Monday, September 30, 2013

The Death of Napoleon part 4

Sketch of Napoleon

Explaining the Arsenic

An interesting study by David Jones of the University of Newcastle casts doubts on the arsenic poisoning theory. An examination of the wallpaper at Longwood House reveals a relatively high level of arsenic, used at that time to produce a green pigment, "Scheele's Green." In the damp environment of St. Helena, it would be possible to speculate that mold, forming on the clammy walls, would metabolize the green pigment releasing arsenic in the form of gas. Such exposure could produce a condition known as "Gosio's Disease," with symptoms of chronic arsenic poisoning. This would explain the high levels of arsenic in Napoleon's hair. Whether this theory would explain the intermittent levels of arsenic found by Smith is problematic, since one would expect a constant level. A counter argument to this would be that the intermittent levels could be correlated with seasonable changes of alternating periods of damp and dry. The wallpaper theory remains interesting, but inconclusive. If it were possible to obtain hair samples from others who were living at Longwood during that period, and if those samples also contained high levels of arsenic, then the theory would be more credible.
It has been noted by Karlen and others that many medicines used at the time contained small amounts of arsenic, as well as mercury and antimony. Could these have been the sources for the arsenic in Napoleon's hair? Further, the presence of mercury and antimony can confuse an analysis designed to assay for arsenic.
There is a dispute about the relative amounts of arsenic. Is it possible that, considering the wallpaper and arsenic-based medicines, the arsenic levels are not all that much higher than normal? After all, it is argued, arsenic may have been more prevalent in the environment of St. Helena than has been formerly recognized.
Finally, there is dispute over the accuracy of dating the hair samples purportedly from Napoleon. One difficult finding is that a sample identified as being from 1808 — well before the period of exile — contains higher than normal levels of arsenic. Either Napoleon was ingesting arsenic well before any plot to poison him, or the dating of the samples is wrong.
There seems to be a distaste for the arsenic murder theory, as if it is an unseemly interpretation of history. There are some perplexing issues, nonetheless. If the issue is one of general environmental poisoning by arsenic, why was Napoleon the only one seriously afflicted? If poisoning was not going on, what killed — suddenly and painfully — Cipriani and the two servants? Apart from Cipriani and the two servants, there is no evidence for symptoms of arsenic poisoning among other members of the household.
The most reasonable conclusion, given the circumstantial evidence and Napoleon's symptoms, is that arsenic poisoning was the cause of Napoleon's death, and that it was most likely administered by Montholon.

Who's Buried in Napoleon's Tomb?

Napoleon's Tomb at Les Invalides, Paris
Napoleon's Tomb at Les
Invalides, Paris
At first blush, the idea that Napoleon did not die on May 5, 1821, and that he escaped from St. Helena, is much like the bizarre theory that Hitler survived to a ripe old age in the mountains of Argentina. It is the wishful thinking of conspiracy buffs.
But there may be more to such a theory than mere wishful thinking. It has been established that Napoleon used impersonators throughout the years of ruling France. Could this be the case of the ultimate use of a double?
Several authors, most notably Thomas Wheeler (1974), have proposed that sometime in the early years of exile on St. Helena, one of Napoleon's doubles was recruited to take his place. Wheeler's analysis suggests that Sgt. Pierrre Robeaud (elsewhere identified as Francois Eugene Robeaud), while in the first stages of stomach cancer, was induced to take Napoleon's place. It is he, Robeaud, who eventually succumbed to stomach cancer and it is he who is buried in the church of the Invalides.
There are just enough strange facts to give impetus to such a theory. Robeaud, impoverished and living with his sister in the French village of Baleycourt, disappeared sometime in 1818. Reportedly, he was visited by Gourgard, who had left St. Helena in that year, suggesting that Gourgard was given the task of making the switch. His sister relocated to Tours, and lived in much more comfortable circumstances. In the small cemetery in Baleycourt is a modest monument — it is not clear if it is over a grave — that states "Francois Eugene Robeaud, born 1771, died on St. Helena (illegible date)". 
Wheeler notes that the various memoirs suggest marked changes in Napoleon's behavior from 1819 on. He was no longer the defiant emperor, no longer active and energetic. Wheeler gathers a series of coincidences to produce, in 210 pages, a plausible scenario. Ley's novel and the Ian Holm film (as described in the next chapter) use this premise — the substitution of a double for Napoleon — as the basis for their entertaining artistic endeavors.
As a bittersweet conclusion to the story, Wheeler suggests that Napoleon, having fled to Verona and living under an assumed name ("Revard"), was killed in 1823 when he attempted to scale a wall outside the Castle Schonbrunn in Austria, hoping to see his son who was confined there and reportedly ill with scarlet fever.
To accept this theory and its variations, one has to assume a plot of elaborate proportions. A significant number of the members of the Longwood household would have to have been involved, and would have to have held their silence. The complications of getting Napoleon off the island and to Italy, of secreting his double onto St. Helena and into Longwood House, were many. It is difficult to imagine that his exchange could be successfully accomplished.
All in all, as romantic and appealing as this theory is, it seems an unlikely explanation for the fate of Napoleon.

