Archive for May, 2010

From the Paston Letters:

To Margaret Paston

Right worshipful cousin, if it please you to hear of such tidings as we have here, the basset of Burgundy shall come to Calais the Saturday after Corpus Christi day, as men say five hundred horse of them.

Moreover, on Trinity Sunday in the morning, came tidings unto my lord of Warwick, that there were 28 sail of Spaniards on the sea, and whereof there was sixteen great ships of forecastle; and then my lord went, and manned five ships of forecastle and three carvells and four spynnes; and on the Monday, on the morning after Trinity Sunday, we met together before Calais at four at the clock in the morning, and fought together till ten at the clock; and there we took six of their ships, and they slew of our men about four score, and hurt a two hundred of us right sore, and there were slain on their part about a hundred and twenty, and hurt five hundred of them.

And happed me, at the first aboarding of us, we took a ship of three hundred ton, and I was left therein, and twenty three men with me; and they fought so sore that our men were fein to leave them, and then come they and aboarded the ship that I was in, and there I was taken, and was prisoner with them six hours, and was delivered again for their men that were taken before; and, as men say, there was no so great a battle upon the sea this forty winters; and forsooth we were well and truly beat, and my lord hath sent for more ships, and like to fight together again in haste.

No more I write upon you at this time, but that it please you for to recommend me to my right reverend and worshipful cousin your husband, and mine uncle Gournay, and to mine aunt his wife, and to all good masters and friends, where it shall please you; and after the writing I have from you, I shall be at you in all haste.

Written on Corpus Christi day in greate haste.
By your humble servant and cousin,
John Jeryngan.

Warwick’s fleet sank six Spanish ships and he took another six as prizes. The proceeds of this and other acts of piracy in the channel helped him keep Calais garrisoned, paid for repairs to defences and swelled the English fleet (or Warwick’s fleet in fact). His actions were very popular in England, though not so much with the king.

Attempts were made to call Warwick to account, but once established as Captain of Calais and Keeper of the Seas he was impossible to shift. Not even the betrayal by Andrew Trollope and much of the garrison in 1459 could damage the relationship between Calais and the earl. It wasn’t until 1470, with Warwick in bitter and open rebellion against Edward IV, that Calais finally turned its back on its Captain.

Piracy would continue to be Warwick’s go to strategy when he needed to raise funds in a hurry.

Here’s my thinking so far

Lord Henry FitzhughBla bla bla

It's a significant role, so he should be happy with it. Henry was married to Warwick's sister Alice.

Edward VI

My daughter's suggestion. Some guy from some pop group... Actually, it's Ed O'Brien rom Radiohead. Certainly tall enough, but we'll have to bulk him up, bleach his hair and see if he can act. And he might have lute skills!

John Nevill

There was some heavy lobbying to give him Warwick But this is my fantasy!

Alice countess of Salisbury:

Another daughterly suggestion.

This is Karen the reader talking. Karen the writer may live to regret this post one day, when some eagle eyed reader spots one of the following in her work (should it ever etc etc). This is a risk she is willing to take.

1. Inaccuracies disguised as artistic licence
I’m not talking about errors and slips that could be put down to flawed research; or choices writers make between two or more possibilities; but deliberate changes (often flagged in author’s notes) introduced in order to sex the story up, or support the writer’s particular prejudices. They’re unnecessary and lazy, and alarm bells start to ring the moment one appears.

2. Jarring anachronisms
Sometimes writing anachronistically is a deliberate artistic choice (I’m thinking steampunk here) and it can work when it’s done well. But it’s the little things that can irritate. It’s not that difficult to check when important buildings were constructed; characters were born/married/died; technologies made their appearance on the scene. (Want to know my least favourite WoR anachronism?)

3. Fake Middle English.
Unless a writer is prepared to bite the bullet and use actual Middle English constructions (and just what version of ME would depend on the time the book was set), this should be avoided. I’m much more comfortable with non-jarring modern English: after all, that’s what the people at the time thought they were speaking! (‘Modern’ being one of these words (until the postmodernists got their hands on it) that kind of changes in reference almost every second.) Of course, the average punter doesn’t know a great deal about early English – why should they? A lot of people think, for instance, that Shakespeare was written in Old English, and most have never heard of Middle English, which is a bit sad as it was a hugely dynamic, shifting, defining time in the history of the language.

4. Modern attitudes and sensibilities
This can’t be avoided entirely, we all write through the filter of our selves, and that includes the time we live in, but we can at least be aware of it. There are so many false understandings of, say medieaval childhood that writers frequently don’t get, and often don’t bother researching.  Cecily Nevill, for instance, is criticised as a ‘bad mother’ in one book because she sent her youngest sons to Middleham.

5. Getting bogged down in detail
This is a very personal preference. I’d much rather get a sense of how a person or place feels through broad brushstrokes and fill in the detail myself. Page after page of minutely detailed, exhaustively researched descriptive prose irritates me. It’s hard to let go sometimes. The writer might have spent a long time researching how arrows are fletched and not want to waste a moment of it, but really it’s just a bit of background. (Think flint knapping and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

6. Black hats and white hats
Sometimes good people do bad things. Sometimes good people have irrational prejudices, hatreds and blind spots. Sometimes bad people do good things. Sometimes bad people love their children and sometimes they’re capable of acts of extraordinary generosity. Then, of course, you have to stop and think about what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mean, in their various contexts and connotations. There’s nothing wrong with a villain, and morally ambiguous can be difficult, but even villains need light and shade. By the same token, there’s nothing wrong with a hero either, but flawed heroes are far more interesting.

7. Reviewers who get it wrong
When I see ‘authentic’ and  ‘meticulously researched’ on the back of a book, I expect it to be both authentic and meticulously researched. Now I’m a huge fan of wikipedia, but it does sometimes feel that the reviewer in question has checked the ‘meticulous research’ against that and walked away satisfied. A lot of readers really would appreciate a more thorough review.

8. Unquestioning acceptance of ‘received knowledge’
I don’t have an enormous WoR fiction library, but it is fairly well representative. I could pick up almost any one of them (even the ones I love), open it at random and find the same characterisations of half the major players and all of the minor ones. It would be nice, really really nice, to read a book that presented a more rounded view of (let’s say Anne Nevill). It’s like some of them just pop into existence, fully formed. There’s no sense that they had lives and childhoods that might have shaped them. They’re there to help the major characters fulfill their destinies, so why waste time and effort?

