Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

Joan BeaufortCecily, the youngest child of Joan Beaufort and Ralph Neville, was born on 3 May 1415 at Raby Castle.  Like the rest of her siblings an advantageous marriage was arranged for her by her parents.  She was possibly married by 1427 to Richard of York when she reached the age of twelve certainly she had become betrothed to her father’s ward when she was nine and Richard was thirteen.

Once she became a duchess Cecily was required to leave her childhood behind her  in Raby and fulfil court duties wherever Henry VI resided or else to run their main residence of Fotheringhay Castle.  With the patronage of the king’s aunt Richard whose father had been executed for his part in the Southampton Plot was able to regain lands which had been forfeit.  Cecily’s accounts and correspondence reveal that she was busy in helping her husband run his estates and also in the running up of bills – Cecily appears to be rather a heavy shopper who did not stint on expensive fabrics and jewels.  In 1443-44 she spent £608 on clothes – Richard kept a close eye on her spending and probably had a long discussion about the need to buy matched pearls when he saw the bill.

The couple’s first child, a daughter called Anne was born in 1439.  Two years later Richard became governor general of France and the couple moved to Rouen.  It was in Rouen where Cecily’s son Edward was born.  A later smear campaign would suggest that an archer called Blaybourne was Edward’s father rather than the duke – evidence for this particular conspiracy theory comes from the fact that Edward’s baptism was a low key affair unlike that of his younger brother Edmund and that Richard was elsewhere waging war on the key dates.     Amy Licence observes that if Edward was premature this would not apply and would explain why he was baptised quickly and without fuss.  She also notes that the concept of full term is a moveable feast and that equally Cecily could have been pregnant when she arrived in France making the evidence of Richard’s location an irrelevance.  The fact that Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and even George, Duke of Clarence made the accusation is really neither here nor there given the circumstances in which they decided to have doubts about Edward’s right to be king…that would be just before they staged their rebellion in 1469.  It was reported at the time by the Milanese ambassador.  Michael Hicks speculates as to whether Cecily may have assisted in the campaign to remove Edward from the throne. It would have to be said, does it really matter very much in any event as Richard of York acknowledged Edward as his son?

Whilst in Rouen Cecily would have two more children and become the hostess of Margaret of Anjou in 1445 after Henry VI had married her by proxy.  Shortly after that Cecily returned to England and her family continued to expand.  In 1447 Richard was appointed Lieutenant of Ireland, Cecily went with him to Dublin, but his relationship with Henry VI was becoming increasingly difficult.  Richard began to liken himself to Henry VI’s uncle Good Duke Humphrey as he was excluded from what he saw as his rightful share of power.

Cecily inevitably became embroiled in the Wars of the Roses being present in Ludlow after the Battle of Ludford Bridge in 1559.  Richard’s flight with Cecily’s brother and nephew resulted in him being attainted for treason.  Cecily lost everything and was sent off to stay with her sister Anne, Duchess of Buckingham.  Cecily was permitted to attend the Coventry parliament where her husband was attainted in order to plead his cause to the king.  Whilst Richard was attainted his men were only fined and Henry VI issued 1000 marks a year for her upkeep and that of her children.

The following year the wheel of Fortune turned once again. Richard of York, the earls of Salisbury and Warwick returned to England. Briefly Cecily was a finger’s tip away from the crown.  John Harding’s chronicle compares Margaret of Anjou with Proud Cis and concludes Cecily was a more appropriate sort of queen not least because she was under her husband’s control (clearly the chronicler hadn’t received word of Cecily’s shopping trips).  Of course, it all went hideously wrong and Richard ended up with his head on York’s city wall wearing a paper crown in the aftermath of the Battle of Wakefield (30 December 1460).

 

Once her son Edward became king after the Battle of Towton (29 March 1461) she was effectively the first lady of the court until such time as he married.   Her relationship with sister Anne can perhaps be seen in the fact that one of the first things that was done was to confirm Anne’s dower rights as Duchess of Buckingham.  Edward also ensured that he wouldn’t have to worry about his mother’s desire for rich clothing and jewellery.  He gave her lands valued at 5,000 marks a year.   She was one of the wealthiest women in England. She had additional income from customs revenue on wool.

