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

Michael D. Miller

Chapter 64: A disturbed period: August 1467 to January 1469


Warwick after August 1467

The failure of Warwick's machinations and intrigues with King Louis XI, words which hardly seem too strong, had deeply humiliated him. Rather than remain as a laughing stock in London, he withdrew to Middleham to nurse his injured pride and to strengthen his already strong affinity for the forthcoming struggle with the King. He refused to attend the Council meeting in September 1467 when Margaret was due to signify her formal acceptance of the marriage treaty with Charles-the-Bold. He disobeyed two further summonses to attend the Court in late 1467 and early 1468, the first to deal with allegations that he had had dealings with the exiled Queen Margaret, and the second to ratify the treaty, to last for a full 30 years, which had recently been negotiated with Burgundy and Brabant. It was not until late January 1468 that his brother, George Neville, Archbishop of York could induce him to come to London for a formal reconciliation with King Edward IV. Even then he demanded that certain Lords should be dismissed from the Council, Humphrey, Lord Stafford of Southwick, John, Lord Audley, the son of the Audley who had perished at the battle of Blore Heath 1459, [page ] William, Lord Hastings, all the Wydevilles and his arch enemy William, Lord Herbert. He cannot have been too surprised when the King refused to do this. Relations with his King had been so bad that when Edward had kept Christmas 1467 at Coventry, he had taken a picked body of 200 archers with him, and had let it be known that he was going to keep an eye on Warwick in his northern fastness. On the other hand,   Warwick raised no objection on being asked to accompany the King's sister Margaret when, on 18th June 1468, she set out on her journey to be married to Charles-the-Bold. He probably did not cross over to Burgundy to attend the splendid marriage service, or the equally splendid State entry into Bruges; his was a face that Charles would have preferred not to see.

It may be asked why Warwick did not immediately strike after the collapse of his attempts to bind England into a closer alliance with France, and there are three likely reasons. His affinity, whilst very strong, needed some reinforcement for what promised to be a desperate struggle. If he was to succeed in displacing King Edward IV, then who was to take his place? His eye had lighted upon the King's brother, George, Duke of Clarence, whom he intended to marry to his elder daughter Isabel. [It may be noted that the Milanese Ambassador in France had indicated this in his letter dated 18th April 1467. see page ] King Edward IV had already forbidden this union, and it needed time to arrange the match, either with a relenting King's consent or if necessary without it. In any case, being cousins, they needed a Papal dispensation to marry and this was never obtained quickly. Another, and even more important, consideration must have intruded into Warwick's thinking. The Wydevilles, now the dominant party at Court, were making themselves extremely unpopular. A litle more time was needed to give them enough rope to hang themselves.

The Wydeville's unpopularity

The Wydevilles had never been popular with the intensely conservative nobility of England. In spite of Queen Elizabeth's distinguished ancestry in Burgundy,  [pages] she was still regarded as a parvenue in England. Her father, Richard, Earl Rivers, had always been loathed by the magnates, who remembered all too clearly his avaricious and grasping ways in the Lancastrian Court, and his fawning manner towards Queen Margaret. Whilst many Lancastrians had turned their own coats and now served a Yorkist King, nobody regarded what they had done as dishonourable. Rivers was different, and his acceptance of King Edward IV's service, accompanied by a similar sycophancy which he had earlier reserved for a Lancastrian Queen, was looked upon with revulsion. Jealousy in their rise in the fortunes of the World also played its part. The man and woman in the street had been mostly indifferent to Queen Elizabeth's marriage and coronation, even though there were stories that she and her mother had bewitched the King. [pages ] Now they did not like what they heard of the Queen, and were fast coming to detest her as much as they had earlier loathed the French Queen Margaret. A measure of the people's feelings may be judged from Sir William Monypeny's report to the French King that, in the early days of 1468, the mob had invaded and sacked Earl Rivers' mansion in Kent.

Queen Elizabeth was known to be as haughty, arrogant and acquisitive as her father, and appeared as the arch type of beggar on horseback. Her mother, Jacquette, the Dowager Duchess of Bedford, who herself had the name of being grasping and unscrupulous, very soon discovered that she had little to teach her daughter. She may have encouraged her, but rapidly realised that she did not have to. The string of marriages of the Queen's brothers and sisters has already been noted,  [pages ]and they did little to endear the Queen to either noble or commoner. Those who married Lords and Ladies should themselves be nobly born, not just the issue of some obscure steward who had made a good marriage and then had risen in the World by means which had appealed to nobody. [It will be recalled that Richard Wydeville had started life as the Steward to John, Duke of Bedford]. Finally, it did not help when it was made clear that it was intended to raise the Queen's elder Son by her first marriage, Thomas Grey, to the peerage. He was the son of an obscure midlands knight, and a Lancastrian knight at that.

