Biography: Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

cecily_neville_originalAlso known as “the Rose of Raby” and “Proud Cis”. (Born May 3, 1415-Died May 31, 1495). Daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and Joan Beaufort. Married to Richard Plantagenet 3rd Duke of York. Mother of Anne, Duchess of Exeter, Edward IV, King of England, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, George, 1st Duke of Clarence and Richard III, King of England.
Cecily Neville was the mother of two kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III. She was known for her piety and her pride.

Cecily Neville was the daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and Joan Beaufort. Her paternal grandparents were John Neville, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby, and Maud Percy, daughter of Henry de Percy, 2nd Baron Percy. Her maternal grandparents were John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his third wife Katherine Swynford, thus making her a great granddaughter of King Edward III on her mother’s side of the family. She was born on May 3, 1415 at Raby Castle in Durham thus gaining the nickname “the Rose of Raby”. Her father Ralph Neville was granted the wardship of a young Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and in 1424, she was betrothed to Richard. When Ralph Neville died in 1425, his widow Joan Beaufort was able to maintain the wardship of Richard Plantagenet. In October 1429, Richard and Cecily were married; their first child Anne was not born until August 1439.

Richard was made king’s lieutenant and governor general of France in 1441; Cecily and Anne moved to Rouen to be with him. They had a son Henry but he would die soon after he was born. On April 28, 1442, their son the future Edward IV was born in Rouen. He was baptized shortly afterward, which caused both his cousin Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and his own brother George Duke of Clarence to question if he was actually the son of Richard Plantagenet. These claims were dismissed as attempts to remove Edward from the throne. Richard Plantagenet always acknowledged Edward as his own son. In total, Cecily and Richard would have 13 children including Edward IV, George Duke of Clarence and Richard III.

Richard had an enemy at court and that was Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, a cousin of Cecily Neville. Richard did not like how close Somerset was to the king and to Margaret of Anjou. In 1454, Henry VI had a mental breakdown and it was Richard, not Somerset, who was made Lord Protector and Richard threw Somerset in prison. Richard was removed from the post in 1455, all of his reforms were changed and Somerset was released from prison. This infuriated Richard and so he decided to march against Somerset at the First Battle of St. Albans where Somerset was killed. During this time, Cecily and her children were living in Ludlow Castle, even when Richard fled to Ireland and the European continent. In November 1459, Cecily travelled to London to plead for her husband’s cause to Parliament. Richard lost all of his titles but Cecily was able to get a grant of 600 pounds for her efforts in order to provide for her children.

1460 was a year of change for the York family. When the Yorkist army won at the Battle of Northampton in July 1460, Cecily moved her family to London where they stayed with the lawyer John Paston. Richard and his heirs were declared Henry VI’s successors in the Act of Accord, which made Cecily a queen-in-waiting. This pushed Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, out of the line of succession, which angered his mother Margaret of Anjou. Margaret led the Lancastrian army against the Yorkist army at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460, where Richard Duke of York and his son Edmund Earl of Rutland were killed. Cecily sent her young sons George and Richard to the court of Philip II duke of Burgundy for their protection, making Philip an ally of the Yorkist cause.

Cecily’s son Edward took up the Yorkist cause with the help of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Edward was able to defeat the Lancastrians and become king, making Cecily mother of the king. In 1461, Cecily included the royal arms of England on her own coat of arms, which hinted that her husband was the rightful king of England. When Edward married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, he built a new queen’s quarter for Elizabeth and let Cecily stay in the old queen’s quarters. When Warwick and Cecily’s son George rebelled in 1469 against Edward, Cecily worked hard to get both sides to reconcile, which briefly happened. Warwick and George went to France and joined the Lancastrian cause. In 1470, the Lancastrian cause under Warwick overthrew Edward and placed Henry VI back on the throne. It only lasted for six months and on April 14, 1471, Edward came back to the throne and Warwick was killed.

Edward never really trusted George again and on February 18, 1478, George was executed for treason at the Tower of London. This must have been a difficult moment for Cecily as one son had another executed for treason. Edward IV would die suddenly on April 9, 1483, leaving his young son Edward V as the next king of England. He was 13 and his younger brother Richard was 10 years old. Richard, Cecily’s youngest son and the boys’ uncle, became their Lord Protector. He had the boys placed in the Tower and they were never seen again. There was an enquiry into Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and they found that it was invalid and an Act of Parliament called the Titulus Regius declared that the Princes in the Tower were illegitimate and that paved the way for Richard to become Richard III on July 6, 1483. Cecily got along rather well with Richard’s wife Anne Neville and would often discuss religious matters with her, until Anne died.

On August 22, 1485, Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field and Henry Tudor became Henry Tudor. Cecily’s husband and all four of her sons were dead by 1485, Edward IV was the only one by natural causes. On January 18, 1486, Cecily’s granddaughter Elizabeth of York married Henry VII and help bring forth the Tudor Dynasty. At this time, Cecily devoted her life to religious duties and she gain a reputation for her piety. Cecily Neville never married again and on May 31,1495, she died. She was buried in the tomb with her husband Richard and their son Edmund at the Church of St Mary and All Saints, Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire.

Biography: Richard Duke of York

richarddukeofyork-243x300Also known as Richard Plantagenet. (Born September 21, 1411- Died December 30, 1460). Son of Richard Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer. Married to Cecily Neville. Father of Anne, Duchess of Exeter, Edward IV, King of England, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard III, King of England. Richard Duke of York was the one who became Lord Protector to Henry VI, but when he didn’t get the respect he thought he deserved, challenged the king and claimed that he should be king, and started the Wars of the Roses.

