Marriage and the Nevills – Cecily Nevill and Richard Duke of York

Posted: May 17, 2010 in Cecily Nevill, Duchess of York, Marriage & the Nevills, Richard, Duke of York

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.

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Comments
  1. Dawn Likha says:

    Reblogged this on A Passion for History and commented:
    I’ve always thought these two were quite close and had a relatively happy marriage, and they could be known to travel together often which is why we must look at the ‘Edward IV was fathered by a common archer’ theory with even more wariness as we don’t know the actual whereabouts of Cecily at this time, I believe, and she herself could have been with the Duke of York when she conceived — if Edward really was a full-term baby.

  2. Edward IV was not blond. He was portrayed as brown-haired in every near contemporary portrait and every contemporary image (Luton Guild Book, Jehan de Wavrin’s drawings etc.), and the hair recovered from his tomb when it was opened in 1789 is brown. Edward’s blondness, just like so much else about the looks (and else) of the York brothers, is just a later day myth.

    As for the sack of Ludlow, the chronicles note that Cecily and her two youngest sons were there. But Margaret of Anjou definitely was not. The Lancastrian forces were lead by her husband, Henry VI, during one of his bouts of sanity. I guess the writers like to change it to Margaret because it doesn’t fit with his “saintly” image.

    • anevillfeast says:

      Hi, timetravellingbunny! When I look at photos of the lock of Edward IV’s hair, I don’t see brown so much as dark blond. As a once white blonde and now, in adulthood, dark blonde, it’s a colour I recognise fairly well. I may be wrong and he may have been brunette, but that lock of hair, for me, suggests a blonde childhood. Perhaps the painters of the day didn’t quite capture the subtleties of shade.


      • It looks very brown to me.

        No doubt Edward and Richard (as per the DNA findings) had blond hair as children – and brown as adults. My hair was dark blonde when I was 4, and now it is very dark.

      • anevillfeast says:

        And it looks classically dark blond to me. DNA doesn’t change over time to alter hair colour – shade, yes – colour, no. If Edward and any of his siblings were blond children then they were blond adults. If they were brunette adults then they were brunette children. Just as blond has shadings, so do brown and red, all may darken with age but the fundamental colour doesn’t change to a different colour.

      • There is no fundamental blond or brown color. It’s just the issue of how much melanin there is. Less melanin – what we call blond, more melanin – what we call brown hair.

        Many people are blond as children and then their hair darkens with age. Over half of the children in my class in elementary school were blond in first grade, and most of them had brown hair by the fourth grade.

        This is me at age 4: http://41.media.tumblr.com/3fcd507e7872c2aead949d0d9c9275ec/tumblr_inline_nnlb4p92ZC1r5fr6c_500.jpg

        and this is me as adult: hthttp://41.media.tumblr.com/d9b1300a48f0b81ba9bcc0bae8d1ff97/tumblr_inline_nnlbablvWa1r5fr6c_500.jpg

      • anevillfeast says:

        I’m struggling to keep up here, I must admit. You cited dna findings in a previous post, which would suggest you understand that hair colour is determined by dna. And in this comment you say ‘there is no fundamental blond or brown colour’. The perception that blond children can become brunettes is pretty entrenched, and you’ve applied that perception to your own experience. I could post pictures of myself – white blonde child, dark blonde adult – but they probably wouldn’t help clarify things one bit as they are so very much determined (it would seem) by perception. Hair colour is absolutely determined by DNA and it doesn’t change – shading, yes, sometimes getting very dark, as yours has, but not colour.

      • Because it’s the same “colour”. It’s not due to two different pigments, it’s one and the same – eumelanin (unlike red hair, which is due to the a different pigment, pheomelanin).

        I don’t see what’s unclear there. The idea of hair colours called blond or brown or dark is just a construct, terms that people use for the appearance of hair that is due to less eumelanin or more eumelanin. It’s not like there are two different pigments so one has to disappear and the other to take over.

        You said it yourself, our hair darkens with age.
        You – white blond to dark blond.
        Me – dark blond to dark brown.

        Edward IV and Richard III – probably medium blond to medium brown?

      • anevillfeast says:

        That hair can darken with age was never in dispute in this discussion. It was, in fact, the starting point. What was in dispute is, on the one hand, your view that hair *colour* changes and mine (backed by dna being a hair colour determinant) that it’s the *shade* that changes, not the underlying colour. Maybe ‘colour’ is the wrong word to use here. Maybe if we use ‘type’ instead – blond, brunette, red, black – that would help de-confuse things. My hair ‘type’ is blond, As I got older it darkened so that some people saw it as the ‘colour’ brown. The fundamental underlying ‘type’ (blond) didn’t change.

