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An Analysis of the causes of the Wars and the course which they took.

Michael D. Miller

Chapter 48: Four very troubled years: May 1455 - May 1459

 

May 1455 to March 1456

Parliament had been summoned immediately after the First battle of St Albans, and met at Westminster on 9th July 1455. The fact that it met in London during the summer months, when the plague was likely to pose a serious threat, speaks of the urgency which the Yorkists attached to the need for popular support. Even so, they found grave difficulty in securing the election of members sympathetic to their cause. Many were shocked that Richard, Duke of York, should have ignored the oath which he had given in 1452 [page ] that he would not rise in arms again. Others were affronted at the precipitancy, as they saw it, of his rebellion. All deplored the wounding of King Henry VI. As the Paston letters put it:-

"Sum men hold it right straunge to be in this Parlement, and me thenketh they be wyse men that soo doo."

[Paston Letters i 337, 339-341, 345-347]

The session was opened by the King on 9th July 1455 and the Chancellor, Archbishop Bourchier, gave the address. Sir John Wenlock, a prominent Yorkist who had been wounded at St Albans, became the Speaker.

The Yorkists were most anxious to obtain a Parliamentary Indemnity against all that had happened at St Albans. This was given, but not without loud complaints at what they had done to cause the battle. Skilfully, they managed to shift the whole blame onto Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, who had been killed in the battle and was in no position to defend himself, onto Baron Thomas Thorpe, who was discovered hiding in an apothecary's shop and dispatched to Newgate Prison,  [how long he languished there is uncertain. He does not reappear again until The Parliament of Devils 1459] and onto an obscure William Joseph. The members were only half convinced that the whole guilt rested with these three, and blame was readily attributed to a number of other people. Ralph, Lord Cromwell heard with great alarm that blame was also attributed to him. He hastened to King Henry VI to assure him that he had had nothing to do with the whole sorry matter, only to be followed into the Royal Presence by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who cast the whole blame onto Cromwell. So alarmed was Cromwell for his own safety that he begged John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, the son of the veteran Earl who had been killed at the battle of Castillon 1453, [page ] for a guard to be posted on his house, and for an escort when he ventured abroad.

Parliament was prorogued on 31st July until 12th November 1455. The harvest had to be gathered in, the plague was an ever present threat, and the numbers of armed men who infested the streets of the City made it imperative that Parliament should meet in a quieter atmosphere. Before departing, five select committees of the House of Lords were charged to deal with some pressing matters that could not wait, the expenses of the Royal Household, the defence of Calais and Berwick, which had only recently repelled a Scottish attack, the safe keeping of the seas, the drain of bullion from England, and the ever present problem of Wales.

Richard, armed with his new powers as Constable, kept a firm grip on the country during the summer months of 1455, but he was unable to prevent a renewal of the feud in the West country between Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon, and William, Lord Bonville. The original cause of the dispute, namely the Stewardship of the Duchy of Cornwall, had arisen in 1441, but had long ceased to be of any importance. Feeling remote from the Central Power in London, the two men considered they could give full rein to the hatred they each harboured for the other, and indulge their murderous instincts without fear of punishment. On 23rd October 1455, the Earl's son dragged one of Bonville's lawyers, a man named Radcliffe, from his bed and murdered him. This lead to a pitched battle at Clist Heath, just outside Exeter, when Devon drove his adversary from the field. He then went on to plunder Exeter Cathedral. For the moment Richard could not intervene, as Parliament was due to re-assemble on 12th November and he could not leave London.

When Parliament did re-assemble, it found that once again the King was ill. He had lapsed into the form of amnesia which had previously afflicted him, and on 10th November 1455, The House of Lords hurriedly gave Richard a Commission to open Parliament on 12th. The House of Lords was not minded to appoint him Protector once again, but this time its hand was forced by the Common House. On 13th November, a deputation attended on the Lords and sought this appointment for him because of the:-

"grete and grevous riotes doon in the Weste Countrey betwene th' erle of Devonshire and th' Lord Boneville"

both of whom they thought should be in prison. The Lords prevaricated, thinking that Richard was becoming too powerful. The position in the West Country was too serious to admit of any delay, and on 19th November 1455, with great reluctance and some misgivings on the part of the Lords, Richard was once again appointed Protector.

The session was prorogued earlier than usual for the Christmas break so that the newly appointed Protector could visit the West Country and try to calm things down. It was no easy task. Devon had been his supporter since his own rebellion in 1452, and even if there was now some reason to suppose that he was going to change his allegiance to the House of Lancaster, Richard could not afford to offend so powerful a magnate. Bonville had long been a committed supporter, so Richard could not afford to offend him either.