You’ll notice that ‘poor research’ didn’t make the list. Kind of goes without saying, really.

This ought to be a short one…

Katheryn Nevill’s first marriage lasted barely two years. I haven’t managed to find out a great deal about it, as her second marriage to William Hastings, seems to eclipse it in all the literature.

We do know that her husband, William Bonville (later lord Harrington on his grandfather’s death) was born in Chewton Mendip in Somersetshire, that they were married in Salisbury and that their daughter, Cecily, was born at Shute Manor in Devon on 30 June 1460.

We also know when, how and where young William died, but of the marriage itself there is little mention.

Both Katheryn and William were born around 1442, so were 16 at the time of their marriage. William’s father and grandfather (William lord Bonville) had a connection with the Nevills, supporting them and the duke of York during the first protectorate in 1454, more specifically during the rebellion of Henry Holland duke of Exeter. William sr, along with Thomas Stanley (Alianor Nevill’s father-in-law) had been commissioned to help keep the peace in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Discussions regarding a marriage between young William and Salisbury’s daughter may have begun around this time. The marriage itself, conducted in Salisbury, took place in 1458 (though some genealogies say 1457).

Also in 1458, William’s maternal grandfather, lord Harrington, died and he inherited the title (his mother having died some time before this.)

The young couple then took up residence at Shute Barton. Here their daughter Cecily was born. (I have previously said that Katheryn was 16 when her daughter was born, but I didn’t have my Simple Maths head on – she and William were both 18.) The property was part of young Cecily’s inheritance and passed into the control of her husband (Thomas Grey) after their marriage. When her great-granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey, was executed in 1554, the property was given to the Poles, who still own it today.

William remained a loyal supporter of his father-in-law. In 1460, he and his father joined the duke of York at Sandal Castle. Both Bonvilles lost their lives at the battle of Wakefield. (William’s grandfather was later executed after the second battle of St Albans. This particular act has often been cited as an example of the cruelty of Margaret of Anjou, but I think that’s more to do with the reason for the execution than the death itself. Bonville was guarding the captive Henry VI at the time, and was executed on Margaret’s orders for allowing the king to be captured – by Margaret’s forces. This sort of thinking was not uncommon at the time, but this particular example does seem to have touched a chord.)

Cecily Bonville was six months old when her father died.

Katheryn was only one of a number of widows after Wakefield. Her mother, Alice Montacute countess of Salisbury, her aunt, Cecily Nevill duchess of York, and her sister-in-law, Maud Stanhope, all lost their husbands on the same day. Alice and Cecily, from what I can work out, were in London at the time, Maud was at her home in Nottinghamshire and Cecily was probably at Shute Barton. It was an uncertain time for all of them, and rumours of the deaths of both Katheryn’s brother, the earl of Warwick, and cousin Edward earl of March (later Edward IV) wouldn’t have made things any easier. As we have no idea how Katheryn and William felt about each other, it is impossible to say whether deep personal grief added to this stress.

Katheryn later married William Hastings but that, as they say, is a whole nother story.

Their letter to the Archbishop having failed, York, Warwick and Salisbury tried again, this time with a more direct approach. This is a short letter, and enclosed copies of previous letters, declarations and articles, including the one sent to London the previous day. Again they stress their loyalty, their concerns about their enemies and explain why they’re heading towards the king with a stout and well armed band behind them.
It was transcribed and taken by William Williflete, York’s confessor and secretary, to the earl of Devon at Watford for delivery to the king. It was delivered in the early hours of the morning. York, Warwick and Salisbury were making their way to St Albans as Williflete was on his way to Watford.
Moste Christen Kyng, ryght hygh and myghty Prince, and our mooste redoubted souverayn Lord, we recomaunde us as humblye as we suffice unto your hygh excellence, where unto pleast it to wete that for so moche as we hyre and understand to our grettyst sorowe erthlye that our ennemyes of approuved experience, such as abyde and kepe them sylf under the whyng of your Magestee Royall, have throwen unto the same ryght stedyousely and ryght fraudulentlye manye ambyguytees and doubtes of the fayth, lygeaunce, and dewtee that, God knowyth, we beere unto your Hyghnesse, and have put theym yn as grete devoyr as they coude to enstraunge us from your mooste noble presonce and from the favour of your goode grace; whych goode grace to us ys and owe to be our singuler and moost desyred yoie and consolacion: We at thys tyme be comyng with grace as your true and humble liege men, toward your syed Hygh Excellence to declare and shew therto at large owr sayd fayth and ligeaunce, entendyng wyth the mercye of Jesu yn the seyd comyng, to put us yn as diligent and hertye devoyr and dewtee as onye your lyete men on lyve to that at may avaune or preferre the honnour and wellfare off the sayd Mageste Royalle and the seurte of the sayd most notable person; the whych [we] beseche our blessed Creature to prosper [in] as grete honnor, yoie, and felicitie as ever had onye prince erthlye, and to your sayd Hyghnesse so to take, accept, and repute us, and not to plese to geve trust or confidence unto the sinistrez, maliciouse, and fraudulent laboures and rapportes of our sayd ennemyes unto our comyng to your sayd moste noble presence; where unto we beseche humblye that we may be admitted as your liege men, to thentent to show us the same; whereoff yerstenday we wrote our lettres of our entent to the ryght reverent fadre yn God, the Archebysshop of Caunterburye, your Chauncellr of England, to be shewed to your sayd Highnesse, whereoff, forsomoch as we be note acerteyned whethyr our sayd entent be by hys fadrehode shewed unto your seyd goode grace or not, we sende thereoff unto thys closed a copy of our said lettres of our disposicion toward your sayd Hygh Excellence and the honnour and weele of the land, whereynne we woll persevere wyth the grade of our Lorde.

Written in Royston, this letter was delivered to Archbishop Thomas Bourchier in London while the king was on his way to Leicester. John Say delivered it at Watford, though not into the king’s hands as York hoped. This is a long letter, and pretty dense, so I’m posting it with a translation below. (Translation from British History online, Parliamentary Rolls, Henry VI, 1455.

As members of the Archbishop’s family were split between the king’s forces and York’s, it would have been in his interests to try and broker a peaceful end to the very tense situation.

