To celebrate the release of the new historical novel The Queen’s Rival by bestselling author Anne O’Brien, we are sharing some letters that feature in the book. First up is a letter from our protagonist Cecily, Duchess of York, to Queen Marguerite.
Cecily, Duchess of York, to her grace the Queen Marguerite, late of Anjou
Written from Ludlow Castle, on this tenth day of October 1459. Sent by the Duchess’s personal courier, claiming safe conduct for his return with the Queen’s reply
I regret this need to write to you. My lord the Duke of York forbids it, but I cannot ignore the desperate situation in which we find ourselves. Do our armies not face each other, about to engage in battle, on the fields beside Ludford Bridge?
I fear for the outcome, as I am certain you do also. Was there not enough bloodshed less than a month ago at Blore Heath, when two thousand of your Lancastrian troops were slain, including your commander Lord Audley?
It stains my conscience. It must also weigh heavy on yours, your grace.
You will call us traitors, but you must know in your heart that the Duke of York has never been moved by thoughts of treason. Your most royal husband Henry is our King. Nothing can change that. We do not seek his overthrow, no matter what poison the Duke of Somerset might drop in your ear. He may be my Beaufort cousin, but there is much bad blood between the Beauforts and my husband and I would counsel you to beware his advice. Somerset’s only interest is to wipe out York as a rival to his own position as the most influential of royal counsellors.
Because of this, I need to remind you that I have always proved to be a friend to you in the trials of your early days as Henry’s wife, when you were anxious and alone in Rouen, a new bride laid low with illness. Remember when, in your pregnancy, you asked for and received advice because, with children of my own, I was able to give it four-fold. And I gave it willingly, and with much affection and respect for your dignity as a somewhat neglected young wife.
Now those we love and esteem are brought together, by fate, on a battlefield.
As women we can change that outcome. We are not without influence. We should not waste our days in devising vengeance for past slights.
I beg you, your grace, use sweet words to draw our King back from the brink. As I will use mine with my lord the Duke of York.
Your defeat at Blore Heath at the hands of my brother, the Earl of Salisbury, will sit ill with you, but now is the time to negotiate and heal the wounds. If we cannot extricate ourselves from this tangled mess, the fields beside Ludford Bridge may well be soaked in English blood before nightfall tomorrow.
With all humble reverence,
Your lowly servant
Cecily, Duchess of York
Keep your eyes peeled for more letters on the blog, coming soon.