Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick

by Judi Dickson

Anne Beauchamp was born on 13 July, 1429, at Caversham, Oxfordshire, the youngest daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and his second wife Isabel Despenser, widow of another Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Worcester.

Little is known of her early years.  In 1434, her father betrothed her and her brother Henry to Richard Neville, eldest son of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury and Cecily Neville, Richard’s eldest sister, respectively.  The Earl of Salisbury threw in 4,700 marks to even the balance.1  Anne and Richard were married in 1436.

Richard Beauchamp died in Rouen, France in 1439 and was buried in St. Mary’s Church, Warwick, in the chapel that bears his name.   The Earl’s three daughters from his first marriage to Elizabeth Berkeley, heiress to the Lisle estates, inherited their mother’s properties. His son Henry became the Duke of Warwick and he inherited all the lands that went with the title.

Upon her marriage to Richard Neville, Anne Beauchamp has brought with her a competent dowry, but nothing substantial.  It was not expected that Anne was to become so important in the future.

Her brother Henry died suddenly in 1446, leaving his young daughter Anne a very wealthy heiress.  Anne followed her father to the grave three years later.

Anne Beauchamp was now, due to the deaths of her brother and niece, the heiress of the Beauchamp-Despenser properties, which included Warwick Castle, hundreds of manors, lands stretching from Cornwall to Castle Barnard in Yorkshire, West Midlands, South Wales, most of southern England, and the manors of Tamworth and Wychwood. 

The fortunes of Anne’s husband Richard Neville also changed.  He became the new Earl of Warwick by right of his wife and one of the biggest land owners in England.2

The following year found the Countess involved in a land dispute with her half-sisters: Margaret, Countess of Shrewsbury, Eleanor, Lady Roos and later Duchess of Somerset, and Elizabeth, Lady Latimer.  The three sisters were disputing Anne’s right as the new Countess of Warwick and they felt that they were entitled to a larger share of their father’s estate.

Under the terms of Earl Richard’s will, if Henry died before his father or died while still a minor, his four sisters would have divided the estates.   However, the Earl died in 1439, his son Henry  in 1446, and his daughter Anne in 1449.  As a result of an inquisition held at Hereford, it was declared that the sole heir was Henry’s sister Anne because she was the whole sister of Henry and her half-sisters were excluded from the inheritance.3

Margaret, Eleanor, and Elizabeth were not about to give up so easily.  They appealed to the King in order to keep properties in custody until a final decision was reached.  On 15 April 1454, Anne’s title was confirmed and her husband became Earl of Warwick in right of his wife.

The majority of The Beauchamp properties were granted to Richard Beauchamp’s issue by his second Countess, Isabel Despenser and remained with Anne Beauchamp and her husband.  The co-heirs of the estates were in 1449 George Neville of Abergavenny, a minor, son of Elizabeth Beauchamp of Abergavenny, daughter of Countess Isabel Despenser from her first marriage, and Anne Beauchamp; but most of the properties went to Richard Neville, except for a moiety of Elway Lacy, which was given to George Neville and also the dower lands of Eleanor Neville.  Richard Neville also held the lordship of Abergavenny and other estates that were part of the Abergavenny inheritance of Richard Beauchamp.4

On 5 September 1451, Anne and Richard became parents for the first time with the arrival of their daughter Isabel.  Their second daughter Anne was born on 11 June 1456.  Both births took place at Warwick Castle.

It is not known what Anne was doing when England was divided by civil war, pitting the House of York against the House of Lancaster, dividing families and friends.  The most likely place for her to have been was Warwick Castle with her two young daughters.

As the monarchy switched sides from the feeble Lancastrian Henry VI to the young Yorkist Edward IV, Anne’s husband Richard was in charge of the kingdom.  During the first three years of his reign, Edward seemed content to let Warwick run the country and foreign policy.  Edward’s secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville infuriated Warwick, who had other plans for him.  The relationship between the two men was no longer a close one.

During the spring of 1469, the Countess left England for Calais with her husband (who was Captain of Calais) both daughters, and George, Duke of Clarence, who had allied himself to Warwick.  Isabel and George were married in July of the same year.

Shortly after the wedding, the Nevilles and George of Clarence were back in England, trying to garner support against Edward.  Eventually Warwick and George were declared traitors.