He sought the aid of the local gentry to persuade the two to let their enmity rest for at least a time, particularly during the season of goodwill. Before Parliament dispersed it dealt with the matter of Thomas Young, a Knight of the Shire in the 1451 Parliament, who had then shouted out that Richard should be King. This was not a welcome or helpful intervention at the time, and Young had been sent to the Tower where he had remained ever since. Parliament thought he had learnt his lesson by now, and Richard agreed to release him.

When Parliament re-assembled on 14th January 1456, King Henry VI was well on the way to recovery. An account of Richard's doings as Protector had been presented to him and he expressed himself to be well pleased with the way Richard had discharged his office. He had no animus against Richard, but he was unwise enough to voice the opinion that Richard should be appointed as Chief Counsellor and the King's Lieutenant at Will in the hearing of the Queen. Queen Margaret promptly and shrilly rounded upon him and no more was heard of the proposal. In a letter sent to Sir John Fastolph, the view was expressed:-

"The Quene is a grete and stronge labourid woman, for she spareth noo payne to sue [pursue] hire thinges to an intent and conclusion to hir power". [Paston Letters i 377]

On 25th February 1456, the King was well enough to come to Parliament and relieve Richard of his office. He did this graciously as he did so many other things. Whilst nothing was said of a money grant, Parliament took up the cudgels on Resumption once more. The matter was still a sore one, and Parliament did not want it to be thought Resumption was for ever laid to rest. The Resumption Statute 1451 was thought to be most successful, as indeed it was, and remained in force even though its exemptions were now repealed. The Resumption Statute 1453 was considered too favourable to the Lancastrian interests, because Thomas, Baron Thorpe had been the Speaker at the time it became law, although Richard had later had him incarcerated in a debtors prison. [page ] It was now repealed in toto.

March to December 1456

On 20th April 1456, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, although he had been appointed Captain of Calais nearly a year before, at last managed to assume his command.

Lord Welles and Sir Richard Wydeville, now Lord Rivers, had acted as Somerset's lieutenants, and, even though Somerset was now dead, they had put every obstacle in Warwick's way. Many in the garrison were their own retainers and, the soldiers pay being months in arrears, there had been some measure of indiscipline. Warwick, with Richard's help, managed to raise money from the merchants of the Calais Staple to pay the soldiers, and then set about restoring discipline in his own ruthless way so that the soldiers once again resembled one of the Nations most important garrisons and not an unruly rabble. Warwick had never been concerned with the niceties of individual opinions and loyalties. Each soldier was asked whether he would obey Warwick himself as Captain of Calais, or whether his true allegiance lay with Welles or Rivers. Those who promised obedience to him were kept on. Those who did not were summarily hanged.

There was also a serious disturbance in London during April 1456 which arose out of the measures Parliament had taken to protect the native silk industry. An English mercer quarrelled with an Italian merchant and, tempers rising, struck him. The Lord Mayor put the Englishman in prison, whereupon the entire Mercer's Guild arose in wrath and released him. The mob ransacked the houses of several foreigners, forcing them to flee to other cities in panic.

An ugly situation, which was all too typical of the riotous and rumbustuous behaviour of the City's inhabitants, soon got out of hand, and Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, was sent on a Commission of oyer et terminer to try the ringleaders. He and his fellow judges were soon forced to flee in their turn. Eventually order could be restored by the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen, who hanged a few of the more vociferous rioters to make the point that this sort of behaviour would not be tolerated.

The Scots were becoming a dangerous nuisance once again. King James II, "The Kynge of Scottys with the rede face"

as he was known was the son of the King James I who had spent so many years in England and who was released in 1424 after his marriage to Joan Beaufort. [page ] His Queen was Mary of Guelders, a Burgundian princess. [page ]

Since he had come of age to rule in 1449, James had striven to keep order in his anarchic kingdom in a singularly ruthless way even by the standards of the time. He had executed his Treasurer in 1450, and this had resulted in a substantial increase in the Royal Revenues. Learning of a pact of friendship between William, Earl of Douglas and Alexander Lindsay, Earl of Crawford in 1452, he took similarly bloodthirsty steps to resolve the danger which this posed to himself. Douglas was invited to dinner, and after a sumptuous and friendly repast, was invited into the King's study to resolve their differences. Tempers soon flared and the King drew his dagger and stabbed Douglas, whereupon all his attendants, in what looks like a pre-concerted action, thrust their own weapons into the body of the unfortunate Earl. The resulting civil war had kept the Scots busy for a time, but had ended in a triumphant King ravaging the Douglas estates.

