When Henry Tudor, the grandson of Owen Tudor, became king, he carefully controlled the marriages of his wife’s many sisters. Elizabeth of York was the eldest daughter of the Plantagenet king Edward IV. For this reason, she had been chosen as his partner in uniting England under Henry’s rule. With their marriage, it was hoped, the warring factions of Lancaster and York would be brought together in peace.
It would not do for one of Elizabeth’s sisters to marry a man who had ambitions to topple Henry from the throne he had fought so hard to gain. Therefore, it was vital to consider the remaining children of Edward IV to secure Henry’s crown, especially since the law deeming them illegitimate had been overturned by Henry’s parliament. He wished for his bride’s bloodline to be untainted, but that made her sisters an even greater prize to the men who gained permission to marry them.
|The Daughters of Edward IV|
So it had, but he had also used the matches to reward loyal followers and keep men close enough to him to discourage them from rebellion. As a king raised through conquest, Henry VII had a tough balancing act to perform. He had not considered that one of his wife’s sisters might have plans of her own.
In Henry’s defense, each of the sisters seemed happy in their marriages, and none of them thought to defy him. That is, until Viscount Welles died. Cecily had first married the choice of her uncle, Richard III, only to have Henry VII annul it. When the second husband not of her own choice died, she moved quickly to secure her own happiness.
How Cecily had met and fallen in love with a squire is unknown. He was of such lowly status that it is not even certain if his name was Thomas Kymbe, Kyme, or Keme. Whatever the proper spelling of his name, he had managed to win the love of one of the greatest catches in the kingdom. Cecily was referred to as the most beautiful of the York sisters, and had Cecily’s father not suffered an untimely death, she would have likely been married to one of the princes of Europe. She does not seem to have mourned the loss of such an opportunity, though Cecily may not have understood the extent it would cost her.
Perhaps Cecily believed that her brother-in-law could not be angry enough to severely punish one of his beloved wife’s closest sisters. She was wrong. While Cecily may have thought that she had fulfilled her duty to her king in marrying his choice of spouse for her once, the repercussions of her decision were severe. Henry confiscated her estates, leaving Thomas and Cecily in poverty, though, one would hope, rich in love.
Only through generous gifts from her sister, the queen, and Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, did Cecily have anything at all, and she certainly did not live out the remainder of her life in the high style to which she was accustomed. Her cost for marrying beyond the barriers was great. There is little remaining documentation of Cecily’s during the years of her scandalous marriage besides the records of payments that these generous benefactors gave to her.
Still, she does not seem to have regretted her decision. Cecily and her squire lived out their days quietly until her death in 1507. Margaret Beaufort stepped in one more time to cover the costs of the funeral that poor Thomas Kymbe could not afford.
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Bacon, Francis. The History of the Reign of King Henry VII. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1850.
Penn, Thomas. Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
Weir, Alison. Elizabeth of York: A Queen and Her World. New York: Ballantine Books, 2013.