The Queen’s Rival: Letter Three

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. Our third letter features our Katherine, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, writing to her sister (and our protagonist) Cecily, Duchess of York.


Katherine, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, to Cecily, once Duchess of York

Written from Epworth

My dear Cis,

How should I address you? Dame Cecily?

Reading between Anne’s caustic lines, it seems that I am chosen by you to be a conduit for treasonable communication. Have I read it correctly? I doubt you would need my counsel. Even if I gave it, you would probably ignore it.

Should I agree to be part of your conspiracy? Anne has warned me off any attempt to help you reach out to York or our family in Calais. Did you know they are all safe? Our brother and nephew and of course Ned slipped happily into Calais through an unguarded postern gate, where, as Captain of Calais, Warwick was made very welcome. Richard and Edmund are now safe in Dublin.

Beaumont is furious that the Queen’s party cannot get their hands on them. I have commiserated with him, of course. He makes no concession that it is my brother he is condemning. Beaumont is a man without sensitivity.

I await your letters with eager anticipation, even if I have still not decided what I will do about them. My husband would deny me the freedom to comply with any of your wishes. How exciting! How tempting! I rarely refuse an opportunity to put a spoke in Beaumont’s wheel. His stand against the House of York at Coventry was deplorably self-interested. But then, are we not all so motivated?

Not least you, Cis.

Please pass the enclosed to Anne. She was desirous of receiving it. I do not recall eating it with any pleasure, but then I am not fond of eels. Nor can I recall our mother the Countess of Westmorland ever being ecstatic when they appeared on the table during Lent.

Anne says that your face is acquiring the prints of old age and worry. I don’t believe her, but try a daily decoction of ground lily-root mixed with egg and vinegar to hold the ravages at bay. Let me know if it is efficacious. I may make use of it.

Your loving sister,



If you enjoyed this letter, make sure to pick up The Queen’s Rival out now. Available on Amazon, Waterstones, Hive and your local bookshop.

Keep your eyes peeled for more letters on the blog, coming soon.

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