Richard and “Incest”

In BBC History, Richard III Special Edition, Professor Hicks returns to his theory that Richard III’s marriage to Anne Neville was incestuous because of the prior marriage of his brother, George Clarence, to Isabel Neville.

I have to confess to surprise that a historian of Professor Hicks’ fame and academic stature is still chasing this particular cat down the alley. He must surely be aware from his extensive reading that such marriages were not uncommon in the later middle ages.

For example, Edmund of Langley married Isabel of Castile, despite the undoubted fact that his brother, John of Gaunt, was already married to her sister, Constance of Castile.

In the 1430s, Richard Neville (later to be the ‘Kingmaker’) married Anne Beauchamp. At roughly the same time (possibly on the same day, I don’t remember) his sister Cecily, or Cecille, married Anne’s brother, Henry Beauchamp, Lord Despenser,  later Duke of Warwick.

These are two relatively famous examples. There were plenty of similar cases lower down the social scale.

Were Edmund of Langley and Warwick the Kingmaker incestuous and their children illegitimate? Were their parents really so careless when arranging their marriages? I think we should be told.

See also this Marie Barnfield article. Affinity does not beget affinity. QED.




  1. An excellent and truly informative post, as, of course, is the original link. Getting married back then was clearly a minefield of rules and regulations, which Richard and Anne (well, Richard really) negotiated really well. George comes out badly, and Edward isn’t much better.

    I am left with the impression that Richard and Anne really were in love, or at least, he was in love with her. (I will always hesitate about her, but could not really tell you why. It’s just a feeling.) For a prince of Richard’s standing,, I am sure there were other truly wealthy brides around, if not in England then certainly in Europe. He was young and didn’t have to put himself through such a terrible mill for half the Warwick inheritance in particular. But he did if he loved Warwick’s younger daughter.

    Anyway, thank you for all this information…it’s nothing if not a reminder of why writers of historical fiction almost always bungle the finer points! Myself included. But, hey, come to think of it, some supposedly learned historians bungle those points as well!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. And of course we must not forget that at one point Warwick himself wished for the marriage of the two younger York brothers to his two daughters; he certainly didn’t seem to be worry about creating an ‘incestuous ‘ arrangement. Nor was anyone else.
    At one time, unhappy with the division of the Beauchamp inheritance, George tried to bring up the validity of Richard’s marriage using the argument that he was in charge of her and Richard had unlawfully taken her from his wardship. This didn’t get him very far because it only applied to forced marriages and Anne was willing. No mention of ‘incest’, you’ll note.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes it’s a good point that Warwick himself wanted this double match. Warwick was many things, but no man’s fool. Parents arranging marriages thought of these things!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Unless somehow a time machine enabled Richard and Anne’s parents to go back in time, have relations, and thereupon produce them as brother and sister, there can be no possibility of what was suggested by Hicks.

    Goes to show that simply having a PhD does not preclude sheer stupidity. Although I am quite convinced the mindless Richard haters will continue with some equally absurd defense of Hicks.

    Another example of lazy, fake “history” at its finest.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. It doesn’t pertain here, but I wonder how the Church felt about ‘double cousins’ marrying. When two brothers marry two sisters, or for that matter siblings of mixed sexes do, their children are double cousins, genetically the same as siblings. For example, Edward of Middleham and Margaret Pole were double cousins. If Edward had lived, could they have married?
    Inquiring – and idle – minds want to know.


  6. Just found another earlier pairing of brothers and sisters. Henry III married Eleanor of Provence; his brother Richard married Eleanor’s sister Sanchia. Again, very odd that certain academics ignored this very obvious marriage- I guess according to some this Richard, who was earl of Cornwall and elected King of Germany, was an ‘incestor’ too, ahem, and had ‘married his sister’.

    Liked by 1 person

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