Portrait of the Murderer

Portrait of Louis Phillipe of France
Portrait of Louis Phillipe of
In October 1840 after King Louis-Phillipe had bowed to pressure from Napoleonists who were agitating for the return of their hero's remains from St. Helena, a delegation of Napoleon's companions in exile was sent to accompany his body back to Paris. All who were alive and mobile accepted the invitation. One who could not was Charles de Montholon.
Bertrand, now 67-years-old, made the trip. His wife, Fanny, had died in 1836. Las Cases, old and blind, was represented by his son, Emmanuel, who had lived at Longwood with his father when he was a boy. None of the doctors, particularly the two of longest tenure on the island, O'Meara and Antommarchi, were there, since they both had died some years before. The faithful Louis Marchand, middle-aged and prosperous, was there.
DeMontholon was not there because he was in jail.
After Napoleon's death, deMontholon carried on with his career as a political confidence man, a career that had begun well before joining Napoleon on St. Helena. Of the inheritance due him from Napoleon's will, he collected 1.5 million francs. By 1829, he had squandered the entire amount. He connected once more with Charles X, from whom Forshufvud and Weider suggest he had received his orders to murder Napoleon, but the connection was of little use, since, by 1830, the devious Charles had been ousted.
Portrait of Louis Bonaparte
Portrait of Louis Bonaparte
Early in 1840, while King Louis-Phillipe was trying to decide whether to bring Napoleon's body back to Paris, deMontholon, attached to Louis Bonaparte (who would become Napoleon III), attempted an invasion of France from his base in England. It was a grandiose, ill-conceived venture and, as with most aspects of deMontholon's life, unsuccessful. He was captured by French loyal to the government of King Louis-Phillipe, sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment, and by the time of the reunion in October on St. Helena he was beginning to serve his sentence.
In 1850, Louis Bonaparte, son of Napoleon's brother, became Napoleon III. (Of course, the famous Napoleon's son was Napoleon II, but he had died in 1832 at the age of 21.) Despite deMontholon's on-again-off-again allegiance to the Bonaparte family, there was no place for deMontholon in Napoleon III's government. After having served six years of his 20-year sentence, deMontholon died in obscurity in 1853.
Portrait of Count de Montholon
Portrait of Count de Montholon
If Napoleon was murdered, and if deMontholon was the murderer, he never told. His memoir is self-serving and reveals nothing that would implicate him. His wife's reminiscences suggest that she knew nothing of her husband's plot. No other memoirist of the era mentions deMontholon as a potential murderer. If deMontholon has any legacy, it is, at best, one of villainy and opportunism, or, at worst, as the murderer of the most important figure of the 19th century, or, in the eyes of some, the most important figure in European history.
DeMontholon may be forgotten, except by those who are captivated by the circumstances of Napoleon's death. Not so Emperor Napoleon I. He is as close to eternal fascination as we can get when it comes to the study of history and political science. No year will pass — indeed, no month — without a new consideration of Napoleon's life, career, influence and place in history.
Only a genius like Shakespeare could find the words to do Napoleon justice. Shakespeare has Cassius describe Julius Caesar. The words could apply to Napoleon.
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
— Julius Caesar, Act I, scene ii

