An Analysis of the causes of the Wars and the course which they took.
Michael D. Miller
|Chapter 57: Edward's Coronation
|Edward's immediate problems following the battle of
Nobody could, or even would, deny that Edward had won a stupendous victory at Towton, but, contrary to his expectations and hopes, this had not solved all his immediate problems so far as his enemies were concerned. As we have already noted, it was necessary for him to defeat his enemies by an overwhelming victory to persuade the country to follow the lead given by the Londoners [pages ] and accept him as King of England. He had just won such a victory, and there could now be no serious question of the Realm refusing to accept him as its Monarch.
As he saw it, it was also necessary that he should annihilate his Lancastrian enemies, by which he meant that he should destroy the Lancastrian leadership so utterly and completely that it would give him and the country no further trouble. He had aimed to do this in the recent battle, and for the most part he had done so by ruthless slaughter, where not only many Lancastrian nobles had perished, but also large numbers of their supporters who were the knights and squires or the local leaders. The annihilation was however not complete, because important Lancastrians had escaped the reach of his soldiers swords or the axe of his headsman, or at the very least, the turn of his jailers key. So long as King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, Edward the 7-year old Prince of Wales, Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke with his large following in Wales, and James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire remained at large, he could not be certain that his rule would be unmolested and free of strife. Edward was well aware that his new subjects desired nothing more than peace in the land, and that they looked to the King to provide it. In spite of his recent and shattering military success, he had reason to doubt that he could provide it to the extent that they expected, and this more than any thing else could lose him support.
On the day following the battle, Edward led his exhausted, battered, bruised, decimated but triumphant and elated soldiers into the City of York, leaving behind only small parties to tend the wounded and bury the dead. King Henry VI and Queen Margaret with the Young Prince had already fled through the darkness and the snow of the previous night, galloping north with Somerset and Exeter, and were not to be found. The rotting heads of his father, brother and uncle Salisbury were removed from the Micklegate, to be replaced with the freshly cut head of the Earl of Devon. A few weeks later, Wiltshire was captured in Cockermouth trying to flee the country, and his head was sent to join Devon's, which seemed to Edward to be a step in the right direction.
If Edward was given to making lists of the problems which faced him before deciding what he must do about them, it must have resembled the one attempted here. All the problems were important, and some were inter-related, whilst some others would obviously take much time to resolve.
1) The remaining Lancastrian leadership needed to be subdued by capture followed by execution or at the very least imprisonment. There would never be peace and quiet until this was done.
2) The Scottish border and the Scottish Marches needed to be secured. It was very serious that Berwick with its strong Castle had been pledged to the Scots by Queen Margaret, [page ] and it was even more serious when it was handed over to them on 25th April 1461. In the event, it was not to be recovered until 1482. Further south, the border Castles of Naworth, Walkworth, Alnwick, Bambrugh and Dunstanburgh were in Lancastrian hands and, even though their alliance with the Scots was not an easy one, the Eastern Marches could not be said to be secure whilst they remained so. These Castles had to be taken.
3) So far, Edward's right to the Throne seemed as a conqueror, a position which in 1399 Henry of Bolingbroke had sought to avoid. [pages ] Edward needed to persuade Parliament to recognise his right by succession, something which, only six months previously, his father had failed to do. [pages ] As a conqueror, he posed a threat to his subject's property, and if he was to keep their support and sympathy, he needed to prove that he was their King by rightful succession, and not by the power of the sword.
4) Edward's chief supporters were the Neville family, now headed by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who is known to history as 'the Kingmaker'. This meant that his support, whilst very powerful, was narrowly based, and it had to be broadened. The Nevilles had fought valiantly and loyally for his House and had suffered much, but they must not be allowed to become too powerful. Never must it be said, or even thought, that the Nevilles had the King in the palm of their hand. In that way lay repetition of all the faults of King Henry VI's reign.
5) The Coronation must take place as soon as possible. The euphoria of the battle of Towton would be an enormous help in overcoming the doubts which could arise when there was still an anointed King living somewhere in the North, even if no-one quite knew where he was. This euphoria would however wane with the passing of time. Edward needed the status of being the crowned King, and he also needed the extensive powers of the Throne at his disposal.
6) The country needed to be put onto a sound financial footing, and trade had to be revived. During the recent political upheavals, it had become greatly depressed.
7) Foreign policy needed some clear direction, having been much neglected in recent years. England's main trading partner was Burgundy, which was again threatened by greedy eyes cast in her direction by France. France and Scotland both posed military threats as they had always done. None of these countries must be allowed, or given cause, to think of England as being weak and lacking in direction.
In short, there was much to be done that was urgent. Edward has been accused by some historians of turning his back on the military problems of the North and heading for the flesh-pots which lay in the South. There can be little doubt that these had some allure given Edward's predilection for the female sex and all the pleasures which the flesh can offer, but taken as a whole, this criticism is scarcely fair. The Coronation and Parliament were pressing matters, whilst the home government and foreign affairs were scarcely less so. The final suppression of the Lancastrians and the securing of the Northern Castles would have to wait their turn.
Immediately after the battle - April and May 1461
Edward remained at his Head-Quarters in York, supervising the military operations against the remaining Lancastrian forces, until mid-May 1461. He visited Newcastle, Durham and other northern towns to introduce himself as their new King. In the second half of May, he visited Lancashire and Cheshire where Lancastrian sympathies had always been strong. He found the gentry and the common people subdued and apprehensive after the crushing Lancastrian defeat at Towton, where some of them had fought and many had lost close relatives, and wondering what would become of them at the hands of the triumphant Yorkist King.
Edward endeavoured to re-assure them by pushing to the fore the easy-going and charming side of his nature, which he could always do when he wanted to, and to make them understand that so long as they remained quiet and submissive, they had nothing to fear from him. At the same time, they must clearly appreciate that this was a King who would tolerate no nonsense, and if there were any who were minded to give him trouble, they would have ample cause to regret doing so. At the end of May, he left for London to prepare for his coronation.
The Scottish border may have had to wait for a time before the necessarily substantial military operations could be undertaken, but there was still room for diplomacy to keep the Scots in check, and thus exercise some restraint upon the Lancastrians who had taken refuge with them. From the Yorkist point of view, there had already been some helpful exchanges even before the battle of Towton. When in January 1461 the news had reached Warwick's ears of Queen Margaret's and Mary of Guelders' meeting at Lincluden Abbey, [Page] he had written to Philip-the-Good, Duke of Burgundy to complain. Philip had promptly dispatched Louis de Bruges, Lord la Gruthuyse, who was in later years to render the Yorkists invaluable help, to Scotland to give Mary, an errant Burgundian Princess, a good scolding. She was to be reminded that Burgundy did not take sides in England's civil war, and that Burgundy's sympathies, so far as there were any, lay with the Yorkist faction. Mary listened politely to la Gruthuyse's strictures, and promised to give the Lancastrians no more help. This she could do with an easy conscience because she had already provided all that she had promised, and was not going to be talked out of taking over Berwick and its Castle by Philip, la Gruthuyse or anyone else.
As well informed as ever, King Charles VII of France persuaded James Kennedy, Bishop of St Andrews, who happened to be in Flanders, to return at once to the Scottish Court and remonstrate with Mary that she should uphold the Lancastrian interests which were bound up with those of France, particularly in the person of Charles' near relative, Queen Margaret. The Bishop lost no time, and arrived in mid-February 1461, just as the Scottish Parliament was due to open. Although Mary again listened politely, his message caused much annoyance among her supporters so that, for a time, it looked as though blows were about to be exchanged. The Bishop's dispatch to Lord Monypeny, the Scottish charge d'affaires at the French Court, reported that his mission had met with a mixed reception, and that there was no promise to support the Lancastrians, although there was clearly some sympathy for them. Nothing much had been gained, but all was not yet lost. [Monypeny seemed willing to undertake diplomatic missions for others as well. His loyalties were not confined to the Scots]
The Scottish Court was left wondering what to do for the best, and Mary's advisers were divided whether or not outright support should be given to Lancaster, or whether encouragement should be given to the House of York. This was enough to ensure that nothing much would be done, beyond giving hospitality to Lancastrian fugitives and resolving to refuse any requests from England for their extradition. After the battle of Towton, Warwick wrote in friendly terms to Mary of Guelders and her party, and at the same time intimated to one of her chief enemies, John MacDonald, Earl of Ross, that if he should start a rebellion with the aim of seizing the North of Scotland, he would receive English approval and support. This, Warwick calculated, should be enough to keep the Scots, and their Lancastrian fugitive guests, in check for the time being. By the time his duplicity came to light, England would be ready to deal with any serious Scottish threat.
