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

Michael D. Miller

Chapter 71: Yorkist Rule: 1471 - 1483


For the ordinary man and woman, the last 12 years of King Edward IV's reign were far more peaceful than anything they had known for many years. There were no big battles, and whilst there was much political turmoil, it was confined to the Court circles and, in general, it did not immediately affect those outside it. There were some local uprisings, but these were of small account and were easily put down. Lawlessness continued to be a problem, but later in the 1470s, the government at last took some steps to suppress it; even if these were not as effective as they could have been, it was at least a move in the right direction. People will always grumble about taxation, and taxes to pay for the 1475 expedition to France were very heavy. Taken all-in-all however, this was a peaceful period which compared very favourably with the upheavals of the last 16 years. With peace came a revival of trade. Men grew rich and were able to increase their wealth, happy in the knowledge that King Edward IV sat securely on his Throne and would give them the good (if not perfect) government for which they had yearned for so long.

Some great things were happening in England as anybody with eyes to see could see for himself. The English genius for prodigious building, something which they had learnt from their Norman and Angevin ancestors, was given full rein, even though it had never really ceased during the recent troubled years. An artistically minded King had always enjoyed music, and with his encouragement it became more within people's reach. Edward would have liked to see the art of painting, which had so marvelled him in Flanders, introduced in England, but this had to wait until the next century. The most notable achievement was the introduction of the art of printing to England. William Caxton, although an Englishman, had worked in Germany and Bruges were the art was already far advanced. With the encouragement of the King and Anthony Wydeville, Earl Rivers, he brought it to England. Already the first book ever to be printed in English, "Recuyell of the Histories of Troy" had made its appearance in 1474. "The game and playe of the Chesse", "Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers", which Earl Rivers had translated from French, "Moral Proverbs", and Caxton's Chronicle followed in rapid succession.

If the ordinary man and woman had much for which to be thankful, even if they did not always acknowledge it, the same could not be said of their King. From first to last he was beset by problems which he did not always tackle wisely.

He learnt in full measure the burden of Kingship as King Henry V expressed it the night before the battle of Agincourt:-

"The slave, a member of the country's peace,

"Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wots

"What watch the King keeps to maintain the Peace,

"Whose hours the peasant best advantages."

[King Henry V Act IV Sc 1 lines 287-290 by William Shakespeare]

To begin with, in 1471 Edward was not universally popular. Whilst he retained his god-like appearance and still looked every inch a King, and whilst he was justly known for his willingness to listen attentively to anyone who had some problem, his private life offended many. The Courts of the Lancastrian Kings had the model of their King's virtuous life, and were at least presented with the example of rectitude. Edward's Court took pride in its lasciviousness, and the King himself set the tone. The writer of a lampoon put these words into his mouth:-

"I promesse the good Lorde my lyffe to amende,

"I knolege me a synner wrappid in woo."

[Political Poems ii pp 275]

A brief survey of Yorkist and Lancastrian support in about 1460 is given elsewhere. [pages ] Since that time, much had changed. The Nevilles were now no more, and their influence in the North-West could no longer be counted upon. Deprived of their leaders, the people of the North-West were sullen and resentful, in fact an unknown quantity. Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland however, proved to be a tower of strength, even though his hated rival John Neville was dead and could no more challenge him for his Earldom. Not able to persuade the North to fight for Edward, he had at least persuaded it not to take up arms for Lancaster. Edward had expected trouble after the battle of Tewkesbury, and in mid-May 1471 had moved to Coventry to counter it. Instead, Henry Percy, unarmed and with only a small escort, had come to him to assure him that the North would remain quiet.

The South-West remained strongly Lancastrian, and bitterly resented the losses at Tewkesbury. Wales, Cheshire, and East Yorkshire were also generally Lancastrian in their outlook, whilst much bitterness remained in Lincolnshire after the rebellion in 1470. The Capital, East Anglia, the Southern Counties, and the East-Midlands were strongly Yorkist, but even here there were pockets of Lancastrian sympathy. The Yorkist Writ no longer ran as strongly in Kent as it once had done, as the County had just shown by its support for the Bastard of Fauconberge. John de Vere, Earl of Oxford had a strong following in East Anglia, and it could only be hoped that John de La Pole, Duke of Suffolk, John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk and Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex could contain it. It all remained to be seen.

The first and most urgent task was to re-construct the Government. Already on 1st May 1471, Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex had been re-appointed to the Treasury. Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells was re-appointed the Chancellor. Thomas Rotherham, Bishop of Rochester took over the Privy Seal. William, Lord Hastings was sent to secure Calais. Richard, Duke of Gloucester was given the task of pacifying the sensitive North-West, and for this purpose was given the old Neville strongholds of Middleham, Penrith and Sheriff-Hoton. The intention was to make him a power in the North. He was also appointed Justiciar of North and South Wales, although soon he was to relinquish these offices in favour of William Herbert, the new Earl of Pembroke and the son of the William who had been beheaded after the battle of Edgecote 1469,  [page ] and John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, the grandson of the formidable warrior of the War in France. Richard also became Great Chamberlain, although again he was only to hold this office for a short while. The King's new son Edward was only 8 months old when he was created Prince of Wales, and all the Great Magnates were required to swear a solemn oath that they recognised him as the King's heir.

The Church and the Law also received some attention. Doctor John Morton made his submission soon after the battle of Tewkesbury, and made no secret that he had done so because there was now no hope for Lancaster, and therefore no further reason to support their cause. The King, delighted to acquire his services at last, appointed him Master of the Rolls, one of the most senior judicial offices in the Land. Later, he appointed him Bishop of Ely, one of the most splendid Bishoprics in the country. The ex-Chief Justice, Sir John Fortescue, had been captured after Tewkesbury and for a while, the king had toyed with the proposal of cutting off his head. He then had a much better idea. Fortescue had published a tract on the supreme right of Lancaster to the Throne. He was told that the price of his freedom was a similar tract on the supreme right of the House of York.

With the easy conscience which most great lawyers seem to possess, he wrote it to the King's entire satisfaction. He was pardoned, and later on even became a member of the Council. George Neville, Archbishop of York, was released from the Tower and permitted to live quietly at Moor Park. Early in 1472, he went hunting with the King at Windsor, and many remarked that the King appeared to have forgiven him, so easy and relaxed was their relationship. A return invitation to hunt at Moor Park was accepted. On the day that the hunt was due to begin, the King sent for him, accused him of corresponding with the fugitive Earl of Oxford, and sent him back to the Tower. In April 1472, he was sent to Hammes, one of the Calais fortresses and the maximum security prison of the time. He was released in 1475, but he lived for only a few months. The rigour of his imprisonment had broken his health.

Finally, all the treaties with foreign countries were confirmed; they were asked to regard the Re-Adeption as though it had never been, and that business should continue as though there had been no such rude interruption.

Thomas Neville - the Bastard of Fauconberge

Things had not been quiet in the South-East whilst King Edward IV was engaged on the Tewkesbury campaign. Thomas was an illegitimate son of the notable warrior William, Lord Fauconberge, who had given such signal service at the battle of Towton 1461 and had died in 1463 as the Earl of Kent. With the death of his father, the Earldom had gone elsewhere and Thomas, as is the way with illegitimate children, found himself at a loose end. The Lord Admiral, at that time his natural uncle Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, had taken pity on the lad and had given him a naval command.

It turned out to be Thomas' forte. He had a natural talent for everything to do with ships and the sea and soon accumulated a degree of wealth by piracy, although Thomas would have preferred to call it privateering, or sea-robbery authorised by a commission. His uncle Warwick looked on approvingly - he too had once indulged in piracy. [pages ]

This method of making ones own way in the World naturally produced a romantic, swashbuckling and charismatic type of adventurer of a kind not uncommon in the 15th-century, or indeed in the 16th. Enraged by the death of his patron at Barnet, Thomas formed the quixotic desire to rescue King Henry VI from the Tower whilst King Edward IV was campaigning in the West Country. Having by some means persuaded some members of the Calais garrison to throw in their lot with him, he landed on the Kent coast about 5th May, the day after the battle of Tewkesbury was fought, and called on the Men of Kent to follow him.

He found himself pushing at an open door. Warwick had been revered in Kent, and his death was greatly resented, The Mayor of Canterbury, Nicholas Faunt, gave a lead and men flocked to join him. The men of Essex, with little persuasion, could be induced to join in a march on the City.

This was no rising in sympathy with Lancaster so far as the rank and file were concerned. They were simply anxious to get their hands into 'rich men's coffers', and the poorer Londoners would have joined them if they had been given the chance.

Unfortunately for Thomas, a redoubtable soldier had been left in charge of the Tower, Anthony Wydeville, Earl Rivers.

Under his lead, the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen closed the gates. On 12th May 1471, Thomas arrived in Southwark at the southern end of London Bridge to find the gate closed. Some of Thomas' ships had sailed up the Thames to add to his force, but he found that the citizens would not admit him. Resolving to attack London from the north bank, he then led his rabble along the river bank towards Kingston to cross by the bridges there. This was prevented by Rivers, whose men rowed up the river in boats, keeping pace with Thomas all the while, and by a force hurriedly dispatched by the King. Thomas gave up the idea and returned to Southwark. He was not discouraged however. With guns landed from his ships.he started a bombardment of the Southwark gate. His guns were silenced by the City's cannon, but not before they had battered down the gate.

There followed two days of bitter fighting on 14th and 15th May. Thomas' men actually fought their way as far as the drawbridge in the centre of London Bridge whilst the Essex men assaulted the City wall on the north bank. The Earl of Essex dispersed the northern assault with a force he had hastily raised, whilst Rivers lead the Tower garrison to drive the Men of Kent off London Bridge. This he did successfully, and Thomas withdrew to Shooters Hill. His men had had enough. In spite of his call for a renewed effort, they dispersed to their homes. Thomas took refuge on his ships in Sandwich and humbly sued for mercy.

