Unlike her brother, Wenceslas IV, Anne of Bohemia was a kind and thoughtful monarch, and one whose early death was mourned by many, including her husband, King Richard II of England.
Anne was born on May 11, 1366. She was the oldest daughter of the King of Bohemia (and, later, Holy Roman Emperor) Charles IV and his fourth wife, Elizabeth of Pomerania. Her marriage to Richard II was, as all royal marriages in those days, an arranged one. Politics played a heavy part in the match; Wenceslas IV supported Pope Urban VI, as did the English. Both countries hoped that, by marrying Anne to Richard, they could form an alliance against the French, who supported Clement, the Pope of Avignon.
Anne was only 15 years old at the time of her marriage, and of course, she had never met her betrothed. It was the custom of that time for the bride’s family to supply a hefty dowry. In Anne’s case, not only was no dowry provided, but Richard even had to pay Wenceslas IV 20,000 florins in order to marry her.
Anne arrived in England in December of 1381. Few of the people who saw her at that time had anything good to say; the Westminster Chronicler sniffed that she was a “tiny scrap of humanity”. Regardless of the largely negative public opinion (Richard had had the opportunity to marry the staggeringly rich Caterina Visconti), the two were married in Westminster Abbey on January 22, 1382. On January 24, Anne was crowned Queen of England. She quickly took advantage of her new status as Queen by begging Richard to grant a general pardon to the remaining members of the Peasants’ Revolt the previous year. Richard acceded to her request.
Anne traveled often with her husband, so much so that (it is said) she invented the sidesaddle, which was used from that time until women finally rode astride, centuries later. Other inventions attributed to her, as well as introduced by her, include the horned cap so often seen in portraits of the time, and the use of metal pins as fasteners for clothing. (Prior to that time, the English used little skewers of ivory or wood; metal pins were a German innovation.)
Richard and Anne grew to be devoted to one another. After twelve years of marriage, Anne fell ill with the plague in June of 1394. Just three days later, on June 7, she died. Richard was overcome with grief, and gave his wife an elaborate funeral; the procession made its way from Sheen Palace, where she died, to her burial place in Westminster Abbey. Everyone who took part in the procession was dressed all in black, including a black hood.
Anne was a strong supporter of John Wycliffe, whose writings would come to be so influential in her native land of Bohemia. She intervened on his behalf several times, saving his life. She also encouraged students from Bohemia to study at Oxford, with Wycliffe as their teacher. These students then took back Wycliffe’s writings to Bohemia. Anne could not have known, but her support of Wycliffe would lead to civil war in Bohemia, and, according to legend, the death of her own brother due to shock.