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My object in writing this book for boys is to furnish them with a narrative of the struggle between York and Lancaster—a struggle which extended over thirty years, deluged England with blood, cost a hundred thousand lives, emasculated the old nobility, and utterly destroyed the house of Plantagenet.It is generally admitted that no period in England's history is richer in romantic incident than the three decades occupied by The Wars of the Roses; but the contest is frequently described as having been without interest in a political point of view. This idea seems erroneous. That struggle of thirty years was no mere strife of chiefs, ambitious of supremacy and unscrupulous as to means. Indeed, the circumstances of the country were such that no hand would have been lifted against sovereigns—whether reigning by Parliamentary or hereditary right—who showed a due respect to ancient rights and liberties. But the tyranny exercised, first by the ministers of the sixth Henry, and afterward by those of the fourth Edward—one influenced by Margaret of Anjou, the other by the Duchess of Bedford, both "foreign women"—was such as could not be borne by Englishmen without a struggle; and evidence exists that Richard Neville, in arming the people against these kings, did so to prevent the establishment of that despotism which John Hampden and Oliver Cromwell afterward fought to destroy.
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CHAPTER I.THE MONK-MONARCH AND HIS MISLEADERS.
CHAPTER II.THE DUKE OF YORK AND THE KING-MAKER.
CHAPTER III.THE CAPTAIN OF KENT.
CHAPTER IV.THE RIVAL DUKES.
CHAPTER V.THE KING'S MALADY.
BIRTH OF EDWARD OF LANCASTER.
CHAPTER VI.THE BATTLE OF ST. ALBANS.
CHAPTER VII.THE QUEEN AND THE YORKIST CHIEFS.
CHAPTER VIII.THE CITY AND THE COURT.
CHAPTER IX.A YORKIST VICTORY AND A LANCASTRIAN REVENGE.
CHAPTER X.THE BATTLE OF NORTHAMPTON.
CHAPTER XI.YORK'S CLAIM TO THE CROWN.
CHAPTER XII.THE QUEEN'S FLIGHT AND RETURN.
CHAPTER XIII.THE ANJOUITE'S VENGEANCE.
CHAPTER XIV.A PLANTAGENET AND THE TUDORS.
CHAPTER XV.BEFORE TOWTON.
CHAPTER XVI.TOWTON FIELD.
CHAPTER XVII.THE QUEEN'S STRUGGLES WITH ADVERSITY.
CHAPTER XVIII.THE WOODVILLES.
CHAPTER XIX.THE LANCASTRIANS IN EXILE.
CHAPTER XX.WARWICK AND THE WOODVILLES.
CHAPTER XXI.DESPOTISM, DISCONTENT, AND DISORDER.
CHAPTER XXII.THE SIEGE OF EXETER.
CHAPTER XXIII.LOUIS THE CRAFTY.
CHAPTER XXIV."THE STOUT EARL" AND "THE FOREIGN WOMAN."
CHAPTER XXV.THE EARL'S RETURN AND EDWARD'S FLIGHT.
CHAPTER XXVI.THE EARL OF WORCESTER.
CHAPTER XXVII.THE BANISHED KING.
CHAPTER XXVIII.QUEEN MARGARET'S VOYAGE.
CHAPTER XXIX.THE BATTLE OF BARNET.
CHAPTER XXX.BEFORE TEWKESBURY.
CHAPTER XXXI.THE FIELD OF TEWKESBURY.
CHAPTER XXXII.THE VICTOR AND THE VANQUISHED.
CHAPTER XXXIII.WARWICK'S VICE-ADMIRAL.
CHAPTER XXXIV.ESCAPE OF THE TUDORS.
CHAPTER XXXV.ADVENTURES OF JOHN DE VERE.
CHAPTER XXXVI.A DUKE IN RAGS.
CHAPTER XXXVII.LOUIS DE BRUGES AT WINDSOR.
CHAPTER XXXVIII.THE TREATY OF PICQUIGNY.
CHAPTER XXXIX.A DOMESTIC TRAGEDY.
CHAPTER XL.KING EDWARD'S DEATH.
CHAPTER XLI.THE DUKE OF GLOUCESTER.
CHAPTER XLII.THE PROTECTOR AND THE PROTECTORATE.
CHAPTER XLIII.THE USURPATION.
CHAPTER XLIV.RICHARD'S CORONATION.
CHAPTER XLV.THE PRINCES IN THE TOWER.
CHAPTER XLVI.A MOCK KING-MAKER.
CHAPTER XLVII.THE COMING MAN.
CHAPTER XLVIII.FROM BRITTANY TO BOSWORTH.
CHAPTER XLIX.RICHARD BEFORE BOSWORTH.
CHAPTER L.BOSWORTH FIELD.
CHAPTER LI.AFTER BOSWORTH.
CHAPTER LII.THE UNION OF THE TWO ROSES.
About the middle of the ninth century a warrior named Tertullus, having rendered signal services to the King of France, married Petronella, the king's cousin, and had a son who flourished as Count of Anjou. The descendants of Tertullus and Petronella rose rapidly, and exercised much influence on French affairs. At length, in the twelfth century, Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, surnamed Plantagenet, from wearing a sprig of flowering broom instead of a feather, espoused Maude, daughter of Henry Beauclerc, King of England; and Henry Plantagenet, their son, succeeded, on the death of Stephen, to the English throne.
Having married Eleanor, heiress of Aquitaine, and extended his continental empire from the Channel to the Pyrenees, Henry ranked as the most potent of European princes. But, though enabled to render great services to England, he was not an Englishman; and, indeed, it was not till the death of John, at Swinehead, that the English had a king who could be regarded as one of themselves. That king was Henry the Third, born and educated in England, and sympathizing with the traditions of the people over whom he reigned.