Flushed with these successes, James then attacked Berwick in May 1455 when he thought the English were preoccupied with the First battle of St Albans. He was repulsed by the garrison, but resolved to try again when the opportunity offered.

One repulse was not going to discourage the aggressive King James II, and there were other tempting ways to cause trouble for the English. In November 1455 and again in June 1456, he wrote to King Charles VII of France to say that the English had been right to rise in arms against their King, and the time was now ripe for co-ordinated attacks on Berwick and Calais. Faced as he was by discordant nobles and a disobedient and disrespectful son, the Dauphin Louis, these sentiments had little appeal to Charles and he declined to take part. Whilst this correspondence was in progress, the ebullient James sent an embassy to London in May 1456 to complain of English attacks upon Scotland, which he said had caused grave damage and loss to his subjects.

The English delayed their reply until 26th July 1456, when Richard wrote, in deliberately insulting and disdainful terms, that James had no justified complaint against the English; indeed, it was the English who had cause for grievance. James' own actions in raiding northern English farms and burning homesteads were not the acts of a worthy knight and gentleman. If he judged himself to be such, then his behaviour needed to improve. To reinforce this message Richard, in his office as Constable, lead a force to the North and obliged James to retire from the border region and back into his own Kingdom.

This did not mean that Richard himself was above interference in the politics of other countries. That old veteran of the French Wars, Jean, Duc d'Alencon, who had given the English so much trouble on countless battlefields, may have been well advanced in years, but not to the extent where he was beyond disaffection to the French King, or the leadership of other similarly disgruntled nobles. Richard wrote to him to suggest the time was now ripe for a re-assertion of the English claims in France, and proposing a marriage between one of Alencon's own daughters and his son Edward, Earl of March, the future King Edward IV. King Charles VII was aware that the Dauphin Louis had been intriguing with Warwick, and had also been watching Alencon closely. In August 1456, he brought the proposals to naught by putting Alencon in prison.

Queen Margaret had bided her time with an unaccustomed patience. On the pretext of taking King Henry VI to hunt in the Midlands during the summer months, she removed the Court permanently to Coventry, and had re-fortified Kenilworth Castle with cannon in case of need. Having established a secure base, she then arranged that the King should call a Council meeting in Coventry to which all the great magnates were summoned, including Henry Beaufort, the new Duke of Somerset following his father's death on the battlefield of St Albans. Her aims were twofold. The Bourchiers had become too Yorkist, and must be dismissed from the Government. Once this had been achieved, then Warwick and Richard must be impeached. In her first aim she was successful. On 5th October 1456, Henry, Viscount Bourchier left the Treasury to make room for John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, a staunch Lancastrian, whilst Archbishop Thomas Bourchier had to surrender the Chancellorship to William of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, another churchman who was supportive of the Lancastrian dynasty. At this point it seemed that history was going to repeat itself, and the scene in the Council Chamber when King Richard II had outwitted his enemies in 1389, was going to be re-enacted, albeit in a less dramatic fashion. [page ] That it did not do so, and that no moves could be undertaken to impeach Richard and Warwick, was largely due to an unseemly brawl which broke out between some of Somerset's men and the town watch.

This should have been no more than the arrest and temporary confinement of some drunken soldiers, but some of the watch were killed. The Mayor called the town to arms, and there was soon a full scale riot in which Somerset's men would have had the worst of it if Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, had not led his own men to restore order. Several more bodies littered the streets before things were quiet once again. Buckingham was, at this stage, one who tried to hold the balance and prevent people from becoming too excited with one another. With his newly won prestige in quelling a dangerous disturbance, he had no difficulty in patching things up between the King and Richard and Warwick so that, to Queen Margaret's unbridled fury, Richard left Coventry:-

"in right good conceyt with the Kyng, but not in gret conceyt with the whene [Queen]"

Queen Margaret, unused to being thwarted, took the King with her to Cheshire and other counties in the Midlands to gauge the amount of armed support she could count on. Warwick returned to Calais and to some congenial intrigues which he had started with Philip-the-Good, Duke of Burgundy, and that thorn in the side of his father, the Dauphin Louis.

