My article on Red Rose White Rose by Joanna Hickson - Queen of the Castle. is featured in the Historical Novel Society Magazine this month. You can find it here on their website if you are a member of the HNS. If you like historical fiction, why not join?
For those who are not members, here's a little insight...
The article describes how Joanna Hickson's research for this densely researched novel took her on a journey to visit a number of castles where Cecily Neville lived, in order to build a picture and soak up the atmosphere. A heavy fall of snow made two particularly difficult. She tells us that Maxstoke Castle, a place where Cecily was under house arrest later in her life, was a classic four-square medieval moated castle, ‘a small jewel as opposed to a rambling fortress.’ Joanna explained, ‘The gates are still fortified with the iron-cladding installed by Cecily Neville's brother-in-law, Humphrey, 1st Duke of Buckingham and bear his cypher.' Here is Joanna's picture of that snowy day - there was no room for it in the article.
The other difficult castle to visit was apparently Ludlow. Looking round these castles in the snow, she says, 'gave me a very good impression of the dangers faced by the inhabitants of a freezing, draughty castle in winter.’
According to Joanna, ‘Fotheringhay was Cecily Neville's favourite castle. 'It is where Richard III was born and, a hundred years later, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded – two monarchs whose tragic histories may have caused it's subsequent decline into a mere footprint in the soil of the Northamptonshire landscape.’
Cecily Neville is a fascinating character, and in Red Rose, White Rose we watch her mature against the background of constant in-fighting by her male relations. If you are a fan of the Wars of the Roses period, then this is a wonderful read. By the introduction of Cuthbert, Cecily's fictional illegitimate half-brother, we get an insight from a male as well as a female perspective into the feuding Plantagenets and their bloody battles for land and stronghold. Recommended.