The letter has been described as ‘propaganda’, which it was certainly used for after the fact. I don’t doubt, however, that the three lords were genuinely concerned about their safety should the meeting at Leicester go ahead without them. There was a flurry of letters during the days leading up to the first battle of St Albans, all intended for the eyes of the king and none of them (apparently) reaching him. York blamed Somerset for withholding them and, according to the Fastolf Relation, Buckingham admitted to Mowbray Herald that Henry hadn’t seen them. Whether anything would have changed had the king read the letters is, of course, impossible to know.

The letters were sent to various lords, Salisbury’s brother Fauconberg, the Archbishop and later, in a move that smacks of desperation, the earl of Devon. My feeling is that Ralph lord Cromwell was supposed to have been there to act as a voice for the Yorkist lords, but he didn’t quite make it to St Albans in time.

 To the right revernd fadre in God, right worshipfull and with all oure hertes right entierly wellbelovyd cousyn, Thomas archiebishop of Caunterbury, and chauncellor of Englond.

Right reverend fader in God, right worshipfull and with all oure hertes right entierly welbelovyd cousin, we recommaunde us unto you. And for somuche as we here that a greet rumour and wondre is hadde of oure commyngm, and of the manere therof, toward the most noble presence of the kyng oure moost doubted soverain, and that by diverse persones such as of approved experience have not put thaim in such devoir to that tht might have avaunced the honour and prosperite of him, of this his noble reaume, and his people of the same, as accorded with theire trouthe and duetee, many doubtes and ambiguitees be thrawen to his magestee roiall and amonge the peeple, of oure trouth and duetee unto his highnesse: we havyng consideracion unto thoffice the heed of justice of this lande that ye occupie, notifie unto youre worthy faderhood and cousinage, that of oure said commyng, ner the manere therof, we entende not with Goddes grace to procede to any matier or thyng, other than with Goddes mercy shalbe to his plesure, the honour, prosperite and wele of oure said soveraine lord, his said land and people. Alwey kepyng oure throuthe to his said highnesse unspotted and unbrused, entendyng to drawe directly to gidres with you, and all other lordes of this lande, that be of such tendre zele and affeccion to the honour, prosperite and wele of our said said souveraine lord, his said reaume and people, as we hold undoubted ye bee, and blissed be God ye approve youre self to youre grete laude and worship, to the profite and uncolored groundes and conclusions of suche thinges as of reason mowe most spedely growe to the said honour and wele, and the good publique, restfull and politique rule and governaunce of his said lande and people, withoute any thyng takyng or presumyng upon oure self, withoute thavis and assent of you and of the said lordes; leiyng therefore a part oure owne particuler quarels, which we shall never preferre afore the duetee, trouth, love and affeccion, that we owne unto oure said soveraine lord, his said reaume and people. Over this like it you to wite, that we understond the callyng and stablysshing of the kynges counsail at his towne of Leycestre, toke the grounde by such as we conceyve caused thappointement thereof there, for suertee of his moost noble persone, which of common presumpcion implieth a mistrust to somme persones: we therfore his true and humbe liegement, have accompaigned us the better, to thentent to emploie us in such devoir as accordeth with oure deutee, to that we may be the suertee of his said most noble persone, wherin we woll neither spare our bodies ner goodes; and also to knowe whoo be had in jelosy of such mistrust, to the entent that we mowe procede to the subduyng of thaim beyng culpables of the thyng causyng such mistrust; or elles by the avise of your said faderhood and the said lordes, to remove the ambiguitee and the occasion o that same mistrust. We also understond what colerable and subtile meanes be made by oure enemies, holdyng thaim colorably aboute the seid mooste noble persone of oure said soveraine lord, of might of men and habilementes of werre have the more surely accompaigned us, to thentent that at oure commyng to his most high presence, we mowe be of power to kepe ourself oute of the daungier whereunto oure said enemies have neot secces to studie, labour and compasse to bryng us, such as in allewise we will eschewe with Goddes grace.

 Item, for asmoche as we understonde that other lordes of this lande have be late sent fore, by the kynges commaundment under his lettres, to comen unto his counsail privately late called at Westmynstre, whereunto we have not been among the said lordes called, we conceyve a jelosy had ayenst us, wherof we purpose with Goddes grace to declare us, and to shewe us such as we bee in oure trouthe, duetee and ligeaunce to oure said soveraine lord, entendyng in all wyse to remove the said jelosy, which we woll eschewe to have liyng dormant upon us. Furthermore, we heryng the grete defaime and blaspheme thrawen ayenst us by oure seid ennemies of oure said commyng, require you on Goddes behalf, and of the feith and trouth that ye owe unto oure said soveraine lord, on his behalf also require you, and on oure owene exhorte and pray you, that ye standyng the fadre and metropolitan of the chirche of Englond, wol at oure request make oute with all possible diligence the censures of the chirche, to be opened and leied at the crosse of Seint Paule within the cittee of London, and thurgh all the parties of this land, in as rigorous and timorouse manere as the chirche wol suffre it, uppon and ayenst all thaim that entende any untrouth, prejudice, hurt or derogacion ayenst thestate, prosperite and welfare of oure said soveraine lord, his said land and people, it wol like you to shewe and ministre until his high excellence, and to the lordes of his counsail, makyng oure said entent to be shewed to all other to whom it apperteigneth by youre wiscome, for the removyng and overthrawyng of the cedicious and fraudulent blaspheme and defaime, untruly savyng youre reverence leyed upon on, Oure Lord knoweth: the which request in the premisses we make unto you, first on Goddes behalf, as to the chauncellor and chief justice of the same; and also on oure owne behalf, and on the behalf of the lordes, knyghtes, squiers and all other people beyng with us, which have desired and required us to make to you the said request, wherein we desire and pray you to put you in such devoir, as it belongeth you of youre duetee to God, to oure said soveraine lord, and his said land; that of any inconvenient that for lacke thereof mowe falle, that God defende, noo charge or burdon be leyed upon you, wherof we wold be right sory, as knoweth Oure Blessid Creatour, whoo you said faderhood and cousinage preserve and guyde in all honour, felicite and welfare.

To the most reverend father in God, most worshipful and with all our hearts most entirely well-beloved cousin, Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury and chancellor of England.

