The Kings’ Mother

Joanna Laynesmith examines claims that Edward IV was a bastard and tells the dramatic story of his mother, Cecily Neville, Duchess of York.

On August 8th, 1469, the Milanese ambassador in France reported a startling rumour – that Edward IV of England was a bastard. He explained that this would mean that Edward had no right to the crown and that the true king was consequently Edward’s younger brother, George Duke of Clarence. The source of the rumour was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was both the King’s cousin and the Duke of Clarence’s father-in-law. That summer Warwick had provoked rebellion against the King and by the end of July was holding Edward captive at Warwick Castle. Such allegations of bastardy among political rivals were nothing new, but what is enigmatic about the 1469 rebellion is the role played by the woman whose virtue had been besmirched: the King’s mother, who was the famously pious Cecily Neville, Duchess of York.


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