The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.I., Part B. - From Henry III. to Richard III.
by David Hume
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* Cotton, p. 641.

** Cotton, p. 642. Hall, fol. 157. Holing, p. 631. Grafton, p. 607

It is evident, from a review of these articles, that the commons adopted without inquiry all the popular clamors against the duke of Suffolk, and charged him with crimes of which none but the vulgar could seriously believe him guilty. Nothing can be more incredible, than that a nobleman, so little eminent by his birth and character, could think of acquiring the crown to his family, and of deposing Henry by foreign force, and, together with him, Margaret, his patron, a princess of so much spirit and penetration. Suffolk appealed to many noblemen in the house, who knew that he had intended to marry his son to one of the coheirs of the earl of Warwick, and was disappointed in his views only by the death of that lady: and he observed, that Margaret of Somerset could bring to her husband no title to the crown; because she herself was not so much as comprehended in the entail settled by act of parliament. It is easy to account for the loss of Normandy and Guienne, from the situation of affairs in the two kingdoms, without supposing any treachery in the English ministers; and it may safely be affirmed, that greater vigor was requisite to defend these provinces from the arms of Charles VII., than to conquer them at first from his predecessor. It could never be the interest of any English minister to betray and abandon such acquisitions; much less of one who was so well established in his master's favor, who enjoyed such high honors and ample possessions in his own country, who had nothing to dread but the effects of popular hatred and who could never think, without the most extreme reluctance, of becoming a fugitive and exile in a foreign land. The only article which carries any face of probability, is his engagement for the delivery of Maine to the queen's uncle: but Suffolk maintained, with great appearance of truth, that this measure was approved of by several at the council table; [*] and it seems hard to ascribe to it, as is done by the commons, the subsequent loss of Normandy and expulsion of the English. Normandy lay open on every side to the invasion of the French: Maine, an inland province, must soon after have fallen without any attack; and as the English possessed in other parts more fortresses than they could garrison or provide for, it seemed no bad policy to contract their force, and to render the defence practicable, by reducing it within a narrower compass.

* Cotton, p.643.

The commons were probably sensible, that this charge of treason against Suffolk would not bear a strict scrutiny; and they therefore, soon after, sent up against him a new charge of misdemeanors, which they also divided into several articles. They affirmed, among other imputations, that he had procured exorbitant grants from the crown, had embezzled the public money, had conferred offices on improper persons, had perverted justice by maintaining iniquitous causes, and had procured pardons for notorious offenders.[*] The articles are mostly general, but are not improbable; and as Suffolk seems to have been a bad man and a bad minister, it will not be rash in us to think that he was guilty, and that many of these articles could have been proved against him. The court was alarmed at the prosecution of a favorite minister, who lay under such a load of popular prejudices; and an expedient was fallen upon to save him from present ruin. The king summoned all the lords, spiritual and temporal, to his apartment: the prisoner was produced before them, and asked what he could say in his own defence: he denied the charge; but submitted to the king's mercy: Henry expressed himself not satisfied with regard to the first impeachment for treason; but in consideration of the second for misdemeanors, he declared that, by virtue of Suffolk's own submission, not by any judicial authority, he banished him the kingdom during five years. The lords remained silent; but as soon as they returned to their own house, they entered a protest, that this sentence should nowise infringe their privileges, and that, if Suffolk had insisted upon his right, and had not voluntarily submitted to the king's commands, he was entitled to a trial by his peers in parliament.

It was easy to see, that these irregular proceedings were meant to favor Suffolk, and that, as he still possessed the queen's confidence, he would, on the first favorable opportunity, be restored to his country, and be reinstated in his former power and credit. A captain of a vessel was therefore employed by his enemies to intercept him in his passage to France: he was seized near Dover; his head struck off on the side of a long-boat; and his body thrown into the sea,[**] No inquiry was made after the actors and accomplices in this atrocious deed of violence.

* Cotton, p. 643.

** Hall, fol. 158. Hist. Croyland, Contin. p. 525. Stowe, p. 388. Grafton, p. 610.

The duke of Somerset succeeded to Suffolk's power in the ministry, and credit with the queen; and as he was the person under whose government the French provinces had been lost, the public, who always judge by the event, soon made him equally the object of their animosity and hatred. The duke of York was absent in Ireland during all these transactions and however it might be suspected that his partisans had excited and supported the prosecution against Suffolk, no immediate ground of complaint could, on that account, lie against him. But there happened, soon after, an incident which roused the jealousy of the court, and discovered to them the extreme danger to which they were exposed from the pretensions of that popular prince.

The humors of the people, set afloat by the parliamentary impeachment, and by the fall of so great a favorite as Suffolk, broke out in various commotions, which were soon suppressed, but there arose one in Kent which was attended with more dangerous consequences. A man of low condition, one John Cade, a native of Ireland, who had been obliged to fly into France for crimes, observed, on his return to England, the discontents of the people; and he laid on them the foundation of projects which were at first crowned with surprising success. He took the name of John Mortimer; intending, as is supposed, to pass himself for a son of that Sir John Mortimer who had been sentenced to death by parliament, and executed, in the beginning of this reign, without any trial or evidence, merely upon an indictment of high treason given in against him.[*] On the first mention of that popular name, the common people of Kent, to the number of twenty thousand, flocked to Cade's standard; and he excited their zeal by publishing complaints against the numerous abuses in government, and demanding a redress of grievances. The court, not yet fully sensible of the danger, sent a small force against the rioters, under the command of Sir Humphrey Stafford, who was defeated and slain in an action near Sevenoke;[**] and Cade, advancing with his followers towards London, encamped on Blackheath.

* Stowe, p. 364. Cotton, p. 564. This author admires that such a piece of injustice should have been committed in peaceable times: he might have added, and by such virtuous princes as Bedford and Glocester. But it is to be presumed that Mortimer was guilty; though his condemnation was highly irregular and illegal. The people had at this time a very feeble sense of law and a constitution; and power was very imperfectly restrained by these limits. When the proceedings of a parliament were so irregular it is easy to imagine that those of a king would be more so.

** Hall, fol. 159. Holing. p, 634.

Though elated by his victory, he still maintained the appearance of moderation; and sending to the court a plausible list of grievances,[*] he promised that, when these should be redressed, and when Lord Say, the treasurer, and Cromer, sheriff of Kent, should be punished for their malversations, he would immediately lay down his arms. The council, who observed that nobody was willing to fight against men so reasonable in their pretensions, carried the king, for present safety, to Kenilworth; and the city immediately opened its gates to Cade, who maintained, during some time, great order and discipline among his followers. He always led them into the fields during the night-time; and published severe edicts against plunder and violence of every kind: but being obliged, in order to gratify their malevolence against Say and Cromer, to put these men to death without a legal trial,[**] he found that, after the commission of this crime, he was no longer master of their riotous disposition, and that all his orders were neglected.[***] They broke into a rich house, which they plundered; and the citizens, alarmed at this act of violence, shut their gates against them; and being seconded by a detachment of soldiers, sent them by Lord Scales, governor of the Tower, they repulsed the rebels with great slaughter.[****] The Kentish men were so discouraged by the blow, that upon receiving a general pardon from the primate, then chancellor, they retreated towards Rochester, and there dispersed. The pardon was soon after annulled, as extorted by violence: a price was set on Cade's head,[*****] who was killed by one Iden, a gentleman of Sussex; and many of his followers were capitally punished for their rebellion.

It was imagined by the court, that the duke of York had secretly instigated Cade to this attempt, in order to try, by that experiment, the dispositions of the people towards his title and family:[*] and as the event had so far succeeded to his wish, the ruling party had greater reason than ever to apprehend the future consequences of his pretensions.

* Stowe, p. 388, 389. Holing, p. 633.

** Grafton, p. 612.

*** Hall, fol. 160.

**** Hist. Croyland, Contin.p. 526.

***** Rymer, vol. xi p. 275.

****** Cotton, p. 661.

At the same time they heard that he intended to return from Ireland; and fearing that he meant to bring an armed force along with him, they issued orders, in the king's name, for opposing him, and for debarring him entrance into England.[*] But the duke refuted his enemies by coming attended with no more than his ordinary retinue: the precautions of the ministers served only to show him their jealousy and malignity against him: he was sensible that his title, by being dangerous to the king, was also become dangerous to himself: he now saw the impossibility of remaining in his present situation, and the necessity of proceeding forward in support of his claim. His partisans, therefore, were instructed to maintain, in all companies, his right by succession, and by the established laws and constitution of the kingdom: these questions became every day more and more the subject of conversation: the minds of men were insensibly sharpened against each other by disputes, before they came to more dangerous extremities: and various topics were pleaded in support of the pretensions of each party.

