REVIEW: Cecily Neville, John Ashdown-Hill

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Wife to Richard, Duke of York, mother to Edward IV and Richard III, and aunt to the famous 'Kingmaker', Richard, Earl of Warwick, Cecily Neville was a key player on the political stage of fifteenth-century Britain England. Mythologically rumoured to have been known as 'the Rose of Raby' because of her beauty and her birth at Raby Castle, and as 'Proud Cis' because of her vanity and fiery temper, Cecily's personality and temperament have actually been highly speculated upon. In fact, much of her life is shrouded in mystery. Putting aside Cecily's role as mother and wife, who was she really? Matriarch of the York dynasty, she navigated through a tumultuous period and lived to see the birth of the future Henry VIII. From seeing the house of York defeat their Lancastrian cousins; to witnessing the defeat of her own son, Richard III, at the battle of Bosworth, Cecily then saw one of her granddaughters become Henry VII's queen consort. Her story is full of controversy and the few published books on her life are full of guess-work. In this highly original history, Dr John Ashdown-Hill seeks to dispel the myths surrounding Cecily using previously unexamined contemporary sources.

Like most medieval women, the details of Cecily Neville’s life have been lost to the passage of time and overshadowed by the often-male-led research that has been solely and blindly focussed on the lives of her husband and sons. This means that, although I appreciate all that John Ashdown-Hill was trying to do, a majority of this book’s 312 pages contained only speculation about where Cecily was and what she was thinking during each of the time period’s most crucial moments. Honestly, this makes me unspeakable angry. This woman played a pivotal role in the War of the Roses and we don’t even really know how to spell her name? I mean, come on. So, even though the book was obviously well-researched, the lack of information available turned the life of a bloody incredible woman into a blurred, repetitive mess. And because of that, I couldn’t help that my overriding impression (and really only takeaway) of the book ending up being that Cecily Neville - and John Ashdown-Hill - deserved better.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Head on over to for this book, as well as all of the others featured in my reviews, complete with the added bonuses of free worldwide shipping and bringing a little joy to my life.

No comments :

Post a Comment