Unfortunately for Henry, he was surrounded by Continental kinsmen, whose conduct caused such discontent that clergy, barons, citizens, and people raised the cry of England for the English; and Simon de Montfort, though foreign himself, undertook to head a movement against foreigners. A barons' war was the consequence. Henry, defeated at Lewes, became a prisoner in the hands of the oligarchy; and there was some prospect of the crown passing from the house of Plantagenet to that of Montfort.
At this crisis, however, Edward, eldest son of the king, escaped from captivity, destroyed the oligarchy in the battle of Evesham, and entered upon his great and glorious career. Space would fail us to expatiate on the services which, when elevated to the throne as Edward the First, that mighty prince rendered to England. Suffice it to say that he gave peace, prosperity, and freedom to the people, formed hostile races into one great nation, and rendered his memory immortal by the laws which he instituted.
For the country which the first Edward rendered prosperous and free, the third Edward and his heroic son won glory in those wars which made Englishmen, for a time, masters of France. Unhappily, the Black Prince died before his father; and his only son, who succeeded when a boy as Richard the Second, departed from right principles of government. This excited serious discontent, and led the English people to that violation of "the lineal succession of their monarchs" which caused the Wars of the Roses.
Besides the Black Prince, the conqueror of Cressy had by his queen, Philippa—the patroness of Froissart—several sons, among whom were Lionel, Duke of Clarence; John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; and Edmund of Langley, Duke of York. Lionel died early; but John of Gaunt survived his father and eldest brother, and was suspected of having an eye to the crown which his young nephew wore. No usurpation, however, was attempted. But when John was in the grave, his son, Henry of Bolingbroke, returning from an irksome exile, deposed Richard, and sent him prisoner to Pontefract Castle, where he is understood to have been murdered.
On the death of Richard, who was childless, Henry the Fourth, as son of John of Gaunt, would have had hereditary right on his side, but that Lionel of Clarence had left a daughter, Philippa, wife of Mortimer, Earl of March, and ancestress of three successive earls. Of these, Edmund, the last earl, was a boy when Henry of Bolingbroke usurped the throne; and his sister, Anne Mortimer, was wife of Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cambridge, second son of Edmund of Langley, Duke of York. "This was that princely branch," says Sandford, "by the ingrafting of which into the stock of York, that tree brought forth not only White Roses, but crowns and sceptres also."
Henry the Fourth regarded young March with jealousy, and had him vigilantly guarded. But Henry the Fifth completely won the earl's loyalty, and made him a most zealous adherent. March showed no ambition to reign; and the nation, intoxicated with Agincourt and glory and conquest, cared not an iota for his claims. At the time when the hero-king expired at Vincennes and the Earl of March died in England the dynastic dispute was scarcely remembered, and it would never, in all probability, have been revived had the Lancastrian government not become such as could not be submitted to without degradation. It was when law and decency were defied, and when Englishmen were in danger of being enslaved by a "foreign woman," that they remembered the true heir of the Plantagenets and took up arms to vindicate his claims.
On St. Nicholas's Day, in the year 1421, there was joy in the castle of Windsor and rejoicing in the city of London. On that day Katherine de Valois, youthful spouse of the fifth Henry, became mother of a prince destined to wear the crown of the Plantagenets; and courtiers vied with citizens in expressing gratification that a son had been born to the conqueror of Agincourt—an heir to the kingdoms of England and France.
Henry of Windsor, whose birth was hailed with a degree of enthusiasm which no similar event had excited in England, was doomed to misfortune from his cradle. He was not quite nine months old when Henry the Fifth departed this life at Vincennes; and he was still an infant when Katherine de Valois forgot her hero-husband and all dignity for the sake of a Welsh soldier with a handsome person and an imaginary pedigree. The young king, however, was the beloved of a thousand hearts. As son of a hero who had won imperishable glory for England, the heir of Lancaster was regarded by Englishmen with sincere affection; the legitimacy of his title even was unquestioned; and the genius of his uncles, John, Duke of Bedford, and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, under whose auspices the royal boy was crowned in London and Paris, created a feeling of security seldom felt by kingdoms at the beginning of long minorities.
For a time the aspect of affairs was cheering. At a critical period, however, Bedford expired at Rouen; and ere long England was distracted by a feud between Gloucester and that spurious son of John of Gaunt, known in history as Cardinal Beaufort, and as chief of a house which then enjoyed the dukedom of Somerset. Gloucester charged the cardinal with contempt for the laws of the realm; and the cardinal avenged himself by accusing Gloucester's duchess of endeavoring to destroy the king by witchcraft, and banishing her to the Isle of Man. It soon appeared that the rivalry between Duke Humphrey and his illegitimate kinsman would involve the sovereign and people of England in serious disasters.
Nature had not gifted Henry of Windsor with the capacity which would have enabled a sovereign to reconcile such foes. Never had the Confessor's crown been placed on so weak a head. Never had the Conqueror's sceptre been grasped by so feeble a hand. The son of the fifth Henry was more of a monk than a monarch, and in every respect better qualified for the cloister than for courts and camps. In one respect, however, the king's taste was not monastic. Notwithstanding his monkish tendencies he did not relish the idea of celibacy; and the rival chiefs, perceiving his anxiety to marry, cast their eyes over Europe to discover a princess worthy of enacting the part of Queen of England.
Gloucester was the first to take the business in hand. Guided at once by motives of policy and patriotism, he proposed to unite his nephew to a daughter of the Count of Armagnac; and he trusted, by an alliance, to allure that powerful French noble to the English interest. The king did not object to the Armagnac match. Before striking a bargain, however, he felt a natural desire to know something of the appearance of his future spouse; and with this view he employed a painter to furnish portraits of the count's three daughters. Before the portraits could be executed circumstances put an end to the negotiations. In fact, the dauphin, as the English still called the seventh Charles of France, having no reason to regard the proposed marriage with favor, placed himself at the head of an army, seized upon the count and his daughters, and carried them off as prisoners of state.