London had had a bad fright, but all was quiet again when the King rode into the City in a triumphal procession on 21st May. He was not disposed to forgive Thomas, whose foray had caused much damage and destruction and dispatched Richard, Duke of Gloucester to accept his surrender. When Thomas heard who was coming to meet him, his heart, perhaps understandably, misgave him. He put to sea, but was soon apprehended off the Essex coast. Richard did not hurry himself. He took Thomas to Southampton and some other ports as an awful warning before taking him to Middleham where he cut off his head. In company with Nicholas Faunt's, it was sent to decorate London Bridge, with both faces turned pointedly towards Kent.

Edward himself went into Kent where he punished the rebels severely. Some were hanged to encourage the others to pay the fines which the King demanded before he would give them pardons. The King badly needed money, and the 2, 000 he gathered was a most welcome addition to the Treasury.

France and Burgundy

In Burgundy, the news of Edward's two victories at Barnet and Tewkesbury was received with rejoicing. Bonfires were lit, church bells were rung, and feasts were held in honour of the Yorkist triumph. The Milanese Ambassador to the French Court reported to the Duke of Milan that King Louis XI was horrified to hear of Lancaster's overthrow.

[Letters dated 19th June, 16th July and 11th September 1471]

He could see the ring of steel, which he had just tried to break, closing in upon him once more, and regarded with dismay the conjunction of Brittany in the West, Burgundy in the East, and England in the North. Louis seems to have panicked for a time, and his normally excellent ability to weigh the extent of any risk momentarily deserted him. If he had stopped to think for a moment, he would have seen that in 1471 England was in no position to launch an invasion of France to punish him for supporting Lancaster. Her Treasury was empty, her people were tired of fighting, and they were in no mood for a foreign war; without English participation, it was unlikely in the extreme that the other two would start hostilities. [There was one exception; see page ] In his anxiety, Louis toyed with the ideas of stirring the Scots into action, fomenting civil unrest in England, and mending relations with a marriage between the Royal Houses of France and England. He had a fixation that relations between England and Burgundy were very cool; Edward was said to have much resented his initial cold reception by Charles-the-Bold, Duke of Burgundy when he had first landed in Holland. According to the same source,  [Letter dated 23rd November 1475] Edward played shamelessly on this idee fixe during 1472, adding for good measure that he had found letters from Duke Charles to King Henry VI offering to hand him over as a prisoner. On the other hand, some war-like noises were heard from the Parliament that met in October 1472,  [page ]and an English invasion did indeed take place in 1475, but by then the circumstances had greatly altered; Charles-the-Bold's policy of the aggrandisement of Burgundy had effectively rendered it impossible for him to act as England's ally, and without Burgundy, England could not contemplate a war against France.

Duke Charles, who ever since his father's death in 1467, had ruled his Dukedom reasonably well, now began to prove how much he deserved his alternative nickname, Charles-the-Rash.

So extraordinary and so erratic were his doings, that he may be suspected of having become mentally unhinged. He formed the idea of reviving the old Kingdom of Burgundy, and this meant bringing the basins of the Rhone and the Rhine under his sway. He intended to do this by military conquest and by subduing the population by force and brutality rather than trying to win their hearts and minds. He began in 1472 by invading the Pays de Caux and devastating it. Louis, still in the grip of his fear of a war in which England might become involved, let him off lightly. He was to evacuate the territory, and a truce was agreed until 1st May 1475. Anxious to gain the support of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles then suggested a marriage between the Emperor's son Maximilian and his own heiress Mary of Burgundy in 1473. [Mary was the issue of an earlier marriage to that between Charles and King Edward IV' sister Margaret] The Emperor came to Treves to met Charles, but found him so impossibly arrogant that, once the treaty was signed, he pointedly left the room. The scene then shifted to Alsace, part of which had come to Charles peaceably when Sigismund of Austria had been unable to redeem a mortgage. Charles' governor, Peter de Hagenbach behaved so brutally towards the people that they rebelled and appealed to the people of the Upper Rhine to come to their help. This they did (with Louis' encouragement), and the Swiss joined them to capture and execute Hagenbach in mid-1474.

Charles, ignoring the plight of his deputy, attacked the territory of Cologne with the object of clearing his access to the Upper and Lower Rhine, and in July 1474 he laid siege to the town of Neuss. The town was gallantly defended, and resisted all Charles' efforts to take it until the Emperor came to its help in the spring of 1475. Charles would not listen to any offers of terms, and was driven away by the Emperor in June 1475. The Swiss meanwhile crossed their frontier and inflicted a resounding defeat on the Burgundian Marshal de Blamont. Louis took advantage of the ending of the truce on 1st May 1475 to capture some Burgundian border towns and defeat a Burgundian force at Chateau Chinon.

Before this catalogue of disasters was complete, Edward and Charles entered into a series of treaties, dated 25th, 26th, and 27th July 1474 for the conquest of France. These had been negotiated by Doctor John Morton during the first half of 1474.[Rymer XI 806/814] They read very much like the proposals of King Henry V some 60 years before. The French people were to be rescued from an intolerable tyranny, and Edward was to get Normandy and Acquitaine as his reward, whilst Charles was to take Bar, Champagne, Nivernais, Rethell, Eu, Guise, Douai, Tournai, Langres and Picquigny. Edward was to be crowned King of France (a title he already freely used) at Rheims. Hostilities were to begin in July 1475.

In order to keep the Scots quiet while he was away, Edward concluded a marriage treaty on 27th October 1474, by which the son and heir of King James, a bare 2 years-old, would marry his youngest daughter Cecile, who could presently boast 4 years. Relations with Scotland, apart from the occasional border raid, had been excellent since the 15-year truce was concluded in 1464. [page ] This was now extended until 1519. Rather more questionably, since his treaty with Duke Charles forbade it, he opened negotiations with King Louis XI for the marriage of the Dauphin to another of his ample supply of daughters, emphasising that he had a bone to pick with Duke Charles after his poor reception in Burgundy. The Milanese Ambassador reported [Letter dated 18th August 1474] that Edward's envoys were seen in private by Louis with only with only Sir William Monypeny, now Le Sieur de Concressault, present. There was a further proposal, that England and France should attack Burgundy, Edward's reward being a slice of territory equal to England's claims to part of France. Louis seems to have been unimpressed. He saw more clearly than did Edward that Duke Charles was now embarked on a course where his own destruction was assured. He did not need English help to get all of Burgundy when the time was ripe. He knew how to be patient.

At least Edward kept his side of the bargain with Duke Charles. According to Commyngs, who was at King Louis' XI side throughout the second half of 1475, the English army was a splendid force, lavishly equipped with all an army needed.

Duke Charles had provided from Holland a large number of certes, flat bottomed barges which were especially suitable for carrying horses. The English had such a large force that it took a full three weeks to cross to Calais, and Edward had assured peace at home by bringing all potential trouble-makers with him. By mid-July 1475, Edward was ready, and he sent Louis a message of defiance. Louis replied coolly that Edward would achieve little; the season was already far advanced, and Duke Charles had suffered such heavy losses at Neuss that the Burgundian army was incapable of any campaign. Why could England and France not live at peace?

He at least was ready to talk, and John, Lord Howard and Thomas, Lord Stanley could assist.

Eventually Duke Charles appeared, and Edward was far from pleased to see that he brought no troops with him. Where were they? Charles airily replied that they were in Lorraine, but would march to Laon to meet up with the English who should immediately march there. Edward agreed in spite of some misgivings among his own senior officers. He was greatly surprised when he found the gates of Peronne closed to him, and was even more disturbed when his vanguard was fired upon as it approached St-Quentin, killing some of his soldiers. He had been led to expect a friendlier reception from the Compte de St Pol, the intriguing and disloyal Constable of France. Now Duke Charles left him to rejoin his own army, also leaving the English to dispute the crossing of the River Somme with the French army on the opposite bank.

By now Edward began to share the doubts which were being expressed by his own commanders. Duke Charles was double-crossing him, and seemed intent on drawing him further inland with the object of getting him involved in his German adventures. The English knew that the Burgundians must have suffered severely at Neuss, but probably had no real idea of how huge their losses had been. They now began to suspect the truth, that the Burgundian army had been so decimated that it was incapable of fighting as England's ally. Edward's position was now impossible. He could not return home with nothing achieved after such huge expense. Whilst there was every reasonable expectation that he could defeat the French force opposed to him, one victory would not win a war, and it was totally unrealistic to engage in a French War without substantial help from the Burgundian army. When Louis sent a herald to him to suggest that terms could be reached, Edward gladly accepted the offer of a meeting.

French engineers and carpenters built a substantial bridge over the River Somme at Picquingy. A plank roof was added as protection against the weather (which was very wet), and also against any hail of arrows which the English archers might loose. A stout trellis was added at the middle point. An arm might be passed through, but it would prevent a sword thrust; nobody had forgotten the events on the bridge at Montereau when John-the-Fearless had been assassinated in 1419. [page ] On 29th August when all was ready, the Kings of England and France advanced to meet each other from their respective sides. Commyngs was much struck by the splendour of the English army, and by the appearance of their King. He had met Edward before, and described him as very tall and the handsomest Prince he had ever seen even if he was now a little stout. Gorgeously clad, he towered over the spider-like Louis, dressed as he always was in the simplest of raiment. Such meetings were never concluded quickly. There were elaborate ceremonies, and lengthy and tedious positions to state. Even so, agreement on the essentials was quickly reached. Louis, who had earlier stated that he would not yield one inch of French territory, got what he wanted. Edward who needed money, got what he needed. For 75, 000 crowns down and 50, 000 crowns a year, he was to leave France at once. There was to be a truce for seven years. A marriage was to be arranged between the Dauphin Charles and Edward's eldest daughter Elizabeth. A light hearted jest by Louis ended the proceedings. Edward should visit Paris where he could be assured of splendid entertainment and many ladies who were free with their favours. Edward smiled and bowed graciously. [Rymer XII pp 15/21 for the text of the treaty in Latin; a translation of its essential parts is given by Thornley's "England under the Yorkists" pp 99/103]

Louis was aware that some of the English Lords did not like what had been done, and took the trouble to bribe them handsomely. William, Lord Hastings was given a pension of 2, 000 crowns a year, although he always refused to sign any receipts. The Chancellor, Lord Howard and Lord Montgomery were given lavish presents. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the most vocal of the critics, was bought off with some silver plate and a superb horse. The English soldiers were not forgotten. They were treated to a street party in Amiens with venison patties and as much wine as they could drink. Edward was infuriated to see the state they had got themselves into, and ordered his officers to chase them back to their units.

