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

Michael D. Miller

Chapter 59: The betrayal of King Edward's trust: 1463

 

The Lancastrian Lords make their Submission February/March 1463

To those who did not understand the circumstances surrounding the Surrender of the Northern Castles,  [page] the welcome into King Edward IV's service of Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and the other captured Lancastrian Lords was surprising to say the least. Recalling what had happened to John de Vere, Earl of Oxford and his son Aubrey as recently as February 1462,  [page ] they could see no reason why the heads of Somerset and the others should not be cut off immediately and sent to decorate the Micklegate in York or London Bridge. Instead of this, they saw Somerset and the other captured Lancastrians kneeling before the King and swearing allegiance to him. In return for this, Edward promised that they would receive formal pardons and have their existing attainders reversed as soon as the necessary documents could be prepared. It was all very strange.

Warwick at least could understand why this had to be done for the reason which are explored elsewhere. [page ]

Even so, the extent to which the King was prepared to go angered and dismayed him. In his view, these people deserved to have their heads cut off, and if this was not possible, then it was quite unnecessary to show them any further favours than those which were expressly provided for by the terms of surrender.

Edward, having recovered from his measles, received the submissions at Durham, and by 10th March, Somerset was handed his formal pardon. That much Warwick could understand and accept, even though grudgingly. What drove him to the heights of fury was Somerset's further promotion and the favours which were showered upon him. According to Gregory, Somerset was favoured in a way Warwick himself had never been; he was invited to share the King's bed. The sharing of beds was quite common in the 15th-century, and a guest may, quite properly, have been so honoured. It did not necessarily betoken homosexuality, although perhaps in this case it could have done. Both were outstandingly handsome men who were also sexually hyper-active. Somerset, 26 years old, was not married, but he had already fathered a number of illegitimate children from whom some of our most prominent families of today are descended. Edward, although only 20, had enjoyed a number of amorous adventures, and had no doubt left a similar trail in his wake.

Nor was this all. Somerset went hunting with the King with only a handful of the King's own men about him. He was also appointed Captain of the King's body-guard. Jousts were held in his honour, and even though he only wore a straw hat in place of a helmet, he was frequently the champion. It was made plain for all to see that he was the King's favourite.

Warwick could understand that this sort of treatment might well induce the remaining Lancastrians to make their submissions, but he did not think it was desirable to go to these lengths. About this time, Warwick may have begun to feel that King Edward IV was trying to create some sort of counter-weight to the Nevilles, and to himself in particular.

It was an unnerving thought that the King did not entirely trust him, and might be thinking of replacing him; as has already been said, the two men probably disliked each other, and this added to Warwick's sense of unease.

Many people distrusted Somerset, and even if they did not entertain the similar degree of loathing which Warwick felt and on occasions expressed, they did think that the King was taking too many chances, and giving Somerset too many opportunities to murder him. It was true that Somerset's brother, Edmund Beaufort was initially sent to the Tower, but soon even this precaution was dropped and Edmund was released. The public view is revealed by Gregory:-

"The garde of hym was as men shulde put a lombe a monge wolvysse of malyscyus bestys"

Parliament - 1463

At this point of his reign, King Edward IV had proposed to be a stickler for the law, which amongst other things meant enforcing the 14th-century Statutes that Parliament should be held at least once a year. Later on, he was to become as casual about calling Parliament as any of his predecessors had been. Already 1462 had passed without a Parliament being held although it could have been said that the 1461 Parliament, which was prorogued on 21st December 1461 until 5th May 1462, was in being until May (when it was dissolved) although it never actually met during 1462. With the aim of putting this right, Writs and Summons were issued for Parliament to meet in York on 5th February 1463. Things were still so disturbed in the North by the time February had come that it had to be prorogued to meet in Leicester on 7th March. Then Edward, to his fury, found out that many of the elections of the knights of the shires had been improperly conducted.

The reader of the Chapter on Parliament [Chapter 10: Parliament ]

may well conclude that there was nothing new in such irregularities, and that it was far more common that elections should be conducted improperly than otherwise. The King, well aware that the laws were more honoured in the breach than the observance, was determined that there should be an improvement. Further Writs and Summonses were then issued for Parliament to meet at Westminster on 29th April 1463. The Writs were accompanied by a stinging rebuke addressed by the King to the Sheriffs. To allow such irregularities to continue unchecked would result in:-

"...great and perilous inconvienience and evil example in our...land....."

