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Cecily Neville (Hardback)

Mother of Richard III

P&S History > Medieval World > Medieval History P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Dr John Ashdown-Hill
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 290
Illustrations: 50
ISBN: 9781526706324
Published: 18th April 2018



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Wife to Richard, Duke of York, mother to Edward IV and Richard III, and aunt to the famous ‘Kingmaker’, Richard, Earl of Warwick, Cecily Neville was a key player on the political stage of fifteenth-century Britain.

Mythologically rumoured to have been known as ‘the Rose of Raby’ because of her beauty and her birth at Raby Castle, and as ‘Proud Cis’ because of her vanity and fiery temper, Cecily’s personality and temperament have actually been highly speculated upon. In fact, much of her life is shrouded in mystery. Putting aside Cecily’s role as mother and wife, who was she really?

Matriarch of the York dynasty, she navigated through a tumultuous period and lived to see the birth of the future Henry VIII. From seeing the house of York defeat their Lancastrian cousins; to witnessing the defeat of her own son, Richard III, at the battle of Bosworth, Cecily then saw one of her granddaughters become Henry VII’s queen consort.

Her story is full of controversy and the few published books on her life are full of guess-work. In this highly original history, Dr John Ashdown-Hill seeks to dispel the myths surrounding Cecily using previously unexamined contemporary sources.

Ashdown-Hill's research and writing on Cecily Neville is astonishing. You can't escape the knowledge and the intellect behind this work. I am constantly drawn to the lives of historical figures that are either under-recorded or written out of history and full of admiration for the dedication that contemporary historians and writers give to bringing them back into the world. Giving them the presence they rightly deserve.

NetGalley, Brooke Sheldon

This is an interesting and insightful look at Cecily Neville. She was never queen but she was the mother of two kings and played an important role in the Wars of the Roses.

NetGalley, Melisa Safchinsky

A really well researched book full of information on the mother of Richard III. I’ve read a few books on the Plantagenets but apart from a novelised version I haven’t read much about Cecily so always good to learn something new and from a more factual standpoint. There are a lot of gaps in history about her so the book does contain some speculation. An interesting, well paced book.

NetGalley, Kirsty White

I always like reading Ashdown-Hill's books because he usually shows a different perspective, questions the already existing sources and digs deeper than other historians.
This beautifully illustrated book is a joy to read and it's also a very important study because Ashdown-Hill carried out a lot of research into the DNA of the House of York. His findings are included in this, as well as his other, books.
I highly recommend this book to all history enthusiasts because it' opens a window into the past. A must read!

Read the full review here

GoodReads, ConstantReader

This is a fascinating biography of Cecily Neville, and it was good to read about her as a standalone subject rather than as someone's mother/aunt/wife etc.
Meticulously researched as one would expect from this author, this is an enjoyable read for anyone interested in this period of history.

NetGalley, Gillian Shackleton

As featured on Lil's Vintage World

Lil's Vintage World

Well written and appealing to those interested in the 15th century.

NetGalley, reviewed by Rose Beauvais

I liked finding this book because it was about someone known but little is written about her.

I first gained interest in her life after reading about the war of the roses and this quickly gained my interest.

NetGalley, reviewed by Emily Wilson

I thoroughly recommend this Cecily Neville: Mother of Richard III by John Ashdown-Hill. The author’s utter dedication to his subject shines through and is apparent in his forensic dissection of the historical sources. This is a comprehensive and authoritative piece of work on an often overlooked female figure from one of the most interesting periods of British history, and I’m pleased as punch to have it sitting on my bookshelf.

Read the full review here

Hisdoryan, Claire Miles

What I enjoyed most: the inclusion of documents and her legacies; notes on those in her inner circle; the use of the appendix at the end to tackle the mythology of "the rose of raby" and other loose ends.

NetGalley, reviewed by Melisende d'Outremer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this book! There was a lot I didn't know about Cecily, but Ashdown-Hill does a great job filling in the blanks on this elusive historical figure.

NetGalley, reviewed by Adrienne Dillard

★★★★★ Another winner!

