The story of Richard and Anne, was highly popular because it exhibits and proves that chivalry was alive and well during the 15th century. Hence making the match one of admiration and desire in many people’s eyes. The same can be said about Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV’s relationship.
What do we know about Richard? We know he was an avid reader and had copies of many books while he lived in York in his younger years. One was found to have tales of chivalry, classical history, and two Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Proving he was quiet educated, which was expected of nobles. Also noted, he had a copy of Tristan, the Gottfried von Strassburg (d. 1210) version which was adapted from the 12th century legend of Tristan and Iseult . The story itself, is modeled after most popular courtly romances of the time and with rhyming couplets. A rhyming couplets is the style and structure of the poem meaning “two lines of poetry that rhyme and have the same meter. “
Also as an accomplished military man, Richard would have also known what the chivalric code was, a reason for it being in his books. For he had to have studied it at one point in time, as loyal as he was to his brother, as well as upbringing. Some of the principles he would have been familiar with would have been:
Duties to God
Duties to women.
The third is where we see how he handled what really happened with Anne; “the idea that the knight is to serve a lady, and after her all other ladies. Most especially in this category is a general gentleness and graciousness to all women.” This popular notion might have been some of his motivation to find her, and desire to keep her safe and want to marry her, adding to his beliefs a strong moral and loyal disposition.
Now how did the cat catch the mouse? In reality, Anne was not at the battle with her former husband, Edward of Westminster, that May 4, at Tewkesbury. Where she actually was, is a little unclear. What we do know is she was imprisoned after the battle by Edward VI and taken prisoner.
George, Duke of Clarence, in trying to make any marriage between Richard and Anne difficult, took Anne with him first to Coventry, then to his London house, where he kept her as his ward and opposed her getting remarried. She even wrote Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York, and Edward IV of her ordeal and to plea her case, yet all requests failed. The assumption was that George was wanting access to both of the girls inheritance, wanted to keep Anne as his ward in order to do this so he could claim her share of the money. Interestingly literature of the time such as The Crowland Chronicle reported that;
Concluding, the rift between the York brothers, and Neville’s youngest daughter’s inheritance and initial intent, was a bit scandalous at first, but laid to rest once things played out.
Exactly how Richard found Anne, remains disputed. One account states she escaped and sought refuge at a cooking shop in London, disguised as a servant, and second, Richard actually went looking for her, tracked her down, then took her to sanctuary at Church of St. Martin le Grand, where they were later married.
Adding the whole courtly love theme into the dynamics of the actions of Richard and Anne being discovered, is also why some of the details of their childhood also have an importance to this theme. They were acquaintances of each other. An interesting part about their relationship is that they actually knew each other before marriage, which was very uncommon. Marriages in the Middle Ages especially among the nobility, were for political and diplomatic reasons. Getting married for love or the notion of, was practically unheard of. Both Richard and Anne had grown up in the same household for a while at Middleham Castle, in Yorkshire. But there is no documentation of how each other felt for one another. So the concept of a long drawn out love affair of admiration is hard to prove.
When looking at the elements of this relationship and the popularity of courtly literature of the time and the idea of their sought after relationship; makes their story very popular. It is one that was perceived to many as one of romantic notion and of what many authors before and contemporary wrote about. It was a story with its own elements yet similar to Tristan and Iseult. Thus, their story became quite popular, and is still of popularity today. For it was a 15th century romance within itself.