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

Michael D. Miller

Chapter 63: Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, isolated: 1467


The Smithfield Tournament - June 1467

If there had been any reason to entertain doubts that by now, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick was out of favour with King Edward IV, the events of the tournament held at Smithfield in June 1467 would have dispelled them.

Warwick, with an extraordinary obstinacy, seemed unable to comprehend how much King Louis XI had lost in the praguerie of 1465. Whilst he still sat on the Throne of France, his position had been gravely weakened by the compromises he had been forced to make by his dissident nobles. With a tenacity worthy of a better cause, Warwick persisted in advocating a close alliance with France, and was thus seen to identify himself with failure. King Edward IV had always preferred closer ties with Burgundy, one of the successful parties to the praguerie which had so humiliated Louis, and was thus vindicated by the results. The now pre-dominant Wydevilles, whether as the result of a close analysis of the respective merits of alliances with France or Burgundy or from simple sycophancy, had followed the lead given by the King.

There had for some time been a proposal that Charles, Compte de Charolais and Philip-the-Good's heir, should be offered the hand of Margaret, the King's sister, in marriage.

There had been a number of delays. Firstly, the marriage needed the dispensation of the Pope and, in spite of all King Louis XI could do to prevent it, the Pope had at last given his accord. His Ambassador in Rome, Master Olivero, even had the aid of the Milanese Ambassador to the Holy See who had offered to bring in his fellow Ambassadors. [Dispatch dated 21st April 1468 from the Milanese Ambassador to the Duke of Milan] The marriage had also been delayed by Warwick's previous opposition, and it must be said, by Charles' reluctance. His sympathies had always been for Lancaster and he had no desire to ally himself with a Yorkist princess. By the middle of 1466 however, with Lancaster defeated and to all intents and purposes destroyed, and with more trade agreements in the offing, he seems to have concluded, albeit with little enthusiasm, that he could no longer delay the matrimonial proposal.He therefore dispatched his illegitimate brother Antoine, known as the Bastard of Burgundy, to London to negotiate a marriage treaty.

Antoine was an excellent choice. He was an experienced soldier and an enthusiastic jouster. Charles knew that Antoine and and Anthony Wydeville, Lord Scales, had a long standing and friendly engagement to meet each other in the lists. Opportunity had so far been lacking, but matrimonial treaties were happy if closely bargained affairs, and they called for a tournament to celebrate them. Antoine reached London on 30th May 1467 and was received by King Edward IV three days later. Eight days were spent in close and successful bargaining, and the days of 11th and 12th June were set aside for the contest.

Anthony Wydeville, never having had the task of raising the families fortunes from obscurity to eminence by whatever unsavoury methods were necessary, was a much more attractive and polished character than his father Richard. He was well read, a patron of the arts, and interested in the new art of printing which was now being perfected in Germany. It would shortly come to England, and he did much to encourage the Royal interest. He too was an experienced soldier, and was as fond of the joust as was Antoine. It promised to be an exciting match.

Jousting was an extremely dangerous sport which had been brought to England by the high-spirited Normans, who had amused themselves by charging each other at full gallop with lances that were supposed to be blunted, but as often as not were sharpened. By the middle of the 15th-century, the lances were customarily blunted, and an elaborate set of rules, at least some of which were aimed at preventing death or serious injury, governed the contest. A barrier ran the full length of the tiltyard, and jousting armour was much stouter, and therefore much heavier, than that worn in battle. The helmet in particular was of very stout construction. There was no visor, but only a narrow slit to permit a view of ones opponent. Shields, although generally discarded for use on the battlefield, were carried to give some protection to the vulnerable left-hand side. By this date, the horses themselves wore armour, both in the tiltyard and on the battlefield. Whatever the precautions, jousting was still very dangerous, and frequently ended in death or serious injury to the participants. Therein lay its attraction.

Dangerous it may have been, but it was also extremely difficult. The contestants were required to keep the barrier on their left-hand side, which meant that the lance, couched under the right armpit, had to be aimed across the horse's neck to score a hit. Managing a lance, a shield, and a horse so that it did not shy away at the last moment, whilst galloping towards ones opponent at combined speeds of nearly 50 miles an hour, called for the greatest degree of skill and nerve. It was no game for amateurs.

