Richard Armitage / Richard III rumble, Week 9!

People have been asking me for months whether Richard Armitage is really still interested in realizing a Richard III project. This week, at the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, when asked this question, he whimsically, but strongly, re-affirmed his interest:

IngeD3 comments on her pleasure at this statement, here, writing: “notice the twinkle in his eye!”

I can’t say it any more simply: SIGN THE PETITION!


Updates on the situation in Leicester at King Richard Armitage: One on general press reports concerning the matter, plus the latest updates on the status of the excavation.


3916771476_b11fd536d3_m[Left: The forest of Crécy, Véronique’s birthplace]

Last time: TSIS, Book II, ch. 4-8 resume the narrative of May, 1471, just after Edward IV‘s reascent of the throne. Anne Neville, in unfriendly custody in London, confesses her love for Richard to Véronique de Crécy (ch. 4). In September 1471 (ch. 5), Francis Lovell recounts the events of the summer and changing political alliances. The novel then returns to Anne in London (ch. 6), who learns from her sister that her brother-in-law George / Clarence would like to be rid of her. She devises a plan with Véronique to escape George’s custody. She has realized it by October, when the York brothers discuss her flight and possible whereabouts (ch. 7), with a toothachey Edward threatening George if she is not found (ch.8).


[Right: used to be a church, now a street: St Martin-le-Grand]

This Week: TSIS, Book II, ch. 9-13 recount the recovery of Anne’s person. Véronique helps Anne escape the Herber and hides in her an inn in Aldgate in October 1471 (ch. 9), with a family she’s met (like Véronique, Penman’s invention) who are actually Lancaster supporters. Anne stays hidden by not speaking any English; she takes ill; Véronique eventually discovers that Richard is in London and finds a way to let him know where Anne is. Richard rescues Anne (ch. 10), and proposes, promising to place her in sanctuary in the collegiate church of Martin-le-Grand. In November 1471 (ch.11), Richard and Edward chew over the situation, noting the rich rewards Richard has paid to those who sheltered Anne, the pardons Edward has made to his opponents, including John Morton (important because he is the person who’s supposed to have given Thomas More the information in his Richard III-smear job), and the question of when Richard should marry Anne — Edward urges delay to calm George and also to give Anne some space to recovery. Next we find Richard and Anne in bed together in Martin-le-Grand (ch. 12), but delaying intimate contact while awaiting papal dispensation to marry, and fighting. Anne wants Richard to persist in his claim to her inheritance, but she finally concedes out of sympathy for him and frustration that he is seeking the beds of other women while they wait to marry. This week’s reading ends in February 1472, with Edward telling George that he must accede to the marraige or Edward will let Anne’s mother out of sanctuary and allow her to lay claim to her jointure.


And now, to the group read. As always, the directions for participating in the facebook and twitter events are found below.

Screen shot 2012-12-02 at 3.55.25 PMLast week, during a reading in which Anne Neville ran away from the Herber, either out of love for Richard or out of fear of what might happen to her, I talked about property arrangements and affinity networks under bastard feudalism, and then asked readers to contemplate the merits of the “sweet” Anne Neville. This week, I will consider the same questions — systems of inheritance in light of the Richard / Anne love affair — from the opposite direction. In preparation I give you at left readers’ conclusions about Anne’s sweetest moments in the last section’s chapters. I think I voted for the shaving boo-boo — you know how I am about beards. Then again, how sweet was Anne, really?

