A Dowager Duchess’s Bequests: The Will of Anne, First Duchess of Buckingham

One of the grande dames of the fifteenth century was Anne, Duchess of Buckingham. She was a daughter of Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, who by his two wives fathered a whopping twenty-two or twenty-three children. Through her eldest full brother, Richard Neville, Anne was an aunt to Warwick the Kingmaker; through her younger full sister, Cecily, she was an aunt to Edward IV and Richard III. (Incidentally, Despenser family afficiados may be interested to know that another sister of Anne’s, Eleanor, married Richard le Despenser, whose childless death at age 18 brought the male line of the Despenser family to an end.)

Anne, who died in 1480, married twice. Anne’s first husband, Humphrey Stafford, became the first Duke of Buckingham. He was killed at Northampton in 1460 while guarding Henry VI’s tent. Her second husband was Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy. Anne and Humphrey’s oldest son, another Humphrey, predeceased his father, dying of plague in 1458. Thus, Anne and Humphrey’s grandson, Henry Stafford, became the second Duke of Buckingham.

I’ll probably be posting more about Anne later, but in the meantime, here are some highlights from her will. An abstract of it can be found in Testamenta Vetusta, available through Google Books, but the following is based a transcription I had made.

Anne bequeathed her soul to “almighty God,” and, more prosaically, asked that her body be buried in the collegiate church at Pleshey, which Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, Humphrey’s ancestor, had founded. She asked that her body be carried there “settying all pompe and pride of the world apart.” Anne arranged for masses to be said for the soul of her “moost dere and best beloved husband Humfrey” and for their children, most of whom she had outlived. Strangely, Anne’s second husband, who predeceased her in 1474, is not mentioned in Anne’s will, though he referred to her in his own will as “my dear and well beloved Lady and wife.”

Having arranged for the welfare of her and her family’s souls, Anne remembered the poor prisoners of Newgate, Ludgate, the Marshalsea, and the King’s Bench in her will. She then turned to a series of bequests to named individuals.

Heading the list of bequests was a pair of gilt basins to “my sonne of Bukkyngham,” i.e., Anne’s grandson, the second Duke of Buckingham. Henry also received a bed of the salutation of Our Lady with the hangings of the chamber of antelopes; the antelope was a badge associated with the house of Stafford. Uniquely among Anne’s bequests, the one to Harry contains a stern provision that if he interrupted or upset her will, the bequests would be void. One wonders whether Harry, a twenty-five-year-old who was to survive Anne by only three years due to his ill-fated rebellion against Richard III, had done anything to cause his grandmother concern.

Anne’s sons had all predeceased her. Her most personal bequests were to her surviving daughter, Joan, whose marriage to William, Viscount Beaumont, a Lancastrian diehard associated with the Earl of Oxford, had been annulled. Joan’s second marriage was to another William, William Knyvet, who eventually joined Buckingham’s rebellion in 1483. Joan received a pair of silver-covered, partly gilt basins that Duchess Anne used to wash in most commonly; a pair of silver pots; a silver-covered, partly gilt cup that the duchess used most commonly to drink out of; a bed of cloth of red aras; a counterpoint of scarlet; two pairs of the duchess’s best sheets; a pair of her best fustians; one of her best featherbeds; carpets; napkins; towels; and some revenues from the manor of Fakenham Aspes in Suffolk. Joan had a son, Edward Knyvet, who received a monetary bequest.

Another grandson, Edward Stafford, the son of Anne’s deceased son John, Earl of Wiltshire, received a bed of red velvet with a counterpoint of scarlet. Edward, called “my sonne of Wiltshire” by his grandmother, was a boy of eleven in 1480.

The most famous bequests of Anne’s are to the widow of her deceased son Henry Stafford: Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. Margaret received a book in English, Legenda Sanctorum; a book in French called Lucun; another French book of the epistles and the Gospels; and a primer (a Book of Hours) with clasps of silver and gilt covered with purple velvet.

Anne’s “daughter Mountjoy” received silver pots, a basin and a ewer of silver, a standing cup covered with gilt, a bed, sheets, a pair of fustians, napkins and towels, and a spice plate. This seems to be another grandchild: the daughter of the duchess’s daughter deceased daughter Anne and her second husband, Thomas Cobham. Anne Cobham married Edward Blount while the two were still children; Edward died at age eight or nine.

Finally, Anne left monetary bequests to various servants and to a number of gentlemen and gentlewomen, including several women who received money for their marriages.

Anne’s nominated executors include a couple of well-known names: John Morton, Bishop of Ely (who was later linked with her grandson Henry Stafford in plotting to overthrow Richard III) and William, Lord Hastings. Anne also nominated Thomas Garth, William Drayton, John Cornyssh, Richard Harpur, and Ralph Tykhill, who ultimately served as her executors.

1 thought on “A Dowager Duchess’s Bequests: The Will of Anne, First Duchess of Buckingham”

  1. Christy K Robinson

    Those Nevilles, Staffords, Beauforts, and Ferrers families were a pretty tight clique. It took me a while to figure out that I was descended from BOTH wives of Ralph Neville, Earl Westmorland, and that step-brother and -sister, surely raised in the same household, had married to produce the John Neville. Thinking about that 700 years later — I need a shower. 😉

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