 Most reverend father in God, most worshipful and with all our hearts most entirely well-beloved cousin, we commend ourselves to you. And because we hear that there is great rumour and wonder at our coming, and at the manner of it, into the most noble presence of the king our most redoubted sovereign lord, and that by various people who, as experience shows, have not done all they cshould to advance the honour and prosperity of him, of this his noble realm and his people of the same, according to their truth and duty, many doubts and uncertainties have been put before his royal majesty, and spread among the people, as to our truth and duty to his highness; we, mindful that you are the head of justice in this land, inform your worthy fatherhood, our cousin, that by our said coming or the manner of it, we do not intent, with God’s grace, to proceed to any matter or thing other than that which, with God’s mercy, shall be to his pleasure, and the honour, prosperity and weal of our said sovereign lord, his said land and people. Always keeping our truth to his said highness unspotted and unbruised, intending to join with you, and all other lords of this land who are of such tender zeal and affection to the honour, prosperity and weal of our sovereign lord, his said realm and people, as we consider you undoubtedly to be, and as blessed be God you show yourself to your great praise and worship, to the profit and the unbiased grounds and conclusions of such things as by reason must most speedily grow to the said honour and weal, and the public good, peaceful and politic rule and governance of his said land and people, without presuming to take anything upon ourselves without the advice and assent of you and the said lords; therefore laying side our own particular quarrels, which we shall never prefer over the duty, truth, love and affection which we owe to our said sovereign lord, his said realm and people. Moreover, may it please you to know that we understand the summoning and establishing of the king’s council at his town of Leicester was based by such as we conceive made the decision on the security of his most noble person, which clearly implies a mistrust of certain person: therefore, we, his true and humble liegement, have come better companioned, in order to do whatever accords with our duty for the security of his said most noble person, wherein we will spare neither our bodies nor our goodes; and also to know who is suspected of such mistrust, so that we may proceed to the subjugation of those who are guilty of causing such mistrust; or else by the advice of your said fatherhood, and the said lords, to remove the uncertainty and the occasion of the same mistrust. We also, understanding what plausible and devious means are used by our enemies, who remain persuasively in attendance upon the said most noble person of our said sovereign lord, have for security accompanied ourselves with a force of armed men, so that in coming into his most high presence we may be able to keep ourselves out of the danger into which our said enemies have never ceased to contrive, work and plot to bring us, such as we will, with God’s grace, avoid by every means.

Item, in that we understand that the other lords of this land have lately been sent for by the king’s commandment under his letters, to come to his council recently summoned secretly at Westminster, among which said lords we were not included, we perceive that there is suspicion of us, and we therefore intend, with God’s grace, to declare and show ourselves as we are in our truth, duty and allegiance to our said sovereign lord, intending in every way to remove the said suspicion, which we wish to avoid clinging to us. Furthermore, we, hearing the great defamation and blasphemy hurled at us by our said enemies concerning our coming to the king, require you on God’s behalf, and on the faith and loyalty which you owe to our said sovereign lord, on his behalf also require you, and on our own behalf exhort and pray you, that you, being the father and metropolitan of the church of England, will at our request draw up with all possible diligence the censures of the church, to be opened and laid at St Paul’s cross in the city of London, and throughout all parts of this land, in as rigorous and fearful a manner as the church will allow, upon and against all those who plan any disloyalty, prejudice, harm or damage to the estate, prosperity and welfare of our said sovereign lord or his land. And this our letter stating our intent is known to God, wherein we trust you will be a sharer, and therefore we require you in the faith, truth and duty which you owe to God, to our said sovereign lord, his said land and people, that it will please you to explain and minister to his high excellence, and to the lords of his council, also causing our said intention to be explained to all others to whom it pertains by your wisdom, for the removal and overthrow of the seditious and fraudulent blasphemy and defamation, untruly, saving your reverence, laid upon us. Our lord knows: which request we make to you, first on God’s behalf, as to the father of the church of this land, and on the king’s behalf, as to the chancellor and chief justice of the same; and also on our own behalf, and on behalf of the lords, knights, esquires and other people being with us, who have desired and required of us that we make this said request to you, wherein we desire and pray that you do your best for our said sovereign lord and his land, as your duty to God requires; and that for any harm which through default thereof may befall, which God forbid, no charge or burden shall be laid upon you, for which we would be very sorry, as our Blessed Creator knows, who  may evermore preserve and guide your said fatherhood, our cousin, in all honour, felicity and welfare.

The First Battle of St.Albans 1455

I have been inspired by The Margaret of Anjou Rules to make my own modest contribution. It’s not as complete and spirited as The Rules for Isabella and Edward II, nor as scholarly as Margaret’s, but I hope it’s helpful for aspiring WoR novelists nonetheless. (I’m just an aspiring WoR novelist myself, but I get to flout the rules if I want to and no-one can stop me!)

First an exercise. I call it the Nevill Choosa-Najective Game

Just fill in the gaps with any adjective you think is appropriate. If you’ve read enough WoR fiction, you’ll know when you’ve got it right.

The Earl of Warwick, his face twisted into a/n _________ sneer, turned to face his brother.

“You’re a fool, John!” he expostulated __________.  “Blinded by your __________ love for a king who is little more than a __________ boy. Everything was __________ until he married that __________ Wydevlle woman! Now he lets her __________ family do whatever they please! You forget one thing: I am hailed the length and breadth of this land, they love me and fall __________ at my feet, for I am its Kingmaker!”

“I will not listen to you, Richard,” John murmured __________. “for you have become __________ and __________ these last few years. What would our __________ father – that __________ and __________northerner – think to see you striding across the stage of history like a __________ colossus? I am __________, for that is my nature. I fear it is yours to be __________.”

Her face __________ and __________, Warwick’s __________ daugther Anne shuddered __________ to hear these __________ words pass between the brothers. She loved her uncle John __________, for he was truly a __________ man. She was __________ of her father when he was like this: so __________ and __________. She wished she was back within the __________ walls of Middleham, her _________ friend Dickon, his __________ face as always wreathed in a __________, just __________ to be in her company. Though she tried to hide it, her father saw her and turned his __________ eye towards her.

“Anne!” he bellowed __________, making her jump like a __________ rabbit. “Go to your mother! You should not be here, listening to the conversation of your elders! You are nothing more than a __________ child! Begone, before you make me __________!”