The sheriffs were bidden to remember that:-

"...none.....presume to come to the Election of Knights, but such as have interest therein, "(ie land)"by Freehold, to the yearly value of 40/=, according to the Statutes....."

There was a further abjuration that all should remember that Lent was a time when men should purify their souls in the eyes of their Maker. This must have left the Sheriffs feeling puzzled. Nobody had ever objected to meeting during Lent before, and its months included some of the healthiest in London when the danger of the Plague was at its lowest. This was the way the King would have it, and clearly he meant what he had said about being a just and proper King. It was a good object lesson that the bad old ways would not be tolerated, and this was probably what Edward intended. [Parry Parliaments and Councils of England page 190]

Much chastened, the Sheriffs did as they were commanded and Parliament duly met on April 29th at Westminster. George Neville, Bishop of Exeter and Chancellor duly opened Parliament. John Say was elected Speaker and was accepted by the King. The number of Temporal Lords had risen to 42, with 5 Earls and 37 'Barons' receiving summonses, although Somerset was not summoned. It was a useful, and re-assuring, rise in the numbers towards normality, even though some peers were still absent in the North and most probably could not attend. King Edward IV was anxious to deal with some all too long delayed commercial business, which concerned trade and the wealth of the merchant classes and the common people. He knew that he was expected to provide for such matters, and was anxious to make a start in doing so. There were measures to ensure the standards of native cloth and wool; to provide that workmen received their wages in coin rather than in kind; to prohibit the export of goods in foreign ships if space on English ships was available; to forbid the importation of corn unless the price of native wheat had risen above 6/8d= a quarter; to protect native craftsmen against foreign imports of the goods which they made, such foreign goods being "full wrought and redy made" and often "disceyvable and nought worth". Generally these measures weighed very heavily upon foreign merchants (the Hansa League being specifically excluded), and were a form of protectionism, for example the absolute prohibition of foreign wool's and silks. How this sort of legislation was intended to promote the interests of a trading nation is not clear. The commercial community wanted protection, and the King was anxious to see that they got it.

The sumptuary laws, which regulated the dress to be worn by each class of society, were also given some attention, only the great magnates and their families being exempted from the provisions. Strict rules were laid down as to the dress of all from the knight to the labourer. Long toes to shoes had not yet gone out of fashion, and some were so long that they had to be attached to the knees by cord to prevent them getting in the way. Now "pykes"(toes) were to be limited to 2 inches in length. Some of the men's dress was positively indecent, revealing rather than concealing that which should be kept private, and they were bidden to wear long gowns which covered the person. It would appear that these provisions were a corollary to those which protected native craftsmen, and discouraged 'foreign' and foppish finery, which was unworthy of an Englishman.

More importantly, Parliament was generous in its taxation grant. Already in March the Convocation of York had made its first grant since 1453 by granting a whole tenth. The Convocation of Canterbury followed suit in July, and York, whose parsimony was well known, added a further half-tenth in September once the King had confirmed all ecclesiastical privileges and immunities. Parliament, not to be out-done, gave a 'Grant in Aid' of 37, 000, being the estimated yield of a full tenth and fifteenth without the deductions which had become common in the days of King Henry VI. Clearly the Common House was pleased with the new King, and was prepared to give the Crown the money it needed. This grant was made on 17th June 1463 as the last thing that Parliament did before it was prorogued; this was the customary way that these things were done.

This Parliament had a very lengthy existence, and this is some evidence of the continued threat posed by the Lancastrians and by others. The disturbed state of public affairs often required the King to be elsewhere. A brief account of its subsequent history should be noted here:-

1463

June 17th Prorogued until November 4th

November 4th The King being unable to attend, further prorogued until February 20th 1464 at York

1464

February 20th Further prorogued to May 5th at York

May 5th Further prorogued to November 26th at York

November 26th Further prorogued to January 21st 1465 at Westminster

1465

January 21st Parliament finally meets at Westminster

Parliament was in being throughout 1464,  but whatever the good intentions of the King, it never actually met.