Duke Charles, ignoring the fact that it was he who had placed Edward into an impossible position.had protested vehemently before the meeting on the bridge. When he found out what had been done there, he was beside himself with rage. He sent an embassy to try to persuade Edward to abandon the treaty, saying that much more could be achieved by force of arms. Edward, without reproaching Charles, politely refused. The Milanese Ambassador to the Burgundian Court, Giovanni Pannicharola, reported on Charles' furious ravings at Edward's perfidy. [Letter dated 22nd October 1475] The return of the expedition to England without a victory was bound to cause trouble there, and he would forment it. Edward sent an Ambassador to persuade him to adhere to the Treaty, something which its terms allowed. He was contemptuously dismissed after being treated to a tirade on Albion Perfide.

The English army returned to Dover and disbanded among much dissatisfaction with its meagre results. According to some sources, the opportunity was taken to throw overboard Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, and thus to get rid of an unwanted duke. Exeter had been a staunch Lancastrian in spite of his marriage to Anne, the King's eldest sister, but now that she had divorced him, he had become a nuisance. {For the controversy about Exeter's death, see pages ] Duke Charles, still seething with anger, resumed his project of re-establishing the old Kingdom of Burgundy.

At first he was successful, seizing Lorraine and compelling the surrender of Nancy. Soon a man might ride all the way from Holland to Lyons without ever leaving Burgundian territory. A sensible man would have been content to leave things as they were, but prudence and Duke Charles were strangers. Switzerland had been part of the old Kingdom, and anyway he was determined to punish the Swiss.

Twice, in late 1475 and in early 1476, he crossed the Jura mountains to attack them, and twice the formidable army of the Cantons threw him out. Lorraine rebelled, and with the help of a large contingent of Swiss, defeated the Burgundian army. In early January 1477, Charles-the-Bold, or Rash, was killed, and his naked body was found in a frozen ditch.

In February 1477, King Edward IV and his Council considered what should be done now that Duke Charles was no more. They concluded that friendly neutrality towards both Burgundy and France was called for. This prompted George, Duke of Clarence to suggest that, since he had recently become a widower, he should marry Duke Charles' heiress, Mary of Burgundy. Much to George's annoyance, [page ]Edward refused, preferring that she should marry Maximilian, the Emperor's son. This she did, and England once again had a Duke of Burgundy who was friendly towards her.

This did not avail England much, because King Louis XI now had King Edward IV exactly where he wanted him. He knew that Edward would not jeopardise the annual payment of 50, 000 crowns, and that he placed great reliance on the marriage agreement. Even here there was room for Louis to default, as in course of time, he fully intended to do. Meanwhile, secure in the knowledge that Edward would not interfere, he began annexing Burgundian provinces. He persuaded Maconnais, Charolais, Auxerrois and Bar-sur-Seine to accept his over-lordship on 29th January 1477, and the Franche-Comte followed suit on 19th February of the same year. Such parts of Picardy and Artois that he had not already seized did the same in the spring. There was some local objection, but by July 1479 all these provinces were reconciled to French rule. Although the provinces vital to the English wool trade remained under the suzerainty of Maxilmilian and Mary, Flanders, Brabant, Hainault, Holland, Zealand and Mechlin, Burgundy as she was known in the first 75 years of the 15th-century had ceased to exist. England's main ally against France was now a powerless rump. In July 1480, Edward's sister Margaret brought Maximilian with her to appeal to Edward, offering the hand of the young Compte Philip, Maximilian and Mary's small heir, to Anne, Edward's fourth daughter, and further offering to make good the loss of the 50, 000 crowns if only Edward would help to fight France. It was too late. Edward was obsessed with the prospect of marriage between the Royal Houses of France and England. There was no going back.

Edward's attitude led to disaster, and it seems that English diplomacy was no better in the late 1470s than it had been earlier in the century. In 1478, Edward was pressing for the formal betrothal of the Dauphin Charles to his daughter Elizabeth. Louis put him off by suggesting an extension of the Picquigny truce to 100 years, and a promise to pay the tribute during all that time. Documents to give this effect were signed in London in 1479, and this led to Mary of Burgundy's embassy to London in 1480. Such a lengthy truce was quite meaningless, and Edward should have smelt the rat. It is strange that Edward should now be so trusting; when he first came to the Throne in 1461, he had readily seen Louis for the slippery customer that he truly was. Now he seemed ready to trust him to keep his word. Any policy based on Louis' good faith was hardly a sound one, and Louis soon gave proof of this.

In 1482, Mary of Burgundy died from her injuries after a severe fall from her horse leaving two infant children, Philip and Margaret, who was only 3-years old. Maximilian wanted to enlist Edward's aid for a war with France, but his subjects forced his hand. The Dowager Duchess's embassy to London two years before had been a failure, and peace with the menacing power of France was what they wanted. Louis seized his chance. Louis proposed, and Maximilian was forced to accept, a marriage treaty between the Dauphin Charles and the infant Margaret. The Burgundian provinces which Louis had recently annexed were settled upon the happy pair with the full agreement of their own representatives. Burgundy, or what was left of it, was now fully within the French orbit, and there was no question of her ever again being England's ally.

King Louis XI died in August 1483, but he could die well contented. He had at last broken the ring of steel. Shortly before he died, he boasted, with every justification, that his father had had to fight, at enormous expense, to get the English to leave France. He on the other hand had bought them out from where they had no business to be at a fraction of the cost. In 1482, the annual payment of the 50, 000 crowns ceased. The French saw no further need for it.

George, Duke of Clarence

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick had been killed at the battle of Barnet 1471, and had left two daughters to succeed to his vast possessions. In the usual way Warwick should have been attainted, but there were special reasons why this did not happen; both the King's two brothers insisted on sharing the Warwick inheritance, and if Warwick had been attainted, his estates would have been forfeited to the Crown. The King could have made grants to his brothers, but such grants would have been at the mercy of future Resumption Statutes which Parliament may have forced on the King. [Chapter , also for a description of the shabby legal methods which were used see page ]

Isabel, the elder, was already married to George, whilst the younger daughter Anne was affianced, perhaps even married, to Edward, Prince of Wales who had perished at Tewkesbury. Immediately after this last battle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, with an eye to a share of the Warwick spoils,  had demanded the hand of Anne. King Edward IV may even have inspired the proposal because it would make it much easier to grant Richard the vast Warwick estates in the North-West with at least some assurance that the sullen Neville supporters in the region would accept Richard if he was accompanied by a Neville bride. Clarence was meanwhile given the Courtenay lands in Devon and Cornwall, and while there was still a resentful population to win over, it was a less sensitive part of the country.

This suggestion infuriated George who nurtured ambitions to inherit the whole of the Warwick estates. This was an odd idea, because where there were surviving daughters and no surviving son, they normally inherited equally. It was typical of George that he could not understand that his flirtation with Lancaster had invited a cloud of suspicion which contrasted most unfavourably with the steadfastly loyal record of his brother Richard. The two men cordially detested each other, each seeing the others faults. Richard regarded George as devious and untrustworthy, having contributed in no small measure to his own and the King's exile, and had even been chosen as a possible future Lancastrian King. [pages ] George saw his brother as an avaricious and unscrupulous upstart who would stop at nothing to get his way. There was ample justification for both opinions, and there is something ironic that each should have deplored such common contemporary defects of character in the other.

George moved first, seizing Anne and concealing her. Richard searched far and wide, and discovered her in London disguised as a kitchen maid. He carried her off to sanctuary at St Martins. Anne, grieving the loss of her young husband at Tewkesbury, was still very young herself, and seemed to have accepted this shuttling to-and-fro of her person without any of the protest that the ladies of the time were quite capable.

By the King's command, both brothers appeared before the Council to argue their cases in late 1471. They were still engaged in doing so in early 1472, exhibiting the pertinacity and skill of trained lawyers to an extent which astonished everyone. [Croyland's Chronicle pp 557] In February 1472 the King intervened to impose a settlement in the interests of compelling his brothers to live at peace. It is possible to see the hand of William, Lord Hastings here as one of the King's chief advisers and friends. Richard was allowed to marry Anne, and was given a large share of the Warwick estates, including those in the vital North-West. He was appointed Constable of England, and Warden of the Forests north of the River Trent. Edward wanted him to become a real power in the North. He had to relinquish the office of Great Chamberlain to George, who was further appointed King's Lieutenant in Ireland for 20 years. George was also given the Earldoms of Warwick and Salisbury, and won a pledge that the King intended to take nothing away from him.

This eminently sensible arrangement was satisfactory to Richard, and for all that Shakespeare says, to the meek and docile Anne as well. In the annals of history, she appears as a colourless person of little character, but it does seem that she had a contented and secure life with Richard, and that he was devoted to her. George on the other hand was furious, and continued to harry the King and Richard, who at first merely laughed at their brother's antics. Things took a different turn when the Resumption Act 1473 obliged George to surrender Tutbury Castle in Shropshire. He was furious at this minuscule loss from his huge estates, and in November 1473, Sir John Paston wrote [Paston Letters iii 85, 98] that George was making himself as big as he could to deal with Richard. Men were even sending for their armour. This was an especially dangerous time because John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was still in possession of St Michael's Mount and it was commonly thought that Clarence was in league with him. [page ]The Papal Envoy, Pietro Aliprando, thought the situation so tense that he feared that the King may be unseated by his brother George if he did not watch his back. This the King fully understood. He sent for both his brothers, and told them in no uncertain terms that he would tolerate no trouble from either of them. He could be terrible in his rage, and for a while, this seemed to have the desired effect.