Meanwhile, Beaufort was not idle. Eager to mortify Gloucester and increase his own influence, the aged cardinal was bent on uniting the king to Margaret of Anjou, daughter of René of Provence, and niece of the French monarch. René, indeed, though titular sovereign of Jerusalem and the two Sicilies, was poor, and Margaret, albeit the Carlovingian blood flowed in her veins, was portionless. But, though not favored by fortune, the Provençal princess was richly endowed by nature; and, young as she was, the unrivaled beauty and intellect of King René's daughter had made her name familiar in France and famous in England.
Never was an intriguer more successful than Beaufort. While Gloucester was negotiating with the Count of Armagnac, the cardinal, aware of Margaret's charms, contrived to have a likeness of the princess transmitted to the court of England; and the young king became so enamored of the fair being whom the portrait represented that his wish to espouse her could not decently be combated. Matrimonial negotiations were therefore resolved on; and William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, was sent as embassador to bring home the princess. René drove a hard bargain. Before consenting to the marriage he insisted on the restoration of Maine and Anjou, which were among the Continental conquests that the English were in no humor to surrender. But Suffolk, who was thinking more of his own interests than of his country's honor, yielded without scruple; and the marriage of King René's daughter was made the basis of a treaty which could not fail to prove unpopular. At first, however, no complaint was uttered. Suffolk brought the royal bride to England, and declared, in allusion to her poverty, that her beauty and intellect were worth more than all the gold in the world.
One day in April, 1445, the marriage of Henry of Windsor and Margaret of Anjou was solemnized at the Abbey of Tichfield—the bridegroom being in his twenty-fourth, the bride in her sixteenth year. The religious ceremony having been performed, the wedded pair were conducted to the capital of their dominions, and the English, being then devotedly loyal, were prepared to welcome the spouse of young Henry to London with an enthusiasm which could hardly fail to intoxicate so young a princess. The nobles, displaying all the pride and pomp of feudalism, wore the queen's badge in honor of her arrival. At Greenwich, Gloucester, as first prince of the blood, though known to have been averse to the match, paid his respects, attended by five hundred men, dressed in her livery. At Blackheath appeared the mayor, aldermen, and sheriffs of London, arrayed in scarlet robes, and mounted on horseback, to escort her through Southwark into the city. Passing under triumphal arches to Westminster, she was crowned in the Abbey; and that ceremony was the occasion of general rejoicing. The shows, the pageants, the tournaments, the display of feudal banners by the nobles, and loud applause of the populace might well have led the royal pair to prognosticate a life of peace and happiness. Nobody, who witnessed the universal joy, could have supposed that England was on the eve of the bloodiest dynastic struggle recorded in her history.
In fact, the people of England, knowing nothing of the restitution of Maine and Anjou, were at first delighted with their queen, and enraptured with her beauty. Her appearance was such as could hardly fail to please the eye and touch the heart. Imagine a princess in her teens, singularly accomplished, with a fair complexion, soft, delicate features, bright, expressive eyes, and golden hair flowing over ivory shoulders; place a crown upon her head, which seemed to have been formed to wear such a symbol of power; array her graceful figure in robes of state, and a mantle of purple fastened with gold and gems; and you will have before your mind's eye the bride of Henry of Windsor, as on the day of her coronation she appeared among peers and prelates and high-born dames in the Abbey of Westminster.
Unfortunately for Margaret of Anjou, her prudence and intelligence were not equal to her wit and beauty. Ere two years passed the popularity she enjoyed vanished into empty air; but she was a woman of defiant courage, and far from taking any pains to regain the affections of the people, she openly manifested her dislike of Gloucester, who was their favorite and their idol. Indeed, the young queen never could forgive the duke's opposition to her marriage; and she listened readily to the counsels of Beaufort and Suffolk, who, in the spring of 1447, resolved, at all hazards, to accomplish his ruin.
With this view, a parliament was summoned to meet at Bury St. Edmunds; and Gloucester, suspecting no snare, rode thither, with a small retinue, from the castle of Devizes. At first, nothing occurred to raise his apprehension; but, in a few days, to his surprise, he found himself arrested by the Constable of England, on the charge of conspiracy to murder the king and seize the crown.
Gloucester was never brought to trial; and it was said that Suffolk and the cardinal, finding that every body ridiculed the charge of conspiracy, caused "The Good Duke" to be assassinated. Appearances rather strengthened the popular suspicion. One evening, about the close of February, Gloucester was in perfect health: next morning he was found dead in bed. The indecent haste with which Suffolk seized upon the duke's estates was commented on with severity; and Margaret of Anjou shared the suspicion that had been excited.
The cardinal did not long survive the man who was believed to have been his victim. Early in the month of April, Beaufort died in despair, bitterly reproaching his riches, that they could not prolong his life; and Suffolk, now without a rival, so conducted himself as to incur the perfect hatred of the nation. The English people had a peculiar aversion to favorites, and remembered that while weak sovereigns, like the third Henry and the second Edward, had been ruined by such creatures, great kings, like the first and third Edward, had done excellently well without them. Suffolk was every day more and more disliked; and in 1449 his unpopularity reached the highest point.
The position of Suffolk now became perilous. Impatient at their Continental reverses, and exasperated at the loss of Rouen, the people exhibited a degree of indignation that was overwhelming, and the duke, after being attacked in both houses of Parliament, found himself committed to the Tower. When brought to the bar of the Lords, Suffolk, aware of his favor at court, threw himself on the mercy of the king; and, every thing having been arranged, the lord chancellor, in Henry's name, sentenced him to five years' banishment. The peers protested against this proceeding as unconstitutional; and the populace were so furious at the idea of the traitor escaping, that, on the day of his liberation, they assembled in St. Giles's Fields to the number of two thousand, with the intention of bringing him to justice. But Suffolk evaded their vigilance, and, at Ipswich, embarked for the Continent.