By and large this strategy worked, and there was no serious invasion. There were however raids, but the Scottish Marches were used to these. More seriously, the City of Carlisle was ordered by Queen Margaret to surrender to Scottish rule in May 1461, probably in return for some sort of promise for Scots soldiers. The citizens refused to do so, and beat off a Scots force, led by Queen Margaret and Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, which attempted to take the City. John Neville, Lord Montague rode to the City's aid, and the Scots retreated, greatly worsted after a sharp engagement. King Henry VI himself lead a Scots force which penetrated as far as Brancepeth, which lies south of Durham. It achieved nothing, and was driven off by the country people. The North was quiet enough until Edward was in a better position to give it serious attention.
The coronations of England's Kings had always been splendid affairs, and Edward, with his sense of showmanship, was resolved that nothing should be missing to give the populace the spectacle that it expected.
On Friday 26th June, Edward rode from Lambeth to the Tower to begin the customary Vigil before a coronation. At the gates of the City, he was received by the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen, clad in scarlet robes, accompanied by 400 from the Court of Common Council and the most prominent of the citizens. The solemn and gorgeous procession wound it way slowly through the City streets whilst the people cheered the God-like figure of Edward, so very different from the drab and vacant-eyed creature they had previously seen as their King. Edward looked every inch a King, and a King who would give them a lasting peace. In him they saw an end to the troubles which had afflicted the Realm in recent years. The Yorkists had always enjoyed a strong following in London, and they had loyally supported Edward's House with men and money. Within the space of nine months, there had been five tremendous battles, Northampton, Wakefield, Mortimers Cross, the second battle of St Albans and Towton, and four of them had been fought in the last three months alone. Many had lost close relations, and had bled freely in the Yorkist cause. Now was to come their reward, peace under a King who had just won the astounding battle of Towton over the dreaded Northerners who had had the temerity to threaten their City.
Once in the Tower, Edward began the process of rewarding his followers. There had been no time in the aftermath of the battle of Towton to dub more than six men knights, William Hastings and John Howard, later to become the first Howard Duke of Norfolk, among them. Now Edward dubbed no less than 32 of his followers Knights of the Bath. By one of the supreme ironies of History, this Order had been created in 1399 by King Henry IV, a King whom Edward planned Parliament should declare an usurper together with his successors.
These new knights, wearing the blue gowns of their Order, made a brave sight riding through the City at the head of the procession which brought Edward to his Coronation on Sunday 28th June 1461. The solemn and splendid ceremony was conducted in Westminster Abbey, the cradle of the English Monarchy, by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, who now placed the crown on the first of the three Monarchs whom, in the course of his long life, he was to crown. The Archbishop of York, William Booth assisted him. William had been Bishop of Lichfield and Queen Margaret's Chancellor in days gone by, and was therefore close to the Lancastrians. What his thoughts were when he participated in the crowning of a Yorkist King are not recorded. He, like Thomas Bourchier, had sworn the oath and signed the declaration of loyalty to King Henry VI in November 1459, [page ] although his oath and signature had undoubtedly been more enthusiastic and more sincere than those of Thomas, whose Yorkist sympathies had led him to welcome the Yorkists, with his cross borne before him, when they had landed at Sandwich in June 1460. [page ] Afterwards, there was the usual coronation banquet when Sir Thomas Dymoke, the hereditary King's champion, rode into the hall in full armour, flung down his mail gauntlet, and challenged anyone who disputed Edward's right to do battle with him.
There was a hitch. Childermas, the day which remembered King Herod's Slaughter of the Innocents had fallen on a Sunday in 1460. For a full year, it was customary to regard the day on which it fell as an unlucky day of ill omen. King Edward IV had to return to the Abbey on Monday 29th June to put matters right. Edward, with his intense belief in the present, probably laughed at the superstitious, and simply enjoyed the additional ceremony and the chance to show himself off to his subjects once again. On Tuesday 30th June, he was due to attend a pageant before St Pauls Cathedral where a descending angel blessed him. It was a happy and joyful occasion on a fine summer's day.
Edward now completed process of rewarding his faithful followers with titles, although in some cases they would have to wait until Parliament had completed the Attainder processes against the defeated Lancastrian Lords before they could receive grants of land to support their new dignities. His 12-year old brother George, newly returned from his refuge in Burgundy, was created Duke of Clarence. His 9-year old brother Richard, the future King Richard III, who had also come back from Burgundy, became Duke of Gloucester. Henry, Lord Bourchier, the Treasurer, was created Earl of Essex, and particularly bidden to keep a close eye on the Lancastrians of the Earl of Oxford's affinity in the eastern counties. William, Lord Fauconberge was rewarded for his outstanding loyalty to the House of York, and for his valour on the battlefield of Towton with the Earldom of Kent. Sir William Hastings, the knight who had been dubbed on the same battle-field, became Lord Hastings of Hastings in Sussex. Sir William Herbert received the first of his promotions as Lord Herbert. Sir William Bourchier, Henry's third son, had recently married the niece of the former Treasurer, Ralph Lord Cromwell, who had recently died; he became Lord Cromwell in his place. Sir Humphrey Stafford became Lord Stafford, Sir Robert Ogle Lord Ogle, Sir Thomas Lumley Lord Lumley, Sir Walter Devereux Lord Ferrers, and that veteran old soldier of the French wars, Sir John Wenlock, a faithful servant if ever there was one, Lord Wenlock. [This was to change. Wenlock was later to side with Warwick and fight for the Lancastrians]
So much for ther festivities. There was much serious work to be done.
Edward, with his preference for keeping the momentum going and never allowing it to falter, had wanted Parliament to open at Westminster on 6th July 1461, only a few days after the Coronation. To this end, Writs had been sent out for elections and summons had been sent to the Peers shortly after the battle of Towton. The elections had duly taken place, and all was ready.
It is not entirely clear why, by a second writ, Parliament was formally prorogued until Wednesday 4th November, but several suggestions can be advanced. Parliament normally avoided meeting in London during the summer months because of the danger posed by the Plague. July was getting close to harvest time, and it was necessary that Parliament's attention should not be diverted from some very difficult business by such a consideration. At the time of the second writ, Carlisle was still being besieged, and Edward might have had to ride for the North; in the event, John Neville, Lord Montague and the townsfolk drove the Lancastrians and their Scots allies off without Edward's intervention, but by then it was too late to restore the original date. A far more compelling reason however would appear to be that the lawyers were simply not ready. The Attainder of the defeated Lancastrians should not have given rise to any problems, but the difficulties lay in the very complex petitions to be laid before Parliament on the subject of Edward's right to the Throne by succession. Much the same arguments would have to be deployed as those which were put forward by Edward's father as recently as October 1460, and Parliament had been unsympathetic to them. These petitions needed to be very carefully considered by a number of people and then properly drafted. This takes a lot of time in any age, and Edward, to his annoyance, realised that delay was inevitable. He consoled himself with the thought that the summer months could be well employed in lobbying the members, whose names would now be known, and in making Royal Progresses among his people. August saw him in Kent and Sussex, whilst September found him in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and the Midlands.