In the corner, Isobel smirked __________ to hear her sister so chastised. She shot Anne a/n __________ look then turned with __________ towards their father. Anne knew that her bravado was little more than a/n __________ act. Greatly __________ by her recent marriage to the __________ but __________ Duke of Clarence, Isobel faced a lifetime of __________ disappointment and __________ regret. Dickon, Anne thought __________, was __________ where Clarence was __________; __________ and __________. She longed to feel his __________ arms around her, his __________ lips on hers.

“I said begone!” Warwick thundered __________.

__________, though not a little __________, Anne bolted from the room, letting fall away behind her the __________ strains of __________ fraternal conversation. She would find her mother, a ________ and __________ woman, who was as __________ of Warwick as Anne was herself. She had felt the _________ edge of his tongue more than a few times. With her, Anne would feel __________.

“Thomas would not have let you do this,” John whispered __________, a look of __________ crossing his __________ face. “He was a/n __________ man, and __________. My heart is __________ when I think of his, dying as he did, so very __________.”

“Well, at least I know George is on my side,” Warwick growled __________. “He might not be the most __________ of Archbishops, but he at least respects me as he should and __________ does as he’s told!”

“I have no wish to quarrel with you,” John sighed __________, thinking _________ of his __________ wife. “But my loyalties are __________. I cannot follow you, brother, and this makes me __________.”

He left the room __________, leaving Warwick behind to clench and unclench his fists __________ and grind his teeth __________.

“They will know my power!” he burbled __________. “I will show them just how __________ I am! I will not be ignored and set aside like a __________ dog!”

His face now __________, Warwick kicked over a table, venting his __________ rage and sending cups and platters crashing onto the floor. __________ at the carnage, he strode from the room __________, calling to his __________ servant Geoffrey to clean up the __________ mess.

If you’re stuck, here are some tips that might help.

1.  Ignore the sisters. They aren’t important in any way – all they did was marry some guys (you don’t even have to name them, or establish their relationships with each other or the Nevills) and live in total obscurity. In fact, if you can manage it, don’t even let it slip that they existed.

2.  Salisbury is from Yorkshire, therefore he’s a taciturn, hardbitten northerner. That’s all you need to know.

3.  George, the archbishop of York, is a feckless, good living, cowardly, cynical man who is best summed up by the amount of food served at his enthronement feast. Obviously he’s far too worldly to have any kind of real vocation. You might have a suspicious number of young women traipsing through his house.

4. Don’t worry too much about Thomas – he dies pretty soon, anyway, so you can apply the ‘only the good die young’ principle to him. If you feel you really need to do something with him, make him jolly – always laughing, everyone’s friend. That way it will be so much sadder when he dies. Also make it clear that Warwick wouldn’t have done what he did if he’d survived, and that should be pointed out to him at some stage, preferably by John.

5. Speaking of John – he’s such a good man, so loyal and loving. Have him point out to Warwick every time he’s made or is about to make a mistake. And have Warwick refuse to listen.

6. Warwick, of course, is proud and arrogant, bad tempered, impulsive and his eventual change of sides needs to be flagged early on. Give him no redeeming qualities. Make his wife and daughters terrified of him. Have him bellow “I am the Kingmaker!” at someone – preferably John. Make the rift between him and Edward sharp and irreparable – he walks into council at Reading, beaming and proud of himself, he walks out vowing to destroy the king and that bitch he married. His motto “seulement une” refers of course to himself – he is the ONLY ONE! Never mind the fact that the gender’s feminine.

7. The countess of Warwick and her daughters should be pale, sickly and terrified of Warwick. Have the countess lay a trembling hand on his arm from time to time, only for it to be roughly shaken off. Have Anne beg him not to make her marry Edward of Lancaster. Conversely, have Isobel delighted at her marriage to Clarence, only to end up disappointed and embittered, though still loving him helplessly, due to his drunken cruelty. These three women are Helpless Pawns.

8. The only reason John switches sides at the end is because he knows that without him, Warwick will die. Remember this! It’s very important. John still loves the king and wears his colours to the bitter end.

9. The countess of Salisbury’s attainder and flight to Ireland needn’t be mentioned. It’s unimportant and trivial. She should slump to her knees at the news of her husband’s death, slip into a decline and die of a broken heart.

10. At Barnet, John dies bravely and Warwick dies trying to run away.

If you follow this advice, no matter who your major characters are, you should find it easy to slip the Nevills into your story without so much as a ripple.

There has been a great deal written about Cecily Nevill. Google her (with the inevitable final ‘e’) and you’ll get nearly 98,000 results, most of them discussing her in relation to the men (husband, sons and brothers) in her life. She outlived all but one of her children, and spent thirty five years in widowhood. Two of her sons became kings of England, a granddaughter was queen, as she herself almost was.

Cecily was born on 3 May 1415 at Raby Castle in Yorskhire, the youngest of Ralph Nevill’s 23 children (and the youngest of her mother, Joan Beaufort’s 10). In 1424, she was betrothed to the young duke of York.

Richard duke of York, born 21 September 1411, was the only son of Richard earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer. He had an older sister, Isabel, who married Henry viscount Bourchier, and a half sister Alice from his father’s second marriage to Matilda Clifford. Cambridge was executed in August 1415 when Richard was only four. Matilda wasn’t even a year old.

York’s wardship was given first to sir Robert Waterton, then sold in 1423 to Ralph Nevill, who died two years later, bequeathing the wardship to his widow. York was sent to the household of Henry Percy earl of Northumberland, soon to be Joan Beaufort’s son-in-law through his marriage to her daughter Eleanor. He was knighted in 1426 and attended Henry VI’s coronation in 1429, but very little else is known of him during these years. Sometime before October 1429, he and Cecily were married.

York was a very wealthy man and had property all over England, particularly in the north, as well as in Wales. The young married couple probably spent most of their time over the next decade living between Fotheringhay castle and Ludlow, though they would have visited many of their other properties from time to time.

On 10 August 1439, their oldest daughter Anne was born at Fotheringhay. Why there were ten childless years between their marriage and Anne’s birth is a mystery. There may have been unrecorded miscarriages and stillbirths. Joan Beaufort, and her later daughter-in-law Alice Montacute, seems to have been careful not to expose her daughters to childbirth too early in their lives, but this can only go part way to explaining this decade long lack of children. As the Yorks eventually had 12 children between 1429 and 1455, if it was a case of non-specific infertility it righted itself with a vengeance. (I have found one source that names a daughter, Joan, born c1438 who didn’t survive, but this is the only reference I’ve come across, and as I just jotted it down without noting where it came from, I can’t share this with you – sorry. I don’t know how much credence it might have, probably none.)

