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

Michael D. Miller

Chapter 68: Queen Margaret is reconciled to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: May to October 1470

 

Warwick and Clarence in France

King Louis XI had been very badly shaken by the aggressive intentions expressed in the 1468 Parliament and by the ring of steel that King Edward IV had succeeded in erecting around France. It had even been publicly stated that Edward intended to invade France [page ] and if he did, it was reasonable to suppose that Burgundy and Brittany would join him as his allies. Already there had been some ominous moves which had looked threatening; at the end of 1468 a force of English archers had been sent to bolster the forces of Francis, Duke of Brittany, at whose Court Louis' own brother, Charles, Duc de Berri, was openly advocating an attack upon France. An English fleet, commanded by Anthony Wydeville, Lord Scales had prowled off the Breton and French coasts, apparently in support of an impending Breton attack.

Nothing had come of these moves, because King Edward IV, what-ever he may have said in public, did not really intend an attack upon France. What he did succeed in doing was to frighten the argumentative French nobles into dropping their differences for the moment and rallying around the French Throne. Dissident they may have been, but they could agree upon one thing; an English invasion had to be resisted.

Louis had followed with great interest the military and political events in England during 1469, the year of the proposed invasion, and 1470. It was with great relief that he saw Warwick and Edward falling out with each other. He knew that in spite of everything, Warwick still enjoyed immense prestige in England, and could count on a considerable number of people rallying to his standard should he once again set foot on English soil. Now Warwick and Clarence had sought refuge in France. They needed help, and Louis was resolved to give it. Military help was easy enough to arrange, but on its own it would not suffice. They also needed political help. The Yorkist dynasty had proved most unfriendly to France. Its re-placement by the Lancastrian dynasty was obviously most desirable. This presented greater difficulties because in May 1470, it seemed most unlikely that Queen Margaret, still in her exile at Kouer-La-Petite, would ever agree to trust Warwick or to work with him, an essential to any such re-placement. If the Devil had a persona on earth, then in her eyes, that person was the Earl of Warwick, the author of all Lancaster's misfortunes. To her, the man was anathema.

Louis was determined to address himself to a difficult task, and now he had a stroke of luck. John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, fearing for his safety after the rebuff he had received from Edward when he had tried to attend Court, [page ] and not welcoming a probable enquiry into any part that he had played in Warwick's and Clarence's recent adventures, fled to France for refuge. Surely Queen Margaret would listen to him, because his family had suffered so much in the cause of Lancaster; his father and elder brother had been beheaded as traitors in 1462. [page ]

The Milanese Ambassador kept the Duke of Milan closely informed of the momentous events at the French Court during the summer of 1470 by his dispatches dated 2nd, 12th, and 29th June, and 20th and 24th July. The Ambassadors style with his pen was short and to the point, and because his missives were so laconic, it is necessary to read closely between the lines to give them amplification. He never hesitated to report on events in England when they reached his ears but, since he rarely if ever quoted sources, these must be regarded as hearsay or perhaps even anecdote. Now however he was at the very centre of events, and may even have witnessed some of them.

By 2nd June, King Louis XI was making it clear that he was prepared to help Warwick and Clarence, and was even talking of the possibility of the marriage of Margaret's son, the young Prince Edward to Warwick's second daughter Anne. On 8th June, Warwick and Clarence arrived at the French Court, and were received in a royal fashion. They were welcome guests, and feasts and tournaments were held in their honour. Louis held long planning meetings in the privacy of their rooms, and made it clear that he was ready to give them all the help they needed. He soon found that Warwick's mind had been moving on the same lines as his own, that the Lancastrians must replace the Yorkists, and agreement was rapidly reached on all points. There was one hitch. Warwick, seeing the need for ships, had been adding to his small squadron by out-right piracy. Some of the seized ships had flown the Burgundian flag, and soon there was an outraged protest from Charles-the-Bold. Louis suggested that Warwick should shift his centre of operations to the Channel Islands, but Warwick refused to go to Sark or Guernsey, or even to abandon his piratical activities. All that Louis could do was to make humble apologies and offer compensation, and these were added reasons to hasten Warwick's expedition on its way. [The account of the meeting between Margaret and Warwick is given by John Stow, a 16th-century antiquarian who transcribed many documents which have since been lost]

Queen Margaret had been summoned to the French Court, and on 12th June, Warwick and Clarence left with their entourage, which included their own wives and 'the future Princess Anne'. Louis, probably assisted by Oxford, did not want them in the neighbourhood when he embarked on the very difficult course of persuading and convincing Margaret that there was little prospect of a restoration of the Lancastrian dynasty, and of her son's sacred inheritance,  unless she was prepared to trust and work with Warwick.

