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Royalty and Daughters: The Lives of Isobel and Anne Neville (page 4)

by Wendy Zollo

And where was Isobel during this havoc? There is no testimony of the role she may have played in this escapade, which makes it impossible to speculate on her actions. There are questions we could ask. Did she encourage her husband's acquisitiveness? Was she too intimidated by his unbalanced personality to oppose him? Would he have listened if she had? Did she conspire with her sister in her time of neediness? It's a moot point, as it would only be speculation. If she did support Anne, it would have illustrated strength of character in defying her husband's ambitions. If she sat idly by, does it prove there was no great attachment between them? Isobel was never taken into account in any of the events regarding the Beauchamp/Despenser estates. (Warwick's wealth having previously been settled by and large on Gloucester.)

In fairness to the sisters, neither George nor Richard raised a voice to advocate Anne Beauchamp's case. She remained in sanctuary, posting letters pleading her claim to Edward and Parliament, who blatantly ignored them. (If the Countess had been successful in this, she would surely have remarried. Something Edward had no intention of allowing. He would have lost the vast estates and power that accompanied them. Better to deal with his bickering brothers and maintain the wealth in the family.) It is not known if the Countess sought her daughters' assistance; it would be a fair supposition that she did. If so, there is no evidence that they came to her aid. They may have tried to induce their respective spouses on her behalf and if true, Anne would have to be considered the most supportive of the two. Richard did eventually secure her release, providing a limited pension and welcoming her into her former residence at Middleham. He may have felt some responsibility to Anne Beauchamp, prompted by Anne and in remembrance of the positive years spent in the North of England with the Neville family. It is a difficult to imagine that Isobel had the commanding nature necessary to sway the mercurial Clarence.

Most of the spoils of the Beauchamp estate were settled on Isobel and George. Edward did his utmost to appease his unsavory brother, attempting to curb his insubordinate instincts. Richard and Anne received little more of the Warwick estates than they had already been given.

Richard and Anne married, in all probability, in 1473 (the date is disputed but this seems the most likely), a hurried, quiet affair without the necessary dispensation, leaving some doubt over the legality of the marriage. This may account for the provision in the Acts of Parliament that settled the dubious inheritance, stating that should the Duke and Duchess divorce; the Duke would retain the rights and deeds to the estates.

After the long-drawn-out controversy, Isobel and Anne's lives settled into a more customary routine. Anne gave birth to a son, Edward of Middleham, between the years 1474-76, making him eight or nine years old at the time of his death. It was a death that brought much grief to the Gloucesters; he would prove to be their only child.

Isobel was also bearing children around the same time. She delivered first a daughter, Margaret, named for Clarence's favorite sibling, in 1473. Her third child Edward, given his grandfather's former title, Earl of Warwick, was born in 1475.

One can only speculate upon how much personal contact Isobel and Anne may have had during these years. Any written correspondence has not survived the centuries.

Isobel gave birth to her last child in 1476, dying shortly thereafter. There is some disagreement over the cause of her death (stated as either consumption or childbed fever). Isobel gave birth to Richard in an infirmary at Tewkesbury Abbey. This was unusual; women of rank frequently gave birth in the 'comfort' of their residences. Was this provision taken because she was suffering from an illness during the latter part of her pregnancy? She stayed in the Abbey for a month following the birth and was still in poor health when she was moved to Warwick Castle in November. She succumbed to her illness, dying in December of the same year. Her son Richard died a few weeks later. It can be surmised that Isobel was suffering from some illness (likely consumption-tuberculosis) and was seriously weakened by the pregnancy and birth.

Isobel Neville, Duchess of Clarence, was buried in Tewksbury Abbey near her ancestors. By her early death, she was spared the execution of her husband, the deaths of her two brother-in-laws, King Edward IV and King Richard III, her sister's only child and the early death of Anne herself. She also never witnessed the glory of Anne's coronation, in which no doubt she would have played an important role.

With the brilliance of Anne's crown, the circle was complete, for Warwick had his Neville on the throne of England.

© Wendy Zollo -2000/02

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