* Stowe, p, 394.

The partisans of the house of Lancaster maintained that, though the elevation of Henry IV. might at first be deemed somewhat irregular, and could not be justified by any of those principles on which that prince chose to rest his title, it was yet founded on general consent, was a national act, and was derived from the voluntary approbation of a free people, who, being loosened from their allegiance by the tyranny of the preceding government, were moved by gratitude, as well as by a sense of public interest, to intrust the sceptre into the hands of their deliverer: that, even if that establishment were allowed to be at first invalid, it had acquired solidity by time; the only principle which ultimately gives authority to government, and removes those scruples which the irregular steps attending almost all revolutions, naturally excite in the minds of the people: that the right of succession was a rule admitted only for general good, and for the maintenance of public order; and could never be pleaded to the overthrow of national tranquillity, and the subversion of regular establishments; that the principles of liberty, no less than the maxims of internal peace, were injured by these pretensions of the house of York; and if so many reiterated acts of the legislature, by which the crown was entailed on the present family, were now invalidated, the English must be considered not as a free people, who could dispose of their own government, but as a troop of slaves, who were implicitly transmitted by succession from one master to another that the nation was bound to allegiance under the house of Lancaster by moral no less than by political duty; and were they to infringe those numerous oaths of fealty which they had sworn to Henry and his predecessors, they would thenceforth be thrown loose from all principles, and it would be found difficult ever after to fix and restrain them: that the duke of York himself had frequently done homage to the king as his lawful sovereign, and had thereby, in the most solemn manner, made an indirect renunciation of those claims with which he now dared to disturb the tranquillity of the public: that even though the violation of the rights of blood, made on the deposition of Richard, was perhaps rash and imprudent, it was too late to remedy the mischief; the danger of a disputed succession could no longer be obviated; the people, accustomed to a government which, in the hands of the late king, had been so glorious, and in that of his predecessor, so prudent and salutary, would still ascribe a right to it; by causing multiplied disorders, and by shedding an inundation of blood, the advantage would only be obtained of exchanging one pretender for another; and the house of York itself, if established on the throne, would, on the first opportunity, be exposed to those revolutions, which the giddy spirit excited in the people gave so much reason to apprehend: and that, though the present king enjoyed not the shining talents which had appeared in his father and grandfather, he might still have a son who should be endowed with them; he is himself eminent for the most harmless and inoffensive manners; and if active princes were dethroned on pretence of tyranny, and indolent ones on the plea of incapacity, there would thenceforth remain in the constitution no established rule of obedience to any sovereign.

Those strong topics in favor of the house of Lancaster, were opposed by arguments no less convincing on the side of the house of York. The partisans of this latter family asserted, that the maintenance of order in the succession of princes, far from doing injury to the people, or invalidating their fundamental title to good government, was established only for the purposes of government, and served to prevent those numberless confusions which must ensue, if no rule were followed but the uncertain and disputed views of present convenience and advantage: that the same maxims which insured public peace, were also salutary to national liberty the privileges of the people could only be maintained by the observance of laws; and if no account were made of the rights of the sovereign, it could less be expected that any regard would be paid to the property and freedom of the subject: that it was never too late to correct any pernicious precedent; an unjust establishment, the longer it stood, acquired the greater sanction and validity; it could, with more appearance of reason, be pleaded as an authority for a like injustice; and the maintenance of it, instead of favoring public tranquillity, tended to disjoint every principle by which human society was supported: that usurpers would be happy, if their present possession of power, or their continuance for a few years, could convert them into legal princes; but nothing would be more miserable than the people, if all restraints on violence and ambition were thus removed, and a full scope given to the attempts of every turbulent innovator: that time indeed might bestow solidity on a government whose first foundations were the most infirm; but it required both a long course of time to produce this effect, and the total extinction of those claimants whose title was built on the original principles of the constitution: that the deposition of Richard II., and the advancement of Henry IV., were not deliberate national acts, but the result of the levity and violence of the people, and proceeded from those very defects in human nature which the establishment of political society, and of an order in succession, was calculated to prevent: that the subsequent entails of the crown were a continuance of the same violence and usurpation; they were not ratified by the legislature, since the consent of the rightful king was still wanting; and the acquiescence, first of the family of Mortimer, then of the family of York, proceeded from present necessity, and implied no renunciation of their pretensions that the restoration of the true order of succession could not be considered as a change which familiarized the people to devolutions; but as the correction of a former abuse, which had itself encouraged the giddy spirit of innovation, rebellion, and disobedience: and that, as the original title of Lancaster stood only, in the person of Henry IV., on present convenience, even this principle, unjustifiable as it was when not supported by laws and warranted by the constitution, had now entirely gone over to the other side; nor was there any comparison between a prince utterly unable to sway the sceptre, and blindly governed by corrupt ministers, or by an imperious queen, engaged in foreign and hostile interests and a prince of mature years, of approved wisdom and experience, a native of England, the lineal heir of the crown, who, by his restoration, would replace every thing on ancient foundations.

So many plausible arguments could be urged on both sides of this interesting question, that the people were extremely divided in their sentiments; and though the noblemen of greatest power and influence seem to have espoused the party of York, the opposite cause had the advantage of being supported by the present laws, and by the immediate possession of royal authority. There were also many great noblemen in the Lancastrian party, who balanced the power of their antagonists, and kept the nation in suspense between them. The earl of Northumberland adhered to the present government: the earl of Westmoreland, in spite of his connections with the duke of York, and with the family of Nevil, of which he was the head, was brought over to the same party; and the whole north of England, the most warlike part of the kingdom, was, by means of these two potent noblemen, warmly engaged in the interests of Lancaster. Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset, and his brother Henry, were great supports of that cause; as were also Henry Holland duke of Exeter, Stafford, duke of Buckingham, the earl of Shrewsbury, the Lords Clifford, Dudley, Scales, Audley, and other noblemen.

While the kingdom was in this situation, it might naturally be expected that so many turbulent barons, possessed of so much independent authority, would immediately have flown to arms, and have decided the quarrel, after their usual manner, by war and battle, under the standards of the contending princes. But there still were many causes which retarded these desperate extremities, and made a long train of faction, intrigue, and cabal, precede the military operations. By the gradual progress of arts in England, as well as in other parts of Europe, the people were now become of some importance; laws were beginning to be respected by them; and it was requisite, by various pretences, previously to reconcile their minds to the overthrow of such an ancient establishment as that of the house of Lancaster, ere their concurrence could reasonably be expected. The duke of York himself, the new claimant, was of a moderate and cautious character, an enemy to violence and disposed to trust rather to time and policy, than to sanguinary measures, for the success of his pretensions. The very imbecility itself of Henry tended to keep the factions in suspense, and make them stand long in awe of each other: it rendered the Lancastrian party unable to strike any violent blow against their enemies; it encouraged the Yorkists to hope that, after banishing the king's ministers, and getting possession of his person, they might gradually undermine his authority, and be able, without the perilous experiment of a civil war, to change the succession by parliamentary and legal authority.

{1451.} The dispositions which appeared in a parliament assembled soon after the arrival of the duke of York from Ireland, favored these expectations of his partisans, and both discovered an unusual boldness in the commons, and were a proof of the general discontents which prevailed against the administration. The lower house, without any previous inquiry or examination, without alleging any other ground of complaint than common fame, ventured to present a petition against the duke of Somerset, the duchess of Suffolk, the bishop of Chester, Sir John Sutton, Lord Dudley, and several others of inferior rank; and they prayed the king to remove them forever from his person and councils, and to prohibit them from approaching within twelve miles of the court.[*] This was a violent attack, somewhat arbitrary, and supported but by few precedents, against the ministry; yet the king durst not openly oppose it: he replied that, except the lords, he would banish all the others from court during a year, unless he should have occasion for their service in suppressing any rebellion. At the same time he rejected a bill, which had passed both houses, for attainting the late duke of Suffolk, and which, in several of its clauses, discovered a very general prejudice against the measures of the court.