Cecily even styled herself “queen by right,” after Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville became public knowledge – much to her irritation; like the Earl of Warwick she had been working towards an alliance with a European princess.

As the end of the 1460’s approached festering family resentments erupted into rebellion. Cecily’s relationship with Edward became increasingly difficult and in 1478 when Edward had George drowned in a vat of Malmsey Cecily left court and stayed away until Edward died. The Yorkist matriarch then supported her son Richard in bypassing the claims of her grandsons who were declared illegitimate.  With the death of Richard at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485 Cecily retired from public life and took holy vows.

 

Cecily died on 31 May 1495 having outlived all her sons and all but two of her daughters. She had lived the last years of her life along religious lines – giving rise to a reputation for piety. She had been the mother of two kings and was the grandmother of Henry VII’s queen.  She was buried in Fotheringhay next to her husband.  Their tomb was broken down during the Reformation but re-established by her two times great grand-daughter Elizabeth I.

Laynesmith, J.L. Cecily Duchess of York

Amy License. (2015) Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings. Stroud: Amberley Publishing

Stained Glass in Great Malvern Priory

DSCF2447.jpgThe priory’s treasure is its windows.  It has the largest collection of fifteenth century glass in England which means that the parliamentarians didn’t get there during the English Civil War. It also means that although the parishioners of Great Malvern were able to buy the priory for £20 they were unable to remove the coloured glass and replace it with plain Protestant panes in later years.

I was told that the glazing of the East Window began in 1430 and although the pieces of glass no longer tell a story because of the impact of time and ivy the panes are still medieval having been moved around from other locations within the church. Wells suggests that the window was originally given by Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick and his wife Isabel Despenser because of the roses and circle stars that appear there and which also feature on their coat of arms.

 

DSCF2426Looking to the west, the arms of Richard III, then Duke of Gloucester can be found.  This was probably moved from the West Window which was originally donated by him and his wife Anne Neville.  Her coat of arms can be found in the western choir aisle in the so-called museum window which is largely plain with sections of medieval glass being inset there.  The heads of two bear supporters – referencing the bear and ragged staff can be seen. The West Window told of the Day of Judgement. Depending upon your viewpoint of Richard III there may well be some irony in his donation and the fact that of all the windows this was the one which survived least well into the modern era.

The west window of the transept is known as the Magnificat Window and was donated by Henry VII.  I shall do a separate post on that as it contains images of Henry, Prince Arthur and some of his leading henchmen.

 

IMG_7777.jpgHowever, in Queen Anne’s Chapel a treat awaits.  Most stained glass involves a crick in the neck but here the windows are substantially lower so the glass is much closer.  The crucifixion window is Victorian but the rest of the glass is medieval.  One window tells the story of the Creation, another the stories of Noah and Abraham whilst the third relates the stories of Isaac, Joseph and Moses.  It is a reminder that in an age where most people lived in small dark buildings that churches were full of light and colour.  It is also a reminder that the word of God came not only from the priest but from the pictures that surrounded the congregation.

 

 

 

 

 

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The tradition of donors, some of whom are pictured above, giving windows continued in Great Malvern Church through the Victorian era with Princess Charlotte, the only child of George IV who died in childbirth, donating a window amongst others. The Friends of Malvern Priory donated the Tom Denny windows which celebrate the millennium.  They can be found in the north choir.  Their theme is psalm 36. Denny has used the Malvern hills as part of his inspiration as well as colours which echo the medieval windows.  Denny was also commissioned in Leicester for the Richard III memorial windows. Once seen, his style is instantly recognisable.

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Wells, Katherine. (2013). A Tour of the Stained Glass of Great Malvern Priory. The Friends of Malvern Priory.

 

Richard III windows Leicester Cathedral

IMG_7218It’s more than a year since King Richard III was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in March 2015 after famously being discovered under a car park.

