Makers of History
By JACOB ABBOTT
NEW YORK AND LONDON HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS 1901
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty-eight, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.
Copyright, 1886, by BENJAMIN VAUGHAN ABBOTT, AUSTIN ABBOTT, LYMAN ABBOTT, AND EDWARD ABBOTT.
King Richard the Third, known commonly in history as Richard the Usurper, was perhaps as bad a man as the principle of hereditary sovereignty ever raised to the throne, or perhaps it should rather be said, as the principle of hereditary sovereignty ever made. There is no evidence that his natural disposition was marked with any peculiar depravity. He was made reckless, unscrupulous, and cruel by the influences which surrounded him, and the circumstances in which he lived, and by being habituated to believe, from his earliest childhood, that the family to which he belonged were born to live in luxury and splendor, and to reign, while the millions that formed the great mass of the community were created only to toil and to obey. The manner in which the principles of pride, ambition, and desperate love of power, which were instilled into his mind in his earliest years, brought forth in the end their legitimate fruits, is clearly seen by the following narrative.
I. RICHARD'S MOTHER 13
II. RICHARD'S FATHER 33
III. THE CHILDHOOD OF RICHARD 57
IV. ACCESSION OF EDWARD IV., RICHARD'S ELDER BROTHER 67
V. WARWICK, THE KING-MAKER 89
VI. THE DOWNFALL OF YORK 118
VII. THE DOWNFALL OF LANCASTER 137
VIII. RICHARD'S MARRIAGE 165
IX. END OF THE REIGN OF EDWARD 182
X. RICHARD AND EDWARD V. 208
XI. TAKING SANCTUARY 221
XII. RICHARD LORD PROTECTOR 236
XIII. PROCLAIMED KING 258
XIV. THE CORONATION 279
XV. FATE OF THE PRINCES 291
XVI. DOMESTIC TROUBLES 301
XVII. THE FIELD OF BOSWORTH 320
THE ROYAL CHAMPION Frontispiece.
SCENES OF CIVIL WAR 15
LUDLOW CASTLE 26
CASTLE AND PARK OF THE MIDDLE AGES 29
HENRY VI. IN HIS CHILDHOOD 38
QUEEN MARGARET OF ANJOU, WIFE OF HENRY VI. 40
WALLS OF YORK 49
LAST HOURS OF KING RICHARD'S FATHER 54
CASTLE AND GROUNDS BELONGING TO THE HOUSE OF YORK 62
THE OLD QUINTAINE 84
PLAYING BALL 86
BATTLE-DOOR AND SHUTTLE-COCK 87
RICHARD'S SIGNATURE 88
EDWARD IV. 102
QUEEN ELIZABETH WOODVILLE 103
WESTMINSTER IN TIMES OF PUBLIC CELEBRATIONS 106
WARWICK IN THE PRESENCE OF THE FRENCH KING 112
THE SANCTUARY 133
DEATH OF WARWICK ON THE FIELD OF BARNET 148
STREET LEADING TO THE TOWER 151
CHURCH AT TEWKESBURY 155
QUEEN MARGARET BROUGHT IN PRISONER AT COVENTRY 160
TOMB OF HENRY VI. 163
RICHARD III. 176
QUEEN ANNE 177
MIDDLEHAM CASTLE 180
LOUIS XI. OF FRANCE 184
THE MURDERERS COMING FOR CLARENCE 200
JANE SHORE 203
THE ATTEMPTED RECONCILIATION 211
ANCIENT PORTRAIT OF EDWARD V. 219
ANCIENT VIEW OF WESTMINSTER 228
THE PEOPLE IN THE STREETS 235
CLARENCE'S CHILDREN HEARING OF THEIR FATHER'S DEATH 237
THE COUNCIL IN THE TOWER 244
POMFRET CASTLE 248
BAYNARD'S CASTLE 273
THE KING ON HIS THRONE 276
THE BLOODY TOWER 283
QUEEN ELIZABETH AT THE GRAVE 304
PORTRAIT OF THE PRINCESS ELIZABETH 318
THE CASTLE AT TAMWORTH 325
KING HENRY VII. 332
THE MONASTERY AT BERMONDSEY 335
KING RICHARD III.
The great quarrel between the houses of York and Lancaster.—Terrible results of the quarrel.—Origin of it.—Intricate questions of genealogy and descent.—Lady Cecily Neville.—She becomes Duchess of York.—Her mode of life.—Extract from the ancient annals.—Lady Cecily's family.—Names of the children.—The boys' situation and mode of life.—Their letters.—Letter written by Edward and Edmund.—The boys congratulate their father on his victories.—Further particulars about the boys.—The Castle of Ludlow.—Character of Richard's mother.—Spirit of aristocracy.—Relative condition of the nobles and the people.—Character of Richard's mother.—The governess.—Sir Richard Croft, the boys' governor.
The mother of King Richard the Third was a beautiful, and, in many respects, a noble-minded woman, though she lived in very rude, turbulent, and trying times. She was born, so to speak, into one of the most widely-extended, the most bitter, and the most fatal of the family quarrels which have darkened the annals of the great in the whole history of mankind, namely, that long-protracted and bitter contest which was waged for so many years between the two great branches of the family of Edward the Third—the houses of York and Lancaster—for the possession of the kingdom of England. This dreadful quarrel lasted for more than a hundred years. It led to wars and commotions, to the sacking and burning of towns, to the ravaging of fruitful countries, and to atrocious deeds of violence of every sort, almost without number. The internal peace of hundreds of thousands of families all over the land was destroyed by it for many generations. Husbands were alienated from wives, and parents from children by it. Murders and assassinations innumerable grew out of it. And what was it all about? you will ask. It arose from the fact that the descendants of a certain king had married and intermarried among each other in such a complicated manner that for several generations nobody could tell which of two different lines of candidates was fairly entitled to the throne. The question was settled at last by a prince who inherited the claim on one side marrying a princess who was the heir on the other. Thus the conflicting interests of the two houses were combined, and the quarrel was ended.
But, while the question was pending, it kept the country in a state of perpetual commotion, with feuds, and quarrels, and combats innumerable, and all the other countless and indescribable horrors of civil war.
The two branches of the royal family which were engaged in this quarrel were called the houses of York and Lancaster, from the fact that those were the titles of the fathers and heads of the two lines respectively. The Lancaster party were the descendants of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and the York party were the successors and heirs of his brother Edmund, Duke of York. These men were both sons of Edward the Third, the King of England who reigned immediately before Richard the Second. A full account of the family is given in our history of Richard the Second. Of course, they being brothers, their children were cousins, and they ought to have lived together in peace and harmony. And then, besides being related to each other through their fathers, the two branches of the family intermarried together, so as to make the relationships in the following generations so close and so complicated that it was almost impossible to disentangle them. In reading the history of those times, we find dukes or princes fighting each other in the field, or laying plans to assassinate each other, or striving to see which should make the other a captive, and shut him up in a dungeon for the rest of his days; and yet these enemies, so exasperated and implacable, are very near relations—cousins, perhaps, if the relationship is reckoned in one way, and uncle and nephew if it is reckoned in another. During the period of this struggle, all the great personages of the court, and all, or nearly all, the private families of the kingdom, and all the towns and the villages, were divided and distracted by the dreadful feud.
Richard's mother, whose name, before she was married, was Lady Cecily Neville, was born into one side of this quarrel, and then afterward married into the other side of it. This is a specimen of the way in which the contest became complicated in multitudes of cases. Lady Cecily was descended from the Duke of Lancaster, but she married the Duke of York, in the third generation from the time when the quarrel began.
Of course, upon her marriage, Lady Cecily Neville became the Duchess of York. Her husband was a man of great political importance in his day, and, like the other nobles of the land, was employed continually in wars and in expeditions of various kinds, in the course of which he was continually changing his residence from castle to castle all over England, and sometimes making excursions into Ireland, Scotland, and France. His wife accompanied him in many of these wanderings, and she led, of course, so far as external circumstances were concerned, a wild and adventurous life. She was, however, very quiet and domestic in her tastes, though proud and ambitious in her aspirations, and she occupied herself, wherever she was, in regulating her husband's household, teaching and training her children, and in attending with great regularity and faithfulness to her religious duty, as religious duty was understood in those days.
The following is an account, copied from an ancient record, of the manner in which she spent her days at one of the castles where she was residing.
"She useth to arise at seven of the clock, and hath readye her chapleyne to say with her mattins of the daye (that is, morning prayers), and when she is fully readye, she hath a lowe mass in her chamber. After mass she taketh something to recreate nature, and soe goeth to the chapelle, hearinge the divine service and two lowe masses. From thence to dynner, during the tyme of whih she hath a lecture of holy matter (that is, reading from a religious book), either Hilton of Contemplative and Active Life, or some other spiritual and instructive work. After dynner she giveth audyence to all such as hath any matter to shrive unto her, by the space of one hower, and then sleepeth one quarter of an hower, and after she hath slept she contynueth in prayer until the first peale of even songe.
"In the tyme of supper she reciteth the lecture that was had at dynner to those that be in her presence. After supper she disposeth herself to be famyliare with her gentlewomen to the seasoning of honest myrthe, and one hower before her going to bed she taketh a cup of wine, and after that goeth to her pryvie closette, and taketh her leave of God for all nighte, makinge end of her prayers for that daye, and by eighte of the clocke is in bedde."
