« PreviousContinue »
murdered Duke of Suffolk should be attainted in blood, and his lands declared forfeit for the murder of the Duke of Glocester, of which they had never dared to accuse him in his lifetime; and another bill was brought in to banish for twelve miles distance from court his widow, the Duchess Alice, Chaucer's grand-daughter, the Duke of Somerset, the Bishop of Chester, and the other most intimate friends of the King.
The Duchess was tried before the peers, and acquitted ; Somerset was also found to have been justified by the plea of necessity, and the prosecutions all failed except that against the murderers of Tresham, who were outlawed. The King declared that he would never consent to the attainder of his dead friend Suffolk, and to the demand for the removal of his ministers; that he could not spare those who were in immediate attendance on his person, and that he never meant to be surrounded by any save virtuous persons, but to content the people the others should absent themselves for a year, unless he should need them in case of a rebellion. Also, a bill brought in by the member for Bristol, demanding that the Duke of York should be declared heir to the throne, failing children of the King, was thrown out, and the mover imprisoned for treason. Somerset's absence was softened by the government of Calais, and altogether matters went against the Duke of York.
Angry and bitter, he held many consultations with the Nevils and his other friends, and the result was that he withdrew to the Mortimer estates on the Welsh border, and bided his time for what appears to have been intended at first partly as an armed demonstration against the ministry, and partly as a means of obtaining a recognition of the superiority of his claims to those of Somerset.
Was there really misgovernment? It is hardly possible to tell, unless the discontent of the people be accepted as evidence. The finances were no doubt in a very bad state, drained by the expensive wars in France, and the supplies most reluctantly doled out by the Commons; the personal estates of the crown had dwindled to 5000 pounds a year, and were absolutely insufficient, even with the rigid economy practised by both King and Queen. Henry, simple and even ascetic, never was lavish save in alms; and Margaret, bred up to poverty, cheerfully used all personal economies to avoid the demands that were sure to be met with bitter reproach. But a needy court, especially with a king without strength, 'was likely to be annoying, and the subordinates were probably rapacious. Moreover, the clergy were devoted to the pious King, and these were the very worst times in all clerical history. Law being almost wholly practised by clerks, the pettifogging arts of attorneys were carried on by many of the lower functionaries, and charged on the whole order. Dues that belonged to ministers of parishes were apt to be rigidly enforced, above all, when the monasteries had managed to get the rectories into their hands, and starved the vicar or appointed none; and thus there was no doubt much extortion practised all over the kingdom. There were
also frequent complaints of the judges and sheriffs, with what reason is not clear; and whatever was wrong the people charged on the French Queen and the Duke of Somerset; whereas the fact seems to have been, not that they perverted either the laws or the supplies, for their hands were tied, but that they were powerless to prevent petty vexations from unscrupulous subordinates, and that Margaret's attempts to right matters were those of a hasty-tempered foreigner.
And in contrast with the poverty-stricken court was the magnificence of the Earl of Warwick. He kept open house both at his castles in the country, Warwick, Middleham, and the rest, and in his London abode at Warwick House. Six oxen were daily slaughtered for breakfast, and other cattle in proportion; and no wonder, for not only was his following in yeomen alone-exclusive of knights and squires--six hundred in number, who all were maintained at his table, but any of their friends or kindred might come in and carry off as much ment as they could catch or carry off, by a thrust of a long dagger into the caldron where it was boiling. All the six hundred were clad alike in red jerkins, with the Beauchamp cognizance, the bear and ragged staff, embroidered before and behind; and the retinue of the Earl and his Countess consisted of a splendid band of gentlemen and ladies, holding offices like those in a royal court. They themselves were well fitted to preside over so mighty a household; the lady was noble, virtuous, and hospitable, the Earl brave and able, hitherto of unstained honour, an encourager of pious and learned men, and of frank courteous manners that made him be as passionately loved and followed by high and low, as had been Earl Godwin, Simon de Montfort, or Thomas of Lancaster ; for, in truth, such a mighty Waren was sure in England to rise up to eclipse, oppose, and sometimes extinguish a weak sovereign.