An interview with a Queen Margaret

Sarah Fallon as Queen Margaret in Henry VI Part 2, and the headline: A Queen's Progression: Acting a Three-Play Arc. Photo by Tommy Thompson, American Shakespeare Company
The list of Shakespeare’s iconic female characters is long. Certainly, most people would include Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, Beatrice, Viola, and Rosalind; perhaps Desdemona, Hermione, Juliet, Titania, and the shrewish Kate, too. These are the parts actresses clamor to play at least once in their careers.
Sarah Fallon believes another part should be on that list, the antecedent to all of those other Shakespearean women: Margaret of Anjou, who first appears in Henry VI, Part 1, and becomes queen and such a force in Parts 2 and 3 that Shakespeare inserted her, unhistorically, into Richard III. Fallon played Margaret in the Henry plays over three seasons for the American Shakespeare Center at the Blackfriars Theatre in Staunton, Va., and in method and manner she played the part as perhaps no woman has done before (as a boy has, yes; as a woman, probably not).
“There’s not anybody who gets the scope Shakespeare’s given Margaret,” Fallon said. This from an actress who has played Rosalind, Titania, Beatrice twice and Kate three times, as well as a few other strong Shakespearean women, such as Regan in King Lear, Isabella in Measure for Measure, and Tamora in Titus Andronicus. “And it’s funny to me, too, because I feel like she’s often overlooked. I think that even if you talk to Shakespearean actresses, and ask them what roles do you want to play and what roles do you admire, Margaret very rarely comes up. It’s probably because these plays are done so infrequently, and because people hear a history title and they go ‘ewwww! that’s got to be really boring.’ But these Henry VI plays are anything but boring, and they have this great female role in it.”
Most audiences have only seen Margaret in Richard III (when directors don’t cut her out of the play altogether) and, based on those encounters, would tend to see her as some crazy lady with a grudge. This reputation Fallon considers totally unfair. “I believe that [the Henry VI plays] should be standard reading, or viewing if at all possible, for anyone who goes to see Richard III, especially from Margaret’s perspective, to get a sense of what many of these characters have already been through—and that's a hell of a lot,” she said. “Margaret is not just some crazed bitch walking around court cursing people—she has a lot of reasons why she is the way that she is.” Indeed, only one character introduced in Henry VI, Part 1, is still alive at the end of Richard III: Margaret. “Shakespeare probably found her extremely interesting, and it’s way more interesting to have Margaret alive than dead,” Fallon said.
The few times the Henry VI plays are produced, companies often conflate the three plays into two parts (and sometimes add Richard into a three-play set) or stage all three in repertoire for one season. ASC offered up the Henry trilogy one part at a time one season after another, from 2009 to 2011, with Richard III on the 2012 schedule. Thus, Fallon, in a sense, grew up with the part. Though she first met Margaret in a production of Richard III, in which the actress played Elizabeth, Fallon had never read or seen theHenry VI plays before playing Margaret in Part 1. At the time, she couldn’t reconcile the romantic young duke’s daughter with the “crazed bitch” of the fourth play, and the only thing she knew of Margaret’s subsequent behavior in the rest of the trilogy was that she, as queen, would be cuddling the severed head of her illicit lover in full view of the king and his lords. A year later, a year older, Fallon played Margaret as the scourge of England in Part 2, relishing the head scene most of all. “It didn’t take much to get where I needed to go,” she said. “It was a woman who had lost her love walking on stage with his head.” Another year of the actress’s life would pass before she re-emerged on the Blackfriars stage as the she-wolf with a tiger’s heart in Part 3. She’s now totally reconciled to being a crazed bitch next year as she's been tapped to play the queen again in Richard III.
