Who Was Anne of York?

Sister of Two English Kings

Map of Wars of the Roses, showing Wakefield, St. Albans, Towton
Map of Wars of the Roses, showing Wakefield, St. Albans, Towton and other battles. The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Anne of York Facts

Known for: sister of British kings Richard III and Edward IV; she was given control of her first husband's land and titles when he was defeated fighting against Anne's brother, King Edward IV. She had ties to the houses of York and Lancaster, the protagonists in the Wars of the Roses.
Dates: August 10, 1439 - January 14, 1476
Also known as: Duchess of Exeter

Background, Family:

Mother: Cecily Neville (1411 - 1495), daughter of Ralph, earl of Westmoreland, and his second wife, Joan Beaufort. Joan was a legitimized daughter of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster and a son of King Edward III of England, by Katherine Swynford, whom John married after their children were born. Isabel Neville and Anne Neville, married to Anne of York's brothers, were great nieces of Cecily Neville and first cousins once removed to Anne of York and her brothers.

Father: Richard, third duke of York (1411 - 1460), son of Richard of Conisbrough, fourth earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer, daughter of Roger Mortimer, fourth earl of March.

  • Richard of Conisbrough was the son of Edmund of Langley, the first duke of York, who was the fourth son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault.
  • Anne Mortimer was the great granddaughter of Lionel of Antwerp, duke of Clarence, who was the second son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault.

In 1460, Anne's father, Richard of York, attempted to take the throne from the Lancastrian Henry VI, based on this ancestry. He reached an agreement with Henry that he would succeed Henry, but shortly after was killed at the battle of Wakefield. His son Edward IV succeeded in March 1461 in toppling Henry VI on the basis of this same claim.


  • Joan of York (died in childhood)
  • Henry of York (died in childhood)
  • Edward IV of England (1442 - 1483)
  • Edmund, Earl of Rutland (1443 - 1460)
  • Elizabeth of York (1444 - about 1503), married John de la Pole, duke of Suffolk, who had first been married briefly, before the marriage contract was dissolved, to Margaret Beaufort (age one or three at the time of the marriage)
  • Margaret of York (1446 - 1503), married Charles the Bold of Burgundy
  • William of York (died in childhood)
  • John of York (died in childhood)
  • George, Duke of Clarence (1449 - 1478), married to Isabel Neville, sister of Anne Neville, Richard III's queen consort
  • Thomas of York (died in childhood)
  • Richard III of England (1452 - 1485), married to Anne Neville, whose first husband was Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VI of England
  • Ursula of York (died in childhood)

Marriage, Children:

First husband: Henry Holland, third duke of Exeter (1430 - 1475). Married 1447. Holland was an ally of the Lancastrians, and was a commander at Wakefield, St. Albans and the Battle of Towton. He fled to exile after the defeat at Towton. When Anne's brother Edward became king, Edward gave control of Holland's estates to Anne. They formally separated in 1464 and divorced in 1472.

Anne of York and Henry Holland had one child, a daughter:

  • Anne Holland (about 1455 - between 1467 and 1474). Married Thomas Grey, first marquess of Dorset and son of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's wife, by her first husband. When Edward gave control of Holland's estates to Anne of York, the estates were to go to Anne Holland's heirs. But Anne Holland died without any children.

Second husband: Thomas St. Leger (about 1440 - 1483). Married 1474.

Anne of York died of complications after childbirth at age 36, after bearing her only child by St. Leger, another daughter:

  • Anne St. Leger (January 14, 1476 - April 21, 1526). Anne St. Leger's heirs inherited, by an Act of Parliament in 1483, the Exeter estates which had been seized on her mother's behalf from her mother's first husband. That Act gave a part of the inheritance to Richard Grey, one of Elizabeth Woodville's sons by her first marriage. Anne St. Leger was promised in marriage to Thomas Grey, a grandson of Elizabeth Woodville as well as the son of the widower of Anne St. Leger's half-sister, Anne Holland. Anne St. Leger eventually married, instead, George Manners, twelfth baron de Ros.
    Among Anne St. Leger's descendants was Diana, Princess of Wales. In 2012, remains thought to be those of Anne of York's brother, King Richard III, were discovered in Leicester; maternal line descendents of Anne of York through Anne St. Leger were used to test DNA and confirm the identity of the remains as those of the king who had died in battle.

More About Anne of York:

Anne of York was the older sister of two English kings, Edward IV and Richard III. Anne's first husband, Henry Holland, duke of Exeter, fought successfully on the side of the Lancastrians against Anne's York family at the battle of Wakefield, where Anne's father and brother Edmund were killed. Holland was on the losing side at the Battle of Towton, and fled to exile, and his lands were seized by Edward IV.

In 1460, Edward IV granted Anne of York her husband's lands, which were to be inherited through her daughter by Holland. That daughter, Anne Holland, was married to one of the sons of Edward's queen, Elizabeth Woodville, by her first husband, further tying the family's fortunes to the York side in the Wars of the Roses. Anne Holland died, childless, sometime after this marriage in 1466 and before 1474, at which time her husband remarried. Anne Holland was between 10 and 19 years old at her death.

Anne of York had separated from Henry Holland in 1464 and obtained a divorce in 1472. Amendments before 1472 to Anne of York's title to the lands of her first husband made clear that the title and lands would proceed to any of Anne's future children, so she may have already begun another relationship before her marriage in 1474 to Thomas St. Leger. Henry Holland drowned after falling overboard from a ship in 1475; rumors were that King Edward had ordered his death. In late 1475, Anne of York and Thomas St. Leger's daughter, Anne St. Leger, was born. Anne of York died in January, 1476, of complications of the childbirth.

Anne of York's Daughter, Anne St. Leger

Anne St. Leger, at sixteen weeks old, was already contracted in marriage to Thomas Grey, who was a grandson of Elizabeth Woodville and the son of Anne St. Leger's half-sister's widower. Edward IV won an Act of Parliament in 1483 declaring Anne St. Leger the heiress of the Exeter estate and titles, with some of the estate also passing to Richard Grey, another of Elizabeth Woodville's sons from her first marriage. This Act of Parliament was unpopular with the public, one more example of the favors given to Elizabeth Woodville's family, and may have contributed to Edward IV's downfall.

Anne St. Leger, Anne of York's only surviving daughter, never married Thomas Grey. When her uncle, Richard III, ovrthrew her other uncle, Edward IV, he tried to marry Anne St. Leger to Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham. There were also rumors he wanted to marry Anne to his own son, Edward. Thomas St. Leger took part in a rebellion against Richard III. When that failed, he was captured and executed in November, 1483.

After the defeat of Richard III and accession of Henry VII, Anne St. Leger married George Manners, twelfth baron de Ros. They had eleven children. Five of the daughters and one of the sons married.

Another Anne of York

A niece of Anne of York, the daughter of Anne's brother Edward IV, was also called Anne of York. The younger Anne of York was the countess of Surrey and lived from 1475 to 1511. She married Thomas Howard, third duke of Norfolk. Anne of York, countess of Surrey, took part in the christenings of her nephew, Arthur Tudor, and of her niece, Margaret Tudor, children of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The children of Anne of York, countess of Surrey, all predeceased her.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Who Was Anne of York?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/who-was-anne-of-york-3529643. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2023, April 5). Who Was Anne of York? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/who-was-anne-of-york-3529643 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Who Was Anne of York?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/who-was-anne-of-york-3529643 (accessed June 7, 2023).