church in the presence of the earl and countess.6 At some point “Anne Warrewyk” signed a copy of the “Booke of Gostlye Grace” of Mechtild of Hackeborn, and under this was written “R Gloucestre”; this book of devotional visions may have been a gift from the countess.7 In 1466 he and Anne attended the enthronement feast of George Neville as archbishop of York and sat at the same table,8 but neither appear to have been present at other ceremonies of this period. It is likely Richard left the Warwick household not long after, because the tension between Warwick and Edward IV was coming to a head. Differences of opinion over foreign policy may have begun the split, but the King’s secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville forged it. In Burgundy, Warwick’s displeasure led to a rumour that he was trying to beguile the King’s two brothers into marriage with his daughters; the King retorted by arresting the two boys.9 It is not certain that Warwick was planning such marriages in 1464–1465, but the union between Anne’s elder sister, Isabel, and George, Duke of Clarence, Edward IV’s brother, did come about. The Earl probably tricked Edward’s proctor at the papal court into obtaining dispensations,10 and the two were married at Calais Castle on 11 July 1469. The Earl was now in open rebellion: he returned to England, leaving his wife and daughters safely at Calais, where he was captain.

6  Cora L. Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward the Fourth, 2 vols. (London: Longmans, 1923), 1:216n6. M.A.  Hicks, False, Fleeting, Perjur’d Clarence: George Duke of Clarence 1449–1478 (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1980), 26. 7  This is the name and title of the Countess, not those of her daughter, Richard’s wife (Anne Gloucester). No signatures survive for comparison. Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-­ Fuchs, Richard III’s Books (Gloucester: Sutton, 1997), 46–50. 8  John Leland, De Rebus Britannicis Collectanea, ed. Thomas Hearne, 6 vols. (London, 1774), 6:3. 9  Jean de Wavrin, Anchiennes Cronicques d’Engleterre par Jean de Wavrin, Seigneur de Forestel, ed. Emile Dupont, 3 vols. (Paris, 1858–1863), 2:334. 10  Scofield, Edward, 1:494–495.



Lancastrian Princess of Wales From this point Anne’s life was full of incident, none of her choosing.11 Her father had some success and even held the King prisoner for a while, and the Neville women were able to return home. After a half-hearted attempt at reconciliation, Warwick masterminded another rebellion and was forced to leave the country by mid-April 1470. He was convinced that he and his family, which included his now heavily pregnant elder daughter, Isabel, would be welcomed into Calais, but in fact his ships were driven off by gunfire. During this crisis Isabel gave birth to a son, who was stillborn or died immediately and was buried at sea. All the help the Earl received from the town was a gift of wine and the advice to take refuge in France. As a consequence, the Neville family, including Anne and her mother and sister, remained at sea for a dangerous couple of weeks, while Warwick’s fleet preyed on foreign shipping, especially Burgundian. Early in May 1470 he finally took refuge at Honfleur, in the mouth of the Seine. There were three main protagonists in the frenzied diplomacy that followed: Louis XI of France, whose aim was the destruction of the Duke of Burgundy and the confiscation of his lands, for which the quarrelsome English made perfect tools; Warwick, who desired revenge on Edward IV; and Margaret of Anjou, queen of the deposed Henry VI, who sought to regain the English throne for her husband and her only son, Edward of Lancaster. Edward IV and Charles of Burgundy, brothers-in-law and members of each other’s orders of chivalry, could only wait and be prepared. On the side-lines, the Duke of Clarence found himself to be of no importance, while his sister-in-law, Anne, became a crucial pawn in the negotiations. Clarence and Warwick were eventually received by Louis XI’s representatives but the King remained indecisive, fearing Burgundian counter-­ measures which might lead to war. Louis, however, needed Warwick for 11  For this section, see: Scofield, Edward, vol. 1; Journal de Jean de Roye (Chronique Scandaleuse), ed. Bernard de Mandrot, 2 vols. (Paris, 1894); Philippe de Comines, Mémoires de Messire Philippe de Comines, ed. Pierre Nicolas Lenglet Du Fresnoy and Denis Godefroy, 4 vols. (Paris, 1747); Joseph Vaesen, Étienne Charavay, and Bernard de Mandrot, eds., Lettres de Louis XI, 11 vols. (Paris, 1883–1909); Calendar of State Papers Milan, Volume 1, ed. Allen B. Hinds (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1913), 28 July, 14 September; Joseph Louis Antoine Calmette and Georges Périnelle, Louis XI et l’Angleterre (1461–1483) (Paris: Auguste Picard, 1930); Wavrin, Chronicques; Jean de Bourdigné, Hystoire Agrégative d’Anjou (Angers/Paris, 1529).



his schemes. A meeting with Margaret of Anjou was already being planned, however, and Louis was willing to welcome and entertain the Neville ladies, either in Normandy or at Amboise, one of his favourite castles on the Loire, where, as he wrote succinctly, “they would be no worse off than [his] queen.”12 On 8 June, Louis at last met the Englishmen at Amboise. He made them very welcome and for four days there was feasting and jousting. On 12 June Clarence went back to Normandy, where the Neville ladies still were, and Warwick also departed, leaving the King to receive Queen Margaret and her son to “soften her up” for the forthcoming negotiations. Shortly before 23 June Louis and Margaret concluded a treaty in which the King promised to aid and assist her in every possible way against Edouard de la Marche (as they called Edward IV); Warwick was probably not mentioned in this document, let alone Clarence, and there was no reference yet to the marriage that would tie Warwick securely to the Lancastrian cause. It took another month before Margaret was willing to make the concessions demanded of her and agree to an alliance with the man who had been a cause of her husband’s downfall and had called her a whore and her son a bastard.13 On 25 July, however, Louis was able to report in his usual colourful manner: “Today we have made the marriage between the queen of England and him [Warwick].”14 Warwick had taken an oath promising to serve Henry VI, his wife, and son, loyally for the rest of his life and on or before 30 July Louis, and his brother, Charles, Duke of Guienne, took a similar oath, promising to harbour and protect their “very dear and beloved cousin Anne,” her husband, and any children they might have, until Henry VI was restored.15 On 28 July Anne herself was finally sent for: she was betrothed to Edward of Lancaster in the cathedral of St Maurice at Angers, probably on 30 July. A dispensation was still needed, however, as bride and groom were blood relations within the prohibited degrees, and waiting for such a

 Comines, Mémoires, 3:124–125.  For her objections, see: The Politics of Fifteenth-Century England: John Vale’s Book, ed. Margaret Lucille Kekewich, Colin Richmond, Anne F. Sutton, Livia Visser-Fuchs, and John L. Watts (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1995), 215–218. 14  Vaesen, Lettres, 4:131. 15  M. Champollion-Figeac ed., Lettres des Rois, Reines et Autres Personnages des Cours de France et d’Angleterre (Paris, 1847), 2:488–491. 12 13



document may have caused more delay.16 Anne’s reactions and the role of her mother as her adviser are unknown and were irrelevant: she was to be “in the hands and keeping” of her mother-in-law and the marriage was not to take place until her father had recovered England or “the most party therof.”17 Warwick left the next day for Normandy to prepare for his expedition; he sailed for England on 9 September. Edward IV fled the country on 2 October. By 6 October, Henry had been delivered from prison, on 8 October Warwick wrote to Louis that the whole kingdom was now under his control—but still Louis kept Margaret and her party in France. On 13 November he authorised an embassy to England with instructions to ask for an offensive alliance against Burgundy, thereby returning to the real purpose behind his hospitality. Warwick was to be promised the counties of Holland and Zeeland from the spoils. Meanwhile the small Lancastrian court in exile, with Anne and her mother in their midst, was well cared for, but kept out of the way at the minor castle of Razilly near Chinon, where, on 29 September, Louis sent a little box of medicinal herbs to the Prince of Wales, which suggests that either Edward or his fiancée were ill.18 Once Warwick was known to be victorious, the English party was entertained at greater expense: in November and December, £3830 were spent on their adornment and entertainment. Eventually Margaret of Anjou, her son, his future wife, and her mother travelled to Paris, where they were received by an array of dignitaries, rode through streets hung with tapestries and stayed at the royal residence. Such luxury did not come free: on 28 November Edward of Lancaster had to sign a treaty that committed him to the joint conquest, with King Louis, of all the lands and lordships of the Duke of Burgundy. The prince’s own copy of this promise was later found in his luggage and used by Edward IV to shock Burgundian sentiment. Some chroniclers related its existence closely to Edward of Lancaster’s marriage to Warwick’s daughter, which did finally take place on or before 13 December. Contemporaries were amazed by Warwick marrying his two daughters into opposing parties: Philippe de Comines, no stranger to opportunism himself, called it “a strange marriage”; Georges Chastelain, the Burgundian

16  Peter D. Clarke, “English Royal Marriages and the Papal Penitentiary in the Fifteenth Century,” English Historical Review 120, no. 488 (September 2005): 1014–1029. 17  John Vale’s Book, 218. 18  BnF ms. fr. 6758, fol. 67.



court chronicler, wrote of “marvellous intrigues and duplicity” that showed that the Earl’s “honour was of little value to him.”19 On 19 October 1470 Louis sent triumphant letters to his towns notifying them of Henry’s restoration. Relations between the new Lancastrian court and the French were cordial and several treaties were concluded. Finally Anne Neville, with her husband and mother-in-law, could depart for England the following spring. They were sent on their way with presents of money and wine from Louis and to his “unspeakable satisfaction.”20 After delays caused by contrary winds, they landed at Weymouth on 13 or 14 April—and found they were too late. Edward IV, with financial and military aid from his brother-in-law of Burgundy, had sailed for the north of England in early March, triumphantly progressed south, receiving his discontented brother Clarence back into the family fold, and on Easter Sunday, 14 April 1471, defeated Warwick in battle at Barnet near London, where the Earl perished. Within days Anne learned she had lost her father, that her sister and brother-in-law had joined the opposite side, and her mother, who had landed in another ship, had retired to sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey. Queen Margaret and her party moved north to Cerne Abbey, where they met Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and John Courtenay, Earl of Devon, who had failed to confront Edward IV, but now promised their support to Margaret and her son. Margaret’s councillors argued that a large army could still be gathered, partly from Wales, where Henry VI’s half-brother, Jasper Tudor, was preparing to come to her aid, so they marched north, collecting men as they went. Edward IV moved to confront them and, after an exhausting march, both armies came to Tewkesbury, late on Friday, 3 May 1471. Early next morning, while Margaret, her daughter-in-law and her ladies took shelter in a nearby religious house, Anne’s future husband, the Duke of Gloucester, opened the battle. The Yorkist army was not at first successful, but in the end the Lancastrians had to give way and fled towards the town and the river Avon, where many died. Edward of Lancaster was probably killed in the chaos of the flight; the other commanders of the Lancastrian army were either killed in the field or executed after the battle. Margaret, Anne, and their ladies tried to escape to Wales, but were discovered in a small religious house, probably Little Malvern Priory; their company included 19  Georges Chastelain, Oeuvres, ed. Joseph Kervyn de Lettenhove, 8 vols. (Brussels, 1833–1836), 5:467. 20  Calmette and Périnelle, Louis XI, 134n1, 136n4, 136n5.



two Provencal ladies, Marie d’Anjou, Dowager Countess of Devon, and Katherine Panizzone, whose husband, William Vaux, had been killed in the battle. Anne was alone among these “foreign” ladies, who were dedicated to Margaret of Anjou’s service. Because they were foreign, it is likely they had to share Margaret’s humiliation and take part in the King’s triumphant entry into London; Anne was presumably regarded as an innocent party; she passed quietly into the household of her sister, Isabel, and her brother-in-law, George of Clarence. Her position was ambiguous, because it was possible that she was carrying a Lancastrian heir. By late May, Henry VI was also dead and a child of Anne would have created a dangerous situation for all concerned.

Duchess of Gloucester Time revealed that this particular problem did not exist, but Anne’s tribulations were not over and her role as pawn continued: When the son of King Henry, to whom the Lady Anne, the younger daughter of the Earl of Warwick was married, had been killed in the battle of Tewkesbury, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, wanted this same Anne as his wife. This wish did not suit the plans of his brother, the Duke of Clarence … he had the girl hidden away so that his brother would not know where she was, for he feared that the inheritance, which he wanted to come to himself alone by right of his wife, would be divided and he did not wish to share it with anyone. The cleverness of the Duke of Gloucester was even greater, however: he found the girl dressed as a kitchen-maid in the city of London and had her brought to the sanctuary of St Martin’s.21

Richard was right to put Anne in sanctuary without delay, for any rumour of her being abducted or forced would have made a marriage impossible under canon law. As it was, Richard and Anne, like Isabel and Clarence, needed several dispensations, because they were closely related, not only by blood but also by affinity, a relationship created by Anne marrying

21  The Crowland Chronicle Continuations, 1459–1486, ed. Nicholas Pronay and John Cox (London: Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 1986), 132; Richard III’s Books, 241–242.