Foreign Affairs

Turning to foreign affairs, which were long overdue for attention:-

1. France

Edward did not have any serious intention of renewing the War in France. More than any other single factor, it had ruined the Lancastrian dynasty and must not be allowed to do the same for the House of York. He did not mind lending some encouragement to the loud and vociferous war-party, provided that it did no more than acclaim the virtues of renewing the war. At the same time, he did nothing to inhibit the peace-party, led by none other than Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Warwick for all Edward cared, could continue his correspondence with, and visits to, the French Court. Equivocal voices from England would do much to unsettle King Louis XI, a slippery, untrustworthy and most unattractive character who was beset by enemies from every quarter, and put pressure on him to be more amenable to reason as Edward saw it. In the meantime, Edward would do nothing to favour either party, but he could make overtures to Castile for a treaty. Castile was presently friendly towards France and hostile to England. Such overtures of themselves would do much to exert pressure upon Louis and make him feel uneasy.

 

2. Burgundy

Burgundy, and Flanders especially, was England's main trading partner. On good relations with Burgundy depended the wealth and well-being of the Merchants of the City of London, together with the farmers who supplied them with wool and the people who worked for them. It would be catastrophic for the South and West of England if the wool trade should be seriously compromised. Already the recent political troubles and the constant fighting had greatly depressed it.

Philip-the-Good, Duke of Burgundy, had been a good friend to England for many years, and had once been her staunch ally in war. Even if some Englishmen with long memories still regarded him as being forsworn after the Congress of Arras 1435,  [page ] his friendship had,  in general, been of a continuous nature. The reasons were clearly apparent; his own merchants were dependant on English wool, and he regarded England as a counter-weight to those Frenchmen who, in spite of their repeated declarations of friendship, still nurtured hostile feelings towards Burgundy. But Philip was now an old man approaching the end of a long and eventful life (he died in 1467), and his son and heir, Charles, Compte de Charolais, was known to have Lancastrian sympathies. He had become friendly with Somerset during the latter's enforced stay in Guines in 1460,  [page ] and something needed to be done to win his friendship for York.

3. Scotland

For centuries, the fear of a Scots invasion had haunted England in much the same way as the Germanic tribes had once threatened the Roman Empire. The Scots had only recently given proof of their blood-thirsty and barbarous habits when Scots soldiers had accompanied the Lancastrian army on its march to the Second battle of St Albans 1461. [pages ] Through the centuries, there had been countless battles where victory and defeat had been equally shared. English commanders and English soldiers had frequently proved that they were in no way inferior to their Scottish opposite numbers, but there was similarly no way in which the Scots could be permanently suppressed. In any case, peace was the preferable option, and Edward resolved that it must be attempted.

Scotland's government was even more than usually weak.

King James III was only 11 years old and his mother, Mary of Guelders, acted as Regent. She was a Burgundian Princess who could to some extent be kept in check by appeals to Burgundy,  [page ] but she was quite unable to keep her violent and dissident nobles in order. George Douglas, Earl of Angus, had recently invaded England with Pierre de Breze in spite of a current truce. [page ] Fortunately Warwick had been able to drive him off, and equally fortunately, George's restless and aggressive spirit had recently departed for another world. [He died in April 1463] Others would however be found to take his place and assume his favourite occupation of breaking English heads, and they would not hesitate to take advantage of any English weakness. English diplomacy would have to be two-pronged; there would have to a peace treaty, or at least a lengthy truce, whilst English help and encouragement would have to be offered to those Scots who were minded to rebel. Domestic disputes should absorb Scots energies and make a large scale attack upon England impossible. Border raids would of course continue having long since become a way of life, but the English Marcher Lords had got the measure of these.

Edward was aware of a growing body of opinion in Scotland which favoured peace with England and abandonment of the policy of helping Lancaster. This could be worked on.

There is a story that, by December 1463, this feeling had become so strong that John Kennedy, Bishop of St Andrews, found it necessary to remove King Henry VI from Edinburgh, where he was once again a refugee, to the safety of his own diocese. He feared that Henry would be extradited. This seems improbable, since Henry seems to have been in Bamburgh Castle in December 1463.