{1452.} The duke of York, trusting to these symptoms, raised an army of ten thousand men, with which he marched towards London, demanding a reformation of the government, and the removal of the duke of Somerset from all power and authority.[**] He unexpectedly found the gates of the city shut against him; and on his retreating into Kent, he was followed by the king at the head of a superior army; in which several of Richard's friends, particularly Salisbury and Warwick appeared; probably with a view of mediating between the parties, and of seconding, on occasion, the duke of York's pretensions.

* Parl. Hist. vol. ii. p. 263.

** Stowe, p. 394.

A parley ensued; Richard still insisted upon the removal of Somerset, and his submitting to a trial in parliament: the court pretended to comply with his demand; and that nobleman was put in arrest: the duke of York was then persuaded to pay his respects to the king in his tent; and, on repeating his charge against the duke of Somerset, he was surprised to see that minister step from behind the curtain, and offer to maintain his innocence. Richard now found that he had been betrayed; that he was in the hands of his enemies; and that it was become necessary, for his own safety, to lower his pretensions. No violence, however, was attempted against him: the nation was not in a disposition to bear the destruction of so popular a prince: he had many friends in Henry's camp; and his son, who was not in the power of the court, might still be able to revenge his death on all his enemies: he was therefore dismissed; and he retired to his seat of Wigmore, on the borders of Wales.[*]

While the duke of York lived in this retreat, there happened an incident which, by increasing the public discontents, proved favorable to his pretensions. Several Gascon lords, affectionate to the English government, and disgusted at the new dominion of the French, came to London, and offered to return to their allegiance under Henry.[**]

{1453.} The earl of Shrewsbury, with a body of eight thousand men, was sent over to support them. Bordeaux opened its gates to him: he made himself master of Fronsac, Castillon, and some other places: affairs began to wear a favorable aspect; but as Charles hastened to resist this dangerous invasion, the fortunes of the English were soon reversed: Shrewsbury, a venerable warrior, above fourscore years of age, fell in battle; his conquests were lost; Bordeaux was again obliged to submit to the French king;[***] and all hopes of recovering the province of Gascony were forever extinguished.

* Grafton, p. 620.

** Holing. p. 640.

*** Polyd. Virg. p. 501. Grafton, p. 623.

Though the English might deem themselves happy to be fairly rid of distant dominions, which were of no use to them, and which they never could defend against the growing power of France, they expressed great discontent on the occasion: and they threw all the blame on the ministry, who had not been able to effect impossibilities. While they were in this disposition, the queen's delivery of a son, who received the name of Edward, was deemed no joyful incident; and as it removed all hopes of the peaceable succession of the duke of York, who was otherwise, in the right of his father, and by the laws enacted since the accession of the house of Lancaster, next heir to the crown, it had rather a tendency to inflame the quarrel between the parties. But the duke was incapable of violent counsels; and even when no visible obstacle lay between him and the throne, he was prevented by his own scruples from mounting it.

{1454.} Henry, always unfit to exercise the government, fell at this time into a distemper, which so far increased his natural imbecility, that it rendered him incapable of maintaining even the appearance of royalty. The queen and the council, destitute of this support, found themselves unable to resist the York party; and they were obliged to yield to the torrent. They sent Somerset to the Tower, and appointed Richard lieutenant of the kingdom, with powers to open and hold a session of parliament.[*]

* Rymer, vol. xi. p. 344.

That assembly, also, taking into consideration the state of the kingdom, created him protector during pleasure. Men who thus intrusted sovereign authority to one that had such evident and strong pretensions to the crown, were not surely averse to his taking immediate and full possession of it; yet the duke, instead of pushing them to make further concessions, appeared somewhat timid and irresolute even in receiving the power which was tendered to him. He desired that it might be recorded in parliament, that this authority was conferred on him from their own free motion, without any application on his part: he expressed his hopes that they would assist him in the exercise of it: he made it a condition of his acceptance, that the other lords who were appointed to be of his council, should also accept of the trust, and should exercise it; and he required, that all the powers of his office should be specified and defined by act of parliament. This moderation of Richard was certainly very unusual and very amiable; yet was it attended with bad consequences in the present juncture; and by giving time to the animosities of faction to rise and ferment, it proved the source of all those furious wars and commotions which ensued.

The enemies of the duke of York soon found it in their power to make advantage of his excessive caution. Henry being so far recovered from his distemper, as to carry the appearance of exercising the royal power, they moved him to resume his authority, to annul the protectorship of the duke to release Somerset from the Tower,[*] and to commit the administration into the hands of that nobleman.

{1455.} Richard, sensible of the dangers which might attend his former acceptance of the parliamentary commission, should he submit to the annulling of it, levied an army; but still without advancing any pretensions to the crown. He complained only of the king's ministers, and demanded a reformation of the government. A battle was fought at St. Albans, in which the Yorkists were superior, and, without suffering any material loss, slew about five thousand of their enemies; among whom were the duke of Somerset, the earl of Northumberland, the earl of Stafford, eldest son of the duke of Buckingham, Lord Clifford, and many other persons of distinction.[**] The king himself fell into the hands of the duke of York, who treated him with great respect and tenderness: he was only obliged (which he regarded as no hardship) to commit the whole authority of the crown into the hands of his rival.

* Rymer, vol. xi. p. 361. Holing, p. 642. Grafton, p. 626.

** Stowe, p. 309. Holing, p. 643.

This was the first blood spilt in that fatal quarrel which was not finished in less than a course of thirty years, which was signalized by twelve pitched battles, which opened a scene of extraordinary fierceness and cruelty, is computed to have cost the lives of eighty princes of the blood, and almost entirely annihilated the ancient nobility of England. The strong attachments, which, at that time, men of the same kindred bore to each other, and the vindictive spirit, which was considered as a point of honor, rendered the great families implacable in their resentments, and every moment widened the breach between the parties. Yet affairs did not immediately proceed to the last extremities; the nation was kept some time in suspense; the vigor and spirit of Queen Margaret, supporting her small power, still proved a balance to the great authority of Richard, which was checked by his irresolute temper. A parliament, which was soon after assembled, plainly discovered, by the contrariety of their proceedings, the contrariety of the motives by which they were actuated. They granted the Yorkists a general indemnity, and they restored the protectorship to the duke, who, in accepting it, still persevered in all his former precautions; but at the same time they renewed their oaths of fealty to Henry, and fixed the continuance of the protectorship to the majority of his son Edward, who was vested with the usual dignities of prince of Wales, duke of Cornwall, and earl of Chester. The only decisive act passed in this parliament, was a full resumption of all the grants which had been made since the death of Henry V., and which had reduced the crown to great poverty.

{1456.} It was not found difficult to wrest power from hands so little tenacious as those of the duke of York. Margaret, availing herself of that prince's absence, produced her husband before the house of lords; and as his state of health permitted him at that time to act his part with some tolerable decency, he declared his intentions of resuming the government, and of putting an end to Richard's authority. This measure, being unexpected, was not opposed by the contrary party; the house of lords, who were many of them disgusted with the late act of resumption, assented to Henry's proposal; and the king was declared to be reinstated in sovereign authority. Even the duke of York acquiesced in this irregular act of the peers, and no disturbance ensued. But that prince's claim to the crown was too well known, and the steps which he had taken to promote it were too evident ever to allow sincere trust and confidence to have place between the parties.

{1457.} The court retired to Coventry, and invited the duke of York and the earls of Salisbury and Warwick to attend the king's person. When they were on the road, they received intelligence that designs were formed against their liberties and lives. They immediately separated themselves; Richard withdrew to his castle of Wigmore; Salisbury to Middleham, in Yorkshire, and Warwick to his government of Calais, which had been committed to him after the battle of St. Albans, and which, as it gave him the command of the only regular military force maintained by England, was of the utmost importance in the present juncture. Still, men of peaceable dispositions, and among the rest Bourchier, archbishop of Canterbury, thought it not too late to interpose with their good offices, in order to prevent that effusion of blood, with which the kingdom was threatened; and the awe in which each party stood of the other, rendered the mediation for some time successful. It was agreed that all the great leaders on both sides should meet in London, and be solemnly reconciled.