Edward of Lancaster.22 Not all dispensations survive,23 but there is little doubt that the couple received the proper licences at some point and no doubt at all that they did marry—perhaps in early 147324 and perhaps in St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster. Whatever Anne’s personal feelings, at least she was no longer in the hands of uninterested and preoccupied foreigners, but among people she knew and presumably trusted. The newly wedded couple was now free to move north. On 3 June 1473 Sir John Paston wrote, “the Cowntesse off Warwyk is now owt of Beweley Seyntwarye, and Sir James Tyrell conveyth hyr northwarde, men seye by the Kynges assent, wherto som men seye that the Duke of Clarence is not agreyd.”25 At some unknown date Anne Neville’s first and apparently only child was born at Middleham and named for his uncle Edward. Anne Beauchamp was known for her special skill in assisting with childbirth and may have attended her daughter for this occasion.26 The education of her son would have largely been in Anne Neville’s charge, and his governess was another Anne, the widow of Peter Idley, a minor official. She is an intriguing choice because her husband composed a verse “Instructions to his Son,” an engaging text full of good advice and information—living with its author may well have made Anne Idley a lively instructress.27 The Duchess of Gloucester was not named among those present at the royal ceremonies of the next decade, such as the wedding of the King’s five-year-old son, Richard, but her husband frequently played an important role and it is probably mere negligence of the narrators that her name is missing. It is known, for example, that in December 1476 and January 1477, furs and silk were bought by Richard from London merchants for “his most dearly beloved consort” and those dates would fit perfectly with 22  That the groom’s brother was married to the bride’s sister was not seen as an impediment, pace Hicks and others, Marie Barnfield, “Diriment Impediments, Dispensations and Divorce: Richard III and Matrimony,” The Ricardian 17 (2007): 84–98, esp. 86, 89; Annette Carson and Marie Barnfield, “The Marriage of Lady Anne Neville and Richard, Duke of Gloucester,” Ricardian Bulletin (December 2016): 46–52. 23  Clarke, “English Royal Marriages,” 1023–1024, 1023n42. Clarence and Isabel’s dispensation does not survive in the Vatican Archives either. 24  Carson and Barnfield, “Marriage,” 49. 25  The Paston Letters, 1422–1509, ed. J. Gairdner, 3 vols. (London, 1872–1875), 3:92–93. 26  Rous Roll, para. 56. 27  Peter Idley’s Instructions to his Son, ed. Charlotte D’Evelyn (London: Oxford University Press, 1935); Anne F.  Sutton, “Anne and Peter Idley,” The Ricardian 5 (1979–1981): 402–403.



her wearing new clothes during the Christmas festivities.28 It is likely, however, that she spent much of her time at Middleham or Sheriff Hutton, ruling her large household and representing her husband when he was away.

Queen of England Anne’s life changed dramatically, again, in the spring of 1483, when Edward IV died, and her husband, after an attempt to support his young nephew as Edward V, decided the safest course for the country and for himself was to take the throne. The argument he used was that Edward IV’s children by his queen were illegitimate as a consequence of Edward’s earlier contract to marry another lady and his clandestine marriage to his queen. The combination of these occurrences could have made Edward’s children illegitimate in the eyes of the church.29 Anne was in London from 5 June, when preparations for Edward V’s coronation were underway; exactly a month later she and Richard rode in procession from the Tower to Westminster to be crowned. In the city, the monarchs stopped briefly to receive purses of gold and hear speeches. Anne wore the traditional white with her hair spread on her shoulders to represent her purity; she sat on cushions in a litter strung on poles between white palfreys; all the furnishings were white damask and white cloth of gold. The coronation followed on 6 July, a gruelling day with two robes for the Queen, the first of crimson velvet for her anointing and the other of purple velvet furred with ermine and miniver. The final event of the day was the coronation feast and the last ceremony, by candlelight, was the mayor of London exercising his ancient privilege of serving the monarchs with hippocras; the cups and the ewers were his fee. At some point before the ceremonies Richard and Anne had found time to exchange gifts of purple cloth of gold and purple velvet embroidered with garters and roses.30

28  Rosemary Horrox and Anne F. Sutton, “Some Expenses of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, 1475–1477,” The Ricardian 6 (1982–1984): 266–269. 29  Richard H. Helmholz, “The Sons of Edward IV: A Canonical Assessment of the Claim they were Illegitimate,” in Richard III: Loyalty, Lordship and Law, ed. P.W.  Hammond (1986; repr., London: Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 2000), 106–120. 30  The Coronation of Richard III: The Extant Documents, ed. Anne F.  Sutton and P.W. Hammond (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1983), esp. 19–46; gifts: 27.



After the coronation the new king went on a progress through the country to show himself to his people.31 Some days were spent at Greenwich, then Windsor, where the Queen stayed on while the King proceeded to Reading, Oxford, Gloucester, Tewkesbury, and Worcester and so to Warwick Castle, where Anne joined him again in early August. Attended by a considerable court of prelates, noblemen, and ladies, they received ambassadors from Isabella, Queen of Castile, who among other protestations of goodwill may have offered a Spanish marriage for Edward of Middleham.32 For the rest of the progress Anne is likely to have accompanied her husband, via Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, and Pontefract, where their son joined his parents, to honour the concourse of their northern lords and gentry, who had been summoned to this great castle.33 Afterwards they travelled to York, entering the city on Friday 29 August. In the well-­ established tradition for such princely entries, they were received outside the city gates by many dignitaries in their civic liveries, then rode along the streets hung with lengths of cloth and tapestries, past several pageants that honoured the visitors with suitable subjects, to the Minster, where they were welcomed by the Dean and Chapter and attended a service, recorded in detail. Two days later it was decided that Edward of Middleham should be installed as Prince of Wales in York during the present visit. The goods ordered from the Great Wardrobe in London included sumptuous clothes for the central figures, six banners with images of St Mary, the Trinity, the arms of Sts George, Edward, Cuthbert, and the King; four standards with white boars; over a thousand small pennons, 13,000 cloth boar badges to be handed out to servants and presumably to the citizens of York, and forty banners for trumpets. The Queen’s clothes came from her own wardrobe, of which no record survives, but it is known that she received a gift of a £100 in gold from the Mayor on behalf of the city of York. The city had earlier sent gifts of wine and fowl to Edward at Middleham.34 31  Rhoda Edwards, The Itinerary of King Richard III, 1483–1485 (London: The Richard III Society, 1983), 4–7. 32  John Rous, Historia Regum Angliæ, ed. Thomas Hearne (Oxford, 1745), 217; Muriel Smith, “England and Spain 1483: A Bride for Edward of Middleham?,” The Ricardian 6, no. 82 (September 1983): 229–234. 33  Rosemary Horrox and P.W. Hammond, eds., British Library Harleian Manuscript 433, 4 vols. (Gloucester: Richard III Society, 1979–1983), 2:10–11. 34  A. Compton Reeves, “King Richard III at York in Late Summer 1483,” The Ricardian 12, no. 159 (December 2002): 542–553.



After another twelve days of ceremonies, it is unlikely that the Queen and Prince accompanied the King to Pontefract where Richard himself stayed on for almost two weeks, before moving to Lincoln. Here, on 12 October, he learned about the rebellion that had been started in the south by Henry, Duke of Buckingham, his close associate since the death of Edward IV, which ended in the flight and execution of the leaders. On 25 November Richard was welcomed by the Mayor and Aldermen of London. Little is known about Anne’s life during these months—the role of a queen was to be dignified, calm, sympathetic, and oversee her household. If she came down to London, she had various places at her disposal. It is known that a “grete chamber” and a “prive kechon” had been planned for Queen Elizabeth Woodville in Westminster Palace as recently as 1482,35 and at Greenwich there was another, more pleasantly situated country seat, known as the Pleazance, which Edward had given to his queen and where the jousting on the occasion of the wedding of Edward’s son, Richard, had taken place.36 In early March Richard paid a formal visit to the University of Cambridge.37 Anne’s name is not mentioned in any of the surviving documents, but because of her connection to Queens’ College (see below) it is possible she was with him, and they were certainly together at Nottingham when the shattering news reached them that their only son and heir had died. Richard had a kingdom to rule and there is, for example, no break in the stream of letters that went out from his signet office,38 but how and where the Queen attempted to deal with her grief remains a mystery. It is, for example, unlikely that she was present when the Bohemian traveller Niclas von Popplau39 met Richard at York during the first days of May 1484. Von Popplau found the King outwardly relaxed and interested in  R. Allen Brown, History of the King’s Works, Volume 1 (London: HMSO, 1963), 537.  Edward Walford, “Greenwich: The Hospital for Seamen,” in Old London and New, Volume 6 (London, 1878), 165–166. 37  Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs, “‘As dear to him as the Trojans were to Hector’: Richard III and the University of Cambridge,” in Richard III and East Anglia: Magnates, Gilds and Learned Men, ed. Livia Visser-Fuchs (London: The Richard III Society, 2010), 112–126. 38  Harleian 433, 2:125–126. 39  Livia Visser-Fuchs, “‘He hardly touched his food, but talked with me all the time’: What Niclas von Popplau really wrote about Richard III,” The Ricardian 11, no. 145 (June 1999): 525–530. 35 36



everything he had to say about continental politics and in his turn telling his guest some interesting facts about England and English kingship. No word appears to have been said about his queen or the death of his son. Queen Anne joined her husband in London in December 1484 and stayed with him until her death. She attended the Christmas and New Year festivities, when by tradition gifts were exchanged including new clothes; it is this innocent, annual “change of clothes” that gave rise to one of the unpleasant myths about Richard III and his relationship with his wife. An anonymous cleric, who wrote an interesting but biased account of these years, felt compelled to criticise the seasonal levity: “that Christmas there was too much focus on singing and dancing and vain gifts of new dresses of the same colour and fashion to Queen Anne and to the Lady Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the deceased king [Edward IV].”40 The chronicler added that people thought that Richard was favouring his niece, because he meant to marry her as soon as his wife had died or he had divorced her. To think that the king would have shown his favour in such a crude way is as ridiculous as to assume it would have been the king rather than the queen who decided what clothes the women about her were to wear. If there is a core of truth in the story, it shows that Anne was on the best of terms with her husband’s niece. The rumours about Richard and his niece did exist, however—after Anne’s death he felt the need to deny them openly41—but the New Year’s story is the stuff of fiction. Anne fell gravely ill soon after the festivities, during which she may have exhausted herself, and on the basis of the details supplied by the chroniclers her symptoms can be readily diagnosed as tuberculosis, a common disease in the second half of the fifteenth century, easily contracted even by a woman in her privileged position, and brought to a head by the severe shock of her son’s death. She died on 16 March 1485; in the afternoon of that day there was a partial solar eclipse over England that lasted for about two hours. She was buried at Westminster Abbey, on the south side of the high altar; no contemporary monument to her remains.42 The Senate of Venice wrote a formal letter of consolation to Richard, expressing their 40  Crowland Chronicle, 174. The Latin does not say that Anne and Elizabeth were physically alike! 41  Acts of Court of the Mercers’ Company, 1453–1527, ed. Frank D.  Watney and Lætitia Lyell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1936), 173–174. 42  Paul Murray Kendall, Richard the Third (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1955), 325–328; Anne F. Sutton and P.H. Sutton, “The Death of Queen Anne Neville,” in Richard III, Crown and People, ed J. Petre (London: The Richard III Society, 1985), 16–17.



hope that the King’s wisdom would enable him to bear his grief calmly and find comfort in the fact that his queen had led a devout life and would leave an immortal name.43

The Household of the Duchess and the Queen The management of her ducal household was in Anne’s hands, from the kitchen to the hall, from the gardens to the private chambers. This was the standard control deputed to the wife of the lord, with many servants, male and female, in charge of departments within the whole. A clerk and secretary who might also be a chaplain was essential. Anne’s royal household reflected that of her northern establishment: men, but above all women—suitable girls and matrons—from northern families, and especially female Neville relatives.44 The record of those who attended the coronation suggests who were in attendance on Anne and Richard from the north and that overall it was a young household, where dancing and the making of marriages were regular occurrences. To start with Anne’s closest relations. Her bastard half-sister, Margaret, attended the coronation with her husband, Sir Richard Huddlestone— this family was close to the Gloucesters (see below), and an assumption of affection can be made for the women.45 Anne’s first cousins—there were thirty-seven46—were the children of her father’s brother and six sisters. The most important were the children of John Neville, Marquess Montagu, and his wife, the heiress Isabel Ingoldesthorp, and of Alice Neville, wife of Lord Fitzhugh (died 1472). John Neville left five daughters and a son, George, the male heir of the Neville line before he was disinherited by the treasons of his father and Anne’s. The five daughters expected dowries from their parents’ estates and co-inheritance of any estate left by their brother should he die without issue.47 From 1471 until the death of their mother, all these children would have remained in her keeping, but Isabel’s 43  Calendar of State Papers Venice, Volume 1, 1202–1509, ed. Rawdon Brown (London, 1864), 154. 44  Coronation, 83–85. Compare the household-accounts of Joan of Navarre, Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, and Elizabeth of York. 45  Coronation, 360. 46  David Baldwin, The Kingmaker’s Sisters: Six Powerful Women in the Wars of the Roses (Stroud: The History Press, 2009), 64–65. 47  For the girls and their several marriages, see: George E. Cockayne, The Complete Peerage, 13 vols. (London, 1887–1898), 9:93–94.



