Anne Neville was born in about 1410 (depending on the source you read). By the time she was fourteen she was married to Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford who would go on to become the First Duke of Buckingham. The family was hugely wealthy. Anne like many of the other women in her family became noted for her interest in books and spent money on lavishly illustrated prayer books and psalters. The Wingfield Book of Hours was hers for example. In addition, as with others of her family History also has her book of accounts detailing her expenditure. She died in 1480 at the age of seventy (ish) after two marriages and many children – again figures vary depending upon the source but there were at least ten of them. Sadly of their sons, only three survived to adulthood.
Anne’s eldest son with Humphrey Stafford – unsurprisingly another Humphrey died in 1458 of plague – a reminder of the fact that disease stalked the land culling various Neville descendants just as much as war. Anne’s son had been married to his cousin Margaret Beaufort – not to be confused with the Margaret Beaufort. This one was the daughter of Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (the one who had a thing with Katherine of Valois and managed to get himself killed at the first Battle of St Albans in May 1455) rather than Margaret’s more famous cousin who was first married to Edmund Tudor.
The next son was Henry Stafford who married the widowed Margaret Tudor – nee Beaufort. It must have been a bit confusing to have two Margaret Beauforts in the family. This Margaret, other than being Henry VII’s mother, was the daughter of John Beaufort the older brother of Edmund who died in 1444 under suspicious circumstances having lost vast chunks of France due to ineptitude. Henry Stafford seems to have had a skin condition called St Anthony’s Fire – the condition involving inflammation of the skin as well as headaches and sickness which cannot have been ideal when you had to get togged up in armour and go and fight battles. There were no children from this union but the pair seem to have genuinely loved one another celebrating their wedding anniversary each year and Margaret Beaufort celebrated St Anthony’s day throughout her life. Sir Henry fell victim to the Wars of the Roses dying from injuries sustained at the Battle of Barnet in October 1470. Although the family had started off loyal to Henry VI, Henry had made his peace with Edward IV and when he was injured was fighting on the side of the White Rose. Soon afterwards, in 1472, Lady Margaret Beaufort married Thomas Stanley.
Anne’s third and final son to survive to adulthood was called John and he would become the Earl of Wiltshire. Like his brothers he fought in the Wars of the Roses. History knows that he was at Hexham in 1464 fighting on the side of Edward IV. He went on to become Chief Butler for England. Like his brothers also married an heiress. He and his wife, Constance Green, had one son born in 1470 who inherited John’s title and estates when he was just three years old. As his cousin Buckingham would do, the child Edward found himself under the care of his paternal grandmother – Anne Neville Duchess of Buckingham. In 1483, now thirteen, Edward carried Queen Anne’s crown at the coronation of King Richard III and he was also in York for Edward of Middleham’s creation as Prince of Wales. Four years later Stafford was at Elizabeth of York’s coronation as Henry Tudor’s queen. The earldom of Wiltshire became extinct on Stafford’s death in 1499 but was recreated at a later date.
Several daughters from Anne’s union to Humphrey survived to marriageable age and this proved to be a bit of a headache for the Buckinghams despite the wealth I mentioned earlier. Part of the problem was the Humphrey’s mother held extensive dower estates having not only been married to Humphrey’s father but to his older brother before that. Until she died the dower estates were hers rather than the dukes. Buckingham must have sympathised with Katherine Neville, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk whose marriage to the duke ended with his death many decades before her own. Buckingham wished to make extremely good marriages for his daughters and that cost money.
The couple’s oldest daughter, another Anne, married the heir to the Earl of Oxford. Aubrey de Vere is best known to history for being executed for treason in 1462 along with his father the twelfth Earl of Oxford. Edward IV had Aubrey and his father arrested for writing to Margaret of Anjou and planning to have a Lancastrian force land in England. This was rather unfortunate as up until that time the de Veres had done rather well at keeping themselves out of the fifteenth century fracas. It would also have to be said that the exact nature of the plot is rather blurred round the edges. Anne de Vere nee Stafford went on to marry Thomas, Lord Cobham. Thomas died in 1471 without legitimate male issue so his title passed to Anne’s daughter also called Anne who was married to Edward Burgh of Gainsborough who was unfortunately declared insane.