This question places us at a decisive moment in the contest between Ricardian and anti-Ricardian narratives: what was the relationship between Richard III and Anne Neville? And what does our answer to this question say about each of them? Answers have been polarized over the last five hundred years. It would be tempting to try to work out a compromise, but the surviving sources just don’t go there. What they say on Anne’s flight to sanctuary, property negotiations around her marriage to Richard (ratified by several acts of Parliament), the request for papal dispensation and questionable validity of same, the timing of the wedding, and the final settlements (which took four years to complete) covers no one in glory. The best we can say  is that they make Anne look as grasping as Richard. At the same time, however we evaluate what Richard and Anne did, we must also keep in mind that their actions, while they clearly raised the eyebrows of contemporaries, were merely an extreme form of a rather more usual behavior.

galleryymiddleham06[Right: Middleham Castle]

We don’t know much about Anne Neville — no portrait of her survives, she left no written records of herself, and so we are entirely dependent on sources about other matters that refer to her, most of which stem from legal or social actions. This state of affairs is not untypical for medieval women, but it does make saying much about her personal reasons for her choices practically impossible. I’ve written about the question of a romance between Richard and Anne before, when I was asking about who should play Anne Neville to Richard’s Richard III. Dramatic potential aside, the source basis for a childhood romance in the modern sense is nil. Richard and Anne both lived at Middleham Castle from 1465-8; Richard left Warwick’s household when he was sixteen and Anne was twelve. They may have met again in 1471 after Edward’s return, when Anne was newly widowed, and it seems possible that they enjoyed holiday festivities together in London at Christmas 1471-72. If they did enjoy a romance, it seems likely that it was sparked then, but no surviving contemporary source suggests that they did.

Apart from love or attraction, Richard needed to marry Anne to sustain a status as duke that was underfunded. He needed to demonstrate an annual income of about £1,666, and Anne’s potential inheritance would reach that. We must assume that Anne wanted to marry Richard, simply because given her sister and brother-in-law’s desire to keep her unmarried so that they could dispense with sharing the inheritance upon their mother’s death, Anne’s life would have been easier had she acquiesced. The question is not whether she wanted to marry him, then, but the nature of her motivation and when it occurred to her.

200px-Blason_Thomas_Le_Despencer.svg[Left: The Despencer coat of arms]

Historian Michael Hicks postulates that Anne was initially relieved simply to have survived the Battle of Barnet a widow, and must have conceived the plan to marry Richard only later, when she realized that only a husband could enforce her legal rights to her inheritance. The battle was quickly on, with Anne and Isobel‘s mother, Anne of Warwick, begging from her sanctuary in Beaulieu for the return of her estates (Beauchamp, Despenser, Montagu) and being resolutely ignored, and the Neville estates (which would actually have been incumbent upon John Neville’s son, George, Duke of Bedford) already given to Clarence as a reward for military support at Barnet. George and Isobel’s desires are documented in a diplomatic report from the Milanese ambassador to the English court; in order to maintain their hold on the entire inheritance, they wanted Anne to stay unmarried and Anne and Isobel’s mother to stay in sanctuary.

The Croyland Chronicle, a historical source compiled at a Benedictine abbey over several centuries, reports of this episode:

It is my intention here to insert an account of the dissensions which arose … between the two brothers of the king, already mentioned and which were with difficulty quieted. After … the son of king Henry, to whom the lady Anne, the youngest daughter of the earl of Warwick, had been married, was slain at the battle of Tewkesbury, Richard, duke of Gloucester, sought the said Anne in marriage. This proposal, however, did not suit the views of his brother, the duke of Clarence, who had previously married the eldest daughter of the same earl. Such being the case, he caused the damsel to be concealed, in order that it might not be known by his brother where she was; as he was afraid of a division of the earl’s property, which he wished to come to himself alone in right of his wife, and not to be obliged to share it with any other person. Still however, the craftiness of the duke of Gloucester, so far prevailed, that he discovered the young lady in the city of London disguised in the habit of a cookmaid; upon which he had her removed to the sanctuary of St. Martin’s.

450px-Croyland_Abbey_&_Parish_Church_of_Crowland[Right: Croyland Abbey, where the chronicle was written]

The identity of the author of Croyland (“the continuator”) in the years 1459-86 is not known, but had access to Richard III’s court, for it was in this source that the only surviving copy of Titulus Regius was discovered (Henry VII ordered them all destroyed in order to quiet rumors about his wife’s legitimacy). This portion of the chronicle was written after Richard’s death and does not approve of him — but neither does it approve of Clarence. The inclusion of the episode (and the tone of later portions of it) suggests that the continuator found the dispute upsetting on both ends. He mourns a few lines later that “these three brothers, the king and the two dukes, were possessed of such surpassing talents that, if they had been able to live without dissensions, such a threefold cord could never have been broken without the utmost difficulty.”