second marriage and then her death in 1477 as well as Richard of Gloucester’s acquisition of a marital household in 1473 made his household the most suitable place for them. The status and care of these children were under discussion by the mid-1470s: in 1477, young George was deprived of the dukedom of Bedford by Edward IV,48 and in 1480 the wardship of the six children was formally granted to Gloucester.49 The marriage of the second daughter, Elizabeth, had been arranged long before to Thomas, son and heir of Lord Scrope of Masham and Upsall, who was a ward of Gloucester;50 the young couple would then have lived in the Gloucesters’ household. Thomas was knighted during the Scots campaign, and both he and his wife attended Richard and Anne’s coronation and can be counted among their closest friends. 51 Ralph, brother of Thomas, was accepted by Richard III as a suitable husband for Cecily, second daughter of Edward IV.52 Only the eldest Neville daughter, Anne married outside the north, to Sir William Stonor, certainly with Gloucester’s consent. The fourth and fifth daughters were married under the direct influence of Richard and Anne: Lucy married Thomas Fitzwilliam of Aldwark, who was knighted by Richard during the Scots campaign 148153; the youngest, Isabel, married William Huddleston, a younger son of Sir John Huddlestone—already noted as a family close to the Gloucesters. The marital career of the third daughter, Margaret, is more obscure: her second marriage was to John Mortimer of Cure, one of Edward IV’s henchman in his youth, and then an esquire of the king’s body to Edward and Richard. While unmarried, these girls would have been part of the social life of the Gloucesters’ household and focussed on the Duchess for their daily routine. More of these women and their husbands must have attended the coronation than Lady Scrope of Masham, the only one recorded. Other Neville ladies present included Anne’s great-aunt, Katherine Duchess of Norfolk;  CP, 2:72–73.  Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III: 1476–1485 (London: HMSO, 1954), 192. 50  Lorraine C.  Attreed, “An Indenture between Richard Duke of Gloucester and the Scrope Family of Masham and Upsall,” Speculum 58, no. 4 (October 1983): 1018–1025; Rosemary Horrox, Richard III: A Study of Service (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 64. 51  Thomas Scrope: CP, 11:570. Coronation, 392–393. 52  Horrox, Richard III, 295. 53  CPR 1476–85, 487. 48 49



her aunt Alice, the widowed Lady Fitzhugh, her daughter Dame Elizabeth, wife of Sir William Parre, her son, Richard Lord Fitzhugh, and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Burgh, another marriage that certainly owed much to the Gloucesters, and most important the Fitzhughs’ daughter, Anne, wife of Francis, Lord Lovel, another close friend of Richard. The Fitzhughs formed as important an element in the ducal household as the Scropes of Masham, as relatives and associates in Wensleydale, and later in the court life of the King and Queen.54 The Fitzhughs also shared the pious concerns of their area of Yorkshire, in which the guild of Corpus Christi of York held a central place: Anne’s uncle, George Neville, had taken a leading role in its development when bishop-elect of Exeter and later archbishop of York, and it attracted as members Lady Fitzhugh and all her daughters, as well as Elizabeth, Lady Scrope. If better details about the Gloucesters’ household had survived, no doubt many of its members would be found in the guild’s register.55 Richard’s personal involvement with the reform of the Corpus Christi pageants, and his ownership of metrical paraphrases of Old Testament stories, a direct source for some of the York plays, is well known; he and Anne joined the guild in 1477, walked in its procession and attended the pageants.56 Relatives aside, there were the ladies who attended the Queen at her coronation and were undoubtedly in her household; they were mostly tied to her by their positions in northern society. Anne’s two chamberers and seven ladies-in-waiting were unnamed, but their identity can be assumed from those who received livery. The gentlewomen (unmarried or married to esquires) can be divided from the ladies (married to knights): Grace Mauleverer, wife John Poleyn of Scotton, a relative of Sir Robert Percy; Alice Skelton was probably a Skelton of Armathwaite; and Elizabeth, daughter of William Babthorpe of Countesthorpe was probably placed in the Gloucesters’ household after the death of the marchioness Montagu, like her daughters. The ladies included: Joyce Percy, second wife of Sir Robert, one of Richard’s closest knights; Elizabeth, wife of Sir Thomas Mauleverer; Dame Anne Tempest, not identified, probably a widow and  Coronation, esp. biographies.  Register of the Guild of Corpus Christi of the City of York, ed. Robert H. Skaife, Publications of the Surtees Society 57 (1872). 56  Richard Beadle, “Nicholas Lancaster, Richard of Gloucester and the York Corpus Christi Plays,” in The York Mystery Plays: Performance in the City, ed. Margaret Rogerson (Woodbridge: York Medieval Press, 2011), 44–46, 49n53 (present in 1484), 51–52 (metrical paraphrase). 54 55



certainly a woman of the north; and lastly, Lora, Lady Mountjoy, whose attendance on Queen Anne cannot be linked to the north. The men recorded in her household included northerners: Richard Scrope, her carver and younger brother of John, fifth Lord Scrope of Bolton, William Danyell, a yeoman of her horse, Thomas Hopton, a gentleman of her “chare” or “carriage” (brother of Sir William, the treasurer of Richard III’s household), and John Vavaser, a gentlemen of the queen’s chamber.57 Despite meagre information, the northern and Neville connection seems to have dominated. We know, too, that Anne enjoyed other attributes of a queen: she had a lion, who went on tour,58 and she had her own troupes of players and minstrels.59 A duchess or queen had to have ladies in her service, just as her husband had men, both young and old, and the household automatically became a place where marriages were made. This was a norm and must neither be despised nor passed over. The sheer number of young women at the court of Richard and Anne has been suggested by her Neville and Fitzhugh cousins, many of whom would have transferred from Wensleydale to Westminster in 1483. In 1484 the daughters of Edward IV joined this circle after an agreement had been reached with their mother that Richard maintain them in “Honest places of good name … and do … marry them to gentlemen born.”60 A corollary of this was that dancing and entertainment at court was a prerequisite, including the elaborate festivities such as those decried by the chronicler quoted above. Entertainment, including presiding over certain events, was part of the duty of a queen.

Piety and Patronage Patronage was a natural part of the life of a great lady: she was obliged to give to the Church and to the poor and to continue a family tradition of encouragement to learning, works of piety, and the arts. Book commissioning ran in both the Beauchamp and Neville families and fed into the education of the children in the household. Anne’s patronage can be

 Coronation, 83–84; and “Biographies,” 303–415.  Anne F. Sutton, “Lynn Episcopi, a Yorkist Port and Borough, With Particular Reference to the 1480s and the Reign of Richard III,” The Ricardian 25, no. 5 (June 2015): 43. 59  Coronation, 84. 60  Main points of agreement in Kendall, Richard the Third, 286–288; Harleian 433, 3:190. 57 58



glimpsed in surviving correspondence.61 She wrote to Richard Bell, Prior of Durham, over a desirable vicarage for an unnamed chaplain of hers in 1477, which led to the previous choice being jettisoned. In return, the Prior expected support from the Duchess and her husband in his own quarrel with Archbishop Booth of York over the same vicarage, and he took the opportunity to ask Anne to use her influence with Richard for the admission of a nephew into the Duke’s household. Another exchange between Duchess and Prior was her admittance to the confraternity of the priory in 1476. These exchanges show that as duchess and queen she had her own household officials, including a secretary. Bell was an ambitious, active man, and his efficiency in the running of all the establishments he commanded would have recommended him to Richard, who supported him as bishop of Carlisle. That the Duke and Duchess were at some time entertained at Rose Castle, Bell’s residence near Carlisle after his promotion in 1478, can be accepted.62 Bell was an old man when he attended the Prince of Wales’ investiture in York in 1483,63 and on that occasion, on 15 September 1483, Queen Anne was granted the next appointment to the mastership of the Hospital of St Mary in le Horsfair; three days later her choice, Dom William Cerff, monk of Melsa, was instituted.64 This small transaction shows the Queen operating as queen in the heart of her territory when her status was at its zenith. In York, as duchess and queen, she had the attention of all ecclesiastics. Her support can be understood for the continuation of St William’s College begun by her father and uncle as a common residence for the priests and chaplains of York Minster.65 George Neville, Archbishop of York from 1465 to 1476, is an intriguing and influential uncle of Anne and known to Richard from childhood. While Richard was establishing himself in the north and acquiring a Neville wife, this learned book collector was in captivity at Calais (1472–1474); he returned to England on 19 December 1474 and set out for York just before his death; his burial in his cathedral may have been attended by Richard. William Poteman was a 61  Barrie Dobson, “Richard Bell, Prior of Durham (1464–1478) and Bishop of Carlisle (1478–1495),” Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological and Architectural Society 65 (1965): 182–221. 62  James Wilson, Rose Castle (Carlisle: Charles Thurnam and Sons, 1912). 63  Dobson, “Bell,” 215. 64  The Register of Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York 1480–1500, Volume 1, ed. Eric E. Barker (Beeston: Canterbury and York Society, 1976), nos. 287, 288. 65  CPR 1461–1467, 47.



canon of York Minster and was well known to Richard and Anne. An early servant of George Neville, an archdeacon (1470–1493), and vicar general for Archbishop Rotherham, he also served as a negotiator with the Scots and supported Richard’s plans for a college of a hundred chaplains in York.66 As lady of Glamorgan (from her Despenser grandmother), the appointment of a chaplain to the church of Holy Cross, Cowbridge, was also important to Anne67 and surely she was involved in the charity that lay behind the setting up of her arms with two bear supporters under a ducal coronet in Malvern Priory.68 To show interest was part of her role as duchess. Her interest can be assumed for the establishment of Middleham parish church as a college, as well as a respect for William Beverley the rector, though she plays no role in the surviving records. Only the many female saints, including some unusual ones, in this foundation, and the parallel foundation at Barnard Castle, speak directly of female influence. They were Katherine, Margaret, Barbara, Martha, Winifred, Ursula, Dorothy, Radegund, Agnes, Agatha, Apollonia, Sitha, Clare, and Mary Magdalene.69 The liturgy of both these foundations was to benefit from a connection with Queens’ College Cambridge, and here Anne’s patronage can be glimpsed from the new name of the “College of Queen Anne, St Margaret and St Bernard,” which honoured her as its main benefactor—she was dying and this was to be her chantry. Richard’s own connection to the college had begun in the mid-1470s, and a man of such persuasive charm as Andrew Doket, President of Queens’, would not have neglected the heiress-duchess. The additional foundation began in 1483 and was then speeded up by the death of the Prince of Wales and probably by Anne’s knowledge that she was dying. Additional scholars and priests were to be supported by income from the Beauchamp and Neville estates; their prayers were to include the ancestors of both Richard and Anne—Neville and Beauchamp.70 66  Barrie Dobson, “The Residentiary Canons of York in the Fifteenth Century,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 30, no. 2 (April 1979): 145–173 (Poteman 1468–1493), 171 (college). 67  King Richard III and Holy Cross Church Cowbridge (Cowbridge: Glamorgan Archive Service, 1984). 68  Thomas Abingdon, “An Account of Great Malvern Priory,” in The Antiquities of the Cathedral Church of Worcester (London, 1717), 218. 69  William Atthill, ed., Documents relating to the Foundation of the Collegiate Church of Middleham (London, 1847); Richard III’s Books, 61–64. 70  Sutton and Visser-Fuchs, “As dear to him as the Trojans,” 105–142, esp. 129 (new name).



All kings and queens had epitaphs, reciting their descent and virtues. Anne’s does not survive. A poet of her time would have catalogued her female virtues by rote: wise and gentle, mild and merciful, comely and courteous, pleasant and demure. An anonymous contemporary composed an elegy that would have been splendidly appropriate for Anne. The poet castigates Death: To represse so noble so gentle a creature In tendir age untymely, agayn the ordre of nature. O myghty lord, wos goodnesse never schal fynyse, Have mercy on the soule of my dere maistresse! … Of lordis lyne & lynage sche was, here sche lyse! Bounteuus, benigne, enbleshed wyth beaute, Sage, softe and sobre and gentyll in al wyse, Florishyng and fecunde wyth fememyn beaute, Meke, mylde and merciful, of pite sche bar the prise, Comely, kynde and curteis, in nobleye of nurture, Vernant in alle vertu, plesaunt and demure.71

71  “On the Untimely Death of a Fair Lady,” in Religious Lyrics of the Fifteenth Century, ed. Carleton Brown (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939), no. 153, lines 34–37, 43–49 (241–243), and introd., xxviii, “a rare personal elegy in English.”


Epilogue: Foreign Women as Consorts Elena Woodacre

A clear thread connecting the English consorts of the high and later Middle Ages is that the vast majority were of foreign origin. England was not unusual in this regard, for as Robert Bartlett notes in his evaluation of dynastic politics in medieval Europe, in most kingdoms “the foreign queen was the rule not the exception.”1 As Table  15.1 demonstrates, of the roughly twenty consorts between 1066 and the end of the Plantagenet dynasty in 1485, seventeen came from outside of the British Isles—most from France (from the royal family or from regions that are part of modern France), with three brides each from the Low Countries and Iberia and Anne of Bohemia from Central Europe. Margaret of Scotland was a semi-English bride as her mother came from the House of Wessex, but

 Robert Bartlett, Blood Royal: Dynastic Politics in Medieval Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), 15. See also his excellent map demonstrating the matrimonial connections between several European kingdoms between 1200 and 1500 on page 16. 1

E. Woodacre (*) University of Winchester, Winchester, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




Table 15.1  Natal origins of English consorts, 1066–1485 Consort


Matilda of Flanders Matilda of Scotland Adeliza of Louvain Matilda of Boulogne Eleanor of Aquitaine Margaret of France Berengaria of Navarre Isabella of Angoulême Eleanor of Provence Eleanor of Castile Margaret of France Isabella of France Philippa of Hainault Anne of Bohemia Isabella of Valois Joan of Navarre Katherine of Valois Margaret of Anjou Elizabeth Woodville Anne Neville

Low Countries British Isles (royal) Low Countries France (noble) France (noble) France (royal) Iberia France (noble) France (noble) Iberia France (royal) France (royal) Low Countries Central Europe France (royal) Iberia/France (royal) France (royal) France (noble) British Isles (subject/noble) British Isles (subject/noble)

after her death in 1118, it was nearly 350 years until another “native” queen appeared, with the advent of Elizabeth Woodville in 1464.2 Elizabeth Woodville and her successor Anne Neville represented a seismic shift in two ways: they were both native brides and noblewomen who were their husband’s subjects rather than foreign princesses. While not all foreign consorts were the daughters of kings, they were generally the progeny of sovereign or semi-sovereign lords, such as the Duke of Aquitaine and the counts of Hainault and Provence. In contrast, Elizabeth and Anne were selected for personal reasons or internal politics, rather than contracting foreign alliances across the Channel. Moreover, they heralded a new era in English queenship where old traditions of foreign brides were reversed—from the start of Elizabeth Woodville’s tenure in 1464 2  To note: although she is rightly included in the previous volume of this series as a consort, I am excluding Isabella of Gloucester, first wife of King John, from this particular list as their marriage was annulled soon after his accession and thus she did not fully exercise the queen’s office. However, I am including Margaret of France, wife of Henry the Young King, as he was crowned in his father’s lifetime making her a queen, even if her exercise of the office was restricted by the concurrent tenure of her mother-in-law, Eleanor of Aquitaine.



until the death of her grandson Henry VIII in 1547, only two of the nine consorts in this period came from abroad. However, this era of “native brides” proved short lived: from 1554 until 1936, all of the consorts— male and female—were foreign, from Philip II of Spain to Mary of Teck. The beginning of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon’s tenure in 1936 could be seen as the start of a new era of “native” consorts—with the possible exception of the Duke of Edinburgh, depending on how you define his national origins—as both Charles III and William, Prince of Wales, have married English women. This Epilogue will reflect on the situation of foreign women as consorts, looking primarily at the women in this volume, and discussing the impact of the shift that occurred at the end of our period, moving from the predominance of foreign princesses in favour of more native consorts.

