Shakespeare has immortalized Anne Neville for us as the woman who married the infamously devious Richard III not long after he murders her first husband. This at least makes her a figure of some interest to the reading community.
This fourth novel in the Cousins War series, continues to tell history from the perspective of the women. Personally, it’s a perspective I prefer, with more focus on the human stories than on great battles.
All three of the previous texts touch on this one, as Anne (who begins as a charming young girl) grows up in the court of The White Queen Elizabeth Woodville, with her mother The Lady of the Rivers and is eventually betrayed by Margaret Beaufort, the Red Queen.
Anne is the daughter of Richard Warwick, known as the “Kingmaker” is he put young Edward – first of the three York brothers – on the throne of England. When Warwick is supplanted in Edward’s affections by the Rivers family, he rebels, convincing second son George, Duke of Clarence, to marry his eldest daughter Isabel. He is determined to have one of his girls on the throne. Eventually he abandons this plan, marrying a frightened young Anne to Edward, son of the formidable Margaret of Anjou who has become even more embittered since the narrative of The Lady of the Rivers .
Young Anne is influenced by her father’s ambitions for her, and the advice of her grasping mother in law and starts upon a path to secure her own greatness. She is soon widowed and held hostage by her sister and the now faithful Duke of Clarence. She begins to plot to seek her independence, beginning by marrying the third and most loyal brother (despite Shakespeare’s portrayal) Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
Together they have only one son, which Anne and Isabel come to feel is the result of the legendary Rivers’ witchcraft. Readers of the series will shudder, knowing the truth of this. The tides turn and turn again – as popular opinion continues to go against the Rivers Queen. Richard defends his brother’s sovereignty while Anne is slowly more and more poisoned against it. When finally Edward succumbs to a round of poisonings that claim the queen’s enemies, Richard finally attempts to take the regency – with Anne’s encouragement. This leads to several infamous historical events – most notably the two princes who disappear into the tower, and are never see again.
Despite Anne’s succession to the throne, the machinations of the court prove to much for her, and my suspicions about Richard – born by that terrific play – are never quite assuaged. I could never quite give up on him as a possible villain, which I found quite delicious. You will experience Anne’s uncertainty and fear first hand.
This series continues to enthrall, and I hear the next subject is Princess Elizabeth of York, the daughter of King Edward and Elizabeth Woodville. Something to look forward to.