The Will of Cecily, Duchess of York

Here’s another will for you: that of Cecily, Duchess of York. Cecily signed her will on May 31, 1495, at her home of Berkhamsted Castle, a few days before her death. Her will appears in Wills From Doctors’ Commons, edited by John Gough Nichols and John Bruce and available on Google Books.

Cecily’s will takes up eight pages and is printed in a single paragraph. I have taken the liberty of breaking down the bequests into paragraphs to make it more readable.

Of the religious goods that Cecily gives so generously, an “abe” was an “alb,” a type of vestment. Likewise, I believe that “tencule” means “tunicle,” which is also a vestment. “Fanons” were strips of material worn on the left wrist.

A “dymysent” is a type of girdle; Henry VI gave the pregnant Margaret of Anjou one in 1453.

Cecily twice refers to her husband as being the father of Edward IV: a mere form of words, or perhaps a quiet refutation of the rumors that Edward IV was illegitimate? Wisely, Cecily makes no mention of her other royal son, Richard III.

It’s interesting to see which family members received bequests. All of Cecily’s granddaughters through Edward IV–the queen, Bridget (a nun), Cecily, Anne, and Katherine–were remembered. The duchess’s two grandchildren by George, Duke of Clarence, aren’t named: Cecily might have thought it unwise to leave anything to her grandson Edward, Earl of Warwick, imprisoned in the Tower, but his sister Margaret was married to Richard Pole, who enjoyed royal favor. Some of Cecily’s de la Pole grandchildren were given bequests, despite the fact that their brother John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, had been killed rebelling against Henry VII a few years before. Left out too was Anne St. Leger, daughter of the deceased Duchess of Exeter and Thomas St. Leger. Anne St. Leger was married to George Manners, not a controversial figure. Perhaps Cecily left bequests only to those grandchildren to whom she was close, or perhaps she had been generous to the omitted grandchildren during her lifetime and had no need to remember them in her will.

As Ian Arthurson notes in The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy, Richard Lessy, Cecily’s steward, was involved in the conspiracy; the “charges which he has to pay to the Kinges grace” referred to by Cecily were the 200 pound fine he had to pay for his royal pardon. Arthurson also suggests that Anne Lounde might have been connected with Warbeck’s chancellor, William Lounde. Richard Boyville, also named, had connections with Cecily’s daughter Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, who had been heavily involved in the conspiracy. Does this mean, as some have suggested, that Cecily herself was a participant? I find it unlikely; if Cecily indeed had been involved, flaunting her ties to Lessy and the others in her will would only irritate Henry VII, who could have interfered with Cecily’s cherished hope of being buried at Fotheringhay beside her husband.

Cecily was indeed buried at Fotheringhay. On a visit there, Elizabeth I, distressed at the neglect of the graves of her ancestors, ordered that the bodies be moved into the present church and that monuments be erected over them. Cecily’s coffin was opened for the removal, revealing that she had been buried with a papal indulgence tied around her neck with a silver ribbon. The handwriting on the indulgence was “as fair and fresh as if it had been written yesterday.”


In the name of allmyghty God, the blessed Trinite, fader and son and the holigost, trusting in the meanes and mediacions of oure blessed Lady Moder, of oure most blessed Saviour Jh’u Crist, and by the intercession of holy Saint John Baptist, and all the saintes of heven: I, Cecille, wife unto the right noble prince Richard late Duke of Yorke, fader unto the most cristen prince my Lord and son King Edward the iiijth, the first day of Aprill the yere of our Lord M.cccc.lxxxxv. after the computacion of the Church of Englond, of hole mynde and body, loving therfore be it to Jh’u, make and ordeigne my testament in fourme and maner ensuyng. Furst, I bequeath and surrendour my soule in to the mcrcifull handes of allmyghty God my maker, and in to protecion of the blessed virgin our lady Saint Mary, and suffrage of Saint John Baptist, and of all other saintes of heven. Also my body to be buried beside the body of my moost entierly best beloved Lord and housbond, fader unto my said lorde and son, and in his tumbe within the collegiate church of Fodringhay, if myn executours by the sufferaunce of the King finde goode sufficient therto; and elles at the Kinges pleasure. And I will that after my deceasse all my dettes sufficiently appering and proved be paid, thanking oure Lord at this tyme of making of this my testament to the knolege of my conscience I am not muche in dctt; and if it happen, as I trust to God it shalnot, that there be not found sufficient money aswell to pay my dettes as to enture my body, than in advoiding such charges as myght growe for the same, the whiche God defende, I lymytte and assigne all such parcelles of plate as belongith to my chapell, pantry, cellour, ewry, and squillery, to the perfourinyng of the same, as apperith in the inventary, except such plate as I have bequeithed.