On 21st December 1476, George's Duchess Isabel died while giving birth to their fourth child,  The baby, a small boy, followed her to the grave a few days later. George, who adored her in his own strange way, was inconsolable. Isabel, although she had long since ceased to be amazed at anything her husband did, had exercised some restraining influence upon him whilst she was alive and had discouraged his more extreme escapades. Now with her death, any connection with reality to which George could lay claim departed with her. Charles-the-Bold, Duke of Burgundy, was killed in battle in early January 1477,   [page ] and George proposed to the King that he should marry Charles' heiress, Mary of Burgundy. Since Mary was the issue of an earlier marriage to that of his sister Margaret, there was no bar.

The Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, Margaret, warmly supported the idea. George was her favourite brother, and she had always had a soft spot for him, preferring him to her other two brothers. To George's chagrin, Edward forbade the match.

Things were already difficult enough with Burgundy, and he did not want any family ties to complicate things still further. King Louis XI was already beginning his annexations,   [page ]and he did not want to have to support a brother. He much preferred that Maximilian, the Emperor's son, should marry Mary, and Burgundy would become the Emperor's problem rather than his.

Predictably, George refused to understand the King's reasons and was much affronted. He was not even consoled by the thought that Queen Elizabeth's suggestion, that the hand of her brother, Anthony Wydeville, Earl Rivers (also a widower by now) should be offered to Mary of Burgundy, was refused for the same reasons. George now chose to blame the sorcery of the Queen, supplemented by poison, for Isabel's death. Unable to touch the Queen, he laid hands on one of the late Duchesses attendants, an elderly and harmless widow named Ankarette Twynyho. He dragged off this unfortunate lady from her home in Somerset, where she was living in obscurity, to his town of Warwick. There she and one John Thuresbury, who was supposed to have poisoned the infant, were tried for witchcraft and murder by the Justices of the Peace. Brow-beaten by George, they found Ankarette and John guilty. The Queen did her best to save them by taking out an order of certiorari to remove their case to the London Courts. George was too quick for her, and in April 1477, the unfortunate pair were hanged before it could be served.

The Queen retaliated in kind. An Oxford man, John Stacey, was arrested and charged with sorcery. Under torture, he implicated one of George's closest friends, Thomas Burdet. They were said to have forecast the King's early death, and to have tried to bring it about by witch-craft, if only to confirm their own predictions. They were tried at Westminster, found guilty, and hanged on 20th May 1477.

Thus far the score appeared to be even, but on 21st May George stormed into a Council meeting with Doctor William Goddard, and insisted that the astonished Council members should hear Goddard read out the condemned men's protestations of their innocence. Goddard was not a happy choice. During the Re-Adeption, he had preached a famous sermon on the undoubted rights of Lancaster to the Throne.

The sermon had been forgiven, but by no means forgotten. The King, who was not present, was furious at this imputation against his justice.

By now, George's antics had gone too far, and Edward decided that he had to put a stop to them. Edward's mind turned back onto some curious marriage proposals he had received from Scotland earlier in 1477. The Duke of Albany, the ambitious brother of King James III, wanted to marry Margaret, the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy. Did King Edward IV approve? King James himself had proposed that George should marry his sister, also Margaret. Did the English King approve of this as well? Edward had refused both suggestions, not wanting a close alliance between Scotland and what remained of Burgundy. In any case, Scotland was a close ally of France, and heaven alone knew where this might lead. The proposals, whilst strange, had seemed innocuous enough, but now Edward began to wonder whether George, disappointed of Mary of Burgundy's hand, had inspired them behind his back. There was also the curious development in 1474 where John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, had forsaken piracy, where he was completely mobile, for the static position of occupying St Michael's Mount. [page ]He was bound to be starved out in time, but why had he done this? Was it the case that George, with his high-blown ambitions to be King, had put him up to it with rebellion in mind?

There was no evidence that George had conspired with the Scots or with the Earl of Oxford, and none has since come to light. He may or may not have done so, but with his long record of treachery, it was enough that Edward strongly suspected that he had. Edward had never tolerated treachery, and he did not propose to begin doing so now. The actual date is uncertain, but it may have been 4th August 1477 that King Edward IV summoned George before him, and in the presence of the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen, arrested him and sent him to the Tower.

This turn of events caused consternation, and nowhere more so than with their mother, Cecile Neville, or 'Proud Cis' and their sister, Margaret, the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy.

They begged Edward to be merciful; George was not a bad boy really, just rather foolish and easily led astray. Edward was adamant that he must stand trial, whose form gave him much concern. Normally.George should be tried by a number of his peers, but with the King's long record of forgiveness of his erring brother, no one would willing to risk incurring George's enmity in the future. The King therefore decided to proceed by way of Act of Attainder, and Parliament was summoned for this purpose on 14th January 1478.

The scene was a hideous one. Edward prosecuted his brother in person, reciting all George's treachery with Lancaster before 1471. He readily acknowledged that George had been pardoned, but wanted Parliament to be aware of the true nature of the accused. The charges of his behaviour since 1471 were a mish-mash of allegations. George had slandered the King by saying he:-

"wroght by Nygromanye and used crafte to poyson his Sujettes"

and that the King was illegitimate:-

"and not begottene to reigne upon us."

The King's Justice had been impugned by George's actions in the Stacey and Burdet case. George had gathered discontented people about him, and made them swear oaths of allegiance to him. He also carried with him copies of the agreement with Queen Margaret that in certain circumstances he would become King, [page ] and the Re-Adeption Statute which gave it effect. Finally, he (Edward) could not maintain peace in the Realm if such as George were allowed to remain within it doing their evil deeds. Various witnesses were called, but they were well schooled in what they must say, and seemed more like prosecutors themselves, merely adding to the chorus of condemnation. George defend himself in person with great spirit, several times casting grave doubt on the King's allegations. It is notable that nothing was said about conspiring with the Scots or with the Earl of Oxford, and nothing was mentioned about the judicial murders of Ankarette Twynyho and John Thuresbury. Perhaps too many of the Lords had uneasy consciences on similar happenings.

The Bill was passed by a packed House, but the sentence of death was deferred to a Court of Chivalry presided over by Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. No lover of George, he did everything that was required of him. The King made a suitable show of reluctance over signing the death warrant beyond conceding that the execution would not be in public.

It seems reasonably certain that George met his end in the Tower on 18th February 1478, but the manner of his death is shrouded in mystery. The contemporary writers are unanimous that he was drowned in a butt of malmsey wine. They could not really have known, because the Tower had always hidden its dark secrets well. Possibly this story was government propaganda, put about to trivialise a horrible crime; even the 15th-century regarded fratricide with abhorrence. It seems difficult to accept that anyone was willing to sacrifice a valuable butt of wine when other cheaper means lay readily to hand, but George, who was apparently offered a choice, is said to have chosen this method of meeting his death. Who was George's executioner is also unknown. Again, Richard, Duke of Gloucester attracts some suspicion, but Richard was always very good at covering his tracks. One thing is known about Richard; he did protest volubly about George's impending execution and did everything he could to persuade the implacable King to pardon him. He made no secret of the fact that he believed George was the victim of Wydeville vengeance for the executions of Richard and John Wydeville after the battle of Edgecote 1469, beheadings ordered by Warwick with whom George was then in league. Possibly William, Lord Hastings took it upon himself to oblige an old friend and relieve him of a painful duty. There were others who might have been involved for variety of reasons, none of which would do them any credit. The crime however must always remain Edward's and Edward's alone. He could have commuted George's sentence into one of banishment, but there is a possible reason why he chose not to take this course.

Edward's son and heir was an 8-year old boy, also Edward. With such an unreliable character as George still in the land of the living, could anyone say that this child would have been equal to the problems which George would pose, particularly in his ambition, by hook or by crook, to become King? Edward, who may have had some premonition of an early death, preferred to leave the assurance of the succession to such trusty people as Richard, Duke of Gloucester and William, Lord Hastings. How his trust was abused in a vile fashion belongs to a later chapter.

Parliament and Taxation

After the battle of Tewkesbury 1471, King Edward IV made a firm resolution that 'the King would live of his own',  [For the meaning of this expression see page ] and the normal expenses of running the country would be met from 'the King's own' and not from money raised by taxing his subjects. With the estates of the attainted Lancastrians which had been forfeited to the Crown and the Customs Revenues which had been given to him for life, he had every reasonable expectation that he would achieve this. It is true that Edward was a man who liked his fun, but he was frugal by nature, and without being in any way mean, he was careful with money. He had a dislike of great state occasions which were enormously expensive, and the splendid entertainment of Louis de Gruthuyse when he visited England in 1472, a man to whom he was greatly indebted, seems to have been the exception rather than the rule. There were however occasions when money was badly needed, such as the months immediately after the battle of Tewkesbury when the Treasury was empty, and the finance for the proposed war with France which 'the Kings own' could not possibly provide. The money had to be raised elsewhere, and it is the purpose of this section to describe how Edward went about it.

King Louis XI had been quite wrong to anticipate an English invasion of France in 1471, but he was right in the longer term; there was such an invasion in 1475. There was however a difference between this invasion and those earlier in the century. Edward did not propose to repeat the mistake of his Lancastrian predecessors and start military operations without the necessary money to sustain them. He would only make his move with a full war chest and with the money actually in his hands and readily available. Waurin remarked dryly that no medieval English King could rule his Realm without a foreign war, and that invariably meant attacking France. Commyngs noted with much approval that an English King could not tax his subjects without the prior consent of the Common House which would examine closely the need for the money. He went on to say that where an attack upon France was contemplated, then the necessary money was always freely voted. As the reader will know and the following account will illustrate, this was not the invariable truth.

