Our heroine this weekend is Anne Hyde, Duchess of York, who was born on this day in 1637, and until Lady Diana Spencer was the only non-royal royal bride. (See how it flows into yesterday's post about the new Kate Middleton doll???)
Anne was born at Cranbourne Lodge, Windsor, but spent most of her youth in exile with the court of Charles II--her father, Sir Edward Hyde (later made an earl) was one of the king's most trusted advisers, and Anne served as a lady-in-waiting to Charles's sister Mary, Princess of Orange. On a visit to Paris with the princess, she met James, Duke of York, and the two embarked on an affair that ended in pregnancy and a secret marriage in the Netherlands in 1659. (They were "officially" remarried the next year in London, following the Restoration).
Anne was not considered beautiful, but she more than made up for it with great intelligence and energy, and a famous virtue that made her not very popular with Charles's court. She was a patron of the arts, and involved in politics and current events in a way that never interested her husband. Though the marriage was not happy (James was flagrantly unfaithful) they worked well together. The French ambassador declared Anne had "courage, cleverness, and energy almost worthy of a king's blood," while Pepys wrote "the duke, in all things but his amours, was led by the nose by his wife."
The royal couple had several children, but only two, the future queens Mary and Anne, survived. Anne Hyde died young, probably of breast cancer, soon after having her 8th child on April10, 1671, and was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey. Like her husband, she converted to Catholicism late in her life, an action that would have dire consequences when he later became king...
I wasn't able to find a biography only of her, but here are a few sources on her life:
Antonia Fraser, King Charles II
Barbara Softly, The Queens of England
The Diary of Samuel Pepys