E-text prepared by Marjorie Fulton
HISTORIC DOUBTS OF THE LIFE AND REIGN OF KING RICHARD THE THIRD.
MR. HORACE WALPOLE.
L'histoire n'est fondee que sur le tomoignage des Auteurs qui nous l'ont transmisse. Il importe donc extremement, pour la scavoir, de bien connoitre quels etoient ces Auteurs. Rien n'est a negliger en ce point; le tems ou ils ont vecu, leur naissance, leur patrie, le part qu'ils ont eue aux affaires, les moyens par lesquels ils ont ete instruits, et l'interet qu'ils y pouvaient prendre, sont des circonstances essentielles qu'il n'est pas permis d'ignorer: dela depend le plus ou le moins d'autorite qu'ils doivent avoir: et sans cette connoissance, on courra risque tres souvent de prendre pour guide un Historien de mauvaisse foi, ou du moins, mal informe. Hist. de l'Acad. des Inscript. Vol. X.
First Published 1768
So incompetent has the generality of historians been for the province they have undertaken, that it is almost a question, whether, if the dead of past ages could revive, they would be able to reconnoitre the events of their own times, as transmitted to us by ignorance and misrepresentation. All very ancient history, except that of the illuminated Jews, is a perfect fable. It was written by priests, or collected from their reports; and calculated solely to raise lofty ideas of the origin of each nation. Gods and demi-gods were the principal actors; and truth is seldom to be expected where the personages are supernatural. The Greek historians have no advantage over the Peruvian, but in the beauty of their language, or from that language being more familiar to us. Mango Capac, the son of the sun, is as authentic a founder of a royal race, as the progenitor of the Heraclidae. What truth indeed could be expected, when even the identity of person is uncertain? The actions of one were ascribed to many, and of many to one. It is not known whether there was a single Hercules or twenty.
As nations grew polished. History became better authenticated. Greece itself learned to speak a little truth. Rome, at the hour of its fall, had the consolation of seeing the crimes of its usurpers published. The vanquished inflicted eternal wounds on their conquerors—but who knows, if Pompey had succeeded, whether Julius Caesar would not have been decorated as a martyr to publick liberty? At some periods the suffering criminal captivates all hearts; at others, the triumphant tyrant. Augustus, drenched in the blood of his fellow-citizens, and Charles Stuart, falling in his own blood, are held up to admiration. Truth is left out of the discussion; and odes and anniversary sermons give the law to history and credulity.
But if the crimes of Rome are authenticated, the case is not the same with its virtues. An able critic has shown that nothing is more problematic than the history of the three or four first ages of that city. As the confusions of the state increased, so do the confusions in its story. The empire had masters, whose names are only known from medals. It is uncertain of what princes several empresses were the wives. If the jealousy of two antiquaries intervenes, the point becomes inexplicable. Oriuna, on the medals of Carausius, used to pass for the moon: of late years it is become a doubt whether she was not his consort. It is of little importance whether she was moon or empress: but 'how little must we know of those times, when those land-marks to certainty, royal names, do not serve even that purpose! In the cabinet of the king of France are several coins of sovereigns, whose country cannot now be guessed at.
The want of records, of letters, of printing, of critics; wars, revolutions, factions, and other causes, occasioned these defects in ancient history. Chronology and astronomy are forced to tinker up and reconcile, as well as they can, those uncertainties. This satisfies the learned—but what should we think of the reign of George the Second, to be calculated two thousand years hence by eclipses, lest the conquest of Canada should be ascribed to James the First.
At the very moment that the Roman empire was resettled, nay, when a new metropolis was erected, in an age of science and arts, while letters still held up their heads in Greece; consequently, when the great outlines of truth, I mean events, might be expected to be established; at that very period a new deluge of error burst upon the world. Cristian monks and saints laid truth waste; and a mock sun rose at Rome, when the Roman sun sunk at Constantinople. Virtues and vices were rated by the standard of bigotry; and the militia of the church became the only historians. The best princes were represented as monsters; the worst, at least the most useless, were deified, according as they depressed or exalted turbulent and enthusiastic prelates and friars. Nay, these men were so destitute of temper and common sense, that they dared to suppose that common sense would never revisit the earth: and accordingly wrote with so little judgment, and committed such palpable forgeries, that if we cannot discover what really happened in those ages, we can at least he very sure what did not. How many general persecutions does the church record, of which there is not the smallest trace? What donations and charters were forged, for which those holy persons would lose their ears, if they were in this age to present them in the most common court of judicature? Yet how long were these impostors the only persons who attempted to write history!
But let us lay aside their interested lies, and consider how far they were qualified in other respects to transmit faithful memoirs to posterity. In the ages I speak of, the barbarous monkish ages, the shadow of learning that existed was confined to the clergy: they generally wrote in Latin, or in verse, and their compositions in both were truly barbarous. The difficulties of rhime, and the want of correspondent terms in Latin, were no small impediments to the severe nvarch of truth. But there were worse obstacles to encounter. Europe was in a continual state of warfare. Little princes and great lords were constantly skirmishing and struggling for trifling additions of territory, or wasting each others borders. Geography was very imperfect; no police existed; roads, such as they were, were dangerous; and posts were not established. Events were only known by rumour, from pilgrims, or by letters carried In couriers to the parties interested: the public did not enjoy even those fallible vehicles of intelligence, newspapers. In this situation did monks, at twenty, fifty, an hundred, nay, a thousand miles distance (and under the circumstances I have mentioned even twenty miles were considerable) undertake to write history—and they wrote it accordingly.
If we take a survey of our own history, and examine it with any attention, what an unsatisfactory picture does it present to us! How dry, how superficial, how void of information! How little is recorded besides battles, plagues, and religious foundations! That this should be the case, before the Conquest, is not surprizing. Our empire was but forming itself, or re-collecting its divided members into one mass, which, from the desertion of the Romans, had split into petty kingdoms. The invasions of nations as barbarous as ourselves, interfered with every plan of policy and order that might have been formed to settle the emerging state; and swarms of foreign monks were turned loose upon us with their new faith and mysteries, to bewilder and confound the plain good sense of our ancestors. It was too much to have Danes, Saxons, and Popes, to combat at once! Our language suffered as much as our government; and not having acquired much from our Roman masters, was miserably disfigured by the subsequent invaders. The unconquered parts of the island retained some purity and some precision. The Welsh and Erse tongues wanted not harmony: but never did exist a more barbarous jargon than the dialect, still venerated by antiquaries, and called Saxon. It was so uncouth, so inflexible to all composition, that the monks, retaining the idiom, were reduced to write in what they took or meant for Latin.
The Norman tyranny succeeded, and gave this Babel of savage sounds a wrench towards their own language. Such a mixture necessarily required ages to bring it to some standard: and, consequently, whatever compositions were formed during its progress, were sure of growing obsolete. However, the authors of those days were not likely to make these obvious reflections; and indeed seem to have aimed at no one perfection. From the Conquest to the reign of Henry the Eighth it is difficult to discover any one beauty in our writers, but their simplicity. They told their tale, like story-tellers; that is, they related without art or ornament; and they related whatever they heard. No councils of princes, no motives of conduct, no remoter springs of action, did they investigate or learn. We have even little light into the characters of the actors. A king or an archbishop of Canterbury are the only persons with whom we are made much acquainted. The barons are all represented as brave patriots; but we have not the satisfaction of knowing which, of them were really so; nor whether they were not all turbulent and ambitious. The probability is, that both kings and nobles wished to encroach on each other, and if any sparks of liberty were struck out in all likelihood it was contrary to the intention of either the flint or the steel.
Hence it has been thought necessary to give a new dress to English history. Recourse has been had to records, and they are far from corroborating the testimonies of our historians. Want of authentic memorials has obliged our later writers to leave the mass pretty much as they found it. Perhaps all the requisite attention that might have been bestowed, has not been bestowed. It demands great industry and patience to wade into such abstruse stores as records and charters: and they being jejune and narrow in themselves, very acute criticism is necessary to strike light from their assistance. If they solemnly contradict historians in material facts, we may lose our history; but it is impossible to adhere to our historians. Partiality man cannot intirely divest himself of; it is so natural, that the bent of a writer to one side or the other of a question is almost always discoverable. But there is a wide difference between favouring and lying and yet I doubt whether the whole stream of our historians, misled by their originals, have not falsified one reign in our annals in the grossest manner. The moderns are only guilty of taking-on trust what they ought to have examined more scrupulously, as the authors whom they copied were all ranked on one side in a flagrant season of party. But no excuse can be made for the original authors, who, I doubt, have violated all rules of truth.
The confusions which attended the civil war between the houses of York and Lancaster, threw an obscurity over that part of our annals, which it is almost impossible to dispel. We have scarce any authentic monuments of the reign of Edward the Fourth; and ought to read his history with much distrust, from the boundless partiality of the succeeding writers to the opposite cause. That diffidence should increase as we proceed to the reign of his brother.
It occurred to me some years ago, that the picture of Richard the Third, as drawn by historians, was a character formed by prejudice and invention. I did not take Shakespeare's tragedy for a genuine representation, but I did take the story of that reign for a tragedy of imagination. Many of the crimes imputed to Richard seemed improbable; and, what was stronger, contrary to his interest. A few incidental circumstances corroborated my opinion; an original and important instrument was pointed out to me last winter, which gave rise to the following' sheets; and as it was easy to perceive, under all the glare of encomiums which historians have heaped on the wisdom of Henry the Seventh, that he was a mean and unfeeling tyrant, I suspected that they had blackened his rival, till Henry, by the contrast, should appear in a kind of amiable light. The more I examined their story, the more I was confirmed in my opinion: and with regard to Henry, one consequence I could not help drawing; that we have either no authentic memorials of Richard's crimes, or, at most, no account of them but from Lancastrian historians; whereas the vices and injustice of Henry are, though palliated, avowed by the concurrent testimony of his panegyrists. Suspicions and calumny were fastened on Richard as so many assassinations. The murders committed by Henry were indeed executions and executions pass for prudence with prudent historians; for when a successful king is chief justice, historians become a voluntary jury.