For professional reasons and historical purposes, Fallon did not read ahead to Parts 2and 3 for her role in Part 1. ASC performs in the world’s only replica of the Blackfriars, the indoor theater used by Shakespeare’s company, with the same staging conditions The King’s Men would have known: namely, universal lighting, no electronic effects, and an audience all around, including on the stage (the “gallants' stools”) and in the gallery above. ASC also uses the tradition of cross-gender casting, but with 21st century equal opportunity. Thus, King Henry was played by actresses, Alyssa Wilmoth in Part 1and Denice Burbach in Part 2, before an actor took on the role in Part 3, Gregory Jon Phelps, who had played Suffolk in the first two parts. Miriam Donald played the part of her son, Prince Edward, “Ned,” in Part 3. The actors also perform music—usually pop rock and country songs echoing the play’s themes—before the play and during the intervals.
Portrait of Sarah Fallon
Furthermore, the Henry VI series was produced as part of ASC’s annual Actors’ Renaissance Season (which the actors call “The Ren Season” for short) in which the company replicates the production principles of Shakespeare’s time. Each of the 13 actors receives only his or her parts (many double and triple roles in a single play, such as Chris Johnston playing Clifford, King Lewis of France, and Hastings inPart 3) plus cue lines. They must memorize their lines, come up with their own costumes and props (including the above-mentioned head of Margaret’s lover), and, with no director, work out all the scenes, including blocking, in a rehearsal time totaling about 50 hours per play. All of this happens in a repertoire of five plays being staged in like manner, including three by Shakespeare contemporaries, a couple of those often making their North American debuts. A prompter is on hand for any actor who forgets a line and calls “prithee”; it happens, at most, once or twice per play, but resulted in a genuinely sweet moment in Henry VI, Part 1, when Phelps as Suffolk lost his place in the meeting scene with Margaret: “Prithee!” he called. “She’s beautiful,” the prompter intoned. “She is beautiful!” Suffolk cooed as if confirming the prompter’s opinion.
In the Blackfriars environment and the Ren Season conditions, Fallon took on the job of playing Margaret over three successive years in much the same way the very first Margaret himself would have. “I like the fact that I’m not looking so ahead, where I’m going, ‘Well, now I’ve got to set myself up for this’ and I’m just playing what’s there,” she said. “I’m trying to play what’s there in the story and what Shakespeare’s given me and where she is.”
It may be the best way to totally appreciate this character of Shakespeare’s, then a novice playwright, as it comes to life on a bare stage with other players birthing their own characters and no midwife director imposing extra-contextual interpretations and inventions. What we see with this purest of Margarets is a part that not only paved the way for all of Shakespeare’s iconic females to follow, but a character so popular in 1592—the first reference to Shakespeare as a playwright in London quotes one of Margaret’s lines—that the playwright found a way to bring her back for Richard III (making Margaret a forerunner of Indiana Jones and Jack Sparrow, too; even Falstaff didn’t make it to a fourth play, as Shakespeare promised he would). “You get to go through so much playing this woman, especially if you get to play her—if you are lucky enough to play her—in all three parts; and separate productions of all three parts,” Fallon said.
A native of Texas, Fallon earned her bachelor’s of arts in theatre at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and a master’s of fine arts in acting at the University of Delaware. She worked four seasons at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (2001–2003 and 2007) and has been with ASC off-and-on since 2004, playing 52 roles in 39 productions.
On a rare moment of relaxation for Fallon—the fifth and final play of the Actors’ Renaissance Season’s repertoire, when Thomas Middleton’sA Trick to Catch the Old Ones had just opened four days before—my wife, Sarah, and I sat down with the actress March 29, 2011, over wine in the lounge of the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton, Va., and afterward dinner at the Mill Street Grill to talk about Shakespeare’s great Queen Margaret.




