Cicely’s King Richard
We pick up this story in the early days of Richard III’s reign, when Elizabeth Woodville has gone into sanctuary in Westminster Abbey with her children, including her two eldest daughters, Elizabeth (Bess) and Cicely, after the death of Edward IV. Richard has been crowned King of England, acting on the belief that Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was bigamous, and his children by her therefore illegitimate and barred from succession to the throne. Henry Tudor lurks in the background and, thanks to the machinations of his mother, Margaret Beaufort, an agreement is made with Elizabeth Woodville that after his invasion of England and the deposition of Richard, he will marry Bess and so unite the houses of Lancaster and York.
In this novel the well-known story of Richard III’s reign as portrayed by the Tudor annals and by Shakespeare is refreshingly absent, and Richard is shown in a totally different light. Even so, it is as unconvincing as the famous hunchback portrayed by Lawrence Olivier. It is a well-known Tudor rumour that Richard poisoned his wife, Anne, to marry his niece, Bess, because Anne was unable to give him another legitimate heir after losing their only son, but in this version of the story it is Cecily whom Richard loves, and she him.
The author admits in her notes that she has no sound basis for writing this love story between Richard and Cicely, nor that of Cicely and John of Gloucester. In my opinion she has missed a golden opportunity for righting an historical wrong by letting her imagination totally run away with her – with the result that it does no more credit to Richard than the usual much-maligned version. Disappointing.