Queen Elizabeth either did not realise or did not care how much offence she caused to others, and did nothing to smooth ruffled feathers. Lord Leo von Rozmital of Bohemia, the brother-in-law of King Podiebrad, visited the English Court in 1466 and was amazed at the hauteur of the Queen. She took her dinner in complete silence, and all the ladies of the Court, including her mother Jacquette and the King's sister Margaret, remained kneeling throughout the lengthy repast. Maybe this was the ritual of the English Court, and maybe English Queens were so served, but previously they had been the daughters of Kings and Princes, and it ill behoved a mere gentlewoman of the bedchamber to give herself such airs.

This may have been fairly trivial, but some more ominous things were also happening. The Lieutenancy of Ireland was reserved for members of the Royal family, but the Deputy Lieutenancy could be and often was held by an Irish nobleman. In 1464 this had been an old and trusted Yorkist, Thomas FitzGerald, Earl of Desmond. He had put the House of York greatly in his debt by suppressing the Irish Lancastrians, almost single-handedly. In late 1467, the cruel John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester had been appointed to this post. He lost no time in having Desmond attainted by the Irish Parliament, and in January 1468 he caused him to be beheaded. King Edward IV was furious and demanded an explanation. When it arrived, Worcester sought to excuse himself by pointing out that the Wydevilles should be pleased, as they undoubtedly were, by the extinction of one of Warwick's closest friends. When Robert Botylle, the Prior of the Knights of St John, died in 1468, the Queen had persuaded Edward to bully the Knights into electing her brother Richard, who had married the aged Duchess of Norfolk,  [page ] as their new Prior. Richard was not even a member of the Order. The Queen was very angry when the Knights refused, and instead elected the Lancastrian Sir John Langstrother, who was an especial friend of Warwick. There were other cases, as will shortly appear, where those who had displeased the Wydevilles in some way were dealt with very harshly.

King Edward IV's policy towards France

As might be supposed, Edward was far from pleased by the intrigues of King Louis XI and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and felt that he had read correctly the nature of the repellent King of France. He resolved that Louis had shown himself to be a devious enemy and must be so treated.

Things were not improved by the arrival of Sir John Monypeny with letters from Louis addressed to Warwick, but none addressed to Edward himself.

On 20th December 1467, Sir William had landed at Sandwich. He had intended to land at some northern port, but the bitter winter weather had prevented this. He went to London, where he consulted with several of Warwick's faction, notably John.Lord Wenlock. Wenlock, formerly a faithful servant of the House of York, had come to hate the Wydevilles to such an extent that he now allied himself to Warwick as the only meaningful opposition to them. He advised Monypeny that, as he had been a member of the recent French embassy the previous July, he could scarcely journey the full length of England without attending upon Edward in Coventry to pay his respects. To attempt to do so would be to invite attack and the seizure of the letters which he carried.

Monypeny took this advise and duly attended upon the King. Edward received him at once and asked him if he carried any letters addressed to Warwick. Monypeny replied that he did, but that he did not know their contents. Did he carry any addressed to Edward? "No" replied Monypeny, "but my Master marvels greatly that he has received no reply to his last embassy." Wenlock's advise had been sound. Having established himself as the envoy of the King of France, Edward could scarcely rob him of his letters. Monypeny continued on his way unmolested.

Previously Edward had dealt with Louis with diplomacy of a defensive nature; he had simply refused any suggestions which Louis had made. Now Edward engaged in dealings which were clearly threatening to France, and in this he was encouraged by Louis' own brother, Charles, Duc de Berri, who was still living at the Breton Court under the protection of Duke Francis. According to Berri, and also to Duke Francis who added his own voice, the time had never been so favourable for the English to reassert their claims to the Crown of France, and to remove the odious Louis from the Throne which he disgraced. It is improbable in the extreme that Edward ever intended to resurrect the project of the Conquest of France; he had seen the damage this had done to the Lancastrian dynasty, and could hardly have wished that his own should similarly suffer. Besides, he regarded Berri in no more favourable light than he did his brother Louis. He was certainly not one to be trusted. But he had no objection to putting pressure on Louis and attempting to frighten him, and to this end he was willing to engage in some very questionable and devious manoeuvrings where duplicity played its full part. In doing this, he alarmed Louis to such an extent that Louis was prepared to back his Lancastrian enemies in a way which earlier he had been reluctant to do.

A defensive alliance was concluded with Burgundy on 24th February 1468. This was followed by a similar alliance with Brittany during the summer. On 3rd August 1468, this was strengthened into an offensive alliance (accompanied by a commercial treaty) when Edward promised 3, 000 archers for operations against France. It was in Parliament however that Louis could read most clearly the threat posed to himself.