Edward's Trust betrayed

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, had remained in the North to keep an eye on the Scots. All seemed quiet, so that in May 1463 he felt he could safely leave for London and Parliament. No sooner was his back turned than Sir Ralph Percy, whom Edward had entrusted with a military command in the North, surrendered Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh Castles to the Scots and their Lancastrian allies. Sir Ralph Grey of Heton, an old and trusted Yorkist, had fully expected to be appointed Captain of Alnwick Castle. Instead, this coveted position was given to Sir John Ashley, and Grey had to content himself with the more junior office of Constable. Expelling Ashley from the Castle, he promoted himself Captain and declared for Lancaster.

All this was very serious. Percy was a member of the family of the Percy Earls of Northumberland, being the son of the Earl who had fallen at the 1st battle of St Albans, and the brother of the Earl who had perished at the battle of Towton. For centuries the Percys had provided England's main bulwark against the Scots along the North-Eastern Marches, and their influence locally was very strong. For more years than men could remember, they had ruled their county in a semi-regal fashion, and encouraged people to look to them rather than to the King in London. The splendour of the estate which they maintained in the North can be glimpsed by a visit to Warkworth Castle; it is almost Royal in its magnificence. Sir Ralph Grey had had no love for the Lancastrians, and was thought of as a committed Yorkist. His grandfather had been executed for treason by King Henry V in 1415. [page ] Possibly some of his grandfather's unpredictability had come down to the grandson, and he now took a very extreme step which was to cost him dearly. He too had a high local standing and many followers. In one fell swoop, all the work so patiently done during the previous winter had been undone, and the whole of the North-Eastern Marches were once more at very grave risk. The City of Newcastle was now England's north-eastern bastion against a Scots invasion.

King Edward IV remained very cool throughout the crisis.

As soon as he heard what had happened, he dispatched John Neville, Lord Montague, who was Warwick's brother, to Newcastle to organise a defence of the City. On 3rd June 1463, Warwick himself, who had only recently arrived in London, was sent off to Westmorland to raise levies. As soon as Parliament had been prorogued, Edward left for Northampton intending to muster an army there.

Edward remained at Northampton for most of July 1463, finding it unnecessary to march further north as the two Neville brothers had enjoyed some military success which stabilised the position for the time being. Newcastle had been attacked by the Scots, but the vigorous defence organised by John had repelled them and sent them fleeing.

The Scots were also besieging Norham Castle, but withdrew on Warwick's approach. There was a brisk engagement in which the Scots had the worst of it, and withdrew in some disorder.

Warwick, weak in numbers, was unable to exploit his advantage.

Whilst Edward may have felt that it was most desirable to recapture the Northern Castles, and restore the situation which had existed after the winter campaign, he had much pressing business which required his presence in London.

[Waurin has left an account that Queen Margaret and her 9-year old son Edward, the son and heir of King Henry VI, had been present at Norham. They became separated from the retreating Scots, and got lost in the forest. Their encounter with the brigands was said by him to have happened then. See page . There seems to be some confusion among the chroniclers just when they suffered these misadventures]

Whilst Edward was at Northampton, a most unpleasant incident took place which was to have some unfortunate consequences. The citizens of Northampton remembered all too well the burning of their town by the Lancastrians in 1460.

[page ] Seeing Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset in the King's train, conducting himself in a haughty and dismissive manner as a great peer of the Realm, their resentment boiled over. Braving the weapons of the King's Guard, which Somerset commanded, they set upon him with the intention of tearing him limb from limb. There was an ugly fracas before King Edward IV could, with some difficulty, quell it. Gathering about him such of his guard as were not already involved in the melee, Edward beat his way through the throng to reach his battered and bleeding favourite. Standing over Somerset, Edward upbraided the angry rioters, promising them an immediate hanging if they did not at once disperse and go to their homes. Knowing that Edward was a man of his word in such matters, and being unwilling to take on their own King, a huge man with a drawn sword, they grudgingly did so. To assuage their griefs, a tun of the Royal wine was made available with the injunction that they should forget their sorrows in drink.