If I do not flatter myself, I have unravelled a considerable part of that dark period. Whether satisfactory or not, my readers must decide. Nor is it of any importance whether I have or not. The attempt was mere matter of curiosity and speculation. If any man, as idle as myself, should take the trouble to review and canvass my arguments I am ready to yield so indifferent a point to better reasons. Should declamation alone be used to contradict me, I shall not think I am less in the right.
Nov. 28th, 1767.
HISTORIC DOUBTS ON THE LIFE AND REIGN OF KING RICHARD III.
There is a kind of literary superstition, which men are apt to contract from habit, and which-makes them look On any attempt towards shaking their belief in any established characters, no matter whether good or bad, as a sort of prophanation. They are determined to adhere to their first impressions, and are equally offended at any innovation, whether the person, whose character is to be raised or depressed, were patriot or tyrant, saint or sinner. No indulgence is granted to those who would ascertain the truth. The more the testimonies on either side have been multiplied, the stronger is the conviction; though it generally happens that the original evidence is wonderous slender, and that the number of writers have but copied one another; or, what is worse, have only added to the original, without any new authority. Attachment so groundless is not to be regarded; and in mere matters of curiosity, it were ridiculous to pay any deference to it. If time brings new materials to light, if facts and dates confute historians, what does it signify that we have been for two or three hundred years under an error? Does antiquity consecrate darkness? Does a lie become venerable from its age?
Historic justice is due to all characters. Who would not vindicate Henry the Eighth or Charles the Second, if found to be falsely traduced? Why then not Richard the Third? Of what importance is it to any man living whether or not he was as bad as he is represented? No one noble family is sprung from him.
However, not to disturb too much the erudition of those who have read the dismal story of his cruelties, and settled their ideas of his tyranny and usurpation, I declare I am not going to write a vindication of him. All I mean to show, is, that though he may have been as execrable as we are told he was, we have little or no reason to believe so. If the propensity of habit should still incline a single man to suppose that all he has read of Richard is true, I beg no more, than that that person would be so impartial as to own that he has little or no foundation for supposing so.
I will state the list of the crimes charged on Richard; I will specify the authorities on which he was accused; I will give a faithful account of the historians by whom he was accused; and will then examine the circumstances of each crime and each evidence; and lastly, show that some of the crimes were contrary to Richard's interest, and almost all inconsistent with probability or with dates, and some of them involved in material contradictions.
Supposed crimes of Richard the Third.
1st. His murder of Edward prince of Wales, son of Henry the Sixth.
2d. His murder of Henry the Sixth.
3d. The murder of his brother George duke of Clarence.
4th. The execution of Rivers, Gray, and Vaughan.
5th, The execution of Lord Hastings.
6th. The murder of Edward the Fifth and his brother.
7th. The murder of his own queen.
To which may be added, as they are thrown into the list to blacken him, his intended match with his own niece Elizabeth, the penance of Jane Shore, and his own personal deformities.
I. Of the murder of Edward prince of Wales, son of Henry the Sixth.
Edward the Fourth had indubitably the hereditary right to the crown; which he pursued with singular bravery and address, and with all the arts of a politician and the cruelty of a conqueror. Indeed on neither side do there seem to have been any scruples: Yorkists and Lancastrians, Edward and Margaret of Anjou, entered into any engagements, took any oaths, violated them, and indulged their revenge, as often as they were depressed or victorious. After the battle of Tewksbury, in which Margaret and her son were made prisoners, young Edward was brought to the presence of Edward the Fourth; "but after the king," says Fabian, the oldest historian of those times, "had questioned with the said Sir Edwarde, and he had answered unto hym contrary his pleasure, he then strake him with his gauntlet upon the face; after which stroke, so by him received, he was by the kynges servants incontinently slaine." The chronicle of Croyland of the same date says, "the prince was slain 'ultricibus quorundam manibus';" but names nobody.
Hall, who closes his word with the reign of Henry the Eighth, says, that "the prince beyinge bold of stomache and of a good courag, answered the king's question (of how he durst so presumptuously enter into his realme with banner displayed) sayinge, to recover my fater's kingdome and enheritage, &c. at which wordes kyng Edward said nothing, but with his hand thrust him from him, or, as some say, stroke him with his gauntlet, whome incontinent, they that stode about, which were George duke of Clarence, Richard duke of Gloucester, Thomas marques Dorset (son of queen Elizabeth Widville) and William lord Hastinges, sodainly murthered and pitiously manquelled." Thus much had the story gained from the time of Fabian to that of Hall.
Hollingshed repeats these very words, consequently is a transcriber, and no new authority.
John Stowe reverts to Fabian's account, as the only one not grounded on hear-say, and affirms no more, than that the king cruelly smote the young prince on the face with his gauntlet, and after his servants slew him.
Of modern historians, Rapin and Carte, the only two who seem not to have swallowed implicitly all the vulgar tales propagated by the Lancastrians to blacken the house of York, warn us to read with allowance the exaggerated relations of those times. The latter suspects, that at the dissolution of the monasteries all evidences were suppressed that tended to weaken the right of the prince on the throne; but as Henry the Eighth concentred in himself both the claim of Edward the Fourth and that ridiculous one of Henry the Seventh, he seems to have had less occasion to be anxious lest the truth should come out; and indeed his father had involved that truth in so much darkness, that it was little likely to force its way. Nor was it necessary then to load the memory of Richard the Third, who had left no offspring. Henry the Eighth had no competitor to fear but the descendants of Clarence, of whom he seems to have had sufficient apprehension, as appeared by his murder of the old countess of Salisbury, daughter of Clarence, and his endeavours to root out her posterity. This jealousy accounts for Hall charging the duke of Clarence, as well as the duke of Gloucester, with the murder of prince Edward. But in accusations of so deep a dye, it is not sufficient ground for our belief, that an historian reports them with such a frivolous palliative as that phrase, "as some say". A cotemporary names the king's servants as perpetrators of the murder: Is not that more probable, than that the king's own brothers should have dipped their hands in so foul an assassination? Richard, in particular, is allowed on all hands to have been a brave and martial prince: he had great share in the victory at Tewksbury: Some years afterwards, he commanded his brother's troops in Scotland, and made himself master of Edinburgh. At the battle of Bosworth, where he fell, his courage was heroic: he sought Richmond, and endeavoured to decide their quarrel by a personal combat, slaying Sir William Brandon, his rival's standard-bearer, with his own hand, and felling to the ground Sir John Cheney, who endeavoured to oppose his fury. Such men may be carried by ambition to command the execution of those who stand in their way; but are not likely to lend their hand, in cold blood, to a base, and, to themselves, useless assassination. How did it import Richard in what manner the young prince was put to death? If he had so early planned the ambitious designs ascribed to him, he might have trusted to his brother Edward, so much more immediately concerned, that the young prince would not be spared. If those views did not, as is probable, take root in his heart till long afterwards, what interest had Richard to murder an unhappy young prince? This crime therefore was so unnecessary, and is so far from being established by any authority, that he deserves to be entirely acquitted of it.
II. The murder of Henry the Sixth.
This charge, no better supported than the preceding, is still more improbable. "Of the death of this prince, Henry the Sixth," says Fabian, "divers tales wer told. But the most common fame went, that he was sticken with a dagger by the handes of the duke of Gloceter." The author of the Continuation of the Chronicle of Croyland says only, that the body of king Henry was found lifeless (exanime) in the Tower. "Parcat Deus", adds he, "spatium poenitentiae Ei donet, Quicunque sacrilegas manus in Christum Domini ausus est immittere. Unde et agens tyranni, patiensque gloriosi martyris titulum mereatur." The prayer for the murderer, that he may live to repent, proves that the passage was written immediately after the murder was committed. That the assassin deserved the appellation of tyrant, evinces that the historian's suspicions went high; but as he calls him Quicunque, and as we are uncertain whether he wrote before the death of Edward the Fourth or between his death and that of Richard the Third, we cannot ascertain which of the brothers he meant. In strict construction he should mean Edward, because as he is speaking of Henry's death, Richard, then only duke of Gloucester, could not properly be called a tyrant. But as monks were not good grammatical critics, I shall lay no stress on this objection. I do think he alluded to Richard; having treated him severely in the subsequent part of his history, and having a true monkish partiality to Edward, whose cruelty and vices he slightly noticed, in favour to that monarch's severity to heretics and ecclesiastic expiations. "Is princeps, licet diebus suis cupiditatibus & luxui nimis intemperanter indulsisse credatur, in fide tamen catholicus summ, hereticorum severissimus hostis sapientium & doctorum hominum clericorumque promotor amantissimus, sacramentorum ecclesiae devotissimus venerator, peccatorumque fuorum omnium paenitentissimus fuit." That monster Philip the Second possessed just the same virtues. Still, I say, let the monk suspect whom he would, if Henry was found dead, the monk was not likely to know who murdered him—and if he did, he has not told us.