On the 2d of May, 1450, however, as the banished duke was sailing between Dover and Calais, he was stopped by an English man-of-war, described as the Nicholas of the Tower, and ordered to come immediately on board. As soon as Suffolk set foot on deck, the master of the Nicholas exclaimed, "Welcome, traitor;" and, for two days, kept his captive in suspense. On the third day, however, the duke was handed into a cock-boat, in which appeared an executioner, an axe, and a block; and the death's-man, having without delay cut off the head of the disgraced minister, contemptuously cast the headless trunk on the sand.
While England's sufferings, from disasters abroad and discord at home, were thus avenged on the queen's favorite, the king was regarded with pity and compassion. Henry, in fact, was looked upon as the victim of fate; and a prophecy, supposed to have been uttered by his father, was cited to account for all his misfortunes. The hero-king, according to rumor, had, on hearing of his son's birth at Windsor, shaken his head, and remarked prophetically, "I, Henry of Monmouth, have gained much in my short reign; Henry of Windsor shall reign much longer, and lose all. But God's will be done."
Margaret of Anjou shared her favorite's unpopularity; and, when she reached the age of twenty, the crown which had been placed on her head amid so much applause became a crown of thorns. Exasperated at the loss of their Continental conquests, Englishmen recalled to mind that she was a kinswoman and protégée of the King of France; and when it was known that, to secure her hand for their sovereign, Maine and Anjou had been surrendered, sturdy patriots described her as the cause of a humiliating peace, and, with bitter emphasis, denounced her as "The Foreign Woman."
These men were not altogether unreasonable. In fact, the case proved much worse for England than even they anticipated; and, ere long, France was gratified with a thorough revenge on the foe by whom she had been humbled to the dust, from having placed on the Plantagenets' throne a princess capable, by pride and indiscretion, of rousing a civil war that ruined the Plantagenets' monarchy.
When Suffolk fell a victim to the popular indignation, Richard, Duke of York, first prince of the blood, was governing Ireland, with a courage worthy of his high rank, and a wisdom worthy of his great name. Indeed, his success was such as much to increase the jealousy with which the queen had ever regarded the heir of the Plantagenets.
York was descended, in the male line, from Edmund of Langley, fifth son of the third Edward, and was thus heir-presumptive to the crown which the meek Henry wore. But the duke had another claim, which rendered him more formidable than, as heir-presumptive, he would ever have made himself; for, through his mother, Anne Mortimer, daughter of an Earl of March, he inherited the blood of Lionel of Clarence, elder brother of John of Gaunt, and, in this way, could advance claims to the English crown, which, in a hereditary point of view, were infinitely superior to those of the house of Lancaster.
Richard Plantagenet was nearly ten years older than King Henry. He first saw the light in 1412; and, when a mere child, became, by the execution of his father, the Earl of Cambridge, at Southampton, and the fall of his uncle, the Duke of York, at Agincourt, heir of Edmund of Langley. His father's misfortune placed Richard, for a time, under attainder; but after the accession of Henry the dignities of the house of York were restored; and in 1424, on the death of Edmund, last of the Earls of March, the young Plantagenet succeeded to the feudal power of the house of Mortimer.
An illustrious pedigree and a great inheritance rendered York a most important personage; and, as years passed over, he was, by Gloucester's influence, appointed Regent of France. In that situation the duke bore himself like a brave leader in war and a wise ruler in peace; but, as it was feared that he would obstruct the surrender of Maine and Anjou, he was displaced by Suffolk, and succeeded by the Duke of Somerset, who, it was well known, would be most accommodating.
When York returned to England, the queen, not relishing a rival so near the throne, determined to send him out of the way. She, therefore, caused the duke to be appointed, for ten years, to the government of Ireland, and then dispatched armed men to seize him on the road and imprison him in the castle of Conway. York, however, was fortunate enough to escape the queen's snares; and, reaching Ireland in safety, he not only gave peace to that country, but, by his skillful policy, won much favor among the inhabitants.
Time passed on; and the disappearance of Suffolk, of Beaufort, of Gloucester, and of Bedford from the theatre of affairs opened up a new scene. As minister of the king and favorite of the queen, Beaufort and Suffolk were succeeded by Somerset; as first prince of blood and hero of the people, Bedford and Gloucester were succeeded by York. Moreover, the absence of the duke from the country caused much discontent. "If," said the people, "he who brought the wild, savage Irish to civil fashions and English urbanity once ruled in England, he would depose evil counselors, correct evil judges, and reform all unamended matters."
Firmly established the house of Lancaster then was; but York had friends sufficiently powerful to make him a formidable rival to any dynasty. In youth he had married Cicely, daughter of Ralph Neville, first Earl of Westmoreland; and, of all the English magnates of the fifteenth century, the Nevilles, who drew strength at once from an illustrious Saxon origin and distinguished Norman alliances, were by far the most powerful and popular.
The Nevilles derived the descent, in the male line, from the Anglo-Saxon Earls of Northumberland. Their ancestor, Cospatrick, figured in youth at the court of Edward the Confessor, and, relishing neither the sway of Harold the Usurper, nor of William the Conqueror, passed most of his life in adversity and exile. After much suffering he died at Norham, on the south bank of the Tweed, and left two sons, who were more fortunate. One of these founded the house of Dunbar, whose chiefs for hundreds of years flourished with honor and renown; the other was grandfather of Robert Fitzmaldred, who married the heiress of the Nevilles, and was progenitor of that proud family, whose seat was long at Raby. About the beginning of the fifteenth century the house of Dunbar fell, and great was the fall thereof. About the beginning of the fifteenth century the Nevilles attained to the earldom of Westmoreland, and to a point of grandeur unrivaled among the nobles of England.