The Parliament which had met in London in June 1467, and which had seen the dismissal of George Neville, Archbishop of York as Chancellor, had been prorogued until 6th November 1467 in Reading because of the danger of the Plague in London. In November, it was further prorogued until 5th May 1468 in Westminster "on account of the present shortness of days and the nature of the season." [Parry - Parliaments and Councils of England pp 191] This was a singularly facile excuse, because these factors had never before hindered Parliament's meetings in November, and must have been intended to disguise the fact that Edward was not yet ready for what he had in mind to ask of it. When Parliament eventually reassembled in May 1468, it was treated to a bellicose statement of a nature which it had not heard since the days of King Henry V. The Chancellor, Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, described how much King Edward IV had done to establish peace at home and how diligent he had been in concluding treaties to enhance the Country's trade and security. [There was much disorder in the Country, and the Bishop was not being entirely honest. See pages ] He had made treaties with Spain, Denmark, Scotland, Naples, Burgundy and Brittany, and was even now negotiating another with Aragon, all in the interests of the safety of the Realm which required the diminishing of the power of the:-

"auncient adversary of Fraunce" (and of that) "grete Rebell and Adversary Lowes"

who had wrongfully usurped the English provinces in France. Edward intended to claim their return, and if necessary to fight for them. This could mean that he would have to cross the Channel and invade France in 1469. Rather surprisingly when the previous reluctance of Parliament to finance the War in France is recalled, it now granted him two whole subsidies. The two Convocations of the Church were equally generous in their own grants.

All this was extremely devious. Edward had no real intention of invading France, but only wanted to frighten her. What he did obtain was an adequate supply of money in case he had to deal with Warwick by military means, and it may be surmised that this was his real purpose. He could scarcely say so, or be open and honest about it. Such would have risked opposition from those in the Common House, and they were many, who sympathized with Warwick.

A reign of Terror

It is extremely doubtful if, during the period dealt with by this Chapter, there ever was a Lancastrian plot of any dimensions against the House of York, but without question there was a steady stream of messengers carrying letters from the exiled Lancastrians to their sympathisers in England. The Government was very vigilant, and many of them were intercepted, their letters were seized, and the addressees were arrested. Typical of these were the intercepted letters which had led to the deaths of John de Vere, his son Aubrey, and some gentlemen of the Eastern counties in 1462. [page ] In late 1467, William, Lord Herbert, arrested another messenger on his way to Harlech Castle. This was a huge fortress, whose masonry had been put in place by King Edward I in the 13th-century to overawe the recently conquered Welsh. It was still holding out for Lancaster. It was too remote to threaten the security of the Country, and thinking that the enormous military effort to subdue it was scarcely justified, Edward had ignored it apart from asking Herbert to keep a watchful eye upon it. Herbert threatened the messenger with torture, and the man had made a number of allegations which implicated some prominent people, among them Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was currently languishing in disgrace at the Neville stronghold of Middleham. Warwick refused to come to London to explain himself. Here Warwick's capacity for virulent hatreds came to his rescue. The King thought it was a ludicrous suggestion, given impetus by the intense animosity which Herbert entertained for Warwick, that Warwick should enter into any correspondence of any nature with Queen Margaret, treasonable or otherwise, and he let the matter drop. There, for a while, things had rested.

King Edward IV was jolted out of his complacency by the landing of Jasper Tudor, the attainted Earl of Pembroke, on the Welsh coast in June 1468. Jasper had brought a small force with him to relieve Harlech Castle, and he seized and sacked the town of Denbigh. Herbert acted promptly to prevent him raising the countryside which had always been noted for its Lancastrian sympathies. Jasper, always an unlucky general, was chased into the hills, brought to battle, and soundly defeated. He managed to avoid the clutches of the vengeful Herbert and, with the aid of the country people, made good his escape to France. This was too much, and there now began a reign of terror, mostly in London, where the elimination of rivals, and the rapacity of the Wydevilles, were especially noticeable.

In June 1468 John Cornelius, a servant of Sir Robert Whitingham, an attainted Lancastrian knight who was presently in Harlech Castle, was arrested when boarding a ship to sail to France. He was found to be carrying letters addressed to Queen Margaret and the other Lancastrians at Kouer-La-Petite. When fires were lit under his feet, he made a confession implicating Sir Gervaise Clifton, the one time Treasurer of Calais, a notable City merchant Alderman Sir John Plummer, and John Hawkins, a servant of John, Lord Wenlock. Hawkins was put on the Rack, and in his agony he implicated Wenlock himself and another City figure, Alderman Sir Thomas Cook. Altogether 10 people were arraigned in the Guildhall before a panel of Judges which included the King's two youthful brothers, George, Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Warwick, now once more a faithful servant of the King,  and Warwick's brother John, Earl of Northumberland, for once prised away from his favourite occupation of fighting the Scots. Only two, Hawkins and the equally obscure John Norris, were condemned to death as traitors. The others, particularly the two Aldermen, were heavily fined. Apparently no proceedings were taken against Wenlock himself, and here we may detect the hand of Warwick.