{1458.} The duke of York and his partisans came thither with numerous retinues, and took up their quarters near each other for mutual security. The leaders of the Lancastrian party used the same precaution. The mayor, at the head of five thousand men, kept a strict watch, night and day; and was extremely vigilant in maintaining peace between them.[*]

* Fabian Chron. anno 1458. The author says that some lords brought nine hundred retainers, some six hundred, none less than four hundred. See also Grafton, p. 633.

Terms were adjusted, which removed not the ground of difference. An outward reconciliation only was procured; and in order to notify this accord to the whole people, a solemn procession to St. Paul's was appointed, where the duke of York led Queen Margaret, and a leader of one party marched hand in hand with a leader of the opposite. The less real cordiality prevailed, the more were the exterior demonstrations of amity redoubled. But it was evident, that a contest for a crown could not thus be peaceably accommodated; that each party watched only for an opportunity of subverting the other; and that much blood must yet be spilt, ere the nation could be restored to perfect tranquillity, or enjoy a settled and established government.

{1459.} Even the smallest accident, without any formed design, was sufficient, in the present disposition of men's minds, to dissolve the seeming harmony between the parties; and had the intentions of the leaders been ever so amicable they would have found it difficult to restrain the animosity of their followers. One of the king's retinue insulted one of the earl of Warwick's: their companions on both sides took part in the quarrel: a fierce combat ensued: the earl apprehended his life to be aimed at: he fled to his government of Calais; and both parties, in every county of England, openly made preparations for deciding the contest by war and arms.

The earl of Salisbury, marching to join the duke of York, was overtaken at Blore Heath, on the borders of Staffordshire, by Lord Audley, who commanded much superior forces; and a small rivulet with steep banks ran between the armies. Salisbury here supplied his defect in numbers by stratagem, a refinement of which there occur few instances in the English civil wars, where a headlong courage, more than military conduct, is commonly to be remarked. He feigned a retreat, and allured Audley to follow him with precipitation; but when the van of the royal army had passed the brook, Salisbury suddenly turned upon them; and partly by the surprise, partly by the division, of the enemies' forces, put this body to rout: the example of flight was followed by the rest of the army: and Salisbury, obtaining a complete victory, reached the general rendezvous of the Yorkists at Ludlow.[*]

The earl of Warwick brought over to this rendezvous a choice body of veterans from Calais, on whom, it was thought the fortune of the war would much depend; but this reenforcement occasioned, in the issue, the immediate ruin of the duke of York's party. When the royal army approached, and a general action was every hour expected, Sir Andrew Trollop, who commanded the veterans, deserted to the king in the night-time; and the Yorkists were so dismayed at this instance of treachery, which made every man suspicious of his fellow, that they separated next day without striking a stroke:[**] the duke fled to Ireland: the earl of Warwick, attended by many of the other leaders, escaped to Calais; where his great popularity among all orders of men, particularly among the military, soon drew to him partisans, and rendered his power very formidable. The friends of the house of York in England kept themselves every where in readiness to rise on the first summons from their leaders.

{1460.} After meeting with some successes at sea, Warwick landed in Kent, with the earl of Salisbury, and the earl of Marche, eldest son of the duke of York; and being met by the primate, by Lord Cobham, and other persons of distinction, he marched, amidst the acclamations of the people, to London. The city immediately opened its gates to him; and his troops increasing on every day's march, he soon found himself in a condition to face the royal army, which hastened from Coventry to attack him. The battle was fought at Northampton; and was soon decided against the royalists by the infidelity of Lord Grey of Ruthin, who, commanding Henry's van, deserted to the enemy during the heat of action, and spread a consternation through the troops. The duke of Buckingham, the earl of Shrewsbury, the Lords Beaumont and Egremont, and Sir William Lucie were killed in the action or pursuit: the slaughter fell chiefly on the gentry and nobility; the common people were spared by orders of the earls of Warwick and Marche.[***]

* Holingshed, p. 649. Grafton, p. 936.

** Holingshed, p. 650. Grafton, p. 537

*** Stowe, p. 409.

Henry himself, that empty shadow of a king, was again taken prisoner; and as the innocence and simplicity of his manners, which bore the appearance of sanctity, had procured him the tender regard of the people,[*] the earl of Warwick and the other leaders took care to distinguish themselves by their respectful demeanor towards him.

A parliament was summoned in the king's name, and met at Westminster; where the duke soon after appeared from Ireland. This prince had never hitherto advanced openly any claim to the crown: he had only complained of ill ministers, and demanded a redress of grievances; and even in the present crisis, when the parliament was surrounded by his victorious army, he showed such a regard to law and liberty, as is unusual during the prevalence of a party in any civil dissensions; and was still less to be expected in those violent and licentious times. He advanced towards the throne; and being met by the archbishop of Canterbury, who asked him, whether he had yet paid his respects to the king, he replied, that he knew of none to whom he owed that title. He then stood near the throne,[**] and addressing himself to the house of peers, he gave them a deduction of his title by descent, mentioned the cruelties by which the house of Lancaster had paved their way to sovereign power, insisted on the calamities which had attended the government of Henry, exhorted them to return into the right path, by doing justice to the lineal successor, and thus pleaded his cause before them as his natural and legal judges.[***] This cool and moderate manner of demanding a crown intimidated his friends and encouraged his enemies: the lords remained in suspense;[****] and no one ventured to utter a word on the occasion.

* Hall, fol. 169. Grafton, p. 195.

** Holingshed, p. 650

*** Cotton, p. 665. Grafton, p. 643.

**** Holingshed, p. 657. Grafton, p. 645.

Richard, who had probably expected that the peers would have invited him to place himself on the throne, was much disappointed at their silence; but desiring them to reflect on what he had proposed to them, he departed the house. The peers took the matter into consideration, with as much tranquillity as if it had been a common subject of debate: they desired the assistance of some considerable members among the commons in their deliberations: they heard in several successive days, the reasons alleged for the duke of York: they even ventured to propose objections to his claim founded on former entails of the crown, and on the oaths of fealty sworn to the house of Lancaster:[*] they also observed that as Richard had all along borne the arms of York, not those of Clarence, he could not claim as successor to the latter family: and after receiving answers to these objections, derived from the violence and power by which the house of Lancaster supported their present possession of the crown, they proceeded to give a decision. Their sentence was calculated, as far as possible, to please both parties: they declared the title of the duke of York to be certain and indefeasible; but in consideration that Henry had enjoyed the crown, without dispute or controversy, during the course of thirty-eight years, they determined that he should continue to possess the title and dignity during the remainder of his life; that the administration of the government, meanwhile, should remain with Richard; that he should be acknowledged the true and lawful heir of the monarchy; that every one should swear to maintain his succession, and it should be treason to attempt his life; and that all former settlements of the crown, in this and the two last reigns, should be abrogated and rescinded.[**] The duke acquiesced in this decision: Henry himself, being a prisoner, could not oppose it: even if he had enjoyed his liberty, he would not probably have felt any violent reluctance against it: and the act thus passed with the unanimous consent of the whole legislative body. Though the mildness of this compromise is chiefly to be ascribed to the moderation of the duke of York, it is impossible not to observe in those transactions visible marks of a higher regard to law, and of a more fixed authority enjoyed by parliament, than has appeared in any former period of English history.

* Cotton, p. 666.

** Cotton, p. 666. Grafton, p. 647.

It is probable that the duke, without employing either menaces or violence, could have obtained from the commons a settlement more consistent and uniform: but as many, if not all the members of the upper house, had received grants, concession, or dignities, during the last sixty years, when the house of Lancaster was possessed of the government, they were afraid of invalidating their own titles by too sudden and violent an overthrow of that family; and in thus temporizing between the parties, they fixed the throne on a basis upon which it could not possibly stand. The duke, apprehending his chief danger to arise from the genius and spirit of Queen Margaret sought a pretence for banishing her the kingdom: he sent her, in the king's name, a summons to come immediately to London; intending, in case of her disobedience, to proceed to extremities against her. But the queen needed not this menace to excite her activity in defending the rights of her family. After the defeat at Northampton, she had fled with her infant son to Durham, thence to Scotland; but soon returning, she applied to the northern barons, and employed every motive to procure their assistance. Her affability, insinuation, and address,—qualities in which she excelled,—her caresses, her promises, wrought a powerful effect on every one who approached her: the admiration of her great qualities was succeeded by compassion towards her helpless condition: the nobility of that quarter, who regarded themselves as the most warlike in the kingdom, were moved by indignation to find the southern barons pretend to dispose of the crown and settle the government. And that they might allure the people to their standard, they promised them the spoils of all the provinces on the other side of the Trent. By these means, the queen had collected an army twenty thousand strong, with a celerity which was neither expected by her friends nor apprehended by her enemies.

