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

Michael D. Miller

Chapter 69: The Re-Adeption: October 1470 - March 1471


Events in England

Apart from reinstating King Henry VI, there was much work to be done, and George, Duke of Clarence and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, had every reason to be grateful to Dr John Morton, and John Fortescue, the previous Chief Justice who had landed with them in Dartmouth. Hastening to London, they had occupied themselves with the myriad details of government which had to be attended to. George Neville, Archbishop of York, was re-appointed the Chancellor. John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, became the Constable. Sir John Langstrother found himself once again the Treasurer. Warwick took for himself the office of Lieutenant and Protector of the Realm until Parliament could meet, and had his position as Captain of Calais confirmed. All the judges had to be re-appointed. A new coinage had to be struck, this time with King Henry VI's head upon it; the existing coins would in course of time be gathered in and re-struck so that even the memory of King Edward IV would fade and forever disappear. Finally, Summonses and Writs were issued to call Parliament together at Westminster on 26th November.

So much for the civil side. Soon after his own arrival in London, Warwick had had to take urgent measures to quell disorder in the City. As soon as the news reached the City that Edward had fled, there was uproar. Some unknown hands had opened the prison gates, and the criminal element of the populace had taken the opportunity to rob, rape and murder.

Bands of marauders were roaming the streets, and nobody seemed able to stop them. Some rioters from Kent joined in, and several of the outlying suburbs beyond the City Walls were ransacked. Warwick acted ruthlessly in restoring order, and soon the many gibbets were tenanted by the robbers his men had caught. Even so, armed citizens had to patrol the streets for some time to reinforce the grim warning that the dangling corpses gave to anybody who was disposed to break the King's Peace.

Warwick was under no illusions about his difficulties.

He now served an imbecile King who was totally incapable of using the Royal Power, and who was rather unkindly, if not totally untruthfully, described as:-

".....a stufted woolsack, a shadow on a wall..... a crowned calf..."

[Chastellain v 490]

and he had himself to exercise the Royal Power without being a crowned and anointed King. A percipient Spanish correspondent, writing from Bruges on 19th January 1471, remarked that Queen Margaret could have helped him if only she returned to England. She at least was a Queen, and her delay in returning was very dangerous. Her return however would pose other problems, and neither Margaret nor Warwick wanted her to return. As Margaret saw it, she would have to bring the young Prince Edward with her, and she did not trust Warwick sufficiently where her son was concerned.

She preferred that the Dukes of Somerset and Exeter, who had shared her exile at Kouer-La-Petite, should first make their own return, and re-establish themselves to a sufficient degree to protect the Prince from any designs which Warwick may have on him. Warwick in his turn was content that Margaret and the Prince should remain out of the country. The Common People still loathed and distrusted her, and Prince Edward was now 17 years of age; if his father died, he would be old enough to reign in his own right without a Regency, and he was thus similarly old enough to take over Warwick's own office of Protector.

Warwick was also aware that both Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (his title was at last recognised, something King Edward IV had always refused to do), and Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, heartily detested him. Edmund's brother Henry, the previous Duke, had been beheaded after the battle of Hexham 1464,  [page ] and Edmund had in no way forgotten the feud that had existed between the Beauforts and the Nevilles for as long as men could remember. Henry Holland had much resented the fact that Warwick had been a most successful Lord Admiral, whereas he had been singularly ineffectual. The two Dukes did return in February 1471, bringing with them a large retinue, principally returning exiles. Exeter set himself up in his huge City mansion in Coldharbour, from whence he proposed to view the present position. The first piece of news greatly incensed him; on 2nd January, Warwick had been re-appointed Lord Admiral.

