Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Queen By Right

Anne Easter Smith has written three other novels that I think I have already blogged about.  Queen By Right was published this year and I only knew it was out because I saw it at Barnes & Noble.  This book was about Cecily Neville, who I was interested to read about as she appeared a little bit in previous books about Jacquetta, King Henry and Margaret of Anjou.  Cecily became betrothed at age 8 to Richard, the son of Richard, Earl of Cambridge.  His father could claim the throne from both sides of his family line- it gets a little messy and confusing so I won't go into too many details.  But should King Henry VI die, Richard was next in line for the succession. (his mother had a claim from Edward III's 2nd surviving son).  His father was killed for treason in a plot to put his wife's brother on the throne.  All throughout Richard's life, he would have to deal with the fact he was the son of a traitor.  People constantly checked to make sure that he knew his place, and was loyal to the king.

The king was young when his father and grandfather died, leaving his mother Catherine of Valois, to watch over him and his councillors.  He grew up to marry Margaret of Anjou, and became unfit to rule later in life.  His wife, the queen, became powerful and tried to take control for their son instead of finding peace.  The main characters, Cecily and Richard, were raised together in the same household, as Richard was a ward of her parents.  Through the years of childhood they became friends before marriage.  Their marriage was said to be a love match, and they had 13 children together.  Cecily became a duchess when she married Richard, and as such her position demanded much from her.  As a little girl she was often out riding and hunting with the other men, wearing breeches like a boy, and always spoke her mind.  Time tempered her tongue and she became known as Proud Cis.  Together in their marriage, they faced personal tragedies as a few of their children die at young ages; they were a part of huge events in history, and soon political intrigue.  Cecily was always aware her husband had a better claim to the throne than the current king through his mother, as the 2nd surviving son; whereas the king's claim was through the 3rd surviving son of Edward III.  Despite that, they were always loyal and served him well.  Through Richard's various positions he grew in power:  constable of England, Guardian of the Coast of Normandy, and then Regent of France. 

In these positions he was required to pay and host a great army and many employees- the King did not often pay him enough or pay back his debts.  The King and his wife seemed to only favor those closest to them, and Richard became angry at the treatment.  Before the King and queen produced an heir, which took many years, Richard tried time and time again to be named heir.  The royal couple favored Somerset, an odious man who take advantage and who many hated.  There was kind of a tug of war between Somerset and York- when the King was around Somerset was in favor and York was not, but when the King went into some kind of stupor, York was again in favor while Somerset was imprisoned.  Once the King and queen produced an heir, a boy, York desired to be named his Protector while the king was unwell.  The Queen demanded she be named regent until her husband was well again, and she constantly opposed York in all ways.  Cecily was there to support her husband, while trying to also be loyal to the king.  When it became more and more obvious the king was unfit and his wife not fit to rule, York again had support to march forward.  York was able to make a treaty with the King that during his lifetime he or his sons would not be molested, and upon the king's death, York and his sons would be next in line for the throne.  The King had put aside his own son in favor for York.

Queen Margaret was busy putting an army together, as she did not agree with this arrangement.  I have written about her in a previous post; she became known as the she-wolf.  Many even said her son was not the King's, but Somerset's.  In the Battle of Towton, Richard and one of his sons was killed.  The people had gone against the treaty the King and York had made, that it was treason to harm York or any of his sons, and so, when Margaret tried to re-enter England, the way was barred to her and her son.  The people turned their backs on her, and York's son Edward was crowned King.  Cecily became mother to the King of England, a widow, and was the monarch and ancestor of every English monarch to the present day.  I liked reading about her, another powerful woman in history.  It was said she was enemies with Jacquetta of Bedford, so it's interesting that later they were in laws when Cecily's son Edward marries her daughter Elizabeth Woodville.  If you find any of this confusing, it is always easier to somehow tie events and people together.  I have written other posts about King Edward, and then his brother Richard III who was said to have killed and imprisoned his own two nephews, and then the Tudor line begins with King Henry VII.  Many powerful women were intertwined in these stories during this time:  Jacquetta of Bedford (mother of Elizabeth Woodville who becomes Queen), Cecily Neville (mother of King Edward), and Margaret Beaufort (mother of Henry Tudor).  As I try to tie in all the pieces it does flow more smoothly.  Anne Easter Smith's other books would be good to read in order following this one.

Cecily of York lived to be past 80, long enough to see her granddaughter, Edward's eldest child Elizabeth of York, marry Henry VII, the first Tudor king.  Then they had Henry VIII, and his daughter was Queen Elizabeth, and so on down to our own Queen Elizabeth today.  Cecily is the ancestor of them all.  Not many question that Cecily and Richard did in fact have a love match and were happy, which was a rare thing back then.  I recommend this book as a starting point if you want to learn about the Hundred Years War, the Wars of the Roses.  Then continue from there to read the rest of Anne Easter Smith's books.  I hope I helped clarify a little bit more who was who.

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