Cecily Neville – Extract & Giveaway!

I am delighted to kick off the virtual tour  for Amy Licence’s Wars of the Roses books, with an extract from Amy’s biography of Cecily Neville, the mother of King Edward IV and King Richard III, who was born on this day in 1415.

Be sure to leave a comment after the extract, for your chance to win a copy of ‘Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings‘, kindly donated by Amberley Publishing.

Conditions of Entry

For your chance to win a copy of ‘Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings’, you must be subscribed to On the Tudor Trail’s newsletter (if you are not already, sign up on our homepage).

Then simply leave a comment after this post between now and 13 May 2014. Don’t forget to leave your name and a contact email.

This giveaway is open internationally.

One winner will be randomly selected and contacted by email shortly after the competition closes. Please ensure you’ve added natalie@onthetudortrail.com to your address book to avoid missing my email.

Good luck!

Becoming a Mother

By Amy Licence


And the froyt [fruit] that coms hom betwene,

Hit schal have grace to thryve and the;

Ther other schal have turment and tene,

Fore covetyse unlaufully

Cecily Neville is particularly remembered today for her motherhood and her piety. These were the defining features of women’s lives in the fifteenth century, the standards to which they aspired in order to establish their worth in the eyes of society and the Church. After a slow start, Cecily would more than prove her fertility. Over the next seventeen years, she would bear at least twelve children, perhaps more. They arrived at different locations, in England, France and Ireland, suggesting that she remained at her husband’s side throughout this time, and with a regularity and speed that implies their relationship was close. The piety may have come later.

As with so many issues concerning women’s health, suggestions that Cecily first gave birth in 1438 can be neither confirmed nor refuted. Such events were rarely written down in any sort of reliable way, even in the cases of important families. Those records that have survived have done so almost against the odds. The national parish register system of births, marriages and deaths, which revolutionised the way in which people’s lives were recorded, was still a century away in 1438. When births were recorded, it was often in family Bibles or retrospectively, in dynastic histories. For example, Edward’s own commission, the Edward IV Roll, or the Chronicle of the History of the World from Creation to Woden only lists five of the king’s siblings. The fullest list is found in a poem in the Clare Roll, which records Cecily’s surviving children and those who died at birth or in their infancy, making twelve in total, but there is no mention of this reputed first child. The poem does not include any who were lost before the full term of a pregnancy; miscarriages and shortlived children frequently went unrecorded, particularly if the loss had occurred before baptism had taken place. It was written in May 1460, when the Yorks were a large, established family. The author is unlikely to have known of any premature losses Cecily suffered as a young woman or to have seen any reason to include them. The only thing that can be stated without question is that if she bore a child in 1438, it did not survive.

The next time that Cecily can be identified at a specific time and place is 10 August 1439. On that day she was at Fotheringhay Castle, where she was preparing to give birth. This meant she had conceived early the previous November, which is not incompatible with another pregnancy in the same year. The prospect could be terrifying for a first-time mother, given the potential for injury and loss, in spite of the rudimentary pain relief offered by herbs and pseudo-religious rituals. Cecily would have withdrawn into a chamber at the castle with her womenfolk, perhaps with the assistance of her mother Joan and her married sisters. It was usually a group affair, allowing for the women to share their experience, with the assistance of a local midwife and female servants to ensure the room was kept well stocked with refreshments, firewood and clean linen.

Peterborough Cathedral (© On the Tudor Trail)

Cecily could have afforded icons of her favourite saints, a rosary and a cross, and may even have borrowed some of the relics that religious houses regularly loaned out to high-status women during labour. Less than 10 miles away from Fotheringhay was the city of Peterborough, with its impressive Norman cathedral. The records of twelfth-century monk Hugh Candidus list in the reliquary such fantastical items as a piece of Aaron’s rod, sections of Jesus’s swaddling clothes, part of the original manger in which the baby Jesus lay and pieces of the five loaves that had fed the 5,000! More significantly, though, it claimed to house an item of clothing belonging to St Mary. Saints’ clothing, in particular those such as shifts and girdles, were favoured by medieval mothers as offering some protection against the dangers of childbirth. Later, Cecily’s granddaughter, Elizabeth of York, would rely on the girdle of St Mary from Westminster Abbey. There was no pain relief, but the regular chants and prayers, in addition to the belief in the goodwill and guidance of the saints, may have provided Cecily some relief in what frequently proved to be a terrifying and fatal ordeal for medieval women. Eventually, a baby girl was born. She was named Anne, perhaps in honour of Richard’s mother.

Anne of York, Duchess of Exeter with her second husband, Sir Thomas St Leger.

Cecily recovered at Fotheringhay. Her infant daughter was baptized soon after her birth, which would have been arranged by her godparents, perhaps in a chapel inside the castle itself, or in the new parish church of St Mary and All Saints, which had been completed in 1430. It was customary for new mothers to lie in for up to a month following the delivery, to allow themselves a full chance of recovery. After that, in early September, Cecily would have been led, veiled, to the church, to undergo the ceremony of purification, later known as churching. A nursery would have been established for the baby at Fotheringhay, with wet nurses and rockers, overseen by a trusted lady governess. After the years of waiting, Cecily had proved she could produce a healthy child. Her next duty was to bear a son.

