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Anne Cordelia Shirley-Cuthbert is the titular protagonist of Anne. She is the orphaned daughter of Walter Shirley and Bertha Shirley, and the adoptive daughter of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. She is portrayed by Amybeth McNulty.

CBC Biography[]

After an abusive childhood spent in orphanages and working in the homes of strangers, 13-year-old Anne Shirley is a remarkably resilient girl with a unique spirit, fierce intellect and brilliant imagination. She is played by Amybeth McNulty. [1]


Anne was orphaned at three months old when her parents Bertha and Walter Shirley became sick and died. They are of Scottish descent. She spent the majority of her childhood bouncing between living in an orphanage with girls who would bully her, and different homes where she would work. The various homes had terrible conditions for her, including mental and physical abuse. Anne's first real home became Green Gables, where she was adopted despite a miscommunication when the Cuthberts received Anne rather than a boy who could help with farm labor. Green Gables is the first place to treat her kindly, and she experiences having her own possessions and bedroom presumably for the first time. However, she still suffers from PTSD from the events that happened in her old home causing her to experience flashbacks.

Anne was exposed to many things in her childhood which most of her peers have been sheltered from. From a very early age, Anne had heavy responsibilities to cook, clean, and care for several children while working for the Hammonds. She was physically abused by both Mr. and Mrs. Hammond, and witnesses Mr. Hammond's death up close while he was beating her. Anne recalls the fear that Mr. Hammond would cause when he was drunk, especially for his wife. While working in service she overhears Mrs. Hammond being raped, which she doesn't understand fully as a young girl and discusses openly with her classmates. This causes alarm among some other parents, but indicates to Matthew and Marilla just how severe her experience has been.

Anne often uses her imagination as a coping mechanism to escape bad situations. In her time at the orphanage she is bullied by other girls. This includes name calling, taking her clothes off, threatening to put a mouse in her mouth, and other forms of psychological torment. She uses her imagination to create stories about a character named Princess Cordelia surviving many perils, presumably as a projection of herself. She also talks to her reflection occasionally, referring to her as "Katie".

Despite her many obstacles in life, her challenges become her strengths. Anne cares for Minnie May Barry and later Delphine Lacroix during times of crisis. She is extremely empathetic, providing support to many people as they navigate grief, insecurity, injustice and other difficulties. Having experienced rejection and harsh judgement, keeps an open mind when meeting people who might otherwise be marginalized or treated differently. She loves to observe nature and easily connects to plants and animals.


Anne is an exceptional reader and writer, and her competitive nature can be seen in school, especially against Gilbert Blythe. She has a short temper and can act impulsively at times. She speaks her mind honestly and is not afraid to draw attention from others. Anne experiences flashbacks when she is triggered by traumatic moments in her life, due to the extensive abuse and mistreatment she received at the hands of her foster parents and at the orphanage. She desires to have friends and be well-liked, and succeeds in this with Diana, Ruby, Cole, and later Gilbert, Josephine and Miss Stacy as her closest allies.


Anne has red hair, commonly referred to as ugly by both herself and people harassing her, that she keeps in two braids. After a failed attempt to dye her hair black, her hair turns into a shade of green. As a result, Anne has to cut her hair very short, ending up with a pixie cut for much of Season Two. When it grows out again she sometimes wears her hair down, showing that it's naturally wavy. Anne is thin with pale skin, many freckles and bright blue eyes.

Her clothing is quite plain, although she is grateful for what she has, often wearing a brown dress that Marilla made. She owns a blue dress with puff sleeves that Matthew bought for her from Charlottetown, which she later gives away to her native friend, Ka'kwet, after she outgrows it. When she is prepared to head off to Queen's Academy, Mathew and Marilla bring her two new dresses; one purchased, and the other hand sewn by Marilla. She also gets a corset and a modestly elegant parasol, and begins wearing her hair up to show her maturity into adulthood.


Bertha Shirley[]

Bertha Shirley is Anne's birth mother who died of a fever when she was three months old, so she doesn't have much of a relationship with her. However, in The Better Feeling of My Heart she receives a book that used to belong to her mother, and discovers that Bertha was a teacher and had red hair like Anne. She also discovered that her mother's handwriting looked like hers. Later, she can be seen writing a letter to Gilbert and starting it with the sentence, "I look like my mother."

