Sometime in the later months of 1471, Anne Neville, widow of Edward Prince of Wales, soon to be Duchess of Gloucester, secretly gave birth to a daughter. She was attended to by her older sister, Isabelle, Duchess of Clarence, and hunted by her brother-in-law, George, Duke of Clarence and her soon-to-be future husband, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The duchesses’ half sister, Margaret Huddleston, kept vigil in London, sending both dukes on wild goose chases. Following up Margaret’s skilfully seeded rumours, they hurried from cookshop to cookshop in search of her.
Clarence knew nothing of Anne’s pregnancy and put a brave face on things, pretending to his brothers that Anne was firmly in his custody while writing what must have been furious and incoherent letters to his wife demanding Anne be returned so he might secure her fortune for himself. Young Gloucester, smitten with the Lancastrian widow and longing to make her his wife, turned London upside down in his attempts to find her. This was all to no avail, as she wasn’t in London at all, but hiding out in the wilds of Yorkshire awaiting the birth of the last of the Lancastrians. Almost as soon as the child was born, she was bundled up warmly and sent on a long journey the length of England and across the Channel to Calais and thence into obscurity and safety in Burgundy.
Isabelle’s loyalty to her sister would be her undoing, however. With such a guilty secret weighing on her soul she must have been tempted to confess. Silenced by poison in 1476, most likely on her sister’s orders, Isabelle carried this secret to her grave.
Much else that is inexplicable can only be made sense of through the existence of Anne of Lancaster. She is, for example, the missing key in the Perkin Warbeck mystery. Though young Anne herself, of course, never met her cousin, Richard Duke of York, she must have been cared for by people who did – people who accompanied her as an infant to France and then to Burgundy. It has often been speculated that Perkin’s appearance in England was simply to pave the way for a son of Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk (sister of Edward IV and Richard III), who would step in once Perkin’s army was on the cusp of success and take over. But it was young Anne – daughter of Edward Prince of Wales and granddaughter of the saintly Henry VI – who was to be the real beneficiary of Perkin’s deception. The restoration of the Lancastrian dynasty would have brought peace to England, the gentle hand of a woman on the helm of state, a granddaughter of the Kingmaker (who we would now, surely, know as ‘the Queenmaker’) bringing with her all his guile, skill and charm. Truly, it would have been a Golden Age! Alas, it was never to be.
Though, of course, she never saw her daughter again, Anne Neville must have missed her dreadfully. Can we read into her extreme grief on hearing of the death of her son a glimpse of a double sorrow? Perhaps that explains her murder at the hands of her husband, by then Richard III. Gabbling to him of her missing daughter, confessing her betrayal after more than a decade of blissful marriage – while his actions can’t be condoned, surely they can now be understood.
We can be certain Anne Neville’s child was a girl, and we can be certain of her name, because of an obscure reference to the birth of a girl, mistakenly attributed to Isabelle in 1470. Commines, who would have had first hand knowledge of such things, reports quite unequivocally that Isabelle’s child was, in fact, a son. Confusion, half heard stories and the interchangeable nature of two mousy young women – pawns, in fact – led to the incorrect assignment of Anne’s secret child to her older sister. As Isabelle’s son had (for the purposes of this story) conveniently died, the mistake passed by virtually unnoticed. Until recently, Isabelle Neville’s Wikipedia entry mentioned the child, ‘Anne’, being born aboard ship in 1470. It has since been mysteriously edited to remove all reference. Could this be because it found its way into a book written by a prominent Ricardian author? Could the Cult of Anne of Lancaster be covering its tracks?
There is no doubt this Cult exists, passing secret knowledge from generation to generation. Even now they hope, one day, to see the last descendant of Anne of Lancaster take her rightful place on the throne of England. There are clues to be found, in historical texts and in modern day internet discussions, for those who know what they’re looking for.
So who is this last surviving Lancastrian princess? Well, I have my suspicions but am not, as yet, ready to reveal what I know. I shall need to undertake several more sessions with my Spirit Guides before I am confident enough to name names. I think the answer will be quite surprising.
References: Ashdown-Hill, Kendall, Commines, Wikipedia, Wroe, Plaidy, Fitzhugh (dec).
J E F Dingle-Bell is an ex-Royal Marine with a keen interest in history. She has travelled extensively and is a member of several Theosophist societies. She is a keen student of the occult and has a number of Spirit Guides, some of which can be trusted. In her youth, she trained as a ballerina but her height prevented her from taking it up professionally. She is the author of several unpublished works and is an accomplished poet and tatter. She lives with her third husband in a small village somewhere on the coast. Her history credentials are confirmed by the existence of several daughters and a small colony of cats.