“My husband won’t consummate our marriage on orders from his mother.”
Anne has always felt as if she was second fiddle. Edward didn’t help matters by allowing his mother, the forceful Margaret of Anjou, to run his life. But he did long for a proper family. Would he be able to go against his mother and take Anne as a real wife? Could there be peace in the kingdom?
I’ve always been second fiddle. I’m the second daughter of the great Earl of Warwick, also known as the Kingmaker. My sister, Isabel, is four years older than I am. She’s prettier and healthier than me. I was prone to breathing difficulties and ill health, whereas Isabel just glowed. The boys have always liked her more. My father has no sons, so Isabel and I are heiresses. Everyone wants to marry Isabel.
I was born at Warwick Castle, but Middleham Castle in Yorkshire is the place we all think of as home. It’s where I am happiest. Perched on a hill overlooking the valley below, it epitomized safety and tranquility. I never had my breathing trouble when I was there, nor any episodes of illness.
My childhood was pretty typical for a girl of my station. Isabel and I were supervised by an occasional nursemaid. We could race our ponies across the moors, have picnics on the green and play with the dogs. Of course we had our lessons. I loved to read curled up on one of the padded window enclosures. We learned needlework, sewed for the poor, had music lessons and were instructed in the skills of housewifery, so that we could manage a great house someday as well as Mother managed hers.
Gradually, my father brought together a group of boys to learn martial arts and other skills required to be a knight of the realm. One of them was the King’s brother, Richard of Gloucester, known to us as Dickon. Other boys included my father’s ward, the orphaned Francis Lovell, as well as one of the Percy boys and others from the noble houses of England.
Isabel and I would tease them and they would pull our hair or untie our apron strings. I never saw anyone work as hard to master the tools of war as Dickon did. He was not a natural at such things but after a year or so he was by far the best. Born into a family of golden haired giants, Dickon was slight and dark haired – like his father. He had to work twice as hard to compete. I rather liked him.
Once in a while the King’s other brother, George Duke of Clarence, would come for a visit. To my father’s delight, he and Isabel were quite taken with each other. It was clear that my father intended Isabel for George. That would be a great match for her.
One day the peace and tranquility of Middleham came to an abrupt end. My father stormed home, white with rage. King Edward IV had secretly married a Lancastrian widow, Elizabeth, five years his senior. She was the eldest of the huge Rivers (aka Woodville) family.
“But what about the French Princess?” I asked remembering my father’s triumphant return from France only a few weeks ago having secured a royal French wife for Edward.
“The King never took that into consideration. Never gave a thought to the humiliation I would have to bear. I will have to crawl to King Louis and offer my most abject apology. I will be the laughing stock of the continent. After everything I did to get him on the throne and this is how he treats me.”
From then on everything changed. Father spent more of his time in a losing battle with Edward’s Queen – watching in horror as she and her voracious family gobbled up everything in sight, including most of the eligible, wealthy noble marriage partners, manor houses, land, clothes and jewels. The Royal treasury was rapidly emptied and Edward was reduced to raising taxes and borrowing wherever and whatever he could.
Father commented that he hoped there would not be an uprising any time soon or we would be forced to throw stones at the enemy and feed our soldiers boiled nettles.
Through it all, the romance between Isabel and George of Clarence continued to grow. And I have to admit I was falling in love with Dickon too. Isabel and I used to whisper into the night of how magical it would be if the two Warwick girls could marry the two Yorkist boys.
George hated the Queen and all her family. Therefore so did Isabel. He said they were uncouth, ill-bred and were a blot on the body politic. Both George and Isabel were anxious to marry and begged my father to seek the necessary permission from the King.
The next time Father was in London, he met with the King. After discussing a few matters of government, he casually remarked that Isabel and George were very much in love and would like his permission to marry.
Edward froze. He hemmed and hawed and finally told Father he would have to wait until tomorrow for his answer. Father knew right then what the answer would be and who would be behind it. The Queen hated both Father and George. The next day the answer was a resounding “No!” Edward had plans for George to marry a “more suitable” wife. (And I am sure he had similar plans for Richard which wouldn’t include me.)
That was the end for Father. The skirmishing was over. The war had begun. As Kingmaker, Father believed he could remove one king and replace him with his brother George. Isabel couldn’t stop lording it over me how she was going to be Queen of England. She would get to wear all the fancy jewels and the dresses. Father and Mother just filled her head with this stuff. She was insufferable. It was all ‘Isabel, Isabel, Isabel,” until I just wanted to scream.