Warwick could see the force of this argument, and was quite prepared to remove himself a little distance from Angers so that Louis could do his work without the embarrassment of his presence. Margaret arrived at Court on 25th June, and commented acidly on the honours now paid to her after so many years of neglect. Louis cannot have been surprised to hear her say this, or to find her 'hard and difficult' to convince. He knew, and she knew, that there was virtually no prospect of a Lancastrian restoration without Warwick's help, and both knew that she would have to gather all her superb courage to master the distaste of a meeting and a reconciliation with this hateful man. Nonetheless, Louis made such progress with her that she agreed to do all that was suggested, but on one point she was absolutely adamant; the young Prince Edward would not sail with Warwick, because she could never trust him that far. The 17-year old Prince, anxious to fight and do daring deeds on the battlefield, was mortified, and incessantly begged his mother to change her mind, but to no avail. This was a small point, and Louis was content to give way.[According to Giovanni Pietro Panicharola's letter dated February 1467 to the Duke and Duchess of Milan, young Edward was a blood-thirsty youth of 13 who talked of nothing but battles and cutting off heads. Panicharola also described an acrimonious dinner party conversation between King Louis XI and John, Duke of Calabria who told Louis in no uncertain terms that his lack of support for his sister was a disgrace]

By 20th July, Louis, and possibly Oxford as well, had worn Margaret down to such an extent that she now agreed to a reconciliation, without which nothing could be done to restore the House of Lancaster. She still wished to demonstrate to all the World how much she detested Warwick, and what a lot she had to forgive. Summoned back to Angers, Warwick arrived on 22nd July and that same day was ushered into Queen Margaret's presence. Well instructed by Louis what he must do and say, Warwick went down on his knees before her to implore forgiveness for all the wrongs he had done to her and to her family. Margaret, determined not to make things any easier for him, regarded him sourly and had some questions to ask. What explanation could he give for taking up arms against his lawful King? Warwick had none to give, and could only implore her pardon for fighting Lancaster. What about all her friends that he had butchered?

Again Warwick could only beseech her pardon. What had he to say about the many imputations upon her honour, and the aspersions that her son was illegitimate? This time Warwick's glib politician's tongue let the words slip off.

They had not really been meant, they were merely politics.

When Margaret judged that this charade had gone on for long enough to impress all who witnessed it that forgiveness was no easy matter, she invited Warwick to give an oath of fealty to King Henry VI, to herself and to her son, and to do homage to her as the representative of the absent King Henry. He did all that she bade him do. She then told him to to rise to his feet and kiss her hand as a token of his oath and her forgiveness. Again Warwick complied, and the reconciliation, an uneasy process for both, was as complete as it was ever likely to be.

At the beginning of August, the two young people, Prince Edward and Anne were formally betrothed. It was probably not a full marriage service, which could wait until later, and anyway betrothal was at the time regarded as fully binding as a formal service of marriage. Louis had been as good as his word, and ships, money and men were provided in abundance.

The expedition could not leave at once, as Harfleur was blockaded by a Burgundian squadron to prevent it from sailing. A gale blew the Burgundian ships away, and the expedition could proceed on its short voyage. On 13th September 1470, Warwick landed his men at Plymouth and Dartmouth. Many exiles accompanied him, notably George, Duke of Clarence, Jasper Tudor, the attainted Earl of Pembroke, John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and Thomas Neville, the illegitimate son of that old warrior William Fauconberge, the Earl of Kent until his death in 1463. Prince Edward, much to his disgust, remained tied to his mother's apron strings in France.

One curious incident is reported by Comines. [Memoires ed Dupont 1 241/242] Whilst in France, Clarence was approached by an unnamed lady who had come under the guise of a new serving woman to wait upon his Duchess. She carried a message from his brother King Edward IV, which appealed to family ties and promised forgiveness if Clarence would return to the Yorkist fold. Even Clarence must have seen that by now Warwick's idea of putting him on the English Throne was impossible of achievement; anyway, Warwick now had a much better candidate, King Henry VI himself. His future in an England ruled by the Lancastrians was bleak indeed, and he had well and truly burnt his boats with the Yorkists. He had ample cause to be very grateful for the lifeline thrown to him by the brother he had treated so abominably. He replied that he could not slip away at once - he was too closely watched - but that as soon as he set foot on English soil once again and opportunity offered, he would return to Edward. In this respect, he did keep his word.

King Edward IV in England

Edward had stayed in the South of the country for most of the summer of 1470, keeping watch for a landing by Warwick. His own efficient intelligence service kept him advised of what was going on in France, and was supplemented by a steady stream of messages from Charles-the-Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Edward even asked Charles to keep Burgundian vessels at sea to capture Warwick once he had been driven out of England. It would be better still not to let him land in the first place was Charles' tart comment.

