Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir


  When Warwick put it to him that he should marry Isabel, Clarence was quick to realise the benefits of such a union. But he was unable to keep the plan a secret, as Warwick had enjoined, and soon, word reached the King of the matter and caused him to be greatly perturbed. He did not want his brothers allied by marriage to Warwick, nor did he want them squabbling over Warwick’s inheritance in the event of the Earl’s death. It was true that these marriages would bring that inheritance to the House of York, but that might also mean Warwick intriguing against him in order to make one of his daughters queen, or inciting his brothers to treason.

  Edward summoned Clarence and Gloucester and demanded to know the truth. Clarence said he knew nothing about such a marriage, although he thought ‘it would not be a bad match’. At this, the King ‘waxed wrath’ and sent them from his presence, firmly forbidding Clarence even to contemplate a union with Warwick’s daughter. Warwick had more than enough power as it was, without extending his influence through marriage with the royal house. Besides, Edward saw this as a plot to counterbalance the power of the Wydvilles.

  As a result of Edward’s actions, there was ‘secret displeasure’ between him and Warwick, and the King suspected that the Earl and Clarence might defy him and go ahead with the marriage anyway. He therefore instructed his agents in Rome to do all in their power to prevent the Pope from issuing a dispensation for it, the parties being within the forbidden degrees of affinity.

  In June 1467, Philip of Burgundy’s natural son, Antoine, Bastard of Burgundy, arrived in England, ostensibly to meet Anthony Wydville, Lord Scales, in the lists – for both were renowned throughout Europe as unparalleled jousters – but also to discuss the proposed Anglo-Burgundian alliance with the King. One of the chief topics for discussion was the marriage between Charolais and Margaret of York. ‘If this takes place,’ commented the Milanese ambassador to France, ‘they [the French] have talked of treating with the Earl of Warwick to restore King Henry in England, and the ambassador of the old Queen of England is already here.’

  An English alliance with Burgundy would of course release Louis from his undertaking not to aid the Lancastrians, and he himself was well aware that a Lancastrian invasion would prevent Edward from joining Burgundy in a war against France. He was still toying with the idea of approaching Warwick when, in February 1467, Margaret of Anjou’s brother, John of Calabria, begged him not to do so, saying that Warwick had always been her enemy and the cause of Henry VI’s fall from power. ‘His Majesty would do better to help his sister to recover her kingdom than to favour the Earl of Warwick.’ Louis asked what security the Lancastrians could give: would they offer the Prince as hostage? But neither Calabria nor Margaret was prepared to agree to such terms. Louis ignored Calabria’s advice and continued to scheme to bring Warwick and Margaret together. The major obstacle to this was obviously going to be persuading both parties to be reconciled. Margaret had regretted her earlier abortive approach to Warwick because she could not rid herself of her bitter memories of the Earl, and had reverted to her former opinion that he was her husband’s arch-enemy and a traitor of the worst kind. Warwick, in turn, was known to hold Margaret responsible for the deaths of his father, brother, uncle and cousin. It was not going to be easy bringing them together, especially since Margaret was now declaring that she wanted nothing to do with Warwick. Louis, however, was not a man to give up easily.

  On 3 June, Archbishop Neville, the Lord Chancellor, did not appear in Parliament, and sent his servant to say he was ill. The ‘illness’ seems to have stemmed from his displeasure at the warm welcome and lavish entertainments laid on for the Bastard of Burgundy. Edward did not trust George Neville, and with good reason, for he had just discovered that the Archbishop – without asking his permission, as was customary – was working on the Pope with a view to obtaining a cardinal’s hat for himself and a dispensation for his niece Isabel to marry Clarence, in spite of Edward’s embargo on the match. On the 8th, therefore, the King removed Neville from the post of Chancellor and replaced him with Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells. There is no doubt that he did this to show the Nevilles that he was capable of curbing their power and ambitions.

  A week later Philip of Burgundy, who had been ailing for some time, died, and was succeeded by his son, who became known as Charles the Bold. News of the Duke’s death prompted the precipitate departure from England of the Bastard of Burgundy and all his suite. Soon afterwards, a French embassy arrived in London and was accorded a warm reception by the King. Edward was keeping his options open, just in case the new Duke of Burgundy did not agree to favourable enough terms for the proposed treaty. However, despite being handsomely entertained by the King at Windsor, the French envoys left without having extracted from him any more than a vague promise to dispatch an embassy to France at some time in the future.