Foreign Brides: Bringers of Peace or War? Foreign consorts are the result of matrimonial diplomacy, using dynastic marriages as a means to create physical bonds of alliance between two houses.3 As Christian Raffensberger rightly argues, “One of the main reasons for dynastic marriages in the medieval world was conflict—finding or creating allies against a common enemy, mobilizing reinforcements, or making peace to end a battle or a war.”4 Philippa of Hainault’s marriage to Edward III is a perfect example of matrimonial alliances designed to bring key military and political support—as Mark Ormrod notes in his chapter on Philippa in this volume, her marriage brought with it the assistance of her uncle John to enable Isabella of France’s invasion of England to overthrow Edward II in 1326. Beyond conflict, these marriages could have other diplomatic motivations as well such as building a wider network of alliances in order to ward off aggression from other realms. Marriage to a foreign consort could also be a means of bolstering one’s position, particularly when a monarch was the first of a new dynasty or their claim to the throne was questionable. As discussed in the chapter on Joan of Navarre, Henry IV’s primary reason for selecting her as a consort 3  An excellent theoretical survey of this matrimonial strategy can be found in Heinz Duchhardt, “The Dynastic Marriage,” European History Online (2011), 4  Christian Raffensberger, Reimagining Europe: Kievan Rus’ in the Medieval World, 988–1146 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), 73.



may have been the prestige of her international ties and royal blood to enhance his own majesty and counteract his position as a usurper in the eyes of many. After the death of Anne Neville in March 1485, Richard III immediately began to explore possible marriages with foreign brides including Juana of Portugal and Isabel, daughter of the Reyes Católicos, Isabel I of Castile, and Fernando II of Aragon.5 These foreign princesses would have enhanced his unstable position not only through their unquestionably royal status, but also through the Lancastrian blood that they carried, which gave them a distant claim on the English throne to reinforce his own. Yet kings could choose internal brides for similar purposes—Henry VII married Elizabeth of York in 1485 to bolster his own shaky claim on the throne—hers was arguably stronger as the eldest child of Edward IV. The dominance of French consorts was a product of the political landscape of the period. However, we do need to take a moment to reflect on what we mean by “French.” Over the course of the Middle Ages, the territory physically held by the King of France and the areas under his suzerainty shifted considerably. What we now define as France does not necessarily reflect the wider “French orbit” of its political and cultural influence. Brides that we think of as being from Iberia or the Low Countries might have seen themselves as “French,” while women from some of the regions of modern France might have bristled to be called “French.” One example of a complex sense of “national” identity is Joan of Navarre—her father was of primarily Capetian origin, while her mother was a Valois princess. Joan clearly spoke French and signed herself as “Jehanne” not Juana—it is unclear how “Iberian” she might have felt. The Angevins or early Plantagenets themselves may have seen themselves as “French” given their origins in Normandy and being the counts of Anjou—indeed they held more lands in modern France at one point than did the King of France himself. With this in mind—and if we also consider Flanders, Louvain, and Hainault as being in the “French orbit”—that makes the foreign consorts of the Middle Ages predominantly French. In the earlier part of the period, they might have been less “foreign” in the eyes of the kings they married or to their English subjects. Indeed, it must be noted that the whole idea of foreignness and what that meant in the Middle Ages, including the language associated with the concept such as “alien,” “stranger,” and the idea of the “other,” has been a subject of 5  Michael Hicks, Richard III: The Self-Made King (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), 368.



much research and debate.6 Thus, it is important to note the working definition of “foreign” in play here—a consort whose birth or origins were outside of England. Again, in our particular volume, this means the first seven of the consorts, from Isabella of France to Margaret of Anjou, would be classed as “foreign,” while the last two, Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville would be defined as “native” as both were born on English soil. With these caveats or definitions in place, we can return to evaluating the reasons for the preponderance of brides from France and the “French orbit.” France was not only England’s near neighbour but its rival—thus the need to contract matrimonial alliances with the Capetian and Valois kings in order to keep or make peace between them after periods of conflict. Indeed, conflict with France dominates the first section of this volume as the lives of the consorts during this period were all concurrent with the Hundred Years’ War. It could be strongly argued that the advent of the Hundred Years’ War itself stems from the marriage of the first consort in this volume, Isabella of France. As Elizabeth A.R. Brown notes, while the marriage of Isabella and Edward II was “arranged by Boniface VIII in 1298 to bring peace to the two kingdoms, the union signally failed to accomplish this goal”—in both the short and long term.7 Part of the problem, as Brown notes, was the issue of Gascony—territory that the English held thanks to Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage to Henry II in 1152. While Isabella proved to be an active diplomatic agent between England and France, as Michael Evans notes in his chapter in this volume, her marriage to Edward could not solve the underlying tension between the kings of England and France over Gascony—the French kings resented the English presence in this strategic region, while the English kings resented the need to pay homage to the French king for their lands across the Channel. The marriage not only failed to defuse the long-standing hostility between England and France, it provided the basis for further, more intensive 6  Wider examples of literature in this area include: Meredith Cohen and Justine FirnhaberBaker, eds., Difference and Identity in Francia and Medieval France (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010); and Albrecht Classen, ed., Meeting the Foreign in the Middle Ages (London: Routledge, 2002). For more specific examples related to medieval England, see: W. Rothwell, “‘Strange’, ‘Foreign’ and ‘Alien’: The Semantic History of Three Quasi-Synonyms in a Trilingual Medieval England,” The Modern Language Review 105, no. 1 (2010): 1–19. On issues of language, see: W. Mark Ormrod, Bart Lambert, and Jonathan Mackman, Immigrant England, 1300–1550 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019), 12–41. 7  Elizabeth A.R. Brown “The Political Repercussions of Family Ties in the Early Fourteenth Century: The Marriage of Edward II of England and Isabelle of France,” Speculum 63, no. 3 (1988): 574.



conflict as Isabella of France’s claim to the French throne, though later invalidated by the so-called Salic Law, provided justification for her son Edward III and several English kings descended from her to repeatedly invade France during the Hundred Years’ War.8 Yet this conflict also created the need for more marriages with France in attempts to end periods of conflict and repair relations between the two kingdoms. Isabella of Valois’s marriage to Richard II is an example of the latter—even though as Louise Tingle notes in her chapter on Isabella in this volume, the kingdoms were at peace when her marriage was negotiated, the matrimonial bond was seen as a means of preventing a return to hostilities. Yet conflict did return—Isabella’s brief tenure as Richard II’s child bride meant that their marriage was unable to secure long-term peace between France and England. Her sister Katherine’s marriage to Henry V in 1420 was a key element of the Treaty of Troyes that brought an end to the intense period of war, which included Henry’s momentous victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Indeed, the first clause of the treaty is focused on the marriage, stressing the ways in which the creation of familial ties between the Kings of England and France would ensure peace and the protection of the defeated French king by his new son-in law: First, that since by the alliance of marriage made, for the benefit of the said peace, between our son, King Henry and our most dear and beloved daughter, Katherine, he has become son of both us and our most dear and beloved consort, the queen, our son will hold and honour us and our consort as father and mother as is fitting, as such great princes and princesses and before all other temporal persons in this world.9 8  For further discussion of Edward III and the impact of his claim to France from Isabella in the Hundred Years’ War, see: John le Patourel, “Edward III and the Kingdom of France” in The Wars of Edward III: Sources and Interpretations, ed. Clifford J. Rogers (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1999), 247–264. 9  “Treaty of Troyes, 21 May 1420,” in Rymer’s Foedera, Volume 9, ed. Thomas Rymer (London, 1739–1745), Original Latin: “Inprimis, quia per Foedus Conjugii, pro Bono dictae Pacis initi, inter praefatum carissimum Filium nostrum Regem Henricum, & carissimam Filiam nostram Katherinam, ipse Nobis atque carissimae Consorti nostrae Ysabellae effectus est Filius; idcirco Nos & praefatam Consortem nostram ut Patrem & Matrem suos habebit & venerabitur, & ut decet venerari tales & tantos Principem & Principissam, imo prae cunctis aliis Personis Temporalibus Mundi.” Text above from the translated full text of the treaty in Anne Curry, “Two Kingdoms, One King: The Treaty of Troyes and the Creation of a Double Monarchy of England and France,” in The Contending Kingdoms: France and England, 1420–1700, ed. Glenn Richardson (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 35–41.



This connection between marriage and peace was further underlined at the banquet to celebrate Katherine’s coronation where one of the decorations proclaimed “par marriage pur, ce guerre ne dure” or “by this pure marriage, war will not last.”10 Yet while her son Henry VI had a claim to the French throne through two queens of England—his mother as well as his paternal great-great-great grandmother Isabella of France—he held the “dual monarchy” of England and France only temporarily. Henry’s position in France deteriorated rapidly in the face of Charles VII’s advances and ultimately, he too made a marriage with the object of repairing relations with France. Yet Henry did not marry the French king’s daughter, but the French queen’s niece—Margaret of Anjou, daughter of René, Duke of Anjou, Lorraine, and Bar who tenuously claimed the thrones of Naples, Sicily, and Jerusalem. Still, her marriage was part of peace negotiations between France and England and the pageants held for her arrival in England demonstrated the expectation that Margaret would bring peace between the two nations—a heavy burden for a young foreign consort to bear.11 However, as with the other French marriages surveyed here, this union was also unable to guarantee peace which made it unpopular in many quarters—as Ralph Griffiths notes “when it became clear … that no final treaty was forthcoming but merely a short-term truce that was just as likely to give the French opportunity to strengthen themselves as it would give the English a much-needed breathing-space, hostility to the match would probably increase even among those who had previously been ­prepared to tolerate it.”12 As Carole Levin’s chapter in this volume shows, Margaret became a focus for anger as relations with France once again deteriorated, as it was felt that she had failed as a guarantor of peace and had brought no discernible political advantage or even a financial one as Margaret brought a “meagre dowry of 20,000 francs”—considered to be insufficient for a royal consort.13 Marriages could also worsen relations with France: for example, Henry IV’s secret matrimonial negotiations with Joan of Navarre, first cousin of  Curry, “Two Kingdoms,” 30.  Helen Maurer and B.M. Cron, eds., The Letters of Margaret of Anjou (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2019), 173. 12  Ralph A. Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI: The Exercise of Royal Authority (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), 482. 13  Margaret L.  Kekewich, The Good King: René of Anjou and Fifteenth Century Europe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 94. Griffiths notes that Margaret’s paltry dower “attracted criticism and adverse comment after 1445.” Griffiths, Henry VI, 490. 10 11



the French king, caused an uproar in Paris when they were revealed as a fait accompli. Far from securing peace with her Valois relatives or with Brittany, where her young son reigned as Duke Jean V, Henry and Joan’s marriage led to a deterioration of Anglo-French relations and war with Brittany. Like her successor, Margaret of Anjou, Joan’s lack of dowry and the fact that her tenure as consort brought increased political tension, rather than peaceful cross-Channel relations, did not make her popular with her subjects. While Elizabeth Woodville’s marriage to Edward IV did not directly provoke war on the continent, it also had a negative impact on relations with France as negotiations had been in train for Edward to marry a French princess when he decided to marry Elizabeth instead.14 Their surprise marriage was not only a repudiation of a French bride, it was also an insult and embarrassment to the Earl of Warwick who had put considerable effort into negotiating the match. This in turn led to Warwick’s alienation and eventual rupture with Edward, causing internal conflict and civil war, rather than war with France.

Ties That Bind or Divided Loyalties? Examining Dynastic Connections An interesting dynamic when looking at these foreign brides is that while many were strangers to England’s shores, they were not necessarily strangers to one another as many were closely related to their predecessors or successors in the queen’s office. Given the somewhat incestuous nature of royal marriages and the dominance of brides from the French orbit, this is perhaps not surprising, but it is worthy of greater reflection. The first queen in this volume, Isabella of France, followed her aunt, Margaret, second wife of Edward I—Margaret was still alive when Isabella became queen consort in 1308. Indeed, Margaret travelled back to France for the wedding and presumably would have played a key role in inducting her niece into the queen’s office.15 Isabella’s daughter-in-law, Philippa of Hainault, was also her cousin—Philippa’s mother was Jeanne de Valois, sister of Philip VI of France, the first Valois king. Laura Slater has demonstrated that the close family ties between these three queens can be seen in 14  For a brief overview of the various foreign matches planned for Edward IV, see: Charles Ross, Edward IV (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 84–85. 15  Lisa Benz St. John, Three Medieval Queens: Queenship and the Crown in FourteenthCentury England (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 120.



their shared patronage of Greyfriars in London, which Margaret and Isabella particularly used as a means of articulating their shared Capetian heritage through the design, continuing traditions of close ties between the Franciscans and French royal women.16 While Philippa of Hainault was not directly related to her successor, her grandson’s bride Anne of Bohemia, there is an interesting connection to be found between their families. Philippa’s sister Margaret became Holy Roman Empress when she married Louis IV in 1324—she was crowned in Rome alongside her husband in 1328, the same year that Philippa married Edward III. Louis’s successor was Anne of Bohemia’s father, who became Emperor Charles IV—however, he came from a different dynasty. Charles was the first emperor from the House of Luxembourg, who had bitterly opposed Louis IV’s reign. Indeed, a particular issue that rankled both the House of Luxembourg and Edward III was Louis’ decision to seize Hainault, Holland, Zeeland, and Friesland after the death of Philippa and Margaret’s brother William II in 1345, claiming the empress had the superior right to the lands. England and the House of Luxembourg became more firmly allied through the union of Richard II and Anne in 1382 and as Kristen Geaman noted in her chapter in this volume, Anne brought influence from the Imperial court at Prague and the caché of her family’s illustrious title. Joan of Navarre, as discussed in Elena Woodacre’s chapter in this volume, had wide-ranging dynastic connections across Europe that meant that she was closely related to the queens who both preceded and followed her. She was related to Anne of Bohemia as her grandmother, Bonne of Luxembourg was Anne of Bohemia’s aunt, meaning they were first cousins once removed. Joan’s immediate predecessor and successor as queen consort were the sisters Isabella of Valois, Richard II’s second wife and Katherine of Valois, wife of Henry V. Joan was the first cousin of Katherine and Isabella’s father, Charles VI of France, making Joan the sisters’ first cousin once removed, interestingly exactly the same degree of relationship she had with Anne of Bohemia. The relationship between Joan, Katherine, and Isabella was deepened by marriage as well when their sister Jeanne wed Joan’s son Jean V, Duke of Brittany, in 1396. These complicated familial connections begin to break down at the end of our period. Margaret of Anjou was also a descendant of Jean II of 16  Laura Slater, “Defining Queenship at Greyfriars London, c.1300–58,” Gender and History 27, no. 1 (2015): 53–76.