The duke of York, informed of her appearance in the north, hastened thither with a body of five thousand men, to suppress, as he imagined, the beginnings of an insurrection; when, on his arrival at Wakefield, he found himself so much outnumbered by the enemy. He threw himself into Sandal Castle, which was situated in the neighborhood; and he was advised by the earl of Salisbury, and other prudent counsellors, to remain in that fortress till his son, the earl of Marche, who was levying forces in the borders of Wales, could advance to his assistance.[*] But the duke, though deficient in political courage, possessed personal bravery in an eminent degree; and notwithstanding his wisdom and experience, he thought that he should be forever disgraced, if, by taking shelter behind walls, he should for a moment resign the victory to a woman.

* Stowe, p. 412.

He descended into the plain, and offered battle to the enemy, which was instantly accepted. The great inequality of numbers was sufficient alone to decide the victory; but the queen, by sending a detachment, who fell on the back of the duke's army, rendered her advantage still more certain and undisputed. The duke himself was killed in the action; and as his body was found among the slain, the head was cut off by Margaret's orders, and fixed on the gates of York, with a paper crown upon it, in derision of his pretended title. His son, the earl of Rutland, a youth of seventeen, was brought to Lord Clifford; and that barbarian, in revenge of his father's death, who had perished in the battle of St. Albans, murdered in cool blood, and with his own hands, this innocent prince, whose exterior figure, as well as other accomplishments, are represented by historians as extremely amiable. The earl of Salisbury was wounded and taken prisoner, and immediately beheaded, with several other persons of distinction, by martial law at Pomfret.[*] There fell near three thousand Yorkists in this battle: the duke himself was greatly and justly lamented by his own party; a prince who merited a better fate, and whose errors in conduct proceeded entirely from such qualities as render him the more an object of esteem and affection. He perished in the fiftieth year of his age, and left three sons, Edward, George, and Richard, with three daughters, Anne, Elizabeth, and Margaret.

{1461.} The queen, after this important victory, divided her army. She sent the smaller division, under Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke, half brother to the king, against Edward the new duke of York. She herself marched with the larger division towards London, where the earl of Warwick had been left with the command of the Yorkists. Pembroke was defeated by Edward at Mortimer's Cross, in Herefordshire, with the loss of near four thousand men: his army was dispersed; he himself escaped by flight; but his father, Sir Owen Tudor, was taken prisoner, and immediately beheaded by Edward's orders. This barbarous practice, being once begun, was continued by both parties, from a spirit of revenge, which covered itself under the pretence of retaliation.[**]

* Poivd. Virg. p 510.

** Holingshed, p. 660. Grafton, p. 650.

Margaret compensated this defeat by a victory which she obtained over the earl of Warwick. That nobleman on the approach of the Lancastrians, led out his army, reenforced by a strong body of the Londoners, who were affectionate to his cause; and he gave battle to the queen at St. Albans. While the armies were warmly engaged, Lovelace, who commanded a considerable body of the Yorkists, withdrew from the combat; and this treacherous conduct, of which there are many instances in those civil wars, decided the victory in favor of the queen. About two thousand three hundred of the vanquished perished in the battle and pursuit; and the person of the king fell again into the hands of his own party. This weak prince was sure to be almost equally a prisoner whichever faction had the keeping of him; and scarce any more decorum was observed by one than by the other, in their method of treating him. Lord Bonville, to whose care he had been intrusted by the Yorkists, remained with him after the defeat, on assurances of pardon given him by Henry: but Margaret, regardless of her husband's promise, immediately ordered the head of that nobleman to be struck off by the executioner.[*] Sir Thomas Kiriel, a brave warrior, who had signalized himself in the French wars, was treated in the same manner.

The queen made no great advantage of this victory: young Edward advanced upon her from the other side; and collecting the remains of Warwick's army, was soon in a condition of giving her battle with superior forces. She was sensible of her danger, while she lay between the enemy and the city of London; and she found it necessary to retreat with her army to the north.[**]

* Holingshed, p. 660.

** Grafton, p. 652.

Edward entered the capital amidst the acclamations of the citizens, and immediately opened a new scene to his party. This prince, in the bloom of youth, remarkable for the beauty of this person, for his bravery, his activity, his affability, and every popular quality, found himself so much possessed of public favor, that, elated with the spirit natural to his age, he resolved no longer to confine himself within those narrow limits which his father had prescribed to himself, and which had been found by experience so prejudicial to his cause. He determined to assume the name and dignity of king; to insist openly on his claim; and thenceforth to treat the opposite party as traitors and rebels to his lawful authority. But as a national consent, or the appearance of it, still seemed, notwithstanding his plausible title, requisite to precede this bold measure, and as the assembling of a parliament might occasion too many delays, and be attended with other inconveniences, he ventured to proceed in a less regular manner, and to put it out of the power of his enemies to throw obstacles in the way of his elevation. His army was ordered to assemble in St. John's Fields; great numbers of people surrounded them; an harangue was pronounced to this mixed multitude, setting forth the title of Edward, and inveighing against the tyranny and usurpation of the rival family; and the people were then asked whether they would have Henry of Lancaster for king. They unanimously exclaimed against the proposal. It was then demanded whether they would accept of Edward, eldest son of the late duke of York. They expressed their assent by loud and joyful acclamations.[*] A great number of bishops, lords, magistrates, and other persons of distinction were next assembled at Baynard's Castle, who ratified the popular election; and the new king was on the subsequent day proclaimed in London, by the title of Edward IV.[**]

In this manner ended the reign of Henry VI., a monarch, who, while in his cradle, had been proclaimed king both of France and England, and who began his life with the most splendid prospects that any prince in Europe had ever enjoyed. The revolution was unhappy for his people, as it was the source of civil wars; but was almost entirely indifferent to Henry himself, who was utterly incapable of exercising his authority, and who, provided he personally met with good usage, was equally easy, as he was equally enslaved, in the hands of his enemies and of his friends. His weakness and his disputed title were the chief causes of the public calamities: but whether his queen and his ministers were not also guilty of some great abuses of power, it is not easy for us at this distance of time to determine: there remain no proofs on record of any considerable violation of the laws, except in the assassination of the duke of Glocester, which was a private crime, formed no precedent, and was but too much of a piece with the usual ferocity and cruelty of the times.

The most remarkable law which passed in this reign, was that for the due election of members of parliament in counties. After the fall of the feudal system, the distinction of tenures was in some measure lost; and every freeholder, as well those who held of mesne lords, as the immediate tenants of the crown, were by degrees admitted to give their votes at elections. This innovation (for such it may probably be esteemed) was indirectly confirmed by a law of Henry IV.[***] which gave right to such a multitude of electors, as was the occasion of great disorder.

* Stowe, p. 415. Holingshed, p. 661.

** Grafton, p. 653.

*** Statutes at large, 7 Henry IV. ca. 15.

In the eighth and tenth of this king, therefore, laws were enacted, limiting the electors to such as possessed forty shillings a year in land, free from all burdens within the county.[*] This sum was equivalent to near twenty pounds a year of our present money, and it were to be wished, that the spirit, as well as letter, of this law had been maintained.

The preamble of the statute is remarkable: "Whereas the elections of knights have of late, in many counties of England, been made by outrageous and excessive numbers of people, many of them of small substance and value, yet pretending to a right equal to the best knights and esquires; whereby manslaughters, riots, batteries, and divisions among the gentlemen and other people of the same counties, shall very likely rise and be, unless due remedy be provided in this behalf, etc." We may learn from these expressions, what an important matter the election of a member of parliament was now become in England: that assembly was beginning in this period to assume great authority: the commons had it much in their power to enforce the execution of the laws; and if they failed of success in this particular, it proceeded less from any exorbitant power of the crown, than from the licentious spirit of the aristocracy, and perhaps from the rude education of the age, and their own ignorance of the advantages resulting from a regular administration of justice.