Hall says, "Poore kyng Henry the Sixte, a little before deprived of hys realme and imperial croune, was now in the Tower of London spoyled of his life and all wordly felicite by Richard duke of Gloucester (as the constant fame ranne) which, to the intent that king Edward his brother should be clere out of al secret suspicyon of sudden invasion, murthered the said king with a dagger." Whatever Richard was, it seems he was a most excellent and kind-hearted brother, and scrupled not on any occasion to be the Jack Ketch of the times. We shall see him soon (if the evidence were to be believed) perform the same friendly office for Edward on their brother Clarence. And we must admire that he, whose dagger was so fleshed in murder for the service of another, should be so put to it to find the means of making away with his nephews, whose deaths were considerably more essential to him. But can this accusation be allowed gravely? if Richard aspired to the crown, whose whole conduct during Edward's reign was a scene, as we are told, of plausibility and decorum, would he officiously and unnecessarily have taken on himself the odium of slaying a saint-like monarch, adored by the people? Was it his interest to save Edward's character at the expence of his own? Did Henry stand in his way, deposed, imprisoned, and now childless? The blind and indiscriminate zeal with which every crime committed in that bloody age was placed to Richard's account, makes it greatly probable, that interest of party had more hand than truth in drawing his picture. Other cruelties, which I shall mention, and to which we know his motives, he certainly commanded; nor am I desirous to purge him where I find him guilty: but mob-stories or Lancastrian forgeries ought to be rejected from sober history; nor can they be repeated, without exposing the writer to the imputation of weakness and vulgar credulity.
III. The murder of his brother Clarence.
In the examination of this article, I shall set aside our historians (whose gossipping narratives, as we have seen, deserve little regard) because we have better authority to direct our inquiries: and this is, the attainder of the duke of Clarence, as it is set forth in the Parliamentary History (copied indeed from Habington's Life of Edward the Fourth) and by the editors of that history justly supposed to be taken from Stowe, who had seen the original bill of attainder. The crimes and conspiracy of Clarence are there particularly enumerated, and even his dealing with conjurers and necromancers, a charge however absurd, yet often made use of in that age. Eleanor Cobham, wife of Humphrey duke of Gloucester, had been condemned on a parallel accusation. In France it was a common charge; and I think so late as in the reign of Henry the Eighth Edward duke of Buckingham was said to have consulted astrologers and such like cattle, on the succession of the crown. Whether Clarence was guilty we cannot easily tell; for in those times neither the public nor the prisoner were often favoured with knowing the evidence on which sentence was passed. Nor was much information of that sort given to or asked by parliament itself, previous to bills of attainder. The duke of Clarence appears to have been at once a weak, volatile, injudicious, and ambitious man. He had abandoned his brother Edward, had espoused the daughter of Warwick, the great enemy of their house, and had even been declared successor to Henry the Sixth and his son prince Edward. Conduct so absurd must have left lasting impressions on Edward's mind, not to be effaced by Clarence's subsequent treachery to Henry and Warwick. The Chronicle of Croyland mentions the ill-humour and discontents of Clarence; and all our authors agree, that he kept no terms with the queen and her relations.(1) Habington adds, that these discontents were secretly fomented by the duke of Gloucester. Perhaps they were: Gloucester certainly kept fair with the queen, and profited largely by the forfeiture of his brother. But where jealousies are secretly fomented in a court, they seldom come to the knowledge of an historian; and though he may have guessed right from collateral circumstances, these insinuations are mere gratis dicta and can only be treated as surmises.(2) Hall, Hollingshed, and Stowe say not a word of Richard being the person who put the sentence in execution; but, on the contrary, they all say he openly resisted the murder of Clarence: all too record another circumstance, which is perfectly ridiculous that Clarence was drowned in a barrel or butt of malmsey. Whoever can believe that a butt of wine was the engine of his death, may believe that Richard helped him into it, and kept him down till he was suffocated. But the strong evidence on which Richard must be acquitted, and indeed even of having contributed to his death, was the testimony of Edward himself. Being some time afterward solicited to pardon a notorious criminal, the king's conscience broke forth; "Unhappy brother!" cried he, "for whom no man would intercede—yet ye all can be intercessors for a villain!" If Richard had been instigator or executioner, it is not likely that the king would have assumed the whole merciless criminality to himself, without bestowing a due share on his brother Gloucester. Is it possible to renew the charge, and not recollect this acquittal?
(1) That chronicle, which now and then, though seldom, is circumstantial, gives a curious account of the marriage of Richard duke of Gloucester and Anne Nevil, which I have found in no other author; and which seems to tax the envy and rapaciousness of Clarence as the causes of the dissention between the brothers. This account, and from a cotemporary, is the more remarkable, as the Lady Anne is positively said to have been only betrothed to Edward prince of Wales, son of Henry the Sixth, and not his widow, as she is carelessly called by all our historians, and represented in Shakespeare's masterly scene. "Postquam filius regis Henrici, cui Domina Anna, minor filia comitis Warwici, desponsata fuit, in prefato bello de Tewkysbury occubuit," Richard, duke of Gloucester desired her for his wife. Clarence, who had married the elder sister, was unwilling to share so rich an inheritance with his brother, and concealed the young lady. Gloucester was too alert for him, and discovered the Lady Anne in the dress of a cookmaid in London, and removed her to the sanctuary of St. Martin. The brothers pleaded each his cause in person before their elder brother in counsel; and every man, says the author, admired the strength of their respective arguments. The king composed their differences, bestowed the maiden on Gloucester, and parted the estate between him and Clarence; the countess of Warwick, mother of the heiresses, and who had brought that vast wealth to the house of Nevil, remaining the only sufferer, being reduced to a state of absolute necessity, as appears from Dugdale. In such times, under such despotic dispensations, the greatest crimes were only consequences of the economy of government.—Note, that Sir Richard Baker is so absurd as to make Richard espouse the Lady Anne after his accession, though he had a son by her ten years old at that time.
(2) The chronicle above quoted asserts, that the speaker of the house of commons demanded the execution of Clarence. Is it credible that, on a proceeding so public, and so solemn for that age, the brother of the offended monarch and of the royal criminal should have been deputed, or would have stooped to so vile an office? On such occasions do arbitrary princes want tools? Was Edward's court so virtuous or so humane, that it could furnish no assassin but the first prince of the blood? When the house of commons undertook to colour the king's resentment, was every member of it too scrupulous to lend his hand to the deed?
The three preceding accusations are evidently uncertain and improbable. What follows is more obscure; and it is on the ensuing transactions that I venture to pronounce, that we have little or no authority on which to form positive conclusions. I speak more particularly of the deaths of Edward the Fifth and his brother. It will, I think, appear very problematic whether they were murdered or not: and even if they were murdered, it is impossible to believe the account as fabricated and divulged by Henry the Seventh, on whose testimony the murder must rest at last; for they, who speak most positively, revert to the story which he was pleased to publish eleven years after their supposed deaths, and which is so absurd, so incoherent, and so repugnant to dates and other facts, that as it is no longer necessary to pay court to his majesty, it is no longer necessary not to treat his assertions as an impudent fiction. I come directly to this point, because the intervening articles of the executions of Rivers, Gray, Vaughan, and Hastings will naturally find their place in that disquisition.
And here it will be important to examine those historians on whose relation the story first depends. Previous to this, I must ascertain one or two dates, for they are stubborn evidence and cannot be rejected: they exist every where, and cannot be proscribed even from a Court Calendar.
Edward the Fourth died April 9th, 1483. Edward, his eldest son, was then thirteen years of age. Richard Duke of York, his second son, was about nine.
We have but two cotemporary historians, the author of the Chronicle of Croyland, and John Fabian. The first, who wrote in his convent, and only mentioned incidentally affairs of state, is very barren and concise: he appears indeed not to have been ill informed, and sometimes even in a situation of personally knowing the transactions of the times; for in one place we are told in a marginal note, that the doctor of the canon law, and one of the king's councellors, who was sent to Calais, was the author of the Continuation. Whenever therefore his assertions are positive, and not merely flying reports, he ought to be admitted as fair evidence, since we have no better. And yet a monk who busies himself in recording the insignificant events of his own order or monastery, and who was at most occasionally made use of, was not likely to know the most important and most mysterious secrets of state; I mean, as he was not employed in those iniquitous transactions—if he had been, we should learn or might expect still less truth from him.
John Fabian was a merchant, and had been sheriff of London, and died in 1512: he consequently lived on the spot at that very interesting period. Yet no sheriff was ever less qualified to write a history of England. His narrative is dry, uncircumstantial, and unimportant: he mentions the deaths of princes and revolutions of government, with the same phlegm and brevity as he would speak of the appointment of churchwardens. I say not this from any partiality, or to decry the simple man as crossing my opinion; for Fabian's testimony is far from bearing hard against Richard, even though he wrote under Henry the Seventh, who would have suffered no apology for his rival, and whose reign was employed not only in extirpating the house of York, but in forging the most atrocious calumnies to blacken their memories, and invalidate their just claim.
But the great source from whence all later historians have taken their materials for the reign of Richard the Third, is Sir Thomas More. Grafton, the next in order, has copied him verbatim: so does Hollingshed—and we are told by the former in a marginal note, that Sir Thomas was under-sheriff of London when he composed his work. It is in truth a composition, and a very beautiful one. He was then in the vigour of his fancy, and fresh from the study of the Greek and Roman historians, whose manner he has imitated in divers imaginary orations. They serve to lengthen an unknown history of little more than two months into a pretty sizeable volume; but are no more to be received as genuine, than the facts they adduced to countenance. An under-sheriff of London, aged but twenty-eight, and recently marked with the displeasure of the crown, was not likely to be furnished with materials from any high authority, and could not receive them from the best authority, I mean the adverse party, who were proscribed, and all their chiefs banished or put to death. Let us again recur to dates.(3) Sir Thomas More was born in 1480: he was appointed under-sheriff in 1508, and three years before had offended Henry the Seventh in the tender point of opposing a subsidy. Buck, the apologist of Richard the Third, ascribes the authorities of Sir Thomas to the information of archbishop Morton; and it is true that he had been brought up under that prelate; but Morton died in 1500, when Sir Thomas was but twenty years old, and when he had scarce thought of writing history. What materials he had gathered from his master were probably nothing more than a general narrative of the preceding times in discourse at dinner or in a winter's evening, if so raw a youth can be supposed to have been admitted to familiarity with a prelate of that rank and prime minister. But granting that such pregnant parts as More's had leaped the barrier of dignity, and insinuated himself into the archbishop's favour; could he have drawn from a more corrupted source? Morton had not only violated his allegiance to Richard; but had been the chief engine to dethrone him, and to plant a bastard scyon in the throne. Of all men living there could not be more suspicious testimony than the prelate's, except the king's: and had the archbishop selected More for the historian of those dark scenes, who had so much, interest to blacken Richard, as the man who had risen to be prime minister to his rival? Take it therefore either way; that the archbishop did or did not pitch on a young man of twenty to write that history, his authority was as suspicious as could be.