Father arranged for Isabel and George to be married in secret in Calais in July 1469. What a risk they took. If the king ever found out they could be imprisoned. Our Uncle George Neville, Archbishop of York presided.
On our next trip across the channel in 1470, a heavily pregnant Isabel went into labor. When we arrived of the coast of Calais on King Edward’s orders, we were refused permission to land. While the ship tossed at anchor, Mother and I delivered Isabel’s tiny daughter who lived but minutes and was buried at sea.
Father had retained his good relationship with King Louis and was able to convince him to help broker a deal with King Henry VI’s wife, Margaret of Anjou. The old Lancastrian King was still alive and Margaret was chomping at the bit to get back to England to rule once again.
I was shocked when he told me he was going to help her put Henry VI back on the throne. But one of the conditions for his help was that I had to marry Margaret’s son, Edward Prince of Wales. That horrid, whiny Mama’s boy we used to laugh about at Middleham.
My horror, however, was nothing to the fury of George and Isabel when they realized that the plan no longer was to place George on the throne as had been promised. I have to admit I took some pleasure in Isabel’s sudden turn. It was now “me, me, me, second fiddle Anne, that was going to be queen.” Forgive me, but I kind of liked that idea.
Unfortunately, being queen came with Edward. Yuk! The betrothal took place, rapidly followed by the wedding. The few times I glanced around the room during the ceremony, the guests looked more like they were attending a funeral. I couldn’t find a happy face anywhere. I had hardly exchanged a word with either my husband or his mother. Having grown up in a Yorkist family, to me they were the devil incarnate and for fear of saying the wrong thing, I said nothing. So they ignored me.
My mother and Isabel helped me prepare for bed that night. I couldn’t help thinking that I was now the Princess of Wales and my mother just a countess, my sister a royal duchess. I outranked them both.
But first, I had to get through the wedding night. I was determined and a little frightened. I needn’t have worried. My groom was a no show. The chatty young maid who helped me dress the next day cheerfully gossiped away.
It was interesting to learn that my husband had gotten drunk the night before. My maid also told me that one of Margaret’s ladies had said that the queen didn’t want our marriage consummated, so that it would be easier to get an annulment and Edward could have a truly royal bride once he was crowned King of England.
Again, second fiddle. Not good enough! Married less than a day and my husband and his family already have plans to dump me! I was willing to at least make an attempt with my marriage.
My father needed to return to England and get this war started so I could one day be queen. He was accompanied by Isabel and George, both smoldering with anger as they made their way to the coast to take a boat to England.
The rest of us followed at a slower pace as King Louis’ soldiers began to join our entourage. Edward would occasionally bring his horse next to mine for an hour or so and we would exchange cautious pleasantries. He seemed painfully shy and quite lonely. I was truly beginning to thaw towards him. I began to have hope in my heart that we might make a go of it.
His mother is a nightmare though and he doesn’t do anything without her say so. Would I ever be able to break him of that?
One stormy night while we were staying at a local inn, Edward came and joined me by the fire. Excited to be returning to England and hopefully to Middleham, I started telling him funny stories about growing up there. I told him about the time when Dickon’s Irish wolfhound snatched a huge roast from the kitchen and ran out in the yard followed by the cook brandishing a meat cleaver. Then there was the time Rob Percy fell asleep on top of an ant hill and jumped around for an hour trying to rid himself of them. He laughed hardest of all at the story of Francis Lovell putting a handful of worms down the back of Isabel’s dress.
I have an idea he is not fond of my sister. “Maybe I can go there someday,” he said wistfully. Then the air was filled with this high pitched screech of his mother as she summoned him to her side. God, that woman is awful. I could not hear what she said, but Edward quickly left slamming the door behind him.
The next day, we set sail for England. Edward was very ill. I commented to one of the men in our party that I had no idea Edward had such bad sea sickness. “That’s not sea sickness ma’am. That’s bottle sickness. That young man was feelin’ no pain last night.”
The journey passed relatively calmly. This was a good thing because the news that awaited us on shore was devastating. My father was dead. There had been a dreadful battle at a place called Barnet. The casualties had been high. A second disappointment had been that George of Clarence once again changed sides and had brought a large contingent of troops in on the Yorkist side.
