QUEEN BY RIGHT
The War of the Roses is familiar to almost everyone, as is the “infamous” Richard III, but few know of his mother, Cecily of York, whose blood flows in every British monarch from the 15th century to today. Smith portrays her as passionate, intelligent and courageous; Cecily speaks to modern-day feminists. Readers will be swept into her lush and fascinating tale that reads like the best of fiction yet resonates with reality.
Cecily quite literally rides into Richard of York’s life when she is 9 and he 13. In an era when arranged marriages prevail, theirs is a rare love match. When Richard becomes governor general of France, Cecily goes with him to Rouen. There she meets and befriends Joan of Arc, who prophesies that one day Cecily will be the mother of kings. When King Henry suffers a breakdown Richard returns to England as the country’s Protector. But others are not willing to accept this.
When war breaks out and Richard is forced to flee England for Ireland, Cecily remains at their home, Ludlow Castle, and faces down an enemy army. Eventually a victorious Richard returns and is declared Henry’s successor. The fight to hold onto the throne is long. When Richard is killed in battle Cecily mourns him, but works for the day their son Edward will be crowned king. (TOUCHSTONE, May, 528 pp., $16.99)