Among the chiefs of the house of Neville, Ralph, first Earl of Westmoreland, was one of the most important. His possessions were so extensive that, besides the castle of his Anglo-Saxon ancestors and those of Brancepath, Middleham, and Sheriff Hutton, inherited through Norman heiresses of great name, he possessed about fifty manor-houses; and his feudal following was so grand that, at times, he assembled in the great hall at Raby no fewer than seven hundred knights, who lived on his lands in time of peace, and followed his banner in war. Even the earl's children were more numerous than those of his neighbors. He was twice married; and the Duchess of York, known among northern men as "The Rose of Raby," was the youngest of a family of twenty-two. John Neville, Ralph's eldest son by his first countess, was progenitor of those chiefs who, as Earls of Westmoreland, maintained baronial rank at Raby, till one of them risked and lost all in the great northern rebellion against Elizabeth. Richard Neville, Ralph's eldest son by his second countess, obtained the hand of the heiress of the Montagues, and with her hand their earldom of Salisbury and their vast possessions.
In the Continental wars and domestic struggles in which Englishmen indulged during the fifteenth century, Salisbury was recognized as a man of military prowess and political influence. But almost ere reaching middle age his fame grew pale before that of his eldest son, Richard Neville, who espoused the heiress of the Beauchamps, who, in her right, obtained the earldom of Warwick, and who, as time passed on, became celebrated throughout Europe as the king-maker.
At the name of "The Stout Earl," as the people of England proudly called him, the fancy conjures up a mail-clad man of the tallest stature and the most majestic proportions; with dark brown hair clustering over a magnificent head, resting firmly and gracefully on mighty shoulders; a brow marked with thought, perhaps not without traces of care; a complexion naturally fair, but somewhat bronzed by exposure to the sun and wind; a frank and open countenance lighted up with an eye of deep blue, and reflecting the emotions of the soul, as clouds are reflected in a clear lake; and a presence so noble and heroic that, compared with him, the princes and peers of our day would sink into utter insignificance. Unfortunately, no portrait capable of conveying an adequate idea of Warwick's appearance exists for the instruction of our generation; but traditions and chronicles lead to the conclusion that, if a Vandyke or a Reynolds had existed in the fifteenth century to transmit to posterity the king-maker as, in form and feature, he appeared to his contemporaries in Westminster Hall, in Warwick Castle, or on Towton Field, such a portrait, by such an artist, would not belie our conceptions as to the personal grandeur of the warrior-statesman of mediæval England.
But, however that might be, Warwick was the hero of his own times. From early youth he was in great favor with the people; and, as years passed on, his frankness, affability, sincerity, love of justice, and hatred of oppression endeared him to their hearts. In an age of falsehood and fraud, his word was never broken nor his honor tarnished. Even the lofty patrician pride, which rendered him an object of mingled awe and envy to the Woodvilles, the Howards, and the Herberts, recommended him to the multitude; for the new men, whom the descendant of Cospatrick would not recognize as his peers, were the instruments used by despotic sovereigns to grind the faces of the poor. Moreover, Warwick's patriotism was ardent; and the nation remarked with gratification, that "The Stout Earl" was animated by all those English sympathies which, banished from courts and parliaments, still found a home in cottage and in grange.
Besides being the most patriotic, Warwick had the good fortune to be the richest, of England's patricians; and his immense revenues were expended in such a way that his praise as the people's friend was ever on the tongues of the poor and needy. His hospitality knew no bounds. The gate of his mansion in London stood open to all comers; six oxen were usually consumed at a breakfast; no human being was sent hungry away; and every fighting man had the privilege of walking into the kitchen and helping himself to as much meat as could be carried away on the point of a dagger. At the same time, thirty thousand persons are said to have feasted daily at the earl's mansions and castles in various parts of England.
And it was not merely as a patriot and a popular patrician that Richard Neville was distinguished, for great was his renown as a warrior and a statesman. On fields of fight his bearing reminded men of the Paladins of romance; and when he broke, sword in hand, into foemen's ranks, the cry of "A Warwick! A Warwick!" did more service to his friends than could the lances of five hundred knights. While Warwick's martial prowess made him the idol of the soldiery, his capacity for affairs secured him general confidence and admiration. "The Stout Earl," said the people, "is able to do any thing, and without him nothing can be done well."
With such a friend as Warwick in England the Duke of York doubtless felt secure that his hereditary claims were in little danger of being quite forgotten during his absence. The duke was in Ireland, when an incident, immortalized by Shakspeare, gave life and color to the rival factions. One day a violent dispute as to the rights of the houses of York and Lancaster took place in the Temple Gardens. The disputants, "The Stout Earl" and the Duke of Somerset, appealed to their friends to take sides in the controversy; but these, being the barons of England, declined to enter upon such "nice sharp quillets of the law." Warwick thereupon plucked a white rose, and Somerset a red rose; and each asked his friends to follow his example. Thus originated the badges of the chiefs who involved England in that sanguinary struggle celebrated by poets and chroniclers as the Wars of the Roses.
In the summer of 1450 there was a ferment among the commons of Kent. For some time, indeed, the inhabitants of that district of England had been discontented with the administration of affairs; but now they were roused to action by rumors that Margaret of Anjou, holding them responsible for the execution of Suffolk, had vowed revenge; that a process of extermination was to be forthwith commenced; and that the country, from the Thames to the Straits of Dover, was to be converted into a hunting-forest for the queen and her favorites.
About the middle of June, while the indignation of the Kentishmen was at its height, a military adventurer, who has since been known as "Jack Cade," but who called himself John Mortimer, and gave out that his mother was a Lacy, suddenly appeared among the malcontents, informed them that he was related to the Duke of York, and offered to be their captain. According to the chroniclers, he was "a young man of goodly stature, and pregnant wit," and he told his story so plausibly, that the men of Kent believed he was York's cousin. Delighted with the notion of having found a Mortimer to lead them to battle, and to free them from oppression, the people crowded by thousands to his standard; and Cade, having assumed the title of Captain of Kent, arrayed them in good order, marched toward London, and encamped on Blackheath.