Time Death and Judgment

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Morgan le Fay

The Death of Napoleon part 3

Evidence for the Murder

Portrait of Longwood House, St. Helena
Portrait of Longwood House, St. Helena
It was three a.m. Longwood House was quiet and still.
The dark-clad man held his candle over the open crate of bottles. He removed one, looked at the label — Vin d'Empereur — and with a gloved hand wiped away the thin layer of dust. Carefully, he extracted the cork. From his jacket pocket, he removed a small folded paper, unfolded it and funneled a small amount of white powder along the crease of the paper into the bottle. He replaced the cork, gently screwing it into the mouth of the bottle until only a scant inch appeared above the lip. Then, softly, he walked down the corridor to the kitchen, where he placed the bottle on a tray, next to the crystal goblet reserved for the exclusive use of Napoleon Bonaparte.
He blew out the candle and quietly returned to his room.
Ten days later, again at three a.m., he repeated the process.
Napoleon's exile on St. Helena was chronicled by a number of memoirs by those who were with him during some or all of the period of 1815 to 1821. His painful last days are most completely recorded by his valet, Marchand.
Portrait of Louis Marchand
Portrait of Louis Marchand
However — and this becomes pivotal to our story — Marchand's memoir was not published until 1955. In that year, a dentist and amateur toxicologist, and, most importantly, a dedicated collector of Napoleana, happened upon Marchant's recently published work. Whether the reading of this work provided the dentist, Sten Forshufvud, with a revelation, or whether it confirmed a long-held belief that Napoleon could not have died of natural causes, is not clear. What is clear is that Forshufvud began an investigation that has led to the most controversial and interesting aspect of the death of Napoleon.
In his study in his home in Goteborg, Sweden, with portraits and busts of his hero looking down on him, Sten Forshufvud systematically correlated the symptoms of Napoleon's last days with those of arsenic poisoning. Each miserable day of Napoleon's last month had been described by Marchand, and each unfortunate symptom was noted and compared. Forshufvud was sufficiently knowledgeable about poisons to recognize that Napoleon's agonies had more in common with chronic, slowly administered arsenic poisoning than with stomach cancer. Most of all, Forshufvud thought, the telling fact that Napoleon's body, 19 years after its initial burial, was miraculously preserved convinced him that the preservative powers of arsenic had saved an unembalmed body from decay.
Thus began Forshufvud's search for evidence, a pursuit that would take three years and visits to several countries. The evidence for arsenic poisoning, he believed, could be found in Napoleon's hair. He found samples. The prevailing custom in Napoleon's time was for famous people to give locks of hair as keepsakes to favored friends. Also, upon Napoleon's death, his hair was cut and his head shaved, and these samples of the great man's hair were dispersed to members of Napoleon's household. With the hair properly dated and the provenance of each sample confirmed, Forshufvud would be able to find the evidence he needed.
There were two issues: First, it was necessary to prove that arsenic levels in Napoleon's hair were higher than normal. Since the working hypothesis was that arsenic had been administered to Napoleon in small amounts over a relatively long period of time — to simulate a lingering illness — the levels did not have to be extraordinarily high. Second, if the locks of hair could be specifically dated, then the arsenic levels could be correlated with Napoleon's symptoms, recorded by Marchand on almost a daily basis.
Fortunately, a new and precise technique for detecting arsenic in minute quantities had recently been developed by Hamilton Smith of the University of Glasgow. Forshufvud prevailed upon Smith to help him. The first samples did reveal higher than normal levels of arsenic. After some additional searching for hair samples, Forshufvud and Smith proceeded on the premise that, since hair grows at the rate of three inches per month, it might be possible to examine individual sections of a hair and correlate the arsenic levels with precise dates. Using Marchand's memoir — essentially a diary — such correlations could be made. All this, over a period of a year, was accomplished.
There was no doubt in Forshufvud's mind. Napoleon had been murdered by ingesting small amounts of arsenic over a period of several years.
After the publication of these results by Smith and Forshufvud, a Canadian businessman and president of the North American Napoleonic Society, Ben Weider, became involved. First, with Forshufvud, and then with David Hapgood, Weider transformed the arsenic data into a fully rounded theory of murder.