Now Isabel and I were on opposite sides … and so was my dear old friend, Dickon. And here I was a married Lancaster with a screeching mother-in-law, a drunken husband … and wondering what my future would bring – the Tower or a Queenship! Not a great way to start a marriage.
My first reaction was that we should immediately return to France. I think that my mother-in-law knew that a retreat would be the end of her hopes and dreams.
One of the soldiers, who had greeted us said that Jasper Tudor had been raising troops in Wales and if we could find a way to get our men and the remnants left from Barnet to the Welsh border there would be enough men to defeat the Yorkists.
Margaret seized on this and immediately starting rallying the troops, while her command generals started to draw up plans. We set off at double time, Margaret made a great deal out of the fact that anyone who could not keep up would be left behind. I could feel her eyes drilling into me. I smiled slightly and nodded. I was thankful for the hours I had spent on horseback growing up. It helped me avoid riding on a teeth-rattling cart or worse, in a stuffy covered litter.
We rode pretty much from dawn to dusk with only brief stops to water the horses or to grab a hunk of cheese and bread for breakfast, dinner and supper. The ale we drank was sour and when there were no abbeys or inns available, we slept beneath the stars.
I had only had brief glimpses of my husband. We had not exchanged a single word since arriving in England. Once or twice I had caught him looking at me, but he immediately dropped his eyes and moved away.
After eight or nine days in the road, I felt a horse come up beside me. Edward told me he was sorry about my father. I thought that was nice. He asked if I would pray for him in the upcoming battle? I thought that was nice too.
“Of course I will pray for you. You are my husband,” I said. He smiled and said, ‘If we win, I want to go to Middleham as soon as we can.”
He then did something quite unexpected, but again really nice. He picked up my hand and pressed a kiss on my palm. He said, “God bless and keep you, wife.” And he spurred his horse away before I could answer.
I was dumbstruck. Could I really make a go of it with Edward of Lancaster, even with this overbearing, intrusive mother? He has moments of sweetness and we really haven’t had much of a chance to even have a marriage, what with all the plans to overthrow King Edward.
Is our marriage a priority to him? Am I important to him? Did anyone even ask me if I wanted to get dragged along on this crazy scheme of my father and his mother to take the throne? Okay, I wouldn’t mind being queen. That would show Isabel, and all the others who never paid me any mind. Isabel could be my Lady-in-Waiting. Wouldn’t that just frost her?
After this next battle at Tewkesbury, Edward and I need to do some serious talking about our future. And we need to come to a clear understanding regarding his mother. I simply won’t play second fiddle to a Lancastrian ‘she-wolf’.
I kind of like Anne. She’s not too bad for a Yorkist. Not as pretty as her sister, but she’ll do. I’m really hoping we can settle in to a typical royal marriage. You know, she does as she’s told. She doesn’t interfere with my drinking or wenching and we have a few kids to carry on the Lancaster dynasty.
Anne says she’s always been looked over and I should pay more attention to her. Well I’m trying, but I’ve got a lot going on with Maman going on about reclaiming the English throne from cousin Edward.
Meanwhile, Anne should try my life. I have a crazy king dad, Henry VI, whom I don’t even think knows I exist. Seriously. He had some kind of fit and went into a catatonic state before I was born. He truly doesn’t know who I am.
My poor, darling Maman is the dearest, sweetest woman to me. (Okay I admit, she can be a little overbearing and she does make all the decisions. I’m getting a bit tired of that, but Anne’s always carping on my mom.)
Maman hasn’t had it easy either. Poor darling Maman was forced to carry on and give birth without the support and affection of her crazy husband. Since it was eight years before she had me and my dad had had a complete nervous breakdown, rumors flew that my dad might be someone other than crazy Henry. When Dad finally came to his senses, he gave a somewhat grudging acknowledgement of my existence.
Plus, I’ve known nothing but war. From the first encounter at St. Albans when I was an infant, I watched my beautiful Maman rally the troops, raise money to pay them, sit in on the planning of battles and above all else, protect me and my future.
Maman tried very hard to teach me how to survive in the adult world – almost exclusively male. The only problem was that despite the mocking nickname “Captain Marguerite” that her enemies bestowed on her- Maman was ”only” a woman in most people’s eyes, despite the fact she accomplished more than a dozen men.
My father could never have taught me to be a soldier or indeed how to be a man. Devoutly religious, he had no patience for the occasional licentiousness of the Court and would leave the room to avoid seeing a woman with a low cut gown.