(3) Vide Biog. Britannica, p. 3159.
It may be said, on the other hand, that Sir Thomas, who had smarted for his boldness (for his father, a judge of the king's bench, had been imprisoned and fined for his son's offence) had had little inducement to flatter the Lancastrian cause. It is very true; nor am I inclined to impute adulation to one of the honestest statesmen and brightest names in our annals. He who scorned to save his life by bending to the will of the son, was not likely to canvas the favour of the father, by prostituting his pen to the humour of the court. I take the truth to be, that Sir Thomas wrote his reign of Edward the Fifth as he wrote his Utopia; to amuse his leisure and exercise his fancy. He took up a paltry canvas and embroidered it with a flowing design as his imagination suggested the colours. I should deal more severely with his respected memory on any other hypothesis. He has been guilty of such palpable and material falshoods, as, while they destroy his credit as an historian, would reproach his veracity as a man, if we could impute them to premeditated perversion of truth, and not to youthful levity and inaccuracy. Standing as they do, the sole groundwork of that reign's history, I am authorized to pronounce the work, invention and romance.
Polidore Virgil, a foreigner, and author of a light Latin history, was here during the reigns of Henry the Seventh and Eighth. I may quote him now-and-then, and the Chronicle of Croyland; but neither furnish us with much light.
There was another writer in that age of far greater authority, whose negligent simplicity and' veracity are unquestionable; who had great opportunities of knowing our story, and whose testimony is corroborated by our records: I mean Philip de Comines. He and Buck agree with one another, and with the rolls of parliament; Sir Thomas More with none of them.
Buck, so long exploded as a lover of paradoxes, and as an advocate for a monster, gains new credit the deeper this dark scene is fathomed. Undoubtedly Buck has gone too far; nor are his style or method to be admired. With every intention of vindicating Richard, he does but authenticate his crimes, by searching in other story for parallel instances of what he calls policy.
No doubt politicians will acquit Richard, if confession of his crimes be pleaded in defence of them. Policy will justify his taking off opponents. Policy will maintain him in removing those who would have barred his obtaining the crown, whether he thought he had a right to it, or was determined to obtain it. Morality, especially in the latter case, cannot take his part. I shall speak more to this immediately. Kapin conceived doubts; but instead of pursuing them, wandered after judgments; and they will lead a man where-ever he has a mind to be led. Carte, with more manly shrewdness, has sifted many parts of Richard's story, and guessed happily. My part has less penetration; but the parliamentary history, the comparison of dates, and the authentic monument lately come to light, and from which I shall give extracts, have convinced me, that, if Buck is too favourable, all our other historians are blind guides, and have not made out a twentieth part of their assertions.
The story of Edward the Fifth is thus related by Sir Thomas More, and copied from him by all our historians.
When the king his father died, the prince kept his court at Ludlow, under the tuition of his maternal uncle Anthony earl Rivers. Richard duke of Gloucester was in the north, returning from his successful expedition against the Scots. The queen wrote instantly to her brother to bring up the young king to London, with a train of two thousand horse: a fact allowed by historians, and which, whether a prudent caution or not, was the first overt-act of the new reign; and likely to strike, as it did strike, the duke of Gloucester and the antient nobility with a jealousy, that the queen intended to exclude them from the administration, and to govern in concert with her own family. It is not improper to observe that no precedent authorized her to assume such power. Joan, princess dowager of Wales, and widow of the Black Prince, had no share in the government during the minority of her son Richard the Second. Catherine of Valois, widow of Henry the Fifth Was alike excluded from the regency, though her son was but a year old. And if Isabella governed on the deposition of Edward the Second, it Was by an usurped power, by the same power that had contributed to dethrone her husband; a power sanctified by no title, and confirmed by no act of parliament.(4) The first step to a female regency(5) enacted, though it never took place, was many years afterwards, in the reign of Henry the Eighth.
(4) Twelve guardians were appointed by parliament, and the earl of Lancaster was entrusted with the care of the king's person. The latter, being excluded from exercising his charge by the queen and Mortimer, gave that as a reason for not obeying a summons to parliament. Vide Parliam. Hist. vol. i. p. 208. 215.
(5) Vide the act of succession in Parliam. Hist. vol. III. p. 127.
Edward, on his death-bed, had patched up a reconciliation between his wife's kindred and the great lords of the court; particularly between the Marquis Dorset, the Queen's son, and the lord chamberlain Hastings. Yet whether the disgusted lords had only seemed to yield, to satisfy the dying king, or whether the steps taken by the queen gave them new cause of umbrage it appears that the duke of Buckingham, was the first to communicate his suspicions to Gloucester, and to dedicate himself to his service. Lord Hastings was scarce less forward to join in like measures, and all three, it is pretended, were so alert, that they contrived to have it insinuated to the queen, that it would give much offence if the young king should be brought to London with so great a force as she had ordered; on which suggestions she wrote to Lord Rivers to countermand her first directions.
It is difficult not to suspect, that our historians have imagined more plotting in this transaction than could easily be compassed in so short a period, and in an age when no communication could be carried on but by special messengers, in bad roads, and with no relays of post-horses.
Edward the Fourth died April 9th, and his son made his entrance into London May 4th.(6) It is not probable, that the queen communicated her directions for bringing up her son with an armed force to the lords of the council, and her newly reconciled enemies. But she might be betrayed. Still it required some time for Buckingham to send his servant Percival (though Sir Thomas More vaunts his expedition) to York, where the Duke of Gloucester then lay;(7) for Percival's return (it must be observed too that the Duke of Buckingham was in Wales, consequently did not learn the queen's orders on the spot, but either received the account from London, or learnt it from Ludlow); for the two dukes to send instructions to their confederates in London; for the impression to be made on the queen, and for her dispatching her counter-orders; for Percival to post back and meet Gloucester at Nottingham, and for returning thence and bringing his master Buckingham to meet Richard at Northampton, at the very time of the king's arrival there. All this might happen, undoubtedly; and yet who will believe, that such mysterious and rapid negociations came to the knowledge of Sir Thomas More twenty-five years afterwards, when, as it will appear, he knew nothing of very material and public facts that happened at the same period?
(7) It should be remarked too, that the duke of Gloucester is positively said to be celebrating his brother's obsequies there. It not only strikes off part of the term by allowing the necessary time for the news of king Edward's death to reach York, and for the preparation to be made there to solemnize a funeral for him; but this very circumstance takes off from the probability of Richard having as yett laid any plan for dispossessing his nephew. Would he have loitered at York at such a crisis, if he had intended to step into the throne?
But whether the circumstances are true, or whether artfully imagined, it is certain that the king, with a small force, arrived at Northampton, and thence proceeded to Stony Stratford. Earl Rivers remained at Northampton, where he was cajoled by the two dukes till the time of rest, when the gates of the inn were suddenly locked, and the earl made prisoner. Early in the morning the two dukes hastened to Stony Stratford, where, in the king's presence, they picked a quarrel with his other half-brother, the lord Richard Grey, accusing him, the marquis Dorset, and their uncle Rivers, of ambitious and hostile designs, to which ends the marquis had entered the Tower, taken treasure thence, and sent a force to sea.
"These things," says Sir Thomas, "the dukes knew, were done for good and necessary purposes, and by appointment of the council; but somewhat they must say," &c. As Sir Thomas has not been pleased to specify those purposes, and as in those times at least privy counsellors were exceedingly complaisant to the ruling powers, he must allow us to doubt whether the purposes of the queen's relations were quite so innocent as he would make us believe; and whether the princes of the blood and the antient nobility had not some reasons to be jealous that the queen was usurping more power than the laws had given her. The catastrophe of her whole family so truly deserves commiseration, that we are apt to shut our eyes to all her weakness and ill-judged policy; and yet at every step we find how much she contributed to draw ruin on their heads and her own, by the confession even of her apologists. The Duke of Gloucester was the first prince of the blood, the constitution pointed him out as regent; no will, no disposition of the late king was even alleged to bar his pretensions; he had served the state with bravery, success, and fidelity; and the queen herself, who had been insulted by Clarence, had had no cause to complain of Gloucester. Yet all her conduct intimated designs of governing by force in the name of her son.(8) If these facts are impartially stated, and grounded on the confession of those who inveigh most bitterly against Richard's memory, let us allow that at least thus far he acted as most princes would have done in his situation, in a lawless and barbarous age, and rather instigated by others, than from any before-conceived ambition and system. If the journeys of Percival are true, Buckingham was the devil that tempted Richard; and if Richard still wanted instigation, then it must follow, that he had not murdered Henry the Sixth, his son, and Clarence, to pave his own way to the crown. If this fine story of Buckingham and Percival is not true, what becomes of Sir Thomas More's credit, on which the whole fabric leans?