France and Bonne of Luxembourg but was more distantly related to Joan of Navarre and the two Valois sisters, Katherine and Isabella. However, marital ties bound them more closely together as Margaret’s aunt, Marie of Anjou, was married to Charles VII, Katherine and Isabella’s brother. Margaret’s position as the French king’s niece, as noted earlier, was a relationship that made her a more desirable bride, as the expectation was that she could use this connection to work for peace and improve relations between France and England. Indeed, in Margaret’s letters to Charles VII, where she tried (unsuccessfully) to broker a satisfactory resolution to the quandary over the cessation of Maine, she carefully used language to emphasize the familial bonds between them, addressing him as “notre tres chier oncle de France … salut, avec toute affection et amour cordiale” (“our very dear uncle of France … greetings with all affection and cordial love”).17 The last two queens, as noted previously, were English noblewomen rather than foreign princesses and thus one would expect that neither were part of this complex web of dynastic relationships. Yet, it must be noted that Elizabeth Woodville’s mother was Jacquetta of Luxembourg—a member of the same House of Luxembourg that Anne of Bohemia, Joan of Navarre, Isabella, and Katherine of Valois were all related to. While Jacquetta’s heritage stemmed from the Ligny-St Pol line rather than that of the counts of Luxembourg who became Kings of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, this lineage still gave Elizabeth Woodville a connection, though distant, with the foreign consorts who preceded her. As Joanna Laynesmith noted in her chapter on Elizabeth in this volume, Elizabeth’s foreign relatives were called on by Edward IV to attend her coronation, perhaps to give the Queen additional prestige that would set her on a par with the foreign royal princesses who had served as consort before her. While Anne Neville had a prestigious bloodline through her family’s intermarriage with some of the most important families of England and even carried some Plantagenet blood in her veins, she could not claim a close familial connection to the Kings of France or Holy Roman Emperors as her predecessors had. 17  Margaret of Anjou to Charles VII of France (17 December 1445), in Letters of Margaret of Anjou, 175–176. Chapter nine of Letters of Margaret of Anjou features six of Margaret’s letters to Charles VII in the mid-1440s. Maurer discusses the Maine affair, using the letters to chart the downward spiral of the negotiations and Margaret’s attempts to broker peace and maintain cordial relations with her Valois uncle as the diplomatic efforts between England and France faltered.



It remains to ask what impact these familial connections between the foreign consorts had, if any, on the lives of these queens and their tenure of the office. A lack of correspondence or textual evidence makes it difficult to ascertain if any of these women acted as formal or informal mentors to their relatives who followed them in the role. Margaret of France may well have helped her niece to adjust to a new life in England and showed her how to navigate the court, just as Isabella may have done the same for her daughter-in-law and cousin, Philippa of Hainault. However, after this point, there are “interreginal” periods where there was a significant gap between the death of one queen and the installation of another. Thus, the next time that we have two related queens in the same court would be in the 1420s and 1430s with Katherine of Valois and Joan of Navarre. Joan would not have had the opportunity to travel to France for her cousin Katherine’s wedding and help her adjust to life as an English consort as Joan was living under house arrest in England from late 1419 until Henry V’s death in August 1422 as discussed in the chapter on her life. Joan could have helped Katherine adjust to life as a dowager however—yet there is again no evidence that the two queens spent much time together. Instead, we have evidence of their competition as Katherine had to petition Parliament in 1422 to obtain the dower promised to her—the complication of Henry V’s decision to restore Joan’s lands to her on his deathbed meant that it was unclear how the younger queen would be dowered.18 A solution was eventually found to grant Katherine lands and revenues largely drawn from the Duchy of Lancaster so that both queens would have adequate funds to maintain their households.19 Indeed, as Katia Wright’s chapter on the queen’s lands in this volume noted, there were also issues with providing adequate and equitable dowers to both Isabella and Philippa. Their familial relationship did not mean that either Isabella or Joan were happy to cede lands, revenues—and through that power and influence—to their relatives and successors.

 The petition to Parliament regarding Katherine’s lands is TNA SC 8/116/5775, 1422.  Helen Castor, The King, the Crown, and the Duchy of Lancaster: Public Authority and Private Power, 1399–1461 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 39. 18 19



Fear of the Foreigner: Queens and Their “Alien” Retinues A key concern regarding these foreign consorts was whether they would continue to prioritize their loyalties to their natal dynasty and work solely in their family’s interest rather than that of their husband and new English subjects. In a positive way, retaining this dynastic connection could theoretically make them effective diplomats and peace brokers as discussed previously, but at the negative end, these foreign queens could be seen as a mole or spy at the English court, feeding intelligence back to their home nations and corrupting the court with foreign influence. Even if the queens themselves were not accused directly of working for “the enemy” abroad, as we will see shortly, the foreign members of their households certainly came under this suspicion. For all the potential political advantages that a foreign queen could bring, her status as a foreigner could be a point of tension within the court and more broadly across the realm. John Carmi Parsons argues that “It was a central conundrum of English medieval queenship that an insular kingdom had to accept an outsider as the king’s wife and the mother of his heir.”20 He demonstrates how the perception of Eleanor of Castile as a foreigner was heightened by the goods she imported from her homeland like foods she craved and the Castilian fashion of carpets and garden design that she brought to England. As Robert Bartlett notes, “Foreign brides were not only powerful vehicles of dynastic policy, they were also teenage girls sent into strange worlds, and one of the problems they faced was homesickness.”21 All foreign consorts had to deal with the often c­ hallenging transition between their homeland and their new home in England—how well they managed this transition and how quickly they picked up the customs, practices, and protocol of the English court and indeed the realm itself was a major factor in their success in the queen’s role. While bringing familiar objects and servitors from their homeland (as will be discussed shortly) may have brought comfort to a homesick consort, it also highlighted their foreignness and may have made it more difficult to fully integrate into their new courtly home.

20  John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society in Thirteenth Century England (London: Macmillan, 1995), 64. 21  Bartlett, Blood Royal, 26.



Learning a new language, however, was less of a barrier for a foreign consort’s integration than it might appear for as Mark Ormrod explains: The elite, represented by the royal family, the members of the central administration, the senior judiciary, and at least a proportion of the high nobility, all knew how to speak French … and continued to use it regularly as a means of oral communication until (and, for certain purposes, well beyond) the end of the fourteenth century.22

Helen Suggett has noted in her study of the language used in the administrative documents and correspondence of the queens of our period that both French and Latin were used in the fourteenth century.23 In her assessment of the 331 letters of Philippa of Hainault, she notes that while French and Latin were both used for formal letters or semi-formal letters to her officials, her private correspondence was in French.24 In the fifteenth century however, while French and Latin did not entirely disappear as a court or documental language, there was an increased usage of English. By Margaret of Anjou’s tenure, examples can be found in the collection of her correspondence in Latin, French, and English.25 While letters do not necessarily demonstrate the languages that a queen spoke or indicate her particular fluency unless a document is definitely a holograph letter (i.e., in the queen’s own hand), the increasing use of English in queenly correspondence and documentation may indicate that the foreign consorts of the fifteenth century needed a reasonable fluency, or at least a working knowledge, of the English vernacular. This evolution of court language in our period—moving from the dominance of French and Latin to the English vernacular—reflects a widening separation in elite circles between what it meant to be “English” or 22  W.  Mark Ormrod, “The Use of English: Language, Law and Political Culture in Fourteenth-Century England,” Speculum 78, no. 3 (2003): 754. Ormrod identifies multiple strands of French including the northern variant langue d’oc, the southern langue d’oeil, Anglo-Norman, and legal French and notes that members of the court would be conversant in at least one, if not two or more of these. 23  Helen Suggett, “The Use of French in England in the Later Middle Ages: The Alexander Prize Essay,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 28 (1946): 64–66. 24  See table of “Queen Philippa’s Roll” (TNA C 47/9/58) in Suggett, “Use of French,” 80. 25  See the following examples from Maurer and Cron, eds., Letters of Margaret of Anjou: “Queen to her Chancellor on behalf of the Convent of Wix (5 November 1450)” in Latin, 28; “Queen to the Duke of Norfolk re Sir Robert Wingfield (16 February 1453?)” in English, 108, and the aforementioned letters to Charles VII in chapter nine, all in French.



“French” as the holdings of the Plantagenet dynasty and the high English nobility across the Channel was under considerable flux and the source of conflict. Indeed, Ormrod, Lambert, and Mackman note that the outbreak of the Hundred Years’ War in 1337 crystallized the line between “English” and “French” identity and had a “profound impact on the distinction between denizen and alien status.”26 This also meant that foreign consorts, and the men and women who accompanied them to England and remained in their service, may have seemed increasingly “alien,” particularly during periods of political tension or open conflict between England and its neighbours. As the following examples will demonstrate, several medieval queens triggered considerable controversy due to the presence of courtiers and cousins from their homeland who had come to England as part of the queen’s household or by her invitation. Yet Ormrod, Lambert, and Mackman argue that protests against aliens at court or in the realm at large “never arose simply from some latent and generalised animosity to foreigners. Rather, they were prompted by specific pressures—political, social and, in particular, economic.”27 We can see these same pressures reflected in the particular protest levelled at foreigners at court connected to the queen. Politically, we can see tensions caused by conflicts with foreign powers that heightened xenophobia, particularly the Hundred Years’ War as noted previously. Socially, the preferment of foreigners at court who benefitted from appointments to important offices, lucrative marriages and royal grants, annuities and gifts created resentment from courtiers and citizens alike. Economically, the expenses of maintaining the queen’s household with its ranks swelled by foreign attendants could become untenable, particularly in times of economic difficulties. All of these pressures can be seen very clearly in the repeated calls to expel foreigners from the English court and the household of Joan of Navarre in the early fifteenth century. The queen’s household, which included a healthy number of courtiers who had accompanied her from Brittany as well as a few from the Iberian and Italian peninsulas, was targeted four times—in 1404, 1406, 1416, and 1426. Economic issues were a key issue in the 1404 and 1406 expulsions, reflecting wider conflicts between Parliament and the Crown on the expenditure of the royal

 Ormrod, Lambert, and Mackman, Immigrant England, 13.  Ormrod, Lambert, and Mackman, Immigrant England, 257.

26 27



household.28 However, some of this concern was clearly more political and inflamed by conflict with Brittany that flared up after Joan and Henry’s marriage in 1403 and by the hostilities of the Hundred Years’ War—it is no accident that the timing of these petitions for the expulsion of aliens in the queen’s household closely coincided with Breton raids or Henry V’s campaigns in France. This political concern—that the foreigners in the queen’s household were spies working for the enemy—can be seen in the text of the 1416 petition that shows concern that the aliens expelled in the 1404 and 1406 purges had returned: Yet recently, notwithstanding this ordinance, many Bretons, having no regard for the aforesaid ordinance and penalty, have returned to the realm, and some are dwelling about the queen’s person in her household, and others very close to the said household and elsewhere within the realm, in order to hear, know and learn the secrets of the realm and reveal them to the Bretons, who are the greatest enemies of your realm, and in order to remove the money and treasure from the said realm, to the great harm of the king and the great damage of all the realm.29

Interestingly, however, while these petitions demonstrate a great deal of concern and consternation about foreigners in the queen’s household, there may not have been as much tension within the household itself from this issue. Caroline Dunn claims that “there is no indication of French versus English factions among Isabella’s courtiers” nor any foreign/native division amongst Philippa of Hainault’s ladies.30 Indeed, while Philippa of Hainault struggled with issues of debt and the financial maintenance of her household as noted by both Mark Ormrod and Katia Wright in this volume, she had less difficulty with protest over her foreign attendants than Joan of Navarre did. This may have been due to the later arrival of Hainaulters to serve in her household while many of her original ladies had come from her mother-in-law’s household and were largely 28  Rogers noted concern about the number of servitors that the Queen brought with her from Brittany and the expense associated with her large retinue in his extended analysis of the royal household and its expenditure. Alan Rogers, “The Royal Household of Henry IV” (PhD thesis, University of Nottingham, 1966), 101–125, for the situation in 1404–1406. 29  “Henry V, March 1416,” in PROME (C 65/77. RP, IV.70–86. SR, II.192–6). 30  Caroline Dunn, “Serving Isabella of France: From Queen Consort to Dowager Queen,” in Royal and Elite Households in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: More than Just a Castle, ed. Theresa Earenfight (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 174; and Caroline Dunn, “All the Queen’s Ladies? Philippa of Hainault’s Female Attendants,” Medieval Prosopography 31 (2016): 194.



