I’ve very pleased to welcome Anne Easter Smith, author of Queen By Right, to Peeking Between the Pages. I reviewed Queen By Right yesterday for her book tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours (my review) and if you did read my review you know I absolutely loved this book! Queen By Right is everything historical fiction should be – it teaches me something and keeps me totally hooked on the story as well. Today Anne Easter Smith joins us with a guest post on Cecily Neville herself…
I have been intrigued by Cecily Neville since enjoying Sharon Kay Penman’s Sunne in Splendour almost twenty years ago. She never appeared in my first book, A Rose for the Crown, but you could almost imagine her imposing presence every time I mentioned her. Some of my favorite scenes in Daughter of York were between Margaret and her mother, and it occurred to me that after three books describing the lives of her children and grandchildren, that I should go back to the beginning of the York family in the Wars of the Roses and tell their parents’ story.
The Hundred Years War between England and France was still raging when Cecily Neville was born at Raby Castle in County Durham. Dubbed “the Rose of Raby,” Cecily is the twenty-second and youngest child of Ralph Neville, the powerful Earl of Westmorland, and also cousin to the boy king, Henry VI. Cecily’s fate becomes entwined with the king’s when she is betrothed to her father’s ward, Richard Plantagenet, the orphaned duke of York, whose claim to the throne is arguably stronger than young Henry’s.
Believe it or not, there is very little written about Cecily that is not incorporated in biographies of the men of the period, but most of those portray her as proud, intelligent, and strong-willed. The second nickname that has come to be associated with her is Proud Cis. She was known for her reclusiveness and piety in the last 20 years of her life, and so I have tried to imagine what caused her to shut herself away. True, it was quite common for widows to retire to an abbey (like Elizabeth Woodville), but I chose to use a few life-changing experiences of Cecily’s that might have made her turn to God later in her life. I hope I have been true to the information we have about her.
I never did find the origin of either of her nicknames, but they are everywhere in the secondary sources down the centuries. It told me that Cecily must have been very beautiful, and it also told me she was not someone who suffered fools gladly. I have tried to show that she had a public side where she maintained a cool and aloof exterior and a softer yet passionate side when she was with her family. Unfortunately the personal feelings of most of historical people from that time are not recorded anywhere, except in letters, and even those are stilted and formal to our way of thinking. But it is believed by historians that Cecily and Richard had one of the few love matches among the nobility of the 15th century, and I tried to find reasons for this in my research. The fact that Cecily did insist on following Richard around so much instead of staying meekly at home with the children told me that they enjoyed being together. I also thought it was unusual for a wife to plead personally on behalf of her husband to the king on two occasions, which showed me how devoted she was. And when Richard landed in Wales after almost a year of exile in Ireland in1460, he immediately called for Cecily to join him even though the king’s forces were attempting to thwart Richard’s progress towards London and it could have been dangerous. It seemed to me husband and wife could not bear to be parted a moment longer, and Cecily joined him only a few days later leaving her children in London.
I try and stay true to those known facts about a character, and it is known Cecily was quite pious especially later in life. However, it is fair to say most medieval people of any learning did a lot of praying and were always concerned for their immortal souls. A man might commit adultery or order a murder one moment but be at the confessional the next being given a penance and telling his rosary. Religious ritual was a daily part of everyone’s life. Because it is a known fact about Cecily, I used the spiritual side of her life as a theme in the book.
What a wonderful post Anne! I loved reading more about Cecily. I had mentioned in my review yesterday that I find her fascinating and it’s sad that there isn’t a lot more information on her in historical records. Thanks for visiting here at Peeking Between the Pages today!
About the Book (from Anne Easter Smith’s website)
This is the story of Cecily of York, mother of two kings and one of English history’s most intelligent and courageous women.
In Cecily Neville, duchess of York and ancestor of every English monarch to the present day, Anne has found her most engrossing character yet. Cecily earned two monikers from her contemporaries: Rose of Raby for her fair-haired beauty and Proud Cis for her fierce loyalty and courage in the face of the many history-making events she experienced in her eighty years. This was a woman who could have been queen had her husband lived to win the day over Henry VI and his queen, Margaret of Anjou, in the winter of 1461.
History remembers Cecily of York standing on the steps of Ludlow Castle, facing an attacking army while holding the hands of her two young sons. Queen by Right reveals how she came to step into her destiny, beginning with her marriage to Richard, Duke of York who she meets when she is nine and he is thirteen. Raised together in her father’s household, they become a true love match, and together they face personal tragedies, pivotal events of history, and deadly political intrigue.
All of England knows that Richard has a clear claim to the throne, and when King Henry VI becomes unfit to rule, Cecily must put aside her own hopes and fears and help her husband decide what is right for their family and the kingdom. As civil war escalates between the cousins of Lancaster and York, Cecily will lose her love, her favorite brother and her dearest child. But in the end, she will watch proudly as her oldest son takes his father’s place at the head of a victorious army and is crowned at Westminster Abbey as King Edward IV.
About the Author (from Anne Easter Smith’s website)
In my novels, I strive to serve those readers who are looking for accuracy in historical fact and yet also engage those who are looking for a good story with strong characters, a little romance and lots of period detail. A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, The King’s Grace, and Queen by Right are for those readers who enjoy settling into a book and living with the characters for a good long time.
I spent my childhood in England, Germany and Egypt as the daughter of a British Army colonel. At my boarding school in Surrey a teacher we called “Conky” — after William the Conqueror — inspired my passion for history. When in my early 20s, I read Josephine Tey’s “A Daughter of Time”, I became particularly fascinated by Shakespeare’s so-called villain, Richard III.
At age 24, after living and working as a secretary in London and Paris, I came on a lark to New York with my flatmate just for a “two-year stint.” Many years, two marriages, two children and five cross-country moves later I’m very definitely a permanent resident of the U.S. — but my love for English history remains.
I began writing professionally a few years after I landed in Plattsburgh, NY near the beautiful Adirondack Mountains with my first husband and daughters, Joanna and Kate. For ten years, I was the Features/Arts Editor for the daily newspaper and wrote articles on every conceivable subject that was not hard news! It proved a wonderful training ground for my foray into authoring.
It was while living in Plattsburgh that I took on another persona as a folksinger, playing in music festivals, clubs, restaurants, and on public radio. When I’m not writing, I can be found either on the local stage or weeding my garden, the latter which I hate almost as much as I do sewing! My husband, Scott, and I love biking, canoeing, cross-country skiing and sailing, which we can do either near Boston, where we live now, or back in the Adirondacks. I should also add that I’m a member of the Richard III Society and the Historical Novel Society. And my daughter Kate has even got me posting to Anne Easter Smith Facebook page.
I have one copy of Queen By Right by Anne Easter Smith to share with my US readers only (sorry!). To enter…
- For 1 entry leave me a comment with an email address to contact you (no email, no entry).
- For 2 entries, follow my blog. If you already do, thank you, and please let me know so I can pass on the extra entry to you as well.
- For 3 entries, blog or tweet this giveaway to spread the word!
This giveaway is open to US residents only (no PO boxes) and I will be drawing for the winner on Saturday, June 25/11. Good luck to all!
© 2010, Darlene of Peeking Between the Pages. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Peeking Between the Pages or Darlene’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.