Another fantastic book by John. Full of facts and not trendy theories. Loved every page and cannot recommend it highly enough. Well done John!

Amazon Customer

Kindle edition - I would definitely recommend this title to anyone who has an interest in the Plantagenents and/or women in history. I knew nothing about Cecily Neville or this branch of family before reading this book and I really enjoyed discovering more about her. The level of historical detail and the lengths the author has gone to, to establish what sources have merit and what is merely myth is immense and makes for an epic, in depth and informative account of a fascinating woman who achieved much in the era she lived in. Highly recommended.

Amazon Customer

Some lovely pictures in this book, which are well distributed throughout the text, which I appreciate as opposed to just lumping them all together in the middle of the book. Would recommend for anyone wanting to expand their knowledge in this area.

NetGalley, reviewed by Amanda Lavelle

The book is academic without being boring, and even a reader with casual interest in this branch of the family tree will find it a good read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Sarah Mueller

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I put this book down for a bit after the death of John Ashdown-Hill. The world lost a fabulous historian, and I was devastated to know that we would not get more of his incredible writing in the future. But this book is one of his masterpieces. I cannot recommend it enough! Get to know Cecily on a level that you never thought possible!

NetGalley, reviewed by Rebecca Hill

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cecily Neville is an amazing figure and it was amazing to hear about her life, things that aren't commonly known. Amazing book. Recommend highly.

NetGalley, reviewed by Makenzie Erickson

Cecily Neville has always fascinated me and this book certainly aided to my interests in the woman. You can feel the passion and work that Ashdown-Hill put into this work. Fascinating and well written. Ashdown-Hill will be sorely missed.

NetGalley, reviewed by Sara Marsden

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is brilliant, I loved it. Meticulously researched and clearly written. This is a definitive account on one of medieval England's most overlooked matriarchs, Cecily Neville was an absolutely fascinating character in her own right and this book brings her out of the shadows.

I can not recommend this highly enough.

NetGalley, reviewed by Rebecca Batley

While Cecily Neville is certainly not an obscure historical person, very little has been written to focus on her own life and the impact that it had on the course of history. This title was refreshing in that it attempted to single her out in history and focus on presenting as much we can possibly know about her. Throughout the text, Ashdown-Hill sorts through the facts as we have them and the speculative aspects of Cecily’s story. The book was extremely well researched and pieced together much of Cecily’s life and the time period that she lived in.

NetGalley, reviewed by Jill McConaghie

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I own every book Dr. Ashdown-Hill has written and was devastated to hear he died in May 2018. When you read one of his books, you get the full scholarly treatment. His sources are impeccable and his research thorough. This is the first in-depth, no holds barred biography of Cecily Neville.

NetGalley, reviewed by Royalty Book Fan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book would be enjoyed by anyone wanting to learn about history or more about the story of Cecily Neville.

NetGalley, reviewed by Jennifer Capson

This is a very well-researched and well-thought-out book about the mother of Richard the Third. I was highly interested in this book, as there are quite a few books out there about important women during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but not many that specifically deal with Cecily Neville.

Although the records that have come down to us are incomplete, as is most often the case with any historical figure before a certain date, I thought the author did an exemplary job of filling in the gaps with logical reasoning and a history of the rest of her family, making for a book that is both scholarly and yet, enjoyable to read.

This book would be great for anyone who wants to know where the infamous Richard III came from, as well as anyone who wishes to know more about Cecily Neville herself. The writing style makes this book easy to read and to follow and kept my interest from beginning to end.

I would definitely recommend this book to others, especially scholars that are interested in this period. It was informative and a pleasure to read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Ionia Froment

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cecily Neville is my 16th great grandmother. I imagine she is the 16th great grandmother of millions. That's why I was interested in this book.

Dr. Ashdown-Hill is careful with history. I appreciate that. This book makes clear the problem of genealogy for anyone using the popular web based genealogy sites. It is so easy to copy and spread inaccurate information. This book makes clear how little actual facts are known about Cecily Neville. What is known, is laid out in an interesting easy to read fashion.