There was a marked diminution in the number of temporal lords to whom summonses were sent compared with previous Parliaments. This is scarcely surprising, since many were now dead. Summonses would have been sent to the successors of the recently slain Yorkist Lords (unless they were still too young to attend), but none would have been sent to the successors of the Lancastrian Lords, who were to be the subject of Attainder proceedings, and still less would any have gone to the fugitive Lancastrians themselves. A comparison with the number of Peers summoned to the 1453 Parliament, the last 'before the troubles began', shows that summonses were sent to:-
There is a difference in the number of peers which is given by Parry (as 37) [Parliaments and Councils of England pp 189] and by Ramsey, [Lancaster and York 2 pp 279] who states that 45 peers were summoned. This may be explained by the 8 'milites', whom Parry shows were summoned at the time the second writ was issued. Some Lancastrian Lords seem to have made their peace with King Edward IV only between the dates of the first and second writs, such as Lord Grey of Codner, Lord Greystock, Lord Fitz-Hugh, and Lord Scrope of Marsham. Edward was happy to accept their submissions, and to have them summoned to Parliament in the interests of building up some counter-weight to the Nevilles. He had been equally content to receive the prior submission of Sir Richard Wydeville, Lord Rivers, the second husband of Jacquette, the Dowager Duchess of Bedford, whom he had married in 1437 to the scandal of all. [page ] From now on, Rivers was to be a loyal Yorkist, even though he was known to be the sworn enemy of Warwick. This in itself may have had some attraction to Edward; even at this early date, he could see that there were going to be problems with the Nevilles.
The session of Parliament lasted only until 21st December 1461 when Parliament was prorogued until 6th May 1462; at that date it was dissolved by the King's command, he being unable to attend. In the 47 days of its session, it dealt with only two substantial pieces of business, but they were extremely complex. The natural expectation was the the Attainder of the Lancastrian Lords, which should not have given rise to any real problems, should have been dealt with as a separate matter from the King's right to the Throne by succession, which might well have been contentious. King Edward IV and his advisers however presented petitions to Parliament which treated the Attainder of the Lancastrian Lords as being inter-related with the Attainder and disgrace of the House of Lancaster, and as matters which could not be separated one from the other.
Attainder and King Edward IV's approach to it is dealt with elsewhere.[Chapter ] Edward was particularly anxious to have allies as part of the counter-weight to any section or faction (and here he had the Nevilles in mind) which might otherwise grow too powerful and seek to control, or inhibit, the Royal Power. It was soon apparent to him that at least some of the defeated Lancastrian Lords had, so far as was possible and prudent, to be included in this counter-weight. Some seemed only too anxious to hitch their fortunes to the rising star, and to make their peace with the new power in the Land. Some others were concerned to escape the dreaded penalty of attainder. They hastened to submit to King Edward IV, and to assure him of their loyalty to the newly crowned head. Where their protestations of friendship and loyalty were believable, Edward accepted their submissions and gave them pardons for having borne arms against him. The names of those who were summoned to Edward's first Parliament have already been noted, and no proceedings were necessary against them. Others however were more obdurate and were unwilling to submit, whilst any such protestations by yet others were not so credible or easy to accept. In their cases, Edward did not hesitate to seek their attainture. Once an Act of Attainder had been passed against them by Parliament, it lay in the Monarch's power to pardon them or their descendants as and when he saw fit to do so, and when in his judgement, they had learnt their lesson and had resigned themselves to being his loyal subjects.
Such a high-risk strategy had to begin with the wholesale attainder of a great number of people with a view to forgiving some of them at a later date, perhaps years hence. Some 133 people were suggested to Parliament for attainder proceedings, and in due course they were all attainted by Act of Parliament. [There is some minor discrepancy between this figure and that quoted in Chapter. It seems difficult to resolve] The list was headed by Henry "the usurpour" and the "late Kyng", Margaret "late called Quene of England" and "hir son Edward late called Prynce of Wales". Then came the names of such prominent people as Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, William, Viscount Beaumont, Thomas, Lord de Roos, Robert, Lord Hungerford and de Moleyns, and Thomas, Lord Grey of Rougemont. The dead were not forgotten in order to forfeit their estates and disinherit their heirs. Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon, James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, John, Lord Clifford, Leo, Lord Welles, Ralph, Lord Dacre of Gillesland and Sir John Neville were included in this list of disgrace. There were a number of names who were not members of the landed gentry, such as Sir John Fortescue, the Chief Justice and the celebrated jurist. There were many much humbler folk, such as knights and squires and even yeomen. Altogether 37 had fought at Wakefield and 87 at Towton.
From the treatment of King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, and Edward Prince of Wales, it was clear that the Attainder proceedings were inter-locked, in a very skilful way, with the two petitions which prayed that King Edward IV should be recognised as the de jure King of England by right of succession rather than by the de facto right of conquest.
The first petition, in anodyne and complimentary terms, sought Parliament's thanks to the King's Grace for having been pleased to take upon himself:-
"the Reign and Governaunce of the said Reame whereunto ye be rightwiselly and naturally born"
The second, and more substantive, petition traced his ancestry from King Henry III, King Edward I, and King Edward III, and showed that he was the rightful heir as the cousin of King Richard II who had died in 1399 without issue of his own, put to death by Henry of Bolingbroke. Through his grand-mother, who was descended from Lionel of Antwerp, the second son of King Edward III, he had a superior right to the Throne to King Henry VI, who was descended from the third son, John of Gaunt. [For a full description of Edward's pedigree, see pages ] The petition went on to pray that Kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI should be recognised as mere 'intruders', a less offensive expression than 'usurper' to which some might have objected, and that it should further be recognised that on 4th March 1461, the day that the ceremonies by which Edward was acclaimed King by the citizens came to a close, [page ] Edward had done no more than possess himself of the rights and properties of King Richard II.
This opened the way for the Common House to request that issues before the 4th March 1461 should not be re-opened, and that the only Statutes to be repealed were those passed to the hurt and detriment of King Richard II. It was far too complex a matter to repeal all the Statutes made during the 'intruders' time between 1399 and 1461. Many had been passed for public or private good, and Parliament had no wish to lose the Resumption Statutes, particularly the successful 1451 Statute which had only been passed after a long struggle. Besides, the Crown had no interest in putting private property at risk or in renouncing its massive debts. King Edward IV could not reasonably object to this proposal, and therefore was 'graciously pleased' to accept it.
Many wise heads and skilful hands had bent their energies to the drafting of these petitions, but who they were is not entirely clear. The common sense and sensibility of the 19-year old King must have been engaged. The scarcely less youthful George Neville, Bishop of Exeter and Chancellor, who had already shown how skilful he could be, must have been consulted, as must the older and more experienced Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, whose particular forte lay in the field of practical politics, would no doubt have taken a hand, probably unaware at this time how Edward intended to use his power of pardoning the attainted in years to come. Thomas Lyttleton, who had made a name for himself as a King's Sergeant-at-law, would certainly have been involved. Whoever it was who decide to use, to maximum effect, two arguments to persuade Parliament to pass the necessary Statute, remains a mystery, and they could have backfired in a catastrophic way.
King Henry VI had broken the Accord made in October 1460 [pages ] by waging war on the Yorkists and seeking their deaths. Consequently, King Edward IV was no longer bound to accept Henry as King for the rest of his life. Queen Margaret's actions by surrendering the frontier fortress of Berwick and the bringing of Scots troops into England, and the atrocious behaviour of the Lancastrian armies during their march to St Albans, were abominable and were not lightly to be forgotten or forgiven.
There were some other minor, and uncontentious, pieces of business which were natural corollaries to the petitions and Parliaments approval thereto. King Edward IV's grand-father, Richard, Earl of Cambridge, had been attainted for treason in 1415, [page ]although King Henry V had seen to it that this did not affect Edward's own father, Richard, Duke of York. This was now reversed. There were some other attainders against John Montacute, Earl of Salisbury (although this seems barely to have affected the Montacute family), and Thomas, Lord de Despencer for rebellion in 1400.[page ]
To please Warwick, these were also reversed. So was another of the same date against Ralph, Lord Lumley to enable his descendant Sir Thomas Lumley to make his peace with Edward.
