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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Red Rose, White Rose - Joanna Hickson researches Cecily Neville

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? 
Red Rose White Rose

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.
Maxstoke Castle
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.’
Ludlow Castle
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.’

Fotheringhay Castle

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.

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