The Murder Theory

Portrait of Emmanuel Las Cases
Portrait of Emmanuel Las
If Napoleon was poisoned, who could have done it? What was the motive?
One fact was clear: Whoever was the murderer had to have been on St. Helena for the entire period of Napoleon's captivity. This ruled out LasCases (to whom Napoleon dictated his memoirs), who left St. Helena in 1818. It ruled out his general assistant, the cranky Gourgard, who left later the same year. Since the doctors attending Napoleon came and went with regularity, the murderer was unlikely to have been one of them (although two of them may have been unwitting accomplices, as we shall see).
That left, according to Weider's analysis, one of two possibilities: Either Hudson Lowe, representing the fear and loathing the English had for their captive, was instrumental in the plot, or someone within Napoleon's household was responsible.
Portrait of Fanny Bertrand
Portrait of Fanny Bertrand
The first possibility is unlikely. Lowe, bearing the burden of being Napoleon's jailor, tried time and again to suppress any indication that the English were mistreating their famous captive. The last thing that the English or the European powers needed was for Napoleon to become a martyr. Also, there was the difficulty of access to Napoleon. After 1816, the imperially minded Napoleon and the taciturn Lowe never met. The English garrison charged with observing Napoleon rarely came in actual contact with him, merely noting his presence twice daily. It might have been possible for Lowe to work through his physicians, but all of them fell under the spell of the charming Napoleon and could not be trusted by Lowe.
Lowe is an interesting character. He was reviled by Napoleon's supporters as a vindictive, small-minded bureaucrat. By the English establishment, he was a loyal commander performing difficult duties for the foreign powers who had entrusted him with the responsibility of guarding the famous prisoner. He was probably a bit of both characterizations. Giles (2001) presents two illustrations of Lowe: One, an English version, shows a gentle, almost insipid Lowe; the other, French, portrays Lowe as a scowling martinet.
Portrait of Countess de Montholon
Portrait of Countess de
So it seems unlikely that there was an opportunity for the English to administer poison to Napoleon, nor any advantage for them to make Napoleon, by killing him, a rallying point for the discontented masses of Europe.
This brought Weider to the second, more promising possibility. Someone in Napoleon's household wanted him dead.
Four individuals were with Napoleon to the last. The loyal valet, Marchant, who tenderly cared for his master, was an unlikely candidate, with very little motive — a modest inheritance from Napoleon's estate upon the emperor's death. Then, there were the Bertrands, the Grand Marshall and his wife, who lived about a mile from Longwood. Again, they could expect a small bequest, certainly not enough to kill for, although one could argue that their long service on god-forsaken St. Helena had worn down their loyalty.
No, thought Weider, there was only one possibility left: Count deMontholon.
Portrait of Count  de Montholon
Portrait of Count de Montholon
There were several reasons for suspecting deMontholon. First, Countess deMontholon, who had left St. Helena in late 1819 with her newborn daughter (named Napoleana) might have been Napoleon's mistress during her time on St. Helena. Some thought Napoleana could have been fathered by Napoleon. The countess — and Mrs. Bertrand as well — had read a book about a murder by chronic arsenic poisoning while on St. Helena. Could deMontholon have gotten the idea for his murder from his wife?
Second, deMontholon had a very shady history. In addition to vacillating in his loyalty (from 1809 to 1815) between the Bourbon monarchy and Napoleon, he had strong ties to the most notable Napoleon-hater among the Bourbons, Louis XVIII's younger brother, the Duke of Artois, later Charles X, King of France. DeMontholon had also been charged with the theft of funds meant for his own troops, but escaped punishment. How he charmed his way into Napoleon's household, and continued to charm the exiled emperor, is a mystery. He seems to have been successful in manipulating Napoleon, eventually displacing Bertrand as Napoleon's most trusted aide.