Warwick was further very conscious of possible difficulties with his son-in-law, the unstable Clarence. A Throne and a Crown had been dangled before George's eyes, only to be snatched away again. The returning Lancastrian Lords would despise George as a turncoat, and a prominent member of the loathed clan of York at that, and if they took any notice of him at all, it would be to demand the return of their lands which George now occupied. He had held the Post of Lieutenant of Ireland (he had done neither good nor harm there) under King Edward IV, and he was now re-appointed as a useful bolt-hole. Warwick probably knew, or at least guessed, that Clarence was under great pressure to return to the Yorkist fold. His own Mother Cecille, Proud Cis or the Red Rose of Raby and herself a Neville by birth, never ceased to berate him for the atrocious way he had treated his two brothers. His three sisters, Margaret Duchess of Burgundy, Anne Duchess of Exeter (a most independently minded lady, not in the least overawed by her husband's extreme Lancastrian sympathies), and Elizabeth Duchess of Suffolk added their voices to the chorus that he should come to his senses. So did his aunt, Isabel, Countess of Essex in the most forthright terms. William, Lord Hastings, using gentler terms than the ladies had employed, also wrote to him from his exile in Holland begging him to see the error of his ways. Warwick could see the necessity of protecting Clarence not only from his enemies, but from himself as well, but there was a greater worry; unless Clarence's life was made tolerable with offices, appointments and wealth, he might well decide that he had no other option but to return whence he had come.

[According to the "Historie", some others added their voices - Cardinal Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, "my Lord of Bathe", probably Robert Stillington, and Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex]

Parliament duly met on 26th November 1470. Its business was short and to the point, seeing nothing objectionable in the courses agreed between Queen Margaret and Warwick in Angers the previous July. The Chancellor, George Neville, had opened King Edward IV's first Parliament in 1461 with a text chosen from the Book of Jeremiah. He now found something suitable from the same source:-

"Return, Oh ye revolting children, saith the Lord, for I am your husband; and I will take you, one of a city, and two of a kindred, and will bring you unto Sion"

King Edward IV was declared a traitor and an usurper, and all his goods and lands were forfeited. All his Statutes were repealed. King Henry VI was declared the rightful King, and if the young Prince Edward should die without issue of his own, then Clarence and his male heirs should succeed. All Acts of Attainder against the Lancastrian Lords were reversed, but their lands and properties were not immediately restored to them; Warwick, with an eye to the hostility he could expect from them, was anxious not to dispossess the present owners on the basis that, if there was trouble, they would have no option but to support him. Warwick must now share the office of Protector of the Realm with Clarence.

These measures considerably strengthened Warwick's position in an otherwise unpromising political scene, and it it worth noting which of the Lords were summoned to this Parliament. All the Prelates were sent summonses as were the Dukes of Norfolk, Suffolk and Clarence, the Marquis "de Montacute" (obviously John Neville), 7 Earls and 23 Barons.

[Parry - Parliaments and Councils of England p 192] This was well below the usual number, and the Dukes of Somerset and Exeter, who were at this time still in France, were not even summoned. Clearly their disruptive influence was not wanted.

The Re-Adeption was not a happy or settled time in England, and the spectre of invasion hung over everyone and everything. Edward was not the man who would tamely accept the position, and it was only to be expected that such a vigorous man would, by hook or by crook, somehow gather together men, money and ships to fight to regain his Crown.

John de Vere, Earl of Oxford and John, Lord Scrope of Bolton, an old Yorkist who had been badly wounded at the battle of Towton 1461 but an equally old adherent of Warwick's, watched East Anglia, the point of greatest danger.

John Neville watched the North, whilst Jasper Tudor kept watch in his native Wales. Warwick himself kept watch in the South. It was a very tense time for Lancaster.

In some quarters, not all was doom and gloom, and at least some were happy. Already on 12th October 1470 John Paston, as greedy and as opportunistic as any member of the nobility, had written gleefully to his mother that John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk would shortly have to disgorge Caistor Castle. When Oxford set himself up once more in his ancestral Castle of Hedingham in Essex and called his affinity around him, John hastened to join him and remind him of his grievance. Oxford was delighted to oblige him, and Mowbray was ordered to hand Caistor Castle back to the Pastons. With even greater glee John reported how the proud and haughty Duke of Norfolk and his equally formidable Duchess Elizabeth, who was none other than the daughter of that formidable warrior 'Old Talbot' of the French Wars, were now forced to bow and scrape before the Earl of Oxford. This gave John much malicious pleasure.