Also I geve and bequeith to the Kinges noble grace all such money as is owing to me of the customes, and two cuppes of gold. Also I geve and bequeith to the Quene a crosse croslette of diamantes, a sawter with claspes of silver and guilte enameled covered with grene clothe of golde, and a pix with the fleshe of Saint Cristofer. Also I bequeith to my lady the Kinges moder a portuos with claspes of gold covered with blackc cloth of golde. Also I geve to my lord Prince [Arthur] a bedde of arres of the Whele of Fortune and testour of the same, a counterpoint of arras, and a tappett of arres with the pope. Also I geve to my lord Henry Duke of Yorke [later Henry VIII] three tappettes of arres, oon of them of the life of Saint John Baptist, another of Mary Maudeleyn, and the thirde of the passion of our Lord and Saint George.

And if my body be buried at Fodringhay in the colege there with my most entierly best beloved lord and housbond, than I geve to the said colege a square canapie of crymeson clothe of gold with iiij. staves, twoo auter clothes of crymeson clothe of gold, twoo copes of crymeson clothe of gold, a chesibull and twoo tenucles of crymyson clothe of gold, with iij. abes, twoo auter clothes of crymeson damaske browdered, a chesibull, twoo tenucles, and iij. copes of blewe velwett brodered, with iij. abes, thre masse bokes, thre grayles, and vij. processioners. Also I geve to the colege of Stoke Clare a chesibull and twoo tenucles of playn crymyson cloth of gold with iij. abes, twoo auter clothes, a chesibull, twoo tenucles, and fyve coopes of white damaske browdered, with iij. abes, twoo awter clothes of crymeson velwett upon the velwete {sic), a vestement of crymeson playne velvet, iiij. antiphoners, iiij. grayles, and sixe processioners. Also I geve to the house of Sion two of the best coopes of crymyson clothe of gold.

Also I geve to my doughter Brigitte [daughter of Edward IV] the boke of Legenda Aurea in velem, a boke of the life of Saint Kateryn of Sene, a boke of Saint Matilde. Also I geve to my doughter Cecill [daughter of Edward IV] a portuous with claspes silver and gilte covered with purple velvet, and a grete portuous without note. Also I geve to my doughter Anne [daughter of Edward IV] the largest bedde of bawdekyn, withe countrepoint of the same, the barge with bailles, tilde, and ores belonging to the same. Also I geve to my doughter Kateryn [daughter of Edward IV] a traves of blewe satten. Also I geve to my doughter of Suffolke [identified by the editors as either Cecily’s daughter Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, or Margaret, wife of Edmund de la Pole] the chare with the coveryng, all the quoshons, horses, and harneys belonging to the same, and all my palfreys. Also I geve to my son of Suffolke [Edmund de la Pole] a clothe of estate and iij. quoschons of purpull damaske cloth of gold. Also I geve to my son Humfrey [de la Pole] two awter clothes of blewe damaske brawdered and a vestyment of crymeson satten for Jh’us masse. Also I geve to my son William [de la Pole; misidentified by the editors, who were unaware of this grandson’s existence, as William Stourton] a traves of white sarcenet, twoo beddes of downe, and twoo bolsters to the same. Also I geve to my doughter Anne [de la Pole], priores of Sion, a boke of Bonaventure and Hilton in the same in Englishe, and a boke of the Revelacions of Saint Burgitte.