What is most remarkable is that there was no grant of taxation. This was not asked for and, perhaps naturally, was not volunteered. It seems to have been accepted that the 1453 grant of the Customs duties to King Henry VI for the rest of his life would continue in the Crown's favour until he died. The attainder proceedings had forfeited vast estates to the Crown, including the huge Lancaster properties, and Edward seems to have been satisfied, for the moment at any rate, there would be enough money to pay the day-to-day expenses of government if not to discharge the enormous debts of the Crown. Later on, once the North was subdued and quiescent, some more permanent arrangements would have to be made.
King Edward IV had good reason to be very satisfied with the way things had gone, and on Parliament's final day before it was prorogued for Christmas, he came to the Common House to express his thanks in a long and gracious speech for all that Parliament had done to put right the wrongs done to his family by the 'intrusion' of the House of Lancaster. It greatly moved all who heard it. Addressed to the Speaker, James Strangeways, it is an admirable insight into the gentler and more sensitive side of Edward's character. [For the full text, see page ]
Edward never hesitated to get public opinion onto his side, and knew what he had to do to mould it to his way of thinking. The sheer effrontery, based on opportunism, of having himself acclaimed King by the multitude in March 1461, and of then having himself crowned and anointed as King in one of the most sacred rites of the Church in June 1461, before Parliament had sanctioned his assumption of the Office, is breathtaking. Edward clearly understood, and understood very well in the way that his father had never done, that the greater the effrontery, the more likely it is to be successful.
No exact comparisons can be made with what was done by Henry of Bolingbroke in 1399, because Henry had been careful to get King Richard II to abdicate before he approached Parliament. [pages ] That abdication should have meant that the next in line to the Throne should have been the senior male descendant of Lionel of Antwerp, King Edward III's second son, and not the descendant of the third son, John of Gaunt. The only effrontery of which we can accuse Henry was the implicit suggestion that Lionel's descendant should be passed over. Nobody fancied having an 8-year old boy on the Throne when everyone wanted it to be occupied by a mature and experienced man who promised and seemed able to provide a firm and fair administration, and Parliament had had no inhibitions in passing over the rights of Edmund, Earl of March. [pages ] A closer comparison can be made with Edward's own father, Richard, Duke of York, who had died at the battle of Wakefield in the last few days of 1460. Hesitant, and at crucial times irresolute, although on occasion given to sudden, impulsive and rash acts, Richard had shrunk from any attempt to guide public opinion, but had relied on doing everything in a constitutional way. He presented petitions to Parliament to displace King Henry VI
in his favour, and had had only a partial success in October 1460. [pages ] Then Parliament had been reluctant to take the Throne away from a crowned and anointed King, who held his office by divine right.
It has previously been said that medieval society was based on various forms of loyalty, and in a supreme degree, the loyalty of all to the crowned and anointed Sovereign. God had chosen him, and whilst on occasions God's choice had seemed extremely odd, it was still a mortal sin to question it. The laws of society reflected this. Treason was punished by the elaborate and revolting ritual of hanging drawing and quartering, a punishment even more drastic and far more barbarous than that visited on murderers or others who had committed equally vile crimes. They were more mercifully hanged or beheaded.
What then prompted our 15th-century ancestors to take the extreme step of displacing an anointed King and putting another in his place, and thus risking the immortal soul being consigned in perpetuity to Hell's fires? There are some answers which can be suggested, although none of them provide the whole answer, either separately or conjointly one with another.
The respect that medieval man paid to the crowned and anointed King may have been based on God's Law, and dire punishment in Hell may have awaited those who broke it. The Church taught this, and there was no reason to think that the Churchmen were wrong. Brutus' and Cassius' souls were perpetually devoured by the Devil himself as retribution for what they had done to Julius Caesar on earth, and nobody in a superstitious age wanted the same thing to happen to them. The torments of Hell, as described by the Church, left little to the imagination, and neither was there any hope of the sinner escaping punishment in the after-life. God knew all, and was not to be mocked. But close as Heaven and Hell were to the living, they were still remote conceptions. Nobody had ever seen them, and for all the fulminations of the Church, they might not even exist. In the meantime, there were other and more immediate material worries which gave them greater concern.
Like men and women in all ages, people only desired to be left in peace, to prosper and grow rich, and to bring up their families to succeed them. Taxation was a curse, but it was one of the few certainties of life, and they did not want to be taxed too heavily. Marauding Lords who trampled all over them were another curse, and they needed to be kept in their place. Bandits who robbed and injured them were a constant menace, and they needed to be caught and hanged. People were perfectly prepared to live with their fellow men, and only asked that all should deal fairly and honestly with each other. They looked to the Law to assure them of peace and quiet so that they could live their lives in comfort and security. This meant rule by a strong King who would keep the nobles in order, see that the taxes were not too heavy, catch and hang bandits, and ensure that the Law bound and protected all. Where a King was weak and ineffectual, then he was useless as a King and should be replaced. Mostly, they shrank from doing what was necessary to replace him, but they were prepared to follow strong and determined leaders who had no compunction about doing so and of incurring some opprobrium by their actions, either in this world or the next.
In 1461, they considered themselves fortunate that Edward had done all that was necessary to get rid of the ineffectual King Henry VI, but in those heady days, there was little to indicate that some disappointments awaited them.
In the first half of Edward's reign (1461-1470), there were still many enemies about, and there was much strife, a lot of it emanating from the Court itself. In the reign's second half (1471-1483), once Edward had finally crushed his Lancastrian foes in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, there was a lot more stability, and something of a golden age. As 1461 turned into 1462, all that was to come was still a distant prospect. People hoped for the best, and with hope came expectation.
Whereas Parliament had had a clear choice when it heard Richard, Duke of York's petition, [pages ] it had none with Henry of Bolingbroke in 1399, nor with Edward Plantagenet in 1461. Both had forced Parliament's hand, but both were very careful how they dealt with the country's elected body, and each was tactful in a superlative degree. Henry had secured the abdication of the King beforehand, and everybody could see that there was no King. To symbolise this, the King's gorgeous chair had stood untenanted before the member's eyes. The Constitution required a King, and somebody had to sit in it. The question was who that person should be. Henry had, with due humility, proposed himself, and even though he was the only possible candidate, he had left it to Parliament to make the decision. Edward in 1461 had been acclaimed by the people, had just won a stunning victory which had all but eliminated his enemies, and had even had himself crowned. He did not swagger into the Chamber like the all-conquering hero who owed his position to his sword.
He appeared as an humble petitioner who had asked the Assembly to confirm his rights by succession. Good manners, tact, and sensitivity had carried each man to his desired goal. There was none of the brash arrogance of Richard, Duke of York which had so annoyed Parliament on 10th October 1460. Arriving late, he had simply strode into the Chamber and made straight for the Throne as though it was already his. Parliament would have none of that. [page ]
In Edward Plantagenet's case, the sensitivity which formed part of his character, and the care which he could show for the views and feelings of others when he so chose, cannot be better illustrated than the speech of thanks which he made to Parliament on 21st December 1461 just before Parliament was prorogued. Edward addressed the Speaker:-
"James Strangeways, and ye that be commyn for the Common of this my Londe, for the true hertes and tender consider-ations that ye have had to my right and title, that Y and my Auncestres have had unto the Coroune of this Reame, the which from us have been longe tyme witholde, and nowe, thanked be almyghty God, of whos grace groweth all victory, by youre true hertes and grete assistens Y am restored unto that that is my right and title; wherfore Y thanke you as hertely as Y can, also for the tender and true hertes that ye have shewed unto me in that that ye have tenderly had in remembraunce the correction of the horrible murdre and cruell deth of my Lord my Fader, my Brother Rutlond, and my Cousyn of Salysbury, and other, Y thanke you right hertely: and Y shall be unto you with the grace of Almyghty God as good and gratious Soverayn Lord as ever was eny of my noble Progenitours to their Subgettes and Liegemen; and for the faithfull and lovyng hertes, and also the grete labours that ye have born and susteyned towardes me, in the recoveryng of my seid right and title, which Y nowe possede, Y thenke you, with all my herte; and if Y had eny better good to reward you withall then my body, ye shuld have it; the which shall alwey be redy for youre defence, never sparyng nor lettyng for noo jeopardie, praying you all of youre herty assistens and good contynuance, as Y shall be unto you youre veray rightwisse and lovyng Liege Lord."