When the duke of York, the earls of Salisbury and Warwick, fled the kingdom upon the desertion of their troops, a parliament was summoned at Coventry in 1460, by which they were all attainted. This parliament seems to have been very irregularly constituted, and scarcely deserves the name; insomuch, that an act passed in it, "that all such knights of any county, as were returned by virtue of the king's letters, without any other election, should be valid; and that no sheriff should, for returning them, incur the penalty of the statute of Henry IV."[**] All the acts of that parliament were afterwards reversed; "because it was unlawfully summoned, and the knights and barons not duly chosen."[***]

* Statutes at large, 8 Henry VI. cap. 7. 10 Henry VI. cap. 2.

** Cotton, p. 664.

*** Statutes at large, 39 Henry VI. cap. 1

The parliaments in this reign, instead of relaxing their vigilance against the usurpations of the court of Rome, endeavored to enforce the former statutes enacted for that purpose. The commons petitioned, that no foreigner should be capable of any church preferment, and that the patron might be allowed to present anew upon the non-residence of any incumbent:[*] but the king eluded these petitions. Pope Martin wrote him a severe letter against the statute of provisors; which he calls an abominable law, that would infallibly damn every one who observed it.[**] The cardinal of Winchester was legate; and as he was also a kind of prime minister, and immensely rich from the profits of his clerical dignities, the parliament became jealous lest he should extend the papal power; and they protested, that the cardinal should absent himself in all affairs and councils of the king, whenever the pope or see of Rome was touched upon.[***]

Permission was given by parliament to export corn when it was at low prices; wheat at six shillings and eightpence a quarter, money of that age; barley at three shillings and fourpence.[****] It appears from these prices, that corn still remained at near half its present value; though other commodities were much cheaper. The inland commerce of corn was also opened in the eighteenth of the king, by allowing any collector of the customs to grant a license of carrying it from one county to another.[*****] The same year a kind of navigation act was proposed with regard to all places within the Straits; but the king rejected it.[******]

The first instance of debt contracted upon parliamentary security occurs in this reign.[*******] The commencement of this pernicious practice deserves to be noted; a practice the more likely to become pernicious, the more a nation advances in opulence and credit. The ruinous effects of it are now become apparent, and threaten the very existence of the nation.

* Cotton, p. 585.

** Burnet's Collection of Records, vol. i. p. 99.

*** Cotton, p. 593.

**** Statutes at large, 15 Henry VI. cap. 2. 23 Henry VI. cap. 6.

***** Cotton, p. 625.

****** Cotton, p. 626.

******* Cotton, p. 593, 614, 638.



{1461.} Young Edward, now in his twentieth year, was of a temper well fitted to make his way through such a scene of war, havoc, and devastation, as must conduct him to the full possession of that crown, which he claimed from hereditary right, but which he had assumed from the tumultuary election alone of his own party. He was bold, active, enterprising; and his hardness of heart and severity of character rendered him impregnable to all those movements of compassion which might relax his vigor in the prosecution of the most bloody revenges upon his enemies. The very commencement of his reign gave symptoms of his sanguinary disposition. A tradesman of London, who kept shop at the sign of the Crown, having said that he would make his son heir to the crown; this harmless pleasantry was interpreted to be spoken in derision of Edward's assumed title; and he was condemned and executed for the offence.[*] Such an act of tyranny was a proper prelude to the events which ensued. The scaffold, as well as the field, incessantly streamed with the noblest blood of England, spilt in the quarrel between the two contending families, whose animosity was now become implacable. The people, divided in their affections, took different symbols of party: the partisans of the house of Lancaster chose the red rose as their mark of distinction;[**] those of York were denominated from the white; and these civil wars were thus known over Europe by the name of the quarrel between the two roses.

* Habington in Kennet, p. 431.

** Grafton, p. 791.

The license in which Queen Margaret had been obliged to indulge her troops, infused great terror and aversion into the city of London, and all the southern parts of the kingdom; and as she there expected an obstinate resistance, she had prudently retired northwards among her own partisans. The same license, joined to the zeal of faction, soon brought great multitudes to her standard; and she was able, in a few days, to assemble an army sixty thousand strong in Yorkshire. The king and the earl of Warwick hastened, with an army of forty thousand men, to check her progress; and when they reached Pomfret, they despatched a body of troops, under the command of Lord Fitzwalter, to secure the passage of Ferrybridge over the River Are, which lay between them and the enemy. Fitzwalter took possession of the post assigned him; but was not able to maintain it against Lord Clifford, who attacked him with superior numbers. The Yorkists were chased back with great slaughter; and Lord Fitzwalter himself was slain in the action.[*] The earl of Warwick, dreading the consequences of this disaster, at a time when a decisive action was every hour expected, immediately ordered his horse to be brought him, which he stabbed before the whole army; and kissing the hilt of his sword, swore that he was determined to share the fate of the meanest soldier.[**] And to show the greater security, a proclamation was at the same time issued, giving to every one full liberty to retire, but menacing the severest punishment to those who should discover any symptoms of cowardice in the ensuing battle.[***] Lord Falconberg was sent to recover the post which had been lost: he passed the river some miles above Ferrybridge, and falling unexpectedly on Lord Clifford, revenged the former disaster by the defeat of the party and the death of their leader.[****]

* W. Wyrcester, p. 489. Hall, fol. 186. Holingshed, p. 664.

** Habington, p. 432.

*** Holingshed, p. 664.

**** Hist. Croyl. Contin. p. 532.

The hostile armies met at Touton; and a fierce and bloody battle ensued. While the Yorkists were advancing to the charge, there happened a great fall of snow, which, driving full in the faces of their enemies, blinded them; and this advantage was improved by a stratagem of Lord Falconberg's. That nobleman ordered some infantry to advance before the line, and, after having sent a volley of flight-arrows, as they were called, amidst the enemy, immediately to retire. The Lancastrians, imagining that they were gotten within reach of the opposite army, discharged all their arrows, which thus fell short of the Yorkists.[*] After the quivers of the enemy were emptied, Edward advanced his line, and did execution with impunity on the dismayed Lancastrians: the bow, however, was soon laid aside, and the sword decided the combat, which ended in a total victory on the side of the Yorkists. Edward issued orders to give no quarter.[**] The routed army was pursued to Tadcaster with great bloodshed and confusion; and above thirty-six thousand men are computed to have fallen in the battle and pursuit:[***] among these were the earl of Westmoreland, and his brother Sir John Nevil, the earl of Northumberland, the Lords Dacres and Welles, and Sir Andrew Trollop.[****] The earl of Devonshire, who was now engaged in Henry's party, was brought a prisoner to Edward; and was soon after beheaded by martial law at York. His head was fixed on a pole erected over a gate of that city; and the head of Duke Richard and that of the earl of Salisbury were taken down, and buried with their bodies. Henry and Margaret had remained at York during the action, but learning the defeat of their army, and being sensible that no place in England could now afford them shelter, they fled with great precipitation into Scotland. They were accompanied by the duke of Exeter, who, though he had married Edward's sister, had taken part with the Lancastrians; and by Henry, duke of Somerset, who had commanded in the unfortunate battle of Touton, and who was the son of that nobleman killed in the first battle of St. Albans.

* Hall, fol. 186.