Follow the rest of Amy’s virtual book tour:

Saturday 3 May, On the Tudor Trail- Retracing the steps of Anne Boleyn will host an extract from ‘Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings’.
Sunday 4 May, Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers – Queenanneboleyn.com will host an extract from ‘Anne Neville’.
Monday 5 May, Anne Boleyn: From Queen to History will host an extract from ‘Elizabeth of York’.
Tuesday 6 May, http://theroyalfirm.com/ will be posting a Q & A with Amy about her ‘Richard III: the Road to Leicester’ book.
Wednesday 7 May, The Anne Boleyn Files will host an extract from ‘Elizabeth of York’.
Thursday 8 May, Nerdalicious will be posting a Q & A with Amy about her ‘Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings’, along with an extract from the book.
Friday 9 May, http://www.anneboleynbook.co.uk/ will host an extract from ‘Anne Neville’.
Saturday 10 May, On the Tudor Trail will hosting again, this time sharing Amy’s answers to ’20 questions’.
Sunday 11 May, Tudor Book Blog will be hosting an extract from ‘Richard III: the Road to Leicester’.
Monday 12 May, http://tudorhistory.org/blog/ will host an extract from ‘Elizabeth of York’.

Related posts:



  1. I have read or watched anything to do with the Tudor Era, This book would be a great addition to my book collection and add more knowledge for myself!

  2. lois losh says:

    Nice excerpt. I would love to win a copy!

  3. donna silver says:

    would love to read this book sounds fascinating, good luck everybody xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  4. KC Russell says:

    Being a novice on the topic but loving it nonetheless, this book will complement the last two books I read, “Winter King,” and “Elizabeth of York,” as well as the one I am reading now, “The Princes in the Tower.” I cannot wait to read this book!

  5. Can’t wait for this one!

  6. Marianne Dijkstra says:

    Roses are red,
    but white for these two (Kings),
    their mother I’ve never met,
    via this book I would like to! (Very much)

  7. Sarah Richards says:

    I would love to receive a copy of this book I am a history major and I love to see other takes on the things of the royals did and said in this age one of my favorite period of times to study

  8. I’ve already read a couple of Amy Licence’s books and thoroughly enjoyed them and would definately like to win a couple of this book to add to my collection. Fingers crossed.

  9. It must have been so difficult to be a woman back then. It is hard to comprehend the grief that a mother must have went through on such a “regular” basis, giving birth to so many children who had very small chances of survival. To see that this woman had 12 children is amazing really! You made me giggle when you said, “… suggesting that she remained at her husband’s side throughout this time, and with a regularity and speed that implies their relationship was close. The piety may have come later.” 😉 I do not have many books about others outside of the Tudor family, and would be thrilled to have a copy of this one. Thank you for the chance.

  10. nikki dewick says:

    Wow! So excited about a chance to win this book. I often find it hard to get about and reading is my lifeline! Good luck everyone xxxx

  11. Jillian Kendal says:

    I live near to Fotheringhay church where Cecily is buried and often sit by her tomb and muse on her times with fascination. I would love to know more about her and this book looks brilliant x

  12. Jen Hernandez says:

    Wonderful, cant wait to get a copy

  13. Nancy L Smith says:

    I would love to read this book to learn more of Cecily Neville, mother of Kings Edward IV and Richard III, grandmother of Elizabeth of York and the Princes in the Tower, and great-grandmother of Henry VIII!

  14. Great post and giveaway! Thank you!!

  15. Not read much on Cecily, but looking forward to doing.
    It seems the fertility of this line floundered a bit after her granddaughter Elizbeth!

  16. Miles Gardner says:

    Glad to see a book on this subject.

  17. Emily Stevens says:

    I love history, even more so the middle ages through to the Elizabethan and Stuart era I would love this book but I would buy it anyway it makes my senses tingle and makes me want to delve deeper into hidden secrets that no one ever knew before!

  18. I love your willingness to try to shed some light on these women

  19. Thank you for entering me into the drawing!

  20. Thanks so much for the excerpt. I would LOVE to win a copy of Amy License’s book.

  21. Terry Cooper says:

    I got so wrapped up in the excerpt that I was disappointed when it ended. Can’t wait to read more. Just finished Phillipa Gregory’s The Kingmaker’s Daughter, and would so love to read more about the Neville women.

  22. Raquel M. says:

    I admit that I was not familiar with this time period until watching The White Queen. Since then I have been on the lookout for any books on it. I especially loved Cecily Neville so I am happy there is a book on her. Adding it to my TBR list.

  23. Patricia Bartch says:

    IT WOULD BE HEAVEN to win this book! Thank you Amy for writing books about such fascinating women.

  24. Emily Stevens says:

    This is already on my wishlist on amazon before the competition started, i knew i recognised the front cover from somewhere! Can’t wait for pay day.. probably shouldn’t be spending £500+ on books though should i?

Leave a Comment