  3. Dr Turi King talking about the hair and eye color of Richard III: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEnoFUKasgU

    Hair and eye color chart of possible colors he could have had:

    About 1/3 of people in Europe who were recently tested and shown to have the so-called blond marker did not have blond hair, at least not as adults.

    And I would never call that lock of hair they took from Edward’s grave dark blonde. Dark blonde would, I think, be something like this: http://mac.h-cdn.co/assets/cm/14/49/547ec31ada734_-_dark-blonde-jennifer-aniston-0610-msc.jpg

    • anevillfeast says:

      As, I said, this would seem to be a discussion about colour perception rather than colour itself. If, to you, ‘dark blond’ is what I would call something like ‘mid blond’ then we’re not going to find any kind of meeting ground on this. All Turi King says is that Richard’s hair ‘darkened’ as he got older. This is not the least in dispute. My hair darkened as I got older… but remained a shade of blonde.

      • I don’t really understand your position. You insist that there is some underlying “colour” that doesn’t change, called blond or brown, and “perception of colour”. But “perception of colour” is exactly what “hair colour” is, “blond” is nothing but “perception” of what hair with a smaller concentration of eumelanin looks like, and “dark” is nothing but a “perception” of what hair with a strong concentration of eumelanin looks like. That is the nature of language in human thinking. If people did not invent the words for “blond”, or “brown” or “dark” or whatever, nobody would see those as separate “hair colours”. If someone invented some other word for one of the shades of hair that is not red, we’d be thinking of yet another “hair colour”.

        But that still doesn’t change the point. If Edward’s (pretty obvious brown, I’d say) hair is what you call “dark blond”, then you can call everyone else in his family “dark blond” as well, and I can call them brown. (The historical fiction writers, on the other hand, decided at some point to call Edward blond and Richard dark even though they seem to have had about the same hair colour. The other people in their family change their “hair colours” in historical fiction depending on who the writer wants to be the “exception” in the family.)

      • anevillfeast says:

        You seem to be working from an outdated hypothesis re language, perception and colour terms. Perceptions drive language far more than language drives perceptions. English currently has four broad colour terms that cover the four genetic hair types. The minute we meet someone from another planet, with a hair type (and colour) we’ve never seen before, our brains will not explode nor will our eyes be blind to the difference. We might struggle with it and come up with things like “Well, it’s a kind of purply greeny orange” but we’d see it and we’d soon be asking ‘What colour do you call your hair?” and then we’d borrow the word from that language and slot it in among our own terminology for hair types (and their colours).
        If you see the various shades of blond as ‘blond’, ‘dark blond’ and ‘brown’ then that’s very much a matter of your own individual perception. Hair type doesn’t change, though shade can (and frequently does). Blonds are blonds, however dark their hair gets.

        Edward’s pretty obviously dark blond hair is, in fact, dark blond. As for assuming all of his siblings were also dark blond – they might well have been, though with six of them surviving to full adulthood, there might have been a half/half split – like the four girls I share with my first husband, two are blonde and two brunette. (The two I share with my second husband are redheads.) I certainly have no desire to mark any of Edward’s siblings as any kind of ‘exception’ and if I did I wouldn’t be using hair colour to do it.

      • I don’t see what’s “outdated” about it. People have invented certain concepts and words to call them by. If we haven’t invented the concept of “blond” hair, for instance, there is no reason why people would be calling very different shades on the yellowish-to-brown spectrum “blond”. Or some other “brown”. And the fact that people so often can’t even agree where “blond” stops and “brown” begins prove that.

        The concept of “brunette”, for instance, is also very confusing – in my mother tongue, we have a word for a blonde woman and blond man, and a word for a woman with dark brown hair, which would literally translate as “blackette” (there is no word for a man with that hair colour), but we’ve also accepted the loan word “brineta” – from “brunette”, which is sometimes used to denote a woman with medium brown hair (but not dark hair). That’s one of the ways the language and the concepts people use affect perception.

        And the concepts and preconceived notions definitely affect perception, too. In a book called “Wild Europe” by Bozidar Jezernik, a study about the perception of Balkans in the works of visitors from Western Europe from 15th to 19th century, the author notes the way that preconceptions affect perceptions even of such things as physical traits – both when it comes to the perception of people from the Balkans in the eyes of people from Western Europe, and vice versa. It includes an interesting detail from an account of a German man (I think from the 18th century, it’s been a while since I’ve read the books) who was baffled when he found out that a Turkish customs officer had described him as tall and blond, even though he was, in his own view, short and dark-haired. But the Turkish customs officer had a preconception that Germans are, generally, tall and blond and blue eyed, so he aligned the actual appearance of the German visitor according to that preconception.

