In a world dictated by men, a political pawn stays silent. She knows she must obey the commands of her family, even if they cost her, her life. Even if she is forced to make decisions that go against everything that she stands for. But this is not any ordinary person: this is a queen forgotten by time, a queen who forged a forgotten legacy. This is Anne Neville, the ‘Forgotten Queen’.

Dead by the age of 28, Anne Neville didn’t leave much of a paper trail. Yet, ironically, her story has a great deal to tell. So who was this woman who stood so close to the king, yet seems so distant today? Was she a pawn in a game of political intrigue, destined to live her life in subservience to men? Or was she a woman who created her own future, who cleverly manipulated men (such as Richard III) to enforce her own beliefs and traditions? With such little evidence, we cannot dare to put words in the mouth of the dead, and cannot dare to presume how they might have felt or thought. But one thing is for certain, with creative license, and knowledge of the past, we can piece together our own version of events, to decode the enigma that is Anne Neville.

In 1456 a future Queen was born, Anne Neville, the younger daughter of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, and Anne de Beauchamp. Her father was one of the most powerful noblemen in England, and the most important supporter of the House of York. Her grandfather’s sister, Cecily Neville, was the wife of Richard, Duke of York, who claimed the crown for York. They were the greatest family in the land, and held remarkable power and prestige in their time. Yet like any other noble family, playing the wheel of fortune had its consequences. By the age of 14, her father Warwick was dead, her cousin executed, and her mother distraught beyond repair. Imagine the pain she must have felt, a family destroyed by politics. Could she really be naive enough to involve herself once again? Was this the reason, she died so young, because she was dealing with forces beyond her control? So many questions asked, so little answers given. It seems strange that the last queen consort of the Plantagenet dynasty could be erased so easily from history. Yet she was, ruthlessly and efficiently, as though she never existed. But why was this?

A shadowy spectre stands at the side of Richard III, child-like and naïve. At least, that is what she likes us to think. Instead this woman is ruthless, truly her father’s daughter. She hides underneath a façade of simplicity, safe in the knowledge that no one would suspect her and her ulterior motives. What would you say if it were she who was responsible for the infamous mystery of Princes in the Tower, or at least played a part in their disappearance? Although there is no circumstantial evidence to suggest she did, it seems significant to note that the blame was never apportioned her way. Certainly, she wouldn’t be the first to obliterate her enemies: Margaret Beaufort was believed to have poisoned the princes herself, to pave the way for the succession of her son Henry VII (although his triumph at the Battle of Bosworth wasn’t until 20 years later).  Yet, Anne Neville was never seen as a suspect, whether it was because of her premature death – which contemporaries believed was a result of poisoning by Richard III – or misrepresentations in literature, no one knows for certain. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that she was not as innocent or naïve as believed. How could she be, under the care of the ruthless Warwick, or her equally formidable mother?

She was a warrior Queen; though forgotten, she left an impression that could never be erased, no matter how hard the Tudors tried. She stood up to countless men, showed incredible bravery, and nurtured the care of several bastardised children that were not her own, with the care of a loving maternal parent. Despite her wealth of attributes and accomplishments, little is known of her, and, sadly, we do not know if any more knowledge will be uncovered. However, let us hope that in the wake of Richard III’s discovery, and renewed interest in the Plantagenet era, that a greater extent of Anne Neville’s story will be revealed in the not-so-distant future.

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