The 10 greatest medieval royal romances? Some, maybe….

John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster
John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster

Well, my opinion only, of course, but where are John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford/de Roët? I don’t believe his first wife, Blanche, was his greatest love. That honour went to Katherine, for love of whom he went to extraordinary lengths, enduring scandal and opprobrium, but eventually making her his third duchess. And managing to legitimize his Beaufort children by her.

As for Edward II and Piers Gaveston. No, they don’t warrant inclusion, I’m afraid. Not because it was gay, but because it became dangerously spiteful, petty, posturing and not a little ridiculous. It ultimately destroyed all concerned. Then Edward II showed even less judgement by moving on to the dreadful Despensers. There was nothing great or romantic about his conduct in allowing his favourites such enormous power. I find his reign fascinating, but always want to shake him until his royal teeth rattle.

Edward II and Piers Gaveston
Edward with Gaveston

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn? Hmm. That gross man always thought with his codpiece, not his heart. The same goes for his maternal grandfather, Edward IV, the contents of whose codpiece appear to be overactive in the extreme.

Katherine of Valois and Owen Tudor? I have grave misgivings about this one. I believe she was more interested in Edmund Beaufort, 4th Earl of Somerset, and that when she became pregnant and he wouldn’t/couldn’t marry her, lowly Owen Tudor was hastily drummed up to “do the honours” of claiming to be the unborn child’s father. Maybe Owen already had a good and understanding relationship with Katherine? This might have made him acceptable to her in her hour of need. I may be wildly wrong about this, of course, but (once again) it’s my opinion.

Edward III and Philippa of Hainault? Yes. The Black Prince and Joan of Kent? Yes. Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville? Yes. Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon? Yes. Edward I and Eleanor of Castile? Yes.

Who else is missing, apart from Katherine Swynford? Well, Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. Theirs was another political royal match, but they fell deeply in love. He was utterly distraught when she died suddenly.

Richard III and Anne Neville
Richard III and Anne Neville

Richard III and Anne Neville? George of Clarence and Isabel Neville? I think both couples are strong contenders. Whatever else may be said, about the brothers only wanting the Warwick inheritance, and so on, it seems to be an irrefutable fact that the Neville sisters won their York husbands’ hearts. Maybe it can be argued that their father’s inheritance was a great big carrot to both men, but the fondness/love that eventually came into being was real enough. Both men were heartbroken by their wives’ deaths, and George could not cope with Isabel’s loss. Richard, perhaps stronger emotionally, was equally as broken, but did not fall apart as George had done. Am I misjudging these marriages as well? No. I stick to my opinion!

No doubt, you will stick to yours too!




  1. Richard and Anne a great romance? There really isn’t evidence either way is there? We don’t know much about their personal relationship. It was a pragmatic marriage, typical of the times. There isn’t much evidence about him mourning, just that she received the conventional honors as a queen consort. However, there were rumors of a rift between them at the time, the tension steaming from there only being on child of the marriage, and the loss of him. Richard was looking into remarriage (Portugal) even before she died. In his public denial re EoY, he stated that he mourned Anne and hadn’t wished for her death, so it obviously wasn’t clear to everyone around him,

    I wouldn’t have put Edward IV and Henry VIII in the same breath, Edward and Elizaberh seemed to remain pretty happy together for almost 2 decades, and well, he didn’t chop her head off.


  2. Liz: “Rumours of a rift”? Got link?

    As for counting his efforts to prepare a peaceful and orderly succession as some sort of black mark against him: I beg to differ.

    Anne, like her sister Isabel, was never in very good health during her short life. Her final illness came after the death of her and Richard’s young son, Edward of Middleham. As a monarch without legitimate heirs to succeed him and rule, Richard did what any prudent and sensible monarch would do: he took steps to remedy this situation.

    The first goal was always to have a legitimate heir of his own blood. Such an heir would be far less open to assault and usurpation. He also wanted to unite the York and Lancaster factions and end the civil wars once and for all. Hence his negotiations with the last remaining branch of legitimate Lancastrians, the ones comprising Portugal’s royal family, for a double wedding of him with Joan of Portugal and his niece Elizabeth with Manuel of Portugal. Bosworth intervened, alas.

    But even if Richard died with legitimate heirs of his own blood, he still had options for a peaceable succession. After his son Edward’s death, he made young Warwick, his brother Clarence’s son, his heir, and was planning to ask Parliament to reverse the attainder on Clarence’s children so that Warwick could succeed to the throne. As an alternative, and as rumours of Warwick’s alleged incapacity came forth, he later selected John de la Pole. Again, Bosworth intervened.


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