What Edward's father, Richard Duke of York, had found inhibiting, and had shrunk from doing, was levelling any criticism at the national hero, King Henry V, who had won the epic battle of Agincourt 1415. But Agincourt was now nearly 50 years ago, and was a distant if warm memory. There were few if any still living who had fought in it. The Nation now had another hero who had just won a tremendous victory. The public's expectation of a medieval King is described elsewhere, [pages ] but young as he still was, Edward's exploits with the drinking pot and the female sex were already the subject of legend, repeated in bated breath with great admiration by those who, in a bawdy age, envied his prowess and would have emulated him if they could. There he stood, all 6 feet 3 inches of him, a magnificently handsome man, who looked as though he could thrash any opponent with ease. And to top it all, he won battles.
These would appear to be some of the reasons why people were happy to have Edward as King in place of another who, crowned and anointed, was still somewhere in the land of the living. The displaced Henry and his friends constituted the unfinished business in the North. It had now to be dealt with.
Miscellaneous events of 1461
The year 1461 was a turning point in other ways as well. Two men, who were to play large parts in the Wars of the Roses, began their rise from humble beginnings to prominence, although Doctor John Morton had been active for some years before this date. There was also a Lady whose quiet and gentle influence upon events was nonetheless profound. Finally, there was also the death of an old adversary.
William Hastings was born in 1430, and began a career which was to take him to high station and great wealth as a young squire in the Household of Richard, Duke of York. There he met the boy who was destined to become King Edward IV, and in spite of the 12-year difference in their ages, a firm friendship was soon formed. Possibly William was one of young Edward's tutors, particularly in skill-at-arms in which the boy was expected to excel. From Edward's later prowess, he had clearly been very well taught.
William may have been just the humble squire of Burton Hastings in Warwickshire and Kirby Muxloe in Leicestershire, but he was very well connected, so much so that it would have been surprising if he had given his allegiance to anyone other than the House of York. His mother, Alice Camoys, was the daughter of a Mortimer mother, which made William a distant kinsman of Edward. Alice's father had been Lord Camoys who had commanded the English left division at the battle of Agincourt 1415. Her husband, and William's father, Sir Leonard Hastings, had fought in the battle as a follower of Edmund, Earl of March. For many years thereafter, he had fought in the War in France, where he came to the attention of Richard, Duke of York, when he was the King's Lieutenant-General in France between 1440 and 1445. Richard had had many uses for Leonard, whose skills extended beyond purely military skills alone; like his son William, he was an able administrator, and the bureaucrats pen came as easily to his hand as the soldiers sword. Sir Leonard had died in 1455, the same year that William was Sheriff of both Warwickshire and Leicestershire, positions almost certainly obtained for him by the influence of Richard, whose star was then very much in the ascendant.
That Richard, Duke of York, thought highly of William can be seen by the lengths to which he was prepared to go to rescue William from some serious trouble. William's brother Thomas, who seems to have been a never-do-well, and Henry Ferrers had picked a quarrel over some land with Robert Pierpoint, a member of a family given to settling their differences by violent means, and were said to have murdered him. William's and Thomas' sister Anne had married Sir Thomas Ferrers of Tamworth Castle, a younger son of Lord Ferrers of Groby, so whatever William may or may not have had to do with Robert's death, there was a strong measure of guilt by association. William appealed to Richard for help. Richard had merely bound over William, Thomas and the Pierpoints to keep the King's Peace, although he made the two brothers pay damages. They were lucky to escape so lightly, and but for Richard's influence, may not have done so.
The call to arms in 1459 was answered by William hastening to join Richard's army. He was probably not present at the battle of Blore Heath in October of that year, [page ] but the subsequent discomfiture of the Yorkists at Ludford [page ] left him stranded. Being politically insignificant, he was not attainted by the Parliament of Devils in November 1459, Queen Margaret having many much more important people against whom to direct her fury. He and his three brothers, Ralph Richard and Thomas, received pardons from the kindly King Henry VI, who bade them go home and keep his Peace in future.
This William did until the Yorkist return in June 1460.
He would probably have fought in the Yorkist army at the battle of Northampton in July 1460, and rejoiced in Warwick's triumph. He would then have returned to his home to enjoy the Yorkist peace, and would probably have lived out his life as an obscure Midlands squire but for the devastating news of the death of his patron Richard at the battle of Wakefield in the last days of 1460. Nor was this all; William had known Edmund.Earl of Rutland since he was a very small boy, and he was saddened and sickened at the way in which he was said to have died. [page ] Quite apart from his personal feelings of grief for the employer to whom he owed everything and for the son he had known since he was tiny, William could now expect some vengeful Lancastrians to come looking for him. Gathering every man that he could, he marched to join his old friend and pupil Edward at Shrewsbury. Historians have disputed whether William took part in the battle of Mortimers Cross in February 1461, but it is suggested that the matter is put beyond doubt by the wording of the document which created him Lord Hastings. This recognised his particular services against Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, and James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire, the Lancastrian commanders at Mortimers Cross. William's contingent must have been a most welcome reinforcement to Edward's army, and may have given him the numerical superiority which was the deciding factor in the way that Edward decided to fight the battle. [page ]
William would have ridden with Edward and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick to the relief of London, and would have watched as Edward was acclaimed King by the Londoners.
He fought at Edward's side in the battle of Towton on 29th March 1461, and was one of only six men who were dubbed knight on the field of battle for his valour. His promotion did not end there. Immediately after Edward's Coronation, he was created Lord Hastings of Hastings in Sussex.
The humble squire had come a long way in six short months, and honours and wealth were now heaped upon him. He now held the prestigious office of King's Chamberlain. This involved many other duties than the stewardship of the King's Household, where he saw to it that the King's meals were prepared, the candles were lit, the fires were tended, the King was awakened and dressed, the Royal shirt was warmed before the fire and the Royal chamber pot was emptied. He was in charge of the Court and its elaborate ritual and ceremonies. Nobody could gain access to the King without first applying to the Chamberlain, who thus enjoyed immense influence. Such close attendance upon the King involved one thing more; the Chamberlain was the confidante of the King himself and shared his inner-most thoughts, and this in itself betokened the closest degree of personal friendship. [The duties of the Chamberlain are described by Robert Russell in "The Boke of Nature" written in 1436]
Among the other services which he rendered to King Edward IV, William would have ensured that the King was kept supplied with agreeable and compliant ladies, and would have willingly participated, both within the Palace and around the town, in the debaucheries which so delighted Edward. These, in an age when sexual morals were so loose that they were almost non-existent, struck nobody as reprehensible. Apart from some pimping and heavy drinking, and making the night hideous with song, William had the reputation among high and low alike of being an outstandingly honest, trust-worthy and loyal man at a time when these values were highly prized by all, but practised by very few. He was also thought to be incorruptible, another highly prized virtue when every man unashamedly had his price.
