Shortly after Edward IV’s restoration in 1471, Richard, Duke of Gloucester expressed his desire to marry Lady Anne Neville, daughter of the deceased Earl of Warwick and sister-in-law to his brother, George, Duke of Clarence. Anne, recently widowed by the death of the Lancastrian Prince Edward, was barely 15 and, following her pardon by Edward IV, living with George and her sister, Isabel.
Picking up where we left off: George, Duke of Clarence and the Earl of Warwick’s rebellion in the summer of 1469 enhanced Richard’s position at Edward IV’s court. Around the same time that he joined Edward for his triumphant return to London, Isabella of Castile wrote a letter to her brother, King Henry IV, listing out four possible suitors, including, “the brother of the King of England.”
One of my favorite figures from the Wars of the Roses is Cecily Neville, Duchess of York who came very close to becoming England’s queen through her husband and ended up mother to two, Edward IV and Richard III. She was grandmother to the Princes in the Tower, mother-in-law to Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville, mother to a Duchess of Burgundy and rival to Marguerite of Anjou. In short, she was something to almost everyone and while we know where she was and what she did more often than most women of her time, we know remarkably little about who she actually was.
If you’re familiar with her, it’s actually a bit astonishing given the wealth of information we have to parse through and the level of fame that her family achieved. We have flashes of activity over the course of several decades, but only two real moments of humanity shine through, both of which relate to her children. We know that she was beautiful, though it’s unclear to what extent that was exaggerated given her rank. We believe that she was religious based on her increasingly public piety and retirement to a convent. We assume she mourned the loss of her husband and children.