Synopsis of Cicely; or the Rose of Raby. An Historical Novel (1795)
An historical gothic novel containing true characters and events that take place in the fifteenth century.
Cicely, who became known as the Rose of Raby due to her immense beauty, is the daughter of the Earl of Westmoreland of the house of the Nevilles and is the authoress of the tale that is written at the request of her friend, Lady Matilda Lumley.
Cicely's misfortunes begin when, in a lot for revenge on one of her sisters, Cicely is abducted with her brother's page, Thomalin, who has swapped clothes with her sister. They escape the Scots who kidnapped them and find refuge with a hermit, who turns out to be the noble William Fitzhugh.
Fitzhugh reveals the story behind his choice to live alone in an hermitage; he married the daughter of the Count d'Aranjeus of Spain against her father's wishes, incurring his curse upon them. The couple had a daughter, Theresa, but the curse unfolded over the years with the death of Fitzhugh's wife, the secret marriage of Theresa to Henry Beauchamp and the subsequent adoption of their son to maintain the secret. The adoptive mother was one day swept away by a river and the son of Theresa and Beauchamp was presumed to be with her. Theresa died soon after. Thus, Fitzhugh decided to live out his days in his hermitage grieving the loss of his wife, daughter and grandson. As Fitzhugh reaches the end of his narrative, all three are recaptured by the Scots and forced aboard fishing boats; Cicely is separated from Thomalin and Fitzhugh and when a storm breaks, she is taken on board a larger ship which lands in France.
Cicely is put into the care of Lady St. Aubin and, although a prisoner, she is befriended by this noblewoman. Cicely is due to be released to English troops at the command of the Duke of Orleans, but when he sees her beauty he decides to keep her imprisoned and takes her to his own castle at Bidet. There, the Duke declares his love for Cicely and asks for her hand in marriage. The alliance with a prince of France would be very advantageous for Cicely and she is considering accepting, but the spirit of Thomalin appears to her. Harbouring feelings for Thomalin, she refuses the prince. Thomalin appears again, but it actually is him; with the help of the Duke's father, Thomalin rescues Cicely. They get married and elope to Spain to meet Fitzhugh, where they discover that Thomalin is the son of Theresa and Beauchamp, the grandson of Fitzhugh. They spend a happy year in Spain and Cicely gives birth to a boy, but the marriage is kept secret until Thomalin's birth can be proved.
Before that is made possible, the Duke of Orleans, who is convinced that Thomalin is base-born and unworthy of Cicely by the artifice of Lady Warwick, murders Thomalin; her son is heir to Beauchamp as long as Thomalin's claim is not proved.
Devastated, Cicely heads back to England with Fitzhugh and Louis, the father of Orleans who helped her escape Bidet, but without her son. Fitzhugh dies and is buried in Portugal, so Louis is Cicely's sole protector. They reach England and Louis Orleans also dies. Cicely finally reaches Raby but must bear her grief in secret as the nobility of Thomalin can't be proved and Cicely's son is therefore just the son of her brother's page.
The Duke of Orleans, still madly in love with Cicely, finds her and begs her forgiveness; she is torn between the fact that he is the son of her preserver and the murderer of her husband. Her father thinks she should marry the prince; before Cicely was born a vision told to Westmoreland a prophecy that predicted both good and horrific things for the family, one of which was that his daughter would marry royalty.
Cicely agrees to the marriage to Orleans but he suddenly realises that to do so would be betraying his native country and in a complete reversal of circumstances, he refuses to marry Cicely.
After the death of her father, Cicely marries the Duke of York. They have a number of children together and, although Cicely never truly loves him, they have a relatively happy marriage.
For the first time since leaving Spain, Cicely sees the son she had to Thomalin, who has successfully claimed the title of Count d'Aranjeus. However as tension grows between the House of Lancaster and the House of York and war breaks out, Cicely's husband, one of her sons, Edmund, and the Count d'Aranjeus all die in a battle.
Cicely's sad history concludes with the account of the changing situation on the throne of England, with another of Cicely's sons becoming King Richard III and ordering the death of his own brother whilst in power. Cicely can only lament the curse of the Count d'Aranjeus and the prophecy of her life, as she grows old, and hope for peace in the War of the Roses.