The marriage does seem to have been extraordinarily successful and companionable, and is frequently potrayed in fiction as particularly loving. (I am as guilty of that as the next person.) When York was sent to France as governor of Normandy in 1440, Cecily and their infant daughter accompanied him. This was to be a pattern throughout their married life. In Rouen, where they were based, four more children were born: Henry (who died in infancy), Edward, Edmund and Elizabeth. The scuttlebutt surrounding the conception, birth and christening of Edward are easily discounted, despite Tony Robinson’s slick channel 4 documentary. (But I’m not going to get into that particular stoush here – suffice it to note the following points: York was not that far away from his wife at the time of Edward’s conception – “five days” Robinson says, which would have had York travelling approx 10 miles a day; he was not the only tall blonde in the family; and they’d lost a son a little more than a year earlier – I’d be a bit gun shy and tempted to rush a christening under those circumstances as well. As a populiser of history, however, Robinson probably convinced a lot of people – 104,000 hits when I googled ‘Tony Robinson Edward IV’, – this is deeply depressing!)

I’m not going to go into great detail about York’s time in France, as this is a post primarily about his marriage. I might do something more about his career at a later date. It should be noted, however, that it was from around this time that his difficulties with the Beaufort dukes of Somerset started.

The duke and duchess of York greeted and entertained Henry VI’s young bride, Margaret of Anjou, in Rouen. For a time, it seems, the duchess of York and the young queen were on friendly terms. (For more, see Medieval Woman here.)

The Yorks returned from France in 1445 when his term as governor expired. He fully expected that his appointment would be renewed. To his disappointment and anger, the post was eventually given to the earl of Dorset in December 1446. Meanwhile, Cecily had spent her 35th birthday giving birth to a daughter, Margaret, again at Fotheringhay. (A son, William, was also born around this time.)

In 1447, York bought young Henry Holland’s wardship and marriage from his father, John duke of Exeter, for 4,500m, of which only 1,500 were ever paid. Exeter died shortly after this, his son succeeding him. Anne was now duchess of Exeter. Also this year, York was appointed governor of Ireland for a period of ten years. It would be two years (and another child, John, who also died young) before the Yorks got there.

They set sail in May 1449, with four children in tow, the oldest 10 and the youngest just 3. I don’t know if Henry Holland accompanied them. Cecily was pregnant again and gave birth to George on 21 October in Dublin. Governing Ireland was no easy task, as there were various warring factions to contend with, and York wasn’t sent sufficient funds to do the job properly. (For a more detailed account of his time in Ireland than I can give here, you should read this post by Brian Wainwright at the Yorkist Age.) Rather than failing at his task, given the lack of funds, York returned to England in the autumn of 1450, without permission but with a view to remedying the situation.

It was around this time that York’s career as opposition began to take off. In 1450, Jack Cade’s rebellion was carried out largely in his name, though there is no suggestion that York was behind it. He does seem to have come to the realisation, however, that he had some popularity in England and was being seen as an alternative to the current government of Henry VI. The refrain that was to last until almost the end of York’s life – complaints that his enemies were trying to have him accused of treason, and protestations of love for and loyalty to the king, had its genesis in this difficult time. Time and again, he went to the brink of open rebellion, only to pull back when given assurances that his loyalty was not in question.

In c1451, another child, Thomas, was born and died. The Yorks’ home base at this time was Fotheringhay, where their remaining children were to be born, though while in London they stayed at Baynard’s castle.

Meanwhile, York was stepping up his campaign against Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset, attempting several times to have him answer charges stemming from the loss of English territories in France.

Early in 1452, York attempted to gather a force and march on London, but, under the king’s orders, the city resisted him. The two forces confronted each other at Dartford. The earls of Salisbury and Warwick (Cecily’s brother and nephew), not yet associated with York as they would be later, were sent to negotiate. York presented his demands and his articles against Somerset and for a time believed he was going to get his wish. Instead, he was forced to make a public declaration of loyalty at St Paul’s and Somerset kept his position as Henry’s chief councillor.

There is a letter from Cecily to the queen from around this time (its dating is disputed), asking her to intercede with the king on her husband’s behalf. I’ll be blogging about that one a bit later.

Their last surviving child, Richard, was born on 2 October 1452 at Fotheringhay.

In April 1454, during the king’s first bout of illness, York was appointed protector and defender of England, responsibly solely for matters of defence, both internal and external. Though he’d been out of favour and power since Dartford, he got the position for a number of reasons: he was a natural choice by virtue of his high rank; few of the other lords were prepared to take on the responsibility of government; even fewer wanted Somerset in the position; and, despite a possibly natural claim as queen and mother of the heir to the throne, Margaret of Anjou’s bid for a regency was rejected, partly due to her sex, but also to the all encompassing nature of her proposal. York appointed Salisbury his chancellor, which surprised and shocked everyone, as the position had traditionally been filled by a high ranking lord spiritual.

Cecily joined her husband in London, and possibly travelled with him when he was summoned to a meeting with some of the council, though her main order of business at the time was attending the queen’s churching. This was an occasion of high ceremony, and as duchess of York, Cecily took a prominent role. She carried the young prince’s christening gown to the Abbey, where it was given as an offering. York, too, played a prominent role, though Margaret’s churching was not recorded in the same rich detail that Elizabeth Wydeville’s was some years later.

York achieved several things during his first protectorate, some of which had unfortunate repercussions. His dealings with the Nevill-Percy feud in the north of England will be dealt with in a later post. One of the more difficult things he faced was the attempted rebellion of his son-in-law, Henry Holland, duke of Exeter. Relations between York’s daughter, Anne, and her husband were never good and would deteriorate to the point of separation and divorce. How on earth they managed to conceive a child, the lord only knows, though I doubt it was a happy experience for Anne, and probably not for Henry. As Exeter was hand and fist with the Percies during this time, I’m not going to go into any great detail here. The upshot was that, with the arrest of the Percy brothers, Thomas lord Egremont and Richard, the rebellion collapsed. Exeter returned to London and took sanctuary in Westminster and was later sent to imprisonment in Pontefract castle. He was later sent to Wallingford and, after the king’s recovery, released.