The going to bed at eight o'clock was in keeping with the other arrangements of the day, for we find by a record of the rules and orders of the duchess's household that the dinner-hour was eleven, and the supper was at four.
This lady, Richard's mother, during her married life, had no less than twelve children. Their names were Anne, Henry, Edward, Edmund, Elizabeth, Margaret, William, John, George, Thomas, Richard, and Ursula. Thus Richard, the subject of this volume, was the eleventh, that is, the last but one. A great many of these, Richard's brothers and sisters, died while they were children. All the boys died thus except four, namely, Edward, Edmund, George, and Richard. Of course, it is only with those four that we have any thing to do in the present narrative.
Several of the other children, however, besides these three, lived for some time. They resided generally with their mother while they were young, but as they grew up they were often separated both from her and from their father—the duke, their father, being often called away from home, in the course of the various wars in which he was engaged, and his wife frequently accompanied him. On such occasions the boys were left at some castle or other, under the care of persons employed to take charge of their education. They used to write letters to their father from time to time, and it is curious that these letters are the earliest examples of letters from children to parents which have been preserved in history. Two of the boys were at one time under the charge of a man named Richard Croft, and the boys thought that he was too strict with them. One of the letters, which has been preserved, was written to complain of this strictness, or, as the boy expressed it, "the odieux rule and demeaning" of their tutor, and also to ask for some "fyne bonnets," which the writer wished to have sent for himself and for his little brother. There is another long letter extant which was written at nearly the same time. This letter was written, or at least signed, by two of the boys, Edward and Edmund, and was addressed to their father on the occasion of some of his victories. But, though signed by the boys' names, I suspect, from the lofty language in which it is expressed, and from the many high-flown expressions of duty which it contains, that it was really written for the boys by their mother or by one of their teachers. Of this, however, the reader can judge for himself on perusing the letter. In this copy the spelling is modernized so as to make it more intelligible, but the language is transcribed exactly from the original.
"Right high and mighty prince, our most worshipful and greatly redoubted lord and father:
"In as lowly a wise as any sons can or may, we recommend us unto your good lordship, and please it to your highness to wit, that we have received your worshipful letters yesterday by your servant William Clinton, bearing date at York, the 29th day of May.[A]
"By the which William, and by the relation of John Milewater, we conceive your worshipful and victorious speed against your enemies, to their great shame, and to us the most comfortable things that we desire to hear. Whereof we thank Almighty God of his gifts, beseeching him heartily to give you that good and cotidian[B] fortune hereafter to know your enemies, and to have the victory over them.
"And if it please your highness to know of our welfare, at the making of this letter we were in good health of body, thanked be God, beseeching your good and gracious fatherhood for our daily blessing.
"And whereas you command us by your said letters to attend specially to our learning in our young age, that should cause us to grow to honor and worship in our old age, please it your highness to wit, that we have attended to our learning since we came hither, and shall hereafter, by the which we trust to God your gracious lordship and good fatherhood shall be pleased.
"Also we beseech your good lordship that it may please you to send us Harry Lovedeyne, groom of your kitchen, whose service is to us right agreeable; and we will send you John Boyes to wait upon your lordship.
"Right high and mighty prince, our most worshipful and greatly redoubted lord and father, we beseech Almighty God to give you as good life and long as your own princely heart can best desire.
"Written at your Castle of Ludlow, the 3d of June.
"Your humble sons, "E. MARCHE. "E. RUTLAND."
[Footnote A: There were no postal arrangements in those days, and all letters were sent by private, and generally by special messengers.]
[Footnote B: Daily.]
The subscriptions E. March and E. Rutland stand for Edward, Earl of March, and Edmund, Earl of Rutland; for, though these boys were then only eleven and twelve years of age respectively, they were both earls. One of them, afterward, when he was about seventeen years old, was cruelly killed on the field of battle, where he had been fighting with his father, as we shall see in another chapter. The other, Edward, became King of England. He came immediately before Richard the Third in the line.
The letter which the boys wrote was superscribed as follows:
"To the right high and mighty prince, our most worshipful and greatly redoubted lord and father, the Duke of York, Protector and Defender of England."
The castle of Ludlow, where the boys were residing when this letter was written, was a strong fortress built upon a rock in the western part of England, not far from Shrewsbury. The engraving is a correct representation of it, as it appeared at the period when those boys were there, and it gives a very good idea of the sort of place where kings and princes were accustomed to send their families for safety in those stormy times. Soon after the period of which we are speaking, Ludlow Castle was sacked and destroyed. The ruins of it, however, remain to the present day, and they are visited with much interest by great numbers of modern travelers.
Lady Cecily, as we have already seen, was in many respects a noble woman, and a most faithful and devoted wife and mother; she was, however, of a very lofty and ambitious spirit, and extremely proud of her rank and station. Almost all her brothers and sisters—and the family was very large—were peers and peeresses, and when she married Prince Richard Plantagenet, her heart beat high with exultation and joy to think that she was about to become a queen. She believed that Prince Richard was fully entitled to the throne at that time, for reasons which will be fully explained in the next chapter, and that, even if his claims should not be recognized until the death of the king who was then reigning, they certainly would be so recognized then, and she would become an acknowledged queen, as she thought she was already one by right. So she felt greatly exalted in spirit, and moved and acted among all who surrounded her with an air of stately reserve of the most grand and aristocratic character.
In fact, there has, perhaps, no time and place been known in the history of the world in which the spirit of aristocracy was more lofty and overbearing in its character than in England during the period when the Plantagenet family were in prosperity and power. The nobles formed then, far more strikingly than they do now, an entirely distinct and exalted class, that looked down upon all other ranks and gradations of society as infinitely beneath them. Their only occupation was war, and they regarded all those who were engaged in any employments whatever, that were connected with art or industry, with utter disdain. These last were crowded together in villages and towns which were formed of dark and narrow streets, and rude and comfortless dwellings. The nobles lived in grand castles scattered here and there over the country, with extensive parks and pleasure-grounds around them, where they loved to marshal their followers, and inaugurate marauding expeditions against their rivals or their enemies. They were engaged in constant wars and contentions with each other, each thirsting for more power and more splendor than he at present enjoyed, and treating all beneath him with the utmost haughtiness and disdain. Richard's mother exhibited this aristocratic loftiness of spirit in a very high degree, and it was undoubtedly in a great manner through the influence which she exerted over her children that they were inspired with those sentiments of ambition and love of glory to which the crimes and miseries into which several of them fell in their subsequent career were owing.
To assist her in the early education of her children, Richard's mother appointed one of the ladies of the court their governess. This governess was a personage of very high rank, being descended from the royal line. With the ideas which Lady Cecily entertained of the exalted position of her family, and of the future destiny of her children, none but a lady of high rank would be thought worthy of being intrusted with such a charge. The name of the governess was Lady Mortimer.
The boys, as they grew older, were placed under the charge of a governor. His name was Sir Richard Croft. It is this Sir Richard that they allude to in their letter. He, too, was a person of high rank and of great military distinction. The boys, however, thought him too strict and severe with them; at least so it would seem, from the manner in which they speak of him in the letter.
The governor and the governess appear to have liked each other very well, for after a time Sir Richard offered himself to Lady Mortimer, and they were married.
* * * * *
Besides Ludlow Castle, Prince Richard had several other strongholds, where his wife from time to time resided. Richard, who was one of the youngest of the children, was born at one of these, called Fotheringay Castle; but, before coming to the event of his birth, I must give some account of the history and fortunes of his father.
Genealogy of Richard Plantagenet.—Family of Edward III.—Succession of heirs in the family of Edward III.—Genealogical table of the houses of York and Lancaster.—Union of the houses of Clarence and York.—Richard Plantagenet a prisoner.—King Henry VI.—His gentle and quiet character.—Portrait.—Discontent of the people.—Arrangements made for the succession.—Character of Margaret of Anjou.—No children.—Feeble and failing capacity of the king.—Richard Plantagenet formally declared the heir.—Unexpected birth of a prince.—Suspicions.—Various plans and speculations.—Richard's hopes.—Progress of the formation of parties.—Queen Margaret's resolution and energy.—Wars.—Richard's two brothers, Edward and Edmund.—The walls of York.—Prince Richard at York.—Boldness of the queen.—The advice of Richard's counselors.—Richard's reply.—The battle.—Richard defeated.—Death of Edmund.—Death of Richard.—The head set upon a pole at York.
Richard's father was a prince of the house of York. In the course of his life he was declared heir to the crown, but he died before he attained possession of it, thus leaving it for his children. The nature of his claim to the crown, and, indeed, the general relation of the various branches of the family to each other, will be seen by the genealogical table on the next page but one.
Edward the Third, who reigned more than one hundred years before Richard the Third, and his queen Philippa, left at their decease four sons, as appears by the table.[C] They had other children besides these, but it was only these four, namely, Edward, Lionel, John, and Edmund, whose descendants were involved in the quarrels for the succession. The others either died young, or else, if they arrived at maturity, the lines descending from them soon became extinct.
[Footnote C: See page 35.]
Of the four that survived, the oldest was Edward, called in history the Black Prince. A full account of his life and adventures is given in our history of Richard the Second. He died before his father, and so did not attain to the crown. He, however, left his son Richard his heir, and at Edward's death Richard became king. Richard reigned twenty years, and then, in consequence of his numerous vices and crimes, and of his general mismanagement, he was deposed, and Henry, the son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, Edward's third son, ascended the throne in his stead.