The men of Kent were not foes to be despised. They had ever claimed the privilege of marching in the van of England's army, and had so borne themselves on fields of fight, that their courage was beyond dispute. The determined spirit by which they were known to be animated rather daunted the court; and the king, in alarm, sent to ask why they had left their homes. Cade replied in a manner at which a government owing its existence to a revolution had little reason to take umbrage. He sent a document, entitled "Complaint of the Commons of Kent," containing a statement of grievances, demanding speedy redress, and requesting, in respectful language, the dismissal of the corrupt men by whom the king was surrounded, and the recall of "the Duke of York, late exiled from the royal presence."
The queen and her friends saw that something must be done, and that quickly. An army was, therefore, levied in the king's name; and, at the head of it, Henry advanced to Blackheath; but Cade, wishing to draw the royal force into Kent, broke up his camp and retreated to the quiet old market-town of Sevenoaks. The queen, doubtless somewhat surprised at the storm she had raised, dreaded the possibility of the king being environed by the insurgents. She, therefore, deputed the danger of encountering Cade to a gallant knight named Humphrey Stafford, and, having done so, retired to Greenwich.
On receiving the queen's commands, Stafford, and some of the court gallants, put on their rich armor and gorgeous surcoats, mounted their horses, and, with a detachment of the royal army, dashed off to engage the insurgents, all eagerness, as it seemed, to bring back the leader's head as a trophy. On coming up with the foe, however, the ardor of the gay warriors rapidly cooled; for, in posting his troops in Sevenoaks Wood, the Captain of Kent had made his dispositions with such masterly skill, that the insurgents felt high confidence, and presented a formidable front. Nevertheless, Stafford did not shrink from an encounter. Boldly dashing onward, he attacked the Kentishmen in their strong-hold. His courage, however, was of no avail. At the very onslaught, he fell in front of his soldiers; and they, fighting with no good-will, allowed themselves to be easily defeated.
Proud of his victory, the Captain of Kent arrayed himself in Stafford's rich armor, advanced toward London, encamped once more on Blackheath, and threatened to attack the metropolis. His success had rendered him so popular a hero, that the Kentishmen, under the delusion that all abuses were to be reformed, called him "Captain Mendall;" and the inhabitants of Surrey and Sussex, catching the enthusiasm, crowded to his camp.
Margaret of Anjou had now cause for serious alarm. The royal army could no longer be relied on. Already many of the soldiers had deserted, and those who remained were asking, with indignation, why the Duke of York was not recalled. Aware of all this, the king deputed Humphrey Stafford, first Duke of Buckingham, a popular favorite, and a prince of the blood, to repair to Cade's camp, and expostulate with the rebels. The captain received the duke with all due respect, but declared that the insurgents could not lay down their arms, unless the king would hear their complaints in person, and pledge his royal word that their grievances should be redressed.
When Buckingham returned with Cade's answer to Greenwich, there was yet time for Henry to save his regal dignity. Had he been capable of laying aside his saintly theories for a few hours, bracing on his armor, mounting his steed, and riding forth with words of courage and patriotism on his lips, he might have won back the hearts of his soldiers, and either scattered the insurgent army by force, or dissolved it by persuasion. To do this, a king of England did not require the animal courage of a Cœur de Lion, or the political genius of an English Justinian. Any of Henry's predecessors, even the second Edward or the second Richard, could have mustered spirit and energy sufficient for the occasion. But the monk-monarch, having neither spirit nor energy, quietly resigned himself to his fate; and the queen, terrified at the commotion her imprudences had raised, disbanded the royal army, charged Lord Scales to keep the Tower, and, leaving London to its fate, departed with her husband to seek security in the strong castle of Kenilworth. There was quite as little discretion as dignity in the king's precipitate retreat. The most devoted adherents of the Red Rose might well despair of the house of Lancaster standing long, when they heard that the son of the conqueror of Agincourt had fled before the ringleader of a rabble.
Not slow to take advantage of the king's absence, the Captain of Kent moved from Blackheath to Southwark. From that place he sent to demand entrance into London; and, after a debate in the Common Council, Sir Thomas Chalton, the mayor, intimated that no opposition would be offered. Accordingly, on the 3d of July, the insurgent leader crossed London Bridge—the single bridge of which the capital then boasted—and led his followers into the city.
The inhabitants of London must have felt some degree of dismay. Both courtiers and citizens had an idea what a mob was—what violence and bloodshed the French capital had witnessed during the outbreaks of the Cabochiens—of what horrors each French province had been the scene during the Jacquerie. Moreover, the ruins of the Savoy, destroyed during Wat Tyler's insurrection, and towering gloomily on the spot now occupied by the northern approach to Waterloo Bridge, formed at least one memorial of what mischief even English peasants and artisans were capable, when roused by injustice and oppression. At first, however, the Captain of Kent displayed a degree of moderation hardly to have been anticipated. Arrayed in Stafford's splendid mail, he commenced his triumphal entry by indulging in a little harmless vanity.
"Now," said he, stopping, and striking his staff on London Stone, "now is Mortimer Lord of London."
"Take heed," said the mayor, who was standing on the threshold of his door, and witnessed the scene, "take heed that you attempt nothing against the quiet of the city."
"Sir," answered Cade, "let the world take notice of our honest intentions by our actions."
All that day the Captain of Kent appeared most anxious to gain the good opinion of the citizens. He issued proclamations against plunder, did his utmost to preserve discipline, and in the evening he marched quietly back to Southwark. Next morning, however, he returned; and, perhaps, no longer able to restrain the thirst of his followers for blood, he resolved to gratify them by the execution of "a new man."
Among the most obnoxious of the king's ministers was James Fiennes, who held the office of lord chamberlain, and enjoyed the dignity of Lord Say. The rapid rise of this peer to wealth and power had rendered him an object of dislike to the old nobility; and his connection with Suffolk's administration had rendered him an object of hatred to the people. Besides, he had lately purchased Knole Park, in the vicinity of Sevenoaks, and perhaps had, as lord of the soil, given offense to the commons of Kent by trenching on some of those privileges which they cherished so fondly.