Lord Richard, Sir Thomas Vaughan, and Sir Richard Hawte, were arrested, and with Lord Rivers sent prisoners to Pomfret, while the dukes conducted the king by easy stages to London.
The queen, hearing what had happened took sanctuary at Westminster, with her other son the duke of York, and the princesses her daughters. Rotheram, archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor, repaired to her with the great seal, and endeavoured to comfort her dismay with the friendly message he had received from Hastings, who was with the confederate lords on the road. "A woe worth him!" quoth the queen, "for it is he that goeth about to destroy me and my blood!" Not a word is said of her suspecting the duke of Gloucester. The archbishop seems to have been the first who entertained any suspicion; and yet, if all that our historian says of him is true, Rotheram was far from being a shrewd man: witness the indiscreet answer which he is said to have made on this occasion. "Madam," quoth he, "be of good comfort, and assure you, if they crown any other king than your son whom they now have we shall on the morrow crown his brother, whom you have here with you." Did the silly prelate think that it would be much consolation to a mother, whose eldest son might be murthered, that her younger son would be crowned in prison, or was she to be satisfied with seeing one son entitled to the crown, and the other enjoying it nominally?
He then delivered the seal to the queen, and as lightly sent for it back immediately after.
The dukes continued their march, declaring they were bringing the king to his coronation, Hastings, who seems to have preceded them, endeavoured to pacify the apprehensions which had been raised in the people, acquainting them that the arrested lords had been imprisoned for plotting against the dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham. As both those princes were of the blood royal,(9) this accusation was not ill founded, it having evidently been the intention, as I have shewn, to bar them from any share in the administration, to which, by the custom of the realm, they were intitled. So much depends on this foundation, that I shall be excused from enforcing it. The queen's party were the aggressors; and though that alone would not justify all the following excesses, yet we must not judge of those times by the present. Neither the crown nor the great men were restrained by sober established forms and proceedings as they are at present; and from the death of Edward the Third, force alone had dictated. Henry the Fourth had stepped into the throne contrary to all justice. A title so defective had opened a door to attempts as violent; and the various innovations introduced in the latter years of Henry the Sixth had annihilated all ideas of order. Richard duke of York had been declared successor to the crown during the life of Henry and of his son prince Edward, and, as appears by the Parliamentary History, though not noticed by our careless historians was even appointed prince of Wales. The duke of Clarence had received much such another declaration in his favour during the short restoration of Henry. What temptations were these precedents to an affronted prince! We shall see soon what encouragement they gave him to examine closely into his nephew's pretensions; and how imprudent it was in the queen to provoke Gloucester, when her very existence as queen was liable to strong objections. Nor ought the subsequent executions of Lord Rivers, Lord Richard Grey, and of Lord Hastings himself, to be considered in so very strong a light, as they would appear in, if acted in modern times. During the wars of York and Lancaster, no forms of trial had been observed. Not only peers taken in battle had been put to death without process; but whoever, though not in arms, was made prisoner by the victorious party, underwent the same fate; as was the case of Tiptoft earl of Worcester, who had fled and was taken in disguise. Trials had never been used with any degree of strictness, as at present; and though Richard was pursued and killed as an usurper, the Solomon that succeeded him, was not a jot-less a tyrant. Henry the Eighth was still less of a temper to give greater latitude to the laws. In fact, little ceremony or judicial proceeding was observed on trials, till the reign of Elizabeth, who, though decried of late for her despotism, in order to give some shadow of countenance to the tyranny of the Stuarts, was the first of our princes, under whom any gravity or equity was allowed in cases of treason. To judge impartially therefore, we ought to recall the temper and manners of the times we read of. It is shocking to eat our enemies: but it is not so shocking in an Iroquois, as it would be in the king of Prussia. And this is all I contend for, that the crimes of Richard, which he really committed, at least which we have reason to believe he committed, were more the crimes of the age than of the man; and except these executions of Rivers, Grey, and Hastings, I defy any body to prove one other of those charged to his account, from any good authority.
(8) Grafton says, "and in effect every one as he was neerest of kinne unto the queene, so was he planted nere about the prince," p. 761; and again, p. 762, "the duke of Gloucester understanding that the lordes, which were about the king, entended to bring him up to his coronation, accompanied with such power of their friendes, that it should be hard for him, to bring his purpose to passe, without gatherying and assemble of people, and in maner of open war," &c. in the same place it appears, that the argument used to dissuade the queen from employing force, was, that it would be a breach of the accommodation made by the late king between her relations and the great lords; and so undoubtedly it was; and though they are accused of violating the peace, it is plain that the queen's insincerity had been at least equal to theirs, and that the infringement of the reconciliation commenced on her side.
(9) Henry duke of Buckingham was the immediate descendant and heir of Thomas of Woodstock duke of Gloucester, the youngest son of Edward the Third, as will appear by this table:
Thomas duke of Gloucester Anne sole daughter and heiress. —Edmund earl of Stafford.
Humphrey duke of Bucks.
Humphrey lord Stafford
Henry duke of Bucks.
It is plain, that Buckingham was influenced by this nearness to the crown, for it made him overlook his own alliance with the queen, whose sister he had married. Henry the Eighth did not overlook the proximity of blood, when he afterwards put to death the son of this duke.
It is alleged that the partizans of Gloucester strictly guarded the sanctuary, to prevent farther resort thither; but Sir Thomas confesses too, that divers lords, knights, and gentlemen, either for favour of the queen, or for fear of themselves, Assembled companies and went flocking together in harness. Let us strip this paragraph of its historic buskins, and it is plain that the queen's party took up arms.(10) This is no indifferent circumstance. She had plotted to keep possession of the king, and to govern in his name by force, but had been outwitted, and her family had been imprisoned for the attempt. Conscious that she was discovered, perhaps reasonably alarmed at Gloucester's designs, she had secured herself and her young children in sanctuary. Necessity rather than law justified her proceedings, but what excuse can be made for her faction having recourse to arms? who was authorized, by the tenour of former reigns, to guard the king's person, till parliament should declare a regency, but his uncle and the princes of the blood? endeavouring to establish the queen's authority by force was rebellion against the laws. I state this minutely, because the fact has never been attended to; and later historians pass it over, as if Richard had hurried on the deposition of his nephews without any colour of decency, and without the least provocation to any of his proceedings. Hastings is even said to have warned the citizens that matters were likely to come to a field (to a battle) from the opposition of the adverse party, though as yet no symptom had appeared of designs against the king, whom the two dukes were bringing to his coronation. Nay, it is not probable that Gloucester had as yet meditated more than securing the regency; for had he had designs on the crown, would he have weakened his own claim by assuming the protectorate, which he could not accept but by acknowledging the title of his nephew? This in truth seems to me to have been the case. The ambition of the queen and her family alarmed the princes and the nobility: Gloucester, Buckingham, Hastings, and many more had checked those attempts. The next step was to secure the regency: but none of these acts could be done without grievous provocation to the queen. As soon as her son should come of age, she might regain her power and the means of revenge. Self-security prompted the princes and lords to guard against this reverse, and what was equally dangerous to the queen, the depression of her fortune called forth and revived all the hatred of her enemies. Her marriage had given universal offence to the nobility, and been the source of all the late disturbances and bloodshed. The great earl of Warwick, provoked at the contempt shewn to him by King Edward while negotiating a match for him in France, had abandoned him for Henry the Sixth, whom he had again set on the throne. These calamities were still fresh in every mind, and no doubt contributed to raise Gloucester to the throne, which he could not have attained without almost general concurrence yet if we are to believe historians, he, Buckingham, the mayor of London, and one Dr. Shaw, operated this revolution by a sermon and a speech to the people, though the people would not even give a huzza to the proposal. The change of government in the rehearsal is not effected more easily by the physician and gentleman usher, "Do you take this, and I'll seize t'other chair."
(10) This is confirmed by the chronicle of Croyland, p. 566.
In what manner Richard assumed or was invested with the protectorate does not appear. Sir Thomas More, speaking of him by that title, says "the protector which always you must take for the Duke of Gloucester." Fabian after mentioning the solemn (11) arrival of the king in London, adds, "Than provisyon was made for the kinge's coronation; in which pastime (interval) the duke being admitted for lord protectour." As the parliament was not sitting, this dignity was no doubt conferred on him by the assent of the lords and privy council; and as we hear of no opposition, none was probably made. He was the only person to whom that rank was due; his right could not and does not seem to have been questioned. The Chronicle of Croyland corroborates my opinion, saying, "Accepitque dictus Ricardus dux Glocestriae ilium solennem magistratum, qui duci Humfrido Glocestriae, stante minore aetate regis Henrici, ut regni protector appellaretur, olim contingebat. Ea igitur auctoritate usus est, de consensu & beneplacito omnium dominorum." p. 556.
(11) He was probably eye-witness of that ceremony; for he says, "the king was of the maior and his citizens met at Harnesey parke, the maior and his brethren being clothed in scarlet, and the citizens in violet, to the number of V.C. horses, and than from thence conveyed unto the citie, the king beynge in blewe velvet, and all his lords and servauntes in blacke cloth." p. 513.
Thus far therefore it must be allowed that Richard acted no illegal part, nor discovered more ambition than became him. He had defeated the queen's innovations, and secured her accomplices. To draw off our attention from such regular steps, Sir Thomas More has exhausted all his eloquence and imagination to work up a piteous scene, in which the queen is made to excite our compassion in the highest degree, and is furnished by that able pen with strains of pathetic oratory, which no part of her conduct affords us reason to believe she possessed. This scene is occasioned by the demand of delivering up her second son. Cardinal Bourchier archbishop of Canterbury is the instrument employed by the protector to effect this purpose. The fact is confirmed by Fabian in his rude and brief manner, and by the Chronicle of Croyland, and therefore cannot be disputed. But though the latter author affirms, that force was used to oblige the cardinal to take that step, he by no means agrees with Sir Thomas More in the repugnance of the queen to comply, nor in that idle discussion on the privileges of sanctuaries, on which Sir Thomas has wasted so many words. On the contrary, the chronicle declares, that the queen "Verbis gratanter annues, dimisit puerum." The king, who had been lodged in the palace of the bishop of London, was now removed with his brother to the Tower.