It was still a happy occasion and a great spectacle, where the medieval senses of pageantry and colour were given full rein. Crowds of thousands turned out to watch. There were long periods of waiting just as there are at a modern race meeting, and people were entertained by all the fanciful showmen of medieval society. There would be jugglers, wrestlers, bare-knuckle boxers, morris dancers, food and drink stalls, and all the other apparatus for a holiday for hard-working people enjoying a brief respite from their labours. The King with his nobles and their ladies sat in a raised stand with a good view of the lists, while the populace milled around the periphery. Eventually the Squires would lead the splendidly caparisoned chargers with their riders into the lists. The champions and their mounts were clad in gleaming armour, burnished till it shone like newly minted silver. Their helmets were surmounted by their heraldic crests around which were tied their ladies favours, usually a handkerchief, although these were sometimes tied around the arm or the lance. Brought in front of the King, they would salute him and each other before being led to their stations at the ends of the lists. The trumpets would then call for silence so that the Herald could read out, in a stentorian voice, the names of the champions and the number of passes they would make unless one was first thrown from his mount. A expectant hush would then fall before the trumpet gave the signal for the first pass.

As soon as the signal was given, each champion couched his lance and aimed it with his right hand. Each charger was spurred to full gallop to gain the maximum force as the champions thundered towards each other. There was a thunderous crash if one (or both) scored a hit, and often the lances shivered, such was the force of the impact. If one champion was unseated, then he was the loser, often in more ways than one. A fall from such a horse at such a speed whilst wearing such heavy armour often resulted in broken bones, and sometimes in broken necks. If neither was unseated, there would be further passes with fresh lances. The excitement grew intense as each champion, encouraged by the cheers of the crowd, strove with all the strength and skill at his command to knock his opponent from the saddle.

At the contest between Antoine and Anthony, there were probably a number of passes, as each was too skilled to be easily unseated. Eventually Antoine's horse was killed under him, an unusual event as the horses were not normally made a target, but still Anthony was adjudged the winner. The next day, they fought on foot with poleaxes. [battleaxes] Battles were more commonly fought dismounted rather than on horseback, and for this they would have worn the lighter armour usually worn on the battlefield; jousting armour was too heavy and too constrictive of movement to be worn whilst dismounted where agility was everything. It is possible that Antoine was bruised following his heavy fall the previous day and was thus at some disadvantage, but he gave a most gallant display of skill-at-arms, and had scored several hits upon his opponent before Anthony struck off his visor and left his face exposed. To prevent serious injury, the King flung down his warder to stop the contest, and told each champion that he had never seen a better.

So ended an epic joust with many congratulations to both Antoine and Anthony. The festivities that followed such an epic encounter and the hospitality which Edward wished to show the Burgundian envoy and his companions should have lasted for several weeks and would have included hunting in various parts of the country. They were cut short in a dramatic fashion. Philip-the-Good, the aged Duke of Burgundy,  died in Brussels on 15th June 1467. Antoine's presence was required at home.

Throughout Antoine's visit, it could be said that Warwick, with his preference for an alliance with France, and with the antipathy that existed between him and Compte Charles, was not a suitable participant in the marriage negotiations. There was ample reason for his absence, but it seems that he deliberately kept away. It is especially noticeable that those about the King at this time did not include any Nevilles, and that those who were there were markedly of the Wydeville faction. They included Anthony Wydeville, Lord Scales, his father Richard Wydeville, Earl Rivers, William, Earl of Arundel, Edmund, Earl of Kent,  [the former Lord Grey of Ruthyn] Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, William, Lord Herbert, Humphrey, Lord Stafford of Southwick, John de La Pole, Duke of Suffolk [the son of the Duke of Suffolk who was murdered by the sailors in 1450] who was married to the King's sister Elizabeth, John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, [the son of the Earl killed at Northampton in 1460] and Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy. Many were Wydevilles or were connected to them by marriage. Some were former Lancastrians. What could be a plainer sign that the Nevilles had lost the favour of the King?

Warwick during the summer of 1467

In fact, Warwick spent June 1467 in France, and the opportunity presented by his absence was taken to weaken the Nevilles still further.

Warwick, probably at his own request, had been given a commission on 6th May 1467 to treat with King Louis XI. It has been suggested that this commission had been given him without the King's knowledge, but this seems most unlikely.