Events in France and Burgundy

King Edward IV made good his escape from King's Lynn during the last few days of September 1470. Sailing in an easterly direction and scarcely knowing where they were going, the three small ships were crammed with men. Commyngs' estimates vary between 800 or 900 and 1500, but these figures seem to be an exaggeration. They were Edward's followers who felt they had good reason to be fearful of Warwick's vengeance; those who had no such reason had been left behind. Dressed only in the clothes in which they had fled from Doncaster, they had scarcely a penny piece between them. Half way across the North Sea, they fell in with some vessels of the Hansa League which, mistaking them for English pirates, gave chase. They made for the nearest port to seek safety, and this happened to be Alkmaar in the Friesian Islands. They were unable to enter on the low tide, and the Germans closed in menacingly. As luck would have it, Louis de Bruges, Seigneur de Gruthuyse, the Governor of Holland happened to be in the Town. Gruthuyse was an old friend, who had once scolded the Scots Queen Mary for supporting Lancaster, [page ] and had since been a member of Burgundian embassies to London. He had many happy memories of the Yorkist Court. On finding out who was on board the ships, Gruthuyse promptly went on board himself and sternly bade the Germans to leave them alone.

Gruthuyse was a generous host to a friend in trouble.

He accommodated Edward and his following in his splendid mansion in Bruges, feeling that friendship demanded this, and that his Master, Charles-the-Bold, Duke of Burgundy, would expect him to look after his brother-in-law. Edward was so poor that he could only give the shipmaster his ermine lined cloak, promising a more fitting recompense at a later date. Charles' welcome of his brother-in-law was however not quite so effusive, and he bade Edward to stay away from his Court. The first news to reach him had indicated that Edward was dead, and according to Commyngs, this did not worry him at all, because he preferred Lancaster to York. Once he found out that Edward was alive and well and living in Bruges, he realised that he had a very tricky situation on his hands. As he assured the Dukes of Somerset and Exeter, who were then at his Court as his guests, he only desired to live at peace with England within the framework of the existing treaties. Edward's presence was an unwelcome complication. He steadfastly refused even to consider giving Edward any help, in spite of the pleadings of his Duchess Margaret, although he did contribute towards Gruthuyse's expenses of maintaining him.

Charles' prevarication's during the period of the Re-Adeption may be explained by this almost desperate desire for peace with England, and he may have allowed himself to be mislead by Commyngs' report on his visit to Calais in October 1470. [Commyngs 1 245-256] Commyngs had been sent to Calais by Charles, who said that he had urgent need to be served in this way. It is strange indeed that Charles, who greatly feared Warwick, did not send an embassy to London to discuss things with the centre-point of the English government, but was content with a report from an outpost.

Commyngs found that every man in Calais was wearing Warwick's livery. This was not to be wondered at so far as the soldiers were concerned; Warwick was their Captain.

What was more surprising were the white crosses painted everywhere as emblems of Warwick's new unity with France.

The senior officer in the Town was still John, Lord Wenlock, and he invited Commyngs to dine with him and his officers.

All were wearing Warwick's emblem in their caps. Some were fashioned in gold, and those who had not been so provident wore cloth emblems hastily embroidered by their wives. Rather shamefacedly, they admitted putting on these emblems as soon as the flight of King Edward IV became known to them. After their treatment of Warwick the previous April,   [page ] they obviously felt they had some difficult explanations to give.

Commyngs found that they believed that Edward was dead, and although he well knew that Edward was still alive, he did not disabuse them. Would England continue to observe the existing treaties with Burgundy? Assuredly so, answered Wenlock, they were solemn and binding treaties made between Nations, and were more than mere agreements made between individuals. Would Burgundy recognise King Henry VI? Certainly, replied Commyngs, Burgundy would recognise the King whom the English chose.