Next day, Edward summoned the still shaken Somerset and ordered him to keep out of the way for some time until popular feeling had cooled down a little. The ugly incident had ended without lasting harm being done, but it was not impossible that others might make another attempt. In this respect, the Yorkist Lords themselves, who despised Somerset as a turn-coat, were not above suspicion. He should therefore go to Wales, with a strong guard of the King's own men to ensure that no harm befell him, and remain there until the King should summon him. Somerset had in any case to obey the King's command, and could easily see the reason for it. 

Queen Margaret

There is some evidence, although somewhat oblique and not totally convincing, that Queen Margaret and her 7-year old son Edward had accompanied the Scots Army when it had besieged Norham Castle in July 1453, and had been caught up in its rout when Warwick had driven the Scots away. This is contained in a letter, written on 7th August 1463, by William, Lord Hastings to his old friend de Lannoy, an influential nobleman at the Burgundian Court. The letter must have been written as part of the preparation for the Conference of St Omer, and was undoubtedly intended to convince his old friend that the Lancastrians were finished for good. He reported the Scots discomfiture with much glee and possibly the story lost nothing in the telling.

Whatever the truth of Margaret's presence (and of her getting lost in the forest with her small son),  [pages ] it was clear to her that once again she was at the end of her tether. There was now open talk in the Scots Court of reaching an accommodation with the Yorkist King. Even the most trusted of her 'young men', Somerset himself, seemed to have changed sides and deserted her. Indomitable as ever,   she never even considered the abandonment of the fight to restore her son's sacred inheritance. Prudence would have indicated that she, her husband and her son, should go into exile. Whilst King Louis XI's commitment to her cause could be doubted, he could scarcely deny them refuge, even if it was too much to expect he would give them further armed help. He was much more likely to be pressing for the return of his money. She could at least try to dissuade him from making peace with England, and as for soldiers and money, she could turn to Burgundy.

Some of these assumptions were naive in the extreme, and would have been ruled out by any objective assessment as hope born of desperation. Nevertheless, preparations were made to cross over to France in four ballingers. These were small flat-bottomed craft, not unlike a Norfolk wherry, and were more useful in the rivers. During King Henry V's campaigns, he had frequently used them to bring up supplies, finding their combination of sails and oars was most useful. As sea-going craft, they were poor sailors, and would have been easy prey for prowling English warships. Still this resolute woman was determined to go, taking with her the loyal and devoted Pierre de Breze, whose seaman's skills would be useful, her young son Edward, Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, the Chief Justice John Fortescue, Doctor John Morton and 200 others, probably the remaining French soldiers who were returning home.

Before she left in August 1463, she took a loving and tender farewell of her husband. Of the tragic story of Margaret and Henry, this leave-taking was perhaps the saddest moment of all. They never saw one another again. [There is just the possibility that they did meet in the Tower on 21st May 1471 after the battle of Tewkesbury - see page

Somerset in Wales

At first sight, it was a strange decision for Edward to send Somerset to Wales. Wales was presently quiet, and only Harlech Castle still held out for Lancaster, but Lancastrian sympathies had always run strongly in Wales and there was the ever present danger that Somerset, whether he wished it or not, would become the figure-head for a Welsh rebellion. If Edward had been genuinely concerned for Somerset's safety, he could have sent him off to his ancestral lands around Corfe Castle in Dorset. There, among his own "affinity", he would have been perfectly safe.

But, it is suggested, this was where the shoe rubbed at the sorest point. With Sir Ralph Percy's defection as an example, Edward may have begun to entertain serious doubts if he had been wise to trust Somerset as far as he had done, and whether others, who had urged more caution, may not have been right after all. At home, and among his own friends, Somerset would have had no difficulty in causing him serious trouble if he had wished to do so, and no guard, however strong and vigilant, could have prevented him. Edward had probably decided by now that he had to get rid of Somerset, but he could scarcely put him to death unless there was strong evidence of his treachery. Far from being thought of as a just and fair King, he would be labelled a tyrant. It was far better to send Somerset to a part of the country where he had no strong connections, and if he was minded to start a rebellion, he would first have to win over the local gentry and country people and gain their confidence. Here the Guard would have another function, noting all who came and went, and intercepting and reading all correspondence. It is obscure who was its commander, but he must have been a trusty man.