1457

By now, the Court had established itself permanently in Coventry in a country-side which seemed to be more loyal to the Royal dynasty, and away from the Londoners who always seemed so hostile. In one sense, the King enjoyed an idyllic existence. Since the wool duties had been granted to him for life in 1453, [page ] his financial worries were not nearly so pressing as they had been, and there seemed no immediate need to call Parliament, that rough and rude body which asked so many awkward questions, made so many difficulties, and was so tight-fisted that money, when they would grant any taxation, could only be wheedled out of them with the utmost difficulty. So far as King Henry VI was concerned, this time was probably one of the few happy periods of his life. Others seemed not only willing, but even anxious, to assume the burdens of State which he had found so tedious and perplexing, and which at best he never more than partly understood.

The King's peace of mind was to be short-lived, and if the country around Coventry seemed peaceful the same could not be said of other parts of his Kingdom. The two factions, the ruling dynasty of Lancaster and the Yorkist faction were again eyeing each other suspiciously and summing each other up as opponents. There was a disturbance at Chepstow caused by Sir William Herbert, a leading Yorkist, and the King found himself obliged to go to Chepstow to put it down. He and Queen Margaret found the local gentry well disposed towards them and only wished to live at peace, but when the Queen proposed that criminal proceedings should be started against Herbert, there was an outcry and she had to abandon the idea.

A far more serious disturbance arose in the North, where those inveterate enemies, the Nevilles and the Percies, who seemed incapable of living at peace with each other for long, fought a pitched battle at Castleton in July 1457. The Nevilles completely routed their foes, capturing Thomas, Lord Egremont and his brother Richard Percy whom they bore off in triumph to their stronghold at Middleham. Anxious to legalise what they had done, they sued them for damages at the York Summer Assizes and were awarded the huge sum of 16, 800 marks (11, 200). Pending payment, Egremont was committed to Newgate prison in London. In October, he managed to escape to take refuge with his friends at Court.

The main event of the year came from abroad, and illustrated the uneasy relationship which the Cinque Ports enjoyed with their French neighbours across the Channel.

This had assumed the proportions of a permanent vendetta, and a raid from one side of the Channel required another in revenge. Scarcely a year went by without a raid from one side or the other, and all the raids were accompanied by much injury and destruction, but also with much plunder carried home in triumph. The original Cinque Ports, Sandwich, Dover,  Hythe, New Romney and Hastings, had been established in the 11th-century to provide the King with a navy when he needed one, and in return they enjoyed special trading privileges, which also gave rise to much jealousy on the part of their fellow countrymen. Ports on the Kent and Sussex coastlines which grew rich and powerful were from time-to-time added to this select band; for instance Rye and Winchelsea became Cinque Ports, being 'anciaunt townes', in 1278. This mayhem was also carried on at sea, and a Cinque Port ship which met a French ship usually attacked her. Further, it was not uncommon that when a Cinque Port ship fell in with one from a port such as Southampton or Bristol for a sea battle to start with broken heads and bloodshed. The sea was a rough and dangerous place, and anybody who ventured forth only did so when fully armed to repel, not only pirates and Frenchmen, but even ones fellow Englishmen. It was quite common for ships to be fitted with fore- and after-castles so that archers could shoot down into the waist of another ship. The Crown and Parliament had wrestled with the problem of the safety of the seas for as long as men could remember without ever reaching any solution.

Pierre de Breze, that old retainer of Margaret's father and her fervent admirer, had been Seneshal of Normandy since its recovery by France in 1450. He had taken his duties very seriously, and had formed an embryo navy from the Normandy based ships for the defence of its coast-line. He had employed his ships to catch pirates, and in the process had acquired the skills of a naval commander to a remarkable degree. It is probable that Richard's intrigues with Jean, Duc d'Alencon, which had resulted in Jean's imprisonment in 1456, gave King Charles VII the idea to teach the English a lesson. In August 1457, a large fleet of Breton and Norman ships had been gathered for use against the Turks in answer to a Papal appeal. A better and more tempting use for them could be found nearer home.

It should not have been a surprise when, on 28th August 1457, Pierre dropped anchor off Sandwich. He rapidly quelled all resistance in the town, and sailed that same evening laden with booty. On their way home, the Bretons attacked and pillaged Fowey. Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, reminded that he was the Lord Admiral, put to sea in October 1457 and sailed as far as La Rochelle without however achieving anything. The singular futility of his expedition made it possible for Richard to persuade the Council to add to Warwick's responsibilities a Commission to keep the Seas for three years.