Also I woll that all my plate not bequeithed be sold, and the money thereof be putte to the use of my burying, that is to sey, in discharging of suche costes and expensis as shalbe for carying of my body from the castell of Barkehampstede unto the colege of Fodringhey. And if any of the said plate be lefte unexpended I woll the said colege have it. Also I geve to the colege of saint Antonies in London an antiphoner with the ruelles of musik in the later ynd. Also I geve unto Master Richard Lessy all suche money as is owing unto me by obligations what soever they be, and also all such money as is owing unto me by the Shirfe of Yorkeshire, to helpe to bere his charges which he has to pay to the Kinges grace, trusting he shall the rather nyghe the said dettes by the help and socour of his said grace. Also I geve to Master William Croxston a chesibull, stoles, and fanons of blake velwett, with an abe. Also I geve to Master Richard Henmershe a chesibill, stoles, and fanons of crymyson damaske, with an abe; and a chesibill, stoles and fanons of crymeson saten, with an abe. Also I geve to Sir John More a frontell of purpull cloth of gold, a legend boke, and a colett boke. Also I give to Sir Randall Brantingham a chesibill, stoles, and fanons of white damaske, orfreys of crymson velvet, with an abe, the better of bothe. Also I geve to Sir William Grave a chesibill, stoles, and fanons of white damaske, orfreys of crymeson velvett, with an abe; a masse-boke that servith for the closett, a prymour with claspes silver and gilt, covered with blewe velvett, and a sawter that servith for the closett covered with white ledder.

Also I geve to Sir John Blotte a gospell boke, a pistill covered with ledder, and a case for a corporax of grene playne velvett. Also I geve to Sir Thomas Clerk a chesibill, twoo tenucles, stoles, fanons, of rede bawdeken, with iij. abes. Also I geve to Sir William Tiler twoo coopes of rede bawdekyn. Also I geve to Robert Claver iij. copes of white damaske brawdered, and a gowne of the Duchie facion of playne blake velvett furred with ermyns. Also I geve to John Bury twoo old copes of crymysyn satten cloth of gold, a frontell of white bawdekyn, twoo curteyns of rede sarcenett fringed, twoo curteyns of whit sarcenet fringed, a feder bed, a bolstour to the same, the best of feders, and two whit spervers of lynyn. Also I geve to John Poule twoo auter clothes, a chesibull, twoo tenucles, stoles, and fanons of white bawdekyn, with iij. abes; a short gowne of purple playne velvett furred with ermyns, the better of ij. and a kirtill of damaske with andelettes of silver and gilt furred. Also I geve to John Smyth twoo auter clothes, a chesibill, twoo tenucles, stoles, and fanons of blew bawdekyn, with iij. abes. Also I geve to John Bury twoo copes of crymysyn clothe of gold that servith for Sondays.

Also I geve to John Walter a case for corporax of purple plaync velvett, twoo cases for corporax of blewe bawdekyn, twoo auter clothes, a chesibill of rede and grene bawdekyn, a canapie of white sarcenett, iij. abes for children, and iiij. pair of parrours of white bawdekyn, twoo pair parrours of crymsyn velvett, twoo pair parrours of rede bawdekyn, a housling towell that servith for my selfe, twoo corteyns of blewe sarcenett fringed, a sudory of crymysyn and white, the egges blak, a crose cloth and a cloth of Saint John Baptist of sarcenett painted, a long lantorn, a dext standing doble, twoo grete stondardes and ij. litill cofers. Also I geve to John Peitwynne twoo vestimentes of white damaske, a white bedde of lynnyn, a federbedde and a bolstour, and a short gowne of purple playne velvet furred with sabilles. Also I geve to Thomas Lentall six auter clothes of white sarcenett, with crosses of crymsyn velvet Also I geve to John Long iij. peces of bawdekyn of the lengur sorte.

Also I geve to Sir [John] Verney knighte and Margarett his wiffe a crosse [of] silver and guilte and berall, and in the same a pece of the holy crosse and other diverse reliques. Also I geve to Dame Jane Pesemershe, widue, myne Inne that is called the George in Grauntham, during terme of her life; and after her decesse I woll that the reversion therof be unto the college of Fodringhay for evermore, to find a prest to pray for my Lord my housbond and me. Also I geve to Nicholas Talbott and Jane his wife a spone of gold with a sharp diamount in the ende, a dymysent of gold with a collumbine and a diamont in the same, a guirdill of blewe tissue harnessed with gold, a guirdill of gold with a bokull and a pendaunt and iiij. barres of gold, a hoke of gold with iij. roses, a pomeamber of gold garnesshed with a diamont, sex rubies and sex perles, and the surnap and towell to the same.