Whatever Edward intended, this cut both ways. Somerset, a charming and urbane man, also possessed a considerable intelligence; he was no fool. Initially, he had been surprised to find himself treated with such liberality, bearing in mind the bitter feud that had existed between his own and Edward's families for so many years. He had expected Edward to honour the terms of his surrender, but he had not expected to be showered with favours. In his Welsh fastness, Holt or possible Chirk, he was little better than a prisoner, and he began to wonder if Edward had an ulterior motive in sending him there. Seen through his eyes, perhaps he had already served Edward's purposes. His guards behaved politely and properly, and observed all the courtesies due to a man of his exalted rank, but it was impossible to conceal their true purposes. If his death was now intended, then to him the only question was its date.

According to Waurin, Somerset recruited some 17 Welsh landowners to the Lancastrian cause. This seems unlikely, if the guard is to be credited with any vigilance. Waurin went on to say that he also recruited many southern gentlemen. This is even more unlikely, since correspondence would have to have been conducted by letter, and it was far too dangerous to commit anything to writing. With the example of John de Vere, Earl of Oxford fresh in everyone's minds, Edward had shown his attitude to letter-writers. It is however possible to see Welsh landowners calling on Somerset to pay their respects and, when the guards were out of earshot, assuring him of their loyalty to Lancaster. It is also possible that one of them betrayed Somerset's reaction to such an approach to his guards.

There for the moment, we must leave Somerset, virtually a prisoner in Wales and prey to agonies of apprehension of what Edward really intended, and deal with Margaret's reception on the other side of the Channel. 

The Conference of St Omer August to October 1463

Originally called by Philip-the-Good, this was to be a tri-partite conference attended by England, France and Burgundy. The English aimed to confirm the trade links with Burgundy, and to persuade King Louis XI to give no more help to Lancaster. During the fine summer days of August, Edward rode in an easy and confident mood with the English delegation to see them off from Dover. He was not going to France himself, and had entrusted the leadership of the delegation to his Chancellor, George Neville, Bishop of Exeter. It was a happy procession that clattered along the Kentish roads through the lovely country-side. In the fields, the farm-hands were busy with the harvest whilst the bees hummed busily in the hedgerows. Once in Dover, George handed the Great Seal over to Robert Kirkham, the Master of the Rolls, as his last act before embarkation; Kirkham would keep it safely until his return. Edward watched as the ships shook out and set their sails for the short voyage, and then turned his horse's head for London.

The negotiations at St Omer, later adjourned to Hesdin,  were leisurely and lasted until well into October. The French complained that the English were very stiff and unyielding in their demand that no more help or encouragement should be given to Lancaster, but King Louis XI, when he arrived in Hesdin on 28th September, betrayed a great anxiety lest the war-party in England should gain the upper hand. Edward's equivocal signals from London had made the desired impression. He was glad to agree a truce for a year; since there had never been a formal peace treaty since the English expulsion from France, this was an appropriate arrangement.

Louis assured George Neville in private that he was not in the least concerned with the fate of his cousins of Lancaster, and was only interested in dealing with those who held the power in England. He could easily deal with Queen Margaret by refusing to see her, and if she once again forced her way into his presence, he would simply demand the return of his loan, and to this she would have no answer. The existing commercial treaties with Burgundy were extended for a further year until 1st November 1464 so that they could be re-negotiated at leisure to bring them onto a more up-to-date footing. This was very satisfactory to all concerned, and when George Neville reported the results of his embassy to Edward in mid-October 1463, the way was seen to be clear for a peace agreement with the Scots.

Into the midst of these slow moving but harmonious proceedings burst Queen Margaret, who had landed in Sluys in August. By arriving at the very moment when everyone wanted and was discussing peace, her clamorous demands for further war ensured the failure of any chances her mission may ever have had. King Louis declined to have anything to do with her, and simply refused her an audience. She therefore addressed herself to Philip. Travel-stained from the arduous voyage, without a change of clothes between herself and her ladies, penniless apart from the contents of Pierre de Breze's purse, she had left her small son with the sympathetic Charles, Compte de Charolais, and had travelled to St Omer in a country cart to meet his father. This form of public conveyance, with the country people going to market with their chickens and eggs as her travelling companions, had rocked and rolled over the country roads in an abominable fashion. It could scarcely be called a conveyance fit for a Queen.

