The White Queen of Middleham: An historical novel about Richard III’s wife Anne Neville.: Volume 1 (Sprigs of Broom)

Written by Lesley J Nickell

Originally published in 1974, The White Queen of Middleham has recently been republished and tells the story of Anne Neville, younger daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and wife to King Richard III.

As a delicate child, Anne is often sick and confused. Her world is one where almost all women are ruled by their menfolk. Remaining ignorant of the great events occurring around her adds to her feelings of inadequacy, and she contemplates entering the Church. But she meets Richard, Duke of Gloucester and falls in love. As her father’s fortunes rise and fall Anne’s life becomes a hard journey from one refuge to another; an enforced, loveless marriage to the precocious Edward, Prince of Wales and on his death at Tewkesbury, Anne is placed in George, Duke of Clarence’s care. She is hidden as a London kitchen maid, but is rescued by Richard, and at last her life changes for the better.

Lesley Nickell has written a magnificent insight into the character, whose frailties are apparent throughout the book. One minor criticism: through 340 pages the tale is told via Anne’s eyes, her thoughts, feelings and reactions to events, yet on three short occasions the point of view narrative switches to another character. A re-edit would sort this.

This is not a novel of battles, bloody deaths, or the politics of the time. Anne was not witness to these, she hears of them through other parties. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to those who enjoy a good characterisation of an inconsequential woman living through the disruption of changing times.

How Ms Nickell deals with the question of the Princes in the Tower, I will leave for the reader to discover.