Englishwomen. While Dunn suggests that Philippa may have invited courtiers from her native land later in her tenure as consort due in part to “a search for comfort in her native traditions,” it might have also been a strategic decision to wait until she felt firmly established in the role to bring foreigners into her household.31 While some foreigners came for a limited period or were ultimately expelled in purges of the royal household, many courtiers who came from abroad with queens served their mistress for decades, demonstrating great loyalty. In her chapter on Margaret of Anjou in this volume, Carole Levin gives an excellent example of loyal service in Katherine Vaux, née Panzzione, a lady-in-waiting who arrived with the Queen as a child and remained in England, marrying Sir William Vaux and making a life for herself in the English aristocracy. Marriages between the native nobility and either the queen’s foreign courtiers or members of her own family was a key strategy which could expand the consort’s “affinity” and could also be useful to help integrate men and women from her native realm into the court. It was a strategy employed by Philippa of Hainault and Isabella of France with both their English and “alien” courtiers which effectively enhanced their networks across the realm.32 Philippa also made significant English marriages for family members, matching her niece Elizabeth of Jülich with the Earl of Kent in 1348.33 Orchestrating marriages as a way to firm up a consort’s position was not only a strategy for foreign princesses however, as Elizabeth Woodville’s family benefitted considerably from a series of “spectacular marriages” as Joanna Laynesmith noted in her chapter in this volume.34 Yet promoting the queen’s own family at court was a potentially risky strategy that could engender resentment among other courtiers and criticism of the queen herself. This was not only the case with Elizabeth Woodville but could be even more charged when the queen’s family were foreigners as this was not only giving her relatives an advantage but bringing “aliens” into the court and promoting them over native courtiers. The chronicler Matthew Paris noted that Eleanor of Provence had generated resentment at court by bringing several of her female cousins to England  Dunn, “Queen’s Ladies,” 194.  Dunn, “Queen’s Ladies,” 189–192; and Dunn, “Serving Isabella,” 176–179. 33  Dunn, “Queen’s Ladies,” 194. 34  See: J.L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship, 1445–1503 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 194–199, for an in-depth discussion of these marriages. 31 32



to marry them off to heirs of substantial lands and major magnates.35 These marriages were not the only issue regarding foreigners at court as the power and influence of Eleanor’s Savoyard uncles and Henry III’s Lusignan half-siblings and the benefits they reaped from their close connection to the king and queen caused unrest well beyond the court itself. Matters came to a head when Eleanor of Provence was personally attacked at London Bridge in 1263 as resentment over the preferment of aliens at court, particularly Savoyards who were connected with the Queen, reached fever pitch. Margaret Howell summarizes the incident: “a rabble of Londoners crowded on to the bridge, roaring out their insults and seizing everything that lay to hand to pelt the little company [the queen and her companions] on the approaching barge.”36 The foreign contingent at the English court was further amplified by the arrival of Eleanor of Castile who brought with her relatives from both Castile and her mother’s kin from Picardy to add to the Savoyards and Lusignans. As John Carmi Parsons notes, “The potential for a new Picard or Castilian faction at court could have been as troubling for the court veterans as the realm at large.”37 While both queens faced opprobrium for importing their relatives to the English court, family provided a framework of individuals that a queen could rely on to support her through their blood ties. This could be particularly useful for a new bride who was struggling to build a power base and navigate a foreign court—Carmi Parsons argues that in Eleanor of Castile’s first decade in England when she was only the wife of the heir and given the political turbulence of the period, her family were a vital support to her and “virtually the only resource she could command at this time.”38 The advice and support of a family member could be particularly helpful to a queen if they were an experienced politician and diplomat in their 35  Sara Cockerill, Eleanor of Castile: Shadow Queen (Stroud: Amberley, 2014), 70. Cockerill notes several examples of these marriages including Alice de Saluzzo and the heir of the Earl of Lincoln, Agnes de Saluzzo and the de Vescy heir, Eleanor of Geneva and Alexander Balliol, and Margaret of Savoy to the heir of the Earl of Devon. 36  Margaret Howell, Eleanor of Provence: Queenship in Thirteenth-Century England (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), 196. This closely mirrors the description of the Dunstable chronicler, “ubi Londonienses probrosis verbis et turpibus, lapidibus etiam projectis in ipsam et suos assultum ignominiosum fecerunt.” “Annales Prioratus de Dunstaplia,” in Annales Monastici, Volume 3, ed. Henry Richards Luard (London, 1866), 223. 37  Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, 21. 38  Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, 21.



own right, as in the case of Carlos de Beaumont, cousin of Joan of Navarre. By the time Carlos came to the English court to serve Joan as chamberlain of her household in 1403, he had held the post of alferez, a key position with administrative, military, and diplomatic duties at the Navarrese court for twenty years, under Joan’s father Carlos II and her brother, Carlos III. Beaumont had already visited England and played a key role in diplomatic negotiations, largely over the contested possession of Cherbourg, during the reign of Richard II.39 While Beaumont clearly reaped substantial financial benefits from his time in England, receiving pensions and lands as well as customs on wine and tolls in Gascony, he also appears to have built strong relationships with the Lancastrian kings and acted as a diplomatic conduit who strengthened ties between Navarre and England.40 In this way, Carlos not only supported his cousin Joan but by ensuring good relations between Navarre and England, Beaumont made sure that this central premise of foreign marriages—building solid alliances with powers abroad—came to fruition.

Reflections on Foreign and Native Brides In sum, this chapter has demonstrated the motivations for selecting foreign brides and the difficulties that some “alien” consorts had integrating into the English court. As discussed at the outset, a central rationale for choosing foreign consorts was to build alliances abroad to prevent war or heal relationships that had been damaged by periods of conflict. Yet while the hand of a foreign princess could form a key element of a peace treaty, their marriages could also create conflict—either directly in terms of antagonizing the French and Bretons with the marriage of Joan of Navarre and Henry IV or indirectly through the claim to the French throne bequeathed by Isabella of France to her descendants which became an 39  Eloísa Ramirez Vaquero hailed Beaumont’s diplomatic role vis-a-vis the English, noting that he was a “star” ambassador during this crucial period of negotiations. Eloísa Ramirez Vaquero, Carlos III, rey de Navarra: Príncipe de sangre Valois (1387–1425) (Gijón: Ediciones Trea, 2007), 68. 40  Examples include a pension of 250 marks a year that began in 1405 (TNA E 404/20/196, dated 25 August 1405 at Westminster); a grant of “baylie of Labourd with all its revenues and appurtenances” (Gascon Rolls: GSR C61/109/115, 18 July 1404,; and the right to levy substantial tolls on goods passing through the river Adour and the fishery of Guiche (Gascon Rolls: GSR C61/112/133, 22 August 1409, http://www.gasconrolls. org/en/edition/calendars/C61_112/document.html#it112_10_02f_133).



important pretext for the Hundred Years’ War. This chapter has also highlighted the complex connections of blood that tied foreign consorts not only to various continental realms but also to one another, adding another layer to the bonds that they shared as mothers and daughters-in-law and as precedents and successors to the queen’s office. Family connections and ties to those from their homelands has also been a significant feature here. This survey has noted that while foreign consorts may have drawn strength and comfort from family members and courtiers from their homelands, the presence of these “aliens” at court could also be a weakness that could attract negative comment and protest from their English subjects. As touched on at the beginning, the end of this volume does mark a significant shift to “native” consorts, which will be featured more prominently in the next volume of this series with Elizabeth of York and the wives of Henry VIII. At the outset it was noted that Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville offered a contrast to their predecessors as consorts who were subjects of their husbands, rather than foreign princesses. However, over the course of this chapter, the comparisons have revealed that Elizabeth Woodville shared more common ground than might be expected with her foreign predecessors given her Burgundian heritage and the opprobrium that she received due to the promotion of her family. While the Rivers-Woodville clan might not have been foreigners, the resentment caused by their increased power and influence and the advantageous marriages that they made demonstrate that the root cause of the criticism of the queen’s family at court was not necessarily rooted in xenophobia, rather jealousy that the queen’s relatives had an unfair advantage to boost their careers and finances over that of other noble houses and courtiers. Given these similarities with the situation of previous queens, it could be argued that the real “break” with the tradition of foreign consorts comes with Anne Neville, rather than Elizabeth Woodville, who could be seen as a more liminal or transitional figure between foreign and native brides. Yet, as noted previously, this break might have been only temporary if Richard III had survived the Battle of Bosworth and had been able to enact his plans to marry an Iberian princess. While Elizabeth of York could be argued to be a unique case all her own given her royal blood and strong claim to the throne itself, we can perhaps see in Anne Neville a consort who presaged the arrival of consorts like Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard, and Katherine Parr who feature significantly in the next volume of the series or even the modern consorts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


A Abberbury, Richard, 77 Abingdon Abbey, 62 Adam Orleton, Bishop of Hereford, 39 Adeliza of Louvain, queen consort of Henry I, 260 Adultery, 3, 6, 45, 107, 173, 205, 236 Ӕlfflӕd, consort of Edward the Elder, 156 Agency, 6, 16, 49, 96, 101, 140, 145, 171, 200 Agincourt, Battle of (1415), 4, 116, 117, 264 Aiscough, William, Bishop of Salisbury, 197 Alice, Countess of Buchan, 35 Annales Paulini, 34 Anne (Boleyn), queen consort of Henry VIII, xxi, 143, 168, 277

Anne, Duchess of Exeter, 186 Anne of Bohemia, queen consort of Richard II, 4, 10, 21, 67–65, 87, 89, 96, 148, 150, 154, 160, 259, 260, 267, 268 coronation, 70, 268 death, 21, 80, 82, 90, 267 epitaph, 82, 84 funeral, 82 intercession; successful, 69, 73–78; unsuccessful, 92 marriage to Richard II, 70, 264 tomb, 83 Anne (Neville), queen consort of Richard III, 5, 6, 162, 168, 172, 173, 175, 178, 190–191, 208–210, 237–257, 260, 262, 263, 268, 277 birth and upbringing, 185 death, 172, 262

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© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Later Plantagenet and the Wars of the Roses Consorts, Queenship and Power,




Anne (Neville), queen consort of Richard III (cont.) marriage to Edward, Prince of Wales, 208, 209 marriage to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, 172, 190 motherhood, 172 piety, 238, 254 Anne (Stafford, née Neville), Duchess of Buckingham, 222 Appellant Crisis, 71, 85 Aquitaine, Duchy of, 51, 91, 260 Arthur, Prince of Wales, 192, 235 Arthur, legendary king, 173, 202, 221 Arthur de Richemont, Duke of Brittany, 108, 117 Authority, 9, 27, 31, 33–35, 40, 41, 47, 51, 65, 79, 80, 134, 135, 139, 144–146, 158, 159, 161, 163, 171, 180, 222, 223, 228, 232, 233, 237 Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, 33 B Badlesmere, Bartholomew de, 31 Baker, Geoffrey le, 38–40, 45 Baldock, Robert de, 40 Barbette, Etienne, 35 Barnet, Battle of (1471), 177, 244 Barton Seagrove castle, 112 Basil, Alison, 198 Baux, Marguerite des, 216, 221 Baynard’s Castle, London, 15, 184 Beauchamp, Anne, Countess of Warwick, 190, 238, 246 Beauchamp, Richard, Earl of Warwick, 121, 238 Beaufort, Edmund, 2nd Duke of Somerset, 24, 123, 132–136, 138, 140, 180, 199

Beaufort, Edmund, 4th Duke of Somerset, 244 Beaufort, Henry, Cardinal and Bishop of Winchester, 121, 138 Beaufort, Joan, Countess of Westmorland, 14, 139, 223 Beaufort, Margaret, Countess of Richmond, 15, 130, 189, 207 Beaufort, Thomas, Duke of Exeter, 129 Beaumont, Carlos de, 276 Beaumont, Louis de, 34, 35 Berengaria of Navarre, queen consort of Richard I, xxi, 105, 260 Berkeley Castle, 40 Berkhamsted Castle, 116 Bermondsey Abbey, 131, 162, 189, 235 Bettini, Sforza de, 208, 229 Bishop’s Lynn, 230 Blanche of Castile, Queen of France, 40 Blanche of Lancaster, 52, 60 Blanche of the Tower, Princess of England, 52 Blyant, Simon, 224 Bohemia, 70, 108, 268 Boniface VIII, Pope, 29, 263 Bonne of Luxembourg, Duchess of Normandy, 108, 267, 268 Books, 12, 37, 88, 98, 99, 120, 124, 216, 217, 226, 235, 238, 240, 254, 255 ownership, 253 Booth, Lawrence, Archbishop of York, 255, 271n25 Bordeaux, 10, 173 Boroughbridge, Battle of (1322), 28 Bosworth, Battle of (1485), 189, 234, 277 Boulogne, 29 Bourchier, Sir John, 218 Braveheart (1995), 47


Brecht, Bertolt, 46 Bridget of York, Princess of England, 186, 231 Bridport, 109 Brittany, 53, 89, 109, 111, 116, 117, 266, 272, 273, 273n28 Buckingham’s Rebellion (1483), 189, 234, 249 Burgundy, Duchy of, 94, 96, 108, 117, 229, 240, 241, 243, 244 Burley, Simon, 71 C Cade, Jack, 198 Caerleon, Lewis, 234 Calais, 61, 94, 103, 131, 199, 202, 204, 208, 228, 240, 241, 255 Cambridge University Clare Hall (College), 61 Pembroke College, 61 Queens’ College, 179, 191, 226, 249, 256 Canterbury, 37, 44, 51, 58, 69, 116, 118, 121, 122, 231 Carlos II, King of Navarre, 4, 107, 108, 276 Carlos III, King of Navarre, 276 Carthusians, 179, 226 Castile, 108, 248, 275 Caxton, William, 217 Cecily of York, Princess of England, 184, 228, 252 Charles IV (Carlos I), King of France and Navarre, 268 Charles IV of Luxembourg, Holy Roman Emperor, 69, 267 Charles VI, King of France, 88, 91, 97, 102, 104, 124, 143 Charles VII, King of France, 176, 179, 195, 196, 206, 265, 268, 268n17, 271n25


Charles, Duke of Orléans, 104 Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, 207, 221, 241 Chastellain, Georges, 169 Le Temple de Bocace, 169 Chaucer, Alice, see De la Pole, Alice (née Chaucer), Duchess of Suffolk Chaucer, Geoffrey, 60, 79, 80 Cherbourg, 276 Cheshire, 181, 182 Chester, earldom of, 181, 200 Clare, Margaret de, 37 Cnut, King of Denmark, England, and Norway, 220 Cordeliers House, Paris, 45 Cornazzano, Antonio, 219 Coronation, 29, 30, 52, 58, 70, 73, 74, 78, 95, 97, 98, 110, 111, 114, 127, 128, 135, 136, 176, 184, 185, 187, 197, 221–223, 226, 228, 233, 238, 247, 248, 251–253, 265 See also Individual consorts Courtiers foreign, 272–275, 277 ladies-in-waiting, 34, 61, 64, 100, 197, 210, 253, 274 Coventry, 35, 182, 201–204, 210, 248 Cron, B. M., 161, 171, 208 Crowland Chronicle, 229, 231–234 D Dallaghiexia, Luchino, 228, 229 Danzig, 220 de la Pole, Alice (née Chaucer), Duchess of Suffolk, 183, 212, 224, 225 de la Pole, John, Duke of Suffolk, 225 de la Pole, Katherine, 132 de la Pole, William, Duke of Suffolk, 178, 196–198