This last circumstance has not a little contributed to raise horror in vulgar minds, who of late years have been accustomed to see no persons of rank lodged in the Tower but state criminals. But in that age the case was widely different. It not only appears by a map engraven so late as the reign of Queen Elizabeth, that the Tower was a royal palace, in which were ranges of buildings called the king's and queen's apartments, now demolished; but it is a known fact, that they did often lodge there, especially previous to their coronations. The queen of Henry the Seventh lay in there: queen Elizabeth went thither after her triumphant entry into the city; and many other instances might be produced, but for brevity I omit them, to come to one of the principal transactions of this dark period: I mean Richard's assumption of the crown. Sir Thomas More's account of this extraordinary event is totally improbable, and positively false in the groundwork of that revolution. He tells us, that Richard meditating usurpation, divided the lords into two separate councils, assembling the king's or queen's party at Baynard's castle, but holding his own private junto at Crosby Place. From the latter he began with spreading murmurs, whispers, and reports against the legality of the late king's marriage. Thus far we may credit him— but what man of common sense can believe, that Richard went so far as publicly to asperse the honor of his own mother? That mother, Cecily duchess dowager of York, a princess of a spotless character, was then living: so were two of her daughters, the duchesses of Suffolk and Burgundy, Richard's own sisters: one of them, the duchess of Suffolk walked at his ensuing coronation, and her son the earl of Lincoln was by Richard himself, after the death of his own son, declared heir apparent to the crown. Is it, can it be credible, that Richard actuated a venal preacher(12) to declare to the people from the pulpit at Paul's cross, that his mother had been an adultress, and that her two eldest sons,(13) Edward the Fourth and the duke of Clarence(14) were spurious; and that the good lady had not given a legitimate child to her husband, but the protector, and I suppose the duchess of Suffolk, though no mention is said to be made of her in the sermon? For as the duchess of Suffolk was older than Richard, and consequently would have been involved in the charge of bastardy, could he have declared her son his heir, he who set aside his brother Edward's children for their illegitimacy? Ladies of the least disputable gallantry generally suffer their husbands to beget his heir; and if doubts arise on the legitimacy of their issue, the younger branches seem most liable to suspicion—but a tale so gross could not have passed even on the mob—no proof, no presumption of the fact was pretended. Were the duchess(15) and her daughters silent on so scandalous an insinuation? Agrippina would scarce have heard it with patience. Moriar modo imperet! said that empress, in her wild wish of crowning her son: but had he, unprovoked, aspersed her honour in the open forum, would the mother have submitted to so unnatural an insult? In Richard's case the imputation was beyond measure atrocious and absurd. What! taint the fame of his mother to pave his way to the crown! Who had heard of her guilt? And if guilty, how came she to stop the career of her intrigues? But Richard had better pretensions, and had no occasion to start doubts even on his own legitimacy, which was too much connected with that of his brothers to be tossed and bandied about before the multitude. Clarence had been solemnly attainted by act of parliament, and his children were out of the question. The doubts on the validity of Edward's marriage were better grounds for Richard's proceedings than aspersion of his mother's honour. On that invalidity he claimed the crown, and obtained it; and with such universal concurrence, that the nation undoubtedly was on his side —but as he could not deprive his nephews, on that foundation, without bastardizing their sisters too, no wonder, the historians, who wrote under the Lancastrian domination, have used all their art and industry to misrepresent the fact. If the marriage of Edward the Fourth with the widow Grey was bigamy, and consequently null, what became of the title of Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry the Seventh? What became of it? Why a bastard branch of Lancaster, matched with a bastard of York, were obtruded on the nation as the right heirs of the crown! and, as far as two negatives can make an affirmative, they were so.
(12) What should we think of a modern historian, who should sink all mention of the convention parliament, and only tell us that one Dr. Burnet got up into the pulpit, and assured the people that Henrietta Maria (a little more suspected of gallantry than duchess Cecily) produced Charles the Second, and James the Second in adultry, and gave no legitimate issue to Charles the First, but Mary princess of Orange, mother of king William; that the people laughed at him, and so the prince of Orange became king?
(13) The Earl of Rutland, another son, elder than Richard, had been murdered at the battle of Wakefield and so was Omitted in that imaginary accusation.
(14) Clarence is the first who is said to have propogated this slandour, and it was much more consonant to his levity and indigested politics, than to the good sense of Richard. We can believe that Richard renewed this story, especially as he must have altered the dates of his mother's amours, and made them continue to her conception of him, as Clarence had made them stop in his own favor?
(15) It appears from Rymer's Foedera, that the very first act of Richard's reign is dated from quadam altera camera juxta capellam in hospitio dominae Ceciliae ducissae Eborum. It does not look much as if he had publicly accused his mother of adultry, when he held his first council at her house. Among the Harleian MSS. in the Museum, No. 2236. art. 6. is the following letter from Richard to this very princess his mother, which is an additional proof of the good terms on which they lived: "Madam, I recomaunde me to you as hertely as is to me possible, beseeching you in my most humble and affectuouse wise of your daly blessing to my synguler comfort and defence in my nede; and, madam, I hertoly beseche you, that I may often here from you to my comfort; and suche newes as be here, my servaunt Thomas Bryan this berer shall showe you, to whom please it you to yeve credence unto. And, madam, I beseche you to be good and graciouse lady to my lord my chamberlayn to be your officer in Wiltshire in suche as Colinbourne had. I trust he shall therein do you good servyce; and that it plese you, that by this barer I may understande your pleasur in this behalve. And I praye God send you th' accomplishement of your noble desires. Written at Pomfret, the thirde day of Juyn, with the hande of your most humble son, Richardus Rex."
Buck, whose integrity will more and more appear, affirms that, before Edward had espoused the lady Grey, he had been contracted to the lady Eleanor Butler, and married to her by the bishop of Bath. Sir Thomas More, on the contrary (and here it is that I am unwillingly obliged to charge that great man with wilful falsehood) pretends that the duchess of York, his mother, endeavouring to dissuade him from so disproportionate an alliance, urged him with a pre-contract to one Elizabeth Lucy, who however, being pressed, confessed herself his concubine; but denied any marriage. Dr. Shaw too, the preacher, we are told by the same authority, pleaded from the pulpit the king's former marriage with Elizabeth Lucy, and the duke of Buckingham is said to have harangued the people to the same effect. But now let us see how the case really stood: Elizabeth Lucy was the daughter of one Wyat of Southampton, a mean gentleman, says Buck, and the wife of one Lucy, as mean a man as Wyat. The mistress of Edward she notoriously was; but what if, in Richard's pursuit of the crown, no question at all was made of this Elizabeth Lucy? We have the best and most undoubted authorities to assure us, that Edward's pre-contract or marriage, urged to invalidate his match with the lady Grey, was with the lady Eleanor Talbot, widow of the lord Butler of Sudeley, and sister of the earl Shrewsbury, one of the greatest peers in the kingdom; her mother was the lady Katherine Stafford, daughter of Humphrey duke of Buckingham, prince of the blood: an alliance in that age never reckoned unsuitable. Hear the evidence. Honest Philip de Comines says(16) "that the bishop of Bath informed Richard, that he had married king Edward to an English lady; and dit cet evesque qu'il les avoit espouses, & que n'y avoit que luy & ceux deux." This is not positive, and yet the description marks out the lady Butler, and not Elizabeth Lucy. But the Chronicle of Croyland is more express. "Color autem introitus & captae possessionis hujusmodi is erat. Ostendebatur per modum supplicationis in quodam rotulo pergameni quod filii Regis Edwardi erant bastardi, supponendo ilium precontraxisse cum quadam domina Alienora Boteler, antequam reginam Elizabeth duxisset uxorem; atque insuper, quod sanguis alterius fratris sui, Georgii ducis Clarentiae, fuisset attinctus; ita quod hodie nullus certus & incorruptus sanguis linealis ex parte Richardi ducis Eboraci poterat inveniri, nisi in persona dicti Richardi ducis Glocestriae. Quo circa supplicabatur ei in fine ejusdem rotuli, ex parte dominorum & communitatis regni, ut jus suum in se assumeret." Is this full? Is this evidence?
(16) Liv. 5, p. 151. In the 6th book, Comines insinuates that the bishop acted out of revenge for having been imprisoned by Edward: it might be so; but as Comines had before alledged that the bishop had actually said he had married them, it might be the truth that the prelate told out of revenge, and not a lie; nor is it probable that his tale would have had any weight, if false, and unsupported by other circumstances.
