Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick
Anne Beauchamp was born in 1426 at Caversham Castle in Berkshire to Richard Beauchamp, the 13th Earl of Warwick, and his wife Isabel le Despenser.
As with many women of her time, not much is known about her and there doesn’t exist a contemporary image of her.
Her family were prolific land owners, wealthy and well connected, with her father serving Henry V and tutoring the young Henry VI.
She married Richard Neville (later to be the Earl of Warwick and known as Warwick the Kingmaker) in ca. 1436 at the age of 9.
It was in 1449 that Richard inherited the title Earl of Warwick through Anne, and it is unknown when Anne and Richard began living together as husband and wife.
It must have been sometime around 1450 as their first child, Isabelle was born at Warwick Castle in 1451. 1456 saw the birth of her second and youngest child, Anne also at Warwick Castle.
Anne and her family spent much time at Middleham Castle, a grand stronghold in the North that had been in the Neville family since the 13th century.
After the death of Richard, Duke of York at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, his young sons Richard (later Duke of Gloucester) and George (later Duke of Clarence) came to live in their household, where they were schooled in the art of war, amongst other disciplines.
Through Anne’s husbands Warwick’s support, Edward, Earl of March ascended to the throne as King Edward IV in 1461 and Warwick was at the height of his power.
It wasn’t to last however as Warwick rebelled against Edward in 1469, forcing Anne and her daughters to flee to France in exile. (I wrote more about Warwick’s rebellion here)
Warwick was focused on overthrowing Edward and Anne saw her two daughters married off, Isabel to the ambitious George, Duke of Clarence whom her husband was trying to make King, and after this failed, he married Anne to Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales and son of the crown’s greatest enemy, Margaret of Anjou.
Margaret of Anjou was Queen to the displaced Henry VI for whom King Edward had overthrown to become King.
It must have been an upsetting time for Anne to see her daughters married in such circumstances, or was she pleased that they had made such high marriages?
Anne wasn’t to have a happy later life. Her husband was killed in the
Battle of Barnet in 1471, and she found herself well and truly in the wrong side. Anne, having just arrived back in England fled to sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey.
The Lancastrian cause was finally ended at the Battle of Tewkesbury with the death of Edward of Westminster. Her daughter Anne was now a widow, and was soon married to Richard, Duke of Gloucester in 1472.
Anne Beauchamp was an extremely wealthy widow having inherited the Warwick estate, and her ancestral inheritances of Beauchamp and Despenser.
Tensions grew between George and Richard about her inheritance, even though she was still alive.
George had seized Warwick’s lands in the aftermath of Barnet and tried to keep them for himself. He did not support Richard’s marriage to Anne as Anne and Isabel were co-heiresses.
If Richard married Anne, the Warwick / Beauchamp inheritance would be shared between the two women.
Edward IV eventually stepped in to settle matters, and George had to eventually be satisfied by the Welsh and Midland properties, including the the tile of Earl and castle of Warwick. Richard was given many northern properties including Barnard Castle.
This was supported by an Act of Parliament which confirmed the Duke’s rights to claim the lands as Anne Beauchamp was declared legally dead: “as though she were naturally dead and that she should be barred and excluded therefrom.”
In 1473, Anne left Beaulieu Abbey and was escorted to Middleham Castle to live with her daughter Anne.
Not much more is known about Anne’s later life, we don’t know how long she stayed at Middleham. However, under the reign of Henry VII, she was granted some of her lands back.
Anne died at the age of 66 in 1492 and was buried with her husband at Bisham Abbey.
By the time she died, all the people who were close to her or whom she loved were long gone.
Did Anne Beauchamp own the Middleham Jewel?
Quite possibly yes. She spend many years at Middleham, whilst her husband owned the property, and again after she left sanctuary in 1473. Perhaps she lost it when travelling to one of Warwick’s other properties.
It was such an expensive item, was Warwick wealthy enough to have bought it for her whilst she was giving him children?