Any money he could find was used to endow Eton and other colleges usually at the cost of having an adequate military. He dressed as simply as his average subject, ate sparingly, saving much of the food for the poor. He issued many pardons even for traitors. (Often these forgiven traitors would rise against him again and again).
When Parliament convened and recognized the rights of Richard of York, agreeing in essence that my father could hold the crown for his lifetime after which it would pass to York and his heirs (with no mention of me), my father meekly agreed to this travesty. For me, a line had been crossed and there was no turning back.
Anne talks about being passed over. Well, what about me? That crown was mine by birthright. And my father just gave it away. I am very angry at my father for doing this.
After this, Maman and I had no choice but to flee to France. As cousin of King Louis XI, Maman and I were welcome exiles, but without the English Crown we were treated as “poor relations”. Maman fumed and plotted day and night, calling down curses on the Yorkists, the English who had failed to support us and above all the Earl of Warwick. That was not a fun time for me.
One day Maman was summoned to court by King Louis. She returned incoherent with rage. The King had “suggested” Maman make her peace with her most hated enemy who was also in France, the Earl of Warwick. After helping to drive us from England, he wanted our help to return dear old dad to the throne.
Warwick certainly had the reputation as the best English General – a fact Maman had learned to her cost. But it was her only way back. She swallowed her hatred and agreed to meet with him.
At her insistence, Warwick was forced to kneel for a long time before she would recognize him and listen to his apology for all he did to us. They negotiated the terms of their agreement hammering out each detail. Warwick’s one absolute condition was a marriage between his 14-year-old daughter and … me????
I could not believe my ears. She was a nobody. Never! I refused to even consider it.
Maman and her advisors pointed out that this was probably the only way of regaining the throne. But smart Maman gave me a loophole. She said that if the marriage was not consummated, then an annulment could easily be arranged and another more suitable bride – one with royal blood – could be found. I had no choice! I told the negotiators I was willing.
Anne and I were married in Angers Cathedral in December 1470. It was not a joyous occasion. Maman and Warwick looked grim. Anne looked terrified. Her sister Isabel wept copiously, more likely because Warwick had decided not to try and put her husband George on the throne, than out of compassion for her frail sister. I think Isabel was realizing her little sister was going to be queen, not her.
There was no great celebration. The moment the ceremony concluded, all thoughts turned to war.
We decided that Warwick and his army would precede us on the journey to England. Maman, Anne and I would follow with a contingent of French troops.
During our time waiting for a clear day to sail, I was pleasantly surprised by my wife’s calm and serene behavior. She had told me how she dreaded crossing the channel. I searched her out as the sails filled with wind on the day we sailed. The only sign of fear was a marked increase in her normal pallor, her white knuckled grip at the collar of her cloak. I tried to reassure her by telling her all would be well and not to worry. She gave me a tentative smile and said, “We don’t have much choice, do we?” I kind of admired her spunk.
On April 14, 1471, we landed in England only to be met by the disastrous news that Warwick had been killed at the Battle of Barnet, my father once again was incarcerated in the Tower and Edward IV was back on the throne. This was not a good start.
Anne’s mother immediately took refuge in Beaulieu Abbey, urging her daughter to join her. Anne replied, “Mother, I am married now and a wife should stay with her husband!” Again, I was surprised. I’m sure it would have been far easier to have joined her mother and grieved for her father in private, than to set off on a forced military march halfway across England.
Maman, that beautiful, strong-willed woman who would give her life for me, insisted that we gather up our men and march forward double time. She felt that if we could get to Wales we could join forces with Welsh Tudors and have a large enough army to take on the Brothers York.
Her parting shot to my wife was, “Anne, you’d best keep up or you’ll be left behind.” I wanted to say, “No she won’t be. She’s MY wife.” One look at Maman and the words died unsaid. Her opinion of a girl she referred to as that “Warwick wench” had not changed.
We have been marching for weeks. I have watched Anne grow grey with fatigue and have caught her weeping in private several times. I do not know how to comfort her. Sometimes when I watch her I wonder if she is thinking of her friends on the other side, Gloucester and others she grew up with her at her precious Middleham. Her brother-in-law George will also be part of the Yorkist army since turning his back on us.
I told Maman that this time I will join the fight and not merely observe. After all, I told her if I am old enough to be a husband, I am old enough to be a soldier.
