Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thwarted Queen by Cynthia Haggard

An indepth historical biographical novel of Cecily Neville


THWARTED QUEEN is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.

Cecylee is the apple of her mother’s eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father’s eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up.

The event that fuels the narrative is Cecylee’s encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the “One Seed” of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son.

But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War - during which England loses all of her possessions in France - and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.

This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy.


Thwarted Queen is a young adult novel about Cecylee (Cecily) Neville, mother to kings of England. The author did an exceptional job of portraying Cecily as strong and determined woman, unafraid to speak her mind and take risks. Although fettered by the restrictions of her era, Cecily made the most of her marriage to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. As she and her family becomes caught in the life and death struggles between two families vying for the throne of England, she initiates her own battles. The strong, first person narrative author, immediately engages the reader. It is evident that author Cynthia Haggard did extensive research into the life of this fascinating woman and has more novels forthcoming. A wonderful novel to introdcuce Cecily Neville and historical biographical fiction to young female readers. 

Cecily Neville was at the very top of the social scale in late medieval England, and held the highest status a woman could enjoy. She was the eighteenth child of Ralph, first Earl of Westmorland and Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt. Her marriage to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, was a suitable match between two families of great status.

Richard Plantagenet
Duke of York

Besides wielding considerable political power in an age when few women did so, Cecily administered a large feudal estate, with all the interlocking duties and responsibilities, which that entailed.

Given her high rank, Cecily Neville might have been constrained by the conventional medieval noblewoman's life of piety, patronage, courtly attendance and quiet support for her husband. But she certainly did not heed the advice of the author of The Goodman of Paris (1393), a treatise on household management, who advised that to satisfy their husbands young wives should behave like faithful dogs.

Cecily was a great beauty and indulged in the luxurious lifestyle that her marriage to the wealthiest peer of the realm allowed. She also supported her husband's actions in claiming the crown at the end of the 1450s, and moved beyond the expected behaviour of contemporary noblewomen when she became directly involved in political events.

This trend continued after her husband was killed during the battle of Wakefield in December 1460. Cecily's eldest son, Edward, Earl of March, became King Edward IV in 1461.

King Edward IV

Cecily soon received confirmation of her lands and rights, and as a widow with enormous personal wealth, she continued her patronage of religious houses and the college founded by her husband at Fotheringhay, in Northamptonshire. Cecily also adopted the role of Yorkist matriarch. After 1461, her main goal became the arrangement of a suitable marriage for the king. When in May 1464 he secretly married a low-born widow, Elizabeth Woodville, instead of a European princess, Cecily reacted angrily and refused to subordinate herself to the new queen, styling herself 'queen by right'.

Elizabeth Woodville

By marrying Elizabeth Woodville, Edward also alienated Cecily's powerful nephew Richard, Earl of Warwick, known as the 'Kingmaker', who had been conducting negotiations with the French king for Edward's marriage. There is evidence that by 1469 Cecily had declared Edward to be illegitimate and, with Warwick, was pushing for the crown to pass to her second son, George, Duke of Clarence.

George Plantagent
Duke of Clarence

This development permanently damaged her relationship with Edward, so from 1471 until after his death in April 1483 she avoided the royal court and concentrated on her private interests.

When Edward died, Cecily revived her kingmaking activities. By this time her sense of dynasty was even more acute. Clarence had been attainted by the king and had died in mysterious circumstances in the Tower of London in 1478. Cecily therefore now acted decisively to restore the true Yorkist line through her youngest son, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who in 1483 became Richard III.

Richard III
Duke of Gloucester

In support of Richard's claim to the throne, Cecily held a meeting at her London home to nullify Edward's will, and supported the assertion that his sons - the 'Princes in the Tower' - were illegitimate and so could not rule if the Yorkist dynasty was to remain pure.

Subsequently, in August 1485, Richard was defeated by Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field and died during the course of the battle. With Henry firmly installed as King Henry VII, the 70-year-old duchess gave the impression of finally accepting defeat.

Henry VII

Nevertheless, there is evidence that after her death in 1495 many of her servants were involved in the conspiracy to dethrone Henry VII hatched by Perkin Warbeck (who claimed to be the younger of the two princes murdered in the Tower). Cecily's life and intrigues show that women could enjoy considerable influence in the masculine world of medieval politics, as well as in more conventional female roles.

The above article is was taken from the National Archives


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