Queen Consort of Richard II of England
Born 1366 Died 1394

As Richard II, king of England from the age of ten in 1377, came of age the question of finding a suitable bride for the king naturally arose. One of the available marriage prospects was Anne of Bohemia, the eldest daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV by his fourth wife Elizabeth of Prague. Anne was also half-sister to Wenceslaus IV king of Bohemia and her name came up as a result of diplomatic contact with Wenceslaus who was organising support for Pope Urban VI against his French sponsored rival Clement VII. (See the Great Schism.) Since England was still fighting the Hundred Years War against France they were predisposed to make common cause against the old enemy.

The marriage negotiations were somewhat interupted by the Peasants revolt in 1381, but following the suppression of that particular disturbance, Richard's former tutor Sir Simon Burley, together with the Michael de la Pole, the Earl of Suffolk were sent abroad to close the deal. Although Anne was cultured and well bred she was unfortunately rather poor, and no dowry was on offer; on the contrary Richard even agreed to lend his new brother-in-law 15,000 pounds in order to seal the bargain. But no matter as it seems that Richard had selected Anne for his bride "on account of her nobility and her reputed gentleness of character". As well as, of course, the diplomatic advantages of an alliance with Bohemia.

Anne and Richard were duly married on the 14th January 1382 with Anne's formal coronation taking place two days later. Although Anne appears to have initally been unpopular (the lack of any dowry rankled in certain quarters) and there was the usual prejudice against the various Bohemian followers who came with her to England1. However she soon won over the English with her gentle nature and piety, all qualities much admired in medieval women. The first she demonstrated in 1388 went on her bended knees before parliament to plead for the life of Simon Burley2 (unsuccessfully as it happens) and the latter through her patronage of several religious houses.

In 1392 when Richard took offense at the attitude of the city of London when they refused to grant a loan of £1,000 as demanded and he revoked the city's charter. Anne intervened and successfully pleaded with Richard to change his mind. Naturally this made her very popular in London. Indeed it seems that Anne was rather popular with Richard himself as well, and unusually for dynastic marriages at the time appeared to have had a genuine relationship and a happy marriage. As a recent biograper of the king wrote, "The bond that was established between them was one of remarkable strength and intimacy for an arranged marriage at this level of society in the middle ages."3

Unfortunately her marriage to Richard remained childless. It has been suggested that Richard's great admiration for Edward the Confessor might indicate a desire to emulate his predecessor's practice of chastity, others believe that Richard was homosexual, most likely one or other of the two parties was simply infertile4. In any event the failure of the marriage to produce the required heir raised a question mark regarding the succession, which made it that bit easier for Henry IV to later usurp the throne.

In 1394 another strain of the plague was doing the rounds and as the Westminster Chronicle reported, "on 7 June Anne, queen of England, and daughter of the emperor, died at the manor of Sheen". Anne was only twenty-seven and Richard was by all accounts inconsolable with grief at the loss. It is said that for a whole year he refused to go into any room she'd been in and he certainly ordered Sheen Palace, previously one of his favourite residences, completely flattened.

Her funeral was a suitably grand affair and attendance was obligatory for those that wished to remain in the king's favour. When the Earl of Arundel turned up late, Richard was sufficiently annoyed to hit him. Richard ordered the construction of a suitably splendid tomb, decorated with effigies of both himself and Anne holding hands which was erected over her grave at Westminster Abbey in the chapel of Saint Edward the Confessor, next to that of Edward III.

It was Richard's intention to be buried next to her when his time came, although as it happens, Richard's time came sooner than he might have expected as he was killed at Pontefract Castle in 1400 on the orders of his successor Henry IV he who paid little attention to Richard's wishes as regard the disposal of his corpse. He was not however reunited with Anne until 1413 when Henry V ordered that Richard's remains be relocated to Westminster Abbey in accordance with his instructions.

As a rather macabre endnote when Anne's tomb was opened in 1871 most of her skeleton was found to be missing, as over the years visitors had removed her bones through a hole in the side of the tomb and taken them home as souvenirs.


NOTES

1 Indeed it is generally believed that it was the Bohemians in Anne's entourage that were first introduced to the writings of John Wyclif which they later transmitted back to Bohemia, where they greatly influenced a cerain John Huss.

2 Along with many of Richard's supporters and favourites Simon Burley was charged and convicted for treason by the Merciless Parliament.

3 Quotation from Nigel Saul, Richard II. (Yale University Press, 1997) pp. 93-94 yanked from the Teresa Eckford article noted below.

4 Since neither Anne nor Richard ever had any children it is impossible to conclude with whom the problem lay.


SOURCES

  • Anne of Bohemia at http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/beyond/factsheets/makhist/makhist3_prog9e.shtml
  • Anne of Bohemia - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright © 2003 Columbia University Press. http://www.bartleby.com/65/an/AnneBohe.html
  • Teresa Eckford Richard II and Anne of Bohemia at http://www.triviumpublishing.com/articles/richard_ii_anne_bohemia.html
  • Tony Tyndale Wycliffe Queen Anne of Bohemia and the Tyndales of Hockwold, Norfolk at http://www.tyndale.org/TSJ/11/ttyndale.html
  • Monarchs Buried at Westminster Abbey: Richard II (1367-1400) http://www.westminster-abbey.org/library/monarchs/richard_ii.htm

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