This is the first scholarly biography of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, the mother of Edward IV and Richard III. She was said to have ruled Edward IV ‘as she pleased’ and Richard III made his bid for the throne from her home. Yet Cecily has been a shadowy figure in modern histories, noted primarily for her ostentatious piety, her expensive dresses, and the rumours of her adultery.
Here J. L. Laynesmith draws on a wealth of rarely considered sources to construct a fresh and revealing portrait of a remarkable woman. Cecily was the only major protagonist to live right through the Wars of the Roses. This book sheds new light on that bloody conflict in which Cecily proved herself an exceptional political survivor. Skilfully manipulating her family connections and contemporary ideas about womanhood, Cecily repeatedly reinvented herself to protect her own status and to ensure the security of those in her care.
From her childhood marriage to Richard, Duke of York until her final decade as grandmother of the first Tudor queen, the story of Cecily Neville’s life provides a rich insight into national and local politics, women’s power and relationships, motherhood, household dynamics and the role of religion in fifteenth-century England.
Cecily Neville was born on 3 May 1415 as the daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, and Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland. She married Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York by October 1429. They went on to have 13 children, though not all lived to adulthood. She was widowed on 30 December 1460 when her husband was killed in the Battle of Wakefield. Her son Edward subsequently became King Edward IVhen he won the Battle of Towton. Cecily effectively became Queen Mother.
Cecily, Duchess of York by J.L. Laynesmith is the first scholarly biography of Cecily Neville. Amy Licence has previously written Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings (US & UK). The research is quite extensive and very thorough. The only thing that bothered me was the use of capitalisation in titles. For example, her husband is often “Richard, duke of York” instead of Richard, Duke of York.” Sometimes there are no commas, such as “Cecily duchess of york.” It seems a bit sloppy for such a biography.
Nevertheless, it’s an amazing look at the woman who formed the role of “My Lady, the King’s Mother.” She outlived all her sons and lived well into the Tudor era. She lived to see the birth of her great-grandchildren, Arthur, Prince of Wales, the future Henry VIII, Margaret Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor (who died young).
She died on 31 May 1495, just after her 80th birthday.