Walter Shirley[]

Walter Shirley is Anne's birth father. Like her mother, he died of fever when she was a baby. Anne never knew him, but knows from the book given to her in The Better Feeling of My Heart that he knew how to draw well and cared about her mother.

Marilla Cuthbert[]

Anne and Marilla didn't always have the smoothest relationship. In Your Will Shall Decide Your Destiny Marilla discovers her amethyst brooch is missing and blames Anne. She tells Anne that if she doesn't confess, Anne will be sent back to the orphanage. This pushes Anne to lie and tell Marilla she was playing with the brooch and it fell in the well. Furious, Marilla sends Anne back to the orphanage.

Later, Marilla finds the brooch and rushes out to tell Matthew what happened. He hurries off on a horse to find and and bring her back. When he doesn't return by night, Marilla is terrified that he and Anne are both dead and is about to ride a horse and find them herself, but Rachel stops her before she can leave, telling her that her husband Thomas already went out to search for Anne and Matthew.

Even though she was worried sick when Anne was gone, when Anne and Matthew come back Marilla is cold, and treats Anne as though nothing happened. Later, Marilla apologizes to Anne after she runs away crying from a community picnic. This was when their relationship starts to bloom, even though Anne often feels that Marilla doesn't love her because Marilla is so cold. Marilla eventually learns how to be affectionate and show Anne she cares about her, doing many things for her - including making her a special surprise cake for her sixteenth birthday. Marilla and Matthew formally adopt Anne after realizing how important she has become to them.

Matthew Cuthbert[]

When Matthew first meets Anne, he's nervous to approach her as he is generally reserved and shy. Anne is very forward and talks a lot, something he enjoys about her. The two immediately like each other. Since he doesn't have a heart to tell her that they had wanted a boy, he decides to take her home and let Marilla decide what to do.

When Matthew and Anne return home, Anne learns about the misunderstanding and is heartbroken. Matthew tells Marilla he wants to keep Anne. At breakfast the next day he tells Marilla he hired a boy to help. Anne thinks he's trying to replace her, but Matthew later tells her that he was saying that in the hope she could stay. When Marilla consents to giving Anne a chance, Matthew is happy and relieved.

After a conflict over Marilla's brooch, Matthew urgently takes a horse to go find Anne. He arrives at the train station and discovers he's too late, but doesn't give up. He travels in many different ways to get to the orphanage and get Anne back. When he discovers she isn't there but gets a lead from the milkman, he heads to the train station. There, Anne is furious at him and refuses to go home. When someone asks Anne if Matthew is bothering her, Matthew says, "She's my daughter!" causing Anne to let her guard back down, then hug him and cry.

In the following years, Anne and Matthew become good friends and Matthew has no boundaries when it comes to pleasing Anne - whether it's dressing up as an owl for the Christmas Pantomime or buying her a new dress with puff sleeves for Christmas. When the time comes for Anne to leave home, Matthew distances himself from Anne because he doesn't want to "hold her back," but only succeeds in upsetting her. Later, Marilla gives him a talking-to and he hands Anne some money so she can visit Green Gables whenever she wants. He proceeds to apologize for hurting her and tells Anne he's going to miss her. Anne jumps up and hugs him while telling him she loves him.

Diana Barry[]

Diana is Anne's bosom friend. The two meet in the first episode of the series and immediately become friends. They make an oath to be bosom friends forever and grow closer as the years pass.

Once when Diana was at Anne's house, the girls decided to have some raspberry cordial, but Anne accidentally gives them currant wine causing the girls to become drunk. When Mrs. Barry finds out, she bans Anne from playing with Diana. This only lasts until Minnie May gets terribly sick while Mr. and Mrs. Barry are away for the night and Diana runs to Anne for help. Immediately recognizing that Minnie May is suffering from croup, Anne helps quickly and saves Minnie May's life. After that Mrs. Barry regrets judging Anne and lets the girls be friends again.

Later on, Anne buys a locket and wants to give it to Diana, but drops it, causing the locket to break. The girls have the idea to keep it like that, and for each of them to have one half of the locket.

In their last year of school, Diana and Anne always connect the two pieces of the locket together before they go home, and count down the days before they leave. When Diana gets into Queens with Anne, the girls are overjoyed. Diana is concerned about what her parents will think since she took the entrance exam without telling them and they want her to go to finishing school, but Anne encourages her not focus on her own desires. Diana goes to Anne a day later and reveals that her parents aren't letting her go. Yet, after a conversation Mrs. Barry has with Marilla, she decides to let Diana go to Queens. When Anne sees Diana and her father arrive at Queens, the two girls hug and are relived that they don't have to say goodbye. They agree to go with their old plan and become roommates.