Corruption is to some extent a relative term, and its meaning depends on the age in which an individual lived. Later on, William was to enjoy 'pensions' from Louis de Bourges, Lord la Gruthueyse and Louis XI, King of France. As in any age, payment of money imposes some obligation, but whether Edward knew of these 'pensions', or cared much if he did, is problematical. However they may be regarded today, in the years to come William was to exhibit out-standing loyalty to his King. His actions in 1471 ensured that King Edward IV's "return" was successful. [page ] Without his help, it might have ended in failure. An out-standing soldier, he commanded divisions of Edward's armies at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury 1471. Whatever his acceptance of money from others may have betokened, he never wavered in his loyalty to Edward.
When William started to build up his vast estates, and with his estates his "affinity", [for the meaning of this expression, see page ] his widely known character of an honest, open-minded and fair dealing man was to attract many of much older and more eminent blood than his. No doubt there was some jealousy at his sudden rise to fortune, but this never seems to have been a substantial problem.
Doctor John Morton
John Morton is a reminder that not all the people who played important parts in the Wars of the Roses were prominent nobles or landed gentry, or even Prices of the Church. There were others as well, often of humble stock, from families who were neither noble or princely. John was such a one, and remained of humble rank throughout most of the period of the Wars, only rising to prominence during their latter stages. Having finally, and with some reluctance, made his peace with King Edward IV, he became Master of the Rolls, Bishop of Ely, a Cardinal even, and finally Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of England during the reign of King Henry VII.
John was born in 1420 as the son of a Dorsetshire squire. He lived until 1500, a very great age for the 15th-century. John was not a soldier, he was an ecclesiastic and a lawyer whose training made him useful as an administrator and a bureaucrat who knew how to deploy a ready tongue and to draft a document; with such things as Acts of Attainder, petitions to Parliament, pardons, grants and patents, the Wars were fought as much with the pen as with the sword, and there was a ready demand for skills such as he possessed.
John was small, almost insignificant, in stature, but what impressed everyone was his forceful personality and ready intelligence. Sir John Moore, who knew him well as a boy, has left a description of a haughty, formidable and autocratic old man who did not suffer fools gladly, or indeed at all.
What was striking about John was his loyalty. When all seemed lost after the battle of Towton, John preferred to accompany Queen Margaret and his Lancastrian friends into penurious exile rather than to make his peace with the triumphant Yorkists who would have found ready and lucrative employment for him. That King Edward IV was ready to forgive and forget was made very apparent when John's old friend William Booth, the one time Bishop of Lichfield and now Archbishop of York, who had been a very close friend of Queen Margaret, made his submission to the new King and even became his confessor. That was not John's way, and he only made his peace with King Edward IV after the shattering defeats of the Lancastrians at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury 1471. Only then did John decide to throw in his lot with the Yorkists, who soon rewarded him with high office and a reversal of his attainder. By then there were no Lancastrians left to whom he could give his loyalty; King Henry VI and his son and heir were dead, Queen Margaret was once more an exile in her native land, where even her kinsman King Louis XI was doing his best to forget all about her, and the only Lancastrian left was the politically insignificant Henry Tudor in his exile in Brittany.
In the 1450s, John's legal practise took him to the Court of the Arches, so called because it sat in the crypt of St Mary-le-Bow. Although the church has been rebuilt since that time, the crypt is still to be seen. The Courts jurisdiction included disputes over wills, matrimonial problems, and the disciplining of errant clergymen. All this was very hum-drum, and hardly the stepping stone to preferment and high office, but it was an ecclesiastical Court, and John soon came to the notice of Thomas Bourchier shortly after his enthronement in 1455 as Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas was soon giving some of the Council's legal work to this sharp-witted little lawyer, and was pleased with the way in which it was done. In 1457, the 4-year old Prince of Wales Household needed a Chancellor, and Thomas recommended John to Queen Margaret.
The year 1457 was a very difficult time for the ruling Lancaster dynasty. King Henry VI still sat on the Throne, but the insecurity of his tenure was becoming daily more apparent. [Chapter 48: Four very troubled years] The Court was in Coventry or Kenilworth Castle, where Queen Margaret hoped to avoid having to see the hated face of her arch-enemy, Richard, Duke of York, more than was absolutely unavoidable. John had to divide his time between his practice in London and his duties in the Midlands.
Queen Margaret soon found that she had other matters on which John's advice was useful than simply managing her infant son's affairs. Although as a Churchman committed to celibacy such a question should never even have arisen, there cannot be much doubt that John, as a man, became entwined in the powerful aura of the Queen's sexuality. It was a bewitching spell, and many others had been enslaved. John, like many another, was personally devoted to her, and possibly his commitment to the House of Lancaster arose from his attachment to the Queen.
In November 1459, the Parliament of Devils set about the task of attainture of the Yorkists who had just been discomforted at Ludlow and forced into exile abroad. [pages] There was not much time to draft some complex legislation, and John was included in the legal team. The other members were Chief Justice Fortescue, the eminent jurist, Doctor Aleyn, John Heydon and Thomas Thorpe, who was still smarting from the imprisonment he had suffered at the hands of Richard, Duke of York. [page ] Queen Margaret instructed them to word the necessary documents as tightly as human ingenuity could make them so that there were no loopholes through which her Yorkist enemies could slip. She also had another task for them, the form of Oath and the Declaration of Loyalty which she intended the Peers should swear and sign. [page ] Since they were to bind many slippery men with some very pliable consciences, they had to be of an absolute nature.
John did not accompany Queen Margaret on her visit to Mary of Guelders at Lincluden Abbey in late December 1460 or early January 1461. [pages ] Had he done so, he would not have failed to advise most strongly against the unwise courses of surrendering Berwick or of bringing Scots troops into England, although Margaret may not have listened to him. He was at her side during the march to the 2nd battle of St Albans and at the battle itself, and was also with her in York during the battle of Towton. After the battle, he was taken prisoner at Cockermouth together with James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire. The Earl was beheaded, but a Commission headed by the newly dubbed knight Sir William Hastings consigned John to the Tower of London.
Eminent persons imprisoned in the Tower enjoyed a comfortable style of life, and apart from their liberty, lived in the Tower much as they did outside it. The Tower had other arrangements for less exalted persons, and John found himself locked up in a noisome dungeon where he suffered all the considerable hardships that grim fortress had to offer. Few people have ever escaped from the Tower, and most of those who have done so needed the complicity of their gaolers. This begs the question whether John was allowed to escape on the orders of King Edward IV. Edward would have had a need for John's services, but could scarcely make John a direct offer; this could only come after John had first made his submission. However matters were, John ignored any coded message that Edward may have sent him, and hastened to rejoin his Lancastrian friends. A loyal Lancastrian he had always been, and such he would remain.
Buffeted by the winds and waves of the sea as much as those of fortune, John was once again taken prisoner when, on Boxing Day 1462, Dunstanburgh Castle surrendered to Yorkist troops. The terms of the surrender were generous, and John made his way to Scotland. From there he accompanied Queen Margaret on a hazardous journey to France to beg for French aid, and was with her when she beseeched it from King Louis XI. Later, when denied any more help, Margaret set up Court in exile at Koeur on what money her aged father could spare. John went with her, and was there when King Edward IV, exasperated with John's obduracy, and needing money for the repair of Norwich Cathedral, finally had him attainted in 1464. Thus the last remnants of John's estate and income disappeared, and he was reduced to destitution. That at any rate was to change.
A play, such as William Shakespeare's "King Henry VI", which sets out to portray The Wars of the Roses, requires actors and actresses who must have resort to murder, torture, intrigue, treachery either to the Sovereign or to each other, and the fire and flame of battle. They need to be rough, unscrupulous and cruel, brutal even. When they do use gentler means, such as argument in Council or in Parliament, the threat of violence is never far beneath the surface and can be deployed at any time. This would have to be, because they would be showing the contemporary methods of neutralising political opponents, and these usually meant their deaths and the legal deaths of their families by attainder. [Chapter ]
There was one who pursued her destiny in a quieter and gentler fashion without resort to the barbarism which seemed to come so readily to the hands of others.