Now, as appears by the table, John of Gaunt was the third of the four sons, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, being the second. The descendants of Lionel would properly have come before those of John in the succession, but it happened that the only descendants of Lionel were Philippa, a daughter, and Roger, a grandchild, who was at this time an infant. Neither of these were able to assert their claims, although in theory their claims were acknowledged to be prior to those of the descendants of John. The people of England, however, were so desirous to be rid of Richard, that they were willing to submit to the reign of any member of the royal family who should prove strong enough to dispossess him. So they accepted
GENEALOGICAL TABLE OF THE FAMILY OF EDWARD III., SHOWING THE CONNECTION OF THE HOUSES OF YORK AND LANCASTER.
EDWARD III. = Phillippa. EDWARD LIONEL JOHN EDMUND (The Black Prince). (Duke of Clarence). (Of Gaunt, (Duke of York). Duke of Lancaster). RICHARD II. PHILLIPPA = Edward HENRY IV. RICHARD = Anne. Mortimer. (See second column.) ROGER MORTIMER HENRY V. Earl of Marche). HENRY VI. RICHARD PLANTAGENET (Duke of York). - ANNE = Richard EDWARD EDWARD GEORGE RICHARD of York. (Prince IV. (Duke III. (See fourth column.) of Wales). of Clarence).
The character = denotes marriage; the short perpendicular line a descent. There were many other children and descendants in the different branches of the family besides those whose names are inserted in the table. The table includes only those essential to an understanding of the history.
Henry of Lancaster, who ascended the throne as Henry the Fourth, and he and his successors in the Lancastrian line, Henry the Fifth and Henry the Sixth, held the throne for many years.
Still, though the people of England generally acquiesced in this, the families of the other brothers, namely, of Lionel and Edmund, called generally the houses of Clarence and of York, were not satisfied. They combined together, and formed a great many plots and conspiracies against the house of Lancaster, and many insurrections and wars, and many cruel deeds of violence and murder grew out of the quarrel. At length, to strengthen their alliance more fully, Richard, the second son of Edmund of York, married Anne, a descendant of the Clarence line. The other children, who came before these, in the two lines, soon afterward died, leaving the inheritance of both to this pair. Their son was Richard, the father of Richard the Third. He is called Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. On the death of his father and mother, he, of course, became the heir not only of the immense estates and baronial rights of both the lines from which he had descended, but also of the claims of the older line to the crown of England.
The successive generations of these three lines, down to the period of the union of the second and fourth, cutting off the third, is shown clearly in the table.
Of course, the Lancaster line were much alarmed at the combination of the claims of their rivals. King Henry the Fifth was at that period on the throne, and, by the time that Richard Plantagenet was three years old, under pretense of protecting him from danger, he caused him to be shut up in a castle, and kept a close prisoner there.
Time rolled on. King Henry the Fifth died, and Henry the Sixth succeeded him. Richard Plantagenet was still watched and guarded; but at length, by the time that Richard was thirteen years old, the power and influence of his branch of the royal family, or rather those of the two branches from which, combined, he was descended, were found to be increasing, while that of the house of Lancaster was declining. After a time he was brought out from his imprisonment, and restored to his rank and station. King Henry the Sixth was a man of a very weak and timid mind. He was quite young too, being, in fact, a mere child when he began to reign, and every thing went wrong with his government. While he was young, he could, of course, do nothing, and when he grew older he was too gentle and forbearing to control the rough and turbulent spirits around him. He had no taste for war and bloodshed, but loved retirement and seclusion, and, as he advanced in years, he fell into the habit of spending a great deal of his time in acts of piety and devotion, performed according to the ideas and customs of the times. The annexed engraving, representing him as he appeared when he was
a boy, is copied from the ancient portraits, and well expresses the mild and gentle traits which marked his disposition and character.
Such being the disposition and character of Henry, every thing during his reign went wrong, and this state of things, growing worse and worse as he advanced in life, greatly encouraged and strengthened the house of York in the effort which they were inclined to make to bring their own branch of the family to the throne.
"See," said they, "what we come to by allowing a line of usurpers to reign. These Henrys of Lancaster are all descended from a younger son, while the heirs of the older are living, and have a right to the throne. Richard Plantagenet is the true and proper heir. He is a man of energy. Let us make him king."
But the people of England, though they gradually came to desire the change, were not willing yet to plunge the country again into a state of civil war for the purpose of making it. They would not disturb Henry, they said, while he continued to live; but there was nobody to succeed him, and, when he died, Richard Plantagenet should be king.
Henry was married at this time, but he had no children. The name of his wife was Margaret of Anjou. She was a very extraordinary and celebrated woman. Though very beautiful in person, she was as energetic and masculine in character as her poor husband was effeminate and weak, and she took every thing into her own hands. This, however, made matters worse instead of better, and the whole country seemed to rejoice that she had no children, for thus, on the death of Henry, the line would become extinct, and Richard Plantagenet and his descendants would succeed, as a matter of course, in a quiet and peaceful manner. As Henry and Margaret had now been married eight or nine years without any children, it was supposed that they never would have any.
Accordingly, Richard Plantagenet was universally looked upon as Henry's successor, and the time seemed to be drawing nigh when the change of dynasty was to take place. Henry's health was very feeble. He seemed to be rapidly declining. His mind was affected, too, quite seriously, and he sometimes sank into a species of torpor from which nothing could arouse him.
Indeed, it became difficult to carry on the government in his name, for the king sank at last into such a state of imbecility that it was impossible to obtain from him the least sign or token that would serve, even for form's sake, as an assent on his part to the royal decrees. At one time Parliament appointed a commission to visit him in his chamber, for the purpose of ascertaining the state that he was in, and to see also whether they could not get some token from him which they could consider as his assent to certain measures which it was deemed important to take; but they could not get from the king any answer or sign of any kind, notwithstanding all that they could do or say. They retired for a time, and afterward came back again to make a second attempt, and then, as an ancient narrative records the story, "they moved and stirred him by all the ways and means that they could think of to have an answer of the said matter, but they could have no answer, word nor sign, and therefore, with sorrowful hearts, came away."
This being the state of things, Parliament thought it time to make some definite arrangements for the succession. Accordingly, they passed a formal and solemn enactment declaring Richard Plantagenet heir presumptive of the crown, and investing him with the rank and privileges pertaining to that position. They also appointed him, for the present, Protector and defender of the realm.
Richard, the subject of this volume, was at this time an infant two years old. The other ten children had been born at various periods before.
It was now, of course, expected that Henry would soon die, and that then Richard Plantagenet would at once ascend the throne, acknowledged by the whole realm as the sole and rightful heir. But these expectations were suddenly disturbed, and the whole kingdom was thrown into a state of great excitement and alarm by the news of a very unexpected and important event which occurred at this time, namely, the birth of a child to Margaret, the queen. This event awakened all the latent fires of civil dissension and discord anew. The Lancastrian party, of course, at once rallied around the infant prince, who, they claimed, was the rightful heir to the crown. They began at once to reconstruct and strengthen their plans, and to shape their measures with a view to retain the kingdom in the Lancaster line. On the other hand, the friends of the combined houses of Clarence and York declared that they would not acknowledge the new-comer as the rightful heir. They did not believe that he was the son of the king, for he, as they said, had been for a long time as good as dead. Some said that they did not even believe that the child was Margaret's son. There was a story that she had had a child, but that he was very weak and puny, and that he had died soon after his birth, and that Margaret had cunningly substituted another child in his place, in order to retain her position and power by having a supposed son of hers reign as king after her husband should die. Margaret was a woman of so ambitious and unscrupulous a character, that she was generally believed capable of adopting any measures, however criminal and bold, to accomplish her ends.
But, notwithstanding these rumors, Parliament acknowledged the infant as his father's son and heir. He was named Edward, and created at once Prince of Wales, which act was a solemn acknowledgment of his right to the succession. Prince Richard made no open opposition to this; for, although he and his friends maintained that he had a right to the crown, they thought that the time had not yet come for openly advancing their claim, so for the present they determined to be quiet. The child might not survive, and his father, the king, being in so helpless and precarious a condition, might cease to live at any time; and if it should so happen that both the father and the child should die, Richard would, of course, succeed at once, without any question. He accordingly thought it best to wait a little while, and see what turn things would take.
He soon found that things were taking the wrong turn. The child lived, and appeared likely to continue to live, and, what was perhaps worse for him, the king, instead of declining more and more, began to revive. In a short time he was able to attend to business again, at least so far as to express his assent to measures prepared for him by his ministers. Prince Richard was accordingly called upon to resign his protectorate. He thought it best to yield to this proposal, and he did so, and thus the government was once more in Henry's hands.
Things went on in this way for two or three years, but the breach between the two great parties was all the time widening. Difficulties multiplied in number and increased in magnitude. The country took sides. Armed forces were organized on one side and on the other, and at length Prince Richard openly claimed the crown as his right. This led to a long and violent discussion in Parliament. The result was, that a majority was obtained to vote in favor of Prince Richard's right. The Parliament decreed, however, that the existing state of things should not be disturbed so long as Henry continued to live, but that at Henry's death the crown should descend, not to little Edward his son, the infant Prince of Wales, but to Prince Richard Plantagenet and his descendants forever.
