Anne of Bohemia

Anne of Bohemia
   Anne of Bohemia was the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and in 1382 became the wife of King RICHARD II of England. She became popular among her English subjects and seems to have been a steady and calming influence upon the king, who was said to be inconsolable when she died of the plague in 1394. As queen, Anne was apparently a patron of such literary artists as Geoffrey CHAUCER, and the connections between England and Prague she brought were instrumental in creating the channel by which the ideas of the English theologian John WYCLIFFE were able to reach the Czech reformer Jan HUS. Anne was born in 1366 and married Richard when she was 15. She was less than a year older than her husband. By all accounts she was an intelligent, cultured, pious, and well-read woman. Because of her family background, she was well connected with aristocratic families across Europe. By the time of her marriage her brother Wenceslas (or Václav) IV was emperor, but, despite his lofty title, he had little money and could give her no dowry. The marriage agreement, however, specified that England would lend Wenceslas 15,000 pounds. These arrangements, added to her reputed lack of beauty, initially made Anne and her large Czech entourage unpopular in England. Over time, however, her charm won over the people, and endeared her to her husband. In particular she impressed the people of London by pleading their case to the king when, in 1392, he revoked the city’s charter because they had offended him. Most historians believe she was a calm and rational influence on Richard’s shorttempered and sometimes unstable personality. She was married to him for 12 years before dying of the plague at the age of 27. She never bore him any children. The spring after her death, Richard gave orders to destroy the royal manor at Sheen, where Anne had died.
   There are a number of traditions about Anne that are difficult to prove. One is that she owned copies of the gospels in Latin, German, and Czech. Another is that she possessed a Wycliffite or “LOLLARD” Bible. Still another claims that at one time she interceded for Wycliffe himself. These stories are not considered particularly reliable. It is certain, though, that through her connections there were scholarship opportunities for students from the University of Prague to attend Oxford and thereby to gain access to Wycliffe’s writings. Jerome of Prague, close friend and disciple of Jan Hus, is known to have been at Oxford in 1398 and to have brought manuscripts of some ofWycliffe’s treatises back to Prague.
   As a patroness of the arts, Anne’s reputation may be more deserved. John CLANVOWE dedicated his Book of Cupid to her. Chaucer pays her a compliment in TROILUS AND CRISEYDE when he speaks of England’s “first letter” being an “A,” and a famous frontispiece of one of the Troilus manuscripts portrays Chaucer reading the poem to Anne, Richard, and their court. It is also believed that Alceste in the prologue to The LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN is an allegorical representation of Anne, who may have asked him to write the poem in 1386. In the original prologue, Chaucer asks that the poem be delivered to Queen Anne at the palace at Sheen. After her death, those two lines were removed from the prologue. Anne now lies buried with Richard in the tomb he commissioned in 1395 at Westminster Abbey.
   ■ Saul, Nigel. Richard II. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997.
   ■ Taylor,Andrew.“Anne of Bohemia and the Making of Chaucer,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 19 (1997): 95–119.
   ■ Thomas, Alfred. Anne’s Bohemia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.
   ■ Wallace, David. Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1997.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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