Charles was overjoyed to receive Commyngs' report. He only wished to conciliate Warwick and live at peace, and in October 1470 he felt at ease with the situation. His peace of mind did not last for long. He relied on the Treaty of Peronne, which he had made a few years previously with King Louis XI, to keep the French in check. This Treaty bound both France and Burgundy to live at peace, and only recently Louis had shown that he attached great importance to its terms when Charles had complained about Warwick's piracy. [page] Undeniably, Charles was singularly naive about Louis and the way that he would probably react to the new circumstances. Louis had an evil name, in which he took some pride and for which he felt no shame, for his deviousness and for his habit of breaking his solemnly plighted bargains.

Usually Louis was very cautious in the way that he indulged himself in both these characteristics, and never entered on any course of deceit without the most careful consideration.

He had welcomed the return of the friendlier Lancaster in place of the markedly hostile York, but now he embarked, most rashly, upon a course which was to ensure that Lancaster could not survive.

To Louis' mind, he had already shown goodwill towards England when, on 14th October, he had proclaimed the removal of all existing prohibitions on trade with the English. On 13th November, his embassy, headed by Sir John Monypeny, arrived in London and proposed to Warwick an offensive alliance against Burgundy. [Waurin - Cronicques ed Dupont iii 199/200] Neither France nor England were to make peace without the consent of the other. Once Burgundy was subdued, Holland and Zealand were to be Warwick's share of the spoils. This seems to have taken the English government, still newly fledged and struggling to find its feet, by surprise. Although Louis had made no secret of his hostility to Burgundy, or of his desire for revenge on Charles-the-Bold for the part he had played in the 1465 praguerie which had so humiliated him, no such proposition had been discussed at Angers in July. Warwick would have told Monypeny that after the recent upheavals, England was in no position to engage in a foreign war. Maybe she could find a few soldiers, but politically the country was still in a very parlous state.

There was currently no public support for an attack upon Burgundy, and it was extremely doubtful if there ever would be. This was borne out when news of what Monypeny was suggesting reached the ears of the City and the Calais merchants. There was a veritable storm of protest over the disruption of the wool trade which would ruin not only the merchants, but also the farmers and their workpeople whose livelihoods depended upon it. It would be a disaster for the Southern half of the country. Warwick, anxious not to upset Louis or the wool trade, gave a temporising answer rather than an outright refusal.

Louis regarded this as a poor return for all the help he had given to Lancaster, but he had another string to his bow. At the end of November, he decreed three days of thanksgiving in Paris to celebrate Lancaster's return, and naturally Queen Margaret and her son, Edward, Prince of Wales were invited. Probably the Dukes of Somerset and Exeter, still at this time in France or Burgundy, were also bidden.

After some magnificent religious services, Louis placed before the callow 17-year old Prince a treaty of offensive alliance against Burgundy, and invited him to seal it as a deputy for his father. The Prince, lacking disinterested advice, duly did so on 28th November. [Commyngs-Lenglet supplement and 89; Waurin ed Dupont iii 52, 59] Thus Warwick's worst fears for the future of his Protectorship were realised.

Louis then moved swiftly to force the English hand. On 3rd December 1470 he denounced the Treaty of Peronne, and on the 10th he invaded Burgundian territory, seizing St Quentin and attacking the towns of Page, Mondidier and Amiens. Charles was now greatly alarmed, and protested to England that all he wanted was peace. For another month he persisted before he belatedly realised that his policy of appeasement was not going to work, and that he must have recourse to other means. In January 1471, he finally sent for Edward.