Here we see the origin of the tale relating to the duchess of York; nullus certus & incorruptus sangnis: from these mistaken or perverted words flowed the report of Richard's aspersing his mother's honour. But as if truth was doomed to emerge, though stifled for near three hundred years, the roll of parliament is at length come to light (with other wonderful discoveries) and sets forth, "that though the three estates which petitioned Richard to assume the crown were not assembled in form of parliament;" yet it rehearses the supplication (recorded by the chronicle above) and declares, "that king Eduard was and stood married and troth plight to one dame Eleanor Butler, daughter to the earl of Shrewsbury, with whom the said king Edward had made a pre-contract of matrimony, long before he made his pretended marriage with Elizabeth Grey." Could Sir Thomas More be ignorant of this fact? or, if ignorant, where is his competence as an historian? And how egregiously absurd is his romance of Richard's assuming the crown inconsequence of Dr. Shaw's sermon and Buckingham's harangue, to neither of which he pretends the people assented! Dr. Shaw no doubt tapped the matter to the people; for Fabian asserts that he durst never shew his face afterwards; and as Henry the Seventh succeeded so soon, and as the slanders against Richard increased, that might happen; but it is evident that the nobility were disposed to call the validity of the queen's marriage in question, and that Richard was solemnly invited by the three estates to accept the regal dignity; and that is farther confirmed by the Chronicle of Croyland, which says, that Richard having brought together a great force from the north, from Wales, and other parts, did on the twenty-sixth of June claim the crown, "seque eodem die apud magnam aulam Westmonasterii in cathedram marmoream ibi intrusit;" but the supplication afore-mentioned had first been presented to him. This will no doubt be called violence and a force laid on the three estates; and yet that appears by no means to have been the case; for Sir Thomas More, partial as he was against Richard, says, "that to be sure of all enemies, he sent for five thousand men out of the north against his coronation, which came up evil apparelled and worse harnessed, in rusty harnesse, neither defensable nor scoured to the sale, which mustured in Finsbury field, to the great disdain of all lookers on." These rusty companions, despised by the citizens, were not likely to intimidate a warlike nobility; and had force been used to extort their assent, Sir Thomas would have been the first to have told us so. But he suppressed an election that appears to have been voluntary, and invented a scene, in which, by his own account, Richard met with nothing but backwardness and silence, that amounted to a refusal. The probability therefore remains, that the nobility met Richard's claim at least half-way, from their hatred and jealousy of the queen's family, and many of them from the conviction of Edward's pre-contract. Many might concur from provocation at the attempts that had been made to disturb the due course of law, and some from apprehension of a minority. This last will appear highly probable from three striking circumstances that I shall mention hereafter. The great regularity with which the coronation was prepared and conducted, and the extraordinary concourse of the nobility at it, have not all the air of an unwelcome revolution, accomplished merely by violence. On the contrary, it bore great resemblance to a much later event, which, being the last of the kind, we term The Revolution. The three estates of nobility, clergy, and people, which called Richard to the crown, and whose act was confirmed by the subsequent parliament, trod the same steps as the convention did which elected the prince of Orange; both setting aside an illegal pretender, the legitimacy of whose birth was called in question. And though the partizans of the Stuarts may exult at my comparing king William to Richard the Third, it wil be no matter of triumph, since it appears that Richard's cause was as good as King William's, and that in both instances it was a free election. The art used by Sir Thomas More (when he could not deny a pre-contract) in endeavouring to shift that objection on Elizabeth Lucy, a married woman, contrary to the specific words of the act of parliament, betrays the badness of the Lancastrian cause, which would make us doubt or wonder at the consent of the nobility in giving way to the act for bastardizing the children of Edward the Fourth. But reinstate the claim of the lady Butler, which probably was well known, and conceive the interest that her great relations must have made to set aside the queen's marriage, nothing appears more natural than Richard's succession. His usurpation vanishes, and in a few pages more, I shall shew that his consequential cruelty vanishes too, or at most is very, problematic: but first I must revert to some intervening circumstances.
In this whole story nothing is less known to us than the grounds on which lord Hastings was put to death. He had lived in open enmity with the queen and her family, and had been but newly reconciled to her son the marquis Dorset; yet Sir Thomas owns that lord Hastings was one of the first to abet Richard's proceedings against her, and concurred in all the protector's measures. We are amazed therefore to find this lord the first sacrifice under the new government. Sir Thomas More supposes (and he could only suppose; for whatever archbishop Morton might tell him of the plots of Henry of Richmond, Morton was certainly not entrusted with the secrets of Richard) Sir Thomas, I say, supposes, that Hastings either withstood the deposition of Edward the Fifth, or was accused of such a design by Catesby, who was deeply in his confidence; and he owns that the protector undoubtedly loved him well, and loth he was to have him lost. What then is the presumption? Is it not, that Hastings really was plotting to defeat the new settlement contrary to the intention of the three estates? And who can tell whether the suddenness of the execution was not the effect of necessity? The gates of the Tower were shut during that rapid scene; the protector and his adherents appeared in the first rusty armour that was at hand: but this circumstance is alledged against them, as an incident contrived to gain belief, as if they had been in danger of their lives. The argument is gratis dictum: and as Richard loved Hastings and had used his ministry, the probability lies on the other side: and it is more reasonable to believe that Richard acted in self-defence, than that he exercised a wanton, unnecessary, and disgusting cruelty. The collateral circumstances introduced by More do but weaken(17) his account, and take from its probability. I do not mean the silly recapitulation of silly omens which forewarned Hastings of his fate, and as omens generally do, to no manner of purpose; but I speak of the idle accusations put into the mouth of Richard, such as his baring his withered arm, and imputing it to sorcery, and to his blending the queen and Jane Shore in the same plot. Cruel or not, Richard was no fool; and therefore it is highly improbable that he should lay the withering of his arm on recent witchcraft, if it was true, as Sir Thomas More pretends, that it never had been otherwise —but of the blemishes and deformity of his person, I shall have occasion to speak hereafter. For the other accusation of a league between Elizabeth and Jane Shore, Sir Thomas More ridicules it himself, and treats it as highly unlikely. But being unlikely, was it not more natural for him to think, that it never was urged by Richard? And though Sir Thomas again draws aside our attention by the penance of Jane, which she certainly underwent, it is no kind of proof that the protector accused the queen of having plotted(18) with mistress Shore. What relates to that unhappy fair one I shall examine at the end of this work.
Except the proclamation which, Sir Thomas says, appeared to have been prepared before hand. The death of Hastings, I allow, is the fact of which we are most sure, without knowing the immediate motives: we must conclude it was determined on his opposing Richard's claim: farther we do not know, nor whether that opposition was made in a legal or hostile manner. It is impossible to believe that, an hour before his death, he should have exulted in the deaths of their common enemies, and vaunted, as Sir Thomas More asserts, his connection with Richard, if he was then actually at variance with him; nor that Richard should, without provocation, have massacred so excellent an accomplice. This story, therefore, must be left in the dark, as we find it.
(18) So far from it, that as Mr. Hume remarks, there is in Rymer's Foedera a proclamation of Richard, in which he accuses, not the lord Hastings, but the marquis Dorset, of connexion with Jane Shore. Mr. Hume thinks so authentic a paper not sufficient to overbalance the credit due to Sir Thomas More. What little credit was due to him appears from the course of this work in various and indubitable instances. The proclamation against the lord Dorset and Jane Shore is not dated till the 23rd. of October following. Is it credible that Richard would have made use of this woman's name again, if he had employed it heretofore to blacken Hastings? It is not probable that, immediately on the death of the king, she had been taken into keeping by lord Hastings; but near seven months had elapsed between that death and her connection with the marquis.
The very day on which Hastings was executed, were beheaded earl Rivers, Lord Richard Grey, Vaughan, and Haute. These executions are indubitable; were consonant to the manners and violence of the age; and perhaps justifiable by that wicked code, state necessity. I have never pretended to deny them, because I find them fully authenticated. I have in another(19) place done justice to the virtues and excellent qualities of earl Rivers: let therefore my impartiality be believed, when I reject other facts, for which I can discover no good authority. I can have no interest in Richard's guilt or innocence; but as Henry the Seventh was so much interested to represent him as guilty, I cannot help imputing to the greater usurper, and to the worse tyrant of the two, all that appears to me to have been calumny and misrepresentation.
(19) In the Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, vol. 1.
All obstacles thus removed, and Richard being solemnly instated in the throne by the concurrent voice of the three estates, "He openly," says Sir Thomas More, "took upon him to be king the ninth(20) day of June, and' the morrow after was proclaimed, riding to Westminster with great state; and calling the judges before him, straightly commanded them to execute the laws without favor or delay, with many good exhortations, of the which he followed not one." This is an invidious and false accusation. Richard, in his regal capacity, was an excellent king, and for the short time of his reign enacted many wise and wholesome laws. I doubt even whether one of the best proofs of his usurpation was not the goodness of his government, according to a common remark, that princes of doubtful titles make the best masters, as it is more necessary for them to conciliate the favour of the people: the natural corollary from which observation need not be drawn. Certain it is that in many parts of the kingdom not poisoned by faction, he was much beloved; and even after his death the northern counties gave open testimony of their affection to his memory.
(20) Though I have copied our historian, as the rest have copied him, in this date I must desire the reader to take notice, that this very date is another of Sir T. More's errors; for in the public acts is a deed of Edward the Fifth, dated June 17th.
On the 6th of July Richard was crowned, and soon after set out on a progress to York, on his way visiting Gloucester, the seat of his former duchy. And now it is that I must call up the attention of the reader, the capital and bloody scene of Richard's life being dated from this progress. The narrative teems with improbabilities and notorious falshoods, and is flatly contradicted by so many unquestionable facts, that if we have no other reason to believe the murder of Edward the Fifth and his brother, than the account transmitted to us, we shall very much doubt whether they ever were murdered at all. I will state the account, examine it, and produce evidence to confute it, and then the reader will form his own judgment on the matter of fact.
