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ANNE OF BOHEMIA,
FIRST QUEEN OF RICHARD THE SECOND.
BY MISS POWER.
It is ever a grateful task to bear testimony to departed virtue. None of the little prejudices and petty jealousies that too often drop gall into the ink of contemporary historiaus interfere to dash with satire the praises of those whom “the atoning grave” has long enclosed within its portals; party feeling – imagined slights - merit, actual or supposed, that considers itself unrewarded, — all are in this case silent, and the truth stands forth, unobscured by the blinding and distorted medium through which it is too often viewed by those who have been actors in the scenes they record.
Few, however, seem to have suffered less in this respect than the subject of the present memoir, —" Good Queen Anne," who in all womanly virtues stands forth conspicuous in the annals of our female sovereigns,-a fond and faithful wife, a kind mistress, an earnest and sincere friend; never interfering in matters of import or affairs of state, except to entreat for clemency and mercy where they might be used without danger to the realm, the tongue of envy could find no point on which to attack this “ wisest, virtuousest, best” of sovereigns, and most blameless of women.
Anne of Bohemia was the daughter of the Emperor Charles IV., and of his fourth wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Bolislas, duke of Pomerania, and was born at Prague in the year 1367. Previous to her having been demanded in marriage during the minority of Richard, other alliances had been proposed and contemplated for the youthful
monarch ; Katherine, daughter of the late Emperor Louis, and Katherine, daughter of the Duke of Milan, were the princesses in question. It seems, however, that the personal merits of Anne were considered to outweigh all the advantages of these ladies, for we are told by Speed that “King Richard tooke to wife the Lady Anne, daughter to the Emperour Charles the Fourth, and sister to Wenceslaus, king of Bohemia, called the Emperour, which lady, by the Duke of Tassill, was, in the name of her said father, formerly promised and assured unto him, as one whom the king did specially affect, though the daughter of Barnabus, duke of Millaine, was also offered, with a farre greater summe of gold” (1382). Indeed, so little was the king's pecuniary interest allowed to interfere in the match, that Carte informs us, that so far from Anne's bringing him a dowry,“ a loan was made to Wenceslaus of 18,000 marks, a moiety whereof was to be remitted upon the delivery of his sister at Calais, according to the conventions."
Sir Simon Burley, warden of the Cinque Ports, and constable of Dover, who is described as “one of the finest gentlemen in England, a man of excellent parts, great sweetness of temper, politeness, and affability,”ı
was in. trusted to complete the treaty, and to conduct the Princess Anne to England ; where, after innumerable delays, difficulties, and dangers, -owing partly to some French vessels which were cruising about between Holland and Calais, with the intention, it was reported, of seizing upon the person of the princess, and partly to a violent ground-swell, which, rising at the moment she was about to embark, rent the ship in pieces, - she arrived in safety.
At this period Richard was sixteen; Anne, a year younger. He is described as “ the loveliest youth that the eye could behold,” singularly fond of splendour and magnificence, generous and munificent; “ fair, and of a ruddy
complexion, well made, finely shaped, somewhat taller than the middle size, and extremely handsome.” He had a lisp in his speech, which would have“ become a lady better, and an hastiness of temper, which subjected him to some inconveniences; but he had an infinite deal of good-nature, great politeness, and a candour that could not be enough admired.”.
As to the person of the young queen, it is more difficult to form a correct notion; she is repeatedly called “the beauteous queen;" but the portraits that exist of her do not give an idea of great loveliness. Her dress seems to have been more remarkable for singularity than for elegance or taste. Stow tells us that the female fashion of the day (which she introduced) was a high head-dress, with piked horns, and a long training gown; it seems, however, that they occasionally wore hoods instead of these wide-spreading and monstrous coiffures, which must have been equally ridiculous and unbecoming. Side-saddles (more resembling pillions than the side-saddles of the present day) were also brought into England by her.
Nothing could exceed tlie splendour that attended the royal bride's entrance into London; she was met by the Goldsmiths' Company, splendidly attired. At the Fountain in Cheapside the citizens presented to her and to the king a gold crown, of great value each ; and when the procession had proceeded a little further, a table of gold, with a representation of the Trinity richly embossed or chased upon it worth about ten thousand pounds of the present moneywas offered to Richard, and to the queen a table of equal value, on which was displayed a figure of St. Anne.
It is evident that at, and even before this period, England was extremely rich in gold and silver plate, and that the art of working in those metals had attained a very considerable degree of perfection. Knighton states, that wlien the palace of the Savoy, belonging to the Duke of Lancaster,
was burnt during the insurrection of 1381, the keeper of the wardrobe asserted upon oath, that the gold, silver, and silver-gilt plate then destroyed, would have laden five carts. Enamelling, and the setting and cutting of jewels, were also practised with great success, for in the collection of the unfortunate Piers Gaveston were found many articles of enamelled plate; and among the jewels given in pawn by Henry III. to the King of France, were no less than 324 gold rings set with various precious stones. This king also possessed several other articles of great value and curious workmanship. In 1395, the sum of four hundred pounds was paid to Nicholas Broker and Godfrey Prest, citizens of London, for two statues of the king and queen made of copper and gilt, with crowns on their heads, sceptres in their left hands, and their right hands united. Leland also speaks of the wonderful astronomical clock made at this period by Richard de Wallingford, abbot of St. Alban's, which represented the revolutions of the sun and moon, the ebbing and flowing of the sea, the fixed stars, and various other marvels of mechanism.
The marriage of the royal couple took place at the conclusion of the Christmas holydays. “Shee was with great pompe and glorie at the same time crowned queene by the hand of William Courtney (a younger sonne of the Earle of Devonshire), bishop of London, lately promoved from London to the see of Canterbury,"1 at St. Stephen's Chapel, Westminster.
Great were the rejoicings and splendid the festivities which followed these events, and tournaments were held for several successive days. It was at this period that the royal bride obtained the title of “good Queen Anne," for her intercession with Richard that a general pardon should be granted to the people, who since the rebellion of Wat Tyler had been subjected to continual severities and executions.