Perhaps after the battle at Tewkesbury, Maman and I will have the time to get to know my new wife and we can all become a family. I’ve never had a family. I’d like to try and make it work with Anne, since as she once said, “We don’t have much choice.”
I just wish I could get these two women to stop talking trash about each other. If they don’t I just might go as bonkers as my dad living with these two women.
The Counselor’s Turn
I’ve spoken before of the difficulties of arranged marriages, began the counselor. But I think for Edward and Anne, theirs happened so quickly and unexpectedly there was no time to prepare or adjust to getting married.
Never mind that their parents quickly started a war to get their children on the throne of England. That’s a lot of pressure for any couple to start off married life, let alone two sheltered teenagers.
Anne unfortunately really struggled with self-esteem issues. She harbored jealousies of her older sister, Isabel, who appeared to have a beauty that Anne felt she herself didn’t possess. And Isabel was four years older, bossy and quite possibly her parents’ favorite.
Plus, her parents had no male issue to hand down the title, wealth and court position her father had spent a lifetime achieving. I believe Anne was subtly made to feel inadequate and unworthy because she is a girl. This damaged her ability to see her own worth. (I see many cases like this among noble and royal marriages. We really need as a society to get better at valuing women as more than chess pieces or brood mares.)
Like so many royal brides, she has brought her insecurities and immaturities with her into her marriage. I do believe whatever attraction she has towards Edward may have more to do with the fact that through him she will be Queen of England. She covets this fame and fortune as a way to get back at all the slights she believes she has been subjected to, especially from her sister, Isabel.
When we discussed this in therapy, Anne was self-aware enough to recognize this envy in herself and the destructive turn it may be taking in her life. Further work is needed here, but recognition is clearly a step forward. Anne also acknowledged that she may have unrealistic, perhaps even fairytale, expectations of being Queen and vows to learn more about any potential royal duties as a means of coping with the stress of not knowing if she is headed as she puts it … to the Tower or queenship.
As for Edward, he is a mass of insecurities which he sublimates through heavy drinking. I do agree with Anne, he relies too much on his mother, but he is only 17. She has been the only constant in his life, his one protector and defender. He is often overwhelmed by her strong personality and has difficulty perceiving where his life goals diverge from hers.
His father is a non-entity to Edward. Due to his father’s madness, they’ve never been close. The last straw for Edward was his father throwing him off as heir to the throne. That was extremely painful and humiliating to Edward. He saw it as a total rejection of who he is as a person.
One of my therapy goals for Edward is to help him work through his anger issues with his father so he can learn to accept his father’s shortcomings and inabilities. This way Edward can start the process of healing his own self in order to develop healthy relationships with his new wife and the many nobles he’s going to need should he become King.
There is also much work to do with Edward to help him untangle himself from his lifelong dependency on his mother and “cleave to his wife.” I don’t’ believe it will be easy and much will be determined by what Edward is willing to do to achieve his own personal happiness. I believe, however, the apron strings can be broken one by one if Edward is open to learning how to do this.
Dealing with his father’s abandonment issues and his mother’s overprotectiveness, may also help Edward to ease up on his drinking. I believe he drinks to ease his pain over his childhood traumas.
Regardless of their youth, there are some real positives in this relationship. One is that Anne and Edward are starting to recognize each other as individuals, and not as the labels their parents have attached to them. In Anne’s case, “that Warrick wench” by her mother-in-law … and for Edward, “devil’s spawn” by Anne’s father. The fact that they can see past these hurtful names gives us a base on which to build a marriage.
Another positive step is that Anne and Edward have tentatively reached out to one another and have liked their communication thus far. With a few more sessions, Edward may feel strong enough to go against his mother’s wishes and consummate this marriage. This intimacy may be what these young royals need to build the bonds of their marriage. After all, they’re young and healthy.
They’ve only been married a little over 4 months. I think it’s way too soon to throw in the towel on this royal marriage. I am cautiously optimistic here. They both appear eager to work on this arranged marriage. Edward because of his desperate need for a “normal” family life. And Anne, out of a sense of duty and gratitude that marriage to Edward and being Queen of England will make her the highest lady in the land – second to no one.
We’ve agreed to speak again after the upcoming Battle of Tewksbury and both have committed to doing some heavy counseling to get this marriage working. I’m looking forward to it.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and is written with tongue firmly planted in cheek.