After the first episode of ‘The White Queen’, I was quite upset at the representation of the King’s mother, the Duchess of York [I even wrote a blog I was SO upset]. As a royal Duchess who would have become Queen if her husband had not died — she was in fact practically queen in all but name; Queen Mother. Her husband, Richard, Duke of York, was granted the title of Prince of Wales and Lord Protector so Cecily was technically Princess of Wales before her husband died.
“But for an accident of fate would have been queen”. (‘At the King’s Pleasure’: The Testament of Cecily Neville by Alison Spedding)
Born Lady Cecily Neville, she was part of the powerful Neville family which would help bring her son to the throne. Cecily was the youngest daughter of Sir Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and his second wife, Lady Joan Beaufort, herself the daughter of one of the most powerful royal Princes and noblemen in history, Prince John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. As such, Lady Cecily was a niece of King Henry IV of England, cousin of King Henry V, and cousin, once removed of King Henry VI. And by the marriages the children of the Duke of Lancaster made, Cecily was kin to several royal houses on the continent, i.e, Portugal, Castile, and Burgundy. She was of royal blood being the great-granddaughter of King Edward III and his consort Philippa of Hainault.
Her husband, the Duke of York, was the leading contender for the House of York’s claim to the throne of England. York was made Lord Protector of England in 1453 and 1455, however he did not press his claim to the throne during these two periods. In 1460, York was named Prince of Wales and again Lord Protector of the Realm. With King Henry VI in custody, the Duke of York became the de facto ruler of England. However, before York could claim his crown, he was defeated in December 1460 at the Battle of Wakefield with his son, Edmund of York, and his brother-in-law the Earl of Salisbury. The Duchess of York narrowly missed becoming queen of England and her eldest son, Edward, Earl of March, was crowned Edward IV of England in March of 1461.
However, in 1477, following the marriage of her grandson Richard of York, the Duchess was accorded the title ‘Queen of right‘ after using the title of ‘Cecily, the king’s mother and late wife unto Richard in right king of England and of France and lord of Ireland’ since 1464.
Princess of Wales
Duchess of Cornwall
Duchess of York
Countess of March
Countess of Cambridge
Countess of Ulster
Countess of Chester
“Warwick rose toweringly. His rose-dappled mantle swirled; black hair curled on his brow. Everything of him was puissant and challenging and might have said: Behold us! We of the royal blood, of Edward the Third…” — ‘The King’s Grey Mare’ pg 53. [Warwick was Cecily’s powerful nephew who helped Edward to his throne].
The first episode as dictated by Gregory and her writer — was a travesty towards the Duchess.
“It was in the exchange with Duchess Cecily (Caroline Goodall) however, that Jacquetta, as her daughter’s mouthpiece, really overstepped the historical mark. The disapproving Duchess, who was known in real life as “proud Cis,” is too easily overcome by her social inferiors when they whip out her apparent “secret” affair with a French archer. Lost for words, she is silenced within minutes, almost cowed by them. While contemporary notions of “courtesy” dictated extreme forms of submission to the queen, this is a Cecily straight from the pages of a novel rather than the actual proud aristocrat who asserted her own right to rule.” — Amy Licence
“You can lower you eyes all you want — I shall laugh and thank you for your visit…I AM the King’s mother and Duchess of York; queen of right!” — Lady Cecily, Duchess of York.
- DK Publishing. History of Britain & Ireland, Penguin, May 2, 2011. pg 122. Google eBooks
- Davies, John S. An English Chronicle of the Reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI, folios 208-211 (Google ebooks, retrieved 15 July 2013)
- Alison J Spedding. ‘At the King’s Pleasure’: The Testament of Cecily Neville, University of Birmingham. Midland History, Vol 35, No 2, 2010. pg 256-72.
- Joanna Laynesmith. ‘The Kings’ Mother,’ History today. 56, no. 3, (2006): 38.