The year ended with another blow to the Lancastrian cause. Bishop Pecock, Bishop of Chichester in succession to the murdered Bishop Moleyns, [page ] was a harmless if slightly disingenuous old clergyman and scholar who employed himself in writing books on ecclesiastical matters. So far as he had any interest in politics, he was a supporter of the ruling Lancastrian dynasty where his status as a Bishop carried much weight. He had written that the job of bishops was to oversee and supervise, and to leave the preaching to priests. There was no objection to their taking part in government. This caused great offence to those who held to the more orthodox view that the only proper place for a bishop was in his diocese. He then proceeded to annoy the orthodox still further with his greatest work "The Represser of over moche wijtyng [blaming/abusing] the Clergie." This cogently argued and scholastic work made the point that not all the answers were to be found in the Scriptures; men and women must look to their own consciences as well to avoid sin, although the priests were there to help and advise. By now the orthodox were out-raged, and Bishop Pecock was straying into the realms of Lollardy. The universities and some others complained, but whilst Archbishops Kemp and Stafford were alive, they protected and shielded an old if foolish friend. From the security of their protection, Bishop Pecock added fuel to the flames by publicly denouncing his detractors as 'pulpit-bawlers'.

A hundred or so years later, Bishop Pecock would have found a more ready and welcoming response to his broad-minded and surprisingly modern views, but this was the pre-Reformation 15th=century. By now, both his old protectors were dead, and the far more orthodox Archbishop Bourchier was the Primate to whom he must answer. He viewed Bishop Pecock and his writings with a hostile eye, but was prepared to let him alone if he did not overstep the line to which he had already come very close.

In 1457, Bishop Pecock did go too far by publishing his own creed. This omitted any reference to the descent into Hell, and any belief in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church and the Communion of Saints. This figurative leap into the thinking more prevalent in and typical of the 20th-century was too much for the 15th. He was haled before the Archbishop and given the blunt choice of recantation or the stake. He chose to recant, and had the mortification of watching his books being burnt by the common hangman. Whilst he disappeared in disgrace from the public view, and ceased to be of any account, the Lancastrians lost a valuable supporter, and the Yorkists seized the opportunity to spread propaganda that the Lancastrians harboured some very dangerous radicals within their ranks. In this superstitious and ultra-orthodox age, when Lollards were deplored and regarded as dangerous people who did not hesitate to subvert the scriptures, which were one of the main planks of civilised society, this propaganda was not without effect.

1458

The most urgent matter in the early part of the year was the prompt settlement of the feud between the Nevilles and the Percies. They were the joint guardians of the Scottish frontier, and discord in such a sensitive area would only give encouragement to the dangerous and barbarian Scots to attack the Northern counties. It was however given a wider sweep than just the settlement of their interminable and internecine feuds, and aimed at the settlement of all the homicidal differences of the Land. 92 Lords, both Spiritual and Temporal, were summoned to meet in London in mid-February 1458. They all came, except William, Earl of Arundel, and brought with them strong followings so that the streets of the City were swarming with armed men. The Lord Mayor, Geoffrey Boleyn, was hard put to it to maintain order.

The settlement agreement proceeded far more smoothly than might have been supposed, and on 23rd February 1458, the King left London to allow the Chancellor, William of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, and Thomas Bourchier,  Archbishop of Canterbury to work out the details of the "King's Award". This was a huge task because it was intended to reconcile all the disputing parties in the Kingdom and to demonstrate that everyone had some responsibility for the disordered state of the Realm. Thus Richard, Duke of York, and the two Richard Nevilles, the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, were to endow a chantry at St Albans to say masses for the souls of those killed in the battle, whilst Richard and Warwick were to provide annuities for the Somerset and Clifford widows and children. Salisbury was to forego the damages awarded to him by the York Assizes, whilst Thomas, Lord Egremont was to be bound over to keep the peace for 10 years. All was ready by the end of March, and the King returned to London to sign the Award. The proceedings ended with a lengthy procession through the streets of the City to St Pauls Cathedral. King Henry VI headed it, with each man walking beside his main enemy to swear on the Host that in future their relations would be peaceful and friendly. Queen Margaret and Richard, Duke of York, were required to walk side by side and swear their oaths together.

As a declaration that the King desired his quarrelling nobles to live at peace, and let bygones be bygones, the Award and the Procession were elaborate and imaginative ceremonies. King Henry VI had put the negotiations into the hands of the foremost churchmen of the time, one (Winchester) of Lancastrian sympathies and the other (Canterbury) of Yorkist leanings. Richard, Warwick and Salisbury were each required to make some recompense for the harm done at St Albans, whilst Salisbury was required to forego damages which the Percies would have found extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible, to pay. Egremont, the most aggressive of a war-like clan, was required to cease harassing the Nevilles.