Queen Margaret was at this time at a castle in Wales, where she had gone with the child, in order to keep him in a place of safety while these stormy discussions were pending. When she heard that Parliament had passed a law setting aside the claims of her child, she declared that she would never submit to it. She immediately sent messengers all over the northern part of the kingdom, summoning the faithful followers of the king every where to arm themselves and assemble near the frontier. She herself went to Scotland to ask for aid. The King of Scotland at that time was a child, but he was related to the Lancastrian family, his grandmother having been a descendant of John of Gaunt, the head of the Lancaster line. He was too young to take any part in the war, but his mother, who was acting as regent, furnished Margaret with troops. Margaret, putting herself at the head of these forces, marched across the frontier into England, and joined herself there to the other forces which had assembled in answer to her summons.
In the mean time, Prince Richard had assembled his adherents too, and had commenced his march to the northward to meet his enemies. He took his two oldest sons with him, the two that wrote the letter quoted in the last chapter. One of these you will recollect was Edward, Earl of Marche, and the second was Edmund, Earl of Rutland. Edward was now about eighteen years of age, and his brother Edmund about seventeen. One would have said that at this period of life they were altogether too young to be exposed to the hardships, fatigues, and dangers of a martial campaign; but it was the custom in those times for princes and nobles to be taken with their fathers to fields of battle at a very early age. And these youthful warriors were really of great service too, for the interest which they inspired among all ranks of the army was so great, especially when their rank was very high, that they were often the means of greatly increasing the numbers and the enthusiasm of their fathers' followers.
Edward, indeed, was in this instance deemed old enough to be sent off on an independent service, and so, while the prince moved forward with the main body of his army toward the north, he dispatched Edward, accompanied by a suitable escort, to the westward, toward the frontiers of Wales, to assemble all the armed men that he could find in that part of the kingdom who were disposed to espouse his cause. Edmund, who was a year younger than Edward, went with his father.
The prince proceeded to the city of York, which was then a fortified place of great strength. The engraving gives a very good idea of the appearance of the walls in those times. These walls remain, indeed, almost entire at the present day, and they are visited a great deal by tourists and travelers, being regarded with much interest as furnishing a very complete and well-preserved specimen of the mural fortifications of the Middle Ages. Such walls, however, would be almost entirely useless now as means of defense, since they would not stand at all against an attack from modern artillery.
The great church seen over the walls, in the heart of the city, is the famous York minster, one of the grandest Cathedral churches in England. It was a hundred and fifty years in building, and it was completed about two centuries before Richard's day.
When Prince Richard reached York, he entered the town, and established himself there, with a view of waiting till his son should arrive with the re-enforcements which he had been sent to seek in the western part of England.
While he was there, and before the re-enforcements came, the queen, at the head of her army from Scotland, which was strengthened, moreover, by the troops which she had obtained in the north of England, came marching on down the country in great force. When she came into the neighborhood of York, she encamped, and then sent messengers to Prince Richard, taunting and deriding him for having shut himself up within fortified walls, and daring him to come out into the open field and fight her.
The prince's counselors advised him to do no such thing. One of them in particular, a certain Sir Davy Hall, who was an old and faithful officer in the prince's service, urged him to pay no attention to Queen Margaret's taunts.
"We are not strong enough yet," said he, "to meet the army which she has assembled. We must wait till our re-enforcements come. By going out now we shall put our cause in great peril, and all to no purpose whatever."
"Ah! Davy, Davy," said the prince, "hast thou loved me so long, and now wouldst thou have me dishonored? When I was regent in Normandy, thou never sawest me keep fortress, even when the dauphin himself, with all his power, came to besiege me.[D] I always, like a man, came forth to meet him, instead of remaining within my walls, like a bird shut up in a cage. Now if I did not then keep myself shut up for fear of a great, strong prince, do you think I will now, for dread of a scolding woman, whose weapons are only her tongue and her nails, and thus give people occasion to say that I turned dastard before a woman, when no man had ever been able to make me fear? No, I will never submit to such disgrace. I would rather die in honor than live in shame; and so the great numbers of our enemies do not deter me in the least; they rather encourage me; therefore, in the name of God and St. George, advance my banner, for I am determined that I will go out and fight them, if I go alone."
[Footnote D: In former years Prince Richard had acted as viceroy of the English possessions in France, under King Henry, and while there he had been engaged in wars with the King of France, and with the dauphin, his son.]
So Prince Richard came forth from the gates of York at the head of his columns, and rode on toward the queen's camp. Edmund went with him. Edmund was under the care of his tutor, Robert Aspell, who was charged to keep close to his side, and to watch over him in the most vigilant manner. The army of the queen was at some distance from York, at a place called Wakefield. Both parties, as is usual in civil wars, were extremely exasperated against each other, and the battle was desperately fought. It was very brief, however, and Richard's troops were defeated. Richard himself was taken prisoner. Edmund endeavored to escape. His tutor endeavored to hurry him off the field, but he was stopped on the way by a certain nobleman of the queen's party, named Lord Clifford. The poor boy begged hard for mercy, but Clifford killed him on the spot.
The prince's army, when they found that the battle had gone against them, and that their captain was a prisoner, fled in all directions over the surrounding country, leaving great numbers dead upon the field. The prince himself, as soon as he was taken, was disarmed on the field, and all the leaders of the queen's army, including, as the most authentic accounts relate, the queen herself, gathered around him in wild exultation. They carried him to a mound formed by an ant-hill, which they said, in mockery, should be his throne. They placed him upon it with taunts and derision. They made a crown for him of knotted grass, and put it upon his head, and then made mock obeisances before him, saying, "Hail! king without a kingdom. Hail! prince without a people."
After having satisfied themselves with their taunts and revilings, the party killed their prisoner and cut off his head. They set his head upon the point of a lance, and in this way presented it to Queen Margaret. The queen ordered the head to be decorated with a paper crown, and then to be carried to York, and set up at the gates of that city upon a tall pole.
Thus was little Richard, the subject of this narrative, left fatherless. He was at this period between eight and nine years old.
THE CHILDHOOD OF RICHARD III.
Condition of young Richard in his childhood.—Strange tales in respect to his birth.—Dangers to which Richard was exposed in his childhood.—Extraordinary vicissitudes in the life of his mother.—The castles and palaces belonging to the house of York.—Situation of Lady Cecily at the time of her husband's death.—Lady Cecily sends the children to the Continent.—Situation of Lady Cecily and of her oldest son.
Young Richard, as was said at the close of the last chapter, was of a very tender age when his father and his brother Edmund were killed at the battle of Wakefield. He was at that time only about eight years old. It is very evident too, from what has been already related of the history of his father and mother, that during the whole period of his childhood and youth he must have passed through very stormy times. It is only a small portion of the life of excitement, conflict, and alarm which was led by his father that there is space to describe in this volume. So unsettled and wandering a life did his father and mother lead, that it is not quite certain in which of the various towns and castles that from time to time they made their residence, he was born. It is supposed, however, that he was born in the Castle of Fotheringay, in the year 1452. His father was killed in 1461, which would make Richard, as has already been said, about eight or nine years old at that time.
There were a great many strange tales related in subsequent years in respect to Richard's birth. He became such a monster, morally, when he grew to be a man, that the people believed that he was born a monster in person. The story was that he came into the world very ugly in face and distorted in form, and that his hair and his teeth were already grown. These were considered as portents of the ferociousness of temper and character which he was subsequently to manifest, and of the unnatural and cruel crimes which he would live to commit. It is very doubtful, however, whether any of these stories are true. It is most probable that at his birth he looked like any other child.
There were a great many periods of intense excitement and terror in the family history before the great final calamity at Wakefield when Richard's father and his brother Edmund were killed. At these times the sole reliance of the prince in respect to the care of the younger children was upon Lady Cecily, their mother. The older sons went with their father on the various martial expeditions in which he was engaged. They shared with him the hardships and dangers of his conflicts, and the triumph and exultations of his victories. The younger children, however, remained in seclusion with their mother, sometimes in one place and sometimes in another, wherever there was, for the time being, the greatest promise of security.
Indeed, during the early childhood of Richard, the changes and vicissitudes through which the family passed were so sudden and violent in their character as sometimes to surpass the most romantic tales of fiction. At one time, while Lady Cecily was residing at the Castle of Ludlow with Richard and some of the younger children, a party of her husband's enemies, the Lancastrians, appeared suddenly at the gates of the town, and, before Prince Richard's party had time to take any efficient measures for defense, the town and the castle were both taken. The Lancastrians had expected to find Prince Richard himself in the castle, but he was not there. They were exasperated by their disappointment, and in their fury they proceeded to ransack all the rooms, and to destroy every thing that came into their hands. In some of the inner and more private apartments they found Lady Cecily and her children. They immediately seized them all, made them prisoners, and carried them away. By King Henry's orders, they were placed in close custody in another castle in the southern part of England, and all the property, both of the prince and of Lady Cecily, was confiscated. While the mother and the younger children were thus closely shut up and reduced to helpless destitution, the father and the older sons were obliged to fly from the country to save their lives. In less than three months after this time these same exiled and apparently ruined fugitives were marching triumphantly through the country, at the head of victorious troops, carrying all before them. Lady Cecily and her children were set at liberty, and restored to their property and their rights, while King Henry himself, whose captives they had been, was himself made captive, and brought in durance to London, and Queen Margaret and her son were in their turn compelled to fly from the realm to save their lives.
This last change in the condition of public affairs took place only a short time before the great final contest between Prince Richard of York, King Richard's father, and the family of Henry, when the prince lost his life at Wakefield, as described in the last chapter.