Richard of York was born on 21 September 1411. He was the son of Richard, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, by his wife Anne de Mortimer, the daughter of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March. Anne Mortimer was the great-granddaughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the second surviving son of King Edward III. After the death in 1425 of Anne’s brother Edmund, the 5th Earl of March, this supplied Richard, of the House of York, with a claim to the English throne that was, under English law, arguably superior to that of the reigning House of Lancaster, descended from John of Gaunt, the third son of King Edward III. On his father’s side, Richard had a claim to the throne in a direct male line of descent from his grandfather Edmund, 1st Duke of York, fourth surviving son of King Edward III and founder of the House of York. Richard’s claim through his mother made him more eligible to be king than Henry VI, thus he adopted the last name “Plantagenet” in 1448 to mark his claim to the throne.

Richard’s mother is said to have died giving birth to him and his father was executed  in 1415 for his part in the Southampton plot that tried to remove Henry V from the throne and replace him with Edmund Mortimer. His father’s titles were forfeited, but not attainted, which meant that Richard at 4 years old, became his father’s heir. A few months later, Richard’s uncle Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, was slain at the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415. Henry V decided to give the lands of the Duchy of York to Richard.

Richard was an orphan and he was considered property of the crown. His wardship was a very valued gift of the crown and it was granted to Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland. Ralph Neville had a large family, 20 children who survived infancy,  with many daughters who needed husbands, so in 1424, Neville betrothed Richard to his daughter Cecily Neville. On February 2, 1425, Richard was created Duke of York, after his uncle Edmund Mortimer died. In October 1425, Ralph Neville died and his widow Joan Beaufort was given the wardship of Richard, which was even more valuable since Richard was now the Duke of York. On May 19, 1426 he was knighted at St Mary de Castro in Leicester by John, Duke of Bedford, the younger brother of King Henry V. In October 1429 or earlier, Richard and Cecily were married. York was there for Henry VI’s coronation on November 6, 1430 and he was also at Henry VI’s coronation in France when he became king of France on December 16, 1431. Finally, on May 12, 1432, York was finally given full control over his estates.

York was loyal to Henry VI and the Lancasters in the beginning. He worked with John Duke of Bedford, who was the English regent in France. Bedford died in 1435 and York took on the responsibility of being governor of France and Normandy from 1436 to 1437 and 1440 to 1445. At this time, York  was neutral in politics, but he seemed to have sided with Humphrey Duke of Gloucester in the idea of continuing the war with France. York wanted to apart of Henry VI’s council, but he was not allowed. On his return to England in 1450 York was seen as the opponent of the Duke of Somerset. He was as popular as Somerset was not and York had powerful allies in the Nevilles. In 1451, there was a claim in Parliament that York should be the next heir to the throne because the king did not have a son. This claim was not taken seriously and the one who proposed this was imprisoned.  

In 1452, York declared that he wanted to be the next heir to the throne so he summoned an army to march on London. It didn’t go well and York was placed on house arrest for two weeks and then he was forced to give an oath of allegiance to the king and promised that if he did want to pursue his claim, he would do it in a legal manner.

In the summer of 1453, York had lost all hope of becoming king and changing the government for the better as Margaret of Anjou became pregnant and the king’s half brother Edmund Tudor married Margaret Beaufort. Then in August of 1453, Henry VI had his first bout with mental illness reared its ugly head. He heard about the Battle of Castillon in Gascony, which ended the English hopes of winning the Hundred Years’ War, sending him into an unresponsive state. The Council decided to elect York as Lord Protector and one of the first things he did was to have Somerset arrested and placed in the Tower. In October of the same year, the son of Henry VI and Margaret Beaufort, Edward of Westminster Prince of Wales, was born dashing York’s chances of becoming the heir by peaceful means. York remained Lord Protector until 1455 when Henry VI recovered. Henry VI released Somerset and basically reversed every decision that York had made while he was Protector. This was the last straw for York.

York and his Neville allies, including Richard Neville, Duke of Warwick, marched to St. Albans where they faced off against Somerset and the Lancastrian forces that supported the king. Somerset was killed during the  First Battle of St Albans on May 22, 1455, and shortly after, the king had another bout of mental illness. York was declared Lord Protector yet again, but was removed from his post when the king recovered in 1456, but the king had accepted York and the Nevilles as an important part of the government. This reconciliation would not last long.

It was then that Margaret of Anjou took up her husband’s cause. She encouraged the new duke of Somerset Henry Beaufort to fight against York. The battlelines were being drawn. The Yorkists were led by Richard duke of York, Richard Neville earl of Salisbury and his son Richard Neville earl of Warwick. The Lancastrians were under Henry VI, but led by Margaret of Anjou, Somerset, and Henry Percy, third earl of Northumberland. In 1459, at the battle of Ludlow, the Lancastrians won and sent the Yorkists into hiding; however the Yorkists came back with a vengeance at the battle of Northampton.

In 1460 York officially declared his claim to the throne. After much discussion, it was agreed that after the king died, York and his sons would be the heirs to the throne, removing Edward of Westminster from the line of succession. Henry VI seemed to have been okay with this arrangement, but Margaret was beyond upset. She led the Lancastrian forces to face off against York at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460. York and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed in the battle. York was beheaded, his head was put on a spike wearing a paper crown and was displayed over Micklegate Bar at York.