Margaret Beaufort was born in 1443, the only child of John Beaufort and Margaret Beauchamp. John had fought with King Henry V in France, and he had become Earl of Somerset in 1418 and then Duke of Somerset in 1443. Margaret can scarcely have known her father; after his bitter dispute with Richard, Duke of York over the command in France, [page] he had returned home to die in 1444. The child was very well connected. Her Great-Grandfather and Great-Grand mother were John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, which gave her the Royal blood of England in her veins. One uncle had died in 1418, and another uncle, Edmund Beaufort, had been a prominent soldier and the confidante of Kings and Queens. Edmund and his wife Eleanor Beauchamp had produced a numerous brood of cousins who were destined to fight, and to suffer, in the cause of Lancaster. An aunt, Joan Beaufort, had married King James I of Scotland, whilst another aunt, also Margaret, had wed Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon. The Lancastrian influence had been strong in the household in which the child Margaret had grown up, and it was deeply imbued into her that the rightful Monarch of England was King Henry VI and his lawful Queen was Queen Margaret.
Early marriage was so often the lot of girls of the time, and Margaret was to be no exception. In 1447, her mother had re-married. Leo, Lord Wells, later to be killed at the battle of Towton 1461, was her choice, and there seems to be no record how Leo regarded his young step-daughter, although Margaret's recent biographers have suggested that he appeared as a father-figure to her. In April 1453, when Margaret was 10-years old, King Henry VI commanded that she be brought to the St George's day celebrations of the Order of the Garter at Windsor. The young girl must have been much impressed by the splendour of the Order, with its knights in blue and red robes, its solemn church services, and its magnificent banquets, all to the honour of one of the most prominent Orders of Chivalry. Shortly afterwards, the King gave her as a ward to his half-brother Edmund, recently created Earl of Richmond, with instructions that, in course of time, Edmund was to marry her. [Edmund, together with his younger brother Jasper Tudor, was the product of the illicit union between Owen Tudor and the King's widowed mother, Catherine of Valois see page ] Even though after eight years of barren marriage Queen Margaret was at last with child, the King may have entertained some ideas that Edmund may have become his heir should anything untoward happen to the Queen's baby. Edmund, together with his brother Jasper, who had just been promoted to be Earl of Pembroke, had recently raised some eyebrows by expressing Yorkist sympathies. This was most inappropriate; in 1452, Richard, Duke of York had rebelled, and was currently in disgrace. [pages ] This was of little concern to the child Margaret. She was to be groomed to be one of the countries foremost ladies, for which she was to receive a greater measure of education than most of the ladies of her time, and was to enjoy a liberal dress allowance from the King himself. These were sunny days for a 10-year old girl, when the future seemed bright and assured.
In the twinkling of an eye, all this had changed. A mere three months after the Garter ceremony, the battle of Castillon was fought and lost in July 1453, England's southern provinces in France were finally taken from her, and in July and August the King lost his wits. He could not even recognise his baby son, born in October of that fateful year. In 1454, Richard, Duke of York was recalled from his disgrace to become Protector of the Realm. In May 1455, the 1st battle of St Albans ended in a Yorkist victory, and everywhere the Yorkists seemed to be triumphant. The sun of Lancaster seemed to be eclipsed, and possibly to have set for the last time.
Also in 1455, at the tender age of 12, Margaret Beaufort was married to Edmund Tudor, and became Countess of Richmond.
Young as she was, Edmund insisted on his conjugal rights. His bride was tiny, and even when she was a fully grown, she was never more than a very small woman, even though one possessed of remarkable intelligence and splendid courage. He took her off to live in his magnificent mansion at Lamphey in Pembrokeshire. She must have felt lonely there, in a bleak and treeless landscape inhabited by a sullen and resentful population, who spoke an alien tongue, and never seem to have reconciled themselves to the English conquest. The countries political troubles reached even into this remote backwater.
In August 1456, the cruel and brutal William Herbert, a staunch Yorkist supporter, carried off Edmund and imprisoned him in Caermarthen Castle where, two months later, he died of the Plague. He left behind him a pregnant 13-year old bride.
Jasper Tudor, much impressed with his responsibilities to his imprisoned brother, took Margaret off to Pembroke Castle to have her baby. 0n 28th January 1457, she gave birth to a fine baby boy, whom she named Henry. Gynaecology was never a strong feature of 15th-century medicine, and whilst births were not unknown to mothers as young as Margaret, the experience very nearly killed her. She was lucky to survive, but much as Margaret wanted children, she was never to bear another child.
After his infancy, Margaret was barely to see her son until he had fought the battle of Bosworth 1485 and become King Henry VII. After he had won the battle of Towton 1461, King Edward IV regarded Henry as a potential threat, and handed him over to the same William, now Lord Herbert, to take him into his household and see if he could make a good Yorkist out of the boy. No doubt William did his best, and may have taken the 11-year old boy to witness the surrender of Harlech Castle in 1468, [page ] but he does not seem to have been very successful before he himself, as the new Earl of Pembroke, was captured and beheaded in the wake of the battle of Edgecote 1469. [page ] After the Lancastrian disaster at the battle of Tewkesbury 1471, Jasper Tudor took Henry into exile with him. They were intending to seek refuge in France but, luckily for them, their ship was forced by stress of weather to put into a Breton port. In 1471 King Louis XI was terrified of King Edward IV, [page ] and would probably have been willing to oblige him by extraditing them both to England. Duke Francis of Brittany may have done the same, but was constrained by his subjects from a course they regarded as dishonourable. Thus for the moment, 'that last imp of (King) Henry's blood', as Edward called him, enjoyed a precarious safety.
In 1457, Margaret may have been very young, but with a precocious wisdom born of her experiences, she was most anxious to have a husband among the mighty of the land who could give a measure of protection to which a 13-year old widow stood badly in need. Her kindly brother-in-law Jasper Tudor agreed with this view, and interceded for her with King Henry VI and with his friend Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. This was fortunate as Buckingham, who was playing the role of peace-maker in these troubled times, [page ] was looking for a suitable wife for his second son Henry Stafford. He had just lost his son and heir, also Humphrey, in the 1st battle of St Albans 1455, leaving an infant just a few months old to succeed to his title when the time came; it came all too soon, as Humphrey was killed at the battle of Northampton 1460. Margaret's bridegroom had few expectations, but it was enough that the Stafford family, particularly when allied to their Bourchier cousins, were powerful folk.
Margaret's life with Henry Stafford seems to have been happy and composed. He had a certain amount of widely scattered property, and he greatly valued the help of his intelligent and business-like wife who thoughtfully examined the accounts and made good suggestions how it was to be managed. They were not wealthy, but neither were they poor.
Although Henry was the uncle of the infant, also Henry, who had inherited the title Duke of Buckingham in 1460 and stood high in the favour of King Edward IV, they did not stand in the front rank of the nobility so that they attracted hostile attentions whenever the pendulum of fortune swung this way and that in the troubled politics of the 1460s, even though Margaret was born a Beaufort. Bishop Fisher had this to say about her:-
"She was of singular easiness to be spoken unto, and full courteous answer she would make to all who came unto her. Of marvellous gentleness she was unto all folks but especially unto her own.......unkind she could be to no creature, nor forgetful of any kindness or service done to her......"
In 1466 when Henry, Duke of Buckingham was married to Catherine Wydeville, King Edward IV made it clear that he expected the uncle Henry and his wife Margaret to attend Court, and presented them with a splendid manor house in Old Woking which had belonged to the attainted Duke of Somerset. In 1468, he came to stay and to hunt with them, a mark of especial favour. Whether Edward, whose roving eye was notorious, ever entertained any designs on his attractive and petite 24-year old hostess is not clear, but if he did, he would have been firmly but politely rebuffed by a lady who lived only for her husband. If any such encounter ever took place, Edward never bore her any ill-will.