York’s other great triumph at this time, largely due to the work of John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, was the arrest of Somerset. He was, however, never brought to trial. The reason York gave for this was that it was a full council that had charged him and it should be a full council that tried him. As council and parliament weren’t well attended during the protectorate, this was a circumstance that never presented itself. York may well have been hesitant to take the matter any further, Somerset being out of the way in the Tower of London possibly enough to satisfy him, at least for a time.

Henry recovered over the new year period and York resigned the protectorate in January 1455, Salisbury resigned the chancellorship shortly afterwards.

The first battle of St Albans in May 1455 saw the triumph of York’s party, now firmly including Salisbury and Warwick, less firmly viscount Bourchier and with the duke of Norfolk hovering around the edges. Somerset was killed, possibly by Warwick, and, coincidentally, so too were two of the Nevills’ staunchest enemies – Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, and lord Clifford. Somerset and Northumberland were no doubt targetted, their deaths being closer to political assassinations than honest deaths in battle, though Clifford was probably a lucky accident.

York’s second protectorate was very shortlived, and once again he lost political power and authority.

Cecily gave birth to a daughter, Ursula, in July 1455, though she didn’t survive. The York’s first grandchild, Anne Holland, was also born that year, though I can’t find a more specific date.

Just when York’s thoughts began to turn to kingship, as opposed to head of government, no-one knows. All of his actions before 1460 were taken in the name of the king and with assurances of loyalty. When the change came, it seemed both abrupt and inevitable. However, Cecily has been described as sitting almost as a queen, bestowing audiences and benevolences to all and sundry – very queenlike behaviour.

In 1459, York and his supporters met at Ludlow. Parliament (‘the parliament of devils’) had attainted a good many, including the countess of Salisbury, and once more York, Salisbury and Warwick were working to present themselves as loyal liegemen and natural holders of power. Popular mythology has Cecily and her younger children at Ludlow, left to the tender mercies of queen Margaret’s army after the flight of the men. It’s a pretty picture, brave duchess, her children pressing around her skirts, facing down the spite and cruelty of the she-wolf. I’m pretty sure she was actually in London at the time.

When the members of the Calais garrison deserted them on a promise of pardon – much to Warwick’s anger and chagrin – the Yorkists had no choice but to flee. Warwick, Edward earl of March and Salisbury took to the channel and eventually Calais, while York and his son Edmund earl of Rutland crossed over to Ireland (possibly with the countess of Salisbury with them, who may have been at Ludlow). As York’s ten year term as governor hadn’t expired, Ireland was the safest and most logical place to go. He immediately started to take charge, appointing Edmund his chancellor, though there were probably others who did the actual work.

Cecily, along with the other wives (apart from Alice Montacute) was specifically excluded from the attainder, was granted an annuity and sent to live with her sister, Anne duchess of Buckingham. Anne was just a year older than Cecily and, though they had opposing political views, her ‘captivity’ doesn’t seem to have been particularly onerous.

The Calais earls – Warwick, Salisbury and March – launched a successful invasion in June 1460, taking the time to collect the Cross of Canterbury along the way. While Salisbury held London, Warwick and March went north, fought and won the battle of Northampton and took the king back to London, essentially their prisoner. George Nevill, Warwick’s youngest brother, was named chancellor and once again, the Yorkists were back in power.

York returned to England on 9 September and made a slow progress to London, gathering followers along the way. Cecily set out to meet him on 23 September, leaving her younger children in the care of their brother, Edward. Warwick met with York at Shrewsbury, where their next step was discussed. It was likely at this point that the plan was laid for York to claim and seize the throne. He rode into London in procession, his sword carried in front of him (by Cecily? I seem to recall this detail, but I can’t retrieve it). He then went to Westminster and made his claim. It was not supported. Warwick had failed to get the archbishop of Canterbury (Thomas Bourchier) on side and without him the whole scheme was doomed. York, however, was not so quick to recognise this and it took some persuading, with a closed session with Thomas Nevill (and wouldn’t I love to know what was said!) finally convincing the duke that the plan had to change.

He presented his credentials to parliament, who sent them to the king for his consideration. Henry essentially shuffled the whole mess back to the lords. York’s claims were challenged one by one and adroitly answered.  I think this is another rich vein, so I’m going to defer further discussion here and flag it for the future. (Besides, I’m running out of space and my hands are getting tired.) In the end, it was decided that Henry would be king for life, but that York (or his heirs) would succeed him. The disinheritance of her son did nothing to endear Margaret of Anjou to the duke of York.

Christmas 1460 saw the Yorkist party split: York, Salisbury, Thomas Nevill and Rutland were at Sandal castle; Warwick was holding London and March was somewhere in Wales. Cecily and the children were in London. At Wakefield, York met his end, along with his son, brother-in-law and nephew. With Warwick’s loss at the second battle of St Albans, it looked like the cause of York might well be lost.

Cecily sent her youngest sons, George and Richard, to Burgundy for their safety. Edward won the battle of Mortimer’s Cross, Margaret of Anjou failed to capitalise on her victory at St Albans and Warwick was able to retake London. At a meeting at Baynard’s castle, a decision was taken to declare young Edward king, which George Nevill did in a sermon at Paul’s Cross. Edward and Warwick won a decisive victory at Towton and it looked, this time, like the cause of Lancaster was lost.

Cecily Nevill was now the mother of the king of England, rather than queen as she had surely hoped. She took over the queen’s quarters at Westminster, refusing to move even when Edward married Elizabeth Wydeville four years later. She redesigned her personal arms to include the arms of England, reflecting her view that her husband had been rightfully king.

During Warwick’s years of rebellion, Cecily attempted to make peace between the parties, succeeding in the end in helping bring her son George (by now Warwick’s son-in-law) back into the fold. Edward had originally refused to allow George to marry Warwick’s daughter, Isobel, and Cecily was sent to Canterbury in a last ditch attempt to stop it, though she may well have been at the wedding itself (begun in England and finalised in Calais).

After Edward’s death in 1483, Cecily actively supported her youngest son Richard’s claim to the throne. At this time, suggestions of Edward’s bastardy came once more to the fore (Warwick having attempted that line earlier when he was considering George as England’s next king), and there is some suggestion that Cecily herself colluded with this. Whatever the truth of that, and whatever her motives, Cecily had a decided reluctance to support her grandson’s right to the throne.