In addition to the rather large slab of Swaledale stone fashioned to represent a sarcophagus there are two fine new windows in the north side of St Katherine’s chapel designed by artist Thomas Denny which are truly beautiful.

The reds and golds are particularly eye-catching.  The more you look; the more you see. There’s even a football in the window for those who look carefully enough – a reminder of Leicester’s successful 2015-2016 football season.

I love the window depicting Leicester’s archeology including mosaics, Saxon treasure and  a skeleton – presumably Richard’s.IMG_7242The window on the left shows women tending to bodies in the aftermath of battle – Bosworth, although it could, of course, be any Wars of the Roses field. Above the women a window depicts a body slung over a horse reflecting Richard’s last undignified journey back to Leicester. Study of his skeleton revealed that his body was not treated honourably in the aftermath of his death.

The central panel depicts the road to Emmaus.  Above this scene young man learns to ride a horse at Middleham Castle and three children play at Fotheringay. Richard was born in Fotheringay Castle in 1452 and grew up in Middleham in the care of his Neville relations who held Middleham at that time.  Later it would become his own home.

IMG_7243The window on the right depicts Richard and Anne Neville mourning the death of their son Edward of Middleham who died on April 9 1484.  Richard’s journey through the shadow of the Valley of Death continued with the death of Anne in March 1485.  Richard was dead five months later.  Above the main panels there’s a boar – Richard’s emblem; the Battle of Tewkesbury and Kirkby Muxloe built by Lord Hastings.  There’s an oak and a castle representing a kingdom.  Richard became king in 1483 after serving his brother Edward IV loyally throughout his life.  Richard’s motto was “Loyalty binds me.”

Richard  reigned for two years. He was the last Yorkist Plantagenet king of England. It is the events leading up to his claiming the kingdom and the disappearance of his two nephews which focus people’s attention away from the loyal and good service that he fulfilled on his brother’s behalf. There’s a discarded crown as well in the main panel on the right as well as an orb and sceptre. Richard can be seen riding across Leicester’s bridge on his way to battle.

Half a millennia after Shakespeare’s hatchet job on the last Plantagenet kingIMG_7244, Richard III has acquired a breath taking monument which seeks to redress the balance.  I’m not saying the man was a saint – he was a medieval king and generally speaking they probably weren’t the type of people you’d wish to meet down a dark alley but neither was he the monster that the Tudors portrayed. Politics was a bloody and brutal affair-just ask Lord Hastings who was summarily executed for reasons we don’t fully understand even today and equally consider Francis, Lord Lovell who remained loyal to Richard when all hope was lost.

DSC_0055.jpgI’m not sure it it was intentDSC_0055.jpgonal or not but knowing the story of Richard III and his missing nephews I found it impossible to look at the Emmaus scene without pondering on the fates of King Edward V and his brother Richard of York – although the two young men are too old to be the princes their presence is something that continues to haunt Richard’s history.  Whether the question as to what happened to the princes will ever be answered is another matter – and generally speaking there’s nothing like a conspiracy theory to keep writers and academics in employment.

 

But that’s not to say the truth won’t eventually surface. We now know that Richard III wasn’t the hunchbacked monster of Tudor propaganda but that he did have scoliosis which developed as he grew to maturity – so a sort of middle ground between two differing historical views. Perhaps more than anything Richard III was the one thing which no medieval king could afford to be – ultimately unlucky.  He was the last English king to die on the battlefield.  Henry Tudor dated his reign to the day before Bosworth to ensure an act of attainder hung over the heads of all the nobility who’d been loyal to Richard.

But for all that, the one medieval king who most people can name whether they’re interested in history or not is King Richard III.

A trip to Leicester can also involve a visit to Bosworth Field and Kirkby Muxloe Castle.  There’s even a Richard III experience opposite the cathedral though I must admit I didn’t avail myself of that particular facility. I was more than happy with Thomas Denny’s windows.

 

 

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Barnard Castle, Anne Beauchamp and oriel windows.