Ere entering London, the insurgents had made up their minds to have Lord Say's head; and, aware of the odium attached to his name, the unpopular minister had taken refuge with Lord Scales in the Tower. Scales had seen much service in France, and highly distinguished himself in the wars of the fifth Henry; but now he had reached his fiftieth summer; his bodily strength had decayed; and time had perhaps impaired the martial spirit that had animated his youthful exploits. At all events, instead of defending Lord Say to the last, as might have been expected, Scales allowed him to be taken from the Tower and carried to Guildhall, and on the ill-fated lord's arrival there the Captain of Kent compelled the mayor and aldermen to arraign him as a traitor. In vain Say protested against the proceeding, and demanded a trial by his peers. The captain twitted him with being a mock patrician, and insisted upon the judges condemning the "buckram lord." At length the insurgents lost patience, hurried their prisoner into Cheapside, and, having there beheaded him without farther ceremony, hastened to execute vengeance upon his son-in-law, Sir James Cromer, who, as sheriff of Kent, had incurred their displeasure.
Intoxicated with triumph as the Captain of Kent might be, the daring adventurer felt the reverse of easy while passing himself off as a Mortimer, and could not help dreading the consequence of his real origin being revealed to those whom he had deluded. Rumors were indeed creeping about that his name was Jack Cade; that he was a native of Ireland; that in his own country he had, for some time, lived in the household of a knight, but that having killed a woman and child he had entered the French service, and acquired the military skill which he had displayed against Stafford. Moreover, some chroniclers state that, to preclude the possibility of exposure, he mercilessly executed those who were suspected to know any thing of his antecedents, and endeavored to insure the fidelity of his adherents by allowing them to perpetrate various kinds of enormity.
The citizens had hitherto submitted with patience; but on the 5th of July a provoking outrage roused them to resistance. On that day Cade, having gratified his vanity and satiated his thirst for blood, began to think of spoil. He commenced operations under peculiar circumstances. After dining with one of the citizens he requited the hospitality of his host by plundering the house, and the example of the captain was so faithfully followed by his men that the Londoners perceived the propriety of doing something for their defense. When, therefore, Cade led his forces back to Southwark for the night, and the shades of evening settled over London, the inhabitants took counsel with Lord Scales, and resolved upon fortifying the bridge so as to prevent his return.
While Cade was passing the night of the 5th of July at Southwark, reposing on his laurels, as it were, at the White Hart, news was carried to him that Lord Scales and the citizens were preparing to resist his return. With characteristic decision the Captain of Kent sprang to arms, declared he should force a passage forthwith, mustered his men, and led them to the attack. Fortune, however, now declared against him. A fierce combat took place, and the citizens defended the bridge so courageously that after a struggle of six hours the insurgents were fain to retire to Southwark.
The courage of the mob now cooled; and the king's ministers determined to try the effect of promises never intended to be redeemed. Accordingly, William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, appeared with an offer of pardon to all who would return peaceably home. At first the insurgents were divided in opinion about accepting the bishop's terms; but Cade showed an inclination to grasp at the pardon, and finally all dispersed. The Captain of Kent, however, had as little intention as the government to act with honor; and within ten days he again appeared in Southwark with a considerable following. This time, however, the citizens, elate with victory, presented a firm front; and, dismayed at their threatening aspect, Cade retreated to Rochester. While there, terrified at the feuds of his followers, he learned with horror that a thousand marks had been offered for his apprehension; and, alarmed at the probability of being delivered up, he galloped across the country toward the coast of Sussex, and, for some time, wandered about in disguise.
The Captain of Kent was not destined to elude the vengeance of the government which he had defied. An esquire of the county, named Alexander Iden, pursued the despairing insurgent, and found him lurking in a garden at Rothfield. Cade did not yield to his fate without a struggle. Drawing his sword, he stood upon his defense; and both the captain and the esquire being men of strength and courage, a desperate conflict ensued. The victory, however, fell to Iden; and Cade's head, after being carried to the king, was set on London Bridge, his face turned toward the hills of Kent. Many of his companions, in spite of Bishop Waynflete's promise of pardon, were subsequently taken and executed as traitors.
Such was the end of a popular tumult, the origin of which remains in considerable obscurity. Some asserted that Jack Cade was merely an agent of Richard Plantagenet, and did not hesitate to describe "Captain Mendall" as "one of the Duke of York's firebrands." No evidence exists, however, to show that the "high and mighty prince," freely as his great name might have been used by the insurgents, had any thing to do with the enterprise. Nevertheless the insurrection was not without influence on the duke's fortunes, and it has ever been regarded as a prelude to the fierce struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster.
About the end of August, 1451, a rumor reached the court of Westminster that the Duke of York had suddenly left Ireland. The queen was naturally somewhat alarmed; for, during Cade's insurrection, the duke's name had been used in such a way as to test his influence, and no doubt remained of the popularity he enjoyed among the commons.
Margaret of Anjou had no wish to see York in London. On the pretext, therefore, that the duke came with too large a force, the queen, at Somerset's instigation, dispatched Lord Lisle, son of the famous Talbot, to prevent his landing. York, however, eluded the vigilance of his enemies, made his way to London, paid his respects to the king, complained of the misgovernment under which the country was suffering; and, still mute as to his intentions, retired to Fotheringay, a castle which had been built by his ancestor, Edmund of Langley.
The absence of York from court exercised more influence in London than his presence could have done, and soon after his return from Ireland a member of the House of Commons boldly proposed that, since Henry had no issue and no prospect of any, the duke should be declared heir to the throne. For his temerity this senator was committed to the Tower; but the Commons, who were not thus to be daunted, passed a bill of attainder against the deceased Duke of Suffolk, and presented a petition to the king for the dismissal of Somerset, who was Suffolk's successor and York's foe.