Anne Cobham married Edward Burgh when he was thirteen. Katherine Parr’s first spouse was a member of the Burgh family. Anne Neville and Humphrey Stafford’s 2x-great grandson Thomas Burgh fought at Flodden in 1513 and sat on Anne Boleyn’s trial having been very forceful in her favour at the time of Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon – he is on record as ripping the royal coat of arms from her barge. His residence in Gainsborough was Gainsborough Old Hall which I have posted about before. Sir Thomas does not seem to have been a terribly pleasant man given his towering rages and having his own grandchildren declared illegitimate.
But back to the daughters of Anne Neville and Humphrey Stafford. Joan Stafford, was married aged ten to William, Viscount Beaumont who started out as a Lancastrian, became temporarily Yorkist after Towton when he was captured but wasn’t given back his lands- Edward chose to give them to his friend Lord Hastings- so remained Lancastrian at heart which meant that the next two decades were eventful for him until he returned with Henry Tudor and took part in the Battle of Bosworth. William was unusual in that his loyalty to the Lancastrians was pretty much unwavering. Unfortunately for Joan the marriage was set aside in 1477. She went on to marry Sir William Knyvett of Buckenham in Norfolk. The family was an important part of the Norfolk gentry and feature in the Paston Letters. Like her mother, Joan commissioned many books which survive today.
A third daughter called Catherine married into the Talbot family. John Talbot became the 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury after his father’s death in 1460.The couple had two sons and a daughter. It feels as though Neville strands of DNA link most of the important fifteenth century families and reflects the way in which a power base and affinity could be built. Another daughter, Margaret married Robert Dunham of Devon.
Humphrey Stafford overstretched himself as he was still paying his daughters’ dowries when he died and accommodation had to be made for that in his will. The Buckinghams were good Lancastrians. Humphrey was killed in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton whilst guarding Henry VI’s tent. If you recall this was the battle that Edmund Grey rather ruined for the Lancastrians by changing sides mid battle and allowing the Earl of Warwick through his lines. This event rather changed things within the wider Neville family dynamic. In 1459 after the Battle of Ludford Bridge (which really wasn’t a battle – more of a stand-off followed by a tactical scarpering by Richard of York) Anne and Humphrey had accommodated Anne’s sister Cecily who was Richard of York’s wife along with her younger children. Thanks to popular fiction if we think of Anne at all it is usually in her rather frosty welcome of disgraced Cecily. The wheel of Fortune turned in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton and by Easter 1461 the Lancastrians had been labelled traitors and the house of York was in the ascendant with Cecily lording it over widowed Anne.
The Second duke of Buckingham was Anne’s grandson. He wasn’t even five years old when he acquired the title. Wardship of the new duke passed into the hands of Anne but Edward IV – who was Anne’s nephew (Cecily Neville was his mother)- purchased the wardship from her and with it the right to organise the young duke’s marriage. He ended up married to Katherine Woodville who he thought was rather beneath him in social status and feeling resentful of his Yorkist cousin who didn’t allow him the freedoms and rights that he felt were his due. Ultimately he undertook a spot of light revolting against Richard III in October 1483 which ended in his execution at the beginning of November the same year in Salisbury.
Six years after the death of Humphrey Stafford, Anne married again to Walter Blount who was the first Baron Mountjoy. They had no children (and trust me when I say that I am grateful whenever I come across that fact as I don’t have to try and fit more descendants onto a small piece of paper.) Mountjoy died in 1474 mentioning his beloved wife in his will.
Anne died in 1480 and is buried in Pleshy, Essex next to Humphrey Stafford as her will requested. Only her daughter Joan Stafford survived her. Most famously she left books to her one time daughter-in-law Lady Margaret Beaufort who was now married to Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby.
Baldwin, David. (2009). The Kingmaker’s Sisters. Stroud: The History Press
The Encyclopaedia of the Wars of the Roses