The first Parliament after the battle of Tewkesbury was summoned to meet at Westminster on 6th October 1472. It was to continue its sittings until it was finally dissolved on 14th March 1475. Edward continued the practice of the 1460s of keeping his Parliaments in being for years with frequent prorogation's and adjournments rather than dissolving one Parliament and calling another. He wanted some continuity, and he was determined that, whether it liked it or not, Parliament was going to vote him a realistic sum to prosecute the proposed war. The impression is given that he was going to keep the Members sitting until they did give him the money he wanted. There was to be no escape from the treadmill until they had agreed to do so.

The Chancellor, Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, was in poor health so his deputy John Alcock, Bishop of Rochester gave the opening address. The King proposed to wage war against France with the aim of recovering those parts of France which had previously been English possessions. Parliament was receptive to the idea, and took as its yardstick the wages of 13, 000 archers for a year. Later on, it was to have every reason bitterly to regret having done so. At a daily rate of 6d for each man, the total came to the staggering figure of 118, 625, a sum which it seems not to have appreciated. As a further example of its poor arithmetic, it seems to have thought that the money could be raised by a form of income tax at 10% for a single year, even though the effectiveness of such a tax was extremely doubtful. [page ] If the army had not sailed by the autumn of 1474, the money was to be repaid. In the meantime, it was not to go into the Treasury where it would be mixed up with the other Royal monies, but was to be paid to Special Commissioners. Even the Lords waived their normal exemption from taxation, and declared their willingness to pay it as well. During the session in February 1473,

Parliament seems to have concluded, without much by way of figures to guide it, that its basis of taxation was insufficient, and it voted more.

The King was quite satisfied with the yardstick of the pay of 13, 000 archers for a year, but he at any rate could see that the taxes levied would produce nowhere near the required sum. Bishop Stillington was still unwell, and Edward thought that his deputy, Alcock, had been less than satisfactory in his handling of Parliament. If the King could understand the figures, it seems that Alcock either could not or would not, and even less could he be expected to get Parliament to grasp them. Edward therefore appointed another Chancellor, Lawrence Booth, Bishop of Durham in the hope that he could do better. The understanding of figures and the information from which they came was not a strong point in the 15th-century, and if the King had a natural aptitude, it did not necessarily extend to others. Bishop Booth turned out to be no better than Bishop Alcock, and the 0ctober 1473 session of Parliament made no new grant. Some substantial business was conducted however. The recent treaty with the Hansa League was ratified, thus bringing an end to a long-standing dispute. There was a sweeping Resumption Act which required the King to resume his gifts of Royal lands. The King appended 221 provisos which saved the lands of the Court circle with one exception. George, Duke of Clarence, to his immense indignation, had to surrender Tutbury Castle.

The King persisted, but Bishop Booth still failed to get the grants that the King needed in January and May 1474,  although some interesting legislation was passed during the latter session. The settlement reached between Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester [page ] concerning the division of the Warwick estates, to which their wives were the heiresses, needed some improvement, and this was achieved by some disgraceful legislation. Their wives mother Anne,  the Dowager Countess of Warwick, was living at Middleham under Richard's somewhat dubious protection, and whilst she was alive, there was some hitch to the titles. This was surmounted by enacting:-

"as yf the seid Countes were now naturally dede"

This confirmed the two daughters, Isabel and Anne, and thus their husbands, in their titles. Something more needed to be done for Richard. In the haste and the confusion of the 1472 settlement, he had married Anne without the Pope's dispensation. This was necessary as they were cousins, and George had foreseen this [page ] when he had married Isabel in 1469. In Richard's case, it had either been forgotten or simply dispensed with. If the Pope now ruled that Richard's marriage was illegal, he could still keep his share of the Warwick spoils.

Desirable as these measures may have been, they still did nothing to get the King the money he needed. He therefore sacked Bishop Booth, and appointed the formidable Thomas Rotherham, by now Bishop of Lincoln, in his place. Bishop Rotherham was a far abler man, and he was able to understand the facts and figures explained to him by the King without becoming mesmerised by them. Moreover, he was able to explain them to others, and during the June 1474 session, he did so with considerable effect. [In his later years, Rotherham seems to have lost his decisive qualities - see pages ]

Bishop Rotherham pointed out to Parliament that the taxes were coming in very slowly. Some counties had so far made no effort to collect them, and they should be penalised for late payment. Even when all the arrears had been collected, only half of the money for the archers wages for one year would be available. Parliament seems never to have appreciated this before, and it also seems that little or no attempt had previously been made to explain it in a comprehensible form. The Common House now had cause to regret fixing the yardstick, 13, 000 archers wages for one year at so high a level, and one which they would have the greatest difficulty in reaching. Nevertheless the King held them to it, and Bishop Rotherham explained that extra taxes would have to be assessed on goods, chattels and rents on which taxes had already been levied. Even those who were normally considered to be too poor to pay taxation must contribute. A schedule was drawn up, listing what was expected from each county and borough. The taxes were to be collected one-half at mid-summer, and the remainder at Martinmas 1475,  [This later instalment was subsequently excused] and again they were to be paid to the Special Commissioners. The latest sailing date was now fixed at mid-summer 1476. The Clergy had not been forgotten. Only the two Convocations could tax them, and they were squeezed without mercy by the King until Canterbury had contributed 3 1/2 tenths and the usually parsimonious York 2 tenths within a space of three years.

This heavy and merciless taxation caused widespread dismay and resentment among the population, and the only solace was that it was all for a good cause, namely hammering the French. Margaret Paston wrote that the taxes and 'benevolences' [pages ] had impoverished East Anglia, and doubtless the same was true of other parts of the Country.

John Paston, writing in 1473 to a relative who was a member of the Common House, had this to say even before Bishop Rotherham appeared on the scene:-

"God send yew...rather the Devyll in the Parlement House.....we sey, then ye shold grante eny more taskys..."

Well might the King have come to the Common House on 18th July 1474 to express his 'immense gratitude' for the taxes, gained for him by the formidable personality of Bishop Rotherham. He may have been determined not to undertake a foreign war without adequate resources, something which had led to the downfall of his Lancastrian predecessors, but his taxes had almost beggared his subjects. There was a hitch. The Special Commissioners had invested some of the money unwisely and there had been some loss. There had also been some embezzlement. The King angrily told the Commissioners to make the losses good on pain of his severe displeasure, and it appears that this was done.

There were two other Parliaments during the remaining years of King Edward IV's life. One, in January 1478, was assembled for the purpose if trying George, Duke of Clarence and no taxation was asked for. With his annual tribute of 50, 000 crowns paid by France, the King was well able 'to live of his own', and there was no need to tax his subjects. The other, in January 1483, was summoned in the wake of the recent Scottish war, when the French tribute had ceased. Then some taxation was granted, apparently without too much opposition.

Edward had other ways of raising money, and some were perfectly legal. His encyclopaedic memory was of great assistance, and it was said that he had a clear recollection of all that his nobles and gentry owned. Some "fines" (these were civil and not criminal by nature) were payable on certain transactions with land and the marriage of wards. As often as not, these were simply not paid in the hope that with the passing of time, they would fade into obscurity. This was a vain expectation, because Edward himself examined the papers, and if the fine was not paid, the King's Officers would be instructed to collect it together with a penalty.

Edward gained the reputation of a hard worker even if he was given to roistering around the town, drinking far too much and rejoicing in the company of ladies of easy virtue.

The so-called "Benevolences" were not legal. A Lancastrian Statute provided that people were not to be forced to make gifts or advance loans against their will. Undeterred by legalistic quibbles, Edward set the stage most carefully. He 'resumed' some of his Crown grants, and here the Resumption Act 1473 was a great help. Those who were unaffected or were protected by the 221 provisos he had added to the Act, were summoned into his presence, and were asked what they were prepared to give or 'lend' to their needy King. A scribe would be in attendance to record all that was said. A figure would be mentioned, to be rewarded by an angry scowl and an assertion that somebody far poorer had offered twice as much. Edward, for all his affable and open friendly ways, could be terrifying when he chose to be, and the now frightened victim was soon induced into parting with a far greater sum. None were exempt from this treatment, not even poor yeomen whom the King met during his travels. Edward could, when he so chose, show a kindlier side. An Italian merchant living in London, Battesta Oldovini de Brugnato, wrote to a friend in Milan during 1475. The malicious pleasure with which he saw his English neighbours being summoned to the King's presence is unmistakable; he wrote that they looked like men going to the gallows. On their return however they seemed elated. The King had addressed so many kind words to them, and seemed to have valued their friendship for so many years, that they did not resent the money they had paid him. de Brugnato's relish can be seen in his final remark that the King had plucked the feathers from the magpie without causing him to cry in pain. There is even a story which, if true, shows that the King was not always given to intimidation. A rich and attractive City lady tendered 20. She was rewarded with a lovers kiss, whereupon she gave a further 20

John de Vere, Earl of Oxford

John escaped from the disaster of Barnet, and did not fight at Tewkesbury. Instead he lived to play a vital role in the return of Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII, to England and the battle of Bosworth 1485. He survived this battle, and later became one of the leading figures of Tudor England. We must now examine the life and adventures of a man who played such an important part in the downfall of the House of York.

John made his way to Scotland which he reached safely.

His Countess Elizabeth sought sanctuary in St Martin's, and while it was a relief to John that she was safe, it was clear that she would have to stay there for some time. In the meantime, what should he do?

Undoubtedly John toyed with the idea of making his peace with King Edward IV, whose tolerance towards Lancastrian Lords who submitted to him was well known, but the idea was rejected almost as soon as it had entered his mind. John had never forgiven Edward for the executions of his father and elder brother Aubrey in 1462,  [page ] and too much had happened since to make the thought of service with Edward anything other than repugnant. Instead he approached King Louis XI, hoping that he would find service with him. Louis, still in the grip of the fear of an imminent English invasion, appears to have given him substantial help, since in April 1473, Sir John Paston reported him to be in Dieppe with a dozen ships. Sir John went on to say that there were many rumours in London that there would shortly be a rebellion. [Letter dated 16th April 1473] He did not say, and probably could not safely do so, that George, Duke of Clarence would be the man to raise the standard of revolt, but Clarence was widely known to be disgruntled and restless. There may have been something more than mere rumour, because the Milanese Ambassador to the French Court reported in July 1473 that John had shown Louis a document, signed by 24 English Lords 'and one Duke', pledging support to a rebellion. They had even appended their seals. Louis must have thought this document to be a forgery; it was much too risky to sign, let alone seal, such a document, and he refused to advance any money for 'a war'.