IMG_6617Barnard Castle was built by the Baliol family. It remained in their hands until the reign of King Edward I when it was confiscated and passed into the ownership of the Earl of Warwick. Two centuries later it was in the hands of the Neville family but the Earl of Warwick at that time- the Kingmaker- ultimately backed the wrong monarch and managed to get himself killed at the Battle of Barnet in April 1471 as was his brother John.

Warwick left two daughters who became joint heiresses to the title and estates. Isabel Neville, the older daughter, was married to George, Duke of Clarence (brother of Edward IV) while her younger sister Anne had been married off to Prince Edward, son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou demonstrating the Kingmaker’s ability to swap the colour of the rose in his lapel at the drop of.. er…a rose.

Detail from door grill leading to the vault where George Duke of Clarence and his wife Isobel Neville are buried in Tewkesbury Abbey.

Detail from door grill leading to the vault where George Duke of Clarence and his wife Isobel Neville are buried in Tewkesbury Abbey.

Anyway, to cut a long story short Prince Edward got himself killed scarcely a month after his father-in-law at the Battle of Tewkesbury on the 4th of May 1471. Anne was placed, by Edward IV, in the custody of her brother-in-law.  George calmly tried to ensure all the titles, estates and loots ended up in his fat little paws. It arrived at the point where Anne was hidden in the kitchen as a maid of work to prevent Richard, Duke of Gloucester and George’s little brother, from finding her. If you’re a romantic Richard and Anne had liked one another since childhood when Richard was part of Warwick’s household. If you’re a pragmatist – an heiress at the altar is a bankable asset. So Richard married Anne and there followed an undignified squabble about which husband was getting what – Richard landed Barnard Castle amongst other Northern estates. After George managed to get himself drowned in a vat of Malmsey in 1478 (two years after Isobel died) the rest of the Warwick inheritance found its way into Richard’s keeping along with his small nephew Edward and niece Margaret. Tewkesbury Abbey continued to play its role in the history of the period by being the final resting place for both George and his wife, due in part to the fact that Isobel’s grandmother was the last Despenser heiress. Tewkesbury has strong links to the Despenser family.

You have to feel a degree of sympathy for Warwick’s widow, Anne Beauchamp, who was actually the daughter of Richard Beauchamp, the previous Earl of Warwick and his wife Isobel Despenser. Her brother died in 1446 and her niece died in 1449 making her husband- Richard Neville- the Earl of Warwick. So, actually neither of her daughters should have inherited anything at that point because it was Anne – the widow of the Earl of Warwick- who came with the lands and titles. Not to worry, Edward IV swiftly ensured that for legal purposes poor Anne was declared legally dead allowing his brothers to divide up the Warwick estates between them despite the assortment of letters that Anne Neville nee Beauchamp wrote from Beaulieu Abbey demanding that her rights be recognised.

Ultimately Anne emerged from sanctuary and was handed into the care of her son-in-law Richard – we have no idea how she felt about her daughters or indeed their respective spouses.  Rous, no supporter of Richard, wrote that Anne was kept in close confinement but there is other evidence that demonstrates that the countess must have had an allowance and must have travelled around the northern estates that had once been hers.

It wasn’t until 1486 that Anne had some restitution for the loss of her money and lands and that came from the Tudors. Henry VII granted her 500 marks a year and the following year Parliament gave her estates back which she promptly gifted to the king….which suggests some shady double dealing somewhere along the line or perhaps a bid to keep her grandson the young Earl of Warwick, Isabel and George’s son safe. He was after all in protective custody in The Tower at that point.

DSC_0014Having gone all around the houses – or castles- it’s back to Barnard Castle which overlooks the Tees. Richard seems to have spent a lot of time at Barnard Castle.  He also carried out renovation and extension works.  His tenure is evidenced in the remnants of the great hall. He added an oriel window – a bay window supported by corbels- on the first floor and caused a white boar to be engraved in the ceiling above it – where it can still, just about, be seen today as can an English Heritage artist’s interpretation of what it might have looked like originally.DSC_0012