De mulieribus admirandis, 219 de Vere, John, Earl of Oxford, 222 de Vere, Maud, Countess of Oxford, 111 de Vescy, Isabella, 34, 35, 275n35 Despenser, Hugh, the Elder, 40 Despenser, Hugh, the Younger, 28, 31, 32, 40, 56 Despenser, Isabel, Lady of Glamorgan, 238 Dorchester, 109 Dower, 6, 145–163, 175–176 administration of, 157–161, 175, 185 disputes about, 104, 113 lands, 113, 150, 212 revenues (income) from, 112, 113, 117–119, 149, 151, 157, 269 seizure of, 38 See also Individual consorts Dress, see Fashion Durham, 34, 35, 118, 255 E Edgar, King of England, 220 Edgcote, Battle of (1469), 229 Edmund, Earl of Rutland, 184, 204 Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, 52, 55 Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, 9, 40, 43, 54 Edward I, King of England, 2, 19, 29, 30, 32, 50, 62, 147, 149, 156, 220, 266 Edward II, King of England, 2, 3, 9, 19, 27–29, 40, 42, 43, 47, 50, 51, 56, 85, 162, 176, 261, 263 death, 40 deposition, 85 sexuality, 29, 30

Edward III, King of England, 3–10, 16, 20, 21, 28, 30, 40–43, 45, 49–66, 93, 107, 108n4, 160, 198, 225, 261, 264, 264n8, 267 accession, 40–41, 43 birth, 30 seizure of power, 43 Edward IV, King of England, 5, 11, 15, 153, 168, 172, 173, 177, 183, 186, 189, 190, 196, 206, 207, 209, 210, 215–218, 220, 221, 225–227, 231, 232, 234–236, 240–244, 247, 249, 250, 252, 254, 262, 266, 268 Edward V, King of England, 172–173, 177, 182, 186, 189, 230, 232, 233, 247 Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, 248 Edward (of Westminster or Lancaster), Prince of Wales, 241–244, 246 Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Wales, 10, 11, 52, 177, 219, 220 Eleanor (Cobham), Duchess of Gloucester, 7, 8, 11–14, 229 Eleanor, Countess of Guelders, 30 Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen consort of Henry II, xxi, 2, 41, 51, 91, 260, 260n2, 263 Eleanor of Castile, queen consort of Edward I, 62, 149, 156, 270, 275 Eleanor of Provence, queen consort of Henry III, 148, 149, 151, 274, 275 Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 65, 130 Elizabeth (Bowes-Lyon), queen consort of George VI, 171, 261 Elizabeth of Jülich, Countess of Kent, 274


Elisabeth of Pomerania, Holy Roman Empress, 69 Elizabeth of York, queen consort of Henry VII, 15, 150, 155–157, 175, 189, 192, 262, 277 Elizabeth (Woodville), queen consort of Edward IV, 5, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 150, 153, 155, 157, 161, 162, 168, 169, 171–173, 175, 183–190, 208, 215–236, 240, 249, 251n44, 260, 263, 266, 268, 274, 277 arms, 221 birth and upbringing, 184 coronation, 222–223, 268 death, 189 as dowager, 232–236 dower of, 185, 188, 190, 223, 235 historiography, 169–172, 216 household, 169, 178, 184–186, 216, 217, 222–225, 231 intercession, 224–226 jointure, 218 letters, 217, 224, 225 marriage to Edward IV, 11, 177, 208, 218–221, 266 marriage to Sir John Grey, 217 motherhood, 218, 226–228, 230–233 motto, 221 piety, 179 portrait, 177, 218–219 pregnancies, 224, 230 queen’s gold, 223 relatives, 178, 185, 186, 192, 219, 221–223 reputation, 14, 171, 172, 219, 229 and Richard III, 5, 13, 168, 169, 171, 277 rituals of queenship, 184 , 220, 222–223, 226–227, 236


sanctuary, 186, 187, 230, 232–234 widowhood, 218, 220 will, 235–236 Eltham Palace, 30, 110, 130 Eton College, 226 F Falmouth, 109 Fashion, 19, 20, 40, 59, 59n15, 68, 94, 176, 178, 197, 229, 250, 270 Fastolf, Sir John, 224, 225 Fernando II, King of Aragon, 262 Feutrier, Jean le, 35 Fitzgerald, Thomas, Earl of Desmond, 216 Fitzhugh, Henry, 129 Fitzhugh, Robert, 134 Fox, Nicholas, 137 France, 2–6, 19, 23, 24, 28, 29, 33, 37, 38, 40, 43, 44, 50, 52, 53, 58, 63, 64, 87, 88, 90–92, 97–104, 107–109, 115–118, 126–129, 131, 136, 139, 143, 162, 176, 179, 180, 182–184, 196–198, 206–210, 212, 213, 215, 217, 229, 231, 241, 243, 259, 262–266, 264n8, 268, 268n17, 269, 273 Salic Law, 3, 107–108, 264 Franciscan order, 11, 36, 44 Greyfriars (London), 36, 44, 267 Frulovisi, Titus Livius, 126 G Galeazzo Maria, Duke of Milan, 207, 208, 228 Game of Thrones (2011–2019), 168 Gascony, 29, 30, 38, 182, 199, 263, 276



Gate, Thomas, 198 Gaveston, Piers, 28–31, 37 Geoffrey, Abbot of Colchester, 111 George, Duke of Clarence, 177, 186, 187, 190, 208, 220, 232, 240, 245 George of York, Prince of England, 231 Gifts and gift-giving, 98–99 Giles of Brittany, 121 Giles of Rome, 134 Glamorgan, 238, 256 Grey, Cecily (née Bonville), Marchioness of Pembroke, 231 Grey, Edward, 218 Grey, Elizabeth (née Woodville), see Elizabeth (Woodville), queen consort of Edward IV, 177 Grey, Elizabeth, Lady Ferrers of Groby, 188, 215, 217 Grey, Reynold, Baron Grey of Ruthin, 217 Grey, Sir John, 217, 218 Grey, Sir Richard, 187, 218, 232, 234, 235 Grey, Thomas, Marquess of Dorset, 46, 172, 186, 187, 218, 231, 232, 234 Gross, Anthony, 170, 171 H Hainault, County of, 39, 50, 260 Valenciennes, 50 Hall, Edward, 136, 137, 212 Harleton, William, 224 Harold Godwinson, King of England, 220 Hastings, John, Earl of Pembroke, 54 Hastings, William, Lord, 218, 233, 234 Haute, Anne, 225

Havering-atte-Bower, 53, 102, 112n18, 116, 121, 155 Helen of Troy, 168 Henry III, King of England, 2, 129, 148, 275 Henry IV, King of England, 4, 14, 22, 85, 97–99, 101, 102, 105, 106, 109, 114, 115, 120–122, 154, 220, 223, 261, 265, 276 Henry V, King of England, 4, 12, 23, 104, 106, 115, 116, 118, 119, 125–127, 129, 136, 142, 143, 162, 182, 199, 264, 267, 273n29 Henry VI, King of England, 4–6, 11, 14, 23, 106, 118, 121, 123, 126–132, 134, 135, 138, 141–143, 168, 170, 171, 176–178, 182, 183, 186, 189, 190, 192, 195–198, 202–210, 215–217, 229, 230, 237, 241, 242, 244, 245, 265 Henry VII, King of England, 15, 24, 130, 142, 143, 162, 189, 192, 234, 235, 262 Henry VIII, King of England, 137, 193, 236, 261, 277 Henry, Earl of Lancaster, 42 Hereford, 39, 40 Hertford, 116, 130 Heywood, Thomas, 196 Hicks, Michael, 170, 171, 208, 246n22 Holland, Anne, 186 Holland, Hugh, 130 Horrox, Rosemary, 161, 223 Howard, John, Duke of Norfolk, 220 Hugh X of Lusignan, Count of La Marche, 130 Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, 11, 12, 115, 117, 119–122, 128, 180, 201, 222


Hundred Years’ War, 2–4, 6, 19–25, 44, 52, 55, 106–108, 196, 199, 263, 264, 264n8, 272, 273, 277 Hungerford, Walter, 129 Hunt, Thomas, 197 Hunting, 55, 221, 224 I Intercession, 6, 14, 21, 22, 33–35, 37, 41, 43, 44, 57, 69, 73–78, 84, 85, 95–97, 111, 226 See also Individual consorts Isabeau of Bavaria, queen consort of Charles VI of France, 88, 89, 99, 103, 124, 127, 129, 135, 217 Isabel I, Queen of Castile, 248, 262 Isabella of Angoulême, queen consort of King John, 24, 129, 260 Isabella of France, queen consort of Edward II, 2, 4, 19, 27–47, 101, 107, 147, 152, 155, 156, 162, 260, 261, 263, 265, 266, 274, 276 birth, 28 burial, 44–45 coronation, 29 death, 28, 44, 57 diplomacy of, 33, 38–40, 42–43, 44 as dowager, 24, 28, 40 dower of, 32, 42, 44 intercession, 33–35 marriage to Edward II, 2, 19 overthrow of Edward II, 27, 29, 33, 38, 45, 261 piety of, 37 pilgrimages by, 37 relationship with Edward II, 9, 19, 27–29, 43, 50, 56, 162, 176, 261, 263 religious patronage of, 36


reputation of, 27, 45 and Roger Mortimer, 28, 38–43, 51, 52, 56 role in Edward II’s administration, 30–32 Isabella of Gloucester, first wife of King John, 177, 260n2 Isabella of Valois, queen consort of Richard II, xxi, 4, 22, 24, 87–104, 150, 152, 161, 264, 267 birth, 88 coronation, 95 death, 104 departure from England, 103 dower of, 93, 104 dowry of, 22, 91–93, 102, 104, 152 marriage to Charles, Duke of Orléans, 104 marriage to Richard II, 94 Isabella of Woodstock, Countess of Bedford, 52 “Isabelle Psalter,” 37 J Jacques de Luxembourg, 222 Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford, 13, 183, 184, 216–217, 224, 229, 230, 268 James I, King of Scotland, 130 James III, King of Scotland, 187, 204, 235 James VI & I, King of Scotland and England, 130 Jane (Seymour), queen consort of Henry VIII, 193, 277 Jarman, Derek, 47 Jean IV, Duke of Brittany, 23, 105, 108 Jean V, Duke of Brittany, 106, 108 109, 117, 266, 267



Jeanne (Juana) I, Queen of Navarre, queen consort of Philip IV of France, 28 Jeanne (Juana) II, Queen of Navarre, 3–4 Jeanne, Duchess of Brittany, 89, 91 Jeanne (Joan) of Valois, Countess of Hainaut, 50, 266 Joan of Kent, Princess of Wales, 7, 9–11, 15, 21, 54, 74, 108n4, 173, 177, 219–220, 223 Joan of Navarre, queen consort of Henry IV, 4, 12, 99, 105–122, 268 birth, 107 charge of witchcraft, 8, 12, 23, 116–118, 119 coronation, 110 death, 11, 12, 121–122 as dowager queen, 22, 74, 106, 114, 115, 118, 119, 121, 122, 129, 148, 229 dower of, 110–113, 116–120, 122, 154, 162 funeral, 122 household, 130, 272 intercession, 111 marriage to Henry IV of England, 105, 109–110 marriage to Jean IV of Brittany, 23, 105, 108 reputation of, 23, 114 tomb, 121–122 Joan of the Tower, princess of England, 42, 52, 55 John XXII, Pope, 35, 36, 43, 51, 56 John, Duke of Bedford, 115, 139, 183, 216 John (Jean) II, King of France, 4, 44 John, King of England, 129, 177, 260n2

John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall, 30 John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, 10, 52, 54, 60, 74, 91 Jointure see Dower Juana II, Queen of Navarre, 107, 108 Juana, Infanta of Portugal, 107, 107n2, 262 K Katherine (Howard), queen consort of Henry VIII, 277 Katherine of Valois, queen consort of Henry V, 123–144 death, 128, 131, 136, 141, 155 birth, 124 coronation, 127 as dowager queen, 24, 118, 121, 122, 132, 138 dower of, 118–119, 129, 130, 138, 150, 153, 154–155, 261 marriage to Henry V, 126, 264 re-marriage of, 24, 130–141 reputation, 24, 123–126, 130, 133–138, 143 tomb, 121, 128, 141–143 will, 141, 277 Katherine of York, Countess of Devon, 231, 232, 234 Katherine (Parr), queen consort of Henry VIII, 277 King’s Langley, manor and palace, 116, 121 Knights of the Bath, 222 L Ladies-in-waiting, see Courtiers Lambourne, Robert de, 36 Lanercost Chronicle, 36 Langley Marish manor, 120


Language, 37, 53, 60, 71, 78n63, 115, 124, 149, 150, 262, 268, 271 Leeds Castle, Kent, 31, 37, 116 Leicester, 119, 128, 130, 138, 248 Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence, 4, 5, 52–55, 58 London, 13, 15, 36, 43, 44, 51, 70, 95, 176, 185, 187, 197, 206, 220, 221, 222, 229, 231, 232, 236, 245, 246, 247, 248, 250 Bridge, 55, 222, 275 London Greyfriars, 36, 44 Londoners (residents), 7, 36, 64, 69, 76, 95, 96, 183, 184, 230, 231, 275 Mayor and aldermen, 75–76, 229, 249 Merchant Adventurers, 226 Tower of, 30, 38, 65, 71, 77, 101, 143, 197, 207, 212, 230, 232 Louis IX, King of France, Saint, 40 Louis X (Luis I), King of France and Navarre, 2, 50, 107 Louis XI, King of France, 183, 190, 206–208, 219, 241 Loveday of 1458, 202–203 Ludlow, 182, 187, 191, 204, 231 Lusignan family, 221, 275 Luxembourg, 70, 81, 221, 267, 268 Lydgate, John, 127, 136, 139, 140 M Maidstone, Richard, 96 Maine, County of, 179, 268 Malory, Thomas, 173 Mancini, Dominic, 187 Marceau, Sophie, 47