John had to maintain himself and his ships, and in the spring and summer of 1473, he took to piracy. He met with considerable success, sending the captured English and Burgundian vessels to be sold in Scotland until the Scots, receiving English protests, put a stop to any further sales.

After 6 months of successful sea-robbery, he sacrificed his mobility as a pirate by taking a very odd step for which we have no explanation. On 30th September 1473, he seized St Michael's Mount, a crag which stands off the Cornish coast opposite Marazion. Was there now some indication from Louis that he now intended to provide an invasion force? Was Clarence now on the verge of an imminent rebellion? Or was John hoping to force the hands of both of them? Did he think it too risky to continue being a pirate? Pirates captured in the 15th-century received very short shrift, being either hanged out of hand or simply thrown into the sea. We have no real idea of his motives, but one point can be made; Clarence now held all the old Courtenay lands in Devon and Cornwall and was the local Great Magnate.

King Edward IV ordered that St Michael's Mount had to be retaken. This was never going to be easy, because the Mount was almost impregnable. Surrounded by the sea, with only one causeway to the mainland covered by the tide for all but 4 hours each day, a few men could hold it and its castle against thousands. Edward's choice of a team to besiege it was far from happy. John Fortescue, the sheriff of Cornwall, owed his primary loyalties to Cornwall, a part of the Country which had never accepted the concept of a distant and remote King in London, and was permanently at loggerheads with the Royal Power. If the interests of the King and Cornwall conflicted, then those of Cornwall predominated. Sir John Arundel, a staunch Lancastrian, was still smarting from the heavy fines he had been forced to pay for fighting for Lancaster. Sir Henry Bodrugan had remained a feudal baron in a sense that had largely (but not entirely) disappeared in the rest of the Country. Barons good, barons bad, Bodrugan was one of the very worst. His depredations had ruined Cornish trade. No merchant could ship Cornish produce, and no foreign ship dared to put into a Cornish port to trade. There had over the years been a legion of complaints about his activities, murder, rape, arson, expropriation and a lot more besides. They had never done any good. Bodrugan was safe in the bosom of his own private Mafia and thrived, virtually untouchable.

Bodrugan took a liking to John; any enemy of the King was his friend. Periodically there would some fighting, which was never very enthusiastic, and then they would go hunting and roistering together. The King sent artillery, but no serious attempt was made to use it effectively. Eventually Edward, tiring of the slow process of the siege, sent for Fortescue and gave him a good talking to. Then he sent him back to Cornwall with a satchel full of blank forms of pardon. They only needed a name and a date to be complete.

This was a timely move. Many of John's men had deserted him, deciding that life was much more fun and infinitely more rewarding with Bodrugan and his hoodlums. Most of the remainder, fearing that they had been abandoned and forgotten, gladly accepted the King's pardon. John had recently sent his brother Robert to beg Louis for help, but Louis, feeling that he had already spent enough on somebody

whom he did not see as another King-maker, refused. This increased their sense of isolation. With only eight men left, John was forced to surrender on 15th February 1474.

Doctor Warkworth remarked with much relish that if John had not surrendered, his own men would have brought him out as a prisoner. He also added to his account a 15th-century proverb whose relevance is not totally clear, although it does indicate that ladies in the 15th-century were not as submissive as they are commonly represented:-

"A castle that speaketh, and a woman that will hear, they be gained both."

The King's pardons granted John, his three brothers George, Thomas and Robert, and William, Viscount Beaumont their lives but nothing more. They were sent to Hammes to keep George Neville, Archbishop of York company. [Some writers allege that Beaumont managed to slip away and was never imprisoned. He did meet up with John again, and after the battle of Bosworth 1485, lived in John's mansion. In his latter years, he went mad] John had plenty of time to brood over, and regret, that he had ever trusted such an unreliable man as George, Duke of Clarence, or of paying any heed to the rumours of which Sir John Paston has written. In 1478, when the weary years of imprisonment had taken their toll, he tried to kill himself by jumping from the high curtain wall into the moat. He survived to play his part in history. His Countess Elizabeth was pardoned in 1475 and left sanctuary.

According to Fabyan, she was destitute and forced to earn a sparse living with her needle. John's mother, the elderly Dame Elizabeth who had been born in 1410, had been an outspoken Lancastrian, and was confined in a nunnery close to London. There she was to feel the full weight of the grasping and avaricious Richard, Duke of Gloucester and the equally greedy John, Lord Howard [later he was to become the first Howard Duke of Norfolk] in what appears to be the first act of the unholy alliance between these two.

Richard already had a large share of the de Vere estates, but wanted what little remained to Dame Elizabeth.

She had been born a Howard, and was the heiress of the Howard estates which, on her marriage, had become part of those of de Vere. Howard thus felt entitled to his share of the loot. Bursting in to the nunnery one dark winters night, they carried the old lady off, dragging her through the snow to a house in the City. There they brow-beat her into parting with what remained to her, threatening her that if she was obdurate, she would be imprisoned at Middleham. Keeping her only until the necessary documents were drawn up and executed, they then sent her back to the nunnery. Shortly afterwards, she died from the ill-treatment she had received.

In a singularly sanctimonious act, both Richard and John attended her funeral.

This was the darkest point of the de Vere fortunes. Their time was to come.


Ever since the 15-year truce had been signed in 1464,  [page ]relations with Scotland had been excellent, apart from the border raids which were endemic and which had kept John Neville, when he was Earl of Northumberland, fully occupied in his favourite pastime of fighting. So cordial were the dealings between the two Courts that Edward, when he was determined on the expedition to France, had little difficulty in arranging a marriage treaty between King James III's son and heir, just 2-years old, and his own youngest daughter Cecille, who was all of 4-years. It was some time before the marriage could be celebrated, but in the meantime, the truce was to be extended for a further 40 years until 1519. Such a long truce was previously unheard of, and amounted in effect to a permanent treaty of peace. Neither side was to assist the other's rebels. Cecille was to have a dowry of 20, 000 English Marks, to be paid by 10 equal instalments of 2, 000 Marks. The treaty was concluded on 26th October 1474, and the first instalment was due to be paid three months later.

Political troubles arose in Scotland because King James III, who as a small boy had seen Queen Margaret in 1461 begging his mother at Lincudden Abbey for Scots troops,   [page ] was not the man to keep his treacherous and murderous nobles in order. To be successful, the King of the Scots had to be quicker on the draw of sword or dagger than any of his nobles, and ruthless in the use of his weapons.

This was not James' way, being totally disinterested in manly sports or the martial arts. He was much more concerned with the pursuit of intellectual interests, such as architecture, music and astrology, even though the last was regarded with some suspicion. He pursued these studies with enthusiasm and full commitment and neglected affairs of state. His two brothers, Alexander, Duke of Albany and John, Earl of Mar had in ample measure the essential qualities of a Scottish King, being ambitious and totally lacking in any sense of scruple.

To the fury of the Scots nobles, James took as his Court favourites those who shared with him his intellectual pleasures. The nobles, seeing themselves excluded from positions which they regarded as theirs by right, allied themselves to Albany or Mar. In such an environment, it is possible to see that it was Albany who suggested the marriage proposals in 1477 which so annoyed King Edward IV,  [page ] and which as much as anything else spelt the downfall of George, Duke of Clarence. It is equally possible that he raised the idea of his marriage to Edward's sister, Margaret, the Dowager-Duchess of Burgundy without his King's knowledge. Edward, in his anger, took a very unwise course. He stopped all further payments of Cecille's dowry after February 1477. An easy and cordial relationship with the Scots Court became soured and querulous.

During the latter part of 1478, James' favourites convinced him that Albany was conniving in treason. This was more than likely, and James promptly shut him up in Edinburgh Castle, whence he escaped during the spring of 1479. Stopping only to put his own Dunbar Castle into a posture if defence, he made his way to Paris to seek King Louis XI's help. He was well received at the French Court, but it was made clear to him that Louis was not inclined to help him against his brother.

King Edward IV dealt with the matter with a mixture of shrewd cunning and some actions which were far less than wise. Albany, before leaving for France, had inspired a more than usually vicious border raid to upset the English. Edward, not to be drawn into a rash action, merely sent the Garter-King-at-Arms to Edinburgh in July 1479 to protest. In the month of June however, he received the emissary of one of Scotland's most active trouble-makers, John, Lord of the Isles, who had in 1476 been deprived of his Earldom of Ross for stirring up discontent. He signed an agreement with him to cause further trouble for the Scots King in which the exile John, Earl of Douglas joined. This was a gross breach of the 1474 Treaty, which was bound to cause the Scots offence when it came to light.

As opposed to this the Scots, anxious to mend fences with Edward, hastened forward a marriage proposal which had been proceeding for some time in a desultory fashion. The idea was that King James III's sister Margaret should marry Queen Elizabeth's brother Anthony Wydeville, Lord Rivers, and the Scottish Parliament was now induced to vote a dowry of 20, 000 crowns. Edward was delighted, and issued a safe conduct for Margaret to come to England in August 1479 for the marriage in November. To his chagrin, the lady stayed away, presumably because Edward's intrigues with the Lord of the Isles had come to light. It is possible that there had been other intrigues of a similar nature, and that these too annoyed the Scots. Edward, urged on by a guilty conscience, gave King James III a safe conduct to ride through England on a pilgrimage to Amiens in almost obsequious terms. The damage however was done and in February 1480, Edward warned the Council that it must prepare for war.