Of course, young Richard, being brought up amid these scenes of wild commotion, and accustomed from childhood to witness the most cruel and remorseless conflicts between branches of the same family, was trained by them to be ambitious, daring, and unscrupulous in respect to the means to be used in circumventing or destroying an enemy. The seed thus sown produced in subsequent years most dreadful fruit, as will be seen more fully in the sequel of his history.
There were a great many hereditary castles belonging to the family of York, many of which had descended from father to son for many generations. Some of these castles were strong fortresses, built in wild and inaccessible retreats, and intended to be used as places of temporary refuge, or as the rallying-points and rendezvous of bodies of armed men. Others were better adapted for the purposes of a private residence, being built with some degree of reference to the comfort of the inmates, and surrounded with gardens and grounds, where the ladies and the children who were left in them could find recreation and amusement adapted to their age and sex.
It was in such a castle as this, near London, that Lady Cecily and her younger children were residing when her husband went to the northward to meet the forces of the queen, as related in the last chapter. Here Lady Cecily lived in great state, for she thought the time was drawing nigh when her husband would be raised to the throne. Indeed, she considered him as already the true and rightful sovereign of the realm, and she believed that the hour would very soon come when his claims would be universally acknowledged, and when she herself would be Queen of England, and her boys royal princes, and, as such, the objects of universal attention and regard. She instilled these ideas continually into the minds of the children, and she exacted the utmost degree of subserviency and submission toward herself and toward them on the part of all around her.
While she was thus situated in her palace near London, awaiting every day the arrival of a messenger from the north announcing the final victory of her husband over all his foes, she was one day thunderstruck, and overwhelmed with grief and despair, by the tidings that her husband had been defeated, and that he himself, and the dear son who had accompanied him, and was just arriving at maturity, had been ignominiously slain. The queen, too, her most bitter foe, now exultant and victorious, was advancing triumphantly toward London.
Not a moment was to be lost. Lady Cecily had with her, at this time, her two youngest sons, George and Richard. She made immediate arrangements for her flight. It happened that the Earl of Warwick, who was at this time the Lord High Admiral, and who, of course, had command of the seas between England and the Continent, was a relative and friend of Lady Cecily's. He was at this time in London. Lady Cecily applied to him to assist her in making her escape. He consented, and, with his aid, she herself, with her two children and a small number of attendants, escaped secretly from London, and made their way to the southern coast. There Lady Cecily put the children and the attendants on board a vessel, by which they were conveyed to the coast of Holland. On landing there, they were received by the prince of the country, who was a friend of Lady Cecily, and to whose care she commended them. The prince received them with great kindness, and sent them to the city of Utrecht, where he established them safely in one of his palaces, and appointed suitable tutors and governors to superintend their education. Here it was expected that they would remain for several years.
Their mother did not go with them to Holland. Her fears in respect to remaining in England were not for herself, but only for her helpless children. For herself, her only impulse was to face and brave the dangers which threatened her, and triumph over them. So she went boldly back to London, to await there whatever might occur.
Besides, her oldest son was still in England, and she could not forsake him. You will recollect that, when his father went north to meet the forces of Queen Margaret, he sent his oldest son, Edward, Earl of Marche, to the western part of England, to obtain re-enforcements. Edward was at Gloucester when the tidings came to him of his father's death. Gloucester is on the western confines of England, near the southeastern borders of Wales. Now, of course, since her husband was dead, all Lady Cecily's ambition, and all her hopes of revenge were concentrated in him. She wished to be at hand to counsel him, and to co-operate with him by all the means in her power. How she succeeded in these plans, and how, by means of them, he soon became King of England, will appear in the next chapter.
ACCESSION OF EDWARD IV., RICHARD'S ELDER BROTHER.
Edward now becomes heir to the crown.—His energy and decision.—He marches to intercept Margaret.—Warwick.—Battle with the queen.—Warwick defeated.—Margaret regains possession of her husband.—Excesses committed by the queen's troops.—Edward advances.—He enters London.—His welcome.—Excitement in London.—Measures taken by Edward.—Voice of the people.—They declare in favor of Edward.—Edward is formally enthroned.—Various ceremonies.—Edward marches to the northward.—A battle.—Edward enters York in triumph.—He inters his father's body.—He returns to London.—Grief of his mother.—Situation of George and Richard.—Richard's person.—Description of the armor worn in those days.—Necessity of being trained to use this armor.—The armor costly.—Substitutes for it.—Exercises.—Feats to be performed.—Account of the quintaine.—Other exercises and sports.—Playing ball.—Jumping through a hoop.—The two brothers companions.—Richard's intellectual education.
Richard's brother Edward, as has already been remarked, was at Gloucester when he heard the news of his father's death. This news, of course, made a great change in his condition. To his mother, the event was purely and simply a calamity, and it could awaken no feelings in her heart but those of sorrow and chagrin. In Edward's mind, on the other hand, the first emotions of astonishment and grief were followed immediately by a burst of exultation and pride. He, of course, as now the oldest surviving son, succeeded at once to all the rights and titles which his father had enjoyed, and among these, according to the ideas which his mother had instilled into his mind, was the right to the crown. His heart, therefore, when the first feeling of grief for the loss of his father had subsided, bounded with joy as he exclaimed,
"So now I am the King of England."
The enthusiasm which he felt extended itself at once to all around him. He immediately made preparations to put himself at the head of his troops, and march to the eastward, so as to intercept Queen Margaret on her way to London, for he knew that she would, of course, now press forward toward the capital as fast as possible.
He accordingly set out at once upon his march, and, as he went on, he found that the number of his followers increased very rapidly. The truth was, that the queen's party, by their murder of Richard, and of young Edmund his son, had gone altogether too far for the good of their own cause. The people, when they heard the tidings, were indignant at such cruelty. Those who belonged to the party of the house of York, instead of being intimidated by the severity of the measure, were exasperated at the brutality of it, and they were all eager to join the young duke, Edward, and help him to avenge his father's and his brother's death. Those who had been before on the side of the house of Lancaster were discouraged and repelled, while those who had been doubtful were now ready to declare against the queen.
It is in this way that all excesses in the hour of victory defeat the very ends they were intended to subserve. They weaken the perpetrators, and not the subjects of them.
In the mean time, while young Edward, at the head of his army, was marching on from the westward toward London to intercept the queen, the Earl of Warwick, who has already been mentioned as a friend of Lady Cecily, had also assembled a large force near London, and he was now advancing toward the northward. The poor king was with him. Nominally, the king was in command of the expedition, and every thing was done in his name, but really he was a forlorn and helpless prisoner, forced wholly against his will—so far as the feeble degree of intellect which remained to him enabled him to exercise a will—to seem to head an enterprise directed against his own wife, and his best and strongest friend.
The armies of the queen and of the Earl of Warwick advanced toward each other, until they met at last at a short distance north of London. A desperate battle was fought, and the queen's party were completely victorious. When night came on, the Earl of Warwick found that he was beaten at every point, and that his troops had fled in all directions, leaving thousands of the dead and dying all along the road sides. The camp had been abandoned, and there was no time to save any thing; even the poor king was left behind, and the officers of the queen's army found him in a tent, with only one attendant. Of course, the queen was overjoyed at recovering possession of her husband, not merely on his own account personally, but also because she could now act again directly in his name. So she prepared a proclamation, by which the king revoked all that he had done while in the hands of Warwick, on the ground that he had been in durance, and had not acted of his own free will, and also declared Edward a traitor, and offered a large reward for his apprehension.
The queen was now once more filled with exultation and joy. Her joy would have been complete were it not that Edward himself was still to be met, for he was all this time advancing from the westward; she, however, thought that there was not much to be feared from such a boy, Edward being at this time only about nineteen years of age. So the queen moved on toward London, flushed with the victory, and exasperated with the opposition which she had met with. Her soldiers were under very little control, and they committed great excesses. They ravaged the country, and plundered without mercy all those whom they considered as belonging to the opposite party; they committed, too, many atrocious acts of cruelty. It is always thus in civil war. In foreign wars, armies are much more easily kept under control. Troops march through a foreign territory, feeling no personal spite or hatred against the inhabitants of it, for they think it is a matter of course that the people should defend their country and resist invaders. But in a civil war, the men of each party feel a special personal hate against every individual that does not belong to their side, and in periods of actual conflict this hatred becomes a rage that is perfectly uncontrollable.
Accordingly, as the queen and her troops advanced, they robbed and murdered all who came in their way, and they filled the whole country with terror. They even seized and plundered a convent, which was a species of sacrilege. This greatly increased the general alarm. "The wretches!" exclaimed the people, when they heard the tidings, "nothing is sacred in their eyes." The people of London were particularly alarmed. They thought there was danger that the city itself would be given up to plunder if the queen's troops gained admission. So they all turned against her. She sent one day into the town for a supply of provisions, and the authorities, perhaps thinking themselves bound by their official duty to obey orders of this kind coming in the king's name, loaded up some wagons and sent them forth, but the people raised a mob, and stopped the wagons at the gates, refusing to let them go on.
In the mean time, Edward, growing every hour stronger as he advanced, came rapidly on toward London. He was joined at length by the Earl of Warwick and the remnant of the force which remained to the earl after the battle which he had fought with the queen. The queen, now finding that Edward's strength was becoming formidable, did not dare to meet him; so she retreated toward the north again. Edward, instead of pursuing her, advanced directly toward London. The people threw open the gates to him, and welcomed him as their deliverer. They thronged the streets to look upon him as he passed, and made the air ring with their loud and long acclamations.