6a00d8341c464853ef0147e24c9aaa970b-800wi[Left: A letter written to John Paston]

So what did Anne actually do? I was unable to ascertain, while writing, what the source is for Penman’s narrative, that she ran away herself. It also seems a very unlikely story — perhaps a further slippage from the overly friendly account of the episode in Paul Murray Kendall’s Richard III biography (1956). The continuator proposes above that Clarence hid Anne from Richard, but does not say where, and then notes that Richard found her “in the city of London disguised in the habit of a cookmaid” and “had her removed” to sanctuary. Hicks finds it unlikely (and I agree) that Anne would have worked as a cookmaid, though she might have been concealed out of sight and below her station. Hicks also points out a contextual detail relevant to the story — that Anne’s kidnapping by a non-custodial male was legally equivalent to rape, and had she been willingly in her brother-in-law’s custody, she could have resisted it. However she felt about Richard, however, marrying him was the only way to enforce her social status, and consenting to be abducted was the first step on that path. At the same time, Anne would have maintained most of her status simply by marrying Richard; her incomes were more essential to Richard than to her, so that Penman gets this exactly backward. Richard, not Anne, was the one who needed to press Anne’s inheritance claims. John Paston’s letters report that Clarence was willing to let Anne marry Richard if she ceded her inheritance claims and that Richard — not Anne — refused this offer. In the end, Edward, Richard and George completely disinherited Anne of Warwick and George Neville (John Neville’s son) in their greed, but Edward forced a situation upon them that was roughly equitable in their lifetimes (Parliament refused to bar subsequent Neville heirs after George Neville, so that Anne and Richard would not have been able to pass that income on to their heirs). The settlements placed the two couples, the Clarences and the Gloucesters, among the wealthiest families of their age. I’m not sure where Penman got her notion that Richard resigned inheritance claims to marry Anne. In fact, both Anne and Richard were dissatisfied with the settlement and successive Parliaments adjudicated their claims to other pieces of the inheritance at least through 1478.

small[Right: brass plate for Anne Neville in Westminster Abbey, 1960]

If the continuator was troubled by the breathtaking disinheritance of Anne of Warwick, still it was accepted that noble women brought property into marriages, and that nobles had to be equipped with the incomes necessary to allow them to fulfill their responsibilities. Turning to how we might see Richard’s role in all of this, contemporaries were equally troubled by Anne and Richard’s decision not to wait to be dispensed in order to marry; by doing so, they risked making their issue illegitimate. I’ve written about the issues of consanguinity involved in relationship to narratives of romance elsewhere, so won’t repeat myself here, except to underline Hicks’ argument that Richard’s request for dispensation from some degrees of affinity but not others when he surely was aware of all of them makes it look like he was leaving an out for himself in case the marriage turned into a liability. As additional evidence for Richard’s interests in this matter: the parliamentary property settlements were written so that Richard could maintain his hold on the incomes even were his marriage declared invalid.

richard3pavstones3[Left: Nineteenth-century stained glass panels of Richard and Anne, Cardiff Castle]

So. Yes, it would be dramatic if Richard and Anne were “in love.” We know that Armitage likes this scenario. No, it’s not impossible that that was the case. But surviving sources suggest that this story should be a both / and. If Anne and Richard were in love, they were also — both — quite conscious of their other interests. It was a marriage made in heaven — if not necessarily in the romantic sense, certainly in the political and financial ones. In my opinion, while it’s fine to write a romance on top of this (and I love seeing lovestruck Richard Armitage, don’t get me wrong), it should be melded with the presentation of Anne and Richard as astute political actors in their own right who knew what was to be gained by contracting matrimony.

anne-neville-queen-richard-iii-michael-hicks-paperback-cover-artFinally: a reading tip: if you’re interested in Anne Neville, Michael Hicks‘ recent biography (2006) is the only single-subject one available. It is sober, balanced, and honest about what information the sources speak on and on what topics they are silent. I relied on it heavily here as a way of finding out what the sources for this topic were. I would not, however, recommend it to readers with little familiarity with English social and political history of the period. Nor can I recommend his notes to scholars — they are patchy and sometimes hard to track down. The Kindle edition I bought lacked hyperlinks from notes in the main text to endnotes, which was a huge pain. If you buy this title, buy the actual book.

