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Anne of York, Duchess of Exeter (10 August 1439 – 14 January 1476) was the second child and eldest surviving daughter of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville.

She was an older sister of Edward IV, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, Elizabeth of York, Duchess of Suffolk, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence and Richard III.

Marriages and issueEdit

In 1447, Anne was married to Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter. They had one daughter:

During the Wars of the Roses, Exeter sided with the House of Lancaster against the House of York despite Anne being a member of the latter. Exeter was a commander at the great Lancastrian victories at Wakefield and St Albans. He was also a commander at the Lancastrian defeat at the Battle of Towton. He fled to the Kingdom of Scotland after the battle, and then joined Margaret of Anjou, queen consort of King Henry VI, in her exile in France.

On 4 March 1461, her younger brother was declared King Edward IV in London. Exeter was attainted but the king gave his estates to Anne, with remainder to their daughter Anne Holland. Anne and Exeter separated in 1464 and divorced in 1472.

Her daughter Anne, now a wealthy heiress, was married in October 1466 at Greenwich Palace to Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset, son of Edward IV's queen Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband. She died sometime between 26 August 1467 and 6 June 1474 without having produced children. Grey subsequently married Cecily Bonville, 7th Baroness Harington, another rich, young heiress by whom he had issue. (Ross, Charles Derek (1974). Edward IV. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. p.336).

The king had, in 1467, extended the remainder of most of the Exeter lands to Anne and any heirs of her body (that is, if she remarried any future children could inherit them).

During the Readeption of Henry VI, Anne remained loyal to her brother Edward, and, in what seems to have been her only intervention in politics, worked hard to persuade her brother George, Duke of Clarence to abandon the Lancastrian cause. If not decisive, her arguments are agreed to have had some effect and so she played some part in Edward's restoration.

Anne married secondly in about 1474 Thomas St. Leger, and died giving birth to their only daughter:

  • Anne St. Leger (14 January 1476 – 21 April 1526)

Thus this daughter was heiress to the Exeter estates. She was contracted to marry Thomas Grey, grandson of the queen and son of the 1st Marquess of Dorset who had earlier been married to her half-sister.

In 1483 by act of parliament Anne St. Leger was declared heiress to the entire Exeter estate, except for a portion which was given to the queen's son Richard Grey. This act, by which the lands of the Exeter dukedom fell into the hands of the last duke's stepdaughter and his daughter's brother-in-law, along with a number of similar acts, is thought to be a cause of difficulty in maintaining noble support for the reign of Edward IV. (Ross 1997, pp=336-337) The proper heir, if the usual inheritance customs had been adhered to, would have been Ralph Neville, 3rd Earl of Westmorland.

The marriage with Thomas Grey never happened, and Anne St. Leger later married George Manners, 12th Baron de Ros. Through this, Anne of Exeter is the ancestress of the (Manners) Earls and Dukes of Rutland, (Capel) Earls of Essex, (Russell) Dukes of Bedford - hence also the late Princess of Wales and her sons - (Ashley-Cooper) Earls of Shaftesbury.

DNA and Richard IIIEdit

In August 2012, a dig to find the remains of King Richard III took place in Greyfriars, Leicester. In September, it was reported that remains had been found during the dig. The remains are in the process of DNA testing using the DNA of Canadian Michael Ibsen. [Emma Sword. Archaeologists begin dig to uncover grave of Richard III in Leicester, London: The Independent, 24 August 2012]. The Independent Online. Michael is a 17th generation descendant of Anne of York by his mother Joy, herself a direct female descendant. (Caroline Davies. Canadian descendant of Richard III is asked to give DNA after 'grave' find, Guardian News, 12 September 2012. [ The Guardian Online). Results of the DNA testing are to officially be announced in January 2013.

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