Thanks to the contemporaneous accounts given by Croyland (1) and the Acts of Court (2) we have a good insight into the events that followed, almost immediately, the death of Queen Anne i.e. the rumours that Richard, in his eagerness to marry his niece, hastened the death of his wife with the aid of poison – his denial, made publically, ‘in a loud and distinct voice’ (3) in the Great Hall of the Priory of the Knights Hospitaller of St John, Clerkenwell – pushed to it by Sir Richard Ratcliffe and William Catesby, although Croyland adds, rather slyly, it was not what he really wished himself..and there is no need to go into all the detail here as it is well known.
The Gate House of the Priory of the Knights Hospitaller of St John at Clerkenwell.
I would have thought, hopefully , that nowadays, the idea that Richard could have poisoned Anne is now perceived as ridiculous, a complete and utter nonsense. However, not entirely so. Indeed Prof Hicks in his biography of Anne – Anne Neville Queen to Richard lll (“The first time in ages that a publisher has sent me a book that I actually want to read” opines David Starkey – well he would wouldn’t he?) wrote, in a chapter headed ‘Past her Sell By Date’ that ‘she was unwell, languishing and died, unattended and indeed unregretted by her husband”(4). What? Anne the Queen, dying a lonely death, cruelly neglected by her uncaring husband? – its a Scandal!. And where was Richard at that desperately sad time? One way to find out..check Rhoda Edwards wonderful little book – The Itinerary of King Richard lll 1483 – 1485(5). And there we have it..the truth of the matter. From the onset of Anne’s fatal illness, not long after Christmas 1484 to her death on Wednesday 16 March 1485, Richard never left the Palace of Westminster, where she lay dying, except for a total of ll days when he was at Windsor.
I would say that there could be no stronger indication than this, that, yes, Richard did love his wife and was loyal to her to the end. He could have gone elsewhere, made his excuses, got away from it all but he didn’t. He stayed with her until the day she died – finally leaving Westminster on Thursday 12 April – never to return. Five months later, he too was dead. Clearly he gave to Anne the loyalty that he was to find so disastrously lacking in others to himself. But then again, this was a man whose motto was Loyaltie me Lie.
- Croyland p.499
- Richard lll The Road to Bosworth, P W Hammond & Anne F Sutton, Acts of Court pp 173-4.
- Croyland p.499
- Anne Neville Queen to Richard lll, Michael Hicks, Chaper 7, Past Her Sell by Date, p.212.
- Itinerary of King Richard lll 1483-1485, pp29, 30, 31, 32, 33. Rhoda Edwards.