DeMontholon was also the primary beneficiary of Napoleon's considerable estate, and helped his master draft his will. Hence, he had motives aplenty: jealousy, the pursuit of political favor, and profit.
The Duke of Artois, later Charles X
The Duke of Artois, later
Charles X
Finally, in his position as steward of the Longwood household, he had exclusive access to Napoleon's wine, wine reserved exclusively for the emperor. Since this was the only thing that Napoleon ingested that was not eaten or drunk by anyone else, it is the most likely source for the small amount of tasteless arsenic that had to be administered over a long period of time.
But did Napoleon actually die from the administered arsenic? The story is a bit more complicated. The conclusion reached by Weider and others is that the arsenic, in combination with the antimony and mercury-based purges and emetics given to Napoleon (the mistaken but common medical practice of the time) plus Napoleon's consumption of large amounts of a sweet drink called orgeat (to slake his thirst from the arsenic) all combined to kill him. On top of the arsenic, antimony and mercury, orgeat is made from the tincture of apricots which contain prussic acid — hydrocyanic acid.
Count deMontholon, then, was Napoleon's murderer. Forshufvud and Weider were not only convinced, but their arguments have convinced a number of authorities.
But not all.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Detail of the magnificent tomb chest that bears the effigy of Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick in the chapel he founded at St Mary's, Warwick. This effigy is that of his daughter-in-law, Lady Cecily Neville.
Detail of the magnificent tomb chest that bears the effigy of Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick in the chapel he founded at St Mary’s, Warwick. This effigy is that of his daughter-in-law, Lady Cecily Neville.
Lady Cecily Neville, Duchess of Warwick, Countess of Worcester (c.1425[2][5] – 26 July 1450[3]) was the second child and daughter of Sir Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury and Lady Alice Montacute, suo jure 5th Countess of Salisbury.[2] Her nine siblings included Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick; John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu; George Neville, (Archbishop of York and Chancellor of England); Sir Thomas Neville; Lady Joan, Countess of Arundel; Lady Katherine, Baroness Hastings; Lady Alice, Baroness FitzHugh; Lady Eleanor, Countess of Derby; and Lady Margaret, Countess of Oxford.[2]
She was most likely named after her paternal aunt, Lady Cecily Neville, later Duchess of York.[2] Her first cousins by the Duchess of York included Anne of York; Edmund, Earl of Rutland; Elizabeth of York; Margaret of York; George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence; and Kings Edward IV and Richard III. Other cousins included John Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk; Lord Humphrey Stafford, 7th Earl of Stafford [father of 2nd Duke of Buckingham]; Lady Katherine Stafford, Countess of Shrewsbury [wife of the 3rd Earl]; Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland; Ralph, 2nd Earl of Westmorland; George Neville, 4th and 2nd Baron of Abergavenny; Thomas Dacre, 1st Baron Dacre of Gillesland; and Ralph Greystoke, 5th Baron.
In 1436, it was decided that Cecily would marry Henry de Beauchamp, Lord Despenser (later 1st Duke of Warwick and King of the Isle of Wight, as well as of Jersey and Guernsey).[2] Henry was the son and heir of son of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick and Lady Isabel le Despenser, the sole heiress of Thomas le Despenser, 1st Earl of Gloucester (d.1399) by his wife, Constance of York. At the same time, it was decided that her elder brother, Richard, would marry Beauchamp’s younger sister, Lady Anne.[2] The marriage negotiations were not easy or inexpensive; Salisbury had to promise to pay Warwick a large sum of 4, 700 marks (£3, 233.66).[2] In 1436, the two couples married in a double marriage ceremony.[2]