** Habington, p. 432.

*** Holingshed, p. 665. Grafton, p. 656. Hist. Croyl. Cont. p. 533.

**** Hall, fol. 187. Habington, p. 433.

Notwithstanding the great animosity which prevailed between the kingdoms, Scotland had never exerted itself with vigor, to take advantage either of the wars which England carried on with France, or of the civil commotions which arose between the contending families. James I., more laudably employed in civilizing his subjects, and taming them to the salutary yoke of law and justice, avoided all hostilities with foreign nations; and though he seemed interested to maintain a balance between France and England, he gave no further assistance to the former kingdom in its greatest distresses, than permitting, and perhaps encouraging, his subjects to enlist in the French service. After the murder of that excellent prince, the minority of his son and successor, James II., and the distractions incident to it, retained the Scots in the same state of neutrality; and the superiority visibly acquired by France, rendered it then unnecessary for her ally to interpose in her defence. But when the quarrel commenced between the houses of York and Lancaster, and became absolutely incurable but by the total extinction of one party, James, who had now risen to man's estate, was tempted to seize the opportunity, and he endeavored to recover those places which the English had formerly conquered from his ancestors. He laid siege to the Castle of Roxburgh in 1460, and had provided himself with a small train of artillery for that enterprise: but his cannon were so ill framed, that one of them burst as he was firing it, and put an end to his life in the flower of his age. His son and successor, James III., was also a minor on his accession: the usual distractions ensued in the government: the queen dowager, Anne of Gueldres, aspired to the regency: the family of Douglas opposed her pretensions: and Queen Margaret, when she fled into Scotland, found there a people little less divided by faction, than those by whom she had been expelled. Though she pleaded the connections between the royal family of Scotland and the house of Lancaster, by the young king's grandmother, a daughter of the earl of Somerset, she could engage the Scottish council to go no further than to express their good wishes in her favor; but on her offer to deliver to them immediately the important fortress of Berwick, and to contract her son in marriage with a sister of King James, she found a better reception; and the Scots promised the assistance of their arms to reinstate her family upon the throne.[*] But as the danger from that quarter seemed not very urgent to Edward, he did not pursue the fugitive king and queen into their retreat; but returned to London, where a parliament was summoned for settling the government.

On the meeting of this assembly, Edward found the good effects of his vigorous measure in assuming the crown, as well as of his victory at Touton, by which he had secured it;[**] the parliament no longer hesitated between the two families or proposed any of those ambiguous decisions which could only serve to perpetuate and inflame the animosities of party.

* Hall, fol. 137.

** Habington, p. 434.

They recognized the title of Edward, by hereditary descent, through the family of Mortimer; and declared that he was king by right, from the death of his father, who had also the same lawful title; and that he was in possession of the crown from the day that he assumed the government, tendered to him by the acclamations of the people.[*] They expressed their abhorrence of the usurpation and intrusion of the house of Lancaster, particularly that of the earl of Derby, otherwise called Henry IV.; which, they said, had been attended with every kind of disorder, the murder of the sovereign, and the oppression of the subject. They annulled every grant which had passed in those reigns; they reinstated the king in all the possessions which had belonged to the crown at the pretended deposition of Richard II.; and though they confirmed judicial deeds and the decrees of inferior courts, they reversed all attainders passed in any pretended parliament; particularly the attainder of the earl of Cambridge, the king's grandfather; as well as that of the earls of Salisbury and Glocester, and of Lord Lumley, who had been forfeited for adhering to Richard II.[**]

Many of these votes were the result of the usual violence of party: the common sense of mankind, in more peaceable times, repealed them: and the statutes of the house of Lancaster, being the deeds of an established government, and enacted by princes long possessed of authority, have always been held as valid and obligatory. The parliament, however, in subverting such deep foundations, had still the pretence of replacing the government on its ancient and natural basis: but in their subsequent measures, they were more guided by revenge, at least by the views of convenience, than by the maxims of equity and justice. They passed an act of forfeiture and attainder against Henry VI. and Queen Margaret and their infant son Prince Edward: the same act was extended to the dukes of Somerset and Exeter; to the earls of Northumberland, Devonshire, Pembroke, Wilts; to the Viscount Beaumont; the Lords Roos, Nevil, Clifford, Welles, Dacre, Gray of Rugemont, Hungerford; to Alexander Hedie, Nicholas Latimer, Edmond Mountfort, John Heron, and many other persons of distinction.[***]

* Cotton, p. 670.

** Cotton, p. 672. Statutes at large, 1 Edward IV cap. i.

*** Cotton, p. 670. W. Wyrcester, p. 490.

The parliament vested the estates of all these attainted persons in the crown, though their sole crime was the adhering to a prince whom every individual of the parliament had long recognized, and whom that very king himself, who was now seated on the throne, had acknowledged and obeyed as his lawful sovereign.

The necessity of supporting the government established will more fully justify some other acts of violence, though the method of conducting them may still appear exceptionable. John, earl of Oxford, and his son Aubrey de Vere were detected in a correspondence with Margaret, were tried by martial law before the constable, were condemned and executed.[*] Sir William Tyrrel, Sir Thomas Tudenham, and John Montgomery were convicted in the same arbitrary court; were executed, and their estates forfeited. This introduction of martial law into civil government was a high strain of prerogative; which, were it not for the violence of the times, would probably have appeared exceptionable to a nation so jealous of their liberties as the English were now become.[**] [18] It was impossible but such a great and sudden revolution must leave the roots of discontent and dissatisfaction in the subject, which would require great art, or, in lieu of it, great violence, to extirpate them. The latter was more suitable to the genius of the nation in that uncultivated age.

But the new establishment still seemed precarious and uncertain; not only from the domestic discontents of the people, but from the efforts of foreign powers. Lewis, the eleventh of the name, had succeeded to his father, Charles, in 1460; and was led, from the obvious motives of national interest, to feed the flames of civil discord among such dangerous neighbors, by giving support to the weaker party. But the intriguing and politic genius of this prince was here checked by itself: having attempted to subdue the independent spirit of his own vassals, he had excited such an opposition at home, as prevented him from making all the advantage, which the opportunity afforded, of the dissensions among the English.

{1462.} He sent, however, a small body to Henry's assistance under Varenne, seneschal of Normandy;[***] who landed in Northumberland, and got possession of the Castle of Alnwick; but as the indefatigable Margaret went in person to France, where she solicited larger supplies and promised Lewis to deliver up Calais, if her family should by his means be restored to the throne of England; he was induced to send along with her a body of two thousand men at arms, which enabled her to take the field, and to make an inroad into England.

* W. Wyrcester, p. 492. Hall, fol. 189 Grafton, p. 658. Fabian fol. 215. Fragm. ad finem T. Sproti.

** See note R, at the end of the volume.

**** Monstrelet, vol. iii. p 95.

{1464.} Though reenforced by a numerous train of adventurers from Scotland, and by many partisans of the family of Lancaster she received a check at Hedgley-more from Lord Montacute, or Montague, brother to the earl of Warwick, and warden of the east marches between Scotland and England. Montague was so encouraged with this success, that, while a numerous reenforcement was on their march to join him by orders from Edward, he yet ventured, with his own troops alone, to attack the Lancastrians at Hexham; and he obtained a complete victory over them. The duke of Somerset, the Lords Roos and Hungerford, were taken in the pursuit, and immediately beheaded by martial law at Hexham. Summary justice was in like manner executed at Newcastle on Sir Humphrey Nevil, and several other gentlemen. All those who were spared in the field, suffered on the scaffold; and the utter extermination of their adversaries was now become the plain object of the York party; a conduct which received but too plausible an apology from the preceding practice of the Lancastrians.

The fate of the unfortunate royal family, after this defeat, was singular. Margaret, flying with her son into a forest, where she endeavored to conceal herself, was beset, during the darkness of the night, by robbers, who, either ignorant or regardless of her quality, despoiled her of her rings and jewels, and treated her with the utmost indignity. The partition of this rich booty raised a quarrel among them; and while their attention was thus engaged, she took the opportunity of making her escape with her son into the thickest of the forest where she wandered for some time, overspent with hunger and fatigue, and sunk with terror and affliction. While in this wretched condition, she saw a robber approach with his naked sword; and finding that she had no means of escape, she suddenly embraced the resolution of trusting entirely for protection to his faith and generosity. She advanced towards him; and presenting to him the young prince, called out to him, "Here, my friend, I commit to your care the safety of your king's son." The man, whose humanity and generous spirit had been obscured, not entirely lost, by his vicious course of life, was struck with the singularity of the event, was charmed with the confidence reposed in him, and vowed, not only to abstain from all injury against the princess, but to devote himself entirely to her service.[*] By his means she dwelt some time concealed in the forest, and was at last conducted to the sea-coast, whence she made her escape into Flanders. She passed thence into her father's court, where she lived several years in privacy and retirement. Her husband was not so fortunate or so dexterous in finding the means of escape. Some of his friends took him under their protection, and conveyed him into Lancashire, where he remained concealed during a twelvemonth; but he was at last detected, delivered up to Edward, and thrown into the Tower.[**] The safety of his person was owing less to the generosity of his enemies, than to the contempt which they had entertained of his courage and his understanding.