Edward and his companions in exile had been greatly impressed by all they had seen in Holland. The magnificent buildings and the beautiful cities with their carefully crafted canals and their well laid out gardens amazed them. The product of the wealth made by the trading of the Dutch, the Italians and the Germans who had thronged here to do business in Bruges, The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam they found overwhelming. They were used to London, a magnificent City in its own right and one of the foremost cities of Christendom, but London was essentially a workshop whose din of trade and manufacture never ceased. Here in Flanders they saw peaceful and gracious living at its best. They only had to enter the churches to see the paintings of the new breed of masters, particularly Hans Memling, who were active in the mid 15th-century. These were things they scarcely even knew existed, and the wealth and power of the citizens astounded them. The books too were breathtaking in their beauty; copied out on vellum and illustrated with fantastic miniatures, they more resembled jewels than books. After his exile, Edward began to collect them. Good music was not unknown to them as Edward liked it and music was one of the joys of his own Court; Burgundian music however excelled, and was one of the countries marvels. Not even all this prepared them for the splendours of the Burgundian Court, the most magnificent of Europe, surpassing even the glittering Court which Edward had kept. Charles and his Duchess, Edward's own sister, were brilliantly attired, and the courtiers vied with each other in the splendour of their dress, being always careful never to outshine the Duke and the Duchess.

Edward and his followers, thanks to the generosity of Gruthuyse, were solemnly and properly dressed when on 2nd January they appeared at the Burgundian Court. It would never have done for them to appear before the Duke as the scarecrows who had landed at Alkmaar three months before.

Charles took Edward to one side, and listened patiently whilst Edward reminded him that they were brothers of each others Orders, the Goldern Fleece and the Garter, and reproached him gently for not coming to the aid of a brother in distress as his oath bound him to do. Charles, equally gently, explained that things were not quite as simple as Edward made them out to be, but that he was now resolved to help him. The greatest secrecy of the source of this help must be maintained - Charles must not be seen by Warwick or by Louis to be giving help to the Yorkist exile. He had a difficult diplomatic game to play, and it would complicate things for him if his help became public knowledge - he must always be in a position to deny it. Ships would be chartered to carry Edward and his army to England by Charles' agents, but if any questions were asked, Charles would disown his agents activities. Edward was free to start recruiting soldiers and purchasing equipment for them, and Charles advanced him a huge sum of money for this purpose. Otherwise it was Edward and Edward alone who was putting this expedition in hand. Charles could not be involved.

Due to the help Charles had given him, Edward started the process of getting the expedition ready. Letters were written to the exiles' friends and affinities in England warning them to be ready. This was a very risky business,  because the government could seize correspondence and things could go very badly for any addressee. It seems there was no untoward event, and that the letters reached their destinations to give warning that all must be prepared for Edward's early return. This was particularly true of William,  Lord Hastings' affinity in the Midlands, whose readiness and strength was to prove crucial to Edward at a dangerous time. Another correspondent appears to have been Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. ["Historie of the Arrival of Edward IV in England" (C.S.)] The Percies had always been Lancastrian sympathisers, but according to the "Historie", this Percy was to give Edward some very valuable service. [page ] Soon men and ships began to gather in Flushing, and by 2nd March, everything was ready for Edward to embark. Bad weather and contrary winds prevented a departure before 11th March, but on that day the wind set fair for England, and the 4 ships belonging to Charles, accompanied by 14 others which had been chartered, set their sails and steered for East Anglia.

It was originally intended to land at Cromer in Norfolk, but the scouts that Edward sent ashore advised against it. The Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk had been ordered to attend Court so that an eye could be kept on them. Oxford's brother Thomas de Vere had a considerable force nearby, and was marching to oppose the landing. Setting a northerly course, Edward headed for the Yorkshire coast. His ships ran into a gale which lasted for two days, and it was the 14th March before he could land at Ravenspur on the very spot where, 72 years before, Henry of Bolingbroke had made his own landing.

Six months after he had left as a fugitive, King Edward IV had returned to claim his Throne. It needed no prescience to see that this would be a desperate fight.

Copyright Michael D. Miller 2003