In June and September 1480, the Scots gave two serious causes for offence. The first occasion was a more than usually violent border raid, but during the second, they burnt Bamburgh and stayed three nights on English soil. This raid was led by Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, Albany's friend and chief supporter, without the authority of King James III. The response of the North was feeble until Richard, Duke of Gloucester took a hand. Fast as he moved however, Angus was too quick for him, and withdrew into Scotland before Richard could catch him. [This Angus was the son of the aged George Douglas who had made a pact with Queen Margaret see page ]

James, aroused from his self-induced torpor, now took some steps to regain control of his turbulent Kingdom. Angus was not punished but instead James flung his own brother, John, Earl of Mar into prison in December 1480 on a charge of encompassing his death by withcraft. In prison, he 'bled to death', although it is not clear whether this was murder or suicide. James also sent an emissary to London in an attempt to pacify Edward and to seek a redress of grievances. The emissary found himself ignored, and reported that Edward was bent on war.

The war, when it started, was conducted in an almost casual fashion. No operations were put in hand until April 1481, when John, Lord Howard, in command a flotilla of the Navy Royal's ships supplemented by some merchantmen pressed into service, started to raid ports on the eastern coast of Scotland. He did much damage, burning several ports and the shipping he found there, but without a land-force in support, there was little of lasting value that he could achieve. Edward had called out the northern levies to provide the land-force, but without the stimulation of his own presence, the call was poorly answered. The northern Cities and the local gentry spent so much time in arguing about their respective contributions that the whole of 1481 passed without any campaigning worthy of the name.

Edward was now 39, and something seemed to have gone out of him with advancing age. Earlier in his life, he would have gone to the North himself, and the campaign would have been conducted on his whirlwind style of military operations. By 1481, he had grown too fond of his creature comforts, and was disinclined to exchange them for the hardships of the military camp in the field and the hard blows of battle. He had become corpulent, even gross, from the excesses of his life, and he no longer bore much resemblance to the lean and hard figure of the youth whose appearance had captivated so many. No longer was he to be seen in his hyperactive, vigorous, fast-moving style of fighting and the inspired leadership which he had shown in abundance in 1461 and 1471, but there was another consideration which must have played some part in his disinclination to risk his life to the fickle fortunes of war.

Edward was well aware of the dissension of his Court and his nobles which are explored in the following section of this Chapter. His son and heir was only 11 years old, and a mere child could never have hoped to keep his discordant Magnates in order. Edward felt that he had to survive until the boy should reach man's estate and be able to deal effectively with such troublesome people. Only then could Edward feel that his succession was assured, and he must have dreaded the thought of a Regency before the boy came of age to rule in his own right. There was however an answer to this problem. His brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who was only 28 years old, had already shown that he was a commander cast in the same mould as his elder brother. He too believed in the same methods of warfare, and would, once let off the leash, prove an equally successful general.

Things began to move in a more purposeful fashion when Alexander, Duke of Albany, feeling that more help was to be expected from the English than the French, crossed the Channel and presented himself at the English Court on 2nd May 1482. Edward greeted him warmly, and took his guest to the peace and quiet of Fotheringay to work things out. There, besides enjoying themselves hunting, they reached an agreement. Alexander was to become King of Scotland with the help of English troops. He was to do homage and fealty for Scotland, although Edward did not really expect this promise to be honoured. England was to recover Berwick, given away by Queen Margaret in 1461,  [page ] and the surrounding lands so that the border would roughly follow its modern course.

Richard was to be overall commander and would concentrate the English army in York. This time there would be substantial contingents of midlands and southern counties troops to bolster the miserable performance of the northern levies during the previous year. By mid-July 1482, Richard's force was complete, and he marched out of York to invade Scotland.

He took with him a powerful army. He had been joined by Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, Richard, Lord Fitz-Hugh, the veteran Ralph, Lord Greystock, Francis, Lord Lovel, Thomas, Lord Stanley, and Sir George Neville, Lord Abergavenny. [Thomas Grey was the Queen's elder son by her first marriage. He had married in 1474 Cecille, the heiress to the Bonville and Haryngton estates after her father was killed at the battle of Wakefield 1460. Thomas became Marquis of Dorset in 1475. George Neville is not to be confused with the other George Neville who had for a short time been Duke of Bedford. This Neville, although bearing a suspect name, had been knighted after Tewkesbury, and allowed to keep his Abergavenny lands] The Scots, well aware of the English preparations, had called their own army together and, in mid-July, began their march southwards from Edinburgh. They had only reached Lauder, some 30 miles away, before the simmering dissension among themselves boiled over.

The Earl of Angus waited upon King James II in the morning. Instead of attending to his early morning duties to the King, he presented a document, signed by all the leading Scottish nobles, which was effectively an indictment listing James' failings. He had surrounded himself with "unworthye vile persouns", he had murdered one brother and had caused the other to flee, and he had debased the currency. Soldiers loyal to Angus closed in around the King who found himself a prisoner. He was taken back to Edinburgh Castle and placed in the custody of his uncle, the Earl of Athole. Meanwhile his favourites were rounded up. Some were hanged, whilst the others were bidden to leave the country forthwith, having a visible warning what to expect should they return.

Whilst the Scots nobles were disposing of matters to their liking, Richard and his army were advancing swiftly. Berwick was taken, although the Castle refused to surrender.

Anxious not to lose the impetus, Richard ordered it to be invested and pressed on. Soon he was on Scottish soil, spreading devastation. Tearing themselves away from their political intrigues, the Scots advanced to Heddington to give battle. One sight of Richard's army drawn up in battle array was enough to induce them to seek terms. If all had gone according to plan, Albany should have been placed on the Scottish Throne in place of King James III. On the march north, Richard had concluded something which his King had missed; that Albany was a vain, shallow, conceited and untrustworthy character whom the Scots would not long tolerate as their King. If he was imposed on them, they would murder him soon enough. It did not really surprise Richard to learn that, behind his back, Albany had made an agreement with the Scots nobles to give up his claim to the Scots Throne provided that all his lands were returned to him. Richard had no choice but to concur, and concentrated on the return of all the lands which England demanded. This was soon agreed, and the English army entered Edinburgh in triumph, spending some days there.

For some reason, the Scots professed themselves unable to order Berwick Castle to surrender. Richard spent no time on such double-dealing, and on his homeward march advanced upon the Castle with a view to besieging it. Sir Patrick Hepburn, realising that he could not expect any relief, and being unwilling to resist a soldier as ruthless and determined as Richard was known to be, surrendered the Castle on 24th August 1482. The campaign had lasted 6 weeks and for the English, it had ended in complete success. In part this was due to Scottish dissension; the main credit must still go to Richard, whose swift movement and decisive leadership had proved equal to that of his elder brother. He had not had to fight, but obviously he could strike as hard as his own King when it was necessary. Clearly King Edward IV had a brother who, as a soldier, was very much like him, and was not to be trifled with. The lesson was taken very much to heart by the Scots, who from now on, were very wary of him.

The death of King Edward IV

When the Scottish campaign ended in August 1482, only a few months of life were left to Edward, although there was nothing to indicate that his end was near. Perhaps he had grown rather too stout, and perhaps he had begun to lose the Adonis-like appearance of his youth, but he was still as hale and hearty as he had ever been. Gorgeously and joyfully attired, he had been at the head of his Court and had joined in the festivities which marked the end of one year and the beginning of another with the same happy abandon as he had always done. There was nothing to show that this Christmas of 1482 was to be his last.

Edward did have his worries. Burgundy as a powerful nation in her own right was now no more, and the parts which King Louis XI had not annexed were now in the French sphere of influence. Burgundy could never again be an ally of England as she had been in the earlier part of the century.

Although most of the blame for the debacle was to be laid at the door of Duke Charles, Edward was uncomfortably aware that some was to be laid at his. Edward had been too reliant on the French annual tribute and on the marriage treaty that the Dauphin should marry an English Princess. Too late he had seen that the tribute had bought his silence whilst France dismembered Burgundy, something which England should have been able to prevent, and finally Louis had tricked him over the marriage treaty so that the Dauphin's hand had been given to another. In the first half of his reign, he had seen Louis for what he was, a slippery and devious man whose solemn and plighted word was quite worthless. In the reign's second half, he had put too much trust in Louis' good faith, and was now paying the penalty. It was bitter medicine.

Things had fared much better in Scotland and, besides recovering the English lands which had so recklessly been bargained away in 1461, the Scots had been taught a lesson they would not soon forget. Yet Edward felt mortified. If he had handled the Scottish matter better, and had not intrigued with Scottish dissidents, things might not have descended into open warfare. Whilst Richard, Duke of Gloucester and his subordinate commanders had been profusely thanked and laden with honours, Edward resented that the triumph had not been his but another's. Richard sensed this resentment and the reasons for it, and in the place of his earlier brotherly and unquestioning loyalty, he now became wary of his elder brother. During the past ten years, he had built up a strong affinity in the North, and this gave him a sense of security.

His long record of stead-fast loyalty made him immune to any stories that he was intriguing against his King, but Richard had taken very much to heart the lesson of the downfall of George, Duke of Clarence, even though he may have had a hand in his death.

