On this day in Plantagenet history Cecily Neville was born in Raby Castle, Durham. Nicknamed the “Rose of Raby”, “Proud Cis”, “Queen by Rights”. The real Cecily Neville has been lost to us thanks to the proliferation of negative portrayals of her.
The Neville family could trace its roots back to William the Conqueror with whom they were related. Cecily’s eleventh century ancestor Richard de Novavilla’s mother was the Conqueror’s cousin. As the years went by the Nevilles climbed up the social ladder by marrying into prestigious families.
Cecily’s father was the First Earl of Westmorland and had already been married, by the time Cecily was born she had sisters who already had children of their own. Her mother was none other than Joan Beaufort, only daughter of John, Duke of Lancaster and his third wife Katherine Swynford. By an act of parliament during Richard II’s reign, John and Katherine’s children were legitimized however this act was severely altered when John’s eldest son, Henry IV, came to the throne. The new act parliament passed maintained they were legitimate but barred them from the line of succession. As a result Joan Beaufort developed a strong religious identity she passed on to her daughter.
When she married Richard Plantagenet in 1429 she became Duchess of York and one of the leading women in England. After a series of conflicts that pit her husband against Henry VI, he made a bid for the crown of England. Before his triumphant entrance to London in 1460, he had visited Cecily so both could share his triumph. However parliament refused to replace their anointed sovereign with Richard and instead an agreement was brought up that he would be King’s official heir. He was granted the titles of Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester, and Duke of Cornwall. As a result Cecily’s status was elevated as the second highest ranking woman in England. It would be by a cruel stroke of fate that she would never wear the crown of England. Her son and second son were killed later that same year by Lancastrian forces.
While Cecily never became Queen of England, she started using the moniker “Queen by Rights” around the time her eldest son married Elizabeth Wydeville to emphasize her high rank. It is unclear what role she played -if she played any- during her son George’s rebellion or during her youngest son, Richard’s reign.
After the Yorkist regime fell, she retired from the public scene, leading a highly ascetic life. She died in May 31st, 1495. She is buried next to her husband in Fotheringhay Castle.
- Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood
- On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
- Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings by Amy Licence