Warwick Inheritance

The advantage of this marriage, which came in the form of Cecily’s husband being created Duke of Warwick on 14 April 1445, was short lived as her husband died on 11 June 1446 and the couple’s only daughter, Lady Anne Beauchamp, was allowed to succeed only as suo jure 15th Countess of Warwick. Upon the death of Cecily’s daughter in 1449, the title was inherited by her paternal aunt, also named Lady Anne Beauchamp. Lady Anne, who had married Cecily’s brother Sir Richard Neville, becamesuo jure 16th Countess of Warwick thus making Neville jure uxoris 16th Earl of Warwick. There were no objections as the elder half-sisters from the 13th Earl of Warwick’s marriage to his first wife, Elizabeth Berkeley; their husband’s, John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, were off defending Normandy.[2] The third half-sister had been married to George Neville, 1st Baron Latimer who had been declared insane and his brother Salisbury already possessed his lands.[2] The three sisters had to settle for nine manors, while the Despenser lands were preserved for George Neville, later 4th Baron Bergavenny, the heir of the 16th Countess of Warwick’s maternal sister, Lady Elizabeth Beauchamp, suo jure Baroness Bergavenny.[2] Cecily and her second husband, the Earl of Worcester, however had custody of the land up until two months before Cecily died in July 1540.[2] Upon that time, the lands were handed over to Cecily’s brother, Warwick.[2] However in 1457, when Bergavenny became of age — the rights were ignored and Warwick’s wife, Anne, became the sole heiress of her mother’s inheritance in the first parliament of Edward IV in 1461.[2] Both Warwick and Bergavenny were cousins to the King, however Warwick was the older brother of Bergavenny’s father. Warwick’s wife was also the daughter of the 13th Earl of Warwick, who was senior to his cousin, Richard Beauchamp, 1st Earl of Worcester — first husband of Lady Isabel le Despenser.
Warwick was a supporter of the House of York until the Battle of Barnet when he and Oxford both sided with the Lancastrian King.[2]
Her second husband was John Tiptoft, 1st Earl of Worcester. They had no children.
Lady Cecily, the Dowager Duchess of Warwick and Countess of Worcester was buried in 1450 with her first husband, the Duke of Warwick, at Tawkesbury Abbey; no monument.[1] Warwick was buried at his own request between the stalls in the choir in 1446. At the time the choir was repaved in 1875, a grave of stone filled with rubble was found together with some bones of a man of herculean size. These, no doubt, were those of the Duke who was buried here. The large marble slab that formerly covered the grave disappeared early in this century but the brasses that were originally in it had been taken away long before, Cecily, the Dowager Duchess of Warwick was buried in the same place on 31 July 1450.[3][4]
Effigy of John Tiptoft and his two wives which included Cecily, Dowager Duchess of Warwick.
Effigy of John Tiptoft and his second and third wives, Elizabeth Greyndour and Elizabeth Hopton at Ely Cathedral
Cecily is portrayed on the tomb of her father-in-law, Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, within the Chapel. The Purbeck Marble tomb chest is decorated with a superb and complete set of 14 gilt bronze mourners (all male to the south, all female to the north) complimented by 18 smaller figures of angels. The mourners are identified by their enamelled coats of arms which survive beneath them. English medieval bronze sculpture of this kind (c.1460), of this quality and in such excellent preservation is extremely rare! (Aidan McRae Thomson)
The 1448 contract for making this tomb survives: it indicates that it is not a portrait and refers to the following who were involved in its making: John Bourde of Corfe supplied the Purbeck Marble, William Austen of London cast the metal, John Massingham, carver, made the model, Bartholomew Lambespring, goldsmith, polished and gilded the effigy; one Roger Webb is also referred to in this contract but it is not known what his role was in the construction. A separate contract of the following year with William Austen to cast the effigy. A third contract of 1453 is for brass plates for the lid, sides and the hearse; in this contract John Essex of London, marbler and Thomas Stevyns of London, coppersmith, also appear with William Austen.
Cast gilt bronze effigy in armour on a Purbeck marble tomb chest. The Earl’s hands are held in a curious separated position. Head on helmet with crest of a swan and his feet on both a bear and griffin. The details of the armour are very fine. Charles Stothard lifted the effigy down from the tomb chest to draw its dorsal surface where the armour is again shown in very fine detail. Over the whole is a hooped framework – the ‘hearse’ referred to above; this would have supported a fabric cover and only be removed when masses were said for his soul. Around the tomb chest are gilt bronze ‘mourners’ – seven male and seven female. The mourners include the 13th Earl’s children and in-laws. They include [among others] his son Henry who became Duke of Warwick, his daughter-in-law Duchess Cecily [daughter of the 5th Earl of Salisbury], the 5th Earl and Countess of Salisbury [Richard Neville and Lady Alice Montacute], his daughter Lady Anne [sister of the Duke] and her husband Richard Neville [brother of Duchess Cecily], who inherited the Beauchamp estates to become Earl and Countess of Warwick.[6]
Richard Beauchamp fought with Henry IV and Henry V and was guardian of the infant Henry VI. At the time of his death he was Governor of Normandy.
Ancestry of Cecily, Duchess of Warwick
Ancestry of Cecily, Duchess of Warwick


  1. Henri Jean Louis Joseph Massé. “The Abbey Church of Tewkesbury:with some account of the Priory Church of Deerhurst, Gloucestershire,” G. Bell. 1906. pg 79.
  2. David Baldwin. “The Kingmaker’s Sisters: Six Powerful Women in the Wars of the Roses,” The History Press; First Edition edition, 1 August 2009.
  3. Michael Hicks. “Warwick, the Kingmaker,” John Wiley & Sons, 15 April 2008. pg 47.
  4. G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume XII/2, page 845.
  5. The eldest child of the Salisbury’s, Lady Joan (later Countess of Arundel) was born before 2 November 1424. Lady Cecily, the second child, was followed by Richard Neville (later 16th Earl of Warwick) in 1428. Cecily is noted to be born shortly after Joan in Baldwin’s “The Kingmaker’s Sisters.
  6. Anne MacGee Morganstern, John A. A. Goodall. “Gothic Tombs of Kinship in France, the Low Countries, and England,” Penn State Press, Jan 1, 2000. pg 137.