        I think that people at some point, long after his death, created the idea of Edward IV as blond because his personality fits stereotypes about blond men, just as they had an idea about Richard III as dark haired for a similar reason. Even though all contemporary drawings (in Luton Guild book etc.) show Edward IV with dark hair and all near contemporary portraits (for about a hundred years after their deaths) show Edward and Richard with medium brown hair.

      • anevillfeast says:

        The hypothesis (Sapir-Whorf) that language influences perception was an extremely important starting point but has been quite radically rethought over the years. That the speakers of your native language have accepted (and nativised) a borrowed word for ‘brunette’ argues very much against your point that lacking a word for something leads to an inability to perceive that thing. Speakers of your native language are not, in fact, incapable of perceiving that a woman has medium brown hair. It may not have been culturally important enough at one point to come up with a word for it, and has since perhaps become important enough to borrow one. (I spent ten years as an academic linguist, which is why I know the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – essentially, that language influences perceptions and worldview – has been revisited many times and radically updated.)

        But we are straying far from the original point of this discussion and I’m wondering if that’s simply because I’ve failed to sufficiently get across the idea that, on the one hand, hair *colour* terms can be culturally determined and change over time, with neologisms or borrowings and the perceptions of individuals, whereas genetic hair *types* do not.

        In one of your earlier comments, you linked to Turi King who stated that Richard III was probably blond as a child but his hair darkened. How was she able to determine that? By finding the genetic marker for the type we call ‘blond’. Now, if his hair was the type we call ‘brown’ when he died, the blond genetic marker wouldn’t have been found because it would never have been there in the first place. It was, so (whatever shade his hair was when he died) he was genetically blond all his life.

        People’s perceptions of ‘tall’ or ‘short’ are very much determined by what they see around them, because they are relative terms, not absolutes. (Genetically determined) hair types are not relative, they are absolutes. Dark blond hair might *look* brown to some people, just as someone who’s 5’10 might seem tall to some people and short to others, but their height doesn’t change – they are still 5’10. Whether someone sees their hair colour as brown or not, the dark blond’s hair type doesn’t change, it is still blond. Your Turkish customs officer’s perception of the German as ‘tall’ didn’t make the German any taller than he actually was. This was the reason I attempted to change the terminology of this conversation from hair ‘colour’ to hair ‘type’ – I hoped, by that, it would iron out the confusion wrought by the relativity of hair *colour* terms.

        If you’re at all interested in how different languages/cultures deal with colour terms, Bernard Berndt and Paul Kay’s Basic Colour Terms is a good place to start. It’s a little old now, but still sound. In it, they state their findings that, eg, some Indigenous Australian languages have two colour terms only but that does not prevent the speakers of those languages from perceiving the same range of colours as, say, a speaker of English. All surviving Indigenous Australian Languages now have a comparable range of either borrowed, semantically extended or neologised colour terms.

        If your concern about Edward IV being blond is that some people attempt to use it to make him seem somehow better than an incorrectly labelled ‘brown haired’ Richard, then there’s no need to be concerned about it here. I don’t, and never have, equated personality types with hair types (or colours). If either brother was blond (and it would seem they both were) that had nothing to do with who they were or what they did. So a refusal to accept Edward IV as blond in order not to cast some kind of aspersions on a (perceived) non-blond Richard is totally unnecessary. The dna testing done on Richard’s remains suggest quite strongly that he was blond. The lock of Edward IV’s hair is clearly dark blond. They were most likely both blond. And that says nothing about them except – they were most likely both blond. It would be an interesting test – and we’d need a lot more dna evidence than we have – but I’d guess a lot of painters over the years have, either through perception or lack of colour mixing skills – painted dark blond heads as brown. Now we have the dna evidence for Richard’s hair type to set alongside the paintings, it would seem this is very much the case.

      • I don’t understand why you insist on this “genetically blond” thing. “Blond” means that someone has light hair, not that they have a “blond marker” in their DNA. Because that’s all hair colour is. What it looks like.

        Would you say that I am blonde? I have never had a DNA analysis done, but nobody in the world would call me blonde. Except when they see my pictures as a child and say “your hair was so light!” or “You were blonde?!!!” If I am not blonde, if you define my hair colour as brown, what colour would you say my hair was when I was 4? Light brown? What colour was Edward IV’s hair as adult? Dark blonde? Then why is my hair colour as a child much, much lighter than Edward IV’s hair as adult? How can light brown be much darker than dark blond? It doesn’t make sense. There is no “absolute” hair colour, there is just the colour/shade/appearance it has because of the concentration of eumelanin in it.