  Thanks to Edward’s diplomacy, the terms of the proposed alliance with Burgundy were so advantageous to England that even Warwick had no choice but to agree to it. Privately, however, he was still calculating, even now, how best to sabotage the alliance and persuade Edward to turn to Louis instead for friendship; in June he had met with the French king at Rouen to discuss how best to do this, but on his return he found his brother dismissed from the chancellorship and the King cold in his manner towards himself and his family.

  Warwick burned with resentment. Warkworth says he ‘took on as many knights, squires and gentlemen as he could to swell his forces, [while] the King did all he could to reduce the Earl’s power. They were brought together several times, but they never again found pleasure in each other’s company.’ On one occasion, when Warwick went to the King at Westminster to ask if he would receive Louis’s envoys to discuss an alliance, Edward refused to acknowledge his presence; instead, he gazed around the room. Warwick stalked out, hot with anger. The next day he brought the ambassadors with him into the King’s presence, the Queen and her kinsfolk being there. Again, Edward ignored Warwick, and the Frenchmen were much offended. As they left with Warwick in his barge, the Earl cried in agitation, ‘Have you not seen what traitors there are about the King’s person?’ One of the envoys tried to calm him down, saying, ‘My lord, I pray you grow not hot, for some day you shall be avenged.’ Warwick retorted, ‘Know that those very traitors were the men that had my brother displaced from the office of Chancellor!’ It was obvious to him that the Wydvilles now had the upper hand and that Edward was siding with them against him. Croyland states that he had continued to show himself friendly to the Queen and her kindred until he found that, contrary to his wishes, they were using their utmost endeavours to promote the Burgundian alliance, which was concluded in November that year. Desired not only by the King and the Wydvilles, but also by the London merchants who would profit by it, the alliance was in the interests of the nation’s prosperity and appealed to patriotic sentiment, which was against an alliance with France.

  Warwick felt he had no choice now but to throw in his lot with Louis. If Louis could offer him more than Edward he would take it, for he was not prepared to play a subordinate role to the Wydvilles and from now on would rarely attend the court if the Queen’s kindred were there. ‘From this moment the feud betwixt these rival families was settled, deadly and never terminated until it had completed the ruin of all parties.’

  22

  Secret Negotiations

  In 1467 Queen Elizabeth bore another daughter, Mary, who was sent to Greenwich Palace to be brought up with her sister Elizabeth under the care of a governess, Margaret, Lady Berners. In October, the Queen was assigned £400 a year for the maintenance of her daughters.

  The King kept Christmas at Coventry, where it was noted that the Duke of Clarence ‘behaved in a friendly way’. Soon after Epiphany, ‘by means of secret friends’, Archbishop Neville persuaded Warwick to attend a council at Coventry, where he and the King were ostensibly reconciled. But nothing had changed. Negotiations between England and Burgundy were now moving towards a successful conclusion, and in
February 1468 Edward and Charles signed the treaty providing for the latter’s marriage to Margaret of York. The treaty dashed the hopes of Louis XI and Warwick, and Warwick did all he could to undermine it. He again urged Edward to abandon Burgundy, even now, and when Edward made it clear that that was out of the question, he set his retainers to incite the London artisans, warning them they would not profit by the alliance. Many believed the Earl’s propaganda, and some went so far as to plan an attack on Flemish merchants living in Southwark. However, as soon as they boarded their boats to cross the river, the city authorities, who had been warned that trouble was likely, prevented them from going any further. A bloodbath, however, had only narrowly been averted. Undeterred, in the spring Edward IV concluded an alliance with Brittany, another thorn in Louis’s side.