This was easier said than done, because there were several places where Warwick might attempt a landing. Kent, where Warwick had always been popular, might tempt him, although the County was generally Yorkist in its sympathies and was close to the Yorkist stronghold of London. There was the South-West where there were many Lancastrian supporters, and much Lancastrian sympathy after the atrocious behaviour of John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, earlier in the year. [page ] The Lancastrians had their adherents in East Anglia, but John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk and John de La Pole, Duke of Suffolk should manage to keep an adequate watch in those parts. Wales had always been strongly Lancastrian and was a very likely landing place. There had always been strong Lancastrian feelings in the North, hitherto kept in check by the Neville influence; now that the two were, for once, combined, it could be regarded as especially dangerous. It was however difficult to reach. If Warwick attempted to make for the east coast of Yorkshire, he ran the risk of attack by Burgundian ships. If he should attempt to land in Lancashire, he would have to run the gauntlet of Ireland, which was generally well disposed towards the Yorkists.

In late August or early September 1470 Henry, Baron Fitz-Hugh, at Warwick's urging, began a rebellion in the North. The Fitz-Hughes were known Lancastrians, and Henry had fought for Lancaster at the Second battle of St Albans 1461.

Subsequently, he had made his peace with Edward, and his title had been restored. Edward regarded any rebellion in the North as especially dangerous, however small it may have been, and was not altogether certain what attitude Henry Percy, the recently restored Earl of Northumberland, would take. He therefore marched north to stamp it out. Fitz-Hugh, his purpose achieved, slipped over the border into Scotland and safety. Edward decided to remain in the North, to let Warwick land, and then march to bring him to battle and defeat him. He had a poor opinion of Warwick as a commander and thought that he would have no real difficulty in doing so. Meanwhile, his very presence in the North would keep it quiet.

Edward was at York when the news of Warwick's landing reached him. He immediately advanced to Doncaster and bade John Neville, now Marquis Montague, to join him there from Pontefract with the main body of the Royalist army. He was now to find that he had tried John's innate sense of loyalty too far, and was to pay the penalty for doing so.

Throughout the summer of 1470, John had been in an agony of indecision. Much as he had tried to do so, he could no longer refuse to accept that his two brothers were traitors.

George Neville was an Archbishop, and as such Edward could not touch him; he could be safely left to make his peace with Edward in due course, and thus wipe out the stigma of treason. But Richard Neville, the 'Great Earl' of Warwick, had risen in arms again, and Edward had no option but to hunt him down and kill him in battle or else behead him as a traitor. Enough has already been said of John's sense of loyalty,  [page ] and to attach the odious description of traitor to his brother was more than he could bear. John himself had always given his soldier's simple loyalty to his Sovereign and old friend, but could he continue to do so, and assist Edward in bringing his brother to justice and the the block? Did not family ties count for something?

Now John could see a way out of this dilemma. There was still a lawful King, presently confined in the Tower of London, to whom John owed much. King Henry VI had saved his life after the Second battle of St Albans 1461,  [page ] and in times past he had been Henry's Chamberlain and had shared his innermost thoughts with him. Had he been right to fight against Henry for so long in the interests of Henry's usurper? Perhaps his brother was right after all to raise the standard of revolt against Edward.

Amid the jumble and contradictions of all these thoughts, one undoubted fact intruded. King Edward IV had wronged him grievously in depriving him of the Earldom of Northumberland. Loyalty was after all a two way virtue, and Edward had betrayed him. This should release him from any obligation to Edward. By the time he set out from Pontefract to join Edward, he had made up his mind. He would support his lawful King Henry VI and his brother Warwick.

Warkworth's Chronicle [pp 10-12] recites a not improbable account of what happened next. Within a short distance of his destination, the town of Doncaster, John halted his march and made a speech to his men. Putting it in words that he judged they could understand and would accept, he related the story how he had been deprived of the Earldom of Northumberland which had been given to 'Herry Percy', whose father had died fighting for Lancaster. Now he was merely:-

".....Markes of Montagu" (with) "a pyes [magpie's] neste to mayntene his astate with....."

He would therefore join his brother Warwick and arrest Edward and all his friends. Nobody should desert him for Edward, who had only a small force with him and was in no position to give him battle.

King Edward IV flies to Holland - September 1470

Word of what John Neville was proposing to do reached Edward in the nick of time. By the light of the torches in his Doncaster lodging, Edward was woken by his Sergeant of Minstrels, Alexander Carlisle who, brushing aside the alarmed Hastings, brought him the dreadful news that he was about to be arrested. There was not a moment to lose. Soon all was confusion and shouting as men dressed hurriedly, put on their armour, grabbed weapons and whatever valuables lay to hand and saddled their horses. Then they rode hastily away through the autumn night towards the safety of the Lincolnshire coast. This was a risky route to take, since Lincolnshire had not yet settled down after the recent rebellion, and Edward was easily recognisable from his great height; anybody could have taken his revenge. Riding hard for safety, Edward and his men made a daring night crossing of the Wash sands at low tide. Some men were lost to the sea and the treacherous sands before they reached King's Lynn, where they crowded into 3 small ships, one English and two Burgundian, whose Masters were prepared to sail at once for Holland. Not everyone could go, and Edward bade those who ran no risk of Warwick's vengeance to go to their homes and await better times.