Gilbert Blythe[]

Gilbert Blythe is Anne's main love interest, although their feelings remain unresolved and unconfessed for much of the series. Anne meets Gilbert in But What Is So Headstrong as Youth? when he encounters her walking to school, and defends her against Billy's bullying. Gilbert takes an immediate interest in Anne, attempting to talk to her, displaying kind gestures, and referring to her as "a cute girl" when asked about walking with her by the other boys. Anne however does not return his interest, finding his chivalry to subvert her independence, and ignoring him to fit in with the other girls, particularly Ruby Gillis who has a long-standing crush on him. Gilbert's attempts to get Anne's attention frustrate him, and he pulls her hair and calls her "Carrots" in school. As a result, Anne loses her temper and hits him with her slate, breaking it and causing an uproar in the classroom. Gilbert unsuccessfully attempts to take blame for the incident when Mr. Phillips humiliates Anne in front of the class for this. Anne continues to hold animosity toward Gilbert for this event, but encourages Ruby to talk to him when they visit the work crew repairing the Gillis house after a fire. Gilbert pays specific attention to Anne during this visit, but she ignores him.

The two become academic rivals, with Anne beating Gilbert in a spelling competition. When his father falls ill, Anne is asked to bring his schoolwork to him daily while he home from school, which Diana teases her for. Her feelings toward him soften when she realizes that Gilbert will become an orphan like her if his father passes away. After the funeral for Gilbert's father, Anne attempts to console him, but it comes out poorly and upsets Gilbert. When she visits him to apologize, she finds that he has moved out of his family home. Gilbert later sees Anne in Charlottetown, where they share a conversation and smooth over their last interaction before Gilbert leaves to work on a steamship.

During Season 2, Anne writes Gilbert a letter to inform him of the "discovery" of gold in Avonlea. When she receives his response, she decides to keep the letter, becoming defensive with Diana and Marilla and insisting that there is nothing romantic about their correspondence. When Gilbert returns home, he is happy to see her and does not comment on her haircut as others do. The Cuthberts later invite Gilbert and Bash for Christmas dinner, where Gilbert gives Anne a thumb dictionary as a gift, including a personalized note referencing their spelling competitions. When Anne and a group of others visit Charlottetown as a part of their plan to save Ms. Stacy's job, Cole comments on Gilbert's obvious crush on Anne, which she vehemently denies. After Bash and Mary's wedding, the two share a friendly conversation and their dreams for future careers.

In Season 3, Anne and Gilbert become closer, with the Cuthberts, Bash, Mary, Delphine and Gilbert all relying on one another more as time progresses. Anne shows signs of growing interest in Gilbert, but often deflects them. When he escorts her on the train to Charlottetown, she rejects his friendly gestures with annoyance, confusing and frustrating him. When Gilbert has to inform Mary of her incurable sepsis, Anne consoles him as he airs his feelings and they share a hug. During a dance practice before the Prince Edward Island Fair, they share an intimate moment, but neither acknowledge it. Anne becomes more easily flustered around Gilbert, and confesses to Diana having noticed him more recently, but not responding when she asks if Anne has a crush on him. At the county fair, Anne consults a fortune teller regarding her feelings and a future with Gilbert, but becomes upset and jealous when he arrives with Winifred, having been courting her secretly. Her jealousy presents as animosity toward him, but he defends her writing in the newspaper. After a successful protest which the two of them help organize, they share a moment alone at Ms. Stacy's house. It's implied that they both think about kissing the other.

At a party after exams, Gilbert arrives and confesses to a drunken Anne that "just one thing" is keeping him from proposing to Winifred and accepting his dream at the Sorbonne, implying his feelings for her. She responds with confusion and Gilbert takes this to mean she does not return his feelings. After seeking advice from Josephine Barry and mending her friendship with Diana, Anne admits aloud that she is in love with Gilbert. She goes to confess to him, leaving a note in his stead, but it is misplaced and Gilbert never reads it. Gilbert decides against proposing to Winifred as his feelings for Anne are too important, and writes her a letter confessing this, but Anne tears it up in anger before reading it, assuming it meant his earlier confession was untrue. Upon arriving at Queens, Anne sees Winifred and learns that she and Gilbert are not engaged as she thought. Diana confronts Gilbert on a train to Charlottetown as he is traveling to Toronto, and informs him of Anne's letter which he tells her he never received. He rushes to find Anne at her boarding house, and the two share their first kiss, promising to write to one another.

