Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

#45--Cecily Neville--Strong Woman and Mother to Kings

Last week when I was blogging about King Edward III, I was reminded that one of the people in that tree who I found most interesting was Cecily Neville, the great granddaughter of King Edward III and my    great grandmother.    From what I have read about her, she indeed would fit the definition of a strong woman.  I do know much about the Middle Ages and the people that lived then, but as I read about Cecily I found that first there was not much and second some of it was contradictory

Raby Castle
Cecily was born in 1415 at Raby Castle, the youngest daughter and last child of Ralph Neville and his second wife, Joan Beaufort.  (Depending on who you read, she is either the 14th, 18th or 23 child of Ralph Neville.)  Continuing his tradition of marrying his children into powerful and wealthy families,
her father, in 1424, betrothed her to his ward, Richards Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York. Richard was the descendant of two other sons of Edward III: Lionel of Antwerp and Edmund of Langley.  Thus, he had a double claim to the throne of England.   Cecily and Richard were married by October 1429.  They had twelve children, seven of them living to adulthood.  Two of the sons became Kings of England.

During Richard’s life time, he was a major player in the War of the Roses, attempting to gain the throne of England for himself and his family.  The exact role that Cecily played is not clear to me.  However, during the time that Richard fled from the Lancastrians, Cecily went to London to plead his case to the King.   While she was not able to save Richard’s lands or secure a successful pardon, she did obtain from the King 600 pounds yearly for herself and her children.  In 1460 the right of Richard III, Duke of York to be the next king was affirmed and his lands returned.   Unfortunately, at the end of 1460, Richard died in the Battle of Wakefield.

 After his death, to ensure that her two youngest sons--George and Richard-- were safe, Cecily sent them to Burgundy, but she remained in England to protect her son, Edward’s, interests and to assist him in becoming king in 1461.  While King Edward IV ruled, she continued to be an influence.  When he was young, Cecily appeared with him at state occasions, and was left in charge of the Court, when the King toured Wales.
Arms of Cecily Neville
She was given the Queen’s quarters to live in and allowed to remain there after King Edward married Elizabeth Woodville.  At that time, it was written that she “can rule the king as she pleases.”   Her official title was “Cecily the King’s mother and late wife unto Richard rightful King of England.”

During King Edward’s reign, his brother George was involved in several plots against him.   George joined with Warwick, known as the Kingmaker, in his rebellion against George’s brother, King Edward IV and in support of Henry VI’s son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Who Cecily supported is not clear to me.  George and Warwick claimed that King Edward was not a legitimate son of Richard III and therefore was not entitled to be King.  It does not appear that Cecily took any steps to deny that allegation, which would have been evidence for her support of King Edward IV so her silence may be seen as support for George and Warwick.  When the George and Warwick failed, Cecil twice tried to broker peace between the two brothers.

King Edward IV died in  1483, naming his two sons, Richard and Edward,  as heirs to the throne.  Cecily then supported her youngest son, Richard III, and his claim to the throne by declaring that the two sons were illegitimate.  After the death of the two princes in the Tower of London, Richard became King of England on July 6, 1483.  When King Richard III died on August 22, 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth, Cecily retired to her estates and lived a quiet, but pious life.  She died on May 31, 1495 and was buried with her husband at Forheringhay, Northampton.

To men, any woman who advocates for her husband with the King, who guides her son when he was King, and who involves herself in the politics of becoming the next king, is  strong woman.  If I could talk to Cecily Neville, I would ask a couple of questions.  First, how did she decide which ones of her sons to back for King?  Second, what was it like to live in Court as the mother of the king?  Cecily Neville appears in several novels about her family.  I would like to know what she thinks about that?

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