Edward was very conscious of the differences, in some cases hatreds, among the nobles of his Court. These boded ill if he should die before his son and heir, the 12-year old Edward, should come of age to rule in his own right, and a Regency in such circumstances was not an attractive prospect. It needed a grown man of considerable force of character to impose some discipline upon these ambitious, power-hungry, and often arrogant and haughty men, and this a boy had no hope of doing. Edward was well aware that Queen Elizabeth was universally detested by high and low alike as much for her humble birth as for her greedy, grasping and avaricious ways. Her attractive and cultivated brother, Anthony Wydeville, Earl Rivers, heartily disliked William, Lord Hastings who had been appointed Lieutenant of Calais,  [the post of Captain was presently in abeyance] an office which Anthony thought should have been given to him. This dislike was fully returned by Hastings who loathed all Wydevilles on principle; overlooking his own lowly origins, he regarded them as counter-jumpers who had risen in the World by various unscrupulous means. At least he owed his position to hard fighting and loyal service. There was much disharmony between Hastings and the Queen, who much resented Hasting's activities in obtaining mistresses for her husband. All disliked the Queen's two sons by her first marriage, Thomas, Marquis of Dorset, a haughty and arrogant man, and Sir Richard Grey. As always, nobody could say where Thomas, Lord Stanley stood. He was now married to Margaret Beaufort, the mother of the exiled Henry Tudor who was to become King Henry VII, and his office of Lord Steward of the Royal Household meant that Lady Stanley now waited upon Queen Elizabeth, and even carried her train throughout the elaborate Court rituals. Stanley was known as a man who had carefully wound his way through the pitfalls and snares of the dispute between York and Lancaster with consummate skill, and had always survived. He was a man who, in modern parlance, pursued his own agenda, keeping for the most part aloof from the dislikes and hatreds of the Court. Most worrying of all was the attitude of Richard, Duke of Gloucester towards Queen Elizabeth. His hatred of the Queen was, if anything, even more virulent than that of Hastings. He was perfectly correct and respectful towards the Queen, but he made little effort to conceal his detestation and contempt for the woman beneath the Crown and the gorgeous robes that were part of her position.

Edward laughed at their antics which pleased his senses of humour and the ridiculous. An adult King, who knew how to use the awesome powers of the Throne, had little difficulty in keeping them all in check. They were all like naughty children really, and a little judicious wrist-slapping was all that was needed. Edward, with his boundless self-confidence, had always felt, with much justification, that he was more than equal to any of the bunch of ruffians about him, and in due course he proposed to teach his son how it was done. He would just have to live long enough to instruct him; if he did not, then the position could be serious indeed for the young King Edward V.

There was one bright ray of light that shone through the gloom of all these rivalries and hatreds. His brother Richard and his old friend and confidante Hastings were very close friends. Each had a great regard for the other, and each respected the incorruptibility of the other and their unswerving loyalties to their King. Both had been comrades in arms and in exile, and these had forged a close bond between them. Both felt that they had ample reason to fear and distrust the Queen's influence with the King, and needed to be closely on their guard in case of any plots to bring about their downfall. There was only one disadvantage. Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham had attached himself to them. They did not have much regard for Buckingham, considering him a mere Court popinjay with a strong Lancastrian past. Moreover, he was married to Catherine Wydeville. Still, Edward considered that these two firm and trusty friends could be relied upon to ensure the succession of his son, and to guide him through any period of Regency should the worst happen.

All these rivalries and hatreds would have been bad enough if they had been confined to the pursuit of offices, lands, wealth and power, but there was another cause of dissension which, in any other circumstances, would simply have appeared as ridiculous. Edward had not given up his long-standing habit of taking mistresses. Sometimes they were ladies of the Court, and sometimes they came form less elevated circles. Edward's roving eye wandered far and wide, and any comely lass, whatever her personal inclinations may have been, found it hard to escape being taken into the Royal bed. Queen Elizabeth was in a permanent state of fury, but nothing she could do or say could persuade the King to lead a virtuous life, even now when he was approaching middle-age.

Mistresses were a common feature of 15th-century life, and of earlier times as well, the only difference being that, in these earlier times, people had recognised the necessity for a measure of discretion. In the lascivious Court of King Edward IV, they were openly flaunted. Edward boasted that he had three concubines, one the merriest, another the wisest, and the third the holiest, harlots in his Realm. From time-to-time, the King grew tired of his present flame, usually because another had caught his eye, and then he permitted his nobles to seek the favours of the discarded lady. It pleased his sense of malicious fun to nominate who should be free to woo her, and then to watch the dis-satisfaction of the others. Whilst such a nomination could not be regarded as being in any way binding on the lady concerned, a lot of jealousy arose that one had been favoured and others ignored. There seems to have been one at least who did not partake in this odious traffic in discarded ladies. It is true that Richard, Duke of Gloucester had fathered some illegitimate children (there is a record of one who lived in Kent and earned his living as a stone-mason as late as 1550), but in general Richard was faithful to Anne and deplored what was going on.

There was only one mistress to whom the King was constant, and not even his oldest friend, William, Lord Hastings, who nurtured some affection of his own for the lady which he was later to indulge, could persuade him to pass her on. Jane Shore [She was always known as Jane, but it appears that she was christened Elizabeth] was the daughter of a rich City mercer, John Lambert, with whom the King had some business dealings. Jane had been married to another wealthy City merchant, William Shore, from whom she sought a divorce on the grounds that he was impotent. She had found the Court of the Arches very unsympathetic, and had appealed to the Pope. Edward probably met her in 1476 for the first time in connection with her appeal, which eventually gave her all that she was asking. He immediately fell for her many charms. Jane was not only an outstandingly beautiful woman, but she had a lot of character as well, and a joyful and happy disposition. She was also rich in her own right, there being no bar to women, particularly if they were single, trading and making fortunes of their own. Jane, possessing considerable business acumen, had done just this. She was also one of the select band who were Freewomen of the City. By all accounts she was a kindly person, living in a rough age when this quality was not so common. She readily listened to people's troubles, and tried to help them without always insisting upon some reward for herself. She captivated the King.

King Edward IV did find time for the marriage bed, and Queen Elizabeth fully justified the boast he had made to his mother when he had married her in 1464. [page ] She bore him ten children, three boys and seven girls. The dates of their births are interesting as proof that he remained faithful to the Queen, and it was probably during the Queen's frequent pregnancies that his attention was most apt to wander; of the 227 months of their married life, the Queen was pregnant for 90. Of the sons, Edward, Prince of Wales, born in 1470, was the heir to the Throne, and it was a fine and upstanding lad who was due to become King Edward V. His brother Richard, Duke of York, who was born in 1473 or 1474, was an equally impressive youngster. No hint of the dreadful fate that awaited these two boys as the Princes in the Tower had yet appeared. There had been another brother George, who was born in 1478, but he had died whilst still an infant. Of the daughters, Elizabeth, born in 1466, was the most notable. She was to marry the future King Henry VII and become the Queen-Mother of the Tudor dynasty. Cecille, born in 1469, was to make two good marriages and to live until 1507. Anne, born in 1475, married Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and later Duke of Norfolk, who was to gain renown as the victor of the battle of Flodden 1513. Catherine, born in 1479, married Sir William Courtenay and lived until 1527. Bridget, born in 1480, became a nun. There were two other girls. Mary, born in 1467, pre-deceased her father in 1482, and Margaret, born in 1472, died young. The birth dates are significant to show that Edward never entirely deserted his Queen. He was, in his own strange way, a dutiful husband.

What Edward had dreaded most of all came to pass in April 1483. The full nature of his last illness is far from clear, and once again, medieval descriptions of symptoms are hopelessly confusing. There is a story that Edward caught a severe chill when fishing with some of his friends from a small boat in the River Thames. Edward Hall thought that he had caught an ague during the 1475 expedition to France. This seems improbable, since he never left those parts of France which were generally healthy, and whilst malaria should not be totally excluded, it seems difficult to accept. The Croyland Chronicler simply stated that Edward had no especial illness, and seemed, rather piously, to imply that he died of the debaucheries which were part and parcel of his life. Commyngs considered he had died of chagrin at being out-witted by King Louis XI, a view shared by John Russell, the Keeper of the Privy Seal, who alone of all these writers would have been present at the King's death. Medieval King's died surrounded by a considerable multitude.

Not only doctors and priests were present, but also nobles and Court officials to vouch that the holder of his august office had indeed gone to meet his Maker. [By convention, Queens were not present at the King's death] In more modern times, Sir Winston Churchill has ventured the view that Edward died of appendicitis. This seems a very likely possibility, as the existence of the appendix was not even known to contemporary medicine, and when it burst, peritonitis always killed.

Edward took to his bed on 30th March with, apparently, nothing seriously wrong with him. He grew steadily worse and eventually had to accept that he was dying. Well aware that the Court intrigues and jealousies would make things very difficult and dangerous for his young successor, he did the best he could in the few hours that remained to him to persuade people to drop their feuds and arguments and live together harmoniously. There was no opportunity to persuade William, Lord Hastings and Anthony Wydeville, Earl Rivers to abandon their own virulent feud, because Rivers was far away in Shropshire. Mancini related, and Shakespeare apparently drew on his account, that Hastings and Thomas, Marquis of Dorset were bidden to embrace and be friends, and this can be accepted as one example of the efforts made by the dying King.

King Edward IV died in the Palace of Westminster on 9th April 1483. How a man of a mere 41-years of age, a strong man of magnificent physique, could die in agony for no apparent reason that any of his contemporaries could see still remains a mystery. After the battle of Tewkesbury 1471, Edward had not been universally popular because of his loose living,   [page ] and his taxes to finance the 1475 expedition had been enormously resented. Yet on his death, when some of his vices had been accepted and some of his taxes forgotten, he was much mourned, particularly by the common people who greatly appreciated his open and pleasant manner towards them. The strongly Lancastrian ex-Chief Justice John Fortescue, who died in 1479 after a life spent opposing the House of York, had this to say about King Edward IV:-

"He hath done more for us than ever did King of England, or might have done before him. The harms that hath fallen in getting of his Realm be now by him turned into the good and profit of us all. We shall now more enjoy our own goods, and live under justice, which we have not done of long time, God knoweth."

Sir John More, whose writing is dependent of the memories of Edward's contemporaries, had this valediction:-

"There never was any King in this Realm attaining the Crown by war and battle so heartily beloved with the substance of his people......."

He may have been very fond of many ladies but:-

"This fault not greatly grieved his people."

So passed a King of many virtues, and also of many vices as these pages have attempted to describe. His achievements had been great, but so had his mistakes. He left behind him, unresolved, some tremendous problems which were to bring down the House of York in ruin. We must now move on to the final stage in the history of the Wars of the Roses and all its attendant horror.

Copyright Michael D. Miller 2003