The imprisonment of Henry, the expulsion of Margaret, the execution and confiscation of all the most eminent Lancastrians, seemed to give full security to Edward's government; whose title by blood, being now recognized by parliament, and universally submitted to by the people, was no longer in danger of being impeached by any antagonist. In this prosperous situation, the king delivered himself up, without control, to those pleasures which his youth, his high fortune, and his natural temper invited him to enjoy; and the cares of royalty were less attended to than the dissipation of amusement, or the allurements of passion. The cruel and unrelenting spirit of Edward, though inured to the ferocity of civil wars, was at the same time extremely devoted to the softer passions, which, without mitigating his severe temper, maintained a great influence over him, and shared his attachment with the pursuits of ambition and the thirst of military glory. During the present interval of peace, he lived in the most familiar and sociable manner with his subjects,[***] particularly with the Londoners; and the beauty of his person, as well as the gallantry of his address, which, even unassisted by his royal dignity, would have rendered him acceptable to the fair, facilitated all his applications for their favor.

* Monstrelet, vol. iii. p. 96.

** Hall, fol. 191. Fragm. ad finem Sproti.

*** Polyd. Virg. p. 513. Biondi.

This easy and pleasurable course of life augmented every day his popularity among all ranks of men: he was the peculiar favorite of the young and gay of both sexes. The disposition of the English little addicted to jealousy, kept them from taking umbrage at these liberties: and his indulgence in amusements, while it gratified his inclination, was thus become, without design, a means of supporting and securing his government. But as it is difficult to confine the ruling passion within strict rules of prudence, the amorous temper of Edward led him into a snare, which proved fatal to his repose, and to the stability of his throne.

Jaqueline of Luxembourg, duchess of Bedford, had, after her husband's death, so far sacrificed her ambition to love, that she espoused, in second marriage, Sir Richard Woodeville a private gentleman, to whom she bore several children; and among the rest, Elizabeth, who was remarkable for the grace and beauty of her person, as well as for other amiable accomplishments. This young lady had married Sir John Gray of Groby, by whom she had children; and her husband being slain in the second battle of St. Albans, fighting on the side of Lancaster, and his estate being for that reason confiscated, his widow retired to live with her father, at his seat of Grafton, in Northamptonshire. The king came accidentally to the house after a hunting party, in order to pay a visit to the duchess of Bedford; and as the occasion seemed favorable for obtaining some grace from this gallant monarch, the young widow flung herself at his feet, and with many tears entreated him to take pity on her impoverished and distressed children. The sight of so much beauty in affliction strongly affected the amorous Edward; love stole sensibly into his heart under the guise of compassion; and her sorrow, so becoming a virtuous matron, made his esteem and regard quickly correspond to his affection. He raised her from the ground with assurances of favor; he found his passion increase every moment, by the conversation of the amiable object; and he was soon reduced, in his turn, to the posture and style of a supplicant at the feet of Elizabeth. But the lady, either averse to dishonorable love from a sense of duty, or perceiving that the impression which she had made was so deep as to give her hopes of obtaining the highest elevation, obstinately refused to gratify his passion; and all the endearments, caresses, and importunities of the young and amiable Edward proved fruitless against her rigid and inflexible virtue. His passion, irritated by opposition, and increased by his veneration for such honorable sentiments carried him at last beyond all bounds of reason and he offered to share his throne, as well as his heart, with the woman whose beauty of person and dignity of character seemed so well to entitle her to both. The marriage was privately celebrated at Grafton:[**] the secret was carefully kept for some time: no one suspected that so libertine a prince could sacrifice so much to a romantic passion; and there were, in particular, strong reasons, which, at that time, rendered this step, to the highest degree, dangerous and imprudent.

The king, desirous to secure his throne, as well by the prospect of issue as by foreign alliances, had, a little before, determined to make application to some neighboring princess, and he had cast his eye on Bona of Savoy, sister to the queen of France, who, he hoped, would by her marriage insure him the friendship of that power, which was alone both able and inclined to give support and assistance to his rival. To render the negotiation more successful, the earl of Warwick had been despatched to Paris, where the princess then resided; he had demanded Bona in marriage for the king; his proposals had been accepted; the treaty was fully concluded; and nothing remained but the ratification of the terms agreed on, and the bringing over the princess to England.[**] But when the secret of Edward's marriage broke out, the haughty earl, deeming himself affronted, both by being employed in this fruitless negotiation, and by being kept a stranger to the king's intentions, who had owed every thing to his friendship, immediately returned to England, inflamed with rage and indignation. The influence of passion over so young a man as Edward, might have served as an excuse for his imprudent conduct, had he deigned to acknowledge his error, or had pleaded his weakness as an apology; but his faulty shame or pride prevented him from so much as mentioning the matter to Warwick; and that nobleman was allowed to depart the court, full of the same ill humor and discontent which he brought to it.

* Hall, fol. 193. Fabian, fol. 216.

** Hall, fol. 193. Habington, p. 437. Holingshed, p. 607. Grafton, p. 665. Polyd. Virg. p. 513.

{1466.} Every incident now tended to widen the breach between the king and this powerful subject. The queen, who lost not her influence by marriage, was equally solicitous to draw every grace and favor to her own friends and kindred, and to exclude those of the earl, whom she regarded as her mmortal enemy. Her father was created earl of Rivers: he was made treasurer in the room of Lord Mountjoy:[*] he was invested in the office of constable for life; and his son received the survivance of that high dignity.[**] The same young nobleman was married to the only daughter of Lord Scales, enjoyed the great estate of that family, and had the title of Scales conferred upon him. Catharine, the queen's sister, was married to the young duke of Buckingham, who was a ward of the crown:[***] Mary, another of her sisters espoused William Herbert, created earl of Huntingdon: Anne, a third sister, was given in marriage to the son and heir of Gray, Lord Ruthyn, created earl of Kent.[****] The daughter and heir of the duke of Exeter, who was also the king's niece, was contracted to Sir Thomas Gray, one of the queen's sons by her former husband; and as Lord Montague was treating of a marriage between his son and this lady, the preference given to young Gray was deemed an injury and affront to the whole family of Nevil.

The earl of Warwick could not suffer with patience the least diminution of that credit which he had long enjoyed, and which he thought he had merited by such important services. Though he had received so many grants from the crown, that the revenue arising from them amounted, besides his patrimonial estate, to eighty thousand crowns a year, according to the computation of Philip de Comines,[*****] his ambitious spirit was still dissatisfied, so long as he saw others surpass him in authority and influence with the king.[******] Edward also, jealous of that power which had supported him and which he himself had contributed still higher to exalt, was well pleased to raise up rivals in credit to the earl of Warwick; and he justified, by this political view, his extreme partiality to the queen's kindred. But the nobility of England, envying the sudden growth of the Woodevilles,[*******] were more inclined to take part with Warwick's discontent, to whose grandeur they were already accustomed, and who had reconciled them to his superiority by his gracious and popular manners.

* W. Wyrcester, p. 506.

** W. Wyrcester, p. 505.

*** Liv. iii. chap. 4.

**** Hist. Croyl. Cont. p. 539.

***** W. Wyrcester, p. 506.

****** Polyd. Virg. p. 514.

******* Rymer, vol. xi. p. 581.

And as Edward obtained from parliament a general resumption of all grants, which he had made since his accession, and which had extremely impoverished the crown,[*] this act, though it passed with some exceptions, particularly one in favor of the earl of Warwick, gave a general alarm to the nobility, and disgusted many, even zealous partisans of the family of York.

But the most considerable associate that Warwick acquired to his party, was George, duke of Clarence, the king's second brother. This prince deemed himself no less injured than the other grandees, by the uncontrolled influence of the queen and her relations; and as his fortunes were still left upon a precarious footing, while theirs were fully established, this neglect, joined to his unquiet and restless spirit, inclined him to give countenance to all the malecontents.[**] The favorable opportunity of gaining him was espied by the earl of Warwick, who offered him in marriage his elder daughter, and coheir of his immense fortunes; a settlement which, as it was superior to any that the king himself could confer upon him, immediately attached him to the party of the earl.[***] Thus an extensive and dangerous combination was insensibly formed against Edward and his ministry. Though the immediate object of the malecontents was not to overturn the throne, it was difficult to foresee the extremities to which they might be carried: and as opposition to government was usually in those ages prosecuted by force of arms, civil convulsions and disorders were likely to be soon the result of these intrigues and confederacies.

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