The following spring (1470), with the breach between her husband and the King no longer reconcilable, Anne and her family fled England for Calais, which refused to admit them.  It was in Calais harbor that Isabel’s labor had begun.  Under ordinary circumstances the birth of the first grandchild is a joyous occasion.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.  With no one to attend her but her mother and younger sister, Isabel gave birth to a child who was either stillborn or died shortly after birth and was buried at sea.

The family continued on to Honfleur, where they were received by Louis XI and Margaret of Anjou.  Warwick allied himself to the Margaret and the Lancastrian cause.  To seal the bargain, his younger daughter Anne was married to Margaret’s son, Edward of Lancaster.

The Countess and her daughters remained in France while her husband fought against his former ally Edward IV at Barnet on 14 April 1471.  Both Warwick and his brother John, Marquess Montagu, were slain.  They were buried in Bisham Abbey, Berkshire.

In the meantime, Anne returned to England, landing at Portsmouth.  She journeyed to Southampton, probably to meet up with Margaret of Anjou and her daughter Anne, now the wife of Edward of Lancaster.  Upon learning of her husband’s death, the Countess fled to Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire, where she applied for and received sanctuary.

During the aftermath of Barnet, George, Duke of Clarence (having abandoned his father-in-law for his brother Edward) seized Warwick’s properties and fought with his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester for the right of being the sole owner.  He did not want his brother Richard to marry the now-widowed Anne Neville, thus depriving him of some of the properties, since Warwick’s two daughters were his co-heiresses.5  Edward was forced to intervene between the two brothers, with Richard receiving Middleham and other northern properties, and Barnard Castle in County Durham.  George kept the Welsh and Midland properties and Richmond Castle, Yorkshire.

In the spring of 1473, Anne, now the widowed Countess of Warwick, left Beaulieu Abbey.  Escorted by Sir James Tyrell, she journeyed north to Middleham Castle to live with her daughter, Anne and her husband, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

The following year an Act of Parliament was created, giving both George, Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the authority to claim the lands held by the Countess as their wives’ inheritance “as though she were naturally dead and that she should be barred and excluded therefrom.” 6

It is not known what the Countess’ activities were over the next few years.  It is possible that she remained at Middleham.  There is no record to her attending her daughter Anne’s coronation as England’s Queen in 1483 or where she was when her son-in-law Richard III was slain at Bosworth two years later.

What is known is that when Henry Tudor took the throne, Anne’s fortunes changed.  Since her husband had died fighting for the Lancastrian cause, he was no longer considered a traitor.  In 1487, she was granted lands by Henry and a pension of 500 marks.  In November of the same year, an Act of Parliament annulled that of 1474 and restored to her the family estates. One month later, the Countess conveyed most of her lands back to the Crown.7   Two years later, she received back the manors of Sutton Coldfield and others for life, dating from Michaelmas 1487.8

Other than the recorded land transactions, there is little information about the Countess’ last years. Whatever happened, they must have been lonely years for her, as death had already claimed her loved ones – her husband Richard in 1471, her older daughter Isabel in 1476 and her younger daughter Anne in 1485.  Death came for Countess Anne sometime before 20 September 1492.9 She was buried at Bisham Abbey.10

Notes

1 McFarlane, K.B., The Nobility of Later Medieval England, Oxford University Press, 1973, p. 201.

2 Calendar of Patent Rolls 1446-1452, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1909, pp. 235-6.

3 Ibid., p. 451.

4 A moiety is a portion, up to half, of an inheritance or estate.

5 Anne Neville’s husband, Edward of Lancaster, had been killed at Tewkesbury, three weeks after Barnet, in May 1471.

6 CPR 1467-77, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1909, pp. 455-6.

7 Calendar of Close Rolls 1485-1500, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1955, p. 90.

8 Salzman, L.F., editor, The Victoria History of the Counties of England – Warwickshire, Oxford University Press, 1945, Vol. 4, p. 233.

9 CCR 1485-1500, p. 405.

10 My thanks for Mr. Terry Babbage at the Collegiate Church of St. Mary’s, Warwick, for his help in finding the Countess’ burial place.

Bibliography

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Calendar of Close Rolls 1485-1500, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1955.

Calendar of Patent Rolls 1446-1452, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1909.

Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1467-1477, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1909.

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_____, Warwick the Kingmaker, Blackwell Publishers, 1998.

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Articles

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 ©Article appeared in the March 1998 issue of the Medelai Gazette.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.

 

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