The name of the Duke of Somerset was Edmund Beaufort. He was the illegitimate grandson of John of Gaunt, nephew of Cardinal Beaufort, and brother of that fair damsel whom James, the poet-king of Scots, had wooed at Windsor, under circumstances so romantic. He had, for several years, been Regent of France, and in that capacity displayed considerable vigor; but the loss of Normandy occurred during his government, and this misfortune, coupled with his violent temper, and the fact of his enjoying the queen's favor, rendered Somerset's name as odious to the multitude as that of Suffolk had ever been. The queen, however, not being inclined to bow to popular opinion, resisted the demand of the House of Commons for her favorite's dismissal; and the strife between the parties was carried on with a degree of violence which, in any other country, would have produced immediate war and bloodshed.
The heir of the Plantagenets, however, recognized the necessity of acting with prudence. In fact, the Lancastrian dynasty was still so much in favor with the nation that an attempt on York's part to seize the crown would inevitably have added to the power of his enemies; but in any efforts to put down Somerset, and the men whom that obnoxious minister used as the instruments of his tyranny, the duke well knew that he carried with him the hearts of the people and of those great patricians whom the people regarded as their natural leaders.
Though the Earl of Westmoreland adhered to the house of Lancaster the alliance of the other Nevilles would of itself have rendered York formidable; and, besides the Nevilles, there were many feudal magnates who shared York's antipathy to Somerset. Thomas, Lord Stanley, who had married Warwick's sister; John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, descended from a granddaughter of the first Edward; John De Vere, Earl of Oxford, whose ancestors had been great in England since the Conquest; and Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon, whose pedigree dated from the age of Charlemagne, could not witness without indignation the domination of Beauforts. "We are unwilling," such men must have murmured, "to see the court of Westminster converted into a sty for the brood of Katherine Swynford."
York, for some time, hesitated to strike a blow; but, at length, and not without reason, he lost all patience. Indeed, the Yorkists affirmed that a plot had been formed for imprisoning their chief, and putting him secretly to death; and the memory of Humphrey of Gloucester's fate rendered people credulous of any such report. To baffle any such criminal project, a movement against Somerset was resolved upon by the partisans of the White Rose; and, about the opening of 1452, York repaired to his castle of Ludlow, gathered an army among the retainers of the house of Mortimer, and, declaring that he had no evil intentions against the king, to whom he offered to swear fealty on the sacrament, commenced his march toward London.
The Lancastrians were alarmed at the intelligence that the duke was in arms; and forces were mustered to intercept his march. But while the royal army went westward by one road York came eastward by another, and, with several thousand men at his back, appeared at the gates of London. The metropolis, however, had aided in that revolution which placed Henry of Bolingbroke on the throne, and still continued well affected to the house of Lancaster. York did not, therefore, meet with such a reception as his friends could have wished. The gates, in fact, were shut in his face; and, not wishing to exasperate the citizens by acts of violence, he marched up the banks of the Thames, crossed the river at Kingston, and, having been joined by the Earl of Devon, encamped his army on Brent Heath, near Dartford.
Henry, meantime, ventured on taking the field, and pitched his pavilion on Blackheath. It soon appeared, however, that on neither side was there any inclination to involve the country in civil war. Negotiations were therefore opened; and two bishops, commissioned to act for the king, proceeded to the camp of the Yorkists and demanded of their chief why he had appeared in arms.
The duke, who would seem to have been unaware of the utter insincerity of his enemies, answered that repeated attempts had been made to effect his ruin, and that he was in arms for his own safety. The bishops, who well knew how truly York spoke, admitted that he had been watched with a jealous eye, but assigned as a reason that the treasonable talk of his adherents justified suspicion. On the king's part, however, they acquitted him of all treason, saying that Henry esteemed him as a true man and well-beloved cousin; and York, maintaining a high tone, insisted that all persons who had broken the laws of the realm, especially those who had been indicted for treason, should be put upon their trial. The demand was so reasonable that compliance could not with decency be refused; and Henry, having promised that every offender should be punished, issued an order for the apprehension of Somerset, and gave York to understand that he should have a place in the council.
Far from doubting the king's good faith, York disbanded his army, and agreed to a personal interview with his royal kinsman. The result was not the most satisfactory. It proved beyond question that, however saintly his theories, Henry was capable of acting with an utter disregard of honor—that he had little sympathy with the fine sentiment of his ancestor, John de Valois, who, when advised to violate a treaty with our third Edward, exclaimed: "Were truth and sincerity banished from every part of the earth, they ought yet to be found in the mouths and the hearts of kings." It appears that the queen had concealed Somerset behind the arras of the king's tent, and no sooner did York enter, and repeat what he had said to the two bishops, than the favorite, stepping from behind a curtain, offered to prove his innocence, and called York liar and traitor.
The scene which followed may easily be imagined. Somerset was violent and insolent; Henry, alarmed and silent; York, indignant and scornful. The duke could now entertain no doubt that he had been betrayed; but his courage did not desert him. He retorted Somerset's epithets with interest, and was turning haughtily to take his departure, when informed that he was a captive. Somerset then proposed a summary trial and execution; but the courtiers shrunk from the opprobrium of another murder. The king, who, save in the case of Lollards, had no love of executions, took the more moderate view; and the duke, instead of perishing on the scaffold, was sent as a state prisoner to the Tower of London.
While the queen and her friends were still bent on York's destruction, a rumor that his eldest son Edward, the boy-Earl of March, was coming from Ludlow at the head of a strong body of Welshmen, filled the council with alarm. The duke was thereupon set at liberty, and, after making his submission, allowed to retire to the borders of Wales. Having reached the dominions of the Mortimers, the heir-presumptive sought refuge within the walls of the castles of Wigmore and Ludlow, repressed ambitious longings and patriotic indignation, and, for the restoration of better days to himself and his country, trusted to the chapter of accidents and the course of events.
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