In April he had drawn money to pay the expenses of his journey from the close-fisted Treasurer, none other than Earl Rivers, who would not have advanced it without the King's authority or at least being certain that his Royal Master would approve. Exactly what Warwick was to say to the French King is uncertain, but from what later happened, it can be surmised that he was to give re-assurances, however worthless, that the ties now being forged with Burgundy envisaged no hostile intentions towards France, and Louis should not see them in that light.

There is however another indication that Warwick intended to discuss further and carry forward some far reaching and much more sinister proposals which he had previously raised with King Louis XI, and here we are indebted to the Milanese Ambassador to the French Court whose letter, dated 18th April 1467, to the Duke of Milan described how things were seen by Louis. Louis can only have seen things in this light because Warwick had previously encouraged him to do so; it seems most unlikely that Warwick had reported to King Edward IV what he had so far done or have taken his King into his confidence, although being extremely astute, Edward may have guessed that something on these lines may have been proposed. Whilst Edward could be devious, it is difficult to accept that he would have put the whole of his carefully-crafted Burgundian policy at risk by giving such proposals his approval. The Ambassador reported that Warwick was expected at the French Court by 8th May, although he was, in the event, a month late; the French King was said to have a 'secret understanding' with Edward 'by means of the Earl of Warwick' that a perpetual peace treaty was to be signed between England and France; Edward was to renounce all his claims to the French Crown; Louis second daughter was to be given in marriage to Edward's second brother (Richard, Duke of Gloucester) as his first brother (George, Duke of Clarence) was already 'married' to Warwick's first daughter; [In fact the marriage did not take place until 1469 see page , and was currently forbidden by Edward. The Ambassador may have meant that the two were betrothed, which at the time meant that they were as fully committed to one another as though the marriage ceremony had actually taken place. It is some indication that at this early date, Isabel was being 'reserved' for George.] the dowry was to be Holland, Zeeland and Brabant, territories currently part of Burgundy; Edward's sister Margaret was to be married to Philip, Duke of Savoy; in case it should be thought that Louis was giving away lands which did not belong to him (something which did not normally worry him), England and France were to go to war with Burgundy, subdue her and seize her territory. How much Edward knew, or guessed, of these preposterous proposals in fact matters little. He had already determined to discredit Warwick and his embassy in the eyes of the French King as will shortly appear.

Exactly when Warwick crossed to France is not clear, but he arrived in Rouen on 6th June 1467, which seems to indicate that he hurried away from England before Antoine could arrive. He would have spent some time in Calais, of which he was still Captain, receiving reports and giving attention to business that required it, before journeying on to Rouen. Once there, he was lavishly entertained by Louis who seemed very pleased to see him.

Parliament had been summoned to meet on 3rd June. It is strange indeed that Warwick should have chosen this moment to absent himself when Resumption was once more on the agenda. Perhaps he was not too worried, because little of his vast wealth depended on Grants from the Crown. It is equally possible that he correctly anticipated that the session would be a short one only; the danger of the Plague in London and the approach of harvest-time would compel its early prorogation. Possibly he thought that his position was now so serious that he felt the need of a friendly face and to enquire, under the guise of an official visit, what King Louis could do to help him.

What is even more strange is that neither of his two brothers attended the opening of Parliament. John was content to remain in the North doing what he did best, wondering what the Scots had in mind and hammering them once they set foot over the Border. But it was the duty of George Neville, Archbishop of York and Chancellor of the Realm, to attend Parliament and give the opening address. Perhaps the King had lulled him into a false sense of security by telling him that the session would only be a short one and that his own attendance, due to Antoine's visit, would only be spasmodic at the best. George should not tear himself away from his many pressing duties, but should let John Chadworth, Bishop of Lincoln, give the opening address. He duly did so, as the Records show:-

"in the absence of the Archbishop of York, Lord Chancellor."

Some writers have suggested that George was deprived of his office in May, but the Parliamentary Records confirm that, on 3rd June 1467, he was still the Chancellor, and that the preliminary proceedings came to a close with the election of John Say as Speaker.