The wánt of a strong government was visible enough in the disorders that prevailed, and which almost recall those days of Stephen, when all the barons were making war on their own account. In the spring of 1451, Courtenay Earl of Devon besieged Taunton Castle, which was held by Lord Bonville, a friend of Somerset's; and the Duke of York coming to his assistance, forced it to surrender. Apparently in revenge, a body of men from the western counties set upon York, and would have slain him, had not Sir William Oldhall saved him at the risk of his own life. Again, Thomas Nevil, brother to Warwick, was married in August to a niece of Lord Cromwell, Suffolk's enemy; and on the way home, bis father the Earl of Salisbury had a hot dispute with Lord Egremont, one of the nine sons of the restored Earl of Northumberland, son of Hotspur; and this conflict was looked back to as the beginning of the evil times. Good old Archbishop Stafford died in this summer of 1451, and was succeeded by Cardinal Kemp, a less popular man, as being more inclined to the Red Rose party.
The two offences above mentioned seem to have furnished York with an excuse for taking up arms; and just as the year 1452 began, he raised VOL. 7.
his tenants round Ludlow Castle, and actually marched against the King, putting forth proclamations professing loyalty to him personally, but declaring that the attack was for the general welfare.
Henry was driven at length to take up arms, and marched westwards to meet him ; but York took a different road, and reached London, where however the citizens had loyalty enough to close their gates against him, and crossing the Thames he entered Kent, where Cade's old adherents joined him in numbers. The King followed him, and the two armies were both on Blackheath together; but anxious to prevent a battle, Henry sent the Bishops of Winchester and Ely to ask what were York's grievances. The old story was reiterated that the royal counsellors were
blood-suckers of the nobility, plunderers of the clergy, oppressors of the commonalty, and that Somerset was a traitor.' Therefore it was demanded that all persons suspected of treason should be imprisoned in the Tower, and a new council summoned, of which York should be a member.
The King, by the advice of the Bishops, granted all this; and the adverse army, as yet reluctant to face the saintly king in battle, was disbanded, and the Duke came himself unarmed and bare-beaded to visit Henry in his tent. But in the meantime, Margaret, with womanish haste and imprudence, bad listened to Somerset's arguments against sacrificing a friend to please a foe, released him on her own authority, and hid him behind the tapestry of her husband's tent.
Soon he heard York accusing him of crime and treason, and bursting forth, he hurled back again the imputation in his rival's teeth, and the two nobles bandied words with all the fury of the old Plantagenets; while the poor King sat speechless, amazed, shocked, and forced to hear York's unmerited reproach to him for having broken his royal word. But the Queen's manoeuvre succeeded; York was arrested as he turned to leave the tent, and she and Somerset would have had a basty trial and sentence upon him, had not the King, grieved, ashamed, and always resolved against revenge or bloodshed, insisted that no harm should be done to him. He was kept in custody for some days, and then came a report that his eldest son, Edward Earl of March, was coming with an army to deliver him. The boy was only eleven years old, but he might have been put forward by his father's partizans, and he was tall and precocious. On this rumour, it was determined to release the Duke, after he had again sworn fealty to the King, upon the Holy Eucharist at St. Paul's, before all the Lords; and he then retired to his own estates, where, that autumn, at Fotheringay Castle, was born, October 13th, 1453, that son who was to close, in murder and in blood, the career of the once glorious House of Plantagenet—a child born with two teeth, hair down over his neck, and uneven shoulders ; and who received the name of Richard. He was the last of the twelve children of Richard and Cecily, except one little daughter, named Ursula, who died an infant. Of the sons, Henry, John, Thomas, and William also died early, so that the survivors were seven in number. They were very carefully educated in all learning, and much
practice of piety, for the Lady Cecily was a very religious woman so far as observances went; but she was intensely proud and ambitious, resolved from her earliest youth to be a queen, and always stirring up her husband to ambition, and keeping up his connection with her numerous brothers, no less than nine of whom were peers of the realm. Her hopes and those of York could, however, wait for the present, since the King was sickly, the Queen childless; and it was plain that the nation would never endure any Beaufort sovereign, least of all the direct heiress, the child Margaret, who had just been wedded to the King's half-brother, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Already, indeed, York issued his letters with his title at the top in royal style, and Cecily gave audience in her throne room at Fotheringay, with all the state of the Queen herself.
(To be continued.)
And sought its handsome shaft to rid
And this the motto which I found
The owner of this vast domain,