It is not related why John Neville did not persue Edward with any vigour to catch such an easy quarry. Possibly he could not face the almost certain death of an old friend, however badly he had treated him. Perhaps he could not wholly trust the temper of his men in this volta-face of what they had been mustered for and what they were supposed to be doing. Certainly they were confused by this sudden change. Either reason could suffice to explain why he let Edward escape, perhaps even sending him a warning of what was about to happen.

Thus Edward went into exile as so many others had done before him during the Wars of the Roses. Although others would join him later, it was only a small band that accompanied him - his ever loyal brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the ever faithful William, Lord Hastings, Anthony Wydeville, Lord Scales who, since the death of his father, was now Earl Rivers and William Fenys, Lord Say and Sele. They left their wives behind with an easy conscience; it was not then customary to make war on women or to punish them because their husbands had been on the losing side of medieval politics. Queen Elizabeth took sanctuary, as so many others had done before her, in Westminster Abbey. There she bore the first of the sons of her marriage. She named him Edward after his father.

Restoration of King Henry VI

The semi imbecile King Henry VI had not been unhappy during his imprisonment in the Tower of London, even though his jailers had neglected him so that he was:-

".....noght worschupfully arayed as a prince, and noght so clenly kepte as schuld seme suche a Prince....."

[Warkworth's Chronicle pp 10-12]

Henry had never taken any care with his appearance, and the cleanliness point is strange bearing in mind the general levels of hygiene of the age. He was perfectly content with his books and his devotions and these had kept him busy. He had always yearned for the monastic life, and whilst the Tower could not by any stretch of the imagination be called a monastery, it was an excellent substitute to those who were not concerned with the finer details. He had enjoyed contentment and peace of mind, possibly the only prisoner in that grim fortress who had ever done so.

Now at the beginning of October 1470, a very strange thing happened. Some great lords had appeared in his humble cell and had bowed low before him. They took him to some more sumptuous apartments, in fact those recently vacated by Queen Elizabeth, and there they had washed him and dressed him in splendid robes. Then, with every mark of reverence, they conducted him through the Tower's gates, beyond which he had not set foot for five years, to Westminster Palace. There they had seated him on the Throne and placed a crown on his head. It was heavy, and it made his head ache. A tremendous celebratory anthem rent the air, and it deafened him. It was all very strange, and it evoked some dim and distant memories of old unhappy far off times, now more than half forgotten, where this sort of thing went on for most of the time. Why was all this happening? What did it all mean? Could they not see that he only wanted to go back to the peace and quiet of his cell in the Tower? It was all very bemusing.

If King Henry VI was bemused, so also was the populace, and it was fully in possession of its wits. First they had had a weak King, and neither the countries affairs nor their own had prospered. Then they had had a strong King who had promised them peace and plenty. Neither had materialised, and instead there had been continuous upheaval with one battle after another. They had been promised that lawlessness and piracy would be put down. Neither were, and although some highly successful measures had been taken against piracy, these had been spasmodic and not sustained.

Forgetting that it was their own representatives who had voted them in the 1468 Parliament, they had much resented some heavy taxes for which they could see neither necessity nor benefit. The strong King had had his favourites just as the weak King had done, and the Wydevilles and Herberts had been every bit as venal as the Suffolks and the Beauforts of an earlier generation. What had changed? Precious little that the common man and woman could see. If they had to have a King, then it might just as well be the weak Henry as the strong Edward. Besides, Edward had fled. It might have been different if Edward's standard was still flying to which they could rally. As things were, all they could now do was what they always had done, to accept their lot and get on with their lives as best they could.

The Re-Adeption as it became known, lasted from October 1470 until May 1471, when the returning Edward swept the last remnants of the Lancasters from England at the battle of Tewkesbury. There may have been many Yorkist supporters who shook in their shoes, and many City merchants who grieved for the loans they had made, seeing scant chance of repayment. They need not have worried, because Warwick set his mind firmly against widespread vengeance. He did allow the new Constable, John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, his head in one particular instance. John was determined to avenge the deaths of his father and elder brother in 1462,  [page ] and hailed before his Constable's Court John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, who had presided over the same Court which had condemned them to a shameful death some eight years before.

Tiptoft may have been a man of letters and a patron of the arts, but he was much hated for his cruelty, and it was a popular execution. Tiptoft, jaunty and full of bravado to the last, bade his executioner sever his head with three strokes, one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Ghost.

Copyright Michael D. Miller 2003