Once in St Omer, she found that Philip too refused to see her. She was not to be put off, so he named a venue in nearby St Pol where her presence would not embarrass the Conference. Philip was a good and courteous listener, and patiently heard her tale of woe without interruption. When she reached the point of asking him for men and money, he pointedly left the room without giving her an answer. Next morning he departed without taking his leave. Philip was always a humane man, and he left a considerable sum of money with his sister, the Duchess of Bourbon, with strict instructions that it was to be used to meet the immediate needs of Margaret and her entourage, but under no circumstances was it to be spent on soldiers or weapons.

[We are indebted to Georges Chastellain for the accounts of Queen Margaret's adventures]

With the truce with France agreed, Edward found no difficulty in agreeing a similar truce with the Scots when he met their envoys in York in December 1463. He found them well inclined to a further meeting, to be held in York during the summer of 1464, to discuss a far longer and more durable peace. Everything seemed to be going Edward's way. The ferocious George Douglas, Earl of Angus whom no truce would ever deter, was now dead and that same December the Scots Regent, Mary of Guelders who had always tended towards Lancaster, followed him to the grave. Lancaster's slim hopes of help from either France and Scotland were now extinguished.

Somerset escapes

After six months of 'keeping out of the way until the dust had settled', it was scarcely surprising that Somerset should have concluded that King Edward now had no further use for him. He had clearly lost the King's favour, otherwise Edward would have sent for him long before. It could only be that Edward had repented the earlier favours that he had shown him, and that his death was now intended. It could be quick and easy such as the cut of the assassin's sword or the blow of the headsman's axe. It could be slow and lingering in some hideous dungeon. In either way, it was still death.

Gregory tells us that about Christmas-time, Somerset "stole" out of Wales with a small band and headed for Newcastle to seek the aid of Lancastrian supporters in that City. Infuriatingly, there are no details of his escape, but it would have been dangerous for Gregory to put these in writing, if indeed he suspected any connivance on Edward's part. Edward could be as devious as any of his contemporaries, and he may have instructed the Guard to put no obstacles in Somerset's way, because flight was just what he needed to condemn him. At Durham, Somerset was recognised, and an attempt was made to arrest him during the night. Somerset escaped, barefooted and in his night-shirt, but two of his men were caught. He left behind his armour and a 'casket'. [letter case] No doubt its contents contained some interesting reading for the Yorkists. In Newcastle, the people on whom he was relying for help panicked and fled. Some were rounded up and unceremoniously executed. It was a forlorn little band that accompanied Somerset to Bamburgh Castle and safety.

King Henry VI was installed in Bamburgh Castle, and Somerset now had some explaining to do. Henry would have been easily satisfied, but Somerset would have found Queen Margaret more difficult if she had been present. He spun a lurid tale of popular discontent with the Yorkists which only needed a determined effort by the Lancastrians to burst into flame. Cheshire and Wales were seething with discontent and were ready to rise in Lancaster's support. There was indeed some unrest in both places, but the Yorkists quelled it without any real difficulty. In his anxiety to tell his listeners what they most wanted to hear, he painted a vivid picture which showed things as being far more favourable to Lancaster than they were. Whether he was believed or not is impossible to say, but Queen Margaret, flattered as ever by his attachment to her would, had she been present, soon have forgiven one of her 'young men', and he was received back into the bosom of Lancaster.

There had been good reason [page ] why Edward had shown the captured Lancastrians more mercy and forbearance than, in the eyes of many people, they deserved, but he now had to face the fact that in some instances his policy towards them had backfired. In spite of all his efforts, the Lancastrians were still ensconced, unsubdued, on the North-East Scottish Marches where they weakened the English defences against the Scots. It was true that their numbers were so small that all that was open to them was a limited form of guerrilla warfare, but their presence was intolerable in so sensitive an area, and as Edward was soon to show, he had no intention of tolerating it. Now that things with England's immediate neighbours were settled, the time had now come to move in for the kill.

Copyright Michael D. Miller 2003