There was, indeed, every thing in the circumstances of the case to awaken excitement and emotion. Here was a boy not yet out of his teens, extremely handsome in appearance and agreeable in manners, who had taken the field in command of a very large force to avenge the cruel death of his father and brother, and was now coming boldly, at the head of his troops, into the very capital of the king and queen under whose authority his father and brother had been killed.
The most extraordinary circumstance connected with these proceedings was, that during all this time Henry was still acknowledged by every one as the actual king. Edward and his friends maintained, indeed, that he, Edward, was entitled to reign, but no one pretended that any thing had yet been done which could have the legal effect of putting him upon the throne. There was, however, now a general expectation that the time for the formal deposition of Henry was near, and in and around London all was excitement and confusion. The people from the surrounding towns flocked every day into the city to see what they could see, and to hear what they could hear. They thronged the streets whenever Edward appeared in public, eager to obtain a glimpse of him.
At length, a few days after Edward entered the city, his counselors and friends deemed that the time had come for action. Accordingly, they made arrangements for a grand review in a large open field. Their design was by this review to call together a great concourse of spectators. A vast assembly convened according to their expectations. In the midst of the ceremonies, two noblemen appeared before the multitude to make addresses to them. One of them made a speech in respect to Henry, denouncing the crimes, and the acts of treachery and of oppression which his government had committed. He dilated long on the feebleness and incapacity of the king, and his total inability to exercise any control in the management of public affairs. After he had finished, he called out to the people in a loud voice to declare whether they would submit any longer to have such a man for king.
The people answered "NAY, NAY, NAY," with loud and long acclamations.
Then the other speaker made an address in favor of Edward. He explained at length the nature of his title to the crown, showing it to be altogether superior in point of right to that of Henry. He also spoke long and eloquently in praise of Edward's personal qualifications, describing his courage, his activity, and energy, and the various graces and accomplishments for which he was distinguished, in the most glowing terms. He ended by demanding of the people whether they would have Edward for king.
The people answered "YEA, YEA, YEA; KING EDWARD FOREVER! KING EDWARD FOREVER!" with acclamations as long and loud as before.
Of course there could be no legal validity in such proceedings as these, for, even if England had at that time been an elective monarchy, the acclamations of an accidental assembly drawn together to witness a review could on no account have been deemed a valid vote. This ceremony was only meant as a very public announcement of the intention of Edward immediately to assume the throne.
The next day, accordingly, a grand council was held of all the great barons, and nobles, and officers of state. By this council a decree was passed that King Henry, by his late proceedings, had forfeited the crown, and Edward was solemnly declared king in his stead. Immediately afterward, Edward rode at the head of a royal procession, which was arranged for the purpose, to Westminster, and there, in the presence of a vast assembly, he took his seat upon the throne. While there seated, he made a speech to the audience, in which he explained the nature of his hereditary rights, and declared his intention to maintain his rights thenceforth in the most determined manner.
The king now proceeded to Westminster Abbey, where he performed the same ceremonies a second time. He was also publicly proclaimed king on the same day in various parts of London.
Edward was now full of ardor and enthusiasm, and his first impulse was to set off, at the head of his army, toward the north, in pursuit of the queen and the old king. The king and queen had gone to York. The queen had not only the king under her care, but also her son, the little Prince of Wales, who was now about eight years old. This young prince was the heir to the crown on the Lancastrian side, and Edward was, of course, very desirous of getting him, as well as the king and queen, into his hands; so he put himself at the head of his troops, and began to move forward as fast as he could go. The body of troops under his command consisted of fifty thousand men. In the queen's army, which was encamped in the neighborhood of York, there were about sixty thousand.
Both parties were extremely exasperated against each other, and were eager for the fight. Edward gave orders to his troops to grant no quarter, but, in the event of victory, to massacre without mercy every man that they could bring within their reach. The armies came together at a place called Towton. The combat was begun in the midst of a snow-storm. The armies fought from nine o'clock in the morning till three in the afternoon, and by that time the queen's troops were every where driven from the field. Edward's men pursued them along the roads, slaughtering them without mercy as fast as they could overtake them, until at length nearly forty thousand men were left dead upon the ground.
The queen fled toward the north, taking with her her husband and child. Edward entered York in triumph. At the gates he found the head of his father and that of his brother still remaining upon the poles where the queen had put them. He took them reverently down, and then put other heads in their places, which he cut off for the purpose from some of his prisoners. He was in such a state of fury, that I suppose, if he could have caught the king and queen, he would have cut off their heads, and put them on the poles in the place of his father's and his brother's; but he could not catch them. They fled to the north, toward the frontiers of Scotland, and so escaped from his hands.
Edward determined not to pursue the fugitives any farther at that time, as there were many important affairs to be attended to in London, and so he concluded to be satisfied at present with the victory which he had obtained, and with the dispersion of his enemies, and to return to the capital. He first, however, gathered together the remains of his father and brother, and caused them to be buried with solemn funeral ceremonies in one of his castles near York. This was, however, only a temporary arrangement, for, as soon as his affairs were fully settled, the remains were disinterred, and conveyed, with great funeral pomp and parade, to their final resting-place in the southern part of the kingdom.
As soon as Edward reached London, one of the first things that he did was to send for his two brothers, George and Richard, who, as will be recollected, had been removed by their mother to Holland, and were now in Utrecht pursuing their education. These two boys were all the brothers of Edward that remained now alive. They came back to London. Their widowed mother's heart was filled with a melancholy sort of joy in seeing her children once more together, safe in their native land; but her spirit, after reviving for a moment, sank again, overwhelmed with the bitter and irreparable loss which she had sustained in the death of her husband. His death was, of course, a fatal blow to all those ambitious plans and aspirations which she had cherished for herself. Though the mother of a king, she could now never become herself a queen; and, disappointed and unhappy, she retired to one of the family castles in the neighborhood of London, and lived there comparatively alone and in great seclusion.
The boys, on the other hand, were brought forward very conspicuously into public life. In the autumn of the same year in which Edward took possession of the crown, they were made royal dukes, with great parade and ceremony, and were endowed with immense estates to enable them to support the dignity of their rank and position. George was made Duke of Clarence; Richard, Duke of Gloucester; and from this time the two boys were almost always designated by these names.
Suitable persons, too, were appointed to take charge of the boys, for the purpose of conducting their education, and also to manage their estates until they should become of age.
There have been a great many disputes in respect to Richard's appearance and character at this time. For a long period after his death, people generally believed that he was, from his very childhood, an ugly little monster, that nobody could look upon without fear; and, in fact, he was very repulsive in his personal appearance when he grew up, but at this time of his life the historians and biographers who saw and knew him say that he was quite a pretty boy, though puny and weak. His face was handsome enough, though his form was frail, and not perfectly symmetrical. Those who had charge of him tried to strengthen his constitution by training him to the martial exercises and usages which were practiced in those days, and especially by accustoming him to wear the ponderous armor which was then in use.
This armor was made of iron or steel. It consisted of a great number of separate pieces, which, when they were all put on, incased almost the whole body, so as to defend it against blows coming from any quarter. First, there was the helmet, or cap of steel, with large oval pieces coming down to protect the ears. Next came the gorget, as it was called, which was a sort of collar to cover the neck. Then there were elbow pieces to guard the elbows, and shoulder-plates for the shoulders, and a breast-plate or buckler for the front, and greaves for the legs and thighs. These things were necessary in those days, or at least they were advantageous, for they afforded pretty effectual protection against all the ordinary weapons which were then in use. But they made the warriors themselves so heavy and unwieldy as very greatly to interfere with the freedom of their movements when engaged in battle. There was, indeed, a certain advantage in this weight, as it made the shock with which the knight on horseback encountered his enemy in the charge so much the more heavy and overpowering; but if he were by any accident to lose his seat and fall to the ground, he was generally so encumbered by his armor that he could only partially raise himself therefrom. He was thus compelled to lie almost helpless until his enemy came to kill him, or his squire or some other friend came to help him up.[E]
[Footnote E: See engraving on page 148.]
Of course, to be able to manage one's self at all in these habiliments of iron and steel, there was required not only native strength of constitution, but long and careful training, and it was a very important part of the education of young men of rank in Richard's days to familiarize them with the use of this armor, and inure them to the weight of it. Suits of it were made for boys, the size and weight of each suit being fitted to the form and strength of the wearer. Many of these suits of boys' armor are still preserved in England. There are several specimens to be seen in the Tower of London. They are in the apartment called the Horse Armory, which is a vast hall with effigies of horses, and of men mounted upon them, all completely armed with the veritable suits of steel which the men and the horses that they represent actually wore when they were alive. The horses are arranged along the sides of the room in regular order from the earliest ages down to the time when steel armor of this kind ceased to be worn.
These suits of armor were very costly, and the boys for whom they were made were, of course, filled with feelings of exultation and pride when they put them on; and, heavy and uncomfortable as such clothing must have been, they were willing to wear it, and to practice the required exercises in it. When actually made of steel, the armor was very expensive, and such could only be afforded for young princes and nobles of very high rank; for other young men, various substitutes were provided; but all were trained, either in the use of actual armor, or of substitutes, to perform a great number and variety of exercises. They were taught, when they were old enough, to spring upon a horse with as much armor upon them and in their hands as possible; to run races; to see how long they could continue to strike heavy blows in quick succession with a battle-axe or club, as if they were beating an enemy lying upon the ground, and trying to break his armor to pieces; to dance and throw summersets; to mount upon a horse behind another person by leaping from the ground, and assisting themselves only by one hand, and other similar things. One feat which they practiced was to climb up between two partition walls built pretty near together, by bracing their back against one wall, and working with their knees and hands against the other. Another feat was to climb up a ladder on the under side by means of the hands alone.