        People do perceive different shades of hair colour. The difference is what terms they use to describe them. As the above example shows, among other things. You are choosing to categorize an entire group of shades as “blond” and another group as “brown”, even if it means arguing that some shades of the latter are much lighter than some shades of the former. But when we look at people, we don’t see their DNA, we see what they look like.

        No, I never said people tried to make Edward IV look better than Richard III by ascribing them different hair colors. It wouldn’t explain, for instance, why historical fiction writers who portray Richard positively portray him as darker haired than the rest of his family. I said that their respective personas are easy to match into certain stereotypes coded by hair colour. I also don’t believe that people of their times perceived dark hair as negative (as some people have argued, trying to justify the idea that Richard was blond and that the Tudor portraits supposedly deliberately made him look darker, even though there is no indication that such colour coding existed at the time), or else it would be hard to explain why Edward was portrayed as dark haired in every drawing done in his own lifetime.

        So, you would say Richard was blond? Does it mean he looked like this? Does this look at all convincing? http://www.culture24.org.uk/asset_arena/4/05/02/520504/v0_master.jpg

        Hell no. That’s just the result of people misunderstanding Turi King’s report, just like it happened with the report on the false paternity. What’s actually likely is that he looked like his early near contemporary portraits, as King herself argues, i.e. close to this portrait: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/cdbXETSOjKk/maxresdefault.jpg
        The latter two shades in the predicted hair colour chart for Richard are definitely in the brown hair category, as is his hair colour in this portrait or the National Gallery/Royal Collection portraits.

      • anevillfeast says:

        You continue to confuse hair ‘type’ with hair ‘colour’. Until that distinction becomes clear, there’s no point continuing this discussion. Thank you for your comments and contribution.

  4. And here’s how Edward was portrayed in his time:

    The Luton Guild Book miniature (around 1475) showing Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville and other courtiers/members of the royal family. It’s been speculated that the man in green is Richard. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/26/1d/82/261d822e2512bb4a92f234a4502b8f4e.jpg

    Miniature from Jean de Wawrin’s book, showing Edward IV receiving the book: http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/edward4wavrin.jpg

    A miniature showing Edward IV receiving the book from Anthony Woodville: https://sarahpeverley.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/earl-rivers.jpg
    The images of Elizabeth Woodville and future Edward V show that the artist knows how to draw lighter hair. Edward IV is one of the figures with the darkest hair in the picture. The same is true of the other two miniatures I’ve linked.

    All the near contemporary portraits of Edward IV during the next 100 or so years after his death also show him with brown hair, and not even light brown hair.

    And I don’t see how that lock of hair can be called anything but brown. You have to be stretching the “blond” description to a really high degree if you can call that “dark blond”. If that’s dark blond, then everyone short of the darkest hair out there can be called blond.

  5. I read the page of after Edwards death 1483, and was interest in it. Like it would like to known more which would help me to learn more about him please. as do history’s classes. thank you

  6. Lady of Winchester says:

    Not a comment related to the paternity of Edward IV here. I’m actually writing to ask about the evidence for the existence of Alice, the half-sister of Richard of York by his father’s second marriage. I have only seen her mentioned in one other (dubious) source, and I wonder if there’s any more solid evidence- and why do we not know more about her. Did she die in infancy or early childhood?

    • anevillfeast says:

      Hi, Lady of Winchester. I don’t think there is any solid evidence for the existence of a second daughter for Richard earl of Cambridge. The only reference I have points to ‘Collectanea Musgraviana’ which I can’t easily access. It has Alice apparently growing up and marrying. That’s all I’ve got at the moment.

      • Lady of Winchester says:

        I see. That is the reference I have seen as well. I would think, though, that if Maud Clifford did have a daughter, why did she not mention her in her will? Even if her daughter had died, if she had children of her own ir would have made sense for them to be mentioned somewhere.

        Just my two pennies worth. I like the idea, but don’t see any solid evidence. The sad fact is, its not unknown for some fmaily trees and pedigrees to contain a degree of embellishment. Especially if a family was of humble origins and wanteed to male themselves look better.

      • anevillfeast says:

        Oh, I agree with you! The same applies to the supposed illegitimate daughter of George Nevill I (later Archbishop of York). I don’t doubt she did exist but if the date given for her birth is correct, then George was 14 when she was born. Not unheard of but odd. And, given the Nevill penchant for acknowledging illegitimate children, George seems not to have acknowledged her. Her father might have been another George – Salisbury’s brother – but we don’t have much of a clue. I always put that one down to a family myth. Alice Musgrave may be a similar story.
        I probably should have been a little more cautious in the original post.

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