Cecily BONVILLE

(M. Dorset)

Born: 30 Jun 1460, Shute Manor, Shute, near Axminster, Devon, England

Died: 12 May 1529

Buried: Astley, Warwickshire, England

Father: William BONVILLE (2 B. Bonville and 6 Harrington)

Mother: Catherine NEVILLE (B. Ashby-Zouche)

Married 1: Thomas GREY (1 M. Dorset) 18 Jul 1474

Children:

1. Dorothy GREY (B. Willoughby of Broke)

2. Cecily GREY (B. Sutton of Dudley)

3. Mary GREY

4. Eleanor GREY

5. Elizabeth GREY (C. Kildare)

6. Thomas GREY (2 M. Dorset)

7. Leonard GREY (Lord Deputy of Ireland)

8. Edward GREY

9. Margaret GREY

10. John GREY

11. Richard GREY

12. George GREY (d. AFT 1523)

13. Bridget GREY

14. Anthony GREY

Married 2: Henry STAFFORD (3 E. Wiltshire) 22 Nov 1503


Cecily Bonville was born on or about 30 Jun 1460 at Shute Manor in Shute near Axminster, Devon, England. She was the only child of William Bonville, 6th Baron Harington of Aldingham, and Catherine Neville, a younger sister of military commander Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, known to history as 'Warwick the Kingmaker'. Her family had acquired the barony of Harington through the marriage of her paternal grandfather, William Bonville, to Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of William Harington, 5th Baron Harington of Aldingham.

When Cecily was just six months old, both her father, Lord Harington and grandfather, William Bonville, were executed following the disastrous Battle of Wakefield on 30 Dec 1460. The Bonvilles, having fought on the Yorkist side, were shown no mercy from the victorious Queen of England, Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI of England who headed the Lancastrian faction, and were thus swiftly decapitated on the battlefield. Cecily's maternal grandfather, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, was also executed after the battle. In less than two months, the Yorkists suffered another major defeat at the Second Battle of St Albans on 17 Feb 1461, and Queen Margaret, in an act of vengeance, ordered the execution of Cecily's great-grandfather, William Bonville, 1st Baron Bonville (b. 30 Aug 1393 d. 18 Feb 1461), the next day. These executions left Cecily Bonville the wealthiest heiress in England, having inherited numerous estates in the West Country, as well as manors in Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, and Cumberland. She succeeded to the title of suo jure 7th Baroness Harington of Aldingham, on 30 Dec 1460, and the suo jure title of 2nd Baroness Bonville, on 18 Feb 1461.

Shortly before 6 Feb 1462, her mother re-married. Cecily's stepfather was William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings, one of the most powerful men in England, and a personal advisor to King Edward IV. In addition to her own dowry, Catherine Neville brought the wardship of Cecily to her new husband. By Lord Hastings, Catherine had three surviving sons, Edward Hastings, 2nd Baron Hastings, Richard and William; and a daughter, Anne Hastings who married George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, by whom she had issue.

On 18 Jul 1474, about two and a half weeks after her fourteenth birthday, Cecily married Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset, the eldest son of King Edward's queen consort, Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband, Sir John Grey of Groby, a Lancastrian knight. It was Thomas's second marriage, and Cecily's first. At the time of Cecily's marriage to Thomas, the latter held the title of Earl of Huntingdon; he resigned this peerage a year later in 1475, when he was created Marquess of Dorset.

Cecily's husband shared the same mistress, Jane Shore with his stepfather King Edward. Upon the latter's death in Apr 1483, Jane became the mistress of Cecily's stepfather Lord Hastings. Jane was instrumental in the latter's defection from the side of Richard, Duke of Gloucester. She persuaded him to join the Woodville family in a conspiracy aimed at removing Gloucester, and when Richard was apprised of Hastings' treachery, he ordered his immediate execution on 13 Jun 1483 at the Tower of London. Hastings was not attainted, however, and Cecily's mother was placed under Richard's protection.

Thomas Grey joined the rebellion of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham against King Richard; when this failed, he escaped to Brittany where he attached himself to Henry Tudor, who would ascend the English throne as Henry VII following the Battle of Bosworth on 22 Aug 1485.

Thomas and Cecily together had a total of fourteen children, among them: Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset; Leonard Grey, 1st Viscount Grane; Dorothy Grey, married firstly Robert Willoughby, 2nd Baron Willoughby de Broke, and secondly, William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy; Mary Grey, married to Walter Devereux, 1st Viscount Hereford; Elizabeth Grey, Maid of Honour to Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Queen Claude of France, married Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare; and Cecily Grey, married John Sutton, 3rd Baron Dudley.

In the 1490s, Cecily added a magnificent aisle to the Church of Ottery St Mary in Devon. This north aisle is known as the "Dorset Aisle". As Cecily had been present at the inauguration of the St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in 1476, she was inspired to design the north aisle at Ottery St Mary in a similar style.

Upon the death of Thomas Grey in Sep 1501, Cecily's eldest son Thomas inherited his title and some of his estates, however Cecily retained the greater portion of his lands and properties.

She married secondly on 22 Nov 1503 Henry Stafford, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, son of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, and Catherine Woodville, nineteen years her junior. Stafford paid King Henry VII the sum of 2,000 for permission to marry Cecily. Her son Thomas disapproved of the match, as he feared she would use her inheritance to endow her new husband at his own expense. Thomas also challenged Cecily's right to continue as his father's executor. This resulted in a great dispute that required the intervention of the King and royal council to prevent it from escalating. The settlement the crown dictated permitted Cecily to administer her late husband's estate until she had paid his debts, but prevented her from claiming her dower until she had transferred the remainder of her son's inheritance to him. The award also severely limited her power over her own inheritance: she was forced to bequeath all of it to Thomas when she died; until then, Cecily was allowed to grant lands worth up to 1,000 marks per annum for a limited number of years. The crown's decree limited her rights as an heiress in favour of her eldest son and the practise of primogeniture. Nearly two decades later, she and her son quarrelled again; on this occasion it was about their responsibilities towards Thomas's seven surviving siblings. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey intervened on behalf of Henry VIII and ordered both Cecily and Thomas to contribute to the dowries of her four daughters. She was also required to create annuities drawn from her own inheritance for her three younger sons.

Cecily made her last will on 6 Mar 1528. She died on 12 May 1529 at Shacklewell, in Hackney but is buried at Astley Church in Warwickshire, where her effigy (which has been damaged), can be seen alongside those of Sir Edward Grey and Elizabeth Talbot. Cecily is on the far left of the group wearing a pedimental head-dress, a high-cut kirtle, cote-hardie, and mantle, at the corners of which are two small dogs. She was not quite sixty-nine years old at the time of her death. Her second husband had died six years earlier.

One of Cecily Bonville's West Country estates, Sock Denny Manor in Somerset was farmed for 22 in 1527-28, and again, ten years after her death, in 1539-40.

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