Richard before he left London, had taken no measures to accomplish the assassination; but on the road "his mind misgave him,(21) that while his nephews lived, he should not possess the crown with security. Upon this reflection he dispatched one Richard Greene to Sir Robert Brakenbury, lieutenant of the Tower, with a letter and credence also, that the same Sir Robert in any wise should put the two children to death. This John Greene did his errand to Brakenbury, kneeling before our Lady in the Tower, who plainly answered 'that he never would put them to death, to dye therefore.' Green returned with this answer to the king who was then at Warwick, wherewith he took such displeasure and thought, that the same night he said unto a secret page of his, 'Ah! whom shall a man trust? They that I have brought up myself, they that I thought would have most surely served me, even those faile me, and at my commandment will do nothing for me.' 'Sir,' quoth the page 'there lieth one in the palet chamber without, that I dare say will doe your grace pleasure; the thing were right hard that he would refuse;' meaning this by James Tirrel, whom," says Sir Thomas a few pages afterwards, "as men say, he there made a knight. The man" continues More, "had an high heart, and sore longed upwards, not rising yet so fast as he had hoped, being hindered and kept under by Sir Richard Ratcliffe and Sir William Catesby, who by secret drifts kept him out of all secret trust." To be short, Tirrel voluntarily accepted the commission, received warrant to authorise Brakenbury to deliver to him the keys of the Tower for one night; and having selected two other villains called Miles Forest and John Dighton, the two latter smothered the innocent princes in their beds, and then called Tirrel to be witness of the execution.
(21) Sir T. More.
It is difficult to croud more improbabilities and lies together than are comprehended in this short narrative. Who can believe if Richard meditated the murder, that he took no care to sift Brakenbury before he left London? Who can believe that he would trust so atrocious a commission to a letter? And who can imagine, that on Brakenbury's(22) non-compliance Richard would have ordered him to cede the government of the Tower to Tirrel for one night only, the purpose of which had been so plainly pointed out by the preceding message? And had such weak step been taken, could the murder itself have remained a problem? And yet Sir Thomas More himself is forced to confess at the outset of this very narration, "that the deaths and final fortunes of the two young princes have nevertheless so far come in question, that some remained long in doubt, whether they were in his days destroyed(23) or no." Very memorable words, and sufficient to balance More's own testimony with the most sanguine believers. He adds, "these doubts not only arose from the uncertainty men were in, whether Perkin Warbeck was the true duke of York, but for that also all things were so covertly demeaned, that there was nothing so plain and openly proved, but that yet men had it ever inwardly suspect." Sir Thomas goes on to affirm, "that he does not relate the story after every way that he had heard, but after that way that he had heard it by such men and such meanes as he thought it hard but it should be true." This affirmation rests on the credibility of certain reporters, we do not know whom, but who we shall find were no credible reporters at all: for to proceed to the confutation. James Tirrel, a man in no secret trust with the king, and kept down by Catesby and Ratcliffe, is recommended as a proper person by a nameless page. In the first place Richard was crowned at York (after this transaction) September 8th. Edward the Fourth had not been dead four months, and Richard in possession of any power not above two months, and those very bustling and active: Tirrel must have been impatient indeed, if the page had had time to observe his discontent at the superior confidence of Ratcliffe and Catesby. It happens unluckily too, that great part of the time Ratcliffe was absent, Sir Thomas More himself telling us that Sir Richard Ratcliffe had the custody of the prisoners at Pontefract, and presided at their execution there. But a much more unlucky circumstance is, that James Tirrel, said to be knighted for this horrid service, was not only a knight before, but a great or very considerable officer of the crown; and in that situation had walked at Richard's preceding coronation. Should I be told that Sir Thomas Moore did not mean to confine the ill offices done to Tirrel by Ratcliffe and Catesby solely to the time of Richard's protectorate and regal power, but being all three attached to him when duke of Gloucester, the other two might have lessened Tirrel's credit with the duke even in the preceding reign; then I answer, that Richard's appointing him master of the horse on his accession had removed those disgusts, and left the page no room to represent him as ready through ambition and despondency to lend his ministry to assassination. Nor indeed was the master, of the horse likely to be sent to supercede the constable of the Tower for one night only. That very act was sufficient to point out what Richard desired to, and did, it seems, transact so covertly.
(22) It appears from the Foedera that Brakenbury was appointed Constable of the Tower July 7th; that he surrendered his patent March 9th of the following year, and had one more ample granted to him. If it is supposed that Richard renewed this patent to Sir Robert Brakenbury, to prevent his disclosing what he knew of a murder, in which he had refused to be concerned, I then ask if it is probable that a man too virtuous or too cautious to embark in an assassination, and of whom the supposed tyrant stood in awe, would have laid down his life in that usurper's cause, as Sir Robert did, being killed on Richard's side at Bosworth, when many other of his adherents betrayed him?
(23) This is confirmed by Lord Bacon: "Neither wanted there even at that time secret rumours and whisperings (which afterwards gathered strength, and turned to great trouble) that the two young sons of king Edward the Fourth, or one of them (which were said to be destroyed in the Tower) were not indeed murthered, but conveyed secretly away, and were yet living." Reign of Henry the Seventh, p. 4. again, p. 19. "And all this time it was still whispered every where that at least one of the children of Edward the Fourth was living."
That Sir James Tirrel was and did walk as master of the horse at Richard's coronation cannot be contested. A most curious, invaluable, and authentic monument has lately been discovered, the coronation-roll of Richard the Third. Two several deliveries of parcels of stuff are there expressly entered, as made to "Sir James Tirrel, knyght, maister of the hors of our sayd soverayn lorde the kynge." What now becomes of Sir Thomas More's informers, and of their narrative, which he thought hard but must be true?
I will go a step farther, and consider the evidence of this murder, as produced by Henry the Seventh some years afterwards, when, instead of lamenting it, it was necessary for his majesty to hope it had been true; at least to hope the people would think so. On the appearance of Perkin Warbeck, who gave himself out for the second of the brothers, who was believed so by most people, and at least feared by the king to be so, he bestirred himself to prove that both the princes had been murdered by his predecessor. There had been but three actors, besides Richard who had commanded the execution, and was dead. These were Sir James Tirrel, Dighton, and Forrest; and these were all the persons whose depositions Henry pretended to produce; at least of two of them, for Forrest it seems had rotted piece-meal away; a kind of death unknown at present to the college. But there were some others, of whom no notice was taken; as the nameless page, Greene, one Black Will or Will Slaughter who guarded the princes, the friar who buried them, and Sir Robert Brakenbury, who could not be quite ignorant of what had happened: the latter was killed at Bosworth, and the friar was dead too. But why was no enquiry made after Greene and the page? Still this silence was not so impudent as the pretended confession of Dighton and Sir James Tyrrel. The former certainly did avow the fact, and was suffered to go unpunished wherever he pleased—undoubtedly that he might spread the tale. And observe these remarkable words of lord Bacon, "John Dighton, who it seemeth spake best the king, was forewith set at liberty." In truth, every step of this pretended discovery, as it stands in lord Bacon, warns us to give no heed to it. Dighton and Tirrel agreed both in a tale, as the king gave out. Their confession therefore was not publickly made, and as Sir James Tirrel was suffered to live;(24) but was shut up in the Tower, and put to death afterwards for we know not what reason. What can we believe, but that Dighton was some low mercenary wretch hired to assume the guilt of a crime he had not committed, and that Sir James Tirrel never did, never would confess what he had not done; and was therefore put out of the way on a fictitious imputation? It must be observed too, that no inquiry was made into the murder on the accession of Henry the Seventh, the natural time for it, when the passions of men were heated, and when the duke of Norfolk, lord Lovel, Catesby, Ratcliffe, and the real abettors or accomplices of Richard, were attainted and executed. No mention of such a murder (25)was made in the very act of parliament that attainted Richard himself, and which would have been the most heinous aggravation of his crimes. And no prosecution of the supposed assassins was even thought of till eleven years afterwards, on the appearance of Perkin Warbeck. Tirrel is not named in the act of attainder to which I have had recourse; and such omissions cannot but induce us to surmise that Henry had never been certain of the deaths of the princes, nor ever interested himself to prove that both were dead, till he had great reason to believe that one of them was alive. Let me add, that if the confessions of Dighton and Tirrel were true, Sir Thomas More had no occasion to recur to the information of his unknown credible informers. If those confessions were not true, his informers were not credible.
(24) It appears by Hall, that Sir James Tirrel had even enjoyed the favor of Henry; for Tirrel is named as captain of Guards in a list of valiant officers that were sent by Henry, in his fifth year, on an expedition into Flanders. Does this look as if Tirrel was so much as suspected of the murder. And who can believe his pretended confession afterwards? Sir James was not executed till Henry's seventeenth year, on suspicion of treason, which suspicion arose on the flight of the earl of Suffolk. Vide Hall's Chronicle, fol. 18 & 55.
(25) There is a heap of general accusations alledged to have been committed by Richard against Henry, in particular of his having shed infant's blood. Was this sufficient specification of the murder of a king? Is it not rather a base way of insinuating a slander, of which no proof could be given? Was not it consonant to all Henry's policy of involving every thing in obscure and general terms?
Having thus disproved the account of the murder, let us now examine whether we can be sure that the murder was committed.
Of all men it was most incumbent on cardinal Bourchier, archbishop of Canterbury, to ascertain the fact. To him had the queen entrusted her younger son, and the prelate had pledged himself for his security—unless every step of this history is involved in falshood. Yet what was the behaviour of the archbishop? He appears not to have made the least inquiry into the reports of the murder of both children; nay, not even after Richard's death: on the contrary, Bourchier was the very man who placed the crown on the head of the latter;(26) and yet not one historian censures this conduct. Threats and fear could not have dictated this shameless negligence. Every body knows what was the authority of priests in that age; an archbishop was sacred, a cardinal inviolable. As Bourchier survived Richard, was it not incumbant on him to show, that the duke of York had been assassinated in spite of all his endeavours to save him? What can be argued from this inactivity of Bourchier,(27) but that he did not believe the children were murdered.