The Tudor Society

May 3 – Cecily Neville, mother of two kings

Part of an illustration from the 15th century Neville Book of Hours showing CecilyOn this day in history, 3rd May 1415, Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, was born at Raby Castle. Cecily is known as the matriarch of the House of York because her children included King Edward IV and King Richard III.

Here are some facts about Cecily Neville, also known as the Rose of Raby and Proud Cis.

  • Cecily was the daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, and his second wife, Joan Beaufort.
  • Cecily's maternal grandparents were John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his third wife Katherine Swynford.
  • Sometime shortly before October 1429, when she was 14, Cecily married eighteen-year-old Richard, Duke of York, only son of Richard of Conisbrough, 4th earl of Cambridge, and Anne Mortimer. Cecily and Richard had been betrothed since about 1424 and Richard was her father's ward.
  • Cecily and Richard has 12 children together, but only 6 of them survived infancy. Their children included King Edward IV, Richard III, George, Duke of Clarence, and Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy.

  • In 1441, the couple moved to Rouen in France due to Richard being made governor of France, and from 1449-1450 they were based in Ireland due to Richard being the king's lieutenant there.
  • In 1454, the Lancastrian Henry VI suffered a mental breakdown and that, combined with losses in France and unrest in England, saw Cecily's husband, Richard of York appointed protector and defender of the realm.
  • The Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the Houses of York and Lancaster, broke out properly in 1455 and in 1459 Cecily was captured and put in the custody of her sister, Anne, Duchess of Buckingham, for a time.
  • Sadly, Cecily's husband was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, but after the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Towton in March 1461, Cecily's son, Edward, was recognised as king, King Edward IV. He was deposed in October 1470, but restored in April 1471.
  • Edward's brother, George, Duke of Clarence, Cecily's sixth son, rose against his brother the king in 1470, allying with his father-in-law, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was Cecily's nephew. Warwick had swapped sides from Edward to Henry VI. Warwick was killed in battle in April 1471 and Clarence ended up being found guilty of treason by act of attainder and met his death in February 1478.
  • Cecily's eldest son, Edward IV, died suddenly in 1483, leaving the throne to his young son, Cecily's grandson, who became Edward V. However, Cecily's son, Richard, took the throne as King Richard III and reigned until he was defeated and killed in battle against Henry Tudor and his forces on 22nd August 1485, the Battle of Bosworth.
  • Henry Tudor became King Henry VIII and married Cecily's granddaughter, Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV, thus uniting the Houses of Lancaster and York.
  • Cecily was the great-grandmother of Henry VIII and the great-great-grandmother of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.
  • Cecily was known for her piety and her conservative faith.
  • She died at the age of 80 on 31st May 1495 and was buried at Fotheringhay with her husband. She was laid to rest with a papal indulgence placed around her neck.

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May 3 – Cecily Neville, mother of two kings