The involvement of the two Aldermen is most strange. The City was, with some exceptions, generally favourable to the Yorkists. Both Aldermen had received their knighthood's at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, which must be some indication that they had given valuable service to the Yorkist cause. Cook in particular was a distinguished draper, a former Lord Mayor who was a friend of the King to whom he had lent considerable sums of money. He had entertained the King and the Queen at his splendid mansion, and there the greedy eyes of Jacquette and her husband, Richard Wydeville, Earl Rivers, had spotted the magnificent tapestry depicting the siege of Jerusalem 1099. Cook was reluctant to part with it (it had cost him 800), whilst the Wydevilles were equally determined to possess it. Cook was rearrested and was sent to the Tower. Before his subsequent acquittal and release, the Wydeville's servants broke into his mansion and removed the tapestry and much else besides. Even then they were not finished with the unfortunate Cook. Queen Elizabeth claimed 'Queen's Gold', an ancient law now scarcely used. This obliged Cook to pay her 100 marks for every 1, 000 he had been fined at his first trial, and she insisted on her full due.

[The contemporary writer Fabyan, from whom this account comes, was Cook's apprentice]

Two young gentlemen, John Poynings and Richard Alford, found themselves in severe trouble in July 1468 when they returned to England from Burgundy where their mistress, the aged Duchess of Norfolk, had attended the wedding of Margaret and Charles-the-Bold. They were charged with having treasonable dealings with the agents of the Lancastrians in Kouer-La-Petite. Brought to trial, they were found guilty and were hanged, drawn and quartered. At the same time Richard Steers (or Stairs) suffered the same fate. Steers was a respected member of the Skinners Company who was a champion player of what is now called 'real tennis'. What they were supposed to have done is obscure, although in days gone by Steers had been in the service of Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter.

Immediately after these executions in November 1468, there was a wave of further arrests. John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was sent to the Tower, where it was said he was kept in shackles. He was soon released, presumably through the influence of Warwick; John's wife Margaret was Warwick's sister. Regarding the others, it may be supposed there was some real evidence of treason. Sir Thomas Tresham had been the Speaker of the Parliament of Devils 1459. Thomas Hungerford was the son of the Hungerford executed after the battle of Hexham 1464, whilst Henry Courtenay was the heir of the Earl of Devon, who had suffered a similar fate after the battle of Towton 1461. Their judges at their trial in Salisbury were Richard, Duke of Gloucester, William, Earl of Arundel, Anthony Wydeville, Lord Scales, John Lord Audley, John, Lord Stourton and Humphrey, Lord Stafford of Southwick. They were all found guilty of treason, and they too suffered the hideous fate of traitors.

Just how much solid evidence was there against all these people? Probably there was some in the cases of Treasham, Hungerford and Courtenay. They were committed Lancastrians or came from families with a long history of support for Lancaster. Against this, Lord Stafford could scarcely be said to be a disinterested judge; he nurtured ambitions to became the Earl of Devon, and may be supposed to have been anxious to eliminate a possible rival. But Plummer and Cook seem to have been firm and loyal Yorkists for many years, and Cook in particular appears only to have been included because he was the object of Wydeville greed. This suspicion is increased when Hawkins, who provided the only evidence against him, retracted his allegations before his death. Poynings and Alford would have been kept too busy by the Duchess of Norfolk to have had time to get into any mischief, while Steers' guilt would appear to have been one of past association. Perhaps he did no more than talk fondly about old times in the service of a previous employer, and this was picked up by a malicious ear. Even in the 15th-century, it must have been apparent that evidence obtained by the use of torture is unreliable evidence. Such however was the paranoia of the time that any accusation, however flimsy and far fetched, was enough to condemn.

Harlech Castle

After a long and at time gallant resistance, Harlech finally surrendered to Herbert on 14th August 1468. Herbert, as cruel a man as John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, executed some of his particular enemies and sent the rest, some 50 captives, in chains to London. Richard Wydeville, Earl Rivers, took the opportunity to dispose of two against whom he entertained a fierce animosity, and handed the rest over to the King. Edward dispatched a few more, but took others into his service. What he did with them may be seen in Chapter . Herbert himself was rewarded for his services in a fitting fashion. He was promoted to the vacant Earldom of Pembroke, formerly Jasper's title.

Copyright Michael D. Miller 2003