The 7th June was a Sunday, but on 8th June, George was surprised to find King Edward IV himself at the gate of his considerable establishment in Charing Cross. He had expected the King to be too busy with Antoine and the Burgundian emissaries to have any time for a social call, but it was rapidly made plain that this was no friendly visit. Without explanation or courtesy, the King peremptorily demanded the surrender of the Great Seal, thus effectively dismissing George from his office as Chancellor. George was both thunderstruck and apprehensive. The King was perfectly entitled to dismiss his Chancellor if he so wished, but George wondered why Edward had chosen to do so in such an humiliating way. Surely the normal and more courteous procedure could have been followed with some prior warning followed by a meeting, when the Seal could be handed over to the chosen successor, in this instance Robert Stilling-ton, Bishop of Bath and Wells. Stillington was available in London to attend Parliament, and such a meeting could have been easily arranged. It boded ill for the Nevilles that Edward should have chosen to dispense with his services as though he was some dishonest tradesman.

The effect of this news when it reached Rouen can be imagined. King Louis XI took care to keep himself well informed about events in London, and he may already have entertained doubts of Warwick's present standing and thus of the value of any re-assurances which he gave, or in a wider sense, whether he did have any 'secret understanding' with King Edward IV. Now the Nevilles were clearly in disgrace, Warwick's embassy was discredited, and his re-assurances and proposals sounded very hollow. Obviously Louis would have to send his own embassy to London, and by doing so, demonstrate his lack of confidence in Warwick, to whom it was all very mortifying. Probably it was Edward's intention that it should be.

The cup of Warwick's humiliation was even now not yet full to the brim. He returned from France in July with a French embassy, which had instructions to offer King Edward IV a small tribute and to suggest that the English Crown's pretensions in France should be referred to the Pope for adjudication. In exchange, the present arrangements with Burgundy were to be abandoned. In all probability, King Edward IV now heard for the first time the nature of the 'secret understanding' he was supposed to have had with King Louis XI. By all accounts, he received the French envoys with scant courtesy which was not wholly due to his contempt for their offer. They were accorded one short interview before the King departed for Windsor, promising an answer which was never sent. After kicking their heels in London for a month, they returned home, but not quite empty handed; they bore with them a letter from Sir William Monypeny, who seems to have attached himself to their embassy, addressed to the French King. In it Sir William warned Louis that the confrontation between Warwick and the English King would not be much longer delayed. Who was to be Master, and who was to be man?\

Death of Philip-the-Good, Duke of Burgundy15th June 1467

Philip's death signalled the end of an era. For 48 years, a very long time by medieval standards, Philip had guided Burgundy's destiny through the minefields and thickets of medieval policy and warfare ever since that awful day in 1419, when his father had been brutally murdered on the bridge of Montereau. It is scarcely surprising that Burgundy's fortunes had prospered under the guidance of a ruler of such talent and panache.

A description of Philip's character is given elsewhere, [pages ] but there was more to Philip than just a wise and cautious ruler, however noteworthy and however highly he may have stood in comparison with the other European rulers of his time. There was a romantic side to his nature as well. Philip took a keen interest in a revival of the crusading movement, and it was to him that successive Popes turned in their efforts to raise a Christian army to rescue the Holy Places from the Moslem Infidel. There cannot be much doubt that he would have responded positively, and perhaps even have given the lead, if he had not been so pre-occupied with the doings of his enemies nearer home. There had long been an interest in Burgundy with the Crusades. From Lorraine in Philip's dominions had come one of the five elements that had made such a success of the First Crusade,  [1096-1099] and Godfrey de Bouillon, the first Christian Ruler of Jerusalem (he refused to let himself be called King), had been a Lorrainer. Not even the massive defeat of a Burgundian force commanded by Jean, Compte de Nevers, at the battle of Nicopolis [in modern Bulgaria] as recently as 1396 had quenched this interest.

With Philip's encouragement, an expedition of Burgundian galleys commanded by Geoffrey de Thoisy had sailed through the Bosphorus and into the Black Sea in 1445. It purpose was to retrace the journey of Jason and the Argonauts. Philip's greatest memorial was the founding in 1430 of the Order of the Goldern Fleece. It was intended to rival the Order of the Garter, that most famous of all the Orders of Chivalry, and it was at least as illustrious. During King Edward IV's exile in Flanders in 1470 and 1471, Edward made it clear that he was as proud to wear the Goldern Fleece as Charles-the-Bold, sometimes known as Charles-the-Rash, was to wear the Garter.

Copyright Michael D. Miller 2003