Wednesday 10 December 2014

Red Rose, White Rose Blog Tour 2014

I am delighted to be part of  the 

2014 Blog Tour


Joanna Hickson's latest historical novel

4 December 2014

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo Joanna and thanks for giving us an insight into your fascinating story about Cicely Neville and the type of castles she would have lived and loved in ....

Research and imagination: or when is a medieval castle not a medieval castle?  

Joanna Hickson

When I started researching her story I knew that Cicely Neville's family home in the 15th century was Raby Castle and that it was not only still standing but was open to the public. However, when I rang to ask what medieval source material they had there, such as household accounts and letters, I was told that in the 19th century all Neville documents of that kind had been sent to the Durham County Archive for safe-keeping. Not-so-safe as it turned out, because soon afterwards there had been a fire and this hoard, which might have provided invaluable material for Red Rose, White Rose, had gone up in smoke! Later, when I visited the castle, the Raby archivist kindly supplied me with a Victorian rรฉsumรฉ of the early Neville family tree, though I found it rather short on dates. Cicely's siblings were listed with all the boys first and the girls second, definitely not the right sequence! It was a case of sleuthing through other sources and employing some informed guesswork to discover the order and dates of their births.

Raby Castle advertises itself as 'One of England's Finest Medieval Castles' and indeed it is magnificent and ancient, definitely worth a visit. But in the last three hundred years proud owners have radically altered the place so that it took some imagination on my part to write my characters into surroundings they might recognise. The medieval curtain walls have been lowered considerably from the original thirty-foot-high defensive barriers and the moat has been turned into a series of picturesque ponds. The present grounds in which the castle stands have been landscaped in eighteenth century style and given over to a herd of deer, some of which are said to be descended from original Norman stock, but I doubt if their ancestors would recognise today's groomed parkland for the forest in which Cicely and her brothers would have hunted. 

However a walk through the 70 foot long tunnel of the extraordinary Neville Gateway, built by Cicely's father, is like passing through a portal into their time. The inner Courtyard is tiny, open to the sky but entirely surrounded by high walls and towers. Once the huge outer gates, the two portcullises and the battered-but-unbowed inner door of the gateway were closed, the whole castle would have been an impenetrable sanctuary, with a main entrance up a stair into the enormous hammer-beamed Baron's Hall. 

During the many years of changing ownership and fluctuating fortunes, famous architects were brought in to bring the castle up to the standard of each age, so that now most of the principal interior rooms are Regency or Victorian in style with gilded stucco ceilings and, instead of medieval tapestries, walls hung with portraits of 18th and 19th century grandees. In the 1780s, because there was not enough room in the Inner Courtyard to turn a carriage, an exit was built passing through a second tunnel via a vast paved Entrance Hall supported by pillars between which a coach and four could easily be driven. It is a covered entrance to rival that of any duke's country seat but it is not medieval.

The most exciting part of the castle for me was the inner chamber I was privileged to be shown, up a narrow stone stairway in the heart of the old Keep and not usually open to the public. Reputed to be the chamber in which Cicely lived for her protection before she married the Duke of York, it is a chilly place with cold stone walls and one small window looking bleakly out onto the blank face of the next tower. I suppose with bright-coloured hangings and silk cushions it could have been made quite cheerful and comfortable but it struck me as more like a prison cell than a room for a putative duchess. However its location in the most secure tower of the impenetrable inner core of the castle gave me an inkling of just how valuable young Cicely Neville, future wife of the richest man in England, might have been as a hostage... Inspiration for the opening chapters of Red Rose, White Rose!

©Joanna Hickson

My Review of Red Rose, White Rose can be found here

Joanna is very generously offering a copy of Red Rose, White Rose to one lucky UK winner of this Giveaway...

***Winners will be notified after 31st December ***

My thanks to  Joanna and Jaime Frost at Harper Fiction for inviting Jaffareadstoo to be part of this blog tour.



  1. Looks a fab book - another one to add to my list of favourites

  2. Would love to win this :)

  3. Looks brilliant, thanks for the chance to win it!

    1. Thanks for visiting Sam.Good Luck and Happy Christmas :)


Thanks for taking the time to comment - Jaffareadstoo appreciates your interest.