Ruby Gillis[]

Ruby and Anne meet in on Anne's first day at school. Anne accidentally walks to school with Gilbert, who Ruby has a crush on. When the girls confront her, Ruby is crying. Anne apologizes and insists it wasn't intentional, but it doesn't do much to comfort Ruby. Later, when the Gillis' house is on fire. Anne remembers something she read in a fire manual at the orphanage and runs into Ruby's burning house. She closes all the windows and doors, keeping the fire from getting worse. Ruby's parents decide to split their children up among their friends until the house is rebuilt, and Ruby is forced to stay with Anne, even though she doesn't want to.

At Ruby's first night at Anne's house, she's miserable and crying in bed. Anne comforts her by telling her to look on the bright side and suggesting all the things that might be good about this. She also tells Ruby about Princess Cordelia and how Gilbert was putting out the fire on her behalf. She also suggests bringing scones for the boys when the start working on Ruby's house the next day, and tells Ruby she can give a scone to Gilbert. This cheers Ruby up, and soon she falls asleep.

A week later, Anne and Ruby have bonded in their time together, and on the last night - when Ruby and Anne are going to sleep - Ruby tells Anne she'd going to miss her. This is because Anne quit school after Mr. Phillips embarrassed her in front of everyone and Ruby doesn't know when she'll see Anne again. The episode ends with Anne going back to school, where Diana and Ruby greet her happily.

Later, Ruby, Diana, and Anne form a book club and create their own clubhouse. The three girls also go to Queens College together, and are clearly very good friends.

Cole Mackenzie[]

Cole is introduced in Signs are Small Measurable Things, but Interpretations are Illimitable. Anne seems to already know him a little, but they aren't friends.

Later in the episode, Billy purposefully spills ink on a drawing Cole made of Camelot. Cole reacts and Mr. Phillips tells him to go to the blackboard and do lines in front of the whole class. While he's up there, Anne gets up and cleans the mess Billy made, putting Cole's ruined drawing back on his desk. Later that day, the girls are eating lunch. Anne is watching Cole eat by himself and gets up, saying she knows, "just how he feels." Diana follows her, and Anne compliments Cole's picture and asks if the two of them can sit with him. The other girls soon join them.

In The Determining Acts of Her Life, Anne comes to school with ribbons in her hair. Cole and Diana decide to style her hair using the ribbons and get in trouble. Later in that episode, Josie goes up to Cole during lunch and says she might allow him to kiss her. When he says that he doesn't like her, Josie angrily marches over to the other girls and calls Cole a freak. To this, Anne responds by saying, "Josie Pye, you take that back! Cole is my friend!". In the same episode, Josie makes the boys and girls play spin the bottle. When Anne spins, the first boy to be chosen doesn't want to kiss her, so Cole volunteers. Despite the pressure of the moment and heckling from classmates, Anne and Cole share a friendly kiss on the cheek and receive applause from their friends and classmates

Cole accompanies Diana and Anne to Josephine Barry's party, where they have a chance to interact with unique artists, creators, and openly LGBTQ+ individuals. Cole and Anne enjoy this unique and freeing experience. The three discover that Aunt Jo and her partner Gertrude had a romantic relationship, which Cole finds comfort and encouragement from. Cole later reveals to Anne that he is "the same as Josephine Barry", coming out to her as gay. Anne openly accepts this and thanks Cole for his trust in her. Anne and Cole promise that if neither of them finds a romantic partner, they will spend their lives as platonic companions, free to explore their creative interests together. In their next venture to Charlottetown on a mission to stand up for Miss Stacy, Cole points out to Anne that Gilbert has a crush on her, though she scoffs and denies it.

After a second visit to Josephine, Cole decides to move in with her so that he can live as his authentic self and nurture his love for art. He remains in Charlottetown for the remainder of the series. Cole appears several times in season three, and is with Anne when she opens a letter from one of her old caretakers that might have information on her parents. The letter is another disappointment in Anne's journey to discover her past. Anne acts as though she's fine while in front of Marilla, Matthew and Josephine, but privately cries to Cole who hugs and comforts her.