  Even now, Lancastrian supporters were still working secretly to restore Henry VI, despite the harsh penalties lying in wait for those who were caught. At Whitsuntide, according to William Worcester, ‘a certain Cornelius, a shoemaker serving Robert Whittingham, who was with Queen Margaret, was captured [while] secretly bringing divers letters into England from Queen Margaret’s party, [and] was tortured until he confessed. He then accused many of the receipt of letters from Queen Margaret.’ Another Lancastrian agent, one Hawkins, was also tortured. The two men were then tried by Chief Justice Markham, a just and fair man who refused to admit the Crown’s evidence as it had been obtained under torture; Lord Rivers suggested to the King that Markham be removed from his office, to which Edward agreed. The unfortunate Cornelius was again put to the question, having his flesh torn from his body with red-hot pincers, but died without having disclosed any further names of those with whom the Queen had corresponded.

  Between June and November 1468, the government acted to hunt out all those suspected of being Lancastrian adherents, and many arrests were made. Several lords whose families had supported Henry VI came under suspicion, and in the autumn Devon’s brother Henry Courtenay was apprehended, along with Thomas, son of Lord Hungerford, and John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. All were suspected of organising a new conspiracy to restore Henry VI, but as there was very little evidence to go on Oxford was soon released while the rest were detained.

  In 1468 there occurred the fall of Sir Thomas Cook, which illustrated just how powerful the Wydvilles had become. Cook was a rich London merchant and former Lord Mayor, an articulate and clever man who was respected by his colleagues and favoured by the King. Margaret of Anjou had once tried to borrow money from him, and he had refused her. Nevertheless, the Wydvilles suspected him of harbouring Lancastrian sympathies; the agent Hawkins had spoken his name under torture, claiming that he had tried to borrow money on Margaret’s behalf from him; Cook had again refused to lend any, but that did not save him from the Wydvilles’ wrath, nor the trap they set for him.

  Cook had in his house a beautiful tapestry, much admired by the Duchess of Bedford, mother of the Queen. The Duchess demanded that Cook sell it to her at a price far less than the £800 he had paid for it, and he refused. The Wydvilles retaliated by accusing him of secretly working for the Lancastrians, reiterating what Hawkins had said, and Rivers sent his retainers to sack Cook’s houses in London and in the country. Then, in his capacity as Constable of England, he convicted Cook of misprision of treason for not having disclosed his dealings with Queen Margaret’s agent, and fined him the huge sum of £8000, which effectively ruined him. Queen Elizabeth, determined to take her cut, claimed an ancient privilege called Queen’s Gold, which entitled her to claim a further sum, in this case 800 marks, from the convicted man’s estate. After this harsh treatment Cook did defect to the Lancastrians, but he never again prospered and died a relatively poor man.

  On 3 July 1468 Margaret of York was married to Charles the Bold at Damme in Flanders. ‘At this marriage the Earl of Warwick conceived great indignation,’ wrote Croyland, ‘it being much against his will that the views of Burgundy should in any way be promoted by means of an alliance with England. The fact is that he pursued that man [Burgundy] with a most deadly hatred.’ Five days after the wedding the self-styled Duke of Somerset, who had been a fugitive in Bruges, left the city before the new duchess arrived and travelled to Queen Margaret at Bar.

  Louis XI, meanwhile, was determined to undermine Edward’s new alliance by aiding the Lancastrians, and had provided Pembroke with money, ships and men. Early in July the Earl landed in Wales in the Dyfi estuary near Harlech and marched east, inciting rebellion against the Yorkists. This prompted Lord Herbert to launch a new onslaught on Harlech Castle, which he had been besieging for four years without success. Herbert raised a force of 7-10,000 men on the Welsh border, then split them into two divisions, attacking Harlech by a pincer movement from both east and south. Pembroke, meanwhile, was sweeping all before him and holding many sessions of assizes, all in Henry VI’s name. News of his astonishing success spread rapidly to France, and Queen Margaret prepared to go to Paris to ask Louis to send reinforcements to aid him. Her elation was premature. On 14 August, after making only token resistance, Harlech surrendered, and the last bastion of the Lancastrians fell into Yorkist hands. When they entered the fortress, Herbert’s men found many incriminating letters from the Queen, which were at once dispatched to King Edward.

