Book Review: Cecily Bonville-Grey, Marchioness of Dorset by Sarah J Hodder

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Genre: History, nonfiction
Publisher: Chronos Books
Pub date: 25 February 2022

Cecily Bonville-Grey was one of the richest women of her time, inheriting the Harington and Bonville fortunes as a young child. In 1474, at the age of fifteen, she married Thomas Grey, the eldest son of Elizabeth Woodville from her first marriage to Sir John Grey. When Thomas was created Marquis of Dorset a year later, Cecily became the Marchioness of Dorset alongside him. During her lifetime she was connected to many of the fifteenth and sixteenth century personalities that we read about today. Her stepfather was William, Lord Hastings, her mother-in-law Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen. Her mother was a daughter of the great Neville family and her uncle was the Earl of Warwick, also known as the ‘kingmaker’ having assisted his cousin, Edward IV, in his path to the throne. Her second husband was a son of the ancient Stafford family and Lady Jane Grey was a direct descendant of hers. During the Wars of the Roses and the emergence of the new Tudor dynasty, Cecily was witness to many of the events that unfolded and her own story is intertwined with many of these events. Yet she remains relatively unknown. This is Cecily’s story.

Having read the first two of Hodder’s books, The Queen’s Sister’s and York Princesses I was really interested in reading her account of a much lesser known woman.

Before reading this I was aware Cecily married Thomas Grey, the son of Elizabeth Woodville but that was all I knew about her. She lived during one of the most turbulent times in England, the Wars of the Roses and faced the loss of family members as well as financial implications when her family came under suspicion. Thankfully, Cecily had her own fortune to rely upon, although this was later strained by her own children’s actions.

Although there are some direct records relating to Cecily, most of the evidence has to be interpreted from the men who were part of her life. Hodder has pieced this evidence together to give us insight into Cecily’s life, where she lived, how she used her fortune and of course her Will when she passed away.
From this it is apparent Cecily card deeply for her family especially her children but also took care of her tenants even granting a home to an elderly tenant for no rent.

Cecily certainly had some very influential family members including the Kingmaker and William Hastings but also left a legacy through her children including Lady Jane Grey. It is unfortunate Cecily’s tomb was damaged and Thomas Greys destroyed as I’m sure it would have been beautiful.

For someone lesser known Hodder has managed to bring Cecily out of the shadows and I found her to be a fascinating lady.

I’ve certainly enjoyed this book and learnt alot not just about Cecily but also her family as Hodder also includes a brief overview of what happened to her children.
A select bibliography provides material for those wishing to read more about the era and the family.

For anyone wishing to know about Cecily or the era from a female point of view this is ideal.

If you’d like to find out more about Sarah you can find her on Twitter

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