I enjoyed reading about the movements of the royal court and all the intrigue. Who would have guessed that a book about Cecily Neville would be a page turner? This story is so well written that it is!

NetGalley, reviewed by Debra Rojas

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I would definitely recommend this title to anyone who has an interest in the Plantagenents and/or women in history. I knew nothing about Cecily Neville or this branch of family before reading this book and I really enjoyed discovering more about her. The level of historical detail and the lengths the author has gone to, to establish what sources have merit and what is merely myth is immense and makes for an epic, in depth and informative account of a fascinating woman who achieved much in the era she lived in. Highly recommended.

NetGalley, reviewed by Naomi Greenway

Rather useful! I was pleasantly surprised it is also illustrated. Recommended to history nuts and those interested in the Cousins' War.

NetGalley, reviewed by Valentina Markasović

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Interesting and informative. Exactly what I would expect from this learned and talented writer. Brings this proud yet pious woman back to life in it's pages.

NetGalley, reviewed by Cath Bell

Truly exciting.

NetGalley, reviewed by Nureeni Lem

If you're looking to learn more about Cecily Neville, someone I've learnt about in my classes but never really got to delve into, this book is for you.

NetGalley, reviewed by Ellie Crowson-Jeffery

This was a meticulously researched book, and I was very impressed from the start about old inaccuracies being cleared up about Cecily Neville.

I enjoyed reading more about Cecily also, where I had only come across her as a secondary story in another person’s book. Though I thought it a shame the book had to be subtitled ‘the Mother of Richard III’ and linking her book to a man, even though he was one of her sons.

I would certainly like to read more books by this author.

NetGalley, reviewed by Alison L

Oh my goodness, I wish I had words to describe the awesome that is this book. I am a huge lover of this time period, and in all of my research, I have yet to find books on Cecily that do her justice. Until now. The research put into this book, along with the writing and ease of readability...not to mention the care given to Cecily's memory...make this my now most recommended book on all things Cecily Neville.

NetGalley, reviewed by Stacie Tyson

This is a well researched book that goes through the life of Cecily Neville. You can tell that the author used various sources of records to write this book. In cases where sources conflicted each other, he showed the discrepancies. If you are interested in learning more about the mother of Edward IV and Richard III, then I recommend this book.

NetGalley, reviewed by Cheryl Reichert

I give Cecily Neville five out of five stars!

NetGalley, reviewed by Michelle Kidwell

Overall a good read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Louise Fry

This is a detailed work of historical research about Cecily Neville, mother of Edward IV and Richard III. We follow her life from birth until death, learning all possible facts about her upbringing, family, and surrounding environment.

The book is obviously expertly researched, with as much information about Cecily Neville as anyone could possibly find. There are detailed genealogy charts, as well as thorough narratives of the lives of both Neville and her husband. I found the chapter about DNA and dental research particularly intriguing. All in all, it is a very interesting and useful book for the fans of history, as well as for researching students.

NetGalley, reviewed by Ioanna Tatari

About Dr John Ashdown-Hill

Dr John Ashdown-Hill was a well-known medieval historian, having published extensively on a variety of topics within that period but focussing mainly on the Yorkist era. He is best-known for his pivotal role in uncovering the burial place of King Richard III for and for tracing collateral female-line descendants of Richard’s elder sister to establish his mtDNA haplogroup, which matched the mtDNA of the bones found in the Leicester car park. In 2015 he was awarded an MBE ‘for services to historical research and the exhumation and identification of Richard III’.

The birth of Cecily Neville

3rd May 1415

Cecily Neville, known as the 'Rose of Raby', was the youngest of the 14 children of Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland and Joan Beaufort. She was born at the Neville stronghold of Raby Castle in Durham on 3 May 1415. Wife to Richard, Duke of York, mother to Edward IV and Richard III, and aunt to the famous ‘Kingmaker’, Richard, Earl of Warwick, Cecily Neville was a key player on the political stage of 15th-century Britain.

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