  Pembroke was devastated by the fall of Harlech. He marched on Denbigh, burned the town and occupied the castle, but was pursued and driven out by Herbert and his brother Sir Richard. He was then obliged to dismiss his men and go into hiding, disguising himself as a peasant with a bale of straw on his back. Thus he made his way to the coast, where he boarded a ship bound for Brittany; the crew was inexperienced and he was obliged to steer the ship himself and navigate it as well. On 8 September, to complete Jasper Tudor’s humiliation, his earldom of Pembroke was bestowed on Herbert by a grateful Edward IV as a reward for taking Harlech.

  Tudor was not alone in being angered by Herbert’s promotion, however: Warwick resented the new Earl’s prominence at court and was jealous of the high favour shown him by the King. His links with the Wydvilles were already enough to damn him in Warwick’s eyes, but so also were his plans to take possession of lands confiscated from the Percies and Tudors, and now held by Warwick and Clarence, in order to provide handsome dowries for his daughters and so increase his influence by allying himself to other great magnates. Warwick feared very much that Edward would agree to Herbert’s schemes, given the bad feeling between himself and the King and the Wydvilles’ apparent determination to slight him. Thus the rivalry between Warwick and Herbert grew daily, and may possibly have been the final straw that prompted Warwick’s defection from the Yorkist cause.

  Between autumn 1468 and spring 1469, according to the Great Chronicle of London, ‘many rumoured tales ran in the city of conflict atween the Earl of Warwick and the Queen’s blood, the which Earl was ever had in great favour of the commons of this land,’ who were also hostile to the Wydvilles and frequently complained about ‘the great rule which the Lord Rivers and his blood bare that time within the realm’. Warwick made no secret of his grievances, complaining that the King ‘resolutely maketh more honourable account of new upstart gentlemen than of the ancient houses of nobility’.

  Warwick was still in touch with King Louis through his agent, William Moneypenny, but he was alarmed by Edward’s growing hostility to France, which had recently prompted Parliament to vote £62,000 for an invasion of that country. This was the last thing Warwick wanted, and all his hopes now rested on Louis. He must have been aware that Louis was intriguing to reconcile him to Margaret of Anjou, and was probably considering whether or not to throw in his lot with the Lancastrians. What he really wanted, however, was to be in control of King Edward and rule through him: he would need to be desperate before he agreed to ally himself with Margaret.

  Warwick was also renewing his efforts to obtain a papal dispensation for Isabel’s marriage to Clarence, but came up against a reluctant Pope, who had already assured Edward IV’s envoys that such a di
spensation would not be granted. Undeterred, Warwick began to negotiate a price.

  Warwick had given up much of his life and much of his wealth to supporting the House of York, and his father and brother had died for it. Yet the Burgundian alliance, the King’s ban on Isabel’s marriage to Clarence, the promotion of the Wydvilles, Herbert’s supremacy in Wales, the demotion of George Neville and Edward’s relegation of Warwick to a subordinate role had all combined to change Warwick’s loyalty into hatred, and his alienation from Edward was now complete. According to Croyland, it was the alliance with Burgundy which rankled most.

  Warwick now spent most of his time sulking on his estates in the north, and refused to obey two summons to court. The King, alarmed, spent £2000 on strengthening England’s defences. Then Archbishop Neville stepped in again and persuaded Warwick that he should make his peace with the Wydvilles. A superficial ceremony of reconciliation between Warwick and the King and Warwick and Rivers followed, but it changed nothing. However, while he was at court, Warwick discovered that Clarence was also highly dissatisfied with his lot, being jealous of his brother and frustrated because Edward would not allow him any position of power. Both men were angry with the King for forbidding the marriage with Isabel, and Clarence also hated the Wydvilles, believing that it was they who were preventing him from enjoying his supposed ‘rights’ as the King’s brother.

  Clarence fell prey to Warwick’s charisma, and throughout that winter and spring they laid their plans to fuel the people’s hatred of the Wydvilles and to undermine Edward’s authority, though, unlike Warwick, Clarence’s aim was not to control the King but to depose him and set himself up in his place. There is no proof that Warwick and Clarence incited the minor riots and disturbances that took place in the north of England at this time, but Warwick’s ally in Redesdale, Sir John Conyers, was certainly ready to take up arms on the Earl’s behalf. Warwick, however, preferred to wait until he was in a position to ensure the success of any uprising against the King. ‘Go home,’ he told Conyers, ‘it is not yet time to be stirring.’

 
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