All, even the Queen herself, were required to swear oaths which should have been binding on their consciences.

In another sense however, it demonstrated the depths to which King Henry VI's administration had sunk. The contemporary, and expected, method of dealing with disaffected nobles was sound chastisement by defeat on the battle-field or of forfeiture of their lands and titles. The axe was also readily available to punish those who would learn the lesson in no other way. The time for this was long since past. The Yorkists and their faction had grown so powerful that it was impossible to call them to account, and an attempt to do so had ended in dismal failure. Fear, suspicion, loathing and greed were too deeply embedded into people's souls for any appeal to conscience, which most of them seemed not to possess, to have any effect. The Crown was now to pay dearly for the chances which it had so often missed to establish effective government by dismissing ineffectual ministers who, as often as not, owed their places to Queen Margaret's fears of Richard, Duke of York, and replacing them with others who had the skills and experience for proper and effective administration. King Henry VI had never learnt the lesson that others were not as saintly as he was himself, and had never understood that the sword was the only thing that would call most of them to order. Original sin was totally beyond his comprehension.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Captain of Calais, now firmly in command of the Calais garrison, was thrilled by the extra task to keep the seas, a commission which he intended to interpret in the broadest possible way.

He knew nothing of naval matters, but being an aggressive man with a boundless confidence in himself, he felt he would soon learn the skills required to master the maritime element.

After all, Pierre de Breze had done so, and he was an older man. Warwick himself was still only 30 years old. Whether the large fleet of Spaniards which appeared off Calais in May 1458 had any aggressive intentions will never be known, but 16 were:-

"grete schippis of forecastell"

and could be thought of as warships which were capable of fighting. Castile had friendly relations with France, and their intentions could be assumed to be hostile.

He was content to ask no questions, and thus to hear no lies. He fell upon them with a much inferior force, and in a battle lasting 6 hours on 29th May 1458, utterly defeated them. Six prizes were taken, although the Spaniards re-took one later. This was a tonic to a victory-starved England, which had not known success in battle for many years. His victory was soon compared with that of King Edward III at the naval battle of Sluys in 1340, nearly 120 years before.

Emboldened by this success and by the acclaim which it attracted, Warwick then undertook a naval operation which stopped short of out-right piracy by only the narrowest of margins. On the pretext that they would not strike their flags to the ensign of the King of England, he seized the Lubeck salt fleet and brought it into an English port. This was an outrageous act because the Lubeckers, members of the Hanseatic League, had very friendly relations with England.

They protested vehemently, but Warwick did not care. He cared even less for the Commission of Enquiry, chaired by Sir Richard Wydeville, Lord Rivers, to enquire into the matter, and brought its proceedings to nought by ignoring it. He was now too big to be touched or to be called to account by a Lancastrian Lordling, a nobody for whom he had nothing but contempt.

Queen Margaret, who had not taken kindly to having her wings clipped in recent years, saw the opportunity to punish Warwick and to replace him as Captain of Calais with her new protege, Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. The new Duke, 22 years old, was as captivated as many others with Margaret's beauty and sexuality, and was as much in thrall to her as his father had been. At the Council meeting in October 1458, Warwick refused to relinquish or resign his commission, pointing out that as it was approved by Parliament, they had no right to dismiss him. An angry altercation was interrupted by the sounds of a brawl in the Palace. Apparently a number of Warwick's considerable retinue had slipped off to the kitchens in search of food, drink, and female diversions. At first all was friendly enough, and the company amused itself by discussing the failings of their employers. An argument started, supposedly when one of Warwick's men referred to the Young Prince Edward as a bastard. Blows were exchanged, and soon the brawl, never far from any medieval gathering, was in full cry.

Coming out of the Council Chamber to discover the cause of the uproar, the Lords of the Council found that the men of the Household and Warwick's own retinue were fighting and running wildly all over the Palace. Warwick himself narrowly escaped being run through with a spit wielded by an infuriated cook. Warwick alone had sufficient men at his beck and call to suppress the riot, but instead chose another course. Crying out that the Queen intended to murder him, he ran for the safety of his barge, and ordered it to row frantically for the Tower. Once back in the security of Calais, he made the most of the attempt on his life by the Queen. Again, such propaganda had its effect, and showed the Queen up in the worst possible light. Murder among the Great of the Land was, at the time, common enough, but it was still deplored. Warwick made sure that the tale lost nothing in the telling.

Copyright Michael D. Miller 2003