Henry was not a healthy man, suffering it is thought from the same erysipelas which had killed King Henry IV.
[pages ] In his case, the attacks were not so severe as those which had racked the body of the earlier King. A much more serious problem arose when King Edward IV returned from his exile in Flanders during March 1471. Henry's family had always inclined towards Lancaster, but did he really want to see King Henry VI continue to sit on the Throne? It is possible that the lack of a Lancastrian military nucleus in London [page ] may have been a persuading factor for a decision only reached after much agony of mind. Henry donned his armour, saddled his horse, called his retainers together, and rode to join King Edward IV's army. Henry was gravely wounded at the battle of Barnet in April 1471, and was left for dead. Distraught, Margaret sent her servants to search for his body. More dead than alive, they carried him back to Old Woking where Margaret nursed him devotedly. His wounds were too serious for recovery, and he died in the autumn. At the age of 27, Margaret was once again a widow.
In 1471, Margaret found herself face-to-face with the same problem as she had in 1457 - where was she to find a prominent husband to afford her protection. King Edward IV was also concerned that the mother of 'that last imp of Henry's blood' as he referred to the exiled Henry should not be married to some reliable Yorkist supporter and by definition subject to his supervision. It was some relief that Thomas, Lord Stanley wanted to marry her, and this is some explanation why the marriage to her third husband should have taken place within a year of the death of her second. Thomas himself was an interesting character, in many ways typical of those who had ensured their survival during the Wars of the Roses by weaving their way, hither and thither with consummate skill, around the pit-falls which had engulfed so many others. He had been a mere 16 miles away when the battle of Blore Heath 1459 had been fought, but he had made no attempt to come to the aid of the Lancastrian force. In Queen Margaret's eyes, his behaviour had been suspicious to say the least, and she had proposed his attainder in the Parliament of Devils in November 1459. He was only saved by the gentle and kindly King Henry VI, who seemed prepared to accept his explanation that the communications between the various Lancastrian forces were not all that they should have been. In 1470, his aid was sought by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and George, Duke of Clarence
when they were being hard pressed by King Edward IV's Royal army. [page ] Although he could have readily given it from his large affinity in Lancashire and Cheshire had he been so minded, he declined to do so, saying that there was nothing he could presently do. He had been well placed to help King Edward IV after his return in March 1471, but had remained inactive. Further, he had held aloof from the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, refusing to fight for either side. Although he had the reputation of trimming his sails to every new wind with an expertise which would have been envied by the Vicar of Bray, he was, strangely enough, not regarded as slippery or untrustworthy. Edward, anxious to have him where he could see him, appointed him as Lord Steward of the Royal Household. This was an important post which required his constant attendance at Court. It also called for his wife, Lady Margaret, the mother of 'the last imp', to carry the Queen's train during the elaborate Court rituals.
This was not a time which was free of worry for Margaret. King Edward IV made several attempts to extradite Jasper Tudor and her son Henry from their exile in Brittany.
At one point, it seemed he might succeed as Duke Francis, who was dependant upon Edward's support to hold France in check, might be willing to oblige him in such a small matter. There can be little doubt of Henry's fate had Edward managed to get his hands on him, but fortunately, Duke Francis was constrained by his subjects who felt such a course would be dishonourable.
Thomas had to make his final choice between York and Lancaster at the battle of Bosworth 1485. This time even his skills at avoiding an issue were inadequate to the task, and the new King Henry VII handsomely rewarded him for his services. Both he and Margaret became important figures in the Tudor Court. She lived to be 66, a great age for the time, dying in 1509, the same year as her son.
[In this work, Margaret is described as having three husbands, Edmund Tudor, Henry Stafford and Thomas, Lord Stanley. To all these she was married by the full rites of the Church, being a widow on two occasions. Some historians have suggested that she had four husbands, the first being John de La Pole, the son of William who was murdered by the seamen in 1450 - see pages , when she was 7 years old and he was 8. This cannot have been a formal marriage, because John lived until the 1490s and her three subsequent marriages would have been bigamous. Confusion seems to have arisen from a Papal Dispensation, dated 18th August 1450, which authorised John and Margaret to 'remain married'.]
King Charles VII of France
On 22nd July 1461, King Charles VII of France died after a reign of 39 years. Charles had become the Dauphin after the death in 1417 of his elder brother Louis, the foolish and feckless youth so well portrayed by Shakespeare in 'King Henry V', and when his father had died in 1422, Charles had succeeded him. By the Treaty of Troyes 1420, King Henry VI should have become King of France, but Charles' entourage refused to let him accept the Treaty, and had proclaimed him as the new King.
Derisively referred to by the English as 'the King of Bourges', Charles in the early 1420s had lacked the money even to purchase a pair of shoes. At first, Charles had appeared a wretched creature, little if any better than his elder brother had promised to be. His mother Isabeau, when forced to take refuge in Burgundy, had been greatly annoyed by Charles. He had taken the opportunity presented by her absence to plunder her Treasury, and she had pronounced that he was a bastard and not the legitimate son of the King. Given Isabeau's licentious life-style and voracious sexual appetite, this was not improbable. Timorous, cowardly and treacherous, Charles was scarcely the stuff of which heroes are made. He was said to be frightened of ghosts. Almost certainly he had not struck the fatal blow which killed John-the-Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, in 1419, [page ] but equally certainly he knew beforehand of the plot to murder the Duke, an atrocious way to treat somebody who was attending a formal conference where peace terms were to be discussed.
Charles was however impressionable, and seemed to reflect his immediate environment. When he was surrounded by others as wretched as himself, such as his Chief Minister La Tremoille, he seemed content to take refuge in the fundamental baseness of his nature and seldom, if ever, to rise above it. When in 1433, Charles d'Anjou, Compte de Maine and Arthur of Brittany had decided that enough was enough, and had kidnapped La Tremoille from the Royal Palace at dead of night, an act in which the Charles' Queen herself must have been involved, Charles had been beside himself with terror. When the next day he was informed in firm tones that the days of the 'adventurers' were over, and that from now on France would be ruled by respectable people with Charles d'Anjou himself as Chief Minister, Charles had meekly accepted the position.
A new and more resolute Charles began to emerge as a mirror image of the determination and resolution of those who were now about him. He started to appear at sieges and battles, something hitherto unheard of. He took determined steps to deal with the several Pragueries of his nobles, and his own disobedient, disloyal and scornful son, the Dauphin Louis. His dealings with foreign powers, particularly England, began to show real force and imagination. French diplomacy, which had always been good, began to take on a new and even sharper edge.
The crowning achievement of Charles' reign was the expulsion of the English from France, and here he was served by soldiers of the greatest distinction and ability, Arthur of Brittany, Compte de Richemont, Jean, Duc d'Alencon, Jean, Compte de Dunois, La Hire, Pothon de Xaintrailles, Pierre de Breze, and that inspiration to the entire French Nation, Joanne d'Arc. The Bureau brothers, Jean and Gaspard, at last found the answer to the English archers, and provided Charles with excellent field artillery. A system of military service was introduced which, in the opinion of many, was the true beginning of the French National Army. At last the invincible English were being beaten on the battle-field, and were eventually thrown out of France altogether.
Charles was not always grateful to those who served him so well. He took no steps, as he easily could have done, to rescue Joanne d'Arc from her dreadful fate. Alencon and Pierre de Breze were put in prison, Alencon for communicating with the English, and Pierre de Breze for becoming too popular when he was Seneschal of Normandy. La Couer, his brilliant financier who had put France's finances onto a sound footing, had also been put in jail, apparently for no very good reason. Charles, in spite of his initial personal shortcomings, which to some extent remained with him for the rest of his life, did have an uncanny knack, when he chose to give it full rein, of selecting people who would serve him well. He has gone down in history as Charles Le Bien Servi - Charles The Well Served. With that there can be no argument.
|Copyright © Michael D. Miller 2003|