Another famous exercise, or perhaps rather game, was performed with what was called the quintaine. The quintaine consisted of a stout post set in the ground, and rising about ten or twelve feet above the surface. Across the top was a strong bar, which turned on a pivot made in the top of the post, so that it would go round and round. To one end of this cross-bar there was fixed a square board for a target; to the other end was hung a heavy club. The cross-bar was so poised upon the central pivot that it would move very easily. In playing the game, the competitors, mounted on horseback, were to ride, one after another, under the target-end of the cross-bar, and hurl their spears at it with all their force. The blow from the spear would knock the target-end of the cross-bar away, and so bring round the other end, with its heavy club, to strike a blow on the horseman's head if he did not get instantly out of the way. It was as if he were to strike one enemy in front in battle, while there was another enemy ready on the instant to strike him from behind.
There is one of these ancient quintaines now standing on the green in the village of Offham, in Kent.
Such exercises as these were, of course, only fitted for men, or at least for boys who had nearly attained to their full size and strength. There were other games and exercises intended for smaller boys. There are many rude pictures in ancient books illustrating these old games. In one they are playing ball; in another they are playing shuttle-cock. The battle-doors that they use are very rude.
These pictures show how ancient these common games are. In another picture the boys are playing with a hoop. Two of them are holding the hoop up between them, and the third is preparing to jump through it, head foremost. His plan is to come down on the other side upon his hands, and so turn a summerset, and come up on his feet beyond.
In these exercises and amusements, and, indeed, in all his occupations, Richard had his brother George, the Duke of Clarence, for his playmate and companion. George was not only older than Richard, but he was also much more healthy and athletic; and some persons have thought that Richard injured himself, and perhaps, in some degree, increased the deformity which he seems to have suffered from in later years, or perhaps brought it on entirely, by overloading himself, in his attempts to keep pace with his brother in these exercises, with burdens of armor, or by straining himself in athletic exertions which were beyond his powers.
The intellectual education of the boys was not entirely neglected. They learned to read and write, though they could not write much, or very well. Their names are still found, as they signed them to ancient documents, several of which remain to the present day. The following is a fac-simile of Richard's signature, copied exactly from one of those documents.
Richard continued in this state of pupilage in some of the castles belonging to the family from the time that his brother began to reign until he was about fourteen years of age. Edward, the king, was then twenty-four, and Clarence about seventeen.
WARWICK, THE KING-MAKER.
Situation of Richard under the reign of his brother.—Strange vicissitudes in the life of Margaret.—Representatives of the house of York.—Margaret.—Value of a marriageable young lady.—Warwick becomes Edward's prime minister.—The three great parties.—The fortunes of Margaret of Anjou.—She escapes to France.—A new expedition planned.—Margaret is defeated and compelled to fly.—She encounters great dangers at sea.—The king concealed.—The king is made prisoner, and sent to the Tower.—Brutal punishments.—Great exasperation of the combatants.—Account of Elizabeth Woodville.—Edward's first interview with her.—The secret marriage.—The marriage gradually revealed.—Indignation of the Earl of Warwick.—Ancient portrait of Edward IV.—Portrait of Queen Elizabeth Woodville.—George and Richard.—The queen is publicly acknowledged.—Various difficulties and entanglements resulting from this marriage.—Jealousy against the queen's family and relations.—Situation of Henry and his family.—Margaret of York.—Plans and manoeuvres in respect to Margaret's marriage.—Count Charles carries the day.—Vexation of Warwick.—Progress of the quarrel.—A temporary reconciliation.—A new marriage scheme.—Edward displeased.—He fails of preventing the marriage.—The ceremony performed at Calais.
Richard's brother, Edward the Fourth, began to reign when Richard was about eight or nine years of age. His reign continued—with a brief interruption, which will be hereafter explained—for twenty years; so that, for a very important period of his life, after he arrived at some degree of maturity, namely, from the time that he was fourteen to the time that he was thirty, Richard was one of his brother's subjects. He was a prince, it is true, and a prince of the very highest rank—the next person but one, in fact, in the line of succession to the crown. His brother George, the Duke of Clarence, of course, being older than he, came before him; but both the young men, though princes, were subjects. They were under their brother Edward's authority, and bound to serve and obey him as their rightful sovereign; next to him, however, they were the highest personages in the realm. George was, from this time, generally called Clarence, and Richard, Gloucester.
The reader may perhaps feel some interest and curiosity in learning what became of Queen Margaret and old King Henry after they were driven out of the country toward the north, at the time of Edward's accession. Their prospects seemed, at the time, to be hopelessly ruined, but their case was destined to furnish another very striking instance of the extraordinary reverses of fortune which marked the history of nearly all the great families during the whole course of this York and Lancaster quarrel. In about ten years from the time when Henry and Margaret were driven away, apparently into hopeless exile, they came back in triumph, and were restored to power, and Edward himself, in his turn, was ignominiously expelled from the kingdom. The narrative of the circumstances through which these events were brought about forms quite a romantic story.
In order, however, that this story may be more clearly understood, I will first enumerate the principal personages that take a part in it, and briefly remind the reader of the position which they respectively occupied, and the relations which they sustained to each other.
First, there is the family of King Henry, consisting of himself and his wife, Queen Margaret, and his little son Edward, who had received the title of Prince of Wales. This boy was about eight years old at the time his father and mother were driven away. We left them, in the last chapter, flying toward the frontiers of Scotland to save their lives, leaving to Edward and his troops the full possession of the kingdom.
Henry and his little son, the Prince of Wales, of course represent the house of Lancaster in the dispute for the succession.
The house of York was represented by Edward, whose title, as king, was Edward the Fourth, and his two brothers, George and Richard, or, as they were now generally called, Clarence and Gloucester. In case Edward should be married and have a son, his son would succeed him, and George and Richard would be excluded; if, however, he should die without issue, then George would become king; and if George should die without issue, and Richard should survive him, then Richard would succeed. Thus, as matters now stood, George and Richard were presumptive heirs to the crown, and it was natural that they should wish that their brother Edward should never be married.
Besides these two brothers, who were the only ones of all his brothers that were now living, Edward had a sister named Margaret. Margaret was four years younger than Edward the king, and about six years older than Richard. She was now about seventeen. A young lady of that age in the family of a king in those days was quite a treasure, as the king was enabled to promote his political schemes sometimes very effectually by bestowing her in marriage upon this great prince or that, as would best further the interests which he had in view in foreign courts.
This young lady, Edward's sister, being of the same name—Margaret—with the queen of old King Henry, was distinguished from her by being called Margaret of York, as she belonged to the York family. The queen was generally known as Margaret of Anjou. Anjou was the place of her nativity.
The next great personage to be named is the Earl of Warwick. He was the man, as you will doubtless recollect, who was in command of the sea between England and the Continent at the time when Lady Cecily wished to send her children, George and Richard, away after their father's death, and who assisted in arranging their flight. He was a man of great power and influence, and of such an age and character that he exerted a vast ascendency over all within his influence. Without him, Edward never would have conquered the Lancaster party, and he knew very well that if Warwick, and all those whom Warwick would carry with him, were to desert him, he should not be able to retain his kingdom. Indeed, Warwick received the surname of King-maker from the fact that, in repeated instances during this quarrel, he put down one dynasty and raised up the other, just as he pleased. He belonged to a great and powerful family named Neville. As soon as Edward was established on his throne, Warwick, almost as a matter of course, became prime minister. One of his brothers was made chancellor, and a great number of other posts of distinction and honor were distributed among the members of the Neville family. Indeed, although Edward was nominally king, it might have been considered in some degree a question whether it was the house of York or the house of Neville that actually reigned in England.
The Earl of Warwick had two daughters. Their names were Isabella and Anne. These two young ladies the earl reckoned, as Edward did his sister Margaret, among the most important of his political resources. By marrying them to persons of very high position, he could strengthen his alliances and increase his power. There was even a possibility, he thought, of marrying one of them to the King of England, or to a prince who would become king.
Thus we have for the three great parties to the transactions now to be described, first, the representatives of the house of Lancaster, the feeble Henry, the energetic and strong-minded Margaret of Anjou, and their little son, the Prince of Wales; secondly, the representatives of the house of York, King Edward the Fourth, the two young men his brothers, George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and his sister Margaret; and, thirdly, between these two parties, as it were, the Earl of Warwick and his two daughters, Isabella and Anne, standing at the head of a vast family influence, which ramified to every part of the kingdom, and was powerful enough to give the ascendency to either side, in favor of which they might declare.
We are now prepared to follow Queen Margaret in her flight toward the north with her husband and her son, at the time when Edward the Fourth overcame her armies and ascended the throne. She pressed on as rapidly as possible, taking the king and the little prince with her, and accompanied and assisted in her flight by a few attendants, till she had crossed the frontier and was safe in Scotland. The Scots espoused her cause, and assisted her to raise fresh troops, with which she made one or two short incursions into England; but she soon found that she could do nothing effectual in this way, and so, after wasting some time in fruitless attempts, she left Scotland with the king and the prince, and went to France.
