Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: Cecily Neville Mother of Kings by Amy Licence

Publisher: Amberley Books August 19, 2014
Genre: Non-fiction, Cecily Neville, House of York, House of Tudor, House of Neville, House of Lancaster, House of Plantagenet, England, Kings and Queens of England, British History Reading Challenge 2014 
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 272, with 47 color illustrations
Rating: 5 Stars
Source: Free copy from Amberley Books in exchange for a review. All reviews are expressed from my own opinion.

Summary:
Cecily Neville was born in May of 1415, at Raby Castle in northeast England. In October of 1415, England and Wales battled the French in the Battle of Agincourt on French soil. Cecily's parents were Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, and Joan Beaufort. Cecily had ten half brothers and sisters," and "nine surviving full siblings."Joan Beaufort's parents were John of Gaunt, and Katherine Swynford. John of Gaunt, was the son of Edward III. At the age of fourteen Cecily married Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. It was a dynastic marriage which produced thirteen children, including two sons who became kings of England. Her death in 1495, meant she had survived through most of the 14th century. She had outlived a husband, children, and grandchildren. 
Historical documents are limited pertaining directly to Cecily. A few letters and a household ordinance remain. Amy Licence remarks in the opening page, "Writing a biography of Cecily Neville has been rather like striking a series of matches in the dark. There are moments when she steps forward and claims the historical limelight, when rumours question the paternity of her son Edward, or the moment she learns of his victory following the Battle of Towton. But her voice is muted." Page 9. 

My Thoughts:
I feel Amy Licence, has achieved a well-written book on a historic person in which limited information is documented. By piecing together information about family members in reference to her, and where she was living at the time she delivered another child, which was documented with birth place and date, a path in life for Cecily is exposed. To study her family lineage, wealth, historic events, and places she'd lived, also gave a perspective of her life. Licence has not written a work of fill-in fictional information, but the history of England during this period, with Cecily and her York children being at the center. 
Cecily gave birth to thirteen children. As a mother, the love and protection for her children is most important; however, there is another side of Cecily, decisions she made, alignments and even betrayals which I find shocking. Licence explores this other nature of Cecily, the pivot away from maternal love and to who would be on the throne of England. 
I admire Licence's approach in taking me to a level where I understand the people of the 14th century. From marriage arrangements, to birthing, and child rearing; descriptions and history of London, churches, castles, political acts, and battles.
After reading Cecily Neville Mother of Kings, what I have come to understand the most is the York family. Another way of saying this, is I understand a bit better what made them tick. 
Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York. Husband of Cecily. 
See also: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography on Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, and Cecily Neville. 

Author Biography:
Amy Licence is the author of Royal Babies: A History 1066–2013, In Bed With the Tudors: The Sex Lives of a Dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I (‘What really went on in Henry VIII’s bedroom’ The Daily Express), Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Tudor Queen and Anne Neville: Richard III’s Tragic Queen (‘A fascinating story, well told’ The Good Book Guide), all published by Amberley. She lives in Canterbury. 

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