Also I geve to Richard Boyvile and Gresild his wife my charrett and the horses with the harnes that belongith therunto, a gowne with a dymy trayn of purpull saten furred with ermyns, a shorte gowne of purple saten furred with jennetes, a kirtill of white damaske with aundelettes silver and gilte, a spone of gold, a dymysynt of gold with a columbyne garnesshed with a diamant, a saphour, an amatist, and viij. perles, a pomeamber of gold enameled, a litell boxe with a cover of gold and a diamant in the toppe.

Also I geve to Richard Brocas and Jane his wife a long gown of purpull velvett upon velvet furred with ermyns, a greate Agnus of gold with the Trinite, Saint Erasmus, and the Salutacion of our Lady; an Agnus of gold with our Lady and Saint Barbara; a litell goblett with a cover silver and part guild; a pair of bedes of white amber gauded with vj. grete stones of gold, part aneled, with a pair of bedes of x. stones of gold and v. of corall; a cofor with a rounde lidde bonde with iron, which the said Jane hath in her keping, and all other thinges that she hath in charge of keping.

Also I geve to Anne Pinchbeke all other myne Agnus unbequeithed, that is to sey, ten of the Trinite, a litell malmesey pott with a cover silver and parte guilte, a possenett with a cover of silver, a short gowne of playne russett velvett furred with sabilles, a short gowne of playne blewe velvett furred with sabilles, a short gowne of purple playn velvet furred with grey, a tester, a siler, and a countrepoint of bawdekyn, the lesser of ij.

Also I geve to Jane Lessy a dymysent of gold with a roos, garnisshed with twoo rubies, a guirdell of purple tissue with a broken bokull, and a broken pendaunt silver and guilte, a guirdill of white riband with twoo claspes of gold with a columbyne, a guirdell of blewe riband with a bokell and a pendaunt of gold, a litell pair of bedes of white amber gaudied with vij. stones of gold, an haliwater stope with a strynkkill silver and gilte, and a laier silver and part guilte.

Also I geve to John Metcalfe and Alice his wife all the ringes that I have, except such as hang by my bedes and Agnus, and also except my signet, a litell boxe of golde with a cover of golde, a pair of bedes of lxj. rounde stones of golde gaudied with sex square stones of golde enemeled, with a crosse of golde, twoo other stones, and a scalop shele of geete honging by.

Also I geve to Anne Lownde a litell bokull and a litell pendaunt of golde for a guirdill, a litell guirdell of golde and silke with a bokill and a pendaunt of golde, a guirdell of white riband with aggelettes of golde enameled, a hoke of golde playne, a broken hoke of golde enameled, and a litell rounde bottumed basyn of silver.

Also I geve to the house of Assherugge a chesibull and ij. tenucles of crymysyn damaske embrawdered, with thre abes. Also I geve to the house of Saint Margaretes twoo auter clothes with a crucifix and a vestiment of grete velvet. Also I geve to the parish church of Stoundon a coope of blewe bawdekyn, the orffreys embrawdered. Also I geve to the parishe church of Much Barkehampstede a coope of blewe bawdekyn, the orffreys embrawdered. Also I geve to the parish church of Compton by sides Guilford a corporax case of blake cloth of gold and iiij. auter clothes of white sarcenett embrawdered with garters.

Also I geve to Alisaunder Cressencr my best bedde of downe and a bolster to the same. Also I geve to Sir Henry Haidon knyght a tablett and a cristall garnesshed with ix. stones and xxvij. perles, lacking a stone and iij. perles. Also I geve to Gervase Cressy a long gown of playn blewe velvet furred with sabilles. Also I geve to Edward Delahay twoo gownes of musterdevilers furred with mynckes, and iiij li of money. Also I geve to Thomas Manory a short gowne of crymesyn playn velvet lyned, purfilled with blake velvet, and iiij li in money. Also I geve to John Broune all such stuf as belongith to the kechyn in his keping at my place at Baynardcastell in London, and iiij li in money. Also I geve to William Whitington a short gown of russett cloth furred with matrons and calabour wombes, a kirtill of purpull silke chamblett with awndelettes silver and gilte, all such floures of brawdery werke and the cofer that they be kept in, and xls. in money.