Margaret of Anjou, queen consort of Henry VI, xxi, 4–6, 10, 12, 13, 15, 46, 106, 150, 153, 155, 157, 159, 161, 168–170, 173, 175, 176, 179–183, 195–213, 217, 223, 224, 226, 230, 231, 235, 241–245, 251, 252, 256, 263, 265–268, 268n17, 271, 274 appearance, 177–178 birth and upbringing, 170, 173, 180–181, 195–196 death, 213 historiography, 4, 169–171 household, 161, 179, 197, 207, 274 imprisonment, 13, 206 letters, 159, 161, 171, 179, 268, 271 marriage, 161, 179, 196–213, 252, 265 motherhood, 172–173, 177, 180, 182, 195, 198, 199–200, 210, 213 piety and patronage, 254–257 role in the Wars of the Roses, 6, 106, 170–171, 175, 180–183, 196, 200–206, 208–210 views on royal power, 209 Margaret of France, queen consort of Edward I, xxii, 10, 19, 30, 32, 36, 44, 50, 147, 150, 153, 155, 156, 260n2, 266–267, 269 Margaret of Windsor, Countess of Pembroke, 52, 54, 55, 62 Margaret of York, daughter of Edward IV, 231 Margaret (Tudor), queen consort of James IV of Scotland, 235 Marie of Anjou, queen consort of Charles VII of France, 195, 268 Marlburgh, John, 230



Marlowe, Christopher, 45–47 Marriage, 2–6, 19, 22, 24, 38, 87, 88–90, 91, 102, 105–106, 108–110, 128–132, 147–148, 153, 158, 161, 172, 176–177, 181, 183, 186, 189, 190, 206, 208, 215, 217, 220, 223, 231, 235, 238, 240, 251–254, 261–266, 274–276 contracts, 33, 50, 92, 100, 126–127, 152, 196 papal dispensation for, 43, 51, 240, 242, 246 of royal children, 3, 54–55, 89–90 wedding ceremonies, 11, 90, 111, 184, 191, 197, 218–219 Mary (de Bohun), wife of Henry IV, 23 Mary, Duchess of Burgundy, 187 Mary of Teck, queen consort of George V, 261 Mary of Waltham, Duchess of Brittany, 52, 54, 55, 62, 108n4 Mary of York, daughter of Edward IV, 228, 252 Matilda of Flanders, queen consort of William I, 260 Matilda of Scotland, queen consort of Henry I, 68, 69, 260 Maurer, Helen, 161, 171, 201, 205, 208, 224, 268n17 McGerr, Rosemarie, 171 Medicine, 72, 72n27, 84, 207, 243 Melton, William, Archbishop of York, 51 Melusine, 221 Mézières, Philippe de, 91 Middleham Castle, 182, 190, 191, 246–248, 256 Millyng, Thomas, Abbot of Westminster, 230 Mitchell, Sabrina, 78

Monstrelet, Enguerrand de, 126, 127 More, Sir Thomas, 77, 169, 220 Mortimer, Roger, Earl of March, 20, 27, 28, 33, 38–43, 45, 51, 52, 54, 56, 61, 204, 206 de facto rulership, 28 Mortimer’s Cross, Battle of, 132 Motherhood childlessness, 21, 71–73, 85, 200 churching, 21, 59, 185, 226 fertility, 21, 67–85, 185, 198, 222 miscarriage, 71 nurturing, 73, 84, 85 pregnancy, xxiii, 21, 52, 57, 130, 133, 199, 200 royal nurseries, 53–54, 182, 187, 190, 231, 246 step-motherhood, 12, 105–122, 162 Mowbray, Anne, Duchess of Norfolk and York, 232 Mowbray, Elizabeth (née Talbot), Duchess of Norfolk, 225 Much Hadham, 134 Myers, Alec, 116, 169 N Neville, Anne, see Anne (Neville), queen consort of Richard III Neville, Cecily, Duchess of York, 7, 14–16, 184, 220, 227, 228 Neville family, 183, 238–240, 241, 251–254 Neville, George, Archbishop of York, 186, 190, 224, 240, 253, 255, 256 Neville, Isabel, 190, 208, 238, 240, 241, 245 Neville, Katherine, Duchess of Norfolk, 185, 252 Neville, Richard, Earl of Salisbury, 184, 202, 203–204, 238


Neville, Richard, Earl of Warwick, 5, 177, 183, 184, 186, 190, 200, 204, 205, 208–209, 219, 220, 226, 228–231, 237–244, 266 Newgate, Greyfriars House, 36, 44, 132 Normandy, 89, 180, 198, 206, 209, 242, 243, 262 Northampton, 40, 42, 58, 96, 204, 222, 229 Norwich, 228 Nottingham Castle, 43, 77, 248, 249 Nova Statuta Angliae, 171 O Ordainers, 28, 31, 35 Ordinances, 28, 35, 181, 273 Ormrod, W. Mark, 7, 9, 10, 20, 21, 261, 271–273 Orwell, Suffolk, 39 Oxford University The Queen’s College, 60 P Paris, France, 29, 35, 45, 51, 62, 79, 88, 89, 93, 100, 101, 103, 104, 124, 136, 209, 243, 266 Paris, Matthew, 274 Parliament, 40, 43, 64, 65, 101, 111–113, 118, 129, 132, 138, 186, 203, 204, 233, 234, 269, 269n18, 272 speaker of, 186 Paston, Sir John, 224, 225, 246 Patronage, 6, 25, 36–37, 42, 60, 69, 73–81, 85, 112, 114, 120, 146, 159–161, 163, 191, 197, 224, 225, 238, 254–257, 267 See also Individual consorts


Pepys, Samuel, 142 Percy, Henry “Hotspur,” 101, 111, 143 Perrers, Alice, 7–9, 21, 64 Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, 221 Philip II, King of Spain and consort of Mary I, 261 Philip III, King of France, 50 Philip IV, King of France, 3, 28–30, 33, 35, 37, 50 Philip V, King of France, 50, 107 Philip VI, King of France, 44, 266 Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, consort of Elizabeth II, 261 Philippa of Clarence, 4, 54 Philippa of Hainault, queen consort of Edward III, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 20–22, 43, 49–66, 93, 148, 154–156, 159, 261, 266, 267, 269, 271, 273, 274 coronation, 29, 52, 58 death, 7, 10, 21, 45, 54, 55, 60, 64 dower, 93 finances, 51–52, 60, 61 household, 9, 53, 54, 59, 61, 65 intercession, 22, 57 marriage to Edward III, 39, 43, 50–51, 261 patronage, 60 pregnancies, 21, 52, 57 reputation, 56, 64–66 tomb, 55, 62, 63 Picardy, 275 Pierre, Count of St Pol, 216 Pizan, Christine de, 68, 69 Plague, 82, 89, 168, 215, 236 Pollard, A.J., 171, 216 Ponthieu, 29, 32, 38 Poor Clares, 36 See also Franciscan order



Q Queen’s Gold, 113–115, 146, 149, 151, 152, 216, 223 Queenship and foreign origin, 106, 170, 176, 259–277 French, 262–264, 271–272 ideals of, 8, 20–21, 24, 25, 30–31, 36, 49, 58, 63, 68–69, 74, 95, 111, 120, 122, 128, 175–179, 222, 224–226, 233 interreginal periods, 6–16, 21, 157, 269 and native origin, 183–184, 219–220, 260–261, 268, 277 See also Intercession; Motherhood; Patronage R Reading Abbey, 220 Regency, 20, 41, 47, 109, 119, 129, 140 René of Anjou, Duke of Anjou, King of Naples, 176, 195, 196, 265 Richard II, King of England, 4, 10, 14, 21, 22, 23, 64, 67–104, 105, 126, 154, 160, 168, 173, 267, 276 deposition of, 71n21, 85, 101 Richard III, King of England, 2, 5, 13, 168, 169, 171, 177, 182, 187, 188, 190, 192, 210, 232, 237, 245, 250, 252, 254, 262, 277 as Duke of Gloucester, 172, 190, 210, 232, 238, 245 Richard, Duke of Gloucester, see Richard III, King of England Richard, Duke of York, Lieutenant of Ireland, governor of France, 2, 5, 14, 180–183, 184, 196, 198, 199, 200–205, 206, 217 Richard, Duke of York, son of Edward IV, 186, 187, 232, 233

Rickert, Margaret, 79 Robert I (the Bruce), King of Scots, 40, 42, 187 Rochester, 35 Rouen, 136, 173 Rozmital, Leo de, 185 Rysbank, 131 S Sadler, John, 203 St Albans, Second Battle of (1461), 200, 201, 202, 203, 205, 215, 218 St Elizabeth, 222 St Katharine’s by the Tower, Hospital of, London, 36 St Martin le Grand, 230, 245 St Mary Cleophas, 222 St Paul’s Cathedral, 51, 55, 58, 82, 202, 203, 209 St Pol, Count of, 185, 216, 268 Sale, Antoine de la, 170 Salisbury, 109 Sanctuary, 186–188, 210, 230, 232–234, 244, 245 Saul, Nigel, 80, 89, 98 Savoy, 149, 275 Scotland, 28, 31, 40, 42, 52, 53, 58, 92, 139, 180, 187, 204, 205–207, 235, 252, 256, 259 Scrope, Elizabeth, Lady, 230, 252–253 Sellar, W.C., 167 Serego, Dominic de, 225 Shakespeare, William, 12, 45, 87, 106, 126, 137, 168, 169, 196, 205, 210, 211, 213 Sheen, palace, 82 Sigismund, King of Hungary, Holy Roman Emperor, 81 Simpson, Amanda, 79 Southampton, 109, 110, 120 Southray, John, 64


Spalding, 35 Stafford, Henry, Duke of Buckingham, 94, 207, 222 Stafford, Sir Humphrey, 201 Stallworth, Simon, 233 Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn, 143 Stanley, Thomas, Earl of Derby, 189 Steward, Sir John, 131 Stonor family Joan, 225 Sir William, 224, 252 Strickland, Agnes and Elizabeth, 32, 46, 114, 124, 135 Swynford, Katherine, 113 T Taylor, Andrew, 79 Tewkesbury, Battle of (1471), 177, 183, 210, 244, 245 Thetford, 224 Thomalyne (Scottish orphan), 37 Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, 28 Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, 52, 54, 55, 85, 99 Tiptoft, Sir John, 112 Tournaments, 8, 57, 59, 70, 185, 203, 221 Towton, Battle of, 15, 183, 206, 218 Treaty of Montreuil (1299), 152 Treaty of Northampton (1328), 40, 42 Treaty of Paris (1303), 152 Treaty of Troyes (1420), 126, 127, 152, 264 Trokelowe, John, 31, 33 Tuberculosis, 191, 250 Tudor, Owen, 24, 123, 128–133, 136–138, 140, 142, 143, 167, 178 Tudor, Edmund, Earl of Richmond, 132, 134, 141, 142, 189, 198


Tudor, Henry, see Henry VII, King of England Tudor, Jasper, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke, 130, 132, 141, 244 Tynemouth Priory, 31 U Urban VI, Pope, 70 V Valois dynasty, 3, 4, 22–24, 107, 108, 117, 262, 263, 266 Van Dussen, Michael, 84 Vaux, Katherine (née Panzzione), 197, 207, 210, 212, 274 Vaux, William, 197, 210, 245, 274 Vergil, Polydore, 137n78, 234, 235n100 Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 143 Virgin Mary, 65, 73, 99, 185, 219 Vita Edwardi Secundi, 45 W Wakefield, Battle of (1460), 5, 182, 184, 205 Wales, 41, 77, 153–154, 163, 204, 231, 244 Wallace, David, 81 Wallingford Castle, 100, 212 Walsingham, shrine, 199 Walsingham, Thomas, 7, 8, 30, 67, 72 Waltham, 130 Ware priory, 112 War of St Sardos (1323–1325), 33, 38, 50 Wars of the Roses, 2, 3, 6, 14, 65, 106, 167–193, 195, 196



Warwick Castle, 238, 240, 248 Wenceslas IV, Holy Roman Emperor, 70, 78 Wenlock, John, Lord, 220 Western Schism, 70 Westminster Abbey, 51, 55, 62, 63, 70, 78, 82, 83, 117, 128, 141, 179, 186, 187, 222, 230, 235, 250 Westminster Palace, 54, 223, 233, 249 Widowhood, 23, 38, 114, 128–132, 151, 218, 220 William III, Count of Hainault, 50 William IV, Count of Hainault, 54 William of Hatfield, Prince of England, 52 Winchester, 110, 119n43, 235 Windsor Castle, 55, 57, 62, 127, 210 St George’s Chapel, 57, 62 Witchcraft, 6, 8, 12, 13, 23–25, 23n7, 116–118, 122, 162, 216, 229 See also Joan of Navarre Wolffe, Bertram, 202, 209 Women education of, 136 inheritance by, 2 piety of, 15, 36–37, 78, 170, 178–179, 184, 191, 226, 238, 254 in service, 203

Woodstock Palace, 30, 52 Woodville, Anthony, Lord Scales, Earl Rivers, 185, 186, 187, 188, 231, 232, 234 Woodville, Elizabeth, see Elizabeth (Woodville), queen consort of Edward IV Woodville, John, Sir, 185, 186, 223, 225, 229 Woodville, Katherine, Duchess of Buckingham, 222 Woodville, Richard, Earl Rivers, 218, 223 Wulflete, William, 217 X Xenophobia, 111, 173, 272, 277 Y Yeatman, R. J., 167 Yolande of Aragon, Duchess of Anjou, Countess of Provence, 90, 91, 170, 195 York, 5, 14, 15, 169, 175, 180–184, 187, 189, 196, 198–206, 217, 224, 232, 233, 240, 248, 249, 253, 255, 256 York Minster, 51, 255, 256