Here she entered into negotiations with the King of France, and with other princes and potentates, on the Continent, with a view of raising men and money for a new invasion of England. At first these powers declined to assist her. They said that their treasuries were exhausted, and that they had no men. At last, however, Margaret promised to the King of France that if he would furnish her with a fleet and an army, by which she could recover the kingdom of her husband, she would cede to him the town of Calais, which, though situated on the coast of France, was at that time an English possession. This was a very tempting offer, for Calais was a fortress of the first class, and a military post either for England or France of a very important character.
The king consented to this proposal. He equipped a fleet and raised an army, and Margaret set sail for England, taking the king and the prince with her. Her plan was to land in the northern part of the island, near the frontiers of Scotland, where she expected to find the country more friendly to the Lancastrian line than the people were toward the south. As soon as she landed she was joined by many of the people, and she succeeded in capturing some castles and small towns. But the Earl of Warwick, who was, as has been already said, the prime minister under Edward, immediately raised an army of twenty thousand men, and marched to the northward to meet her. Margaret's French army was wholly unprepared to encounter such a force as this, so they fled to their ships. All but about five hundred of the men succeeded in reaching the ships. The five hundred were cut to pieces. Margaret herself was detained in making arrangements for the king and the prince. She concluded not to take them to sea again, but to send them secretly into Wales, while she herself went back to France to see if she could not procure re-enforcements. She barely had time, at last, to reach the ships herself, so close at hand were her enemies. As soon as the queen had embarked, the fleet set sail. The queen had saved nearly all the money and all the stores which she had brought with her from France, and she hoped still to preserve them for another attempt. But the fleet had scarcely got off from the shore when a terrible storm arose, and the ships were all driven upon the rocks and dashed to pieces. The money and the stores were all lost; a large portion of the men were drowned; Margaret herself and the captain of the fleet saved themselves, and, as soon as the storm was over, they succeeded in making their escape back to Berwick in an old fishing-boat which they obtained on the shore.
Soon after this, Margaret, with the captain of the fleet and a very small number of faithful followers who still adhered to her, sailed back again to France.
The disturbances, however, which her landing had occasioned, did not cease immediately on her departure. The Lancastrian party all over England were excited and moved to action by the news of her coming, and for two years insurrections were continually taking place, and many battles were fought, and great numbers of people were killed. King Henry was all this time kept in close concealment, sometimes in Wales, and sometimes among the lakes and mountains in Westmoreland. He was conveyed from place to place by his adherents in the most secret manner, the knowledge in respect to his situation being confined to the smallest possible number of persons. This continued for two or three years. At last, however, while the friends of the king were attempting secretly to convey him to a certain castle in Yorkshire, he was seen and recognized by one of his enemies. A plan was immediately formed to make him prisoner. The plan succeeded. The king was surprised by an overwhelming force, which broke into the castle and seized him while he sat at dinner. His captors, and those who were lying in wait to assist them, galloped off at once with their prisoner to London. King Edward shut him up in the Tower, and he remained there, closely confined and strongly guarded for a long time.
Thus King Henry's life was saved, but of those who espoused his cause, and made attempts to restore him, great numbers were seized and beheaded in the most cruel manner. It was Edward's policy to slay all the leaders. It was said that after a battle he would ride with a company of men over the ground, and kill every wounded or exhausted man of rank that still remained alive, though he would spare the common soldiers. Sometimes, when he got men that were specially obnoxious to him into his hands, he would put them to death in the most cruel and ignominious manner. One distinguished knight, that had been taken prisoner by Warwick, was brought to King Edward, who, at that time, as it happened, was sick, and by Edward's orders was treated most brutally. He was first taken out into a public place, and his spurs were struck off from his feet by a cook. This was one of the greatest indignities that a knight could suffer. Then his coat of arms was torn off from him, and another coat, inside out, was put upon him. Then he was made to walk barefoot to the end of the town, and there was laid down upon his back on a sort of drag, and so drawn to the place of execution, where his head was cut off on a block with a broad-axe.
Such facts as these show what a state of exasperation the two great parties of York and Lancaster were in toward each other throughout the kingdom. It is necessary to understand this, in order fully to appreciate the import and consequences of the very extraordinary transaction which is now to be related.
It seems there was a certain knight named Sir John Gray, a Lancastrian, who had been killed at one of the great battles which had been fought during the war. He had also been attainted, as it was called—that is, sentence had been pronounced against him on a charge of high treason, by which his estates were forfeited, and his wife and children, of course, reduced to poverty. The name of his wife was Elizabeth Woodville. She was the daughter of a noble knight named Sir Richard Woodville. Her mother's name was Jacquetta. On the death and attainder of her husband, being reduced to great poverty and distress, she went home to the house of her father and mother, at a beautiful manor which they possessed at Grafton. She was quite young, and very beautiful.
It happened that by some means or other Edward paid a visit one day to the Lady Jacquetta, at her manor, as he was passing through the country. Whether this visit was accidental, or whether it was contrived by Jacquetta, does not appear. However this may be, the beautiful widow came into the presence of the king, and, throwing herself at his feet, begged and implored him to revoke the attainder of her husband for the sake of her innocent and helpless children. The king was much moved by her beauty and by her distress. From pitying her he soon began to love her. And yet it seemed impossible that he should marry her. Her rank, in the first place, was far below his, and then, what was worse, she belonged to the Lancastrian party, the king's implacable enemies. The king knew very well that all his own partisans would be made furious at the idea of such a match, and that, if they knew that it was in contemplation, they would resist it to the utmost of their power. For a time he did not know what he should do. At length, however, his love for the beautiful widow, as might easily be foreseen, triumphed over all considerations of prudence, and he was secretly married to her. The marriage took place in the morning, in a very private manner, in the month of May, in 1464.
The king kept the marriage secret nearly all summer. He thought it best to break the subject to his lords and nobles gradually, as he had opportunity to communicate it to them one by one. In this way it at length became known, without producing, at any one time, any special sensation, and toward the fall preparations were made for openly acknowledging the union.
Although the knowledge of the king's marriage produced no sudden outbreak of opposition, it awakened a great deal of secret indignation and rage, and gave occasion to many suppressed mutterings and curses. Of course, every leading family of the realm, that had been on Edward's side in the civil wars, which contained a marriageable daughter, had been forming hopes and laying plans to secure this magnificent match for themselves. Those who had no marriageable daughters of their own joined their nearest relatives and friends in their schemes, or formed plans for some foreign alliance with a princess of France, or Burgundy, or Holland, whichever would best harmonize with the political schemes that they wished to promote. The Earl of Warwick seems to have belonged to the former class. He had two daughters, as has already been stated. It would very naturally be his desire that the king, if he were to take for his wife any English subject at all, should make choice of one of these. Of course, he was more than all the rest irritated and vexed at what the king had done. He communicated his feelings to Clarence, but concealed them from the king. Clarence was, of course, ready to sympathize with the earl. He was ready enough to take offense at any thing connected with the king's marriage on very slight grounds, for it was very much for his interest, as the next heir, that his brother should not be married at all.
The earl and Clarence, however, thought it best for the time to suppress and conceal their opposition to the marriage; so they joined very readily in the ceremonies connected with the public acknowledgment of the queen. A vast assemblage of nobles, prelates, and other grand dignitaries was convened, and Elizabeth was brought forward before them and formally presented. The Earl of Warwick and Clarence appeared in the foremost rank among her friends on this occasion. They took her by the hand, and, leading her forward, presented her to the assembled multitude of lords and ladies, who welcomed her with long and loud acclamations.
Soon after this a grand council was convened, and a handsome income was settled upon the queen, to enable her properly to maintain the dignity of her station.
Early in the next year preparations were made for a grand coronation of the queen. Foreign princes were invited to attend the ceremony, and many came, accompanied by large bodies of knights and squires, to do honor to the occasion. The coronation took place in May. The queen was conveyed in procession through the streets of London on a sort of open palanquin, borne by horses most magnificently caparisoned. Vast crowds of people assembled along the streets to look at the procession as it passed. The next day the coronation itself took place in Westminster, and it was followed by games, feasts, tournaments, and public rejoicings of every kind, which lasted many days.
Thus far every thing on the surface, at least, had gone well; but it was not long after the coronation before the troubles which were to be expected from such a match began to develop themselves in great force. The new queen was ambitious, and she was naturally desirous of bringing her friends forward into places of influence and honor. The king was, of course, ready to listen to her recommendations; but then all her friends were Lancastrians. They were willing enough, it is true, to change their politics and to become Yorkists for the sake of the rewards and honors which they could obtain by the change, but the old friends of the king were greatly exasperated to find the important posts, one after another, taken away from them, and given to their hated enemies.
Then, besides the quarrel for the political offices, there were a great many of the cherished matrimonial plans and schemes of the old families interfered with and broken up by the queen's family thus coming into power. It happened that the queen had five unmarried sisters. She began to form plans for securing for them men of the highest rank and position in the realm. This, of course, thwarted the plans and disappointed the hopes of all those families who had been scheming to gain these husbands for their own daughters. To see five great heirs of dukes and barons thus withdrawn from the matrimonial market, and employed to increase the power and prestige of their ancient and implacable foes, filled the souls of the old Yorkist families with indignation. Parties were formed. The queen and her family and friends—the Woodvilles and Grays—with all their adherents, were on one side; the Neville family, with the Earl of Warwick at their head, and most of the old Yorkist noblemen, were on the other; Clarence joined the Earl of Warwick; Richard, on the other hand, or Gloucester, as he was now called, adhered to the king.