Also I geve to all other gentilmen that be daily a waiting in my houshold with Mr. Richard Cressy and Robert Lichingham everich of theime iiij li in money. Also I geve to every yoman that be daily ad waiting in my houshold with John Otley xls. in money. Also I geve to every grome of myne xxvj s. viij d. in money. And to every page of myne xiij s. iiij d. in money. Also I geve to Robert Harison xls. in money and all the gootes.

And if ther be no money founde in my cofers to perfourme this my will and bequest, than I will that myne executours, that is to sey the reverend fader in God Master Olyver King bisshop of Bath, Sir Reignolde Bray knight, Sir Thomas Lovell, councellours to the Kinges grace, Master William Pikinham doctour in degrees dean of the colege of Stoke Clare, Master William Felde master of the colege of Fodringhey, and Master Bichard Lessy dean of my chapell, havyng God in reverence and drede, unto whome I geve full power and auctorite to execute this my will and testament, make money of such goodes as I have not geven and bequeithed, and with the same to content my dettes and perfourme this my will and testament. And the foresaid reverend fader in God, Sir Rignold Bray knyght, Sir Thomas Lovell knyght, Master William Pikenham, and Master William Felde, to be rewarded of suche thinges as shalbe delivered unto theme by my commaundement by the hondes of Sir Henry Haidon knyght stieward of my houshold and Master Richard Lessy, humbly beseching the Kinges habundant grace in whome is my singuler trust to name such supervisour as shalbe willing and favorabull diligently to se that this my present testament and will be perfittely executed and perfourmyd, gevyng full power also to my said executours to levey and receyve all my dettes due and owing unto me at the day of my dethe, as well of my receyvours as of all other officers, except such dettes as I have geven and bequeathed unto Master Richard Lessy aforesaid, as is above specified in this present will and testament. And if that Master Richard Lessy cannot recover such money as I have geven to hym of the Shirfles of Yorkeshire and of my obligacions, than I will he be recompensed of the revenues of my landes to the sume of v c. marcs at the leest.

In Wittenesse Herof I have setto my signet and signemanuell at my castell of Berkehamstede the last day of May the yere of our Lord abovesaid, being present Master Richard Lessy, Sir William Grant my confessour, Richard Brocas clerc of my kechyn, and Gervays Cressy.

Proved at ” Lamehithe” the 27th day of August, A.d. 1495, and commission granted to Master Richard Lessy the executor in the said will mentioned to administer, &c. &c.


Ian Arthurson, The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy, 1491-1499. Sutton Publishing, 1997.

Edward Bradley, Fotheringhay and Mary, Queen of Scots by Cuthbert Bede. 1885. On Google Books.

Christopher Harper-Bill, ‘Cecily, duchess of York (1415–1495)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004 [, accessed 29 July 2010]

John Gough Nichols and John Bruce, Wills from Doctors’ Commons. Camden Society, 1863. On Google Books.

6 thoughts on “The Will of Cecily, Duchess of York”

  1. This was so very interesting Susan!

    I guess we'll never know if Cecily had a hand in the Perkin Warbeck conspiracy, though I am with you in thinking she didn't.

    Thank you for posting!

  2. A very interesting post indeed- I see Cicely was very careful to cover all of her bases by bequeathing some of her finest possessions not just to EoY, PA, and the future HVIII but also the "My Lady the Kings Mother" as well!

  3. If my husband lives on for 35 years after my death, I want his will to mention several times that I was his 'most entirely best beloved wife'! I hope she got that reunion she was longing for.

  4. Thank you for posting that, I was hoping she would mention my son's ancestor Anne St. Leger. I am really surprised given Anne was the only surviving child of Cecily's eldest born child, who died shortly after giving birth to her.

    As an interesting note, Anne St. Leger did name a daughter Cecily, certainly for her maternal grandmother.

  5. Susan Higginbotham

    Thanks, all (belatedly)! The Persian, welcome to the blog, and thanks for the information! Perhaps Cecily had already given gifts in her lifetime to some of her grandchildren and didn't need to name them in her will for that reason.

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