Another post I wanted to reblog, because theamazingcat and I just spoke about Cecily Neville, and the Blaybourne rumour. This drives me silly with annoyance, so here are a few facts about Cecily Neville, which are cooler than the stupid rumour anyway.
Neville was married to Richard of York, father to Edward IV and Richard
III, when she was all of nine years old. He was thirteen, and such
marriages were not at all unusual among medieval nobility. For Cecily,
as the youngest of her father`s over twenty and her mother`s well over
ten (fifteen or something?) children, Richard was a good match for
Cecily. Sole heir to vast estates, he was extremely rich by the time he
was four. Orphaned at a young age, he had become the ward of Cecily`s
father, which is why the two married.
However, the marriage does
seem to have been a close and successful one. Rather than simply sitting
at home, she accompanied him absolutely everywhere. The birthplaces of
her children, ranging from England over modern-day France to Ireland
amply show this.
Contrary to what certain novels portray,
Cecily and the then-queen, Margaret of Anjou, were originally pretty
friendly. At least one letter from Cecily to Margaret survives in which
Cecily tells her about how annoying she found childbirth and the act of
delivering the future Richard III and at the same time warmly
congratulates Margaret on becoming pregnant herself. (Presumably, at
that point, the two were planning to have a nice chat about who had the
worst labour once Margaret`s child was delivered.) There is also plenty
of evidence that, when Richard of York was acting against the king,
Cecily intervened for him - successfully - with Margaret.
when the split occured when Henry VI went insane, Cecily backed her own
husband to the hilt. Nor did she ever lose her head during a
catastrophe. As a matter of fact, there is a rather funny story that
when she and her youngest daughter and two youngest sons were sent to
her sister for safekeeping after the sack of Ludlow, Cecily had to
receive “many a great rebuke” because she wasn`t having the idea of
sitting by agreeing to everything that was told to her at all. And she
was not happy with her husband having to be in exile in Ireland. When he
returned, he sent for Cecily, and she went to him so that they entered
London in triumph together.
When she lost her second-oldest
son Edmund, her husband Richard, her brother and her nephew in the same
battle - the Battle of Wakefield - she also did not panic. Instead, she
arranged for her two youngest sons, George and Richard, to be sent to
Burgundy, so that if her eldest son Edward and her nephew, the Earl of
Warwick, were defeated, they would be safe.
When Edward ascended
the throne, Cecily was styled “Queen by Right”, only to show to the
world that though her husband had not technically been king, he had
actually been the rightful king and she therefore the rightful queen
Speaking of consorts, Cecily was less than delighted by
her son Edward`s bride, Elizabeth Woodville. As a matter of fact, she
liked Elizabeth so little she refused to vacate the queen`s quarters at
Edward`s palace and Edward had to build new quarters for his wife.
remained on good terms with her other children, though, - about her
relationship with Edward there is some debate - and when George secretly
married Isabel, she went to see them off before they crossed to Calais.
This is sometimes taken to mean that she went there to give them her
support, or conversely that she tried to persuade them not to go through
with it. Or that she perhaps simply came to bless them as the
bridegroom`s mother. Whichever it was, she does seem to have known about
the upcoming wedding, though she does not seem to have told Edward
about it. Perhaps he already knew at that point.
There is no way
to say what Cecily thought about George and Warwick`s rebellion at
first. It was, by the way, at that time that rumours first started to
circulate that Edward was illegitimate. Since they were used by George
and Warwick, who were trying to get Edward off the throne, they can be
dismissed as invention to blacken his name. Mancini reported later that
the story came from Cecily herself, who said it when she told Edward off
about his marriage. However, even if she did say something like “you
are not your father`s son”, it does not have to mean she was being
literal about it, rather than just making a point about how his father
would be ashamed and would never have entertained such an idea. Anyway,
there is no way of knowing it ever happened, and does seem unlikely.
happened then, if Cecily bore a grudge against George for spreading the
story, only she and her family knew it. During the readaption of Henry
VI, she and her daughter Margaret of Burgundy wrote letters to George to
get him to abandon Warwick and join his brothers, which he did when
they returned from exile.
When Edward, nearly ten years
later, had George executed, she seems to have pleaded with him for her
younger son`s life, though this is not one hundred percent certain.
Similarly, it is usually attributed to her influence that he was
executed in private and could choose his own way of dying, though this,
too, cannot be verified. However, her relationship with Edward seems to
have been slightly strained at that point, if not hostile. She was not
very often at his court.
When Edward IV died and Richard took over
the throne, Cecily seems to have supported him, though she was not
present at the coronation. However, Richard stayed in her house when the
crisis went down, used it as his headquarters after he had moved out to
join his wife Anne, and accepted the crown there. Cecily was in
residence all the time, so clearly she fully supported him, and some
people even claim she actively helped him gain the throne. If he really
did use the story about Edward`s illegitimacy, she clearly did not mind.
A few of her entertainers were in Richard`s retinue when he went on his
royal progress, and a perfectly cordial letter from Richard to her
survives, in which he tells her that that he hopes she will accept
Francis Lovell as an estate manager to some of her lands, and that he
will do brilliantly and to be a nice employer to him, please.
is no evidence about how Cecily reacted when Richard was defeated in
battle. As a matter of fact, there is very little evidence about the
last few years of her life. She survived Richard by almost ten years,
but little is known about that time. However, some of her servants were
implicated in rebellions against Henry VII, though if Cecily knew about
this and if so, if she encouraged it, is impossible to say. She left
Henry a golden cup in her will, but the will is perhaps not the best
indicator of her feelings. Certain people make a big deal out of the
fact that Richard is not mentioned in it, but then neither are others of
her children. The most telling omission is that of her still living
daughter, Margaret of Burgundy, a prominent enemy of Henry VII`s, so
perhaps she was being politic.
Cecily died in 1495 and was buried
next to Richard of York. Their graves were destroyed during the
Reformation, despite the fact they were the great- grandparents of Henry