After Richard III’s death at Bosworth, Cecily went into retirement at Bermondsey Abbey where she led a quasi religious life. She did, however, continue from time to time to dabble in politics, plotting against Henry Tudor and joining her daughter, Margaret duchess of Burgundy, in support of anyone who would (or could) challenge him.

Cecily died on 31 May 1495, barely a month after her 80th birthday. Of her children, only Elizabeth duchess of Suffolk survived her. She was buried with her husband and son, Edmund, at Forheringhay.

After centuries of trial and error, attempting to connect with the world of the still living and using only his supercharged ectoplasm, George Nevill has finally found a way. He’s set up a Facebook page for the family’s use and mighty proud of himself he is. When asked for a comment, he said: “Well, I’ve not got so much as a flock these days as a horde of mutant sheep with burning eyes, and they’re not so much following me as, well, chasing me throughout eternity, but you’ve got to do something to pass the time, don’t you?”

Update: George managed to control his ectoplasmic flow sufficiently to find hotmail (fittingly, I think, as they both clearly emanate from the Dark Side) and now has his own email address. He is very sad (or at least he has told the rest of the family that he’s sad) that the Facebook page is now in his name, but they will just have to cope with that. After all, they all have equal access to it.

As Margaret of Anjou was offering Maine to the 100th person to ‘like’ her, and as George was that person, he expects the keys to the county to be delivered to him shortly. “It’ll make a nice little bolt hole,” he says. “And I’m considering forming a new religion and appointing myself its first cardinal. I’m also working on the new currency. Richard is planning his coronation (much to Dad’s annoyance – he thinks he should be king), and Margaret is helping John design the army’s new livery.”

I do hope you’ll drop by and say hello.

The Fitzhughs – Alice Nevill and lord Henry Fitzhugh and their children – have been pretty hard to track down. I have one major source (already shown to contain errors) that has anything close to a substantive record. They don’t make it into Wagners Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses (a beautiful book, but sadly next to useless); Hicks mentions them several times in his biography of Warwick, but it’s all very sketchy (Kendall mentions him a paltry three times). In the more general texts, lord Henry gets a single mention in Hicks’s Essential Histories: Wars of the Roses; two in Carpenter and two in Weir. Most of these writers talk uncritically and incuriously about, on the one hand, Fitzhugh being with the king’s forces at St Albans, Wakefield and Towton and, on the other hand, leading Warwick’s sham northern rebellion and fighting on his side at Empingham, with no discussion of what might have occurred in between. From this it could be assumed that Fitzhugh was a staunch Lancastrian, except he did submit to Edward IV after Towton and his later actions seem prompted more by loyalty to Warwick than Henry VI. My reading (and interestingly, to some extent both Hicks’ and Johnson’s (Duke Richard of York)) is that Fitzhugh’s time in the royal army wasn’t entirely voluntary and though he didn’t take the opportunity at Northampton, both he and Grey of Ruthyn were considering their positions from about 1460. Though I haven’t investigated it at this stage, Hicks mentions that there was a Henry included in a pardon after Towton, who may have been Fitzhugh.

Most sources agree that they had ten children, though both Carpenter and Baldwin (The Kingmaker’s Sisters) mention an eleventh.  Back in April, I suggested that if there had been a sixth son, his name would probably have been Henry. And that’s just the name given to this mysterious eleventh child by both authors. (Baldwin is flawed, but it’s the most comprehensive text so far on the lives of the Salisburys’ daughters. With that single caveat (don’t be surprised to find that some of the details are wrong) I’d still recommend it to anyone interested in these women.)

One of the first points of difficulty is Alice’s birth year. As her first child was born in 1448 and as the Salisburys do seem to have discouraged their daughters (and sons-in-law) from becoming parents before they were about eighteen, this would put Alice’s birth at c1430. There is a bit of a bottleneck around this time, with Thomas, John and Alice all born seemingly within the space of a couple of years. This could mean that Alice and one of her brothers were twins, or it could just mean that the countess was very very busy during this time.

UPDATE: Another possibly birth year for Alice is c1434, which would make her fourteen when her first child was born.  As I suggest here, this would have been highly unusual given the Salisburys’ usual practices and prompted some interesting speculation regarding the marriage (and pre-marital relationship) of the young Fitzhughs.

Another point of confusion is the identity of the daughter who later married Francis Lovell. Some sources say it was the oldest daughter, Alice; others the second daughter, Anne. mentions only one child, Elizabeth (who was the youngest, married William Parr and was the ancestor of Katherine Parr). One family tree mentions only 10 children (Henry is missing) and has the second daughter (here Agnes) marrying Lovell. So, until I can find a definitive answer, and synthesising the information I have to date, here’s my interpretation of the Fitzhugh family.

Alice (1448-1516) married John Fiennes. They had two children: Thomas (lord Dacre on the death of his grandmother) and Anne. Thomas married Anne Bourchier.

Anne (1453 – bef 1512) married Francis Lovell. Lovell (and his sisters Joan and Frideswide) are usually listed as wards of the earl of Warwick. While it’s true that Lovell spent many years under Warwick’s tutelage at Middleham, it does seem that they were wards of the Fitzhughs. Anne, her mother Alice and sister in law Elizabeth were in attendance on queen Anne and Richard III at their coronation in 1483. Lovell disappeared after Bosworth and both his wife and mother-in-law pleaded for a pardon for him. They had no success. His final fate is a mystery. Anne and Francis had no children.

Margery (b1455) married Marmaduke Constable. Marmaduke fought with Richard III at Bosworth but submitted to Henry Tudor. He was sheriff of Yorkshire and later, during the reign of Henry VIII, fought at Flodden. They had at least two children, one son being executed for treason in 1537.

Joan (I have no information.)

Richard (1457-1487). Married Elizabeth Borough. Richard fought with Richard III at Bosworth, submitted to Henry Tudor afterwards and was his lieutenant in the north for his remaining years. He was fourteen when his father died and he succeeded to the lordship. His mother Alice was appointed his guardian. On his death, he was succeeded by his son, George.

About the younger children, I can find very little information.

Thomas (b1459)
John (b1461)
George (1463-1505)
Edward (1464 – bef June 1472)
Elizabeth (1455/6 – 1513) married 1. William Parr; 2. Nicholas Vaux