Hicks makes clear the near impossibility of writing about a subject for whom sources simply do not survive. No realistic images of Anne survive, either, so she remains an enigma in more than one sense. For further reading about Anne, readers must turn to works on her relatives.

To conclude: once again, I ask readers to state what their preference would be in how a script should define this relationship, in this week’s poll, below.


See you next week for Book II, ch. 14, and Book III, ch. 1-4.


The Sunne in Splendour Group Read continues on Sunday night at 9 p.m., U.S. East Coast time, and continuing Sunday nights through February.

Directions for veterans of #ArmitageWatch are found here.

Participate via the Institute of Armitage Studies facebook page, here. You can sign up there for a reminder to come and chat on facebook, too.

If you want to sign up for Twitter in order to participate in the chat, but haven’t yet, an explanation of procedures is found at the bottom of this post. The tweetchat “room” for this event will be here.

The chat is free form — come to tweet your impressions, or even a favorite quote from the first five chapters of the book.

~ by Servetus on December 3, 2012.

10 Responses to “Richard Armitage / Richard III rumble, Week 9!”

  1. I almost couldn’t believe it when he was asked, and answered, the question. He has a point, he just played a dwarf, why not Richard III. Keep hope alive 🙂 🙂


  2. Thanks for the great synopses and historical info. I missed tweet chat this week, but I’m already into reading book 4. So I will catch them next time.

    My money is on RA portray the other Richard, Earl of Warwick–The Kingmaker–while also producing and such. Warwick is a man who betrays everyone around him for his single minded ambition–a great role for RA to sink his acing chops into.


    • I don’t think Armitage’s age matters much. All of the storied people who portrayed Richard III in the twentieth century (Olivier, Sher, Spacey) were older than Richard’s chronological age when they did it. If it matters to Armitage that’s another matter, but it doesn’t matter to me. 🙂


  3. […] Last Week: TSIS, Book II, ch. 9-13 recounted the recovery of Anne’s person. Anne escaped the Herber and hid in October 1471 (ch. 9); Richard rescued Anne (ch. 10), and proposed and placed her in sanctuary. In November 1471 (ch.11), Richard and Edward IV discussed politics in the wake of Edward’s reaccession and plans for Richard’s marriage to Anne. Richard and Anne (ch. 12) awaited papal dispensation to marry and fought over how to pursue her inheritance; and finally, in February 1472 (ch. 13), Edward forced George, Anne’s guardian and the major obstacle in the way, to consent to the marriage. […]


  4. […] of the Croyland Chronicle (who was in a position to know, and whom we talked about as a source a few weeks ago when discussing the question of Anne’s whereabouts shortly before appearance i…) notes, interestingly, that Richard continued to seek Anne’s bed until shortly before her […]


  5. […] to have supported an anti-royal revolt that took place in Cambridgeshire around the same time. The Croyland continuator does not note the charges but was present at the parliamentary proceedings. He […]


  6. […] complicated; the term of his Parliament-approved seizure of the Neville estates (which I discussed here) had expired with the death of their ward, John Neville’s son, George, and was threatening to […]


  7. […] it’s true that the Croyland continuator, a source who would have been in a position to know this kind of thing, notes that Richard abandoned Anne’s company at this point, writing: […]


  8. […] For those of us interested in the history of fifteenth-century England, the Paston Letters are now digitized and available at the British Library website. They’ve been available in modern editions for several hundred